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CSBG Archive

A Year of Cool Comics – Day 65

Here is the latest in our year-long look at one cool comic (whether it be a self-contained work, an ongoing comic or a run on a long-running title that featured multiple creative teams on it over the years) a day (in no particular order whatsoever)! Here‘s the archive of the moments posted so far!

Today we take a look at Justice League America vs. Despero, courtesy of Keith Giffen, JM DeMatteis and Adam Hughes…


It’s rare to see a story this good written basically as a response to incessant criticism, but that’s basically the background behind the great three-issue story arc of Justice League America #38-40, where the classic Justice League villain Despero comes back to Earth to gain his revenge on the League.

You see, at the time, Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis’ Justice League run, while popular (and really quite excellent), got a lot of flack for being too much of a humor title.

So, naturally, they responded with an extremely dark action tale.

Amusingly enough, the story opens with an extended joke – a spoof of the magazine Spy…

But then it quickly cuts into the chilling return of Despero…

Whoever came up with the idea of the UN flag being a cape for Despero deserves applause – it’s a beautiful visual (by the way, I should quickly note that the legendary Joe Rubinstein inked Adam Hughes during this arc).

Despero is tracking down the members of the Justice League that he last fought (the team affectionately – and sometimes not so affectionately – known as “Justice League Detroit”), including Gypsy, who we had last seen reunited with her parents…

Pretty darn brutal, huh?

As Despero tracks Gypsy, he forces her out of hiding…

which leads to this great cliffhanger…

What follows is perhaps the most brutal superhero fight that ever appeared in the pages of Justice League International, and Adam Hughes really outdoes himself on the action.

Mister Miracle, at the time, was really a robot (we the reader knew that, but the Justice League did not), so this sacrifice was a bit of a wink to the readers, but it still affected the members of the cast…

Striking work, huh?

The battle ended in perhaps a less than awesome fashion (okay, definitely in less than awesome fashion, as J’onn introduces a power we didn’t know he had and uses it to stop Despero in pretty much the exact same fashion that Mongul is stopped in “For the Man Who Has Everything?”), but it leads to a brilliant funeral sequence for Mister Miracle (who everyone believes is dead, including Miracle’s wife), including a brilliant moment between Guy Gardner and Ice…

What a tremendous little arc this was. They really ought to get around to collecting it in a trade!


It’s definitely puzzling the whole Adam Hughes era JLA is not collected yet. These were probably my favorite JLI stories, as they got much more personal and much deeper into the characters. Wasn’t this Guy portrait simply brilliant?

Today’s choice of comic feels like a subtle criticism of those who consider “Cry For Justice” original.

To be fair, you’ve probably had this column already prepared for the last week or so.

Despero naked…yuck!

Hey Geoff, Jim, and Brad: This is how you go about this sort of thing.

Great choice. Man, I’d love to see Adam Hughes on some interiors again.

As an aside, Brian how the hell did you pick all the Avengers teasers correctly this week?!?
I’m absurdly curious/jealous.

As an aside, Brian how the hell did you pick all the Avengers teasers correctly this week?!?
I’m absurdly curious/jealous.

The New Avengers ones?

Once they announced that it was going to be a continuation of Bendis/Immonen, it seemed clear that Jessica Jones would be on the team (as they’ve been hinting about that for some time). Beyond that, I just went with the two New Avengers who hadn’t shown up yet (Spidey/Wolverine) plus the one other hero who was in the original Heroic Age promo that Bendis would actually use (The Thing).

Now, when Beast is revealed as a Secret Avenger, that’ll just because it was plainly obvious, not because of any great insight on my part. ;)

This was such a good arc.

Giffen & DeMatties had such a strong feel for character that there were real stakes. The death of the Mr. Miracle robot and two brand-new supporting characters had more of an impact than the entire body count of the average mega cross-over.

Hughes was a really great interior artist. It is a bummer that he has found so few projects that suit his pace.

that story line showed why keith and the jl were so good together. from John having to use a power to stop Despero who in that storyline proved to be really nasty. not to mention seeing guy start to show a softer more compassionate side to ice over the mircle robot death. as for why the run is not collected dc proably has not gotten around to it yet or has as the current universe seems to hate any of the jl members keith touched.

