Sunday, July 18, 2021

Justice League International #15 (1988)

Martian Manhunter has every power in the known universe but still needs to wear a space suit? Disbelief firmly unsuspended.

The smallest, stupidest things always take me out of the comic book world in which I'm trying to absorb myself in an attempt to momentarily forget about my eventual demise. Usually the thing that upends my suspension of disbelief is the writer doing something that seems more realistic. I'll be reading a comic book about Superman, a guy who gets powers from the energy of a yellow sun, somehow, which manifest in super strength and lasers out of his eyes, and lungs that can regulate internal temperatures so that he can exhale freezing temperatures and the ability to hover in the air and propel himself through it by no visible means of propulsion. I'll be really into it and thinking, "Yeah, yeah! I totally buy into all of this!" And then some editor will be all, "We don't want him to be too powerful. Make it so he can't breathe in space anymore, or hold his breath forever, or whatever the fuck he was doing to survive the vacuum of space. People will see that he's not way too powerful then!" And then I'll be, "What?! No fucking way! This guy can do everything else but he can't super hold his super breath?! So unrealistic! I'm out!"

That may or may not be an exaggeration. Ultimately I usually drop the comic books I'm reading because a writer I can't fucking stand takes over. I'll lobdelleave it to your imaginocentiation as to who those writers kruld be.

To be transparent about this upcoming review, I'm not totally sure what's going on in this story arc. Lord Manga's ship, The Cluster, is out of gas so he needs to siphon everything from Earth to keep the ship running. And so instead of just taking it all, he proposes some kind of scam trade or boot sale swap? I'm not sure I understand what his offer is though, aside from "Consent to us stealing all of your shit or we'll steal all of your shit." I don't blame the writers for my lack of understanding! That's completely on me and my idiot brain that spent more time looking at Fire's butt last issue than trying to comprehend what was happening.

This issue is called "GNORT AND SOUTH!" I guess I'm laughing? Because get it? G'nort's name sounds like a compass direction? But is there a better aspect to this pun here? Maybe the "SOUTH!" part is punning on whatever G'nort means? Why does it end in an exclamation point?! After some consideration, I've decided I'm not laughing at all.

The story begins with a solid "G'nort is a huge idiot" joke.

I might have used the word "solid" incorrectly in the above caption. I might have meant "hack" or "repetitive" or "really, really repetitive and hack." It is apropos because my "joke" about using the wrong word and then pointing out I meant an entirely different word might be the hackiest and most-oft repeated joke on the Internet! I'm currently pumping my fist in celebration of my status as shit writer and wondering if I should repeat the joke for my use of "apropos."

Speaking of shit writers, are those guys at the Weird Science comic book blog still doing reviews and ten hour podcasts? I hope so!

Speaking of shit writers, Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis aren't as entertaining as I remember them being when I was seventeen. Sometimes I complain when an artist uses the same panel. So I should probably complain when Giffen and DeMatteis keep using the same jokes too. They love reminding the readers that G'nort isn't respected by other members of the Green Lantern Corps because he's an incompetent idiot. Which I don't find funny at all. I just find it terribly sad. I would understand if it were just Hal and Guy and Kilowog who thought G'nort was an idiot. But, I mean, does even Mogo think he's a useless jerk?!

At least the joke this time is that G'nort is so incompetent that he's actually become a threat to The Cluster. See, he's too stupid to realize he should retreat and so he accidentally begins doing real damage to the ship. And while he does that, L-ron rambles too much and Lord Manga shouts some more.

No, I'm good, thanks.

G'nort destroys The Cluster's cloaking device which gives the Justice League International a target. Up until that moment, all everybody except Mister Miracle could do was shrug their shoulders and ask each other, "Do you know where that weird home shopping network from space commercial with the chatty robot came from?" And the other members who weren't Mister Miracle would say, "No, do you know where that weird home shopping network from space commercial with the chatty robot came from?" If you're wondering what Mister Miracle was saying, he was saying, "There's something in orbit blocking out the stars. We should probably go check it out." But every time he'd say that, Beetle and Booster would snicker and say, "It was probably Big Barda's tits," or "It was probably Big Barda's ass."

