Monday, January 25, 2010

1995 Skybox DC Villains: The Dark Judgment Lord Havok Trading Card #78

Justice League International started out as a mostly serious super-hero series with moments of levity, before descending into total tomfoolery. Maxwell Lord started out as a murderous, manipulative slimeball underling of a legitimate threat, before ascending into a redemptive if morally gray supporting character. Instead of continuing on a positive trajectory, JLI became a particularly bad example of generic, trend-hopping, painfully overwrought group books. Max Lord, following suit, was turned into the second version of a Dr. Doom knock-off only ever intended to figure into one story. The heel turn totally undercut one of J.M. DeMatteis' better characterizations, but I was never that attached to Max, and he seemed only partially responsible for his newly villainous actions. Since J'Onn J'Onzz was a friend and inspiration to Lord at one time, I sat back, and waited for their inevitable confrontation.

...and waited...

...and waited some more. "Lord Havok" even had an evil brother show up and get executed by White Martians masquerading as the super-team the Hyperclan, but Max never seemed to spare a thought about fighting the Martian Manhunter. A decade on, DeMatteis was even given the opportunity to "fix" Max Lord, restoring him to his former self in a pair of JLI reunion mini-series. Unfortunately, Greg Rucka and others decided to apply an even more ridiculous about face to Lord, implying that his days working alongside super-heroes were all spent undermining their effectiveness and plotting their demise. Thus, the entire JLI (including the Dark Knight and Martian Detectives, one with telepathy) were made fools of retroactively, just so a pathetic bid at making readers take Wonder Woman seriously could be had. The Amazing Amazon, you see, had to execute Lord to save the world from his threatened mind control of Superman. Gee, I wonder if the Martian Manhunter could have helped out there, too?

So it goes that a perfectly reasonable candidate for the Vile Menagerie, with strong motivation against our hero, got misused and wasted by a heroine who had next to nothing to do with Maxwell Lord. They even recently revived Lord as a Black Lantern, the same corps zombie J'Onn calls home... to taunt Wonder Woman for an issue. Add Rucka to my long list of writers who do nothing but get in the way of my reading pleasure.

Anyway, above is painted art by Tony Harris, misapplied toward a worthless corpse.


mathematicscore said...

I bought the entire run all at once off eBay, and the "Dan's" portion is teh suck. Jurgens hadn't yet become the passable writer he is today and Vado was just derivative crap trying to be edgy. On the other hand, I rather liked Gerard Jones's ending run which had some great characterizations and some fun and on occasion thought provoking themes. Max Lord's ridiculous fate was the responsibility of Vado if I'm not mistaken, and one of his many sins.
I'd never really thought of Max as a villian (Vado is nothing if not unconvincing)until the Infinite Crisis stuff, and it was one of the many nagging missteps of that crisis. You make the excellent point that, once again, Martian Manhunter is forgotten by the writers until someone says, "wouldn't he and/or the JLA handle this no problem?" at which point J'onn is thrown into a teleporter loop or a resonance tower, or is rendered powerless, for the duration of the story.


Sorry, sometimes I just gets to a brother, ya know?

anywho, this is nifty image, although I don't recall him being so beaknosed...

LissBirds said...

"...implying that his days working alongside super-heroes were all spent undermining their effectiveness and plotting their demise"

This always really bugged me. I hated the whole "Max made the League incompetent" retcon.

Then again, I hate rectons in general, no matter what.

"...were made fools of retroactively, just so a pathetic bid at making readers take Wonder Woman seriously could be had."

I have to re-read Final Crisis, but I do remember at the time being angry with J'onn's characterization, but for a different reason. I was really ticked that he shrugged off Blue Beetle's warnings. That really wasn't anything more than a plot device so that J'onn (and company) could look back later and say, "Gee, we should've listened to the poor guy, now he's dead," when I think the real J'onn would've listened. Wonder Woman I always felt ambiguous about (except on the cartoon--really liked her there), but could take her or leave her in the comics.

Rucka....oh, Rucka. I don't know what to think of that guy. Occasionally he'll come along and blow me away (like with the Batman: No Man's Land novel), and then he'll go off and kill Vic Sage or something like that to ruin my day. Still hurting over that one, Greg. Also, the ways he seems to claim "ownership" of certain characters really rubs me the wrong way. *cough Kate Kane cough Renee Montoya cough*

Diabolu Frank said...

M.C., the first half of Gerard Jones' J.L.A. run (#0 on) was worse than Jurgens' so-bad-its-okay work, and arguably as awful as Vado. All that stuff with Power Girl's pregnancy was utter tripe. Sometime after #100, you're right in saying he finally found his rhythm, just in time to be canceled. I think the Max Lord thing was Jones, as it occurred in the lead-up to #100, after Vado had moved to Extreme Justice. Vado stank on ice, but he had no real lasting impact, and EJ ended up being okay (once Ivan Valdez and Tom Morgan took it over.)

Liss, I can actually see J'Onn blowing Ted off. The Blue and Gold really got out of hand for a couple of years there. After you help embezzle millions of dollars and still try to claim a super-hero card, you get what you get.

I've come to the conclusion that I only like "off-brand" Wonder Woman. My favorite runs were the "Diana Prince" years and William Messner-Loebs' humanistic strangeness.

Greg Rucka, aside from being massively derivative at times, is an adequate writer. He rarely makes me feel any strong emotion. He does make stupid mistakes like killing of Sarah Gordon and Vic Sage, but that doesn't resonate in the grand scheme (like Vic won't be back someday,) so I give it a pass. It would be nice if Rucka could create an original character, but some guys just aren't capable. Why pick on the handicapped?

Tom said...

I like how in the text on the back of the card it's hard to recognize the "S" at the beginning of the first line, so that it looks like, "LIPPING TOWARDS OBLIVION".

LissBirds said...

I think we're all lipping toward oblivion, aren't we, Tom?

I think mc, you're right...J'onn is like the 800-pound gorilla in the room that no one knows what to do with. Which is why I'm nervous he won't be back. I'm worried the writers might just ditch him for good.

I haven't read any of the issues you guys are talking about so I really can't say anything credibly. I think I stopped with #60. But Gerard Jones? American Secrets Gerard Jones? Power Girl getting pregnant? Hmm.

Ack, I mean Infinite Crisis not Final Crisis. I get my crises mixed up.

Naaah, Frank. I want J'onn to be the guy who forgives people no matter what, even if they screw up pretty badly, and is always approachable, even if surrounded by idiots.

I gotta admit, though, there are parts of Rucka on Detective that I like. Even if I have a lot of reservations about his handling of Batwoman.

Diabolu Frank said...

Gerard Jones did some great stuff like Mosaic, but when he failed, things got real stinky. Power Girl and Hal Jordan had a fast-grow insta-child who became a warrior magician or some such idiocy. Terrible storyline, soaked in Atlantean mythology that got punched to oblivion by Superboy Prime.

mathematicscore said...

Yeah yeah, it was ridiculous, but it had heart! I double checked, and The New Extremists/Max Lord as Lord Havok was all Vado. Unless it was in Justice League Europe/international, which I am less familiar with.

Diabolu Frank said...

Really? I knew Vado did the New Extremists with Kevin West, but I didn't think Max "died" and become Lord Havok until Jones/Wojtkiewitz transferred to J.L.A. I guess Jones is off the hook, then!

mathematicscore said...

You're right, the New Extremests story was JLA 87 was Dreamslayer driven, and Max was present as a normal human. I couldn't find any more appearances by skimming the covers of the remaining run, so I just don't know anymore. Maybe it was in Justice league Europe...