Justice League International #5 review

A recent edition of John Siuntres’ excellent Word Balloon podcast saw Marvel ‘architect’ Matt Fraction talk about the difficulty of writing 20-page comics. It’s not just a matter of cutting two pages from a 22pp story, apparently …

Which confused me. As a kid raised in the days when all comics had just 17pp of story, 20pp seems pretty good. Can writing a satisfying instalment of a superhero comic of that length really be rocket science?

I dunno, but any writer having trouble with the mechanics should study an accomplished pro like Dan Jurgens, who month after month delivers first-rate superhero stories that don’t leave the reader feeling short-changed. Here’s another example, as he closes the new JLI’s first storyline, ‘The Signal Masters’.

In ‘just’ 20pp he recaps the threat to Earth from Peraxxus, has the JLI escape a death trap, travel to the planetary leech’s starship, battle the alien, persuade his ship to stop strip-mining Earth, send its master running and quiet their UN liaison’s hectoring. Unlike in, say, the Avengers of Fraction’s fellow Marvel architect Brian Bendis, there’s no standing around by team members while one or two favourites hog the action: everyone here – Booster Gold, Guy Gardner, Ice, Fire, Vixen, Godiva, Rocket Red, August General in Iron, Batman – has a part to play in the story’s resolution. What’s more, every scene is rich with characterisation as the heroes gel as a team while individual friendships and rivalries form. As team leader Booster Gold points out, job done.

Bringing the well-paced script to life is penciller Aaron Lopresti, whose own storytelling instincts complement Jurgens beautifully. His heroes look marvelous whether in well-choreographed fight scenes or the issue’s quieter – yet still intense – moments. What’s more, Lopresti sells the story’s cosmic qualities beautifully with his convincing space scenarios and interstellar craft. Lopresti’s regular partner, Matt Ryan, inks with style, while Hi-Fi and Travis Lanham provide exemplary colours and letters respectively. The striking cover comes from David Finch and Richard Friend.

I don’t for a minute believe it is simple, but the creators on this book really do make telling memorable stories look easy. Any creators intimidated by the supposed tyranny of 20pp, study well. 

15 thoughts on “Justice League International #5 review

  1. I realize 22 has been the norm since the mid-1980's, but previous norms included anything from 8 to (briefly) as high as 24 or 25 story pages in the early 1980's (though most titles went with a 17/7 or 17/8 split between main and back-up– I only remember this because I was thinking about the pre-Alan Moore Saga of the Swamp Thing lately, with the Phantom Stranger back-ups that shrunk from 8 to six pages before the main story got set at 23 or 22).

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  2. Well, I'm enjoying it Martin! I'd have preferred the Generation Lost JLI, but this is a good near-fit.

    Remember the brief period of 27pp, Jonathan, around the time the New Teen Titans debuted? Heaven.

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  3. I like lots of pages, but within that framework I like lots of words too, and Jurgens is usually very good in that area (second to Perez of course). I set down JLI #1 next to Aquaman #1 and the former had more word word balloons than the latter had words! Jurgens gives me my 2.99 worth, and as you point out (in another great review, love the site) gives a solid story.

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  4. He does indeed, A.R., I'm very much looking forward to seeing what he comes up with for his return to Superman.

    And Anon, you win the award for most fascinating fact of the day with the script comparison.

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  5. I'm enjoying it as well. The only thing I didn't like was early in the book, when someone (my memory is blanked) basically that the JLI was our only hope. Now, isn't this the same universe as the JLA? Stormwatch? JLI has some great characters with cool abilities, and this is their book, so I get the sentiment, but really? The Earth's only hope, in a world with Superman, is Booster, Guy, and General August in Iron?

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  6. I don't mind going back to a more carefree continuity situation where we don't have to obsess over where the Avengers were during the first appearance of Galactus. It's the JLI's book, so they need to be able to do stuff without a lengthy explanation of where all the other supergroups and superteams are.

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  7. Yeah, especially since they've mentioned the JLA on several occasions. Of course, we don't really know what the JLA is doing right 'now', other than handing over Enchantress duty to the JLD. One of the problems of having that initial JLA arc set five years ago…

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  8. Agreed. I wish they would have just ran a 4 or 5 part mini about the JLA origins, so that as readers, we weren't having to ignore the fact that the whole DCU is going to crap while the JLA is noticibly absent. There are global crises going on all over the place, but the JLA is just a glaring presence by their absence.

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