The title “Justice League International” has a certain level of expectation attached to it. Those who read (and presumably enjoyed) the series by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, and Kevin Maguire will wax poetic about the funny-yet-dramatic comic of the same name, and how few comics still live up to that level. This new “Justice League International” is clearly going for that same tone and nostalgia — even down to using the majority of the same characters — but Dan Jurgens’ script never quite gets there.
It’s hard to ignore the dialogue being little more than a bundle of cliches from start to finish, unfortunately. I understand that Jurgens is juggling over half a dozen characters from around the world, but an exchange between Rocket Red and August General in Iron (“To be saved by miracle of Russian technology is glorious for you!” “Chinese science would have been faster and more efficient.”) is just one example of why it’s painful. All the way through, character dialogue alternates between related to their country of origin, or a one-note personality trait. (Godiva is flirty, August General is gruff, and so on.)
The one exception is Batman, who appears to be writer-proof. Jurgens gives him the role of voice of sanity, and that means that his dialogue and actions are more about keeping the others in line. While Jurgens is going for the idea of a team full of neophytes that will presumably learn over time, it’s hard to ignore the fact that if more of these characters were written as semi-competent, we wouldn’t need Batman in the title to play the role of Mr. Reasonable.
Even the plot is a little dull, fighting a large robot and then being told that things are getting worse around the globe. There’s remarkably little in the way of story progression, with the comic overall feeling leaden. There’s little of an “international” feel to the book, too; sure, the big battle is fought in Peru, but it could have just as easily been San Diego with nothing needing to change save for the word “Peru.” “Justice League International” needs to leave up to its name, and that means more than referring to the entire continent of Africa as a single location (and from Vixen, no less, who would presumably know better).
The one saving grace is Aaron Lopresti and Matt Ryan’s art. Their issues were the best-looking of “Justice League: Generation Lost,” so it’s nice to see them still on board for this new title. Lopresti’s pencils created rounded, curvy characters that are expressive and fun to look at. Little moments like Booster’s face when Briggs calls him do much more to sell the characters than the script itself. It’s an attractive product, but it’s hard to read it solely for the art.
“Justice League International” has a strong pedigree, but this new incarnation isn’t living up to the name. Maybe down the line when the characters are more of a team (and less incompetent) it’ll turn into a fun title, but for now this is a poorly written book. Jurgens’ recent run on “Booster Gold” was a lot of fun, and that makes his work here that much more disappointing.