August 17, 2009

JLA: Strength in Numbers

Or rather the Finnish edition which consists of JLA 16-21 and New Year’s Evil: Prometheus. The US trade seems to also contain JLA 22 and 23. The preview at DC's site seems to have a few pages out of them.

The Finnish edition has three stories: one about Prometheus’s quest to destroy JLA, then Julian September and his successful attempt to alter the probabilities of the universe, and lastly Adam Strange kidnaps the JLA and forces them to work for him.

The trade starts with Prometheus who is telling his origin story to Retro, an ordinary man who has won a day as member of the JLA. The issue is really an info-dumb about Prometheus but to me, at least, it was rather entertaining. At the end of the issue, Prometheus kills the poor Retro and disguises himself to look like Retro. That’s a fine way to get himself into the Watchtower and to take on the whole JLA.

The JLA team itself has grown: in addition to the core team (where Diana’s mother Hippolyta is Wonder Woman) they now have Huntress, Zauriel, Steel, and Plastic Man. Later, Oracle is also revealed to be part of the team. I’m not at all familiar with Steel but since JLA isn’t about characterization, that doesn’t really matter.

A group of almost hundred reporters have been invited to the Moon Watchtower to see the next incarnation of JLA. Lois and Clark are among them and J’onn uses his powers to disguise himself as Clark while Superman welcomes the reporters to the Moon. Prometheus as Retro is also teleported to the Moon and he starts this campaign against the JLA with downloading the schematics of the base and cutting off the JLA’s air supply. Impressive!

I enjoyed the first story quite a lot. Prometheus is very much an over-the-top comic book villain and he was used very well this time. The combination of reporters and superheroes has always tickled my funny bone for some reