For five years Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis led the Justice League to one of it’s most legendary runs, a time which saw B-listers become fan favourites and superhero deconstructionism take a much less serious turn. After two years (and strangely enough, two title changes) Justice League spawned a second series, Justice League Europe (with Gerard Jones standing in for DeMatteis after a few issues), and in its fourth year, another series emerged for the team to write, the ongoing 80-page giant Justice League Quarterly, appearing, as the title would suggest, every four months.
The debut issue follows the recently-resigned Booster Gold as he’s enticed by a public relations firm into starting a new super-team financed by corporate sponsors, The Conglomerate. The team consists of Gypsy, Vibe’s brother Reverb, and a half dozen other unknown rookies. They cause an immediate stir as they go on a crime-stopping and humanitarian spree, creating tons of press, appeasing their corporate overlords, and royally annoying the Justice League. But soon the corporate sponsors start requesting the team protect their interests, sending them out on “jobs” that may or may not be on the level, one creating an international incident, requiring the United Nations to call in “their” team, leading to the inevitable conflict between the two teams. Though there’s lots of space for story and character building, Giffen and DeMatteis don’t fully utilize it to build up the Conglomerate, instead still focussing primarily on the Justice League (it is their title after all) and their reaction to the new competition. Booster and Beetle have their confrontation and Max Lord confronts his opposite on the other team, someone intimately familiar to him. Chris Sprouse provides some solid art (though the colouring doesn’t hold up very well) and it remains a smart and enjoyable read.
Issue #2 reveals the long anticipated origin of Mr. Nebula and the Scarlet Skier (the thinly veiled analogs/parodies to Marvel’s Galactus and Silver Surfer). Unable to escape the confines of Earth’s atmosphere, the Skier is stuck playing sidekick to unfortunate Green Lantern G’nort. Mr. Nebula, somewhat depressed about his latest planetary rearrangement (instead of eating planets, Nebula redesigns them), decides to hunt down the herald who abandoned him, sending out probes to locate his whereabouts. When the Skier discovers a probe on Earth, warning bells ring and he calls upon the Justice League (well, those active on roster: J’onn J’onnz, Ice and Crimson Fox) to help ward off the near god-like being. Just looking at these two issues, it epitomizes what I like about the Giffen-era Justice League… the first issue is about people, while this issue’s main story is just goofy, but both work, and work well. The late Tom Artis was the Mr. Nebula artist, and while I always found his work a little awkward, he does a solid job with the storytelling. The back-up feature finds a hysterical and ingenious face-off between Fire and Ice and Flash rogues Captain Cold and Heat Wave. Art by Adrian Aw is clean, attractive, and would later be known as the solid inker “Buzz”.
Issue three is a great one, featuring alternate-dimension Walt Disney analog Mitch Wacky teaming up with Justice League handyman (err… alien) Kilowog to develop a time machine/dimensional portal so that Mitch can go back in time in his dimension to before the Extremist annihilation can happen and stop it. They succeed in traversing time and space, but due to some alien technology, they arrive there only about six inches tall. The activation of the space-time transfer alerts the rest of the League (all members present for a conference) and they send a team off, led by Mitch’s fellow alternate-dimensioners Blue Jay and Silver Sorceress. The adventure finds the mini Killowog and Mitch taking the controls of a Mitch robot and heading for that dimension’s superteam (a thinly veiled Avengers) where more hijinks ensue. Eventually Mitch realizes that he can’t change what already happened… but the team still finds themselves trapped in another time and place from home. It’s a humorous adventure but with serious heart to it. There’s a bit of everything in this one, including terrific art by Mike McKone and Guy Gardner traversing the innards of General Glory’s dog.
After this issue, the series stopped running complete stories over its massive length and instead went the anthology route. Giffen, DeMatteis and Jones contributed sparsely as the focus shifts away from the team to ancillary characters like the Global Guardians and various super-villains. I seem to recall the book losing its luster after the “Breakdowns” storyline in the main titles that ended Giffen’s run. Dan Jurgen’s follow-up run on the series just didn’t inspire the same interest in peripheral characters. I think, perhaps JLQ was even the more enjoyable series. I’ll be giving the rest of the issues another peek.