Like its predecessor, “Justice League 3001” is a strange series, not just in terms of basic subject material — although Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Howard Porter’s stories of semi-reincarnated superheroes in the 31st century qualify as strange — but rather in their actual approach. With characters and plotlines zooming in and out of focus, it’s hard to know what to expect from one issue to the next.
“Justice League 3001” #2 concludes a two-part story in which the Justice League try to free a planet from Starro’s control (having had Starro’s legal claim revoked by the courts), even as the 21st century Supergirl finds herself in the far future and the Ariel Masters-Lois Lane hybrid continues to secretly try and discredit and destroy the team. Sounds odd? Giffen and DeMatteis’s story lurches from one idea to the next, a literal hodgepodge of concepts and characters. It never feels quite like it’s flowing smoothly and it’s difficult to tell if you’re supposed to be laughing at or with a character. At times, ideas feel slapped onto the page and half-developed, like the new Guy Gardner (having replaced the miniaturized Hal Jordan from “Justice League 3000”) in the body of a woman. There are strange jokes about Guy’s gender identity and confusion that appears to be intended in good spirits but never quite sits right. As the Flash, Teri tries to prove her worth in a sequence, one that goes ultimately nowhere as Supergirl’s presence in the book shunts all of that to one side. Again, it’s trying but you can’t tell if Teri is supposed to be pitiable or comedic.
Long-time readers might note the lack of Fire, Ice, Booster Gold and Blue Beetle; after their much-hyped introductions in the final issues of “Justice League 3000,” they’re nowhere to be seen in this issue. Similarly, aside from a mention on a talk show at the start of the issue, the main villain grouping of the Five is still nowhere to be seen. While all of them are quite possibly lurking in the wings, it feels like plotlines and characters were tossed to the side because the creators were bored with them for the moment.
The book and its jokes are at their best with some of the little moments, like the ongoing gag over who can and who can’t call Superman “Clarkie,” for example. Giffen and DeMatteis are good at the verbal patter and running jokes that refuse to die, and the interactions of the characters with one another are ultimately what keep the writing afloat. It’s frustrating that more of its humor doesn’t quite hit the mark, even as Giffen and DeMatteis continue to throw anything and everything at the proverbial wall.
In many ways, Porter’s art is just as inconsistent. Ariel Masters is a perfect example of how sometimes the art works, and other times it seems to miss a step. On the very first panel of the book, Porter’s depiction of her is perfect. Her crossed arms, her slightly slouched posture, the tilt of her head… they’re all great body language, and Ariel/Lois’s disdain just radiates off of the page. However, her appearance on the bottom of the second page doesn’t coming together at all. Is she walking or sliding across the floor, based on her posture? Why does she look so squat? What is she looking at? It’s this inconsistency that makes “Justice League 3001” so frustrating. I love moments like the Flash zipping across the planet with a massive path of light behind her; it’s a fantastic splash that does so much to bring to life her search. Even little bits, like Starro-Prime’s eyeball focusing on Supergirl, are fun. I just wish that every panel worked so well.
“Justice League 3001” #2 is indicative of the series as a whole: some issues (or parts of issues) work great, other ones just stumble forward, as if smashing into everything in its path. There’s enough here to enjoy the issue and to hope that the next installment is a little stronger, but it’s hard to get overly excited. I’ve come to like the series just enough to keep an eye on it, but I keep wishing that everything would come together enough to love it. “Justice League 3001” may have a new year in its title but, at the end of the day, it’s still the same strange cousin of the rest of the DC Universe line. Not bad, but could be better.