Justice League Detroit is one of those weird things that you know happened but always have to go back and check to see if they did. As a concept, they were only around for 2-1/2 years and would be unceremoniously cleared out (and mostly killed off) during the Legends event to make way for what’s known as the BWAH-HA-HA era of J.M. DeMatteis and Keith Giffen.
But I’m getting ahead of myself here because I have those particular Legends crossovers and I’m going to be writing about them in my next post. Right here, I have an extra-sized, $1.25 issue, #250, which features the triumphant return of the world’s greatest heroes! I mean, at least that’s what the cover copy says.
I can’t remember where I got this one and I know I’ve read it before because I’ve had it for at least a few years now. I was probably suckered into buying it because of the presence of the old league (and remembering house ads saying that the old JLA was back) as well as DC’s classic 1980s-era “Anniversary” banner. I am sure that if I wanted to go out and collect every single comic DC published with that banner, I could, but I think that’s a level of collector insanity that goes beyond what motivates one to get all of the 25th anniversary Marvel covers.
The comic is by Gerry Conway, Luke McDonnell, and Bill Wray, and features Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, and Black Canary (who they didn’t put on the cover for some reason) returning to the JLA’s headquarters when they all receive an alert, one they haven’t received in a long time. The alert is not sent from a colleague, but from a mysterious foe that is sucking the life force out of every JLA member. It turns out that it is the mature form of a space creature that Superman accidentally brought back from an adventure a long time ago and it is more or less working mindlessly against them. The old Leaguers must then team up with the kids from the Detroit League, some of whom are very hot-headed, to defeat it, and it ends with Batman’s reluctant return to the League as a mentor for the young heroes.
As a stand-alone story (mostly–there are a couple of interludes that set up later storylines, including one involving Despero), this is a solid read. Conway, who wrote the issues I covered in my last post, knows these characters well and they all feel like their familiar selves. In fact, there’s a bit of nostalgia here for anyone who was a fan of the Bronze Age JLA because this issue came out one month after the end of Crisis and during the “Crisis Hangover” period where a number of old incarnations of characters were wrapping up (Superman, for instance, was four months away from “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?”), so Conway is giving us one last classic Justice League of America story before that goes out the window entirely.
He also sets up the Detroit kids as a team with a considerable chip on its shoulder, at least as far as Vibe and Steel are concerned, and gives us motivation to read because Batman will stick around and try to work with the team, even though he doesn’t really want to because the Outsiders had just disbanded.
If there’s any downside to this, it’s the artwork. I usually like Luke McDonnell’s artwork–at least I think he did a great job on Suicide Squad a couple of years later–so I might chalk this up to the inking by Bill Wray, but it just doesn’t do it for me. It’s not terrible enough to trash this book and say that you shouldn’t read it because the story alone carries it, but if you’re paying more than its original cover price, you’re paying too much.
Keep, Sell, Donate, or Trash?