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The Changing of the Guard

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DC knew that it would have a quandary on its hands. It was revamping its Justice League of America book and it was putting it in the hands of New York Times best-selling author Brad Meltzer.  Meltzer was a great choice. It was obvious that he loved the Justice League and adding his name to the book would be good for sales.

However, Meltzer only signed up for one year—twelve issues—of the series. DC knew that it would eventually have to find Meltzer’s & Benes’ replacement and knew whoever they brought in probably would be taking over a top ten book.

They needed someone who the fans knew and respected, someone fans would be excited about. They needed a good writer with a modicum of fame either inside or outside of comics—preferably both. And having a writer with some experience in writing the JLA would be ideal.

They got all that with Dwayne McDuffie.

McDuffie started his writing in comics, notably on Marvel’s Damage Control and Deathlok series’ and as co-founder and editor-in-chief of the Milestone Media, a line of comics published by DC to promote diversity both on and behind the pages. But he entered most comic fans’ hearts as writer on the Justice League cartoon and writer/producer on the Justice League Unlimited cartoon.

These projects, both airing on the Cartoon Network, were not your typical cartoon. They were mature in tone and featured strong characterization and complex plotting. Critically acclaimed and fan-favorites, these series’ endure as one of the best interpretations of the characters in any medium.

So McDuffie definitely has skills for the job. Anyone familiar with his work on the cartoon version of the JLA should be excited to see his take on the print version of the characters. But this doesn’t mean that he still doesn’t have big shoes to fill.

It might seem impossible to contemplate considering all six of his novels have landed on the New York Times Best Sellers list, but Justice League of America appeared to be the work Brad Meltzer waited all his life to write. It was a labor of love and that love shows in every page.

The Justice League was Meltzer’s playground and he made sure he tried out every swing and used every slide. From membership drives to futuristic headquarters, from JSA team-ups to character building scenes, Meltzer managed to squeeze everything he, and many other fans, love about the JLA into his brief run.

Meltzer was aided and abetted by Brazilian artist Ed Benes. Benes was a relative unknown before taking the Justice League assignment, but fans have really responded to his artwork on the series. He will be staying on the series for the foreseeable future, with one or two fill-ins by artist Joe Benitez along the way.

McDuffie’s arc starts off with a bang, as the JLA face a new and deadlier Injustice Society. Well over thirty of DC worst villains compose the team. With powerhouses such as Black Adam, Bizarro and Amazo in the mix, surely this adds up to overwhelming odds for our team.

Little is known of what, if any, changes McDuffie will be making on the title. Future solicitations promise new members joining and current members leaving. One change is for certain—the team’s resident Green Lantern. Upcoming covers show that a McDuffie favorite, John Stewart, will be taking over for Meltzer fave Hal Jordan as the League’s resident ring bearer. What additional changes are in store is anybody’s guess.

From a writing stand point, the future of the Justice League of America is in good hands. But will enough fans stick around to keep the title in the top ten? Only time will tell.

Also out this week:

Wonder Woman Annual #1:

Finally, Allan Heinberg and Terry Dodson’s first arc on Wonder Woman comes to a close. The pre-ordained Amazons Attack crossover meant that DC could not wait for the running late creative team to finish their story. So they interrupted it right before the end to finish it at a later time, which is tomorrow.

This is a controversial stop/restart practice that DC is employing on other late titles such as Action Comics, Superman and Superman Confidential. Fans and retailers are up in arms, fans because storylines take forever to get completed and retailers because the lateness is affecting their sales.

This is a way for DC to deal with the problem of lateness and ensure product gets on the shelves consistently. However, it might not be the best way to deal with late creators. Look at it this way, in any other job, if you missed a deadline, your job would be in jeopardy. Consistently miss deadlines and you might not ever work again. Perhaps comic companies should adopt the same outlook.

Allan Heinberg (W), Terry Dodson and Gary Frank (A), DC Comics, $3.99. Annual.

Bart Simpson's Treehouse of Horror #13:

It’s that time of the year again. The temperature has gotten a bit colder, supermarkets have brought out pallet upon pallet of candy to sell, department stores have stocked up on colorful costumes, and Bongo brings us another installment of the Treehouse of Horror.

This year, stand-up comedy is the theme as comedians such as Patton Oswalt, Brian Posehn, and Thomas Lennon are given the writing reigns of the yearly Halloween tradition. And as a extra-special bonus, Y the Last Man artist Pia Guerra will be provide the art to a story written by her “life partner”, Bongo regular Ian Boothby. So, whether you’re a fan of the Simpsons, a fan of The State or Reno 911, a fan of Comedians of Comedy, a fan of Y the Last Man or just a fan of goofy horror, this issue is for you!

Various (W), Various (A), Bongo Comics, $4.99, Ongoing Series.

Batman #669:

It was supposed to be fun, a reunion of the Club of Heroes, the so-called “Batmen of the World”. The plan was for some reminiscences, some catching up and some mending of fences. Even Batman was supposed to make an appearance. Then the nefarious Black Glove started killing off the heroes, one by one. Now Batman must solve the mystery of the Black Glove’s identity before the villain claims his next victim—Robin the Boy Wonder.

Grant Morrison’s “locked room” mystery ends this issue. Part backhanded tribute to the Silver Age, part mimic of Agatha Christie’s novel “And Then There Were None…”, this latest arc puts the detective back into “The Darkknight Detective” while paying homage to the character’s roots.   

Grant Morrison (W), J.H. Williams III (A), DC Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

Avengers: The Initiative #6:

Both teams exist because of the Stamford tragedy. Each group represents an opposing viewpoint towards the Superhero Registration Act. It was only a matter of time before they crossed paths. When The Initiative’s tough-as-nails drill instructor, The Gauntlet, is beaten and left for dead, the evidence points to the rebellious heroes, New Warriors. But have the Warriors really crossed over the line from civil disobedience to attempted murder, or is the truth something different—and far more sinister?

The long-standing tradition of Marvel team books crossing over gets a grim and gritty update. And I’m sure that some of the Initiative’s readers will be inspired to pick up the slightly lower selling New Warriors title after reading this issue.

Dan Slott (W), Steve Uy (A), Marvel Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters #1:

I have a confession to make. I liked last year’s Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters series. I liked it quite a lot. I don’t know if it was because of my love for all things related to the Golden Age, my appreciation for whatever the team of Palmiotti and Gray writes or because I totally bought into their wild labyrinthine plot, the crazy conspiracies and the, at times, trippy narrative style. But I enjoyed the heck out of the series.

I guess I wasn’t the only one, because Palmiotti and Gray have brought the Freedom Fighters back for another eight-issue miniseries. This time, they are joined by a new artist in Renato Arlem and by cover illustrator extraordinaire Dave Johnson. If they keep the same tone and style as the last series, it should be one wild ride.

Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti (W), Renato Arlem (A), DC Comics, $2.99. Eight-Issue Miniseries.

###

William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer. He also writes periodic comic reviews for PopMatters, is a weekly contributor to Film Buff Online and writes title descriptions for Human Computing’s Comicbase collection management software. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

 

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