February 29, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Noteworthy Issues: Justice Riders #1 (December 1996)

Sheriff Diana Prince rounds up a posse to take down the railroad baron that destroyed her town.

I was reading a bit of Convergence, a series I have no real plans to do much of a review for, when I saw a bit of the Wild West Justice League from an Elseworlds story I had never read.  Hey, I have DC Infinite.  I can now go read that Elseworlds if I want.  And hey, it wasn’t that bad!

As for Convergence, Jimmy Impossible did that already.  Go look it up if you want more information.

Issue:  Justice Riders #1, December 1996

Writer:  Chuck Dixon

Artists:  J.H. Williams III and Mick Gray

The Plot:  Sheriff Diana Prince returns to the town where she is the law to find it more or less isn’t there anymore.  Her deputy, Oberon, is the only living thing in town and not for much longer.  He lets her know the town was completely destroyed by railroad baron Maxwell Lord, and he’s still out there.  Diana then decides to get herself a posse and bring the man in dead or alive, collecting quick draw Kid Flash, Native American Katar Johnson, gambler Booster Gold, eccentric inventor Beetle, and alien lawman John Jones to help her bring the man to justice.

Commentary:  Every so often, I’ll go look over a work like this and think to myself, “Why haven’t I seen much work from Creator X in a while?”  That’s the case here with writer Chuck Dixon.  He used to have a lot of comics with his name on it, and a quick check to Wikipedia tells me he’s still working, just not for any publisher I am all that familiar with.  I wouldn’t call him one of the best writers around, but he was a reliable figure who could generally get a good action story out there.  This was a guy who had a strong influence on Tim Drake’s Robin, the original Birds of Prey, and the Connor Hawke Green Arrow, to say nothing of a lot of work on characters like Batman and Nightwing.  I’m sure there’s a story there, maybe a clash of conflicts or politics or something, but I’d rather not know how the sausages are made in many cases, so I’ll just say I wouldn’t mind if he did some new DC work again.

In the meantime, a Wild West Justice League would seem to be right up his alley, and teaming him with artist J.H. Williams III means the story itself will be at least a fun thing with some great artwork.  And I got that much, but as I said when discussing Heroes Reborn a couple days ago, I can be something of a sucker for an alternate reality story.  Elseworlds weren’t always all that successful, but this one largely works.  Having Wild West versions of Wonder Woman, the Flash, Booster Gold, Hawkman, Blue Beetle, Guy Gardner, Max Lord, Felix Faust, Martian Manhunter, and one more at the end for a quick cameo (not, given who Dixon generally worked on, Batman) is an exercise in creativity.  Sure, Diana and John Jones still seem to be people from other worlds, but the others not so much.  Why does Kid Flash wear a mask and hide his name? How does Hawkman fly?  What’s up with Beetle’s antennas?  Some of those questions are answered, and the others are the sort of question where even regular continuity doesn’t really answer ’em.

For a story like this, though, given it’s a single special issue (even if it is an extra long one), there really isn’t much given to develop the different heroes.  But it can give some time to the villain.  Considering this is Max Lord, and that the heroes here represent a wide range of Justice League eras, which Max Lord would it be? The vain idiot billionaire?  The scheming but ultimately harmless industrialist?  The wouldbe supervillain who hated metahumans?  The Lord Havok incarnation where his mind was in the mechanized body of the sometime Extremist?  Well, here he’s a guy who more or less hates people and loves machines more than anything else.  People are messy and make mistakes, slow things down, and the like.  Wiping out Diana’s town was only really step one.  It adds a new wrinkle to the story that is, in other ways, just a simple Western.

There are some hints that there might be more to this story.  Guy Gardner appears late in the tale as a Pinkerton Detective trying to find a fugitive Wally West, and while Guy here is more or less willing to help the good guys at the end of the story, Wally is still a free man, accused of a crime he claims he didn’t commit.  I don’t know if there were any more stories set in this world aside from some, let’s say, unfortunate moments in various Convergence tie-ins, but for an Elseworlds One-Shot, this may have been one of the better ones.

You know, DC did a whole round of Annuals one year with Elseworlds stories.  Maybe I’ll just reread and review them in the future.  As for this one…

Grade:  B+