Justice League International Volume 1

Storytellers: Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, Kevin Maguire
Publisher: DC
Year of Publication: 1987
Page Count:7 issues

What I learned about Writing/Storytelling:
1.  The first issue has a pretty average “terrorists have taken hostages” plotline, which is made interesting by the mysterious new character, Maxwell Lord, who is  supplying the terrorists, but, it turns out, has given them booby trapped bombs that won’t detonate.  It turns out he’s setting the bad guys up to be taken down by the JLA in an attempt to build the JLA up. (Maxwell Lord appears to sort of be like Watchmen’s Ozymandias without the superheroing, though he’s still mysterious by the end of volume 1, so I’m not sure.)
This plot demonstrates you can build a hook into a so-so story and make it a lot more interesting than it would be otherwise.

2.  The reader needs a reason to care about the characters.  JLI failed at this- I didn’t care about the characters at all.

What I learned about art/storytelling:
1.  I didn’t like the art very much.  There were a few decent visual moments, when interesting camera angles were chosen and when the art was not drowned out with “banter”, but this was infrequent.  Here’s a good moment:

Justice League International aspect to aspect moment

Or this aspect to aspect moment:

Nice moment from JLI

Recommendation: D

Yeah… I really didn’t like this, it was sort of painful to force myself to keep reading.  The first issue was ok, but after that, it was tremendously dull. I think this page is a good example of what’s wrong with this thing:

weak moment from JLI

Captain Marvel is possessed, which I guess could be dramatic.  But this is really just a wrestling match for our entertainment. I mean, he could have just ripped Black Canary’s arms off if it was serious, right?  It’s just a game.  And there’s no tools being used to make it seem like a life and death moment.  Everything is a long shot with a gazillion characters on panel.  The artist could have used closeups or dramatic camera angles to make us feel the drama of the situation.

Batman’s reaction is just “Go get him, guys!” with a square jaw and pantomime expression.  Do the Justice League really need to be told to “Go use your powers to fight the bad guys and rescue people?”  Batman could point like that and say “Go get em!” in any situation. It’s generic. It’s boring.

Meanwhile, the sitcom banter with Black Canary and Booster, while slightly amusing, doesn’t make us feel the drama of the situation. Instead, if makes us feel like what’s going on is not very serious or important. Plus the dialogue feels more jokey than natural. 

“As the token girl on the team, I do not like being rescued by the boys!”   (She should get used to it, because she appears to be the weakest member on the team, except for maybe Blue Beetle).

Compare this scene to how drama was built when Suprema was possessed in Alan Moore’s Youngblood run:
Alan Moore Youngblood dramatic moment

Large panel, characters freaking out and nearly being incinerated.  Over the shoulder shot as Suprema looks upon the puny mortals below her, giving us a sense of her godlike power and their comparative weakness.  And there’s funny quips as well.  It accomplishes everything JLI fails to do.

I should probably note this was an extremely popular comic back in the day, and my point of view is hardly an uncontroversial one.  Whatever the larger consensus, for me, when I read this comic, it deserved a ā€œDā€.

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