Here’s a strange comic. It’s the return of Len Wein to the “Justice League of America,” and, as of today, if you check the DC website, this issue is still credited to Dwayne McDuffie. And the art is by Chris Cross, who, along with McDuffie, was one of the first batch of Milestone creators back in the early 1990s.
So you’d think that the recent appearance of the Milestone characters in this very JLA series would be a perfect time for a Cross/McDuffie reunion. But that’s not what this is at all.
It’s Len Wein.
Doing some story about a villain called Starbreaker.
Starbreaker has appeared before — in a 1972 “Justice League” issue and in a handful of other stories since. But you probably don’t remember him. I sure didn’t.
And here Len Wein gives us a bit about his background and a “twice-told tale” from the JLA casebook. Therefore, I assume this issue is a retelling of a “classic” Starbreaker story, but it’s one I’ve never read before. It certainly takes place in the distant past, with the Justice League as they were around the time Wein first wrote the series, when it was still Volume 1 and in the low triple digits, number-wise.
Like the “Final Crisis Secret Files” comic from a couple of weeks ago, this is basically an old-fashioned story with new art, and it’s kind of an interesting experiment. The dialogue seems ripped from an earlier era — and maybe it is literally taken verbatim from an older story, for all I know — which gives this comic a joyous silliness that makes it quite a bit of fun at times. And Aquaman (old-school Aquaman, not the dude with a harpoon-hand or beard or the one who’s an underwater swashbuckler) punches out the bad guy in the end.
Of course, he explains the source of his strength (you see, the ocean is heavy, and fish are stronger than they look, of course) as he’s punching out the bad guy, but that’s how things were done back in those days. And who else should punch out a space vampire like Starbreaker, if not a guy who can talk to fish and has the proportionate strength of one as well?
This issue also demonstrates why Grant Morrison is so fond of Wein’s JLA run. The plot of the story seems like something Morrison might write today, with space vampires pulling the Earth out of orbit, Green Lantern building a giant planet-harness pulled by Superman, and the heroes winning through the power of hope. The goofy on-the-nose dialogue and excessive exposition makes it sound distinctly un-Morrisonian, but it’s still a breath of fresh air after the last couple of leaden McDuffie-scripted issues.
“Justice League of America” #29 ends with a lead-in to some kind of epic Shadow Thief story. I have no idea who’s writing that one, because even though the DC website says “Dwayne McDuffie,” we know better than to trust the reliability of that.