Oberon jumping to the obvious conclusions! And pretty much using my description of the alien broadcast, the little plagiarist! Or did I just remember that's how he described it from reading this nearly thirty years ago?! No, no. Oberon stole it from me. My memory sucks.

The weak half of the Justice League head to Australia to investigate the global power surge while the strong half (meaning Captain Atom and Martian Manhunter) head into space to battle the alien ship. Guy Gardner remains at home on "important business." It'll probably be revealed that he was organizing his boot collection because that's the kind of hilarious punchline that Giffen and DeMatteis can't stop coming up with.

Can nobody survive in space in this era of DC?! It's fucking ridiculous!

Martian Manhunter acts as if Captain Atom was too stupid to make this realization beforehand but what the fuck is he going to do in his suit?! He can't use any of his powers either! Except maybe read some minds! So basically it's up to Rocket Red who was smart enough to make his super suit a space suit as well. And here I thought the team full of idiots went to Australia. I guess I owe Booster and Beetle an apology although who could blame me for expecting their team to be the one that fucks up?

Later G'nort saves the day which was totally expected in that it was the least expected thing G'nort would do.

I guess G'nort is an idiot. He spent the entire first half of the comic book saying he'll prove his worth to those other Green Lanterns who think he's incompetent. And now he suddenly doesn't know who's been saying he's incompetent? No wonder Mogo hates him!

G'nort saves the day by being a Green Lantern with the most powerful weapon in the universe. At least that's what the ring claims it is. But how powerful can the most powerful weapon in the universe be when it can't even protect the wearer from being pissed on?

The ending of this issue becomes a recurring theme in the lives of the Justice League post Superman/Wonder Woman/Batman (although Batman loves to hang around here and there. But, really, he's kind of useless when you realize you could have had Superman or Wonder Woman). They're getting their asses handed to them and then the bad guy simply walks away. Although sometimes the Justice League gets their asses handed to them and then a bunch of them die. It's kind of a coin toss which one the writers will choose at any moment. Luckily for Blue Beetle, Giffen and DeMatteis decide against killing anybody this issue. Writers need to save those moments for big crossovers when they know they'll have more eyes on their story. In this story, Lord Manga just realizes he's suddenly losing money on his attempt to strip Earth for parts and leaves before he loses too much more money. Which is weird that it's such a casual decision when, seemingly according to the previous issue, he desperately needed to strip every planet he came across or The Cluster would run out of resources to keep going. But then again, I did mention earlier how I wasn't really following this story too well. Damn Fire's ass.

As Lord Manga retreats, Mister Miracle gets kidnapped and taken away to be sold elsewhere. Barda isn't happy about the Justice League losing her husband so she decides to finally join the team for real. And so even though none of them can survive in space, a bunch of Justice Leaguers suit up and head into space to find Mister Miracle. Left behind: Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Fire, and Ice. So that means next issue will either be a super exciting space adventure or a bumbling Keystone Cops slapstick farce. Smart money's on the farce, of course.

Oh, this is why Guy was too busy to save the world. He was trying to convince Batman to come back. At least Batman would have been well-prepared for a fight in space.

This month's letters were from Ron Hogan of Melrose, Massachusetts; Chris Nadiez of Thousand Oaks, California; Gerard M. Brown of Brooklyn, New York; Randy Johnson of Oklahoma City, Kansas (ha ha! Just kidding! It's Oklahoma!); Jody Peterson of Franklin, Illinois; Kim Pickford of Vancouver, Canada; Jeff Cranston of Bloomington, Michigan; Leslie Palmer of Chicago, Illinois; and Sean Hanson of Bradford, New Hampshire. Kim Pickford makes a really salient argument when Kim says, "I really like the way Kevin draws Black Canary. She's so pretty, but she's not overdone. I like the fact that she doesn't have huge breasts like most of the heroines in comics. Canary's trim bustline is much more practical for crime-fighting." It's a good thing I don't have a band because our first album would now be called Canary's Trim Bustline and it would be terrible because I can't play any instruments, I can't sing, and I have no friends to be in my band. Meanwhile, Jeff Cranston raises the standard for feminism when he says, "Boy, is [Black Canary] bitchy. That trait and her feminism make for a wicked combination. If I were female, I'd probably be really annoyed that you made the only woman on the team such a whiner, in addition to always leaving her on the sidelines. Good thing your readership doesn't overlap with that of Ms. magazine." Way to stand up for women's rights, Jeff! I also ignored the fact that every single member of the team (other than concussed Guy Gardner) was constantly being a whiny bitch to make my point about how Black Canary was a whiny bitch! At least Jeff got it right when he said, "If I were female, I'd probably be really annoyed." Especially at his own letter, I imagine!

