Justice League of America Annual #2 (12/84)
Writer - Gerry Conway Editor - Alan Gold
Penciller - Chuck Patton Inker - Dave Hunt
Cover Art – Chuck Patton & Dick Giordano
“... The END of the Justice League!"

Lets deal with that cover first.
I love it!
With the DC Bullet top left, the ANNUAL masthead and the issue indica top right these were perfectly framed books.
This entire cover is a classic one, heroes collected on rooftop but with the old guard in the clouds the sense of batton-passing is so reminicent of the All-New X-Men (Giant-Size X-Men #1) it's bordering on an homage!
What is really nice to see is that the interior artist - Chuck Patton - is given the introductory front cover rather than relying on a perhaps more well-known or popular artist for the 'new-direction'.
This visually interesting cover however completely ruins most of the tension in the storyline, as these things often do, as it shows right from the offset who is going to be in this new team regardless of any red herrings or mis-directions of the plot.
(I cannot let the cover go by without mentioning that the lack of any visible body for Elongated Man irks me!)

The strangest thing of all is perhaps the editorial decision to relaunch the JLA at this point - in the second Annual issue..?
That may not be that difficult to understand once we look a little closer, as this 'relaunch' is embedded deep in recent JLA history and produced very much as a continuation of the current series (indeed this book sits in continuity between #230 and #233. (231-232 being an annoying fill-in)) - no renumbering/new volume here!

The book opens, then with that continuity being addressed in a prologue...
The pre-existing Justice League Satellite has been destroyed and some of the last remaining recent members of the team discuss the chances of rebuilding 'it' (both the Satellite and the League) -- Aquaman announces the title of the book , while we get an instant follow up proclamation indicating the real purpose of this all... "Beginning A NEW Chapter In The 24-Year History of the World's Greatest Heroes!"
(Your mileage may vary.)

We are reminded/informed that it was a recent war between Mars and Earth that, amongst other things, caused the destruction of the Satellite and Aquaman equates that with the end of the League despite positive attitudes from members such as the Green Arrow. (Positive but not on the cover notice.)
Before a planned meeting at the United Nations in a week, Aquaman finds his wife has left him. (She cites his wanting to be with his team rather than his wife in the recent battle as the catalyst for her exit but both accept their strains relates back to the death of their son. (Aquaman. Death of A Prince. - one of the best comicbook stories ever in my opinion.)
This clearly leaves Aquaman available to direct all his attention to any new team, should he feel the need...

That UN Meeting does not trigger a new League however, Aquaman (suprisingly?) disbands the League after reminding everyone that the big-hitter members had been conspicuous by their absence when the team needed them. Most members present don't like the idea but in the shadows J'Onn J'Onnz nods.
Despite Firestorm's anger (I much preferred this original Firestorm meld of Ronnie Raymond and Prof. Stein than any since), Aquaman explains his point of view, "The world needs a committed fighting force -- a team of full-time, active members, living together, training together -- sharing a common purpose, a common duty." - which sounds like he's saying the world needs -- the X-Men.

Aquaman challenges the teammates to commit totally to the team and stalwarts such as Red Tornado, Green Arrow and Black Canary conceed they cannot do so. (I get it with the latter two with their helping the little man on the crime-ridden streets etc, but why not Reddy? His 'family-life' could have worked with the team couldn't it?) Hawkman and Hawkwoman have their allegiance to Thanagar first but even that's a bit thin as an excuse.

Zatanna signs up to this new commitment as does Elongated Man, dragging his wife Sue with him. Firestorm surprises  by announcing he will commit only to be overruled by Prof Stein. (see, he wasn't on that cover either was he?)
As the old guard leave and we are reminded of others having gone before, J'Onn J'Onnz steps forward and joins up. Zatanna nudges Aquaman to lead the team and Ralph announces their foursome as... "We're The NEW Justice League!"

Time to meet new faces on that cover? A military (old)-man called Heywood hears of this new League and calls for his Grandson...
Model Mari McCabe hears the news and quits her job and an abandoned factory has lights turn on...
The four JLA members and Sue Dibney get to know each other and are, apparently attacked by ... the Vixen (Mari McCabe in a new-look costume than her debuts in Action Comics #521 and DC Comics Presents #68)
"I want to join up, what else?"
"Count me in too." "The name's Steel" Steel arrives and offers a new HQ.
Steel is the grandson we were nudged about earlier and at this point I as a reader had no idea who he may be, had no knowledge of his pedigree or where he was getting all his toys from but that cover kind of let me know he was going to be staying around.
(How did Vixen and Steel know where our heroes were staying by the way?)

