Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Wonder Woman and the Justice League of America

Wonder Woman and the Justice League America Volume 1 (1993-94/ Collected 2017): written by Dan Vado, Chuck Dixon, and Bill Loebs; illustrated by Kevin West, Mike Collins, Chris Hunter, Greg LaRocque, Rick Burchett, Ken Branch, and others:  

DC repackaged these early 1990's Justice League America issues to put Wonder Woman's name above the title. Which is fine. It's an undercollected era of DC's super-group, so whatever helps it sell!

Wonder Woman takes over as leader a few months after the Death of Superman event removed the Man of Steel from the group. The surviving members, most of whom took a beating at the hands of Superman-killer Doomsday, are still pretty traumatized. Booster Gold needs new armor, his 25th-century duds having been shredded by Doomsday. Blue Beetle is still recovering from his own physical and emotional trauma. Fire still hasn't regained her fire powers. Former Green Lantern Guy Gardner, now wielding Sinestro's yellow power ring, is unusually pissy even for him.

The group gets asked by the United Nations to intervene in an African military coup. There may be no super-villains involved in the coup, but that rapidly changes. The Extremists show up. Or maybe The New Extremists. A sort-of generic group of super-villains, they're working for a sinister mastermind who won't be revealed until the next collected volume.

The JLA makes its way through several problems, from alien fugitives to problems in member Ice's frozen Northern kingdom. The Extremists and the political problems in Ice's homeland are both part of a larger strategy from a mystery figure. Guy Gardner's ultra-belligerence is not -- it's something from his own book crossing over into JLA. We also get a chapter from perhaps DC's least-loved title-wide crossover of the 1980's and 1990's, Bloodlines.

New writer Dan Vado keeps things chugging along with what is really a Marvel-level of angst and superheroic sorrow. New regular artist Kevin West is certainly a competent penciler, though he's outshined in a one-off appearance by Mike Collins. The JLA was never really an 'Art book' -- it's hard enough to keep all the costumes straight, I think! Overall, it's a solid slice of 1990's superheroics, complete with some truly hair-raising costumes and hair-styles. Recommended.

Wonder Woman and the Justice League America Volume 2 (1994/ Collected 2017): written by Dan Vado, Gerard Jones, and Mark Waid; illustrated by Marc Campos, Chuck Wojtkiewicz, Sal Velluto, Ken Branch, and others: 

Wonder Woman leads the Justice League America against the somewhat wiggy Cult of the Machine. But that's just the warm-up for the six-part crossover with Justice League Europe and Justice League Task Force as the three Leagues must join forces in the Day of Judgment story-line to save the Earth from the Overmaster and his Cadre.

Primary JLA penciler Marc Campos does a decent job throughout, though he's occasionally overwhelmed by a desire to do unusual page lay-outs that compromise the reader's ability to understand what the Hell is going on. But he does seem very energetic and enthusiastic. Because the book crosses over with two other titles, the artists change between Day of Judgment chapters, which can be a bit discombobulating.

Wonder Woman does her best as team leader. There's a sly visual nod to Watchmen at one point which I like a lot. Booster Gold screws up. Blue Beetle gets off the mat. Vandal Savage gets to be non-threatening for once. Co-writer on Day of Judgment Mark Waid seems to do a practice run for the Quintumvirate of Kingdom Come with a trio of immortals here debating what to do about Earth's potentially dire fate. 

Overmaster never comes into complete focus as a villain. He's like Galactus if Galactus were into eugenics rather than planet-eating. Superman and Batman are completely absent from the shenanigans because of events over in their own books. They should probably have appeared for at least a cameo, given the stakes, but editors can be really, really fussy about appearances of their characters in the books of other editors. This is how one sometimes ends up with a Justice League or an Avengers that would have problems defeating the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Oh, well.

One of the period-specific curiosities here (well, other than a book called Justice League Task Force, a name it shared with a video game of the time) are repeated references to Wonder Woman's loss of the ability to fly. Clearly this happened in her own book. We're told again and again that she can no longer fly, but never is it explained further. Get this woman an Invisible Jet stat! Recommended.

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