Not one letter praises Bob Lappan's lettering. What a shame. And Mark Waid, letter column editor, puts in minimal effort responding to these letters. It's like he has nothing at all to say! I bet nothing came of his career, the lazy putz!

Justice League International #15 Rating: B-. I'm really sad to announce that there were no good shots of Fire's butt this issue. It's a dark day indeed for my penis. Flags at half mast, if you get my meaning.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Justice League International #14 (1988)

When I saw this issue on the rack at my local comic book shop, I shouted, way too excitedly, "Finally! The Justice League versus space junk!"

This cover is a good example of how I drew stuff in elementary school. I messed up a lot and my mess ups had to be covered up by other stuff. So here, Fire's left shoulder looks dislocated so gotta cover that up with Mister Miracle's collar. And Steve probably fucked up Guy's left hand so draw that piece of debris in the way. Then he probably couldn't get Martian Manhunter's nipples right, so stick that bar there. And of course nobody really knows how to draw Booster Gold's crotch so block that weird ass shit with Fire's head. I think he also may have accidentally given Mister Miracle a Hitler mustache so Al Gordon saved the day by drawing that cord across it.

The issue begins with a lonely alien watching his entire civilization dismantled and repossessed by interstellar salesaliens. The story is called "Shop or Die" so I think the destruction of this alien world isn't as serious as when Galactus or the Anti-Monitor destroys a world. I think this is a Giffen/DeMatteis whimsical world destruction. It's like, "Don't feel too bad for this alien! He just got into a bad service contract in which he didn't read the fine print which he couldn't fulfill! This isn't an exciting and destructive disaster in space! This was caused by bureaucratic legalese which means it's kind of funny. I think." Maybe I'm projecting my memories of the salesalien characters from my memory onto this introduction. Maybe this introduction was meant to feel terrifying.

Nope. I just read the narration and these guys can't be bothered with any kind of earnest storytelling.

I get it! We've all had stray ideas like "What if Galactus was really just some planet-to-planet salesman trying to sell some cheap shit?" But most of us don't have jobs at DC and Marvel. Anyway, you never know when some weird and wonderful idea will become the most celebrated idea in comics, raised up as the moment when everything changed. Who would have thought Alan Moore's shower thought, "What if Swamp Thing isn't a man who became a plant but a plant who became a man?!", was going to upend the entire genre?!

Lord Manga is the captain of this world-destroying ship and he loves to not only talk to himself but constantly remind himself (and be reminded by his lackey L-Ron) that he talks to himself. The joke is that characters like Doctor Doom and Doctor Evil and Doctor Destruction and Doctor Villainous all love to explain their plans out loud so that the reader knows what's happening. But it's an odd comic book trope so Giffen and DeMatteis were all, "What if the villain realized that explaining their plot aloud to nobody was a weird thing to do and commented on it multiple times across one single page?" In a weird, self-conscious way, that idea may have upended the genre just as much as Alan Moore's but in an absurd way that everybody was ultimately sorry for. One thing comic books never needed was for characters to understand exactly how absurd their world was. Nobody needed that kind of existential self-reflection on the part of super heroes! A plant thinking, "Why do I want to fuck a human woman?"? Yes indeed! A villain thinking, "Why do I keep explaining all of my convoluted plots so meticulously?" No thanks!

Either L-Ron is much taller than I remembered or Lord Manga is much shorter.

