I’ll be the first to admit, the idea of super-villain Maxwell Lord is one that I’ve never found particularly compelling. He was a character with all sorts of shades of gray during his time in the various “Justice League International” titles, and that was certainly part of his appeal. But as a ruthless mastermind, it was a switch that never sat quite right with me; it felt a little too forced.
All of this is being mentioned because now that Maxwell Lord is alive again, he’s back to being a ruthless villain that has the entire super-hero community scrambling to stop him in the first issue of “Justice League: Generation Lost.” He’s the center of this book, and it’s hard to ignore his status as you read it. Keith Giffen and Judd Winick have the unfortunate job of trying to sell this idea to you, and so far I haven’t seen anything new brought to the table on that front from the pair of them.
With that in mind, though? “Justice League: Generation Lost” isn’t a bad comic. Giffen and Winick take the villain they’ve been given and continue to follow through on the ideas set up by others in the past few years. Now that we finally see the aftermath of Lord’s attempt to wipe the memory of himself from the entire planet, it’s actually not a bad plan. Giffen and Winick have thought it through, explaining how people would react to recordings and written accounts of Lord, as well as how people would react when confronted by the few remaining super-heroes that are still able to remember the true history of Lord. Likewise, the idea of having the different heroes discredited is a good one, to make sure that no one would believe them. Some of the discrediting is more powerful than others (I can’t figure out if Ice’s is supposed to be a joke or serious), but it makes sense.
On the other hand, there’s a lot of “woe is me” in this issue, and I’m hoping that our characters shake this off before too long. 24 more issues of four moping heroes is going to get old awfully fast, after all. And while I know that they’re trying to track down a character that is now supposed to be evil, it’s hard to not hope that we’ll see a little humor come back into the comic before too long. With the old “Justice League” font part of the logo, there’s that promise for some of the lighter moments being offered up to the reader, but we’ve yet to see that follow through.
With three regular artists assigned to this bi-weekly series (Aaron Lopresti, Joe Bennett, and Fernando Dagnino) I find myself a little surprised that there weren’t any sort of model sheets for the main characters drawn up in advance. The differences between the first two issues aren’t huge, but they’re also hard to ignore. We’re seeing hair styles shift from one artist to the next (Bennett is giving Fire a nasty case of flat hair, compared to the full and curly styles from Lopresti), and the size of the atom logo on Captain Atom’s chest is growing and shrinking as different artists tackle it. In a collected format, this sort of constant shifting will be distracting at best.
Viewed on its own, I’m not crazy about Bennett’s art that much anyway. Characters are all overly muscled, and there only seems to be two faces on display, male and female. The opening image of Superman and the four Justice Leaguers is actually distracting once you realize that all the guys are drawn almost identically, just with different patterns on their bodies. Giffen’s breakdowns aren’t bad, thanks to his always strong sense of pacing. But the actual execution of those roughs is lackluster.
With a better artist, “Justice League: Generation Lost” #2 would have been a slightly more interesting book. And I will admit that I wish the villain had been just about anyone more believable. But Giffen and Winick are going on the path already carved out for Lord, and they’re doing a reasonable job with it. I just wish that things were happening a little quicker; after two issues, they’re still in early set-up mode, and we need to see things start moving forward. The last page looks like we’re almost at that moment, but for now it’s just not hitting full acceleration. For now, this is a title that hasn’t found its balance, on multiple levels.