Robot 6

Grumpy Old Fan | ‘JL 3000′: Reply hazy, ask again later

They should really just relax

They should really just relax

For those who have followed DC’s promotion of Justice League 3000, this week’s inaugural issue must arrive with something of an asterisk. Announced in June as the latest reunion of Justice League International’s Keith Giffen (plot and breakdowns), J.M. DeMatteis (script) and Kevin Maguire (pencils), within two months the series became an unflattering example of creative-team chaos. In August, artist Howard Porter replaced Maguire, thereby postponing the series’ October debut. According to Maguire, DC apparently wanted something more dark and gritty, which doesn’t quite fit the style we now know as “bwah-ha-ha” — but by the same token, one wonders (as did Maguire) what DC thought it would get from the trio’s collaboration.

Still, to echo Donald Rumsfeld (and, 15 years earlier and more to the point, my entertainment-journalism professor), you review the comic you have, not the comic you wish you had. The first issue of Justice League 3000 reads like an artifact from the mid-1990s, when DC cranked out dystopian-future Elseworld stories fairly regularly; and Porter’s art is emblematic of the issue’s gritty, scratchy tone. This isn’t JLI. It’s not of a piece with Giffen and DeMatteis’ work writing Booster Gold, or even the current Larfleeze. It’s more like the short-lived, Giffen-written Threshold, crossed with an original-variety Marvel 2099 title.

In short, this first issue isn’t bad, just rather frustrating. I suppose the series has potential, and its creative team probably deserves a couple of issues to advance the plot. Regardless, JL3K #1 starts off negative and teases even more. It doesn’t give readers much optimism, outside of a vague sense that at some point, things can only get better.

SPOILERS FOLLOW, of course.

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While JL3K is set in the 31st century, it doesn’t appear to be anywhere near the Legion of Super-Heroes’ regular stomping grounds. The first page includes a couple of alien-language signs, but I don’t think they’re in Interlac. (In fact, the one in the middle of the page seems to read “DNA,” which might be a reference to longtime Legion writes Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning; and if you turn the page upside-down and squint a little, the one next to the “Bradbury Seven” caption kind of reads “Maguire.”) Anyway, this is a future where “ten years ago,” a group called “The Five” brought down the intergalactic society called “the Commonwealth,” which one can only assume is comparable to — if not a replacement for — the Legion’s United Planets.

Speaking of which, at this point I feel compelled to mention Giffen and scripters Tom & Mary Bierbaum’s notable “Five Years Later” Legion relaunch of 1989. That also picked up some time after an intergalactic catastrophe. However, it was steeped in existing Legion history, whereas JL3K works hard to establish its new characters and settings.

Those include Ariel Masters, a jaded, hyper-competent fugitive on the run from the Cadmus Project; as well as Cadmus’ twin directors (and current League patrons) Terry and Teri. Of course, Cadmus is a name familiar to DC readers for its cloning capabilities, and apparently it’ll still be going a thousand years from now. Ariel, Terry, and Teri all want to stop The Five (which, before we get much further, doesn’t refer to the League), but Ariel doesn’t want to return to Cadmus and “fix” the Leaguers. Thus, the twins need Ariel alive, at least until they figure out those fixes.

As you might have guessed, Cadmus’ involvement means the Leaguers themselves are clones of the originals — but without some important socializing influences. Superman is a jerk because he was raised without the Kents, and Wonder Woman is a type-A combat factory who’s awfully close to the man-eater of Frank Miller’s All Star Batman & Robin. The Barry Allen clone (drawn and colored like Wally West) uses a personal force field instead of his super-speed aura, while the Hal Jordan clone channels emerald energy through a cloak, not an Oan ring. (By the way, the Green Lantern Corps is hated and feared throughout the universe, which I think is standard for any dystopian DC future.) Like Superman without the Kents, Batman “grew up” not having to get over his parents’ murders; but he seems to be the most well-adjusted of the group, as well as the one who remembers the original League most clearly. Oh, and nobody really likes each other. Barry and Hal say they’re best friends, but they’re not sure if that’s just programming. As the first issue ends, Superman’s ready to throttle Batman, while the rest of the League holds him back.

