Before I get to the review of these comics, I am going to offer up some commentary about writing reviews of comics for this blog and the blog itself. I mean, I’m sure this could be its own post entirely and maybe I’ll expand on this point in another reflection, but I was prepping another post the other night and realized that I seem to be posting in fits and starts, which isn’t the best way to run a blog. In the very least, I should post on a regular schedule, right?
ANYWAY, I have a stack of comics that I’ve torn through in the last week quicker than I have been able to write the reviews. Part of this is because I’ve been very busy at work–we’re hitting the end of a marking period–and part of it is because I’m really enjoying just reading the comics and I don’t know how much justice I can do when it comes to reviewing them. I listen to a lot of podcasts and read a few comics review sites every once in a while and they’re doing things way better than I am in the little capsule reviews that I’m offering up.
I say that not out of self-pity but out of admiration. I do a comics review podcast of my own and I know how much work goes into reading, re-reading, recapping, and reviewing even a single issue of a comic for that show; furthermore, I know the time it can take to scan cover after cover and page after page to put on your blog. So, if you’re doing that on a daily basis, I salute you. I don’t have the time nor do I think I have the energy to fully sustain that. So that’s why you get small, reviews with wandering thoughts and why you are also going to get “batch” reviews of comics, even if they’re not part of the same storyline.
I picked up a pile of old Justice League of America books a few years ago in a cheap bin at the Baltimore Comic-Con. They weren’t in very good shape, but I think I was only paying 50 cents for them as opposed to more than that via Comixology or trade. With the exception of the books I’m going to cover in my next JLA-related post, they were all early 1980s/late satellite-era books. This isn’t “my” era of the League or anything–I guess you could say that “my” era might be the early 1990s, although aside from owning the first Bwah-Ha-Ha era trade paperback as well as the entire Grant Morrison run in trade, I have never consistently read any Justice League comic to lay claim to an era or have a league of my own.
Still, this is the most recognizable iteration of the League because around the time it was being published, I was still watching Super Friends on Saturday mornings (and in reruns on weekdays), and a number of my friends in the comics fandom/podcasting world look upon this era with great nostalgia. That and the George Perez covers to many of them were enough to sell me.
Perez does not do interiors on these books, although I will say that there are pieces of early 1980s Perez in here courtesy of inking jobs from Romeo Tanghal (and if you want proof of how much Tanghal contributed to Perez’ art, look at the cover of 198 without looking at the signature at the bottom. At a glance, the pencils look Perez but they are by Ross Andru). However, this isn’t one of those cases where the interior artwork is a huge letdown because with artists such as Don Heck, Rich Buckler, and Chuck Patton, you’re still getting some dynamic action and quality storytelling.
The stories themselves are the type of epic, cross space/time/universe stuff that I would expect from this era of comics. In #198, four heroes find themselves back in the old west courtesy of the the Lord of Time and they run into some of DC’s western characters, who I had been introduced to in the pages of Crisis. It’s continued in the next issue (where the western characters, save Jonah Hex, would make their final pre-Crisis appearances) and I enjoyed it for nothing else except now I understood the direct reference made in Crisis #2 where the gunslingers see John Stewart and recognize the costume.
Issue #212 is a bit goofy but fun, as these aliens are tearing the planet apart looking for some old, bald white guy who apparently has the perfect representation of DNA for the human race and that somehow makes him the most important man in the universe. Issue #217 is a fight with one of Arion’s villains (we assume–at any rate, its an evil Atlantean wizard) but more than that features an iconic Perez cover, which was the illustration for this piece. I bought #218 because of the cover as well–I had seen these two back to back in a bin and I loved how #218 showed the heroes at gunpoint on top of the previous issue’s cover. This story involves Professor Ivo, whom we will see in a future entry.
Then, there’s #219-220, which is a two-part JLA/JSA team-up “Crisis in the Thunderbolt Dimension.” It seems that the Earth-1 version of Johnny Thunder is evil, he’s gotten control of Earth-2 Johnny Thunder’s thunderbolt, and is attacking the heroes while holding the Earth-2 Black Canary and her husband, Larry Lance, hostage. Except they’re supposed to be dead and their deaths were the reason Black Canary came to Earth-1 in the first place. But Black Canary isn’t who she thinks she is and is actually her own mother because the daughter was in a coma and … I was kind of confused by this, but it was cool to actually read one of the JLA/JSA pre-Crisis crossovers that I had never read before. In fact, I’m always struck by how well the teams get along, since I’m used to the ‘ol Marvel “fight and then realize we’re on the same side” team-up.
Overall, these were worth the money and worth the time. I can see why people are nostalgic for this era and not just because it’s comics from when they were kids. These books are not tied down by their relationship to the rest of the DCU or continuity. You could pick them up, enjoy them, and maybe even buy the next one without having to think, “What does this mean for the character?” or anything like that. Even the JLA/JSA issues, which were steeped in multiversal continuity, were still accessible.
I miss comics like that. I’ve completely off-loaded DC’s current titles because if I’m not reading them trying to decipher what this means for the broader picture or how this fits into some sort of continuity, I’m exhausted by fan whining about whatever is going on. I would like to be able to come into the middle of a series and move forward or pick up what I missed not because I have to, but because I want to. Give me more of that, please.
Keep, Sell, Donate, or Trash?