JLI2annual

The final issues of the now canceled Justice League International are collected in Breakdown and while it’s not a very good read or a decent send-off for these characters it at least sets up a few interesting plot points that will be explored in future DC titles. If you’ve seen the Channel 52 News segment at the back of your comics lately then you’ve probably seen the story about “vanished superheroes.” Well the annual featured at the end of this book is where all that originates and the annual is also the only story in this book that you actually need to read.

Content

I found the first volume “The Signal Masters” to be an alright read but at times volume 2: Breakdown was a real chore.

This book picks up exactly where the last one left off. The JLI is devastated after a terrorist attack left countless citizens and members of their own team horribly inured. It’s a pretty dire situation, but the bright, almost cheerful coloring doesn’t quite seem to fit. The heroes also don’t exactly seem to take the act of pulling bloody bodies from rubble very seriously. Booster Gold himself takes a time out while hoisting a woman up by the shoulders to make a facebook joke. There were also a few lettering mistakes such as “Andy sign of the August General” and the villain’s use of the word “heores” instead of heroes… so the book wasn’t exactly off to a great start.

Once the clean-up is over we spend the next couple chapters around the hospital as the team deals with the tragedy. One of the very, very, VERY best characters that I enjoyed reading about from the first book is killed off-panel and nearly all of the female characters are incapacitated throughout the entire graphic novel. I say nearly all because Godiva is left to play a nice supporting role and she has one of the best arcs of any character in the JLI series. Still, it would’ve been nice to have had more girls on the roster.

Rather than add some new ladies  the team sees the addition of other male characters from titles that had a high potential of being canceled at the time this was all published. Batwing is one of them and he’s actually still around in the New 52, however he’s still portrayed as rather worthless here (he shows up to rescue Booster but a page or so later it’s Booster who ends up having to save him). The other hero is OMAC, he’s easy to spot because he’s the only character who says “I am OMAC!” repeatedly. OMAC is a guy I’m not too familiar with but the introduction to him made him pretty annoying. Why was I annoyed? First, it was that ol’ troupe of having two hero characters meet but there’s a misunderstanding and so they fight at first. Secondly, it lasted two issues. Third, the artwork wasn’t strong enough to back-up the superpowers on display either so it wasn’t even cool to look at it (not to say that Aaron Lopresti did a bad job on the book, he’s actually the saving grace here. But the OMAC fight was displayed in panels were too small for such big action. He excelled far more at the book’s quieter moments). It just went on and on. If you’re not familiar with OMAC either, he’s basically the DC knock-off of The Hulk only he’s nowhere near as cool because his back story is more complicated and his design is too busy (red and blue tron suit, blue fin mohawk, gold arm bracelets, etc). Plus I think we can all agree that “Hulk smash!” is a way better catchphrase than “I am Omac!”

It’s a book that really doesn’t feel like it had a clear idea of what it wanted to do and it seems like a clear case of editorial forcing a lot of ideas on the creative team, especially with the inclusion of OMAC and Batwing. One aspect in which the story does improve is that the JLI are facing a smaller threat. LethargicJ had a good comment about this in my review of Part 1. However, I don’t think a smaller threat was really writer Dan Jurgens’ intention. The introduction to Breakdown is actually quite bad ass (he has the ability to rot anyone and anything with a mere thought) and his goal of bringing down all forms of authority is pretty ambitious. But after that memorable intro we never see him use his power ever again! Rather, we see him give speeches to a group of colorful, comedic-relief henchmen who do all the dirty work for him throughout the rest of the graphic novel. And the one attack that happens in this comic, the single thing that occurs that the JLI run to check in on isn’t even Breakdown’s doing. It was also the worst part of the book. It seems like the idea for a big threat was there but the book’s cancellation caused the plot to meander.

In addition to collecting issues 7-12 plus the annual, JLI also had a crossover with Firestorm and the Nuclear Men. This caught me way off guard since it wasn’t mentioned on the back cover and it didn’t exactly ease the reader into it. There’s a lot of references to prior Firestorm continuity that I didn’t understand at all, I couldn’t figure out who was attacking and who was the good guy, and the yellow speech balloons with orange font are extremely offensive to the eyes. Is this how that comic read all the time? Firestorm’s book has been canceled now too, by the way. Proving even more that JLI was being used as a dumping ground for characters DC was thinking about giving the ax.

The Firestorm thing was a real struggle to get through and I was ready for the book to be done after that. It had no bearing on the story being told over the first four chapters. At all. There was an explosion somewhere, the JLI packed up and checked it out, found out it had nothing to do with their bad guy, and then went home. When we come back it’s as if nothing happened because we’re visiting the hospital again, OMAC introduces himself again, Batwing introduces himself again, and the Breakdown villains are still loitering about discussing their plan. So really you could skip the first half of this book and miss out on basically nothing. The final three chapters are alright but it’s the Annual issue that needs to be read. Whereas JLI was purposeless in its final arc the Annual sets up some pretty important storylines for the future of the DC Universe that will tie into Justice League and the JLA most likely. Geoff Johns and Dan Didio took over the writing duties on that one so you know that some important seeds were planted. The artwork in that story is also quite good because it’s done by Jason Fabok of the current Detective Comics run.

Spoiler
And before I wrap this up I just want to say that I’d like all artists to remember to draw Batman with a bat-grapple when he’s lifting off from the ground. Showing a panel of all the superheroes lifting off to go soar through the air and then you put Batman next to them holding a rope is ridiculous when you think about it. There are many panels like that in here. You know what Batman is doing in the middle of a street holding a rope? He’s climbing. He’s not swinging up anywhere. Nowhere high anyway. That’s the only thing he can possibly do from 10 feet off the ground when he’s depicted like this. So I imagine Booster, Green Lantern, and Batwing zooming off at mach-10 and then Batman going “Hup! Hup! Hup!” as he ascends a rope like he’s in gym class or something. Batman can’t fly and he can’t swing anywhere from the base of a rope when he’s only 5 feet off the ground. You want to show Batman swinging by a rope over the city? Fine. Great. But he has to get some height first! Quit showing me a Batman 2ft off the floor holding a rope with no grapple!

Supplemental Material

None. Unless you consider two pages of ads bonus material, which you shouldn’t.

Value

$16.99 for eight comics would be a great deal if the majority of those comics were good. I can’t say that there’s any re-read value with this one so $16.99 seems kind of steep. Amazon offers it for $11.57 but even at that I can’t say it’s worth it. Instead, I recommend picking up the JLI Annual #1 from your comic shop’s back-issue section and just leave it at that.

Overall

It’s nowhere near as enjoyable as the first volume. The artwork is still as good but most of the story is spent hanging around a hospital while we wait for the villains to do something. Anything. While we’re waiting there are numerous cameos from characters of other soon-to-be canceled titles and that combined with the bad dialogue bogs the book down even more. However, I will say that the JLI Annual which ends the comic is a must-read since it deals with some heavy stuff that will play a major role in future DC Universe storylines, most likely Justice League and JLA.

SCORE: 4.5/10