The issue is structured more for introductions, but (after three pages on Ariel and two on the twins) it uses as a centerpiece the League’s fight with a hive-mind called the Convert. That spans nine pages of dysfunction-highlighting combat, and it’s followed by six dialogue-heavy pages which do their best to emphasize both character bits and exposition. DeMatteis works hard to make the latter seem natural, but the twins’ back and forth especially tends to include items the speakers wouldn’t need to tell each other. A pair of nine-panel pages shows the Leaguers in talking-head mode, speaking to an unseen listener like they’re in a reality show. This works a little better as an infodump, but it’s not clear who’s listening. Still, it may be more excusable in a first issue, particularly a world-building one.

As mentioned above, I’m trying to approach JL3K without comparing it to a hypothetical Maguire version. I may be one of the few people who liked Porter’s work on Grant Morrison’s JLA, and I think it fits what DC apparently wanted from the book. Again, without getting too deep into the merits of Maguire-vs.-Porter, I suspect a Maguire-drawn JL3K would have been more lighthearted (including more peppy dialogue from DeMatteis) than what we have here.

That said, I don’t find much fault with Porter’s storytelling. (Giffen is listed only as “plot,” so I don’t know how much he contributed to the breakdowns.) Porter draws a pretty crowded future, but his figures never get lost in his detailed backgrounds, and he choreographs the fight scenes pretty well. I couldn’t figure out what Wonder Woman did to a bad guy in one particular panel, but other than that Porter (and Giffen, where applicable) did a good job keeping things clear. Like many aspects of this Justice League, Porter’s character designs may be deliberately unappealing, and in that respect, his worst character is Wonder Woman. In a couple of places he draws her bug-eyed and/or practically foaming at the mouth; and regardless of intent, it’s not a good look. Superman also seems to have weird red-on-black eyes, which a) aren’t from heat vision and b) may be a product of Porter’s inking. Porter does better with Ariel and the twins. I’d say this even if Maguire hadn’t been involved, Teri’s expressive face makes her especially reminiscent of a Maguire character. Hi-Fi colored the issue in the sort of muted palette you’d expect from dystopia, but their work didn’t stand out for me one way or the other.

It’s probably fruitless to evaluate this issue in terms of the traditional Justice League setup, because this is expressly not that. (Heck, I’m not sure DC has much interest anymore in an old-school all-star rotating-roster League, but that’s a post for another day.) Part of me thought this series would turn out like Fantastic Four 2099, where a Byrne-era trip through the Negative Zone resulted in carbon-copies of the FF popping out in a future world while the originals went on in the present unawares. However, this isn’t merely an heroic group of Justice Leaguers having to deal with a strange new situation far from home. It’s that plus the dysfunction, plus the backstory of their cloning, plus the Ariel-vs.-the twins subplot, and it’s presented with a minimum of jocularity. Occasionally a bit of the old JLI dialogue rhythms come through, but for the most part JL3K takes itself pretty seriously. I think this could have come out from any other publisher, with all the DC-specific elements disguised thinly, and it wouldn’t have been much different.

Naturally, then, the difference is that these folks are supposed to be the Justice League, or as close as future-tech can get. That means acting like the Leaguers were supposed to act. In other words, this won’t be a series about recruiting future-Hawkman or future-Firestorm. It’ll be about the guy who calls himself Superman learning to act like Superman. That might not be the most original concept, but it’s an optimistic (and not unreasonable) extrapolation of a downbeat first issue. I just wish I didn’t have to make the extrapolation myself.

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Comments

40 Comments

Oh boy, just what everybody is dying for, another Justice League book! Yawn.

Let me know when they bring back the real Justice League. And the real DC.

People didn’t like Howard Porter’s JLA?

It was atrocious.

