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Synopsis "Final Honors" (20-pages)
Previously: The Justice League International were formed by the UN as a superhero team that would be accountable to politicians and officials, unlike the better known yet remote Justice League. Led by Booster Gold, the JLI barely scraped through their first adventure against an alien miner. Their inaugural press conference was bombed by a group of superhuman terrorists called the Burners. Rocket Red and the League’s civilian liaisons were killed. The UN then severed ties with the JLI as they could not stomach the collateral damage caused by the terrorists’ relentless campaign. The Team were eventually victorious. One of the terrorists called Lightweaver was fatally wounded in the battle and asked his brother, Malik, to avenge his death.
Booster, Godvia, Guy Gardner, OMAC, the August General, and Batwing have arrived at the Tikhvin Cemetery in Northern Russia. The JLI avoided Rocket Red’s official funeral for fear to creating a distraction and they have now come to lay flowers at his memorial. Batman is already there, but keeps to the shadows as he suspects that something is about to occur. Guy creates a hologram communications screen so Vixen and Ice, who are still in hospital, can pay their respects. Talk of laying Rocket Red to rest naturally turns towards the future of the JLI itself. The UN may have reascended their authorisation, but the August General pointedly reminds Booster that “Gavril Ivanovich died carrying this team’s banner. You will not quit. We will not quit.”
The JLI are resolute in their continuation, but they are then confronted by an American man called Malik. He identifies himself as the brother of Lightweaver, a radical superhuman terrorist who was killed by the US army whilst he and his allies were fighting the JLI. The team are caught off guard as they did not expect to be attacked in the Cemetery. Malik stuns OMAC, Godvia, and Guy before creating a hologram of Lightweaver that takes down the General, Batwing, and Booster. Batman then reveals his presence and allows Malik to chase him around the Cemetery as he pours out the pain of having the bury his twin brother in an unofficial grave.
Batman doesn’t attack when Malik pauses and instead engages him in conversation. Malik knew that his brother had turned bad, but still thought that the JLI were worse because they had killed him. Batman recognises that he’s an ex-soldier and reaches out to Malik, making him realise his mistake. The JLI are in no mood to perpetuate the fight and the August General, himself a leader of soldiers, speaks eloquently to Malik about moving on. It’s Guy Gardner who suggest that they give Malik a pass and tells him to “beat it”. A suggestion the he readily accepts.
The issue turns back to the JLI’s future. Batman says that financial arrangements have already been made to secure the group’s independence and that a new headquarters is already being built. Batman then says that the group is now Booster’s job as he’ll be dedicating his time to the original Justice League and to finding a cure to OMAC problems. Batwing also leaves saying he is needed elsewhere. The remaining Justice League International are Booster Gold, Godvia, the August General, OMAC, and Guy Gardner.
- Queen Industries has given the JLI a new shuttle/plane.
- Batman met Booster Gold a couple of years ago.
- Ice, Vixen, and Fire remain in hospital. Fire is doing better and may soon be brought out of her medically induced coma.
- The JLI’s funding is secure thanks to Batman and the Hall of Justice has been rebuilt.
There feels something strange with this final issue of the ongoing series being set in a graveyard. It’s closure on the death of Rocket Red — his wake — but, it’s also a wake for this entire series. What I really liked about this issue was the portrayal of Batman. It mirrors something from Justice League #12 and shows the idea that Batman is really the person who knows the difference between true evil and people driven into near-madness of grief. He comforted David Graves in Justice League #12 and he’s the one who talks down Malik in this issue. This isn’t a light and bright Batman, but he is definitely the most level-headed and mature character on either team.
Where the New 52 works best is as a jigsaw with all the books fitting together in a pattern. The problem was that JLI started off in its own little world with no connections to anything else. In my opinion the book should have opened with the UN bombing as a massive surprise event that would have completely wrong footed everybody. As it was we only really got cross-pollination after the introduction of OMAC and Batwing. Although you wonder if they brought in many new readers, I suspect that the only readers left on some of these low selling titles are DC completest.
I also think the book was hamstrung by lacklustre and formulaic villains. The heroes themselves were brilliant and very well written by Dan Jurgens and Aaron Lopresti’s art was always good. However, the threats they faced were uninteresting. It was almost as if the villains were just plot devices to create the interesting outcomes (forging teams, killing characters, harrying the survivors) and not interesting characters in their own rights.
Fortunately this final issue was one of the better in the series. It had a focus and a containment which made it feel unique, not just another random issue. The narration by Batman was another lift – a different character has narrated each issue, but that then means the narration is as interesting as the character that it is given to. And finally, with the very last issue, David Finch decides to produce a second descent cover for this series. Not really the series high point, but definitely not a bad issue to go out on.
Surveying the Internets
After witnessing the end of this title it is quite remarkable to think that DC told fans of the JLI that the reason the book was finishing was story driven. There is nothing in Dan Jurgens script to make it seem like a definitive end for the team. In fact this issue is just the denouement to the recent story arc.
After twelve issues, I have seen how boring the team is and how boring the stories have been. But with a new creative team there are a slew of possibilities, and I have liked the bonds forming between some characters, not including the spontaneous relationship but the one between Godiva and Booster, but the friendship between August General and Godiva and the grudging friendship between Booster and Guy, even if I felt it wasn’t as funny as it should have been. This issue has done nothing to raise my morale, which is what I think the writers were trying to create.
The New 52 being an ongoing project, I’m sure that there is a method to the madness behind cancellations and changes, but I’m a little bit confused as to why THIS book got the axe while lower-selling titles are still an active concern. (I’m looking at YOU, Grifter.)
This issue is indicative of everything that has been wrong with this series: things seem to be happening just because something has to happen, with no rhyme, reason, or resolution.
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Page 1. The Tikhvin Cemetery is real and is where many notable Russians are buried, including the composer Tchaikovsky. I note that some wag has added Rocket Red to the list of the dead in the cemetery’s wikipedia page.
Page 2-3. The man attacking Batman is called Malik, no surname revealed. He is the brother of the villain Lightweaver who was part of Breakdown’s Burners, a group of radical anti-government superhuman terrorists who bombed the United Nations in Justice League International (vol. 3) #7 (May 2012) killing the JLI’s civilian support staff and Rocket Red (Gavril Ivanovich, one of their founding members). It is Rocket Red’s statue that stands between Malik and Batman. Lightweaver was killed when the US army intervened in a battle between the JLI and the Burners. Guy Gardner’s attack on Lightweaver negated his shields just as a tank fired at him. He managed to crawl away from the battle and died in Malik’s arms.
Page 6. The first Queen Industries plane was shown in Justice League International (vol. 3) #1 (Nov 2011) and was destroyed while defeating Peraxxus in Justice League International (vol. 3) #5 (March 2012). OMAC never met Rocket Red as he first met the team in Justice League International (vol. 3) #8 (June 2012), two issues after Red’s death.
Page 7. Batman recognises Booster’s potential, but their history has not been revealed. We at least learn here that Batman first met him a couple of years ago and was convinced of his potential by their shared adventure. Dan Jurgens told Russ Burlingame (see above) that the adventure would have been the series #0 issue if it had continued.
Fire (“Bea”) is said to be close to being brought out of her induced coma, she’s been comatose since the UN bombing in Justice League International (vol. 3) #7 (May 2012).
Page 17. Batwing tenders his resignation and walks away with Batman. However, it’s not clear how certain that cut off is. Batwing #12 (Oct 2012) shows Batwing calling in the JLI and he’s assisting them in #1 (Oct 2012).