On the last installment of Guy Gardner Has a Bowl Cut, we witnessed Guy Gardner get knocked out by Batman. A one hitter quitter, no less. We left off with a Creeper-related cliffhanger, but you know what? We’re crazy out here in these streets. Let’s skip ahead a bit, because get this… the title of the comic is about to change, so I’m curious what that’s all about. And remember… I’m going in fresh, never having read any of this before.
First thing I noticed: We’ve tacked an International onto the title now. Oh, you fancy, huh?
Second thing I noticed: This is, from Page One, ten times better than the first two issues we’ve covered. The improvement is instantly noticeable and it doesn’t let up. And listen, while I enjoyed #1 and #4, the truth was that it felt as if the writers were obsessed with Guy Gardner. Most of the dialogue was either Gardner hurling an insult, or someone else replying to him. It was so much that it didn’t let us get to know the other characters at all, with the exception of Booster Gold who we saw on his own. Now that this run has been going for eight issues, the pacing and the comfortability with the characters here is leagues better. Everything, from the dialogue to the scene transitions to the humor, seems more relaxed and natural. Let’s talk about the humor for a second, because while the style of quipping was unique in #4, the increased focus on the comedy in this series makes Justice League International stand out in a much different way than the early issues.
My favorite issue of Avengers is the New Avengers where Bendis has Luke Cage and Jessica Jones interviewing for a babysitter. It’s a hilarious, grounded, funny issue without much if any superheroics. That kind of story in the middle of a comics run that is normally filled with action is, to me, genius if it works. It can be jarring if thrown in there randomly, but a well-placed story like that can become legendary. This issue of Justice League International makes me think of that New Avengers issue (which of course came out decades later) for the way it dares to tell a story where its characters are doing mundane things… pretty much the whole issue. We start with Martian Manhunter, Mr. Miracle, and Captain Atom moving into their new JLI New York Embassy, which is going less than smoothly. Not because villains are attacking, not because a portal to a nether-realm has opened up above them, but because they’re just doing a shitty job moving in. The jokes are well-constructed, the dialogue reveals character while hitting us with constant and genuine humor, and… well, it’s just so much better.
The rest of the issue is no different. Even Guy seems to have evened out as a character in his scene where he and Batman are opening up their Russian Embassy. Now, I’m not looking for Guy to be a saint, or even tolerable to Batman – I get who the character is and why he’s this way. I was more hoping Guy would eventually become tolerable to the reader while staying the same person, and that’s exactly what happened. Because his dickery is more evenly spread out, paced to create tension and punctuate jokes in his scenes, he suddenly seems less like he’s sucking the energy out the book and much more like an interesting, well-rounded character.
Often, when I read classic comics for articles, I look back to search for moments that I might see as influential for later stories, or to compare the way comics were created back then to the way they are now. For fun, I freely admit, I mostly enjoy reading modern comics. So understand how selective I am before I say this, just because there are so many years of so many comics featuring so many characters that I like that looking to the past for entertainment would increase my reading pile by literally thousands of stories. But this? If the rest of Justice League International is written like this, I would read this run now. This is not only much better than the preceding issues – it’s just flat out good.
NEXT: Closing out the series with Justice League International #24.