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A Very Serious Review Of ‘The Craftsman Bolt-On System Saves The Justice League’

I think it’s fair to say that I’ve had my difficulties with the curent Justice League series. Ever since last year’s relaunch, it just hasn’t been doing much for me. This week, though, all of that changes. The Justice League has finally returned to greatness.

The reason? A brand new story that puts the team back into all-out action. Yes, it also tries to sell you a cordless drill, but the fact remains: The Craftsman Bolt-On™ System Saves the Justice League is easily the best JLA story in at least a year. Some of you may be tempted to dismiss it because it’s basically an advertisement, but if you’re going to draw the line there, you’re going to have to face that pretty much every major super-hero comic is an ad for a movie, TV show or line of sneakers at this point. This one just happens to be exceptionally blatant about it. Besides, TCB-O™SSTJL has a pretty solid creative team in the form of writer Joshua Williamson — whose Dear Dracula is about to be adapted into a Cartoon Network Halloween special — and artist Christian Duce.

Williamson and Duce build their story around — and, one assumes, give DC comics its next breakout star — a new character called the Technician, and I’ll go ahead and get the major criticisms out of the way right up front: I am not crazy about the name. I mean, you’ve already got “Craftsman” right up in the mix, and that’s actually a pretty solid name for a superhero who builds stuff. I mean, it’s already written right there on his shirt, and when you get right down to it, it’s a step up from “Aquaman.”

Also, as much as I appreciate a story that drops the reader right into the action and sympathize with Willliamson and Duce only having twelve pages to work with, we don’t really get much insight into his origins. Yes, we’re told right from the start that he’s the one the League calls on when they need someone to fix things, but why does he fix things? Even that one episode of Batman: The Animated Series about the guy who builds the Batmobile had a little background in it, but this guy? Nothin’. Was he summoned to a crashed Sears brand spaceship where a dying alien entrusted him with the Craftsman Bolt-On™ system and assured him that his ability to drill holes in things is only limited by his willpower? Was he rocketed to Earth from the dying planet Bolt-On™? Who knows?

Presumably, DC’s going to explore this in their upcoming 12-part Technician: Origins saga, but for now, I’m just going to go along thinking that his parents were killed by a shoddy DIY construction job when he was a child, and he vowed to wage a never-ending war against things that needed fixing. It has that edge of darkness that the kids love.

Besides, you’d have to have something like that in your past to get away with interrupting Batman like this:

“It’s under control.” You’re lucky Alfred wasn’t there, Technician, or you’d be getting the withering look of a lifetime.

Anyway, the story itself is built around the Technician fighting against a super-villain by himself. In this case, it’s the Key, which — for those of you who are paying attention to New 52 continuity, which I am — places this story firmly between Justice League #7 and #8, in which the Key has already been sent to Arkham. Here, though, he’s still free, and he’s distracting the Justice League by engineering an attack on Manhattan by the Royal Flush Gang:

That’s right. The Justice League fights the Key and the Royal Flush Gang in this comic, and still has time to sell you a power drill. There’s more going on in twelve pages than in any issue of Justice League so far.

This, of course, leaves the Technician alone at the Hall of Justice as the last line of defense against the Key, and if that sounds familiar, there’s a good reason for it. Williamson’s script is very clearly drawing from Grant Morrison and Oscar Jiminez’s two-part “Imaginary Stories” arc from 1997′s JLA #8 – 9. It’s the same setup, right down to the Key playing the role of the villain, although he doesn’t trap the League in a psychotropic nightmare of alternate realities. Beyond that, though, the only difference is that the earlier story involved Connor Hawke (the son of the original Green Arrow) having to figure out how to take out the bad guy using his dad’s trick arrows instead of a drill with 9 interchangeable attachments.

Seriously though, if the Bolt-On™ system included a Boxing Glove Drill, I would buy that thing tomorrow.

If there’s a major flaw in the narrative, it’s that the Technician doesn’t really do a whole lot. His entire problem isn’t having to defeat the Key, it’s having to figure out how to contact the Justice League so that they can all show up and defeat the Key instead. And also to find the most opportune time to make a pun about being “screwed.”

Because it’s a screwdriver. Get it?

I realize that armed combat with supervillains is not exactly the technician’s role in the League, but still, I’d be way more likely to look into purchasing a product that promised me the ability to defeat arch-criminals than one that just helped me get some other people to show up and do all the heroics themselves. On the other hand, this ad is kind of saying that, if used properly, the Bolt-On™ system will allow you to meet Batman, which is definitely a selling point. Plus, I can see that actually attacking the Key with a power drill and/or jigsaw might be a little gruesome for a promo comic.

But that’s just a minor quibble. Seriously, this is the first JLA story in a year that has everything I want to see in my superhero comics: action, adventure, new characters, ridiculous amounts of product placement. They even put Wonder Woman’s pants in there! You can read it for free and see for yourself.

So for real, you can keep Aquaman and Green Lantern. I want the Technician to team up with the TRS-80 Whiz Kids yesterday.

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