Look at me in that naïve caption! Thinking consistency means anything in comic books!

Lord Manga and L-Ron decide their next target will be Earth. And not in five or six issues like a good comic book plot would have been seeded in The X-Men! No way! This plot is happening immediately!

Meanwhile back at the New York JLI embassy, Fire's ass continues to outshine Ice's.

Fire and Ice (currently Green Flame and Ice Maiden) would like to join the Justice League, mostly because they're broke but also probably for feminist reasons. When Oberon refers to them, to their faces, as "costumed cuties," I understand why the current League has zero women on it (I think Black Canary has fucked off by now).

Look, I know I introduced Fire and Ice by discussing their asses but I'm not in an important position like "Justice League Manager" or "comic book writer!" I'm just a person who loves female comic book characters' asses and has access to the Internet!

This is failing the Reverse Bechdel Test.

I'm not really sure what the Reverse Bechdel Test would be but it seemed to fit that scene. Is it two guys discussing nothing but women in a sexist manner? Is it women being discussed by two guys in a sexist manner? Is it no women being in a scene while being completely objectified? Are those all the same thing?! I don't know. I told you I didn't know!

Speaking of objectifying female characters, Big Barda really looks sexy in this issue wearing nothing but overalls. The Apokoliptian side-boob alone is causing me lower torso distress.

I never really understood the phrase "homina homina homina" until this moment.

Meanwhile crashing onto the previous planet Lord Manga stripped for parts, G'nort. He learns about Lord Manga's interstellar destruction and flies off to save Earth the way a regular and normal and not-at-all-a-joke Green Lantern would. I think he's getting the hang of this job.

Lord Manga's Cluster lets the people of Earth know that they either share their resources or they'll have their resources confiscated. I think "sharing their resources" is another way of saying "consent to having your resources confiscated." The Cluster is like an interstellar swap shop where you give your stuff to swap and sit back and hope that somebody, somewhere, eventually trades you something interesting in return. It sounds like the kind of deal that needs to be investigated by Batman. But Batman isn't currently available for some reason so the Justice League will have to do it incompetently.

I wonder why Black Canary would have left? If only Batman were still around, he could solve that mystery.

Short-handed? But J'onn just told Fire and Ice to fuck off! Actually, he said, "Ladies, all you're going to be doing is leaving." Which is much ruder than "Fuck off."

Since Fire and Ice don't fuck off, J'onn decides maybe they can be useful. And then G'nort lands on the moon ready to save Earth. Although he won't. He'll just be a big joke like always. He's the opposite of Lobo. I mean he's the opposite of what Lobo was supposed to be until Lobo became a big joke. Lobo's problem was that he was portrayed as being the baddest and most dangerous ass in the DC Universe which meant that every single writer needed to show how the hero or heroes they were writing could defeat him. Which quickly meant Lobo became the one villain easily beaten by every single character in the DC Universe. And not just beaten! Also anally violated by Bueno Excellente. Allegedly!

No letters this month which means the letterer, Bob Lappan, didn't have to weep reading praise by readers about everybody except him.

Justice League International #14 Rating: B. This issue has three different scenes repeated multiple times. There's Lord Manga talking to himself while noting how odd it is that he talks to himself so much. There's G'nort suggesting he's a much better hero than he really is. And there's males casually objectifying their female coworkers (not just in the League! Some of the Cluster do it too!). Other than that, it was, well, not exciting at all. Why did I give it a B? It probably fared no better than a C-!

Friday, July 9, 2021

Justice League International #13 (1988)

Guy Gardner's got some Liefeld back problems happening.

Oh no! I forgot this series crossed over with Suicide Squad! Stupid Past Me didn't prepare for this moment thirty years later by buying two copies of each issue so that I could have the complete story catalogued with each series! And no way is Present Me taking the time to dig through all of my comic book boxes to find Suicide Squad! So here I am, once again, reading only a portion of the story. Just like with Millennium. Just like with, um, whatever. I'm sure there were more. Crossovers were practically the only strategy comics had to sell more comics. The important thing to know is that I'm too lazy to worry about it. Hopefully I'll remember what happens in this issue when I finally do get around to re-reading Suicide Squad in 2034.

