Posted by Don MacPherson on September 12th, 2007
Justice League Wedding Special #1
“Unlimited, Chapter 1: Injustice League”
Writer: Dwayne McDuffie
Pencils: Mike McKone
Inks: Andy Lanning
Colors: Pete Pantazis
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover artist: Ed Benes
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US/$4.75 CAN
There were elements from Brad Meltzer’s run on Justice League of America that I enjoyed, but there were problems as well. That didn’t stop the title from selling like gangbusters, but all the same, I anticipated Dwayne (Fantastic Four) McDuffie’s arrival as the new Justice League writer. This special is essentially his first issue of the regular series, as he launched his first story arc here. McDuffie has impressed as of late with his work on FF and Beyond, as well as his contributions to the delightfully entertaining Justice League Unlimited cartoon, so it seemed that his tenure with the comic-book adventures of the League would be just as strong. That, unfortunately, does not prove to be the case. There’s potential here in the old-fashioned approach to super-hero storytelling, but the script is inaccessible and points out several times that it really doesn’t make sense in the broader context of DC continuity. But the most frustrating thing about this “wedding special” is that it really has little to do with a wedding and doesn’t seem all that special.
As members of the super-hero community gather for the bachelor and bachelorette parties for Green Arrow and Black Canary, super-villains have gathered under the leadership of Lex Luthor, the Joker and the Cheetah. They’ve formed a new Injustice League Unlimited. Luthor promises a much more effective organization than the Society ever was, and the first step in the corrupt group’s plans for world domination is to eradicate the Justice League. They set a trap for their heroic counterparts by attacking an up-and-coming young super-hero: Firestorm.
I’ve been a fan of Mike McKone’s work for some time. His sleek, crisp style manages to capture the majesty of the super-hero while bringing a level of detail to bear that adds a small measure of credibility to the incredible circumstances. His take on the three main villains is sharp, especially when it comes to the Joker. The scenes featuring the heroes aren’t as visually striking, though. I was left with the impression that Andy Lanning’s inks aren’t the best fit for McKone’s style. The penciller’s unique style is occasionally overwhelmed by the inks, lost a bit in a few scenes. It’s not that either artist is doing a poor job; I just wonder if it’s not the best possible pairing of styles. The colors are also unfortunately dark for the hero-focused scenes, which is odd, given the lighter tone of the party sequences. Some computer-coloring effects, designed to convey teleportation or other manifestations of energy, interfere with the line art rather than add to it.
The cover is perplexing. Benes’s participation sends the wrong message. He’s left the book; it’s a shame McKone wasn’t allowed to make it his own with a contribution of cover art as well. The cover image left me scratching my head. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to see here. Is Superman popping out of a cake at Canary’s bachelorette party? That’s the only explanation I can come up with, but if that’s the case, no such scene appears in this comic, nor does that spirit really emerge in the script. [Addendum: I've been informed (see the first comment below) Benes is still associated with the JLA series.]
I’ll say one thing for this comic book: it made me appreciate last week’s Black Canary Wedding Planner one-shot a lot more. I had expected we’d see a focus on the schmaltzy, grounded and chaotic moments that make up a wedding, mixed with some super-hero fun. Instead, the plot barely touches upon Green Arrow and Canary’s upcoming nuptials. What little we do get is a reference to Batman paying for the strippers for the bachelor party. I guess DC has given up any hope of drawing younger readers to this comic. I realize McDuffie is going for a couple of laughs with that scene, but it seems unnecessary and gratuitous, not to mention out of place, given the old-school tone of the plot and action. The disjointed preparation sequences in the Wedding Planner seem a lot more fun in comparison. I was thoroughly disappointed that this comic didn’t live up to its title. A wedding story would have been fun, and DC has been building it up for ages. I suppose the fun I’m looking for might lie in next week’s Green Arrow/Black Canary Wedding Special, but the title here really calls for the inclusion of more matrimonial nonsense than is provided. I’m at a loss as to why this wasn’t Justice League of America #13 rather than the JL Wedding Special.
It was a treat to see the new Firestorm given a second life here, but McDuffie fails to inform uninitiated readers about who he is, what he can do and why he talks to an immaterial girlfriend. Firestorm’s role here is pivotal, but those scenes are quite inaccessible for new readers.
McDuffie taps into the fun of the JLU cartoon on which he worked by amassing a team of villains to square off against the heroes. It’s hardly a new concept, but it’s still a fun one. There’s just one problem: with this book firmly set in current DC continuity, he’s faced with the problem that DC villains were teamed together in the Society all too recently. In fact, the script refers to it repeatedly, with characters insisting it will be different this time. But it’s not. The fact that other characters keep pointing that out as well doesn’t help. McDuffie tries to overcome that challenge by acknowledging it in the story itself, but the effort falls short. Instead, he just keeps reminding the reader of the redundancy. 4/10