Reign of the Supermen #508: Superman 3000

Source: Justice League 3000 #1- (2014)
Type: Future
Justice League 3000 #1 just came out, and since there's a Superman in it, Reign gives me an opportunity to review it. I've got to say, it could have gone either way. On the one hand, it's part of the Justice League brand I currently loathe, a brand mixed up in interminable events and obvious editorial interference/mandating, featuring a "team" of characters that don't get along, when the books are not busier showcasing villains. On the other, Giffen and DeMatteis were responsible for the original, humorous Justice League international, and Giffen has always had a vested interest in the 30th-31st century DCU through his work on the Legion. Well, I can unhappily report that JL3000 is a lot more like the former, with one provision which I'll get to later.

Make no mistake, the utopian(ish) future of the Legion of Super-Heroes, now relegated to Earth-2, has been replaced with a far bleaker Thundarr the Barbarian/Blade Runner combination.
In other words, the New52 DCU won't be able to buck the trend over the next 1000 years. Regardless of the setting, the comic I would have been interested in reading would have featured heroes inspired by the legends to take on the names and regalia of 21st-century heroes. Different, but similar, a tweak on old concepts, and perhaps of way of reimagining concepts and taking them much further than a simple reboot can (especially with the big names). In fact, that's what I'm doing in a 28th-century-set DC Adventures role-playing campaign right now. Think of Ani-Comi Girls or DC One Million as a template for this. That's not what's going on here. Instead, five founding members of the Justice League have been cloned from samples kept for a millennium by Cadmus, and then "programmed" (somehow) with "memories" (just historical and psychological data?) that appear to be incomplete. So Superman remembers having a relationship with Wonder Woman, but she doesn't. The "Wonder Twins" who brought the team back to life draw up the list of notable differences:
It's like seeing characters pulled out of bad What If stories and put into a dysfunctional team together. What if Superman wasn't raised by the Kents? What if Batman's parents hadn't died? And so on. But amnesia doesn't account for every difference. There's physical stuff too. Superman doesn't have heat vision. The Flash doesn't have a protective friction aura. And Green Lantern uses a cloak instead of a ring. Aside from the mystery of why these characters behave this way, what we get is yet another Justice League book where the characters can't stand each other, are prone to extreme violence and fighting each other, and are generally unlikable. Superman is a douche bag, Batman can't shut up about wanting to kill him, Wonder Woman is an ugly fury devoid of compassion, the Flash is a whiny wimp, and GL is, well, they haven't really gotten to characterize him yet. With no one to latch onto, I don't think very many discerning readers will stick around for the eventual reveal that, as my blog brother Snell predicted (though through different circumstances), JL3000 will turn out to be clones of the Crime Syndicate instead. It would explain a couple things if they were. Also, make the series even harder to redeem as a publishing exercise.

So what's my big caveat? Well, correct me if I'm wrong, but the book sometimes read like Giffen and DeMatteis agree with me that the New52's dystopian superhero paradigm is stupid, awful and over-played. The Wonder Twins might represent DC editorial, talking about how "others ran Project Cadmus" before them and failed where they have "succeeded". They're sending the Justice League (their comic which is an edgier rebooted version of past comics) against the Convert, a group mind infecting the population in larger and larger numbers (i.e. the audience as filtered through social media). And then there's the running commentary, with dialog frequently criticizing the dark violent approach. Superman says the violence is fun, but the Flash asks him to define the term. Batman shows open contempt for the group he's in:
Green Lantern remembers Wonder Woman a lot less bloodthirsty. One of the Twins thinks Batman and Superman hating each other is all kinds of wrong. One of them (sorry, Howard Porter makes Superman and Batman look way too similar without their costumes) hopes they're more than action figures, criticizing superheroes as brands and products. Take it away, Flash:
So yeah, there's definitely a metatextual vibe here - which Giffen is known for, so no surprise - that's taking the current New52 (and more specifically Justice League) model to task. But if it's parody or critique, it's too subtle, and like Giffen's Lobo, becomes a part of what it attacks.


Craig Oxbrow said...

This may just be the amount of Doctor Who stuff around here affecting me, but is he wearing a Cyberman face as an S shield?

Siskoid said...

No teardrop.

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

Craig & Siskoid: I was thinking more that it was part of the "incomplete information due to the Great Disaster". That itself is brilliant, a future that doesn't even know the S symnbol, compared to a future that was INSPIRED by the S symbol.

I hated the art. I tried the book because I do like Porter's work. What the hell happened to his faces and, as you mentioned, body structures.

And if there is all this metatext, which I like, why didn't they just keep McGuire on art? As is, Porter really makes these guys seem like assholes more than the storyline.

Craig Oxbrow said...

Readers provide the teardrops.

Siskoid said...

Wayne: McGuire is much missed, as he would have made the comedy more overt. Instead: Angry rage faces across the board.

Craig: You just won this week's BlogLOL Award.

Craig Oxbrow said...

WIN! My work here is done.

Unknown said...

The Big Reveal: the interminable Forever Evil ends with the Crime Syndicate thrown a thousand years into the future, with partial amnesia, and they become JL3000.

Siskoid said...

That would be even lamer, but I wouldn't be surprised either.


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