Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Day-And-Date: DC Retroactive: Justice League of America - The 90s

DC Retroactive: Justice League of America - The 90s
Writers: Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis
Artist: Kevin Maguire
Release Date: August 24, 2011
Rating: 4 out of 5 Pixels

I didn't read Giffen and DeMatteis's Justice League when it was published. I started reading comics just after their era ended and the Dan Jurgens era began. But in the years since, I've managed to buy most of their run at one point or another. So while this Retroactive special isn't exactly a nostalgia piece for me in the same way the 90s Batman one was, it's still a welcome visit with old friends. This issue hits all the important notes--the recurring one-liners throughout the issue, panels crammed with dialogue, the preference for the quotidian over the epic. And I'll be damned if Kevin Maguire's art isn't even better each time he returns to these characters, making each page a delight to look at. Honestly, it surprises me that the Giffen/DeMatteis era lasted for several years after Maguire left the series. Giffen's plots and DeMatteis's words are hilarious, to be sure, but half the comedy is in the facial expressions. The only post-Maguire artist who came close to achieving the same effect was Adam Hughes.

It occurred to me while reading this issue, though, that Maguire's strengths go far beyond faces. There's a scene here where J'onn is getting increasingly frustrated by the incompetence of everyone around him, and he tells Oberon, "I'll be in my room--"
Few comic book artists could pull off this subtle joke. Most artists either don't include the level of detail to show someone's veins popping out with stress, or else they simply draw everyone so muscular that their veins are popping out all the time. With Maguire, though, the veins on J'onn's hand contribute to the story.

I find it interesting that DC decided to include Justice League America 62 as the backup feature in this issue. This is the conclusion of "Breakdowns," the final issue of Giffen and Dematteis's run on the book. I was trying to figure out why they chose this rather than an earlier issue, but then I realized that this is probably the only issue illustrated by Kevin Maguire that was released in the 90s. By the time 1990 came around, Maguire had moved on, and returned only for this final issue of the run. Which makes the choice to label this book as a 90s special rather than 80s somewhat puzzling. The funny Justice League lasted from 1987 to 1992, so equally in both decades, but there's no denying that Maguire is the artist most associated with the run, and he was only with the title in the 80s. I understand that DC wanted to revisit the Detroit League, which was definitely a child of the 80s, but if I were them I would have called this issue an 80s special and brought Grant Morrison and Howard Porter back together to represent the 90s. But oh well, I'm not DC.

Of note to digital readers: In conjunction with this issue, Comixology is offering two issues of Justice League America from the early 90s (#s 37 and 38, each illustrated by Adam Hughes) for $0.99 each. Definitely worth the price of admission if you don't already own them.

Of note to comic book creators: Don't have your characters talk about their fears of dying unless you want Brad Meltzer to come along twelve years later and turn your nice little scene into morbid foreshadowing:

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