Steel ships the team out to (under) Lake Michigan and Detroit to show them around a perfectly purposed building he offers as a new HQ for the team, while remaining secretive about it's origins.
The team is attacked by a mystery man in an armoured suit and Steel shows his abilities while defeating him and revealing the man inside as being like a father figure to him called Dale Gunn, (were we supposed to recognise him or the name? I didn't.) This leads Steel to explain his grandfather General Hank Heywood had the place built preparing for trouble. (we also get an idea that grandfather was behind Steel's abilities too as even Mr Gunn remarks, "How did you get so strong?"
"It boils down to one word Dale: Grandpa".

There are still some unknown faces on that cover right? The action moves to downtown Motown and we see street violence and graffiti artist Paco Ramone (Vibe) who has possibly the worst and most annoying 'accent' ever in comics (other perhaps than Gambit?) "Wha'chu think? Fresh, huh? 'Vibe', That's chill." breaks up the mobs with a kind of vibration-power and some breakdancing moves. (I know - the 80s!).
Steel and Vixen, out of costume, see this Vibe and recommend him as a potential recruit to leader Aquaman who refuses to consider the suggestion opening up potential team-control issues between him and Steel.
Vibe however then arrives anyway and Aquaman reconsiders.
I did like the "Wonderful. Our first day and already our 'secret' headquarters is no secret" comment"

(Anyone notice Aquaman thanking Gunn for his new wet-suit-like, well... wet-suit? I take it this is kind of like Namor's blue-suit - is the 'every hour he needs water' trope gone?)

While we get to know a little more about Vibe and his family (and accent) we meet another local resident coincidentally also with powers, the last one from the cover - Gypsy who appears to be a thief able to turn invisible.

Hank meets Paco's sister and is smitten while Dale Gunn is propositioned by Zatanna "Do you snore in your sleep...?" (Who knew she would be so forward?) while Vixen does warn she is interested in him too!
Gypsy breaks into the HQ, J'Onn can see her although after she spins a yarn she disappears all together - nit quite a member yet then.
The local residents welcome the team as 'good neighbours' and a s apart breaks out the New Justice League begins...
"None of this is working out as I planned."

So there we have it. A new team for a new Era. As much as this resembles the All-New-X-Men it also evokes memories of the 'Cap's Kooky Quartet' days of the Avengers with a depowered team and leadership quibbles.
New members Vibe and Gypsy are awfully generic at this point, Steel not much more interesting but with more planning for a background while Vixen is so-far-so-Tigra.
Old members Elongated Man seems to be likely to be given comedy-lines while Aquaman plays Captain America/Cyclops.
I know I was always in the minority - but I really liked Zatanna's costume here!
Up to this point I knew very little about J'Onn J'Onnz as he really had not been in the spotlight much but I found him somewhat overpowerful and yet a tad dull.
Did we the readers know what we were in for? Could the title survive without the traditional League members?

Has anyone any comments as we launch into a (hopefully) fairly regular read-along of the entire Detroit-Era JLA..?

Next issue -- "The Beginning..." (which is, of course, Justice League of America #233 if you want to get ahead and look it up.!)

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For the continuity to make sense, we have to put this before or perhaps _during_ #241 (when Aquaman leaves) and ignore the costume that Steel is using (this one, with the exposed hair debuted in #245).

Agreed Luis, that might just work. I do find it odd that they don't seem bothered in trying to tie it down specifically leading to this feeling that it's more a retelling than a 'missing Adventure' .

Luis Olavo de Moura Dantas said:

For the continuity to make sense, we have to put this before or perhaps _during_ #241 (when Aquaman leaves) and ignore the costume that Steel is using (this one, with the exposed hair debuted in #245).

Hmm... maybe there is an operating premise that, since the stories up until #244 were pre-Crisis, there was some degree of retroactive change and these revisitations of JLA Detroit exist in the rewritten continuity?

