They say the 1980’s was the decade of excesses, but not for comics. That was totally the 1990’s. Excessive amounts of new publishers, new titles, new superheroes, new universes, new writers and artists… the result was a decade with tens of thousands of comics published and maybe four percent of that worth its cover price in entertainment value.
It was during this decade that DC milked the Justice League for all they could get out of it. Not only was their Justice League America and Justice League International as holdovers from the Giffen-era, but Justice League Quarterly, Extreme Justice and this, Justice League Task Force. Quite frankly, by the time JLTF came along, JLA and JLI were dogging it pretty good, the Quarterly was an anthology, and we’re getting pretty reacquainted with the quality level of those by now. JLTF, while not spectacular, wasn’t bad, which for the ’90’s was saying a lot.
The first three issues, however, are the weakest of the bunch. Written by David Michelinie, the impetus was to make JLTF superhero espionage unit, in this case foiling a coup in some US supported 3rd World dictatorship. The moral ambiguities should have been rife for decent, dramatic storytelling, but unfortunately Michelinie gets lost in the inter-personal dynamics between Martian Manhunter and Nightwing (Dick gets no respect at all in this story). The story was solid, the execution however, featured choppy pacing, some atrocious dialogue, flat humour, and a decided lack of characterization. Everyone’s personality seemed to fit the story the writer was trying to tell rather than having their own established persona come through. J’onn in particular seemed completely un-alien and lacked his usual team-leading, almost fatherly charisma. Michelinie also seemed to forget that Flash and Nightwing have been friends and teammates for a tremendously long time already, and that Aquaman is a king of the seas, not a surface dweller.
The art by Sal Velluto was good, if occasionally uneven, but his dynamic framing and figure positioning were already solid, and they have only gotten better. He’s a terribly under-appreciated talent.
The intent for JLTF was to have a rotating cast, save J’onn and Gypsy, and a rotating writer, with Velluto and inker Jeff Albrecht the constant illustration team. After the first year Christopher Priest would come aboard as the series writer and establish a stable team, and larger character archs and stories. Previous to Priest joining, stories were written by Mark Waid, Peter David, Denny O’Neil and Chuck Dixon. The series intersects the “Knightquest/Knightsend” Batman’s-broken-back stuff in issue 5 & 6, and really doesn’t take off until David’s
Paradise Island women-only story in issue 7. Or at least that’s how I remember it. I plan on reading through my collection of the series (26 of 38 issues) to see how they hold up.
On another note, the first issue faced a boycott in Quebec, causing a bit of a stir in both comics news and the real world. The opening pages feature an armed French separatist group getting taken out by Martian Manhunter. The series also spawned a one-on-one fighting game from Acclaim