Wednesday, April 17, 2013

My Justice League of America

The basic premise of the new Justice League of America series from Geoff Johns and David Finch is that the U.S. government wanted their own super hero team that they could control and that could also be used to potentially take out the original group if they get out of hand. The aspect I most love is that Geoff, being the type of nerd after my own heart who likes arranging his toys to match one up against the other, constructed the JLA with members specifically meant to counter their opposite numbers in specific one-on-one showdowns in the inevitable conflict (Amanda Waller shows a chart with arrows and everything in the first issue).

This is building block comics as you loved them when you were a kid stuff that tickles me whenever it showed up. There’s a reason every good super hero has an opposite number enemy (Bizarro, Venom, Sinestro, Sabretooth, etc.) and every super hero team has a villain group made up of one bad guy to counter each member (Injustice League, Dark Avengers and so forth). It’s good old-fashioned comic book-y fun, and as the guy who realized there was gold in taking the color green and splitting it across the rainbow, Geoff as much as anybody realizes that can be the jumping off point for a great story.

In the past on this very blog, I’ve ridden the coattails of various writers—usually Geoff, actually—and stories—usually Geoff’s again—and come up with my own takes on who would fill what slots in the fantasy draft that is comic book brainstorming. Since I enjoyed writing those—and if I recall correctly they all got a lot of hits…and that’s why we really do this—here’s my crack at a Justice League of America roster to call my own, with the caveats that I didn’t re-use any of Geoff’s picks and am still getting to know the New 52 mythos (but I also have the benefit of not having to coordinate with other writers or, y’know, actually write any stories, so there you go).

When casting an anti-Superman, I always go straight for his weakness to magic, since it’s the one thing he seems to have never developed a true defense for (there’s always a way around Kryptonite) and practitioners of the mystic arts tend to be powerful besides. Whereas I’d usually opt for Captain Marvel, the New 52 version is still an untested kid; on the flipside, Frankenstein is a battle-hardened warrior with centuries of experience who may be mostly a product of science, but I wager has enough magic fused in that patchwork body—or at least that he can gain access to—to give Supes fits. He’s a powerhouse who can serve as the team’s tank, but also a strategist and proven leader. Oddly enough, he seems to have a level head in the heat of battle, which would come in handy here.

Since his creation, Midnight has generally been played as a more ruthless Batman, and that’s something you’d need badly to counteract the Justice League. What he may lack in the Dark Knight’s cerebral capacity for game plans—and not by much—he makes up for in sheer brutality as well as a degree of fighting ability that can be considered superhuman (depending on who’s writing him). Additionally, as a member even briefly of the New 52 Stormwatch—for the sake of this, let’s ignore the Jim Starlin reboot of last week for now—he’s been privy to the workings of another organization tasked with potentially taking down the League that has access to centuries of data. Other members of this team can try to match up with Batman in the game of human chess, but if he gets a crack at him straight up, Midnighter can potentially take him off the board.

To the best of my knowledge, not many warriors on Wonder Woman’s level have popped up yet in the New 52—I know Big Barda made a cameo in the last issue of Earth 2, but she hasn’t really shown her stuff yet—but in terms of sheer power, Karen Starr can match and perhaps exceed her. Added advantages PG possesses are that she’s still a relative unknown in the Justice League’s dimension who they wouldn’t have time to adequately prepare for—and who could probably be fairly easily talked into this role by the government—and that she boasts training from a more experienced incarnation of Superman, making her a threat to multiple targets here. If Power Girl comes in like a house of fire, she can bowl over Wonder Woman quick then look to do more damage.

I’m sure if they had their druthers, Amanda Waller and Steve Trevor would much rather go after a more experienced Green Lantern than neophyte Simon Baz to counteract Hal Jordan, but they probably correctly assumed none of the more tenured ring slingers would go against their brother. However, if any is going to turn at this stage, it would likely be Kyle, not because he’s dumb or evil, but because he’s trusting enough to be talked into thinking Hal—a guy he met as a villain…presumably still—is making another bad call (John wouldn’t listen, Guy is too much of a wild card). Again, it’s a long shot, and it probably wouldn’t work, but if it did, you get not only a powerful Green Lantern, but the only one who’s proven able to wield every emotion on the spectrum, making him potentially far more powerful and versatile than Hal Jordan; then again, worst case scenario, you get a pissed off uber-Lantern on your case…

A recent debut in the pages of The Flash, Turbine is a military man who spent 70 years in the Speed Force, mastering most aspects of the dimension and going nuts along the way. He’s a tentative ally of Barry Allen at this point, but a proven unstable commodity who’s used to following orders from Uncle Sam. His reckless nature means he may not have quite the finesses over his abilities that the Flash possesses, but he also has more raw power and knows tricks that no other speedsters have tapped into yet. Besides his ability to rankle and take out a major Justice League player, it’s just never a bad idea to have somebody with super speed on your side from every tactical angle.

You’re going to be hard up to find many people who can hold their own against Aquaman if he can get them to his native environment, but Buddy Baker may be one of them. With his ability to mimic any animal’s abilities, Animal Man can at least keep pace with the king of Atlantis under the sea until an opportunity arises to hit him with a power set snagged from other creature. Back on land or in the air, Buddy remains a tricky opponent for any member of the Justice League; he’s among the more versatile fighters in all of the New 52. As far as his attitude, following the events of Rotworld and the death of his son, Buddy’s more hardened than ever, but also in a terrible emotional place where he’d potentially welcome the direction of belong to a team; if he’s stable enough, he’s got the people skills to be a decent leader.

Take everything I said about Batman and Midnighter, and then transfer it over to Cyborg and the Engineer. However, besides that edge in ruthlessness and access to Stormwatch, she’s also got a nod in experience and may have dealt with an even greater variety of threats and adversaries than most of the Justice Leaguers (hard to say with much of the history of the New 52 DCU still unaccounted for). She’s more likely to override Vic Stone’s toolbox than vice versa, depriving the League of their go-to support staff. Also, again depending on stability, like Animal Man or Frankenstein she does have the potential to lead with a great mind for organization and strategy.

You might not buy this book, but would these guys stand a chance against the Justice League?