JLA: Trial By Fire

JLA: Trial By Fire 

By Joe Kelly, Doug Mahnke and Tom Nguyen
ISBN 1-84023-928-X

More super histrionics featuring the Justice League as an alien telepathic presence apparently subverts the will of the mighty Martian Manhunter, leading to lots of fighting and destruction. The JLA has a long history in all its incarnations of starting strong and losing focus, and for extended periods coasting by on past glories – which usually ends with a desperate rush of ancillary series, a crash, cancellation and a relaunch with major creators. Reading this compilation of issues 84-89 I sense fresh first issues in our immediate future.

© 2004 DC Comics

Crisis on Multiple Earths Volume 3

Crisis on Multiple Earths Volume 3 

By Various (DC Comics)
ISBN 1-84023-946-8

I’m going to “cop a plea” on this book. Like any other comic book geek who grew up in the 1960’s and early 1970’s I was captivated by gaudy costumes and the outrageous battles to save the city, the country, the world, the universe, the multiverse, et al, ad nauseam. I loved all this stuff. I loved the funny animals, the comedies, suspense and horror stories, the Sci-Fi. Newspaper strips, Annuals, Albums, American, British, whatever. I even liked the romance stories which usually demanded a much higher standard of drawing than all other types of comic strip.

In regard to comic material from this period I cannot declare myself an impartial critic. That counts doubly so for the Julie Schwartz edited Justice League of America and its annual summer tradition of teaming up with its progenitor organisation, the Justice Society of America. If that sounds a tad confusing there are many places to look for clarifying details. If you’re interested in superheroes and their histories you’ll even enjoy the search. But this is not the place for that.

This volume reprints get-togethers from 1971 through 1974, tightly plotted tales comfortably rendered by the tragically under-rated Dick Dillin, although perhaps sometimes uncomfortably scripted in the vernacular of the day (“Right on brother,” says one white superhero to another white superhero!). There are adventures featuring inter-dimensional alien symbiotes and swamp monster Solomon Grundy (JLA #91-92), evil geniuses and the time-marooned team of 1940’s superheroes called the Seven Soldiers of Victory (JLA #100-102), an accidental detour to a parallel Earth where the Nazis won the second World War and the meeting with yet another team of 1940’s characters, the Freedom Fighters (JLA#107-108), and a genuinely poignant tale of good intentions gone awry featuring the Golden Age Sandman (JLA# 114).

In terms of “super” genre the writing consists of two bunches of heroes who get together to deal with extra-extraordinary problems. In hindsight, it’s obviously also about sales and the attempted revival of more super characters during a period of intense sales rivalry between DC Comics and Marvel. But for those who love costume heroes, who crave these carefully constructed modern mythologies and care, it is simply a grand parade of simple action, great causes and momentous victories.

I love ‘em, not because they’re the best of their kind, but because I did then and they haven’t changed even if I have. Do you fancy trying to find your Inner Kid again?

© 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 2004 DC Comics. All rights reserved.

Identity Crisis

Identity Crisis 

By Brad Meltzer, Rags Morales & Michael Bair

(DC Comics)  ISBN 1-34576-126-X

For such an impressive and far-reaching comics event, this collection is quite a slim and swift read. Whilst the comic drove the narrative forward in the manner of a whodunit, most of the character by-play and the ripples of the bare events related could only be experienced in the (inter-linked) individual issues of the involved titles. When this is all absorbed week-by-week, month-by-month, the cumulative effect is both bewildering and engrossing, but such an experience could not be duplicated in traditional publishing.

The plot involves DC heroes re-assessing their careers whilst hunting down the murderer of the wife of second-string hero/detective, Elongated Man. As the investigation proceeds, heroes and villains confront many of their bedrock principles such as tactics, allegiances and even the modern validity of that genre staple, the Secret Identity. The dialogue is memorable and the artwork magnificent and the aftershocks of revelation did indeed live up to their hype. How sad then than this “core” book feels like a rushed “Readers Digest” edition, whilst many of the key moments are scattered in a dozen other (unrelated) collections.

© 2004, 2005 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

JLA: Crisis of Conscience

JLA: Crisis of Conscience

By Geoff Johns, Allan Heinberg, Chris Batista & Mark Farmer

(DC Comics)  ISBN 1-84576-279-7

Following on from the events of Identity Crisis, which revealed that some members of the JLA used inhumane, if not illegal, mind altering methods on their defeated foes, the once heroic team was divided and in turmoil. Not only had the erring heroes monkeyed with the villains’ minds, they had also tinkered with the brains of fellow heroes who objected to the measure.

Now those guilt-racked heroes are reaping the consequences as the villains return, with restored faculties and murderous intent, seeking their own kind of justice. So do Batman and Catwoman, who now also know what was done to them. Doing the wrong thing for the right reason has all but destroyed the League, and now they face destruction for their mistake. And who hates them enough, and is powerful enough, to have restored those doctored memories in the first place?

Although convoluted and a little histrionic in places, there’s still plenty of action and intrigue for super-hero lovers to enjoy here, but casual readers might be well advised to re-read Identity Crisis first.

This story first appeared in the monthly JLA comic, issues #115-119.

© 2005, 2006 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

JLA Classified: New Maps of Hell

JLA Classified: New Maps of Hell 

By Warren Ellis & Jackson Guice

(DC Comics) ISBN 1-84576-250-9

Gritty world super-scribe Ellis turns his keyboard to the World’s Greatest Superheroes with less-than-spectacular results in this standard meta-human mish-mash. An unstoppable ancient entity has spent millennia traversing the universe testing the worth of intelligent species, and thereby destroying those which aren’t. That of course means all of them, and it’s up to Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern and the Martian Manhunter to sort it all out.

Originally released as JLA Classified issues #10-15, with illustrations by Jackson Guice, this mediocre rehashing of tired old ideas is poor use of such major talents. For dedicated fans only.

© 2006 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Identity Crisis (softcover)

By Brad Meltzer, Rags Morales & Michael Bair

DC Comics

For such an impressive and far-reaching comics event, this collection is quite a slim and swift read.  Whilst the comic drove the narrative forward in the manner of a whodunit, most of the character by-play and the ripples of the bare events related could only be experienced in the (inter-linked) individual issues of the involved titles. When this is all absorbed week-by-week, month-by-month, the cumulative effect is both bewildering and engrossing, but such an experience cannot be duplicated in traditional publishing.

The plot involves DC heroes re-assessing their careers whilst hunting down the murderer of the wife of second-string hero/detective, Elongated Man.  As the investigation proceeds, heroes and villains confront many of their bedrock principles such as tactics, allegiances and even the modern validity of that genre staple, the Secret Identity.  The dialogue is memorable and the artwork magnificent and the aftershocks of the revelations did indeed live up to their hype. How sad then than this “core” book feels like a rushed “Readers Digest” edition, whilst many of the key moments are scattered in a dozen other (unrelated) collections.

© 2004, 2005 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.