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Formerly Known as the Justice League #6

Posted: Saturday, December 6, 2003
By: Ray Tate



"A League of Their Own"

Writer: Keith Giffin & J.M. DeMatteis
Artists: Kevin Maguire(p), Joe Rubenstein(i), Lee Louridge(c)
Publisher: DC

This issue of Formerly Known as the Justice League started to as I read disappoint. The expository plot point gags in the dialogue seemed obvious. Blue Beetle and Booster Gold's bickering became as depressing and pointless as the bickering between Batman and <<<>>>> Little did I realize that all of what looked to be angst to satisfy what's left of DC continuity was in fact a double-set up for a massive joke.

The reader expects the JLI to be funny. What the reader does not expect are gags from the more sober version of the Justice League. J'onn's reactions to the antics of his former partners makes one titter. Plastic Man by comparison however is positively subdued while Wonder Woman is haughty. Batman, I say, Batman is hilarious.

Frequent readers of my reviews know that I do not accept the humorless, half-brained, borderline psychotic that has been flitting around the shambles of the DCU like a fly around--well, never mind that. The point is I do not accept Batman as the two-dimensional toad in the so-called continuity books. He may vaguely resemble Batman, but he does not act like Batman. I also never expected a more bona fide Batman to make up genuinely funny comic moments that actually creep out the JLA more than his usual dark demeanor.

Batman and J'onn go way back with this particular League incarnation. After Legends which does not count and partially explains why this book is an elseworlds series Batman became leader of the League that was formed in the first post-Crisis miniseries. As a leader, Batman was perpetually ticked off. When the Justice League gained the patronage of the UN, Batman stepped down as the leader and elected J'onn. As a leader, J'onn was perpetually ticked off. The pattern was unmistakable. If Fred Rogers became leader of this version of the League, he too would become perpetually ticked off. The fault lay not within the leadership but the roll call.

If there was ever "I told you so moment" between Batman and J'onn, it occurred off panel during the original run. In this series Mr. Giffin and Mr. DeMatteis correct that oversight by showing Batman delighting, relishing, savoring J'onn's dismay over every action the Super-Buddies take.

The second part of the joke derives from a most unexpected source or rather the unexpected actions of the expected source. The Bwa-ha-ha-ha-has from there are simply impossible to stop.

There is more to Formerly Known as the Justice League than rollicking fun. Mary Marvel fans will simply go gaga over an impressively illustrated display of incredible strength that befits the character. Kevin Maguire takes snapshots of every expression on earth and maybe even beyond, but instead of using a camera, he uses pencils beautifully brought out by the inks of Joe Rubenstein and Lee Louridge's colors.

Apart from what you expect from Mr. Maguire, he also shows off in Formerly Known as the Justice League his creativity. He does not merely draw Batman to mimic the symbol on his chest. He finds a new effective way to play with the hero's cape. He imbues a Muppet-like timing to the way one character hugs another character, and the slice of cheesecake adds subtext to that hug.

Formerly Known as the Justice League reminded readers of a time when light outsold the dark. It pulled laughter from the most frozen and cynical readers and did so with artwork that never failed to awe the eyes. I cannot wait to see what this creative team cooks up next.



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