The End of the Justice League of America.
With a Legends crossover banner and four covers that got increasingly dramatic (the final one being my favorite with “JUSTICE LEAGUE of AMERICA THE FINAL CHAPTER” in huge letters behind and below Vixen), this was a story I originally owned way back in the early Nineties, having fished it out of the bins at Amazing Comics mainly because I saw the final issue of the series and went, “Oooo. I bet that’s good.”
What can I say, I’m a sucker for finales.
I picked this up again some time ago because I was getting back into the Legends crossover game and knew that of all the titles, this one was the one that event had the biggest impact upon. Sort of, anyway. It’s not like how the War of the Gods crossover (as underwhelming as it was) was directly connected to Wonder Woman, but the JLA was destroyed and rebuilt via Legends, even though this feels more like “please clear the decks so the new team comes in” than “changes and growth for a new team.”
The writer is J.M. DeMatteis, who would go on to co-create the BWAH-HA-HA Justice League with Keith Giffen, and for the last time we have Luke McDonnell on pencils with a variety of inkers. The story is exactly what the covers promise–with the team at odds with one another and not able to really suit up and fight because of the president’s executive order outlawing super-heroes, the Justice League winds up being no more. But it doesn’t stop there as Professor Ivo enacts his latest plan to destroy the League by sending specially programmed androids after them. The robots kill Vibe, appear to kill Gypsy, and kill Steel until they are finally taken down by Vixen and Martian Manhunter. In the very end, Gypsy returns to her family, Vixen decides to retire from the superhero biz, and Martian Manhunter responds to a distress signal that will take him to Washington, D.C. and Legends #6.
It’s an ending that I don’t think one would expect for the finale of a super-hero comic as big as Justice League of America. The end of a big-ticket team should probably feature a big-ticket battle, perhaps directly against Darkseid or another huge foe. But while what we’re given here is the return of a longtime foe (who, if you had read the first Legion of Super-Heroes annual a year earlier, lives beyond this story), we’re given one with smart tactics who has been watching this team for a while and realizes how weak they are individually. It’s a rather dark and violent storyline and makes you feel for each of the characters even if you didn’t know them very well. Vibe has a conversation with a kid about what a real hero is and the kid turns around and cheers for him when he beats the robot but isn’t there to see the robot’s hands fly off and strangle him. Gypsy’s android is conflicted about killing her–reflecting Ivo’s inner conflict about killing her because she’s very young–and decides to help fake her death before she is finally reunited with her parents. Steel is brutally killed and has to be taken offline by his grandfather. Prior to this, I couldn’t care less about JL Detroit and as each one of them went down, I found myself really hoping they’d make it through, even though I knew they wouldn’t.
Even though I said Luke McDonnell’s work on issue #250 wasn’t a particular favorite of mine, it fits perfectly in this story. The plot is dark and happens on an individual level and he brings a grit to the proceedings but in a way that isn’t some of the awful grimdark crap we’d get through the Nineties and today. It lent itself well to DeMatteis’ script and the experience he had with these characters really showed.
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