I desperately want to see this collected. They were getting close to Adam’s work on JLI and the collections then stopped at 4, which is a shame because it’s my understanding that they’re finished since they didn’t sell well enough, perhaps because of the poor paper quality.


March 6, 2010 at 5:47 pm

The death of the Mr. Miracle robot and two brand-new supporting characters had more of an impact than the entire body count of the average mega cross-over.
Absolute agreement Dean.

This occured only a couple of months after I started reading the series. I loved this whole storyline. I was just getting into the 4th World books (esp. Mister Miracle) and even though it was only a robot, it was still a deeply affecting death scene. Hughes is my personal favorite artist of the series, that cover with Miracle’s tombstone is stunning.

The work on JLI is one of the few places for Guy Gardner stories that I can point my friends to when they ask why the hell I liked such a boorish character. Great stuff, and I loved the follow-up years later in “I Can’t Believe it’s not the Justice League.”

This arc was full of “f*ck yeah” moments, and one of my faves wasn’t shown here- the aftermath of Despero’s fight with J’onn, and how Guy Gardner comes to the rescue (with a very smart use of his ring powers)…then continues to show what a horse’s ass he was by hitting on the grieving Gypsy not a minute later…

Ethan Shuster

March 7, 2010 at 8:35 am

Why do I get the feeling that if this was done today, Gypsy would’ve come home to the dismembered corpses of her family hanging from the ceiling?

The scene with Guy and Ice reminded me that while it sometimes seems like many folks at DC are out to screw with the heroes from this series and JLE, that may only be half true. We had evil Max Lord, brutally murdered Blue Beetle, Sue Dibny’s incident I care not even type out, etc. BUT, we also currently have a Booster Gold series, we have Guy more or less as the star of GL Corps, and Ice even came back to life. Not too bad.

From what I recall, we have Fire now in the Checkmate comic, right? I’d include her on the list, but I remember seeing an issue and thinking she wasn’t any fun anymore. But at least she’s still around.


March 7, 2010 at 5:03 pm

The issue with the funeral sequence was one of the first superhero comics I read as a child, picked up on impulse at a news agents.
I spent a few years being puzzled, once I got into comics, when the run was referred to as a humour title, and had friends who thought I was odd for insisting it did have it’s grim moments.
After getting the recently released collections, I’d started to think I had made up my memories of reading that book (assuming all the jokes must have gone over my head), so I’m pretty happy to learn I wasn’t crazy, or that JLI jokes went over my head.

This is definitely around my favourite part of Giffen’s Justice League in terms of both writing and art.

Not even a sneaky Deus Ex Machina from J’onn ruins this story for me.

Mike Loughlin

March 8, 2010 at 6:51 am

I don’t really like deus ex machina endings, but I thought DeMatteis’s scripting pulled it off. J’Onn sacrificed an important part of himself in order to save his adopted homeworld. The similarity to “For the Man Who Has Everything” is unfortunate, but the climax to the story was a powerful moment for J’Onn.

Yeah – they got away with it this time

It’s killing me how DC seem to have stopped putting out the JL/JLI/JLA/JLE collections…

I’ve got the first four hardcover volumes and I’ve been waiting and waiting for them to put out JLE vol 1 and JLI/A Vol 5…

Marvel really do seem to be MUCH better at getting the collections out in a timely fashion, whether they be Hardcovers, Omnibi or Trades…

I’ve been telling people that “my hate must have expression” ever since.

Those hardcover volumes seem completely the wrong format to me.

I think it would work much better in either cheap digest books or big hefty paperback volumes that collect 12+ issues at a time for around the $15-$20 mark.

Excellent stuff from an excellent run!

The last page shown above is just about perfect. Even though Guy tries to distance himself, by pretending he is describing his theories on Ice’s feelings, from expressing his emotions, we are not fooled by his disclaimer. Nor is Ice – check the body language.

This is such a poignant moment as they comfort each other as best they are able, and yet in the wider context it’s also part of a joke, as unbeknownst they are mourning merely a robotic duplicate of Mr Miracle.

The creators really were at the top of their game on this run, and this was one of the most moving and skilfully executed moments in it. As I’ve said elsewhere at some length, the JLI’s sound-bite reputation as purely a sitcom doesn’t come close to doing it, uh, justice.

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