Review: Justice League 3000 Vol. 1: Yesterday Lives trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Justice League 3000 Vol. 1: Yesterday Lives is the most Keith Giffen-est and J. M. DeMatteis-est comic since the two paired on Justice League International, and depending how you feel about that will largely determine how you feel about this series. Giffen writing a future-set series is in and of itself notable, though Legion of Super-Heroes references are few; admittedly, I probably wouldn't continue with this series based on the first volume if I wasn't specifically here for the appearances of other characters later in this book and the Justice League 3001 that follows. Certainly JLA's Howard Porter's work is strong here, and he does well in depicting the series' both action-packed and sillier sequences.

[Review contains spoilers]

I consider Keith Giffen's humor as akin to British comedy (clearly DeMatteis plays a role here, but the "Giffen style" has seemed apparent in Giffen's work whether DeMatteis is present or not). It is not "funny" per se, at least not in what I believe to be the American style of jokes and punchlines; there's really not jokes here, so much as an ever-present, ongoing backdrop of banter -- arguing, really. It's more wry, of sorts, a kind of wry verbal slapstick, more a situational comedy, but again, in the British and not American style of "sitcom."

Admittedly I've never felt exceptionally drawn to Giffen writing in this manner, and I sooner appreciate Giffen and DeMatteis's Justice League International for its historical value, and Giffen's Doom Patrol for its dark comedy undercut with camaraderie, than I like this kind of Giffen bicker-comedy. Further, the dialogue in Yesterday Lives is annoyingly repetitive, to the point where Giffen-in-Giffen-style has the characters remark on it. In part this is due to the authors not writing to the trade and instead recapping with each issue; to an extent Yesterday Lives reads like the first seven episodes of a television series that's establishing its premise for new viewers each week before taking off.

Justice League 3000/3001 is now of course cancelled, but its potentially winning premise was to bring the recognizable modern-day DC characters into DC's future setting, on the chance that lack of recognition is what's hampered most recent Legion of Super-Heroes series. In this, Giffen and DeMatteis do well, and it's particularly fun to see a Green Lantern and a Batman-esque character against Howard Porter's future-space backdrop. The book feels multi-faceted as the characters split off into individual adventures against the totalitarian Five. It is not boring; really its greatest detraction is the future Superman constantly squabbling with Batman and Wonder Woman or "Wonder Twins" Teri and Terry discussing ad nauseum the morality of how they've brought the heroes back to life.

I already understood Justice League 3000 was unrelated to Legion of Super-Heroes, but I still held out a little hope I might be surprised; I'd actually meant to finish reading Paul Levitz's New 52 Legion before I read Justice League 3000, but didn't. That the future Justice League is imprisoned in Takron-Galtos here was a minor thrill, though it doesn't really amount to much more than a name-check. Equally most likely separating this story from present DC continuity or the most recent Legion series is that Takron-Galtos turns out to be Earth here, but this was a nice surprise; in a kind of Planet of the Apes manner, I enjoyed discovering the mysteries of this new galaxy alongside the blank-slate Justice League as our "perspective characters."

Having Kevin Maguire as this book's artist certainly would have made the Justice League International reunion complete, though for the widescreen action sequences I can't necessarily argue with Porter as the artist. Certainly Porter brings with him his own Justice League credentials. I would say that there's an occasional facial close-up and a roll of the eyes or quirk of the lip that looked very Maguire-esque, and if that's an intentional nod on Porter's part, it succeeds.

Honestly there are other books I can read if I want to see Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, and Green Lantern teamed up together, and the flip side of Howard Porter's presence on Justice League 3000 Vol. 1: Yesterday Lives, despite good work, is the book does come off a tad dated; if I wanted to read JLA, I would go read JLA or the current Justice League. Counterintuitively, in that respect, I'm here more to see Fire, Ice, Guy Gardner, Booster Gold, and Blue Beetle, characters without their own present ongoing series together, and that's what'll compel me on to the next volumes. We'll see if their presence is enough to sell the more groan-worthy aspects of the series.

[Includes original covers, Howard Porter sketches and character designs]
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4 comments:

  1. I remember when I first read this a year and a bit ago, I thought: this is the kind of book I want collected editions blogspot to review (this and the same writers plus Scott Kolins' Larfleeze) simply because, in my mind, this was a strange book. I know that this book never was the most popular among fans and that readership dwindled over time, but I always enjoyed it in a strange way. The story and humor never really elevate the series too far and looking back the book is fairly unremarkable, but for some reason I still like reading it. I guess you could call it a guilty pleasure book, or perhaps a book I love to hate-read. Regardless, I still look at it fondly even if I don't entirely know why.

    In terms of JLI characters, only Booster and Beetle are really present in the next volume with Ice making a short appearance. Booster and Beetle did make me laugh out loud more so than the Justice League characters did.

    If you do need to be "sold" on the next volume(s) I would mention some upcoming twists both in plot and on the characters, an all-female Justice League (in the post-Convergence 3001 series), the Booster Gold/Blue Beetle shenanigans I mentioned before, a very, shall we say, different Guy Gardner, the Five showing off more of their powers, and some other cameos from DC characters you might not necessarily have been expecting.

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    1. Hey, thanks for anticipating the review! I guess I'll have to go back and catch up with Larfleeze one of these days; it didn't make a dent near as I could tell in the main GL series, which is probably why I missed it.

      I think "guilty pleasure" or "love-hate" about sums it up. Though Aaron Sorkin's work is firmly in the "love" category for me, there's an aspect of Giffen's bicker-talk that's Sorkin-esque, kind of like background music. Giffen's characters, especially here, do a lot of walk-talks, except it's mostly in one place.

      Ice is only barely in the next volume, but I thought her scene was really significant ... more on that coming up!

      Thanks again.

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  2. I'm unsure why the Giffen bicker talk is so different thirty years later. Back in the JLI days there was a sense that all the characters ultimately liked each other (even Guy!) - but all of Giffen's writing since then has this vibe of people who just loathe each other. I bought all of JLA3000, but did not enjoy it. It perks up slightly when it briefly becomes all-female, I think because the Superman character isn't around to be so loathsome. But the JLI magic is gone, Giffen just writes unlikeable people who loathe each other nowadays (tried his Rebirth Blue Beetle series, those characters hate each other even more than JLA3000!, Which i didn't think was possible!)

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    1. The Blue Beetle teaser in DC Universe: Rebirth didn't give this sense of the characters disliking one another, so I'm curious about and dismayed by this. You're right that the the 3000 characters get better by the time it's the all-female team, and even earlier in 3001 when Bruce and Clark are having a heart-to-heart. Possibly Giffen and DeMatteis put them so much at odds now because the relationships change over time, but indeed it's a little hard to take here.

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