It didn’t incite the reader in me like the 5-year gap Legion but once I read through it I thought it was fine enough for another issue. Porter’s art does the job. He’s a skilled seasoned artist but maybe not everyone’s taste. I woukd have read it if Maguire was the artist as planned but so be it.

Cons: i would have to say I’m dissapointed that I did get the expected ‘Holy $#!* Giffen is just freaking incredible’ feeling from the story. There isn’t much mystery there beyond ‘why was the JL cloned in the future?’. Maybe it’ll pick up. I haven’t latched onto any series in years until a few issues were in the can.

I really liked it. And didn’t expect to. It’s not quite what I was hoping for in terms of a DeMatteis script – he is really doing good work in Phantom Stranger – but something about it clicked for me.

No Maguire so i saw no reason to buy it…..

I prefer Macguire too and was hoping for a lighter style. DC has been pushing away with their tried and true gritty theme. Something new please?

Nice review, Tom. As regards who the team are speaking to on the nine-panel grid pages, it’s there, Teri tells her brother it’s time to debrief the team.

Splendiferous Spider Hero

December 13, 2013 at 3:14 am

I was told that this book follows events in the finale of LOSH. I havent read LOSH so I’m not sure how.

It doesn’t, SSH – different continuity.

All the talk about heroes being manufactured, remembering but not remembering their past, about being but not being the Justice League drew some parallels to the state of the New 52. Could this be considered a form of commentary on the whole state of affairs?

Alin: I really like the idea of Jim Lee and Dan Didio as the Wonder Twins, to stretch your analogy.

My prediction, for what it’s worth, is that the DNA Cadmus was holding on to for a 1000 years was actually that of the Crime Syndicate. Readers will be left to wonder “will the JL3K go bad like their clone parents or can they be trained to be good?”

Considering the Fatal Five brought down the United Planets in the Legion’s final arc before it was cancelled, it sure seems like JL3000 is a retooled version of the rumored in-story Legion reboot people were speculating about several months ago.

At the end of the most recent LOSH series, The Fatal Five did extinguish the power on many worlds. That fits the start of this series. But “The Convert” is not a Fatal Five member. Offhand, I don’t remember the “final” fate of Tharok. Maybe he was “destroyed” at the end of that (awful) LOSH series and “The Convert” is his new form?So in LOSH continuity? Maybe! Maybe not!
In the past I have read that El Señor Giffé “plots” via sketch pages. All the face-focussed panels in this issue really makes it look like it was written to Maguire’s strengths. I am one of the people who favor Maguire over Porter.
Before reading this issue, I assumed JL3000 was a LOSH reboot prequel. My thought was that Superboy really doesn’t work as the inspiration for a superhero team if “super”powers are as banal as the status quo in the modern depiction of the 30th Century makes them seem (“Oh, you’re a being from __________ Planet? What powers do everyone on your planet have?”). So, if you drop superpowers from the inspire-formation-of-a-legion concept, you are left with legion-of-heroes. Thusly, the proper inspiration for forming the LOSH is not a kid with powers, but the example of people teaming up to coordinate the use of their powers for good. And the shining DCU 20th Century example is The Justice League! So, I thought JL3000 would see a revival of the JL concept make waves before failing and being reborn as a new LOSH.
Maybe something like my idea will come about. I also hope we get to see a cool Wonderdog (and not one that eats WonderTwins DAMMIT!).

Prefer Miller’s crazy verse than this. This was just bad and even uglier.

I thought Howard did a great job but the story didn’t wow me. Maybe the Barry/Wally thing will be addressed in the future but I’m not sure I’ll be around to read it

This could be good but honestly I don’t see it lasting long.

