By Kurt Busiek, Ron Garney & Dan Green (DC Comics)
The temptation with big bunches of super-heroes is to lob them into colossal, world-crunching extended mega-epics. It gives everyone a chance to shine and doesn’t diminish their god-like stature when they actually have to work for their inevitable victory. After a while, however, there is a tendency to suffer a kind of Armageddon burn-out.
Collecting issues #107-114 of the monthly comicbook and JLA Secret Files 2004 Syndicate Rules is not a bad saga, as such things go, but it really would benefit from a little softness and reflection in places. When this kind of epic was primarily aimed at a juvenile audience there was undoubtedly a genuine frisson whenever the world/universe/multiverse was imperilled, and could only be fixed by twenty or more buff men and women hitting each other. I suspect that was largely due to most of them being generally indistinguishable in terms of ideology and motivation.
Nowadays it’s imperative that each component steroid-case gets a mandated period of angsty, characterisational strutting, preferably whilst punching something. It’s all just too much.
Case in point: The Crime Syndicate of Amerika – evil antimatter counterparts of the JLA (see JLA: Earth 2 – ISBN 1-84023-169-6) – rule their own world and are bored. They attack the just-as-evil Weaponers of Qward, a super-scientific if moribund galactic Rogue Culture, and are just on the verge of defeating them when a Cosmic Burp rewrites the fabric of the Cosmos in such a way that they can now safely assault our own plus-matter heroes of the JLA.
This has been previously unwise not because of the old blowing-up-on-contact problem usually associated with antimatter but due rather to a cosmic codicil that gave an unbeatable home-ground advantage to whichever team was fighting in its own dimension.
Now that this off-side rule has been removed the Syndicators elect to forget Qward so as to impersonate and destroy their heroic doppelgangers on our Earth. The Qwardians, battered and ticked off, obviously want revenge, and so they decant an old universe-destroying doomsday machine and set off to destroy our Earth – not the Syndicators.
This mix is further enhanced by the now obligatory dissent and distrust among our heroes – you choose exactly who yours are – an infant universe that the JLA are baby-sitting and a sub-dimensional electro-planar realm inhabited by a single – or not – electronic organism.
Unbelievably, the story is not absolutely incomprehensible. Ron Garney works wonders with a cast that includes practically every DC hero, lots of alien civilisations and a crew of villains that are all-but perfect duplicates disguised as the major protagonists. It’s simply that sometimes putting everything into an epic shouldn’t literally be that. Usually one kitchen sink should suffice.
And perhaps temper all that testosterone with a little Prozac, perhaps?
© 2004, 2005 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.