Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Justice League International vol. 2: Breakdown


Justice League International vol 2: Breakdown (The New 52)

HULK SMA-- wait, wrong book.
Writer: Dan Jurgens

Artist: Aaron Lopresti and Matt Ryan

Background:

The JLI, or Justice League International is, in essence, a UN-sanctioned Justice League. Don’t, however, make the mistake of thinking that this means Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are going to be travelling the world. This is a whole-new team made up of second-string characters who, while they wouldn’t really work well in their own books, make for a fairly likable team.

The team is dual led by Batman and Booster Gold. Batman doesn’t make much of an appearance in Breakdown, however, and the role of leader usually lands in Booster Gold’s lap. Booster Gold is, essentially, from the future. What makes his character interesting, though, is that he’s no hero, really. His goal is make money by performing superheroics with technology that doesn’t exist yet.

Next there’s Guy Gardner- the rogue Green Lantern. To be honest, Guy has always been my least favourite lantern. He’s brash, boorish and is a borderline bully. In the Red Lanterns series, Guy actually ends up on the Lantern team fuelled not by willpower, but rage.

I know precious little about the character Godiva. What I can tell from Breakdown, though is that she’s British, and can use her hair like Doctor Octopus can use his tentacles.

The book also features OMAC, a man trapped in the body of a monster that really came into focus with the DC event Final Crisis, as well as the August General in Irons- a Chinese warrior forever encased in Iron armour. Finally, Batwing, an African Batman, is part of this team, fleshing it out to a complete seven characters.

Review:

Not all cancelled New 52 books have made it as far as a second volume. Both Static Shock and Mr Terrific disappeared after their first collections, and Savage Hawkman was, apparently, too awful to let live. Along with the likes of Lesgion of Superheroes, Legion Lost, and Blue Beetle, Justice League International deserves credit for lasting as long as it did. A team of B-list characters was always more likely to get cut than other titles, but the fact that it wasn’t canned after volume one says that the series at least started out strong. The problem though, is that Breakdown reads like writer Dan Jurgens knew that the book wouldn’t last, and therefore decided to hurry up and put all of his ideas into six issues while somehow tying the story up. One gets the feeling that the entire story would have been better had they just cut it off suddenly without scrambling to give readers closure.

Breakdown throws is into the middle of the action straight from the start. A UN event where the United Nations presents the JLI to the world is simultaneously bombed and attack by  strange energy creatures. It leaves many of the JLI severely wounded and some even dead. As a result, the JLI are immediately disowned by the UN and the team is left to hunt down the ones responsible for the bombing. Each issue is told from a different character’s point of view. I suppose that’s to break up the idea of there being a single “hero” in the book.  That’s a great idea when you’re working with teams like the original Justice League, or even the Teen Titans. But the JLI is made up of characters that new readers, in particular, know very little about. I would have liked to see one of the characters narrate the entire story, that way, readers would be able to learn more about one character. The way Jurgens writes, we are left knowing just as little about each character after their turn at narration as we did before.

The volume is named after the book’s central villain; Breakdown. Creepy and skeletal-looking, Breakdown is able to take anything and break it down into its basic elements. He’s a villain with a great look, but Jurgens makes the mistake of not only putting him in broad daylight most of the time, thereby dumbing down the horror that the character could have portrayed, but also of giving him associates that look plain ridiculous.

That is not to say that the story is awful. The plot itself is clever, but not executed to its fullest extent. It sets itself up as the last adventure for the JLI, yet by the end of the volume, it seems that the team still exists. What’s more, Jurgens squeezes this pointless tie in to The Fury of Firestorm halfway through the arc, disjointing it and disorientating the reader as to what the story is actually about.

I’ll say this for Jurgens; he can write some great moments into the book. One of my personal favourites was seeing Guy Gardner use his Green Lantern power to give him self an “Iron Man-esque” suit of armour, which he uses to take on OMAC. OMAC himself has some great “Hulk Smash” style moments. Sure it bespeaks Marvel more than DC, but they’re great moments regardless.

The art, at its very worst, does the story justice. Everything you see in this book is functional. It isn’t by any means dazzling, but between the efforts of Aaron Lopresti and Matt Ryan, the essence of each character is captured fairly well.

Breakdown suffers a lot from its being a rushed ending to a series that had more potential. It gets a two and a half out of five tentacle-hairs.

** ½

+ Great moments.

+ Breakdown is scary as hell.

- Story is disjointed.

- Breakdown’s companions look stupid.

- Spotlight is shared around characters that are underutilised.

Alternate Option: 52, Volume 1

It’s a much better use of second-tier characters. But what else would you expect when it’s written by the likes of Mark Waid, Grant Morrison and Geoff Johns?