Review: Justice League 3001 Vol 2: Things Fall Apart trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, December 26, 2016

There are moments that made me think Justice League 3001 Vol. 2: Things Fall Apart was the best of this futuristic four-volume series, but true to the title, in the end things fall apart. Writers Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis leave no punch pulled, reserving the book's final issue for its most serious moments and its most absurd. Loyal readers come this far only to find the joke's on them, but if you're going to appreciate Giffen and DeMatteis (especially Giffen), then it's going to mean laughing at yourself and the vagaries of comic books as well. This collected edition, however, includes an impressive extra that mitigates somewhat how this book concludes.

[Review contains spoilers]

Justice League 3001's cancellation is arguably the readers' fault, and Giffen and DeMatteis have their revenge in the form of a conclusion that really only barely wraps up the characters' storylines, and offers little or no answers to any of the book's most pressing questions. It is frustrating to the extreme, especially in the case of just having binge-read all 32 issues, and I'm immediately put in mind of the similar dissatisfactory ending of the weekly New 52: Futures End, of which Giffen also took part. At the same time, I fully recognize that 3001's sudden stop is meant to be frustrating, part and parcel of the writers' "nudgy" humor, and whereas Futures End's ending probably came down to editorial difficulties, 3001 is lampooning by proxy, verily acknowledging "don't you hate it when" by doing it itself.

Simultaneously, Giffen and DeMatteis demonstrate they fully understand what underlies this series, with a final issue that flashes back to the beginning and focuses on the morality of resurrecting the Justice League at the cost of the hosted bodies they're grafted to. With "Cadmusworld" destroyed, 3001 has gotten away a bit from its cloning roots, but the last chapter brings it to the fore, and relevant to the present action, too. Even as, in the past, Teri Magnus frets over human experimentation to resurrect the League, in the present Supergirl and Wonder Woman vie over whether to kill their alien opponents. Fire suggests that "we have to kill to serve the greater good" but Ice disagrees; indeed this "greater good" question they struggle with now has been their bane all along. The conversation gets no farther than that, an indication of 3001 being cancelled perhaps just as it was starting to come full circle, but surely it's clear the writers aren't just having fun and games here amidst all the fun and games.

Those fun and games include Sinestro, clad in only a thong, defending his new career choice as a stripper; also appearances by Green Lantern G'Nort and "Agent Orange" Larfleeze, essentially shunted straight from Giffen and DeMatteis's cancelled Larfleeze comic because well, apparently why not (and with Larfleeze artist Scott Kolins to boot). After killing of the entire Legion of Super-Heroes the last volume, the writers bring them back (seemingly unrelated) as the villains of the piece, another elbow in the ribs for those hoping for a League 3001/Legion connection.

But because of (or despite) their zaniness, the writers even make "Batgirl" Tina Sung palatable, and the upshot of all the shifting around in Justice League 3001 Vol. 1: Deja Vu All Over Again is that this series gets for just a moment an all-female Justice League. Nearly nothing has remained consistent in this series from volume to volume, from the traditional Justice League book to the Justice League International book, to this volume's perfectly plausible contention that Lady Styx has been pulling the strings all along, and it's hard to know if the writers has this end(ish) planned from the start or if it's all just chaos presenting a semblance of order.

What in the end the audience does not know about this book is legion, no pun intended. Certainly it's never resolved, inasmuch as it matters, what continuity this story takes place in and whether or not its the same as that of DC's Legion of Super-Heroes. We don't know how or why Supergirl arrived in the future, nor do we really know Lady Styx's plan beyond that it involves her daughter, new-Flash Teri. We never know why the resurrected Lois Lane wanted to kill Superman, seemingly for the second time (regrettably, because the Lois Lane/Ariel Masters Odd Couple backup stories illustrated by Collen Doran were among this volume's finest moments). We lost Booster Gold and Blue Beetle eons ago.

But even all of this confusion, we have to wonder, might be purposeful on Giffen and DeMatteis's part. The first issue is told in a purposefully time-twisty manner, and Teri remarks to Wonder Woman how she feels compelled to keep a record of their adventures because so much of this series has been built on "myth and distorted memories." Justice League 3000/3001 is perhaps the first "post-continuty" series, one that not only contradicts everything that came before (right down to Superman and Lois Lane) but questions it, as if to challenge whether everything that came before is the legend -- everything you're reading right now -- and only this series is the reality.

Remarkably the trade collection of Justice League 3001 Vol. 2: Things Fall Apart ends with a fourteen-page "unfinished inventory story" by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis with pencils by Doug Mahnke (a pretty big "get," I think, for this title). It's another that lends question to what we supposedly know about this universe's past, as Green Lantern Hal Jordan hears a recounting of history contradictory to Ice's in 3000. It's trademark Giffen and DeMatteis, too, Hal Jordan getting closer and to a serial killer ... that turns out to be a mutated Bat-cow, udders dangling from its utility belt. Never so serious as when they're being funny, the kicker to Giffen and DeMatteis's story is just right, and for me helped significantly to soften the blow of where the regular series ended.

[Includes original covers; script, pencils, and inks for unused story]
Collected Editions 2017 Comic Book Gift Guide
Get the Collected Editions scoop before anyone else -- on Facebook!

No comments:

Post a Comment