Monday, February 14, 2011

Back Issue Alphabet: J is for Justice League America #51 (1991)

Justice League America #51 (J.M. DeMatteis, Keith Giffen, Adam Hughes) (1991)

Out of all the books I’ve reviewed for Back Issue Alphabet, this is the first issue from a series that I’ve previously read. I’ve enjoyed volumes one through four of J.M. DeMatteis and Keith Giffen’s Justice league International, which encompasses issues #1 through #30 of the series. It changed it’s name to "Justice League America" to differentiate itself from its spin-off, Justice League Europe.

In Justice League America #51, the furry Green Lantern G’nort (the g is silent) decides to check in on his friends at Justice League America headquarters to see if anyone wants to hang out. He finds another alien Green Lantern, the monstrous Killowog, bored out of his mind and looking for any excuse to leave the house. Not wanting them to run around New York unaccompanied, J'onn J'onzz goes with them. Killowog wants to go to a few dozen bars and hit on some babes (!), but J’onn says that to avoid trouble they’ll simply take in a Broadway show and have dinner at a fancy restaurant.

Hijinks inevitably ensue.

Justice League International was a fascinating series. While most superhero comics were slowly morphing from the grim-n-gritty 80s into the X-TREEM 90s, JLI was created to be a more lighthearted book, and was often just as funny as it was dramatic. In addition to DeMatteis and Giffen’s original take on team dynamics and character development, the book features brilliant artwork by Adam Hughes. There are very few artists that can capture the full spectrum of human facial expressions like Hughes, and he can translate that talent on to aliens as well. These three creators together on one book is usually a delight.

But, G’nort. Ugh... G’nort is the Jar Jar Binks of the DC universe. He’s supposed to be the comic relief, but he just comes across as terribly irritating. Also depressing. The other heroes in the DC universe are quite vocal of their contempt for G’nort, often to his face, yet he’s so completely oblivious to social cues that he consistently mistakes outright hostility for friendship.

He’s useless and obnoxious. That’s his gag. His entire gag. You either love his wacky antics or you despise him. As for myself, I can’t stand him. G’nort being obnoxious to the Martian Manhunter is just that: obnoxious. It’s like dog-people versus not-dog-people. When a dog tracks mud through the house, barfs in the guest's shoes and bites a toddler in the throat, a dog-person says “oh, that crazy adorable dog!” while a non-dog-person says “you should seriously think about killing that dog.” At least when Guy Gardener was being obnoxious Batman KO-ed him with one punch. G’nort just whines until he gets his way.

And that’s a shame, since there’s some really great character interaction between Killowog and J’onn, along with a side story about a criminal with “hero-phobia.”

If this was the first issue I read, not even Adam Hughes’ spectacular artwork would have brought me back. Good thing I started with issue #1!

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