Tuesday, February 26, 2008

From the Vault: Formerly Known As The Justice League

Sorry for the media black-out recently. Been very, very busy here without much sign of letting up. I'll try to put up some new posts later this week, but for now, here's a review from TCJ #267

“Formerly Known as the Justice League”
by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire and Joe Rubinstein
DC Comics

Your enjoyment factor of “Formerly Known as the Justice League” is entirely predicated upon your knowledge of and love for the DC super hero universe. More specifically, it’s especially dependent upon your familiarity with the “Justice League” series that Giffen, DeMatteis and Maguire shepherded back in the late 1980s to early 90s. This rather popular revamp was notable mainly for its emphasis on humor, putting a bunch of second banana spandexed heroes through their usual paces while having them talk like Lucy and Ethel.

At the time it must have seemed rather innovative to take such a tongue-in-cheek approach and have tried and true DC characters act boorish, petty or inane, all the while spouting pithy asides and one-liners. And when it worked – when the humor came out of the characters and was leavened with some emotional weight -- “Justice League” was one probably one of the better super hero books going at the time. When it didn’t, which could be often, especially towards the end, the series was like a tiresome sitcom that has long since passed its initial cleverness and rushed straight long into unadulterated camp.

This new collection brings back the original creative team to perform what could best be described as the comic book equivalent of “Return to Mayberry.” It’s better than that, though it does fall into enough overly jokey lapses to irk those who don’t care for this kind of thing. Giffen and DeMatteis have a tendency to overplay their hand. I could have done, for instance, without the witty banter from the overly erudite thugs that attack the team early on, or the way every character’s comment has to be undercut with a reflective muttering of some sort. On the other hand, I did smile at their portrayal of Wonder Woman as priggish, self-righteous snot, and the notion of a super hero complaining about his heart condition was amusing enough to keep me engaged. So, in short, fans of the original series will be pleased with this brisk nostalgic walk. Newcomers to “Formerly” should only pick up the book if they’ve ever taken the time to find out who Booster Gold and Captain Atom are.

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