Kevin Maguire must have gone on vacation; it's obviously Keith Giffen at the helm on pencils this month.

Keith Giffen was probably the first comic book artist whose work I could identify way back when I first began reading comics for two reasons: it's quite distinctive and I read Ambush Bug repeatedly. His work is a great lesson in subjectivity because I fucking love it but I'd never argue with somebody who hated it. I mean, I probably would. But I'd hate myself later for having done it instead of passive aggressively suggesting they were an idiot. Giffen's work is the opposite of Liefeld's work which is a great lesson in objectivity. Because it's objectively terrible.

I don't see an editor's note telling me to read Suicide Squad first which means I should understand this issue (at least as far as I'm capable of understanding any issue of a comic book). But I'll be left with story blue balls afterward. Like will I ever find out who Mr. Tresser is and why he's locked in a gulag? Will I care?! Sometimes I wish I were one of those nerds who needs to remember every detail of every comic book they've ever read so that they can be the smartest guy in the nerd convention. That way I'd already know who "Nemesis" was and could impress all the imaginary ladies at that same nerd convention. Not that ladies don't go to nerd conventions these days! But you should remember that I'm old enough to remember nerd conventions where only the hardiest nerd women could get past the sweaty snorting gatekeepers of the hobby.

The Russians have let everybody in the international community know that they've captured Nemesis. Amanda Waller thinks it's to lure the rest of the Suicide Squad into a trap which makes it surprising when she doesn't want to send Captain Boomerang into that trap. Batman probably thinks the same thing, especially if Amanda Waller is correct since Batman thinks he's smarter than Amanda Waller. But if it's not a trap, Batman probably mentioned that too because after the mission, people don't remember what Batman said that was wrong. They only remember the correct things he said because he always says, at the end of the mission, "Remember all of those correct guesses and speculations I made?!" Plus he probably doses everybody with some kind of Bat Drug that makes them forget his mistakes. One thing Batman definitely thinks is that Nemesis is a good guy. Weird name for a good guy. Maybe I'll become a superhero named Antagonist Dreamcrusher.

Rick Flag doesn't know how to use a telephone.

You can't fault Giffen for using the exact same image across four panels because usually he only works in three panel rows. He probably didn't know how to adjust.

Flag and Nightshade decide to ignore Amanda Waller's orders not to rescue Nemesis which is weird because the one thing Amanda Waller is known for is being super in control of everything. I guess that's only the case when everybody she's controlling is wearing exploding collars. Might be time to fit Flag with one. Batman, not needing Waller's or anybody else's permission to do something stupid that could cause an international incident, also decides to mount an operation to rescue Nemesis. He goes to Rocket Red for advice and when Rocket Red asks a few simple questions about Nemesis and why he was in Russia, Batman throws a tantrum and walks out. I'm starting to think, for the first time in nearly forty years, that maybe people who claim Batman is their favorite super hero are huge assholes.

That was hyperbole! I've actually thought that for a long, long time!

Flag quickly gets a team together without Amanda's permission. Although Amanda being whom Amanda is, this must mean she wants Flag to go on the mission but she wants to be able to deny personal responsibility when the Suicide Squad fucks everything up all over again.

This is my favorite member of the team: Nightshade's left butt cheek.

Aside from Nightshade's left butt cheek, Flag's Squad is comprised of Deadshot, Vixen, Captain Boomerang, Bronze Tiger, Lashina, Nightshade's right butt cheek, and some guy in yellow and blue that I don't recognize which means he's going to be the suicidee. Also Lashina might be going by a different name which I don't remember. We're not supposed to know she's Lashina yet. Shhhhh!

They arrive in Russia and somebody says, "Somebody wake Javelin up." So I guess that guy I didn't recognize who is almost certainly going to die is Javelin.

