Justice League Of America #27, 28, 30–34 by Dwayne McDuffie and various artists
Embarrassing confession: I’ve never really read any of the Milestone books. I might have skimmed an issue here and there, but I didn’t get into any of the comics. I know, I know: I’m a bad person; I’m sorry. I thought I might rectify it by reading this collection, which was supposed to bring the Milestone characters into the DC universe (although I’m not sure if they are quite as integrated as this book would suggest), by one of the original Milestone creators from the 1990s, Dwayne McDuffie.
The Shadow Cabinet, the Milestone equivalent of the Justice League, has captured Dr Light (the heroic female version) and then are caught by the JLA as they break into The Watchtower to steal something. Of course, there is something more complicated going on, and certain members know more than they say, and it involves someone who has an important role in the two universes and a very powerful supervillain. It feels very much like a DC superhero story, at least to someone like me who read more Marvel growing up, but it doesn’t quite have the scope needed for such a big story. It doesn’t help that the story gets bogged down in an interlude to do with the internal politics of the JLA, which involves lots of sitting around and talking.
The members of the Shadow Cabinet are mostly an intriguing bunch, each clearly delineated and individual, despite the fact that the bigger names riff on various archetypes (Icon is a riff on Superman, Hardware is a riff on Iron Man), although some of them are odder than others – Gloria Mundi is ‘a living receptacle of hopes and dreams of a thousand, thousand dead races’, which is a rather odd concept, if novel (but surely ‘a thousand, thousand’ is a million?). McDuffie handles them well, as would be expected from one of the originators, and the books work well in the interaction between the Shadow Cabinet and the JLA in the earlier issues, with some good dialogue. However, they become more generic as the story reaches its conclusion, losing some of their identity to the mechanics of plot.
Because the story wasn’t as captivating as it could have been, I was distracted by other things. For example, the start of issue 30 has the Flash in the second panel, even though he’s still captive within the body of Twilight, a living portal, which is quite a sloppy error that should have been spotted by the editors (but was spotted by my vigilant girlfriend). The art was a little flat; there was a static quality to the panels, as if the DC house style is supposed to be a lack of fluidity – the characters seem oddly posed in a panel or a page. It doesn’t look dynamic, and Shane Davis is particularly guilty of this. Another aspect is Vixen’s costume, which is inappropriate with its large v-shape cut in the front of the costume to display her cleavage; but Rags Morales has a real problem drawing the breasts, which change in size and shape (and means of support) from panel to panel. Ed Benes may be obsessed with the female bottom but at least he draws it consistently.
I don’t think that this was the greatest reintroduction of the Milestone characters, although I would be interested to read the earlier stories to see how they acted in their own universe.