REVIEW: Justice League – Generation Lost #21

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Or – “Breaking My Rule, Because What Else Are Rules For?”

As a comics reader, you often end up on a treadmill of event comics, shocking reveals, alternate realities, and everything-you-know-is-wrongs.  Occasionally, though, certain moments or characters break through the mediocrity.  Kate Spencer as Manhunter.  Uncle Sam punching out Superman.  Storm with a mohawk.  But one of the more recent wonderful bits came when a young lad named Jaime picked up the mantle of the Blue Beetle and ran with it.  As you might surmise from context, it seems to have ended quite badly, and even though I picked this issue up late, I felt it needed to be reviewed…

JUSTICE LEAGUE – GENERATION LOST #21
Writer: Judd Winick
Penciler: Fernando Dagnino
Inker: Raul Fernandez
Cover Artist: Dustin Nguyen/Kevin Maguire
Colorist: Hi-Fi
Letterer: Swands
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

Previously, on Justice League – Generation Lost: Maxwell Lord’s return from the dead was different from the other Brightest Day survivors for two reason:  One, he’s not a relic of Geoff Johns’ obsession with the Silver Age Flash and his villains.  Two, he immediately assessed his situation, changed his operating methods and outsmarted the most powerful and clever heroes in the DCU.  Having wiped himself from the memories of the world, Max was ready to overachieve his next goal, but a few former members of his Justice League (you know, the ones who were FUN to read about?) maintained their memories and came together to oppose him.  They gathered new versions of Blue Beetle and Rocket Red, but their resolve to heroism was broken when Max once again killed a Blue Beetle, execution-style.  Now, the shattered remains of the Justice League International come to grips with not only losing, but getting a teenage boy killed in so doing.  Sucks to be Booster right now…

Bwaah-Ha-Ha-Haa–  Too Soon?

My manager at the comic shop (Gatekeeper Hobbies, Huntoon & Gage, Topeka!  Ask us about the first appearance of Poison Ivy!) likes to mock me for my enjoyment of the writing of Judd Winick.  “Everything sounds like stupid Real World dialogue, and somebody always turns out to be gay even if they weren’t!”  Whether or not Jim has a point is up for debate, but he is correct that Judd makes the characters (ANY characters) sound more conversational, more Real Worldy.  When you’re dealing with the aftermath of a murder, though, it really works.  Rocket Red and Fire process together, and Red explains to her about her teammates conflicting emotions.  I am suddenly reminded of why I love this new version of Red when she asks how he knows so much about psychological things, and he responds “Oprah Winfrey.  Woman is genius.”  Heh…  You have to love that.  While Red and Fire bond and enjoy an unexpected kiss, Ice and Captain Atom shout at one another until she punches him with an ice block.  I worried for a moment that another romance was blooming, but Winick avoids that trap, leaving their fight as satisfying as the other dyads makeout session.

Bummed-Out Booster Broods Blondly

As for the de facto leader of the team, Booster Gold is absolutely crushed by Max’s brutality, his own failure, and the death of a teenager whom he personally brought into the superhero life.  As a long-term fanboy, I watched the sequence where Booster and Skeets discussed Jaime’s death with both sadness and sudden growing hope.  When Booster remarks that he can’t get the armor off the corpse, that hope became a firestorm.  (Not THAT Firestorm…)  As Skeets tries to get his pal to talk, Booster obsesses over how this is just another example of why Michael Jon Carter is a loser with a capital “Lou” and how he should have stayed a janitor and how he can’t take the Reyes family their lost child while he’s still wearing the very armor that got him KILLED!  It’s pretty powerful stuff from Mr. Gold, helped along by realistic art that allows his grief to show in his face and body language.  Nice work from penciler Dagnino, there.  Booster decides to give up, that he’s just going to get the entire JLI killed, and quits outright.  Rocket Red, Captain Atom, Fire and Ice arrive just in time to tell him he’s wrong, and that they have to keep up their fight against evil Max.  “I just want one thing to go our way,” screams Booster, raging that he needs a sign, one SINGLE SIGN that they can actually beat Max Lord.  And at that very moment, Judd Winick reminds me why I love him with a flat-out “OH, HELL YEAH!” goosebump moment.

The Verdict: As Impressive As I Had Hoped

If you’re paying attention, you know damn well what that moment HAS to be, and it plays out very cinematically, sending the old-school League back into their game, determined to put down the threat of Maxwell Lord once and for all.  Recent issues of this book have gone back and tried to explain how Max went from manipulative genius to manipulative bastard with no morals, and were relatively successful (if somewhat Freudian) in explaining the loss of his mother in the battle of Coast City.  Winick is capable of real emotion and sentimentality in his writing, and this issue’s character building makes me want to see more of this incarnation of the League after Generation Lost wraps two issues down the line.  The art is pretty good, under a first-rate cover that got Stephen’s blood boiling a few podcasts ago, and I’m quite heartened to find that DC isn’t quite as ready to revisit the mistakes they made with Ryan Choi so soon.  Bottom line, the last page alone is worth the price of admission, and a series that has probably been off your radar seems poised for a kick-ass ending.  Justice League: Generation Lost #21 surprised me in a very pleasant way, and was worth every penny, earning a solid 4.5 out of 5 stars overall. I’m glad that I didn’t jettison this when I finally lost my taste for Brightest Day a couple months ago…

Rating: ★★★★½

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day: Is it too simple to say that Max turned evil because his mommy died and he blamed superheroes?  Or is it just elegant enough to be perfectly plausible?