Sunday, June 8, 2008

Justice League: A Midsummer's Nightmare Review

Art by Kevin Maguire. Click for Poster View.

After cancelling their then-current line of Justice League related books; America, Task Force, Quarterly, Extreme; this three issue mini-series seemed rushed into production to fill the gap until and explain the formation of what would become their renaissance formulation, the Morrison/Porter "JLA." Each issue ran about 1 1/2 times normal length, which likely put a strain on the artists, as their work was uneven.

That said, I think Jeff Johnson and John Holdredge's pages were mostly spectacular, evoking a mixture of cover artist Kevin Maguire's expressive caricature with Stuart Immonen's more impressionistic work. Johnson's Manhunter remains a personal favorite, and I regret his limited contact with the character. Few can capture both the extremes of serenity and righteous fury in J'Onn's Martian heart with comparable aptitude. Darick Robertson and Hanibal Rodriguez fare worse, too often appearing as choppy chicken-scratch.

Mark Waid and Fabian Nicieza co-wrote the effort, and they acquit themselves very nicely. I've long felt Nicieza is an under-appreciated master at team dynamics. Waid remains one of the best writers the League has never quite had, seeing as how he's rarely around longer than a handful of issues, despite multiple runs on various line-ups. For some unfathomable reason, this mini tends to be treated as something of a cast-off, even though it sets up both the monster hit ongoing that followed and the ultimate resolution of the Morrison/Porter run three years later. I only have sales numbers on the last issue, which sold 53,244 copies in the direct market. "JLA" #3 by comparison sold about 47% better, and that was before the book became "hot" or benefited from widespread newsstand distribution.

On a personal note, the end of the second issue was what turned Martian Manhunter from a well-liked also-ran to my favorite character, necessitating this series' inclusion as part of my spotlight of some of the best J'Onn J'Onzz comics ever. While the Manhunter himself is seen on only 5 of the first 68 pages, his presence is felt on many more, and he dominates much of the last issue. All of the Leaguers get their chances to shine, either through action or personality, making the trade both an excellent jumping-on point for passingly familiar readers and a pleasure for fans of any one character. Well, maybe not Wonder Woman, who's role is rather passive, and of course Aquaman, but what else is new?


Patrick C said...

This was a good miniseries. What always freaked me out though was Wonder Woman's hair on the cover if #3. Was she replaced with Medusa or something?

Diabolu Frank said...

I suspect Maguire was trying for Brian Bolland's take on George Perez's Mediterranean curls mixed with Mike Deodato's popular "bad girl" take. Once all those spices mingled, Wonder Woman looked like Tawny Kitaen circa 1987. Ouch!

Patrick C said...

Hey, out of curiosity how did you figure out the cover was by Kevin Maguire? It doesn't give cover credits in the comics themselves, and looking around online I've seen some conflicting reports. I know for sure Kevin Maguire and John Dell did the TPB cover, but I haven't been able to lock down who did this version.

Diabolu Frank said...

Kevin Maguire and John Dell are credited in the trade paperback with "Original Cover Triptych."