The Return opens in an unexpected place with a surprise hero.
OMAC, One Man Army Corp of The World That’s Coming, going about his regular business of fighting the tools of evil corporations. But who’s that in the tube in the corner?
Another surprise. Hawkgirl in the future. Of course, she’s also in the past, organising a party in the Hall of Justice to celebrate Wonder Woman’s return to the League.
Before anyone can so much as break into the trifle, up pops OMAC, thrown back through time, but so disorientated that he, too, soon winds up in a tube.
Superman’s Fortress of Solitude major domo, Kelex, piped into the Hall of Justice, pops up with a trouble alert (the AI is apparently so troubled that it makes a couple of typos…).
What to do but split the core JL into sub-teams to investigate the energy bursts.
I love it when the Justice League splits into mini-squads, it’s classic. We don’t get individual logos as in the Silver and Bronze Age, but we do get numbered chapters starring Wonder Woman, Hippolyta and Naomi; Green Arrow, Black Canary and Aquaman; and one-man band Black Adam. Batman, Hawkgirl and Flash stay back to watch OMAC.
Before long, though, the latter two and Superman Jr Jon Kent have joined Green Arrow, Black Canary and Aquaman at Blackgate Prison, where a raging monster from beyond is causing quite the ruckus.
And now we see why writer Brian Michael Bendis may have gone old school – he’s bringing back a Silver and Bronze Age baddie. I love love love the Lord of Time, he’s DC’s Kang without the convolution. Also, he had one of the funkiest outfits ever…
… which we don’t get to see here, sadly! Still, we do get a thoroughly entertaining romp with room for characterisation and future plot seeding. As usual with Bendis JLA, specific uses of powers are rare, with fight scenes a free-for-all, but not everyone is Gardner Fox. Bendis’ speciality is entertaining back-and-forth dialogue, and we get plenty here.
Artist Sanford Greene does a bang-up job in a rare foray into DC territory. The dynamism and vibrancy is wonderful, making the action scenes feel like they’re going at a million miles an hour.
The calmer moments are terrific too, from the cover on; Greene’s versions of the familiar heroes are fascinating to look at, even portly, sleepy Aquaman. Dig those ruddy snub noses, it looks to have been a top party! There’s an especially great page with four versions of the Lord of Time explaining stuff, with particularly fine colouring. The colours for the issue come from both Greene and Matt Herms, but as the issue credits don’t break down who did what I shall simply note that the colours are excellent throughout. Ditto so far as Josh Reed’s letters go, especially on the chapter openings, where Bendis seems to have given the note ‘Jack Kirby Fourth World MELODRAMA!’
I enjoyed this issue hugely, it’s so refreshing to have an annual that, while linked to current doings in the regular series, is a proper, old-fashioned done-in-one. They do make ‘em like that still – but not nearly often enough. Thanks to the JL team for giving us this treat.