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Dwayne McDuffie is the co-creator of the Emmy Award winning television series STATIC SHOCK and of Milestone Media, the most successful black-owned comic book company in history. In television, he was a Writer/Producer for Warner Brothers' JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED and is currently the co-producer/story editor of Cartoon Network's BEN 10: ULTIMATE ALIEN. A leading proponent of multiculturalism in media, Dwayne has created dozens of characters for comics, television and videogames, notably, Marvel Comics DAMAGE CONTROL and DEATHLOK II, and Milestone Comics ICON and HARDWARE. Dwayne is a multiple Emmy and Eisner Award nominee, and is the winner of the 2003 Humanitas Prize.
So a lot of fans of the Justice League were very critical of Dwayne McDuffie's run when he was assigned to the book. I was optimistic about his run due to his fantastic work on the cartoon. Having only gotten into the Justice League during Brad Meltzer's run, I was a new fan and was excited to see what Dwayne would bring to the title. Unfortunately, there were definitely problems during McDuffie's run, all of which had to do with DC Editorial demanding he not use certain characters or adjust his stories in order to accomodate "events". This volume does not demonstrate any of those problems. In these stories, McDuffie shows how creative he is, coming up with two really exciting stories that are well thought out, well scripted, and well executed.
In these stories, we see the return of Amazo (looking more stream-lined and bad-@$$ than ever thanks to Benes' new interpretation), the development of Hawkgirl and Red Arrow's relationship before DC (stupidly) decided to break them up, and a GREAT exploration of Vixen's abilities and potential. Vixen is one of those characters that, in my opinion, was always under-utilized, and McDuffie writes her to her full potential. This is a great Justice League story for fans who like action, variety, great dialogue, and seeing lesser known characters shine.
Is this the best Justice League story ever? No, and I doubt that Dwayne McDuffie would say that himself. But it is a really fun read with some really great art and some really great action AND character moments. I, for one, am a fan of Dwayne McDuffie, and I think if he had gotten more free reign to be creative and use his own ideas, he could have been one of the best Justice League writers ever.
Vixen's come a long way since her Wolverine haircut days. She's strong, beautiful, clever, and interesting enough to carry a five-issue Justice League story arc that revolves around her quest to learn the truth about, and regain control of, her malfunctioning powers. That said, what's interesting about her is her courage and resourcefulness, not her inner life; in Dwayne McDuffie's meat-and-potatoes superhero writing, she doesn't seem to have one.
"Meat and potatoes" -- is watching heroes being uncomplicatedly heroic not enough anymore? The League's three-issue battle with the revived killing machine Amazo is thrilling as hell, and Ed Benes's artwork (on the two chapters that he drew) is gorgeous, but for some of us there's more to even superhero comics than a long, but well-choreographed, fight scene. It's true that McDuffie had several hard acts to follow, including Brad Meltzer (who pitted the JLA against the ravages of time and memory), Joe Kelly (JLA vs. governmental and political authority), Mark Waid (JLA vs. their own inner demons), and Grant Morrison (JLA vs. an absurd and unstable universe).
I'm inclined to look at the two final chapters of SECOND COMING, with Vixen and Buddy (Animal Man) Baker held captive by a very chatty trickster god, as a metafictional experiment gone not so much wrong as gone boring. Things pick up when we enter the alternate world Gotham City, where the alternate world Batman is a gun-toting serial killer hunted by his nemesis, Jim Gordon. Oh, what a JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED episode that would've made!
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This hardcover reprints issues 22 through 26 of the current Justice League of America. The first three issues deal with the return of Amazo, while the last two issues cover a story involving Vixen and the source of her powers.
The artwork, mostly by Ed Benes, is nice as usual and up to his regular quality. I have more problems with the writing of Dwayne McDuffie on this title, as I have found much of his past writing a bit pedestrian. He clearly plays favorites with a few characters that probably do not deserve the spotlight, such as Vixen and the Red Tornado. The second arc in this hardcover is basically a Vixen solo story in the guise of a what if story which involves some ridiculous spider god in her totem. It has no redeeming features other than a brief appearance by Animal Man. The Amazo story, which comprises the first arc, is a more traditional JLA story. While heavy on action and light on intricacy, it serves its purpose well as a decent and entertaining yarn.
I really can only recommend this particular volume to JLA completists who want the entire run.
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