(DC Comics, 2013)
Review by Shawn Warner
Written by Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis
Artwork by Howard Porter
Color Artwork by Hi-Fi
Lettering by Sal Cipriano
This is a return of sorts to the Justice League for co-writers Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis as well as artist Howard Porter, who worked on Grant Morrison’s legendary JLA run. But this is a very different book and not just as far as the futuristic setting. No, this is an entirely different dynamic, gone are the joke-laden scripts and the slapstick- heavy sight gags and in their place we have a quarrelsome, bickering cast of manufactured heroes with an ambiguous motivation to do good. They are certainly not altruistic, especially the narcissistic Superman who lacks any of the morality instilled by The Kents and all of the chivalrous nobility of The House of El found in our current day Man of Steel. However he does seem to emerge as the team leader much to the chagrin of the future version of Batman who is operating minus the emotional barometer provided to the current day Batman by the murder of his parents, without this tragedy what we are left with is a bully with an inferiority complex who is constantly threatened by Superman’s inherent superiority. Wonder Woman of the 31st century is almost totally Amazonian in appearance and attitude coming across as the only real contender for team leader. Flash and Green Lantern are the most intrinsically flawed of the team, future Hal uses a cloak instead of a ring to manifest his power of will and manufacture his constructs. This seems to really bother him as he complains at the end of the book that he really needs a ring. This is the type of more low key humor that can be found throughout the first issue which works well to lighten the almost oppressive tension, mostly between Superman and Batman. The future Flash has been re-created without a friction aura so he must make use of a force field to keep from burning up when using his speed. He and Green Lantern seem to be the most interesting characters thus far, mostly due to the fact that they have these flaws to overcome. The chemistry between these two could potentially provide a comedic element sorely needed to balance a team made up predominately of heavies.
This first issue harkens back to Giffen and DeMatteis’ early days on Justice League when the stories were centered on the inner workings of the team and the conflicts that inevitably arise when such powerful personalities are brought together for a common cause. The roles may be re-assigned but the dynamic is quite similar. There is a very prevalent component of mystery to this story surrounding Cadmus which seems to be the agency responsible for bringing these bastardized versions of the Justice League members into existence. However the mystery does not stop there, a shadowy figure named Ariel Masters, who narrates the beginning of this issue figures largely into this puzzle but precious little is revealed of her role in all of this as yet. What we learn of her beyond her narration, is imparted to us via Terry and Teri, The Wonder Twins. These two work for Cadmus as well. The purpose of all of these individuals and groups seems to be to defeat a malevolent alliance known simply as “The Five” of whom we see neither hide nor hair in this issue. However when the Justice League 3000 is not busy fighting one another in issue #1, they battle a rather innovative foe called The Convert, who’s power is to take over crowds through mind control effectively becoming a hive mind and acting of one accord to engage its enemy. The Convert brought to mind The Borg from Star Trek to some degree but in appearance, think futuristic, bald Solomon Grundy and you will be close.
DeMatteis and Giffen have proven they do not have to rely on humor to make a book engaging or as a means to make a character likable. They are astute storytellers with a penchant for sharp, witty dialogue and that is what comes through in the first issue of Justice League 3000. These are characters we have known forever but are meeting for the first time, as they are described in the book, they are only templates. The characterizations are brand new and these two shrewd writers have taken the tropes that have long defined these heroes and turned them on their ear. Forget our Justice League and Earth 2’s as well, this is a totally different paradigm.
Visually, Howard Porter knocks this one way out of the park. When I first heard that Kevin Maguire was not going to be doing this book, I thought about not picking it up. Boy am I glad I did! Porter’s interpretation of this future world is stunning. He brings a desperate, gritty tone to the rundown areas and a sense of grandeur to the opulent architecture of the city. His character designs possess a logical functionality without feeling like hokey sci-fi themed future versions of their current counterparts. Porter is a sophisticated storyteller; his dynamic page layouts display a kinetic energy that adds a degree of exuberance to the entire narrative. His flair for dramatic action sequences and realistic approach to anatomy really amp up the excitement in the books elaborate fight scenes.
In a universe that already contains numerous Justice League books including Earth 2, do we really need another one with a futuristic slant? When it’s done by these guys, I say heck yeah we do! DeMatteis and Giffen have mastered the t super hero team dynamic, bringing their own indelible sense of humor and wit. This series is off to an intriguing and entertaining start. Howard Porter delivers a visual tour de force complete with some dynamic new character designs. Justice League 3000 pulls you into a futuristic mystery dense with intrigue that deepens as the plot unfolds. I really liked this book and will definitely be here next month to find out more. If you are a fan of DeMatteis and Giffen this is more for you to love and if you haven’t read any of their previous work, this is a good place to start. (4.5/5) So until next time, see you around the comic shop.
Follow Shawn Warner on Twitter: @shawnwarner629