Justice League: Generation Lost opens with a stylized cover by Tony Harris or Cliff Chiang, creating a strange category of Justice League International deco art. Judd Winick's comeback story in these pages, therefore, emerges as a kind of fetishized version of Keith Giffen, J. M. DeMatteis, and Kevin Maguire's Justice League; I'm not sure the good old days were ever quite as good as Generation Lost's fond remembrances make them out to be, but they sure seem good in retrospect.
Winick's Generation Lost itself is a fine book, really quite well done, though International purists might find a little to pick at. To be sure, Generation Lost is not Giffen and DeMatteis's Justice League, but rather Giffen and DeMatteis's Justice League filtered strongly by way of Winick, to good result.
The premise of Winick's Generation Lost is especially strong, and drives the book as a whole. The newly resurrected Maxwell Lord has erased himself from everyone's memory except a choice group of former Justice League Internationalers; those that remember Max are considered crazy. Generation Lost becomes a dizzying paranoid tale with plenty of twists and turns -- namely, whether the characters remembering Max is an accident, or part of plans within plans within plans.
The best part is, Max may not be the villain of the story. Resurrected as he was by Brightest Day's White Lantern, it may be Max's bad actions have good consequences. Winick reframes Maxwell Lord entirely in this manner; rather that the severe disconnect between the "friendly" Max of Giffen's Justice League and the Black King Max that killed Blue Beetle Ted Kord, Winick suggests that all along Max has been pursuing his "world-saving" agenda, sometimes on the side of the good but never, despite what those around him may think, entirely on the side of the bad. This adds to Generation Lost's thriller appeal, in that the reader can't complete trust nor distrust Max, and this redeems Max as a villain with some reader appeal.
With this and other tweaks, however, it's clear Winick is taking his cues from, but not necessarily being constrained by, Giffen's original source material. Most significant in this volume is how Winick drastically revises the character Ice's origin -- conflicting, even, with Justice League stories previous. Even before that revelation, however, Winick's Ice is still not Giffen's nor writer Dan Jurgens's; that Ice wouldn't have said "hell," at least, letting alone calling her friend Fire, "You're such a @#$%" (whatever that's supposed to be, given that I thought "bitch" was on DC Comics's approved bad words list).
Blue Beetle Jaime Reyes, too, is a far more reluctant hero and less admiring of Booster Gold than he has been also under Giffen and Jurgens's pens, all to fit the story Winick wants to tell (letting alone these characters have met Reyes before, even though they seem not to remember). I don't necessarily think Ice's new origin adds much to the character, but I'll reserve judgment pending a further explanation in Generation Lost volume two. I can't sweat new origins much given the DC Relaunch only a few months away, and because Generation Lost works so well despite these assorted nitpicks.
Generation Lost, volume one, collects the first twelve issues of this series, making this feel like an especially thick book as far as DC hardcovers go. Winick's story quickly distinguishes itself as more than just a Justice League-centered book like Giffen and DeMatteis's Formerly Known as the Justice League miniseries -- there are elements here of Brightest Day, Kingdom Come, and detailed Checkmate material with great art by that series's artist Joe Bennett. Add to that some unexpected jaunts to the future, and Generation Lost will remind the reader of DC's other weekly series 52 and Trinity -- real DC event comics, rather than just a Justice League reunion book.
If Generation Lost is more than Justice League, however, it's got that, too. The boisterous new Rocket Red is the ultimate International fanboy (think TV's Brave and the Bold's Aquaman with a wonderfully bad Russian accent), and he remembers the glory days of this Justice League that, among Kooey Kooey Kooey and fat jokes, maybe never quite actually existed. Kevin Maquire provides alternate covers to the book, but you have to squint to find Maguire's big-toothed faces among all the Hi-Fi gloss effects.
It's a thrill to have these characters back together, but the entire package suggests a time better, cooler, and more polished than it was, especially toward the end (they were defeated by Despero in L-Ron's body, people). To suggest that Justice League International holds up to modern standards of "cool," almost thirty years later, is to suggest leggings and shoulder pads were cool, too -- in retrospect, they were not. It is however, as they say, pretty to think so, and gives fans of International something to be proud of nowadays even if we all remembered International entirely differently during the Grant Morrison JLA era.
Justice League: Generation Lost is a pretty package, and a fine story to boot. In the first splash page depiction of the main characters, Rocket Red declares Fire, Ice, Booster, Beetle, Captain Atom and himself the new Justice League International, and there's a greater sense here than in previous International reunion books (two plus in Blue Beetle and Booster Gold) that the purpose here is team building and not just nostalgia, fancy trappings aside. It remains a thrill to have these characters back together, and even more so to have Judd Winick writing another team book after Outsiders. More's the pity that Winick won't keep with this title in the DC Relaunch, but I very much hope DC has something else from the writer on the way.
[Contains original and variant covers.]
Up next, we're continuing our look at the Brightest Day/Generation Lost with Booster Gold: Past Imperfect. See you then!