JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL ANNUAL #1

STORY: Geoff Johns and Dan Didio
ART: Jason Fabok

It really is the end for the Justice League International. After a year of amazing stories, a slowly-expanding roster, and a death in the family, the JLI all but disintegrates before our eyes as Geoff Johns and Dan Didio bid farewell to one of DC’s quirkiest titles. It came as a bit of a surprise when DC announced it would cancel Justice League International after it’s Annual issue, especially since it wasn’t a low performer like other cancelled series such as Mister Fantastic, Men of War, or Resurrection Man. For months, fans and critics have been speculating as to reasons why; was it to set-up a bigger event? Was JLI going to be relaunched under a different name? Was DC planning on revising it’s number of monthly titles? We didn’t have a lot to go on, and the editorial executives were staying tight-lipped. And this week, DC announced that Geoff Johns and David Finch would be starting a new series, Justice League of America. After I read the initial press release concerning JLA, I immediately knew why JLI was cancelled. It makes sense, on a certain level, to want to expand the ‘Justice League’ franchise without diluting the name itself. Justice League and Justice League Dark both have clear-cut plot-centric premises, while JLI told more character-driven stories. It really is a shame to see the series go, but Justice League International Annual #1 goes the book justice and sends the team off in an appropriately dour – yet potentially promising – way.

Annual #1 picks up a few weeks after the events of JLI #12, wherein Batwing resigned, the team fought the late Lightweaver’s delusional brother, and the future of these characters rested in Batman’s capable hands. Bringing the series full-circle, Booster’s primary concern is now increasing the team’s visibility and public image by way of impressing the United Nations by taking on dangerous missions around the globe. We drop in with our lovable band of misfits in Central Africa, where Guy Gardner is leading a squad against a vicious warlord named Aki Mukassa. As Batwing flies the violent revolutionary away from the riot below, the warlord activates a bomb and kills himself mid-air. The entire situation is symbolic of the JLI’s status quo as the team that gets it done, but not very well. While the rest of the team is satisfied with saving numerous innocent lives, Booster is upset that the JLI couldn’t hand Mukassa over to the UN.

The breaking point comes later, when Booster informs the team that he’s expanded the roster by recruiting Olympian and Blue Beetle. “Where are Superman and Wonder Woman?” asks Beetle, which sends Guy Gardner into a rage that results in his resignation from the JLI. With Rocket Red already dead, as well as Vixen, Fire, and Ice in the hospital, it’s as though Booster takes one step forward for every two steps back. He sees that their numbers are dwindling, and he does whatever it takes (a la lying to Beetle about the JLI’s roster) to make his team better.

And while the first half of the book is really all about Booster and his insecurities, the latter half focuses on O.M.A.C., who becomes possessed by Brother Eye, the sentient satellite and computer program designed and built by Batman to observe and analyze every metahuman on Earth in order to develop defenses against them if necessary. Since the ‘New 52’ relaunch, it’s been interesting to see what has survived the editorial culling and now exists in the ner universe – the events of Infinite Crisis aren’t mentioned anywhere else in the ‘New 52’ (that I know of), so it could stand to reason the whole thing never happened, but that Brother Eye was still created. And just like in Infinite Crisis, Brother Eye’s been hijacked! With a new ‘programmer’ calling the shots, Brother Eye takes complete control of Kevin Kho’s body and mind as it attempts to destroy the JLI and re-upload himself to the satellite orbiting Earth. During the confrontation, O.M.A.C. (apparently) kills Olympian, then uses his overwhelming technology to send Blue Beetle back to the Reach, the alien society where Jaime’s scarab originated.

There’s a lot of action going on during the finale, but in the end, Booster Gold is the only one who’s able to stand up to the brutish, unstoppable O.M.A.C. Using 25th century anti-virus protection, (easter-eggedly called the ‘Skeets Protocols’) Booster is able to stop Brother Eye’s uplink to the satellite and separate Kevin from the O.M.A.C. programming that was making his life a living hell. Of course, this victory is short-lived as Booster Gold from the future-future comes back to warn our Booster of horrible things to come before he simply disappears, as if he never existed. Then suddenly, the same thing happens to our Booster Gold!

By the time we reach the final pages, the team is technically down to just Godiva and a heavily-injured August General in Iron. Rocket Red and Olympian are dead, Batwing and Guy Gardner have resigned Blue Beetle is on the other side of the galaxy, and Booster is deleted from time and space. Justice League International Annual #1 is not only the JLI’s most exciting issue, but it sets up the next chapter of the collective ‘Justice League’ story very well. At the very end, Batman has a chilling conversation with his creation, Brother Eye: “Eye am home and eye will be waiting for my new programmer’s signal. He is coming, Batman. And you will join him or die.” recites Brother Eye as if from a script. The emotionless, yet highly sophisticated, Brother Eye looks to be the focal point of things to come. Perhaps in the same vein as Infinite Crisis, Batman’s presumptuousness concerning other heroes became paranoia, resulting in some of the darkest days in DCU history.

GRADE
A+
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