Tuesday, October 4, 2011
The Vile Corpus: Maxwell Lord
An update on a past post...
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 one of the best friends and an inspiration to Lord at one time, I sat back, and waited for their inevitable confrontation.
...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 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. Those weren't the same thought balloons I read, but I suppose with a telepath on the team, that made the deception all the more effective. Wonder Woman eventually 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. Revived as a Black Lantern, Max pestered Wonder Woman in an issue of a mini-series, then was returned fully to life at the end of Blackest Night. Lord then participated in the pointlessness that was the Justice League: Generation Lost mini-series, which like most aspects of the Brightest Day story arc, was rendered moot by the New 52 line-wide relaunch. Lord spent that series battling versions of Captain Atom and Booster Gold that have now retroactively never existed while trying to kill an alternate version of Wonder Woman that disappeared after a year anyway. Meanwhile, the Martian Manhunter is now a member of Stormwatch who likely never had any association with Lord (or possibly even the JLI, I'm sorry to consider.)
Maxwell Lord has become the textual embodiment of the demands of '90s painfully overwrought and '00s outright transgressive storytelling pummeling the fun, sweet-natured Justice League International to death with a hunk of concrete hanging off a rail of rebar, and I'm glad that J'Onn J'Onzz has washed his hands of any affiliation with this crap.