A year or so ago, I rediscovered my brother's collection of JUSTICE LEAGUE comics from throughout the Giffen/DeMatteis run. I'd read them before, and re-reading them so many years later, I appreciated their unique style of humor- both urbane and extremely corny- as well as the extremely strong characterizations. I was more interested in the stories of Blue Beetle, Fire, Guy Gardner et. al. than I was in the endless death struggles of Superman and the like. I heard about an upcoming revival, but missed most of the run of this limited series. I only recently received this TPB collection and had a chance to go over the whole story.
Is it as good as the old days? Yes and no. As a limited series, it only has so much time to set things up, and some of the ensemble has changed (Ice, who was killed some time after Giffen and De Matteis' departure, is sorely missed), but the characters who do return are as recognizable as ever. What's more, they've grown. Beetle and Booster don't get along so well, the former having "grown up" in his own words, Bea is slightly more abrasive, and Max is no longer a big shot (though he talks like one.) A new addition, the naive Mary Marvel (the Cap's kid sister) fits very well into the group dynamic.
Oh, yes, the plot- Max decides to set up a small franchise of "people's heroes", summonable by 800 number, unwisely called "Superbuddies." He rounds up some of his old pals- L-Ron, Beetle, Booster, Captain Atom, Fire, Elongated Man and Sue Dibny- and persuades them to move into a shoddy storefront and open for business. Needless to say, carnage ensues before they can even get a phone call.
A lot of events are jammed into six issues, and I was disappointed in the rather swift (and not entirely convincing) resolution to #6. Then again, the old JLI was never really about plot- it was about the characters, and the group's dysfunction is as beautiful as ever. There are some great one-liners, and Kevin Maguire's art is superb (Bea looking more like a real person than she ever has.)
Giffen and DeMatteis are currently working on a limited series sequel, I CAN'T BELIEVE IT'S NOT THE JUSTICE LEAGUE! Frankly, it seems to me they've got enough left in them for a full, unlimited run, especially if DC would let them play around with more of the old characters. That may be a vain hope- but it's nice to have the old gang back, however briefly.