STORY: Dan Jurgens
ART: Aaron Lopresti and Matt Ryan
It’s the beginning of the end for the JLI. Save for Justice League International Annual #1 – being released in this month’s fifth week, along with a slew of other Annuals – Dan Jurgens’ seminal series has come to a close with the “Funeral of Rocket Red”. While the story title itself is a bit of a misnomer, this month’s issue takes the team to Russia to visit Gavril Ivanovich’s grave for a proper send-off by the teammates that stood by him in the end.
As the end of a series, Justice League International #12 has a lot of loose ends to tie up. Fortunately, Jurgens takes the time to bring proper conclusions to the plot points that matter. Last month, the late Lightweaver’s twin brother, Malik, vowed to destroy the JLI, whom he believes was the responsible party in Lightweaver’s death. If you read JLI #11, you saw that it was actually the government-ordered strike that killed Lightweaver. The fight between Malik and the JLI serves mostly to symbolize the team’s position as the most accessible and relatable Justice League team. The League proper deals with situations that are so big, so dire that the end nearly always justifies their means, while the ‘Justice League Dark’ operates outside the public eye – their methods kept secret due to their controversial nature. The JLI sits in the middle of this spectrum as the Justice League that isn’t quite perfect, yet are still accountable for their actions. In this sense, Malik’s ambush works on both a technical and narrative level.
The group’s trip to Russia to honor their fallen friend also points to their humanity. The death of a teammate is never taken lightly in the pages of DC’s comic books, but rarely is it given the respect it deserves. Often, whole slews of characters will be killed off in major events, only to be noted in a mass-funeral or memorial wall in a later issue. Very often, death is taken lightly in comic books. Going against that trend, Dan Jurgens sees the importance of grieving and finding closure after the death of a friend and uses these emotions to weave a tale that brings the JLI full-circle and looks forward to the future and the potential it holds.
While Guy Gardner uses his GL ring to transmit a live feed from the hospital room of Ice and Vixen, Fire is inexplicably left in her induced coma, unable to even remotely attend the funeral. Jurgens doesn’t give any reason for this story choice beyond the medical decision, which is a total cop-out. Knowing this would be the last issue, it would have been nice if Jurgens had brought everyone together. Perhaps I’ll get my wish in JLI Annual #1 later this month.
Batwing resigns from the team for no other reason than he was barely on it to begin with; he cites “too many duties elsewhere”, but he was never really all that interesting anyway. Batman’s reasons for leaving are a bit more poignant. Bruce takes the time to explain that he’s no longer needed, that Booster Gold is more than qualified to lead the team, and that their old headquarters and bankroll had been reinstated. Much in the vein of the JLI’s history within the DCU, Batman sees the potential in this rag-tag group and gives them a chance – the chance no one else was willing to give them after a less-than-perfect inaugural outing.