Amanda Waller gets wind of Flag's mission and suggests to Reagan that he send the Justice League after them. So Batman is going to get his way as well. Plus the fans will get another battle between Batman and Deadshot where Deadshot pulls all of his shots instead of killing the Batman because Deadshot wants Batman to beat him to death. It's a tale as old as time! Practically Shakespearian is what I'd suggest if I knew anything about Shakespeare and also if Shakespeare's writings were as old as time.

Batman tells the other members of the Justice League that they're invading Russia again. Pretty sure the Rocket Reds and Gorbachev are going to get a little tired of this bullshit.

Oh, just read his mind and call him on his lying ass!

The worst person in the world is a billionaire saying, "Trust me." Don't fucking trust that asshole! Kick him in the dick and tell him he's out of control!

On the other hand, Reagan did authorize the mission. Reagan authorized a lot of shit that irritated the fuck out of Gorbachev but luckily Gorbachev was the only adult in the room. If it had been up to Reagan, he would have rolled the dice on a nuclear exchange.

You fucking tell them, Oberon! Only sane person on the League.

Oh, apparently Reagan hadn't authorized the incursion into Russia when Batman had the idea to invade. Turns out Reagan calls to authorize the mission just before Oberon commits suicide by challenging Batman on his dumb idea, thus being the only time Reagan actually did anything worthwhile. And since this is a work of fiction, Reagan never actually did anything worthwhile.

You might have guessed that I don't like Reagan. People who lived through the 70s and 80s who somehow think the world didn't become a substantially worse place after Reagan took office are deluded motherfuckers who weren't paying attention. I was only a single digit kid in the 70s but I still noticed!

The team learns that a team of super-villains is attacking a Russian prison. I think Vixen and Bronze Tiger would be a bit miffed to be described as "super-villains." But then I guess if you lie with dogs, you wake up feeling satisfied from all the little puppy kisses.

How would that make this issue any different from the first twelve?! Aside from it being Batman manipulating the League instead of Maxwell Lord?

A battle between the Justice League and the Suicide Squad is old hat. That trick's been done before. So to juice up the drama, the Rocket Reds are sent to stop the Suicide Squad as well. And if they can't tell who is on which team, I suppose they'll beat up some Justice Leaguers as well. Plus Red Star catches wind of the battle so he's got to make an appearance. I think that's all the Russian super-heroes there are aside from that Pozhar Firestorm jerk. And he's more of a Super Frenemy.

In the prison, the Justice League discover that Nemesis has been beaten badly and Batman calls the Russians violent thug monkeys. But then Rocket Red is all, "Please. As if America would treat a Russian spy any better!" And Batman doesn't get to respond because Martian Manhunter finally takes off his Martian diaper and puts on his Martian command pants and tells Batman to shut the fuck up and follow orders. Batman whispers, "So shines a good deed in a weary world," relieved that somebody finally has taken the helm of leadership from him. Now maybe he can find the time to go mourn his parents by finding a quiet corner to sob into.

While the Justice League solve their leadership problems, the Suicide Squad casually saunters down the hallway and bumps into the League.

Giffen stole this moment from that movie where Lou Costello backs into The Mummy and they turn around and are all, "Abbbbboooooooot!" and "Unnnnhhhhhh!", respectively.

Next: the big fight! But that's in Suicide Squad #10 so just put it out of your mind. My guess is the Justice League wins and Red Star murders Javelin.

Letters this month are from Lee Allred somewhere in Utah, Eric Fischler from Bethseda, Maryland, Bill Climer from La Rue, Ohio, Brian Saner Lamken from Penn Valley, Pennsylvania, Roy Hogan from Melrose, Massachusetts, and Malcolm Bourne from Cricklewood, London. Only one letter praises letterer Bob Lappan. So sad!

Justice League International #13 Rating: C+. This JLI/SS crossover was almost certainly spurred on by corporate looking at the numbers of each book and thinking, "Imagine if everybody reading JLI was also reading Suicide Squad!" and then trying to force everybody to do just that. Although I assume there was already a pretty high percentage of crossover of people reading both books. I just remembered I had the poster of the two covers of this crossover showing the entirety of both teams fighting. Where the hell did I get that?! I wonder if it was used as advertising at the local shop and I asked for it. I don't think it was sold or given away.