JLA Classified #24 (08/06)
Writer - Steve Englehart Penciller - Tom Derenick
Editor - Mike Carlin Inker - Mark Farmer
Cover Art – Mike Zeck & Jerry Ordway
   “A Game of Chance. Part Three. Raise"
"Raising the Stakes!"
I guess it's not surprising considering the creative team but the covers here are by far the best thing about this run.
Lots of action here, Vixen and Vibe look great, still not sure about their rendition of Steel but gotta love the action on this cover.

Inside then and we pick up with our heroes surrounded by fire and woodland animals scrurrying for cover.(!)

Vixen neatly takes charge and gets the team to follow her running through the fire, explaining that she knew when to flee due to her animal-powers.
I quite like that explanation, it'll do for me and is a fresh angle to Vixen.

Her other 'angles' are exploited/highlighted when she points out her powers do have some limitations - without wings she cannot fly....the panel is remarkably ... curved...?!

As the team race through the forest fire we cut to Aquaman's arrival - just as upset about fire as J'onn J'onnz which is a fair point for the 'Sea-king'

"This team makes all of us more than we are alone!" - is a mantra he could have voiced in the main book to help the heart of the team.

As the various factions of the Royal Flush Gang use their 'bad luck' gizmos (I'm not understaning that at all!) we get a flashback origin for Vixen - catwalk model turned superhero via African totems and dictators. This segues into J'Onn trying to describe the thoughts of the team which treads familiar ground but adds regarding Gypsy - "She thinks in her Gypsy Language--" and that somehow confuses the Martian...?

Vixen explains to Steel that she understands he's in pain and even offers ..."When this is over, I would like to soothe you." which is a relationship we never saw hints of in the original book but may actually work...

Like or hate it.... Aquaman actually talks to a fish!
I know, no really.

Being dried out by the fire things get desperate for Aquaman as J'Onn begins to recover and we close the issue in defiance of the odds against them,

"I believe in Us."

This is one longwinded chase issue really, the plot is convoluted other than the peril aspect but the art is fine and there are attempts at characterisation as I've noted.
I have no investment or interest in the Royal Flush Gang or the magic/machinery they are employing and the lack of an interesting villain is a shame but this isn't a bad standard comicbook hero team book.

Next Issue "Finale-- All In!"
Come Back...

JLA Classified #25 (09/06)
Writer - Steve Englehart Penciller - Tom Derenick
Editor - Mike Carlin Inker - Mark Farmer
Cover Art – Mike Zeck & Jerry Ordway
   “A Game of Chance. Conclusion. All In!"
"All In Danger!"
Gypsy's spotlight cover completes the set with Vibe rushing to help Aquaman and it is fair to say these covers have been very good.

The opening statement 'The End Is Near" doubles up as both in-story plot and comment on the end of this arc of the JLA Classified title.

Away from the burning forest J'Onn J'Onnz states he's feeling better as they huddle in a cave. Gypsy finds a discarded um... card and Vibe and Steel are left behind as they are not covert enough,
"We're not sneaky, Vibe."
"I'm very sneaky!"

We catch up with wilting Aquaman who despite smearing himself in blood is dehydrating...

We then learn that Gypsy has been keeping her origin and powers a secret (she managed to keep this secret throughout the whole of the original JLA run as well it appears!) - an other-dimensional being/gypsy race or some-such retcon. She is even able to (unknowingly?) summon her teammates,
"I guess strange things happen around gypsies"
The two factions of the Royal Flush Gang continue their bickering and the JLA attack! (love the logo in caption!)

Magical manifestations confuse matters until the bad-guys overuse their energy (or something - I'm having trouble following).
By the time Aquaman finds his team... they've won!

Despite this victory the issue ends with Gypsy recieving premonitions regarding her teammates - the future for her - the past/original JLA run for us.
Vibe and Steel dead.

And they are done.
"Until JSA Classified #14 at least!"

So, this whole storyline was kind of okay but I couldn;t understand the villain's powers let alone their motivations and our team were the same but different from the original run, there are some revisions but it feels like the creators were trying to do-over that original run as they hoped/wanted it to be.

The same but different.
Functional art and not awful.

That's about it really.
Not that the Detroit League are finished yet - as mentioned - next we change titles....
Next Issue - JSA Classified #14

Come Back...

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