That premise + the new costumes will be interesting for all of three issues.
The run will probably be 6 to 8 issues for good form

The mind set that ‘dystopian’ is necessary for conflict & interest escapes me. I’m baffled by the decision that the solution to sales is to make a more dystopian future story. Or to have a JL in name only.. i.e. a JL without ANY of the redeeming virtues of their genetic precursors. The problem with the Legion series, (this series is trying to replace) was NOT that it wasn’t dystopian enough.. In fact, it immediately discarded the hope the Geoff Johns written Action Comics story that rebooted the Legion favor of a future that was already hopelessly cynical and against the Legion.. So for the response to be to tell an even more cynical story starring defective versions of the world’s greatest heroes? Well, it’s great fan fiction but other than that… There’s so much cynicism in our every day lives already, I think comic fans are clamoring for some optimism for the future. The Legion worked best (and sold the best) when it reflected the optimism of Star Trek or the hope of Star Wars. Blade Runner is great sci fi movie.. but it’s not something to build a long lasting future story on. Dystopian stories, by their nature, are finite stories.. How long can you run a series based on decay, cynicism and entropy?

Maybe things have to start at the bottom and work their way up? Perhaps this new team will eventually come together and change their world–assuming they don’t kill each other first.

Why did D(eceptive) C(ompany) has not given JL3K to Frank Miller???? It would have been an excellent book!! And if you do not like Miller, there is also Bisley!!!!

With these twos at the commands, the book would have rocked!! Yeah, baby!!!!

Read it, hated it, dropping it. But then, as an older fan, I’ve dropped most of the new52.

Lazarus Pit Foreman

December 14, 2013 at 4:15 pm

I was pleasantly surprised and don’t quite understand some of the negativity it’s getting (oh wait I’m on the internet). I admit the art is different and would take some getting used to. But it’s a cool concept and fun…. two things that lack in some comics these days.

I didn’t like it much. I would have rather they spent the first 5 or 6 issues introducing each member of the team individually, then putting them all together for their first big blow-out. Instead we get a couple of kids (yeah, we get it, you are the new WONDER TWINS – - you don’t need to tell us every other page!) doing a lot of exposition and that is boring. I liked Howard Porter on JLA but was disappointed in the artwork in JL3000. I think I’ll put off future issues. If it takes off and becomes better, there are always TPBs.

Now were bitching about the 90 s again. yet you know they will homage everything from the past in new 52 since all it is simply an updated DC template. Just add water. I love stereotypical comic book arguments. They are most definitely tropes on their own.

I’m with Jack on this one. The problem with “starting at the bottom” as a storytelling technique is that it forces people too read (and buy) stories they don’t want to read in the hopes that it eventually gets to the point they DO want to read.

But there’re two major outcomes to that:

1) Enough people buy the book to keep it going. Editorial decides that this status quo works, and doesn’t change it.
2) The book doesn’t sell, and gets canceled. Editorial decides the characters are “poison”, and refuses to consider a relaunch for years.

Either way, we don’t get the stories we want. On RARE occasions, the book will get a new creative team and direction that revitalizes the book, but it happens so infrequently (only time I can think of in recent memory is Lemire’s GREEN ARROW) that I wouldn’t bank on it.

Brian from Canada

December 15, 2013 at 6:10 am

Legion took place on Earth-2; JL3000 is supposed to be this Earth — at least, for now. Those who read Superboy #26 will see Kon is supposed to be the inspiration for the Legion Of Super-Heroes in Bart’s future, and there’s no Kon on Earth-Prime, suggesting that Kon may not be as dead at the end of “Krypton Returns” as we thought. Plus, given the hints Ariel is a “cat woman,” this may prove to be Earth-3 after all.

As for this book…

I didn’t like it. 22 pages of mostly heavy dialogue to suggest a plot we can guess four issues off: the Wonder Twins’ plot will be found out, the Leaguers turn on them with Ariel’s help, and the telepathic villain will probably turn out to be a descendant of Martian Manhunter, leaving only an Aquaman to be considered. What it really lacked was that spark that something interesting may come of it and you want to read more.

In a week where traitors are shown on Mogo, evil Superboy gets a plan and Plastic Man gets born in New 52, this book just doesn’t cut it.

I was interested in this whether Maguire or Porter were drawing this, but didn’t get it due to my comic book buying budget. There’s only so many comics a guy can buy. This looked intriguing and all, but when I looked through it and read some of it, it just didn’t seem to do it for me. Kind of glad I’m sitting it out. Seems okay enough, but with the way prices are these days, I’ve got to be extremely picky over what I will or won’t buy. This one falls under the won’t file. If prices were a bit lower, I’d have more room to try it out. Wish I could. Hope those of you that liked it have fun with it. Let us know how it unfolds for you. ;)

I’m not going to bash it because I haven’t picked it up and have no plans to. I just have a feeling that it’ll be gone in a year like everything else DC has done recently and, well it’ll be drawn into an 18 part cross over with two other random titles (Constantine & Catwoman) that no one will buy and that’ll be that.

Jim

isn’t EVERY justice league team dysfunctional?
geoff john’s league bicker and argue
JLA everyone has a hidden motive…i barely remember this book honestly
JLDark has John Constantine on it so naturally
so not surprising JL3K is more of the same, everyone acts like children

I loved Porter’s JLA….and thought he did good in JL3K #1. I share your self-extrapolated optimism….and only hope that it goes that direction. It is a semi-different take on the Justice League, but I fear it is merely DC wanting to have as many JL titles as Marvel has Avenger titles.

Like the commenter up thread, I suspect that JL3000 actually uses DNA from the Crime Syndicate.

Ok, I’m not shocked that Porter’s WW is the least attractive character in the book, because he’s stated in interviews that he doesn’t like to draw women and that WW was the character he thought he drew the least well in JLA. That was in interviews before his injury. While I do think his composition has improved (but I love the often awkwardness of his JLA), this issue indicates that his drawings of women still lag. Or maybe it’s just WW that he has trouble with, for whatever crazy reason, especially odd since he did all the character designs.

Anyway, I’m just not shocked, based on what he’s said about his own art, that his interpretation of WW isn’t great. I’d love to see him rise above it, though.

I thought Porter’s art was fantastic in Morrison’s JLA. His new style on JL3k is also very good. The book didn’t really do anything for me, but I’ll give it a couple of issues.

D. Eric Carpenter

December 16, 2013 at 8:24 am

If folks read the LOSH series, at the end we found out that the LOSH is the future of Earth 2…not the current DC Earth. JL3K seems to be the future of the Earth 1 (or whatever) continuity.

Brian from Canada

December 16, 2013 at 8:35 am

D. Eric: we also saw this week Superboy 26, in which Jon learns Kon will go on to form the Legion Of Super-Heroes. Given that Teen Titans IS Earth-Prime, JL3K then may be Earth-3… which would make sense, since (like the last LSH) there is a period without information. And since Power Ring inspires fear, maybe the GL Corps being hated and Cadmus being praised is a sign that it’s Earth-3 as well.

You guys are crazy! This book was great! Lots of mystery, but with clues peppered throughout, makes me want to find out where this team is headed and where they came from. Plus knowing that they are not the actual JLA, and setting them in a different time, frees them up to go in all new directions with these characters. I’m all in.
Those of you not giving it a chance are judging too harshly based on only one issue.
p.s. This is Howard Porters best art yet too.

I enjoyed it enough to give it a few more issues.
I have faith in Giffen and in DeMatteis. They’re a pair of seasoned pros who have together and individually written some very good or, at the least, interesting, comics.
I also think the idea of a cloned Justice League learning to become the Justice League is an interesting one.
And being set in the future, I’m hoping that this book will be left to its own devices, rather than having to constantly be tied into some major New 52 storyline/event.
I’ve got to admit, though, that the personalities were off-putting. And they too closely mirrored Geoff Johns take on the New 52 League, which I’ve been disappointed with. Johns already writes the “current” Wonder Woman like a blood-thirsty Amazon, and JL3000 basically swaps out the prickly Batman/Hal Jordan relationship in John’s League for a prickly Batman/Superman relationship. Like Johns’ Hal, Superman is arrogant and thinks he can do know wrong and should be leading the team.

I’m relieved to learn I was not alone in hating Porter’s run on Morrision–at the time, I felt like the one-eyed king. :( (I still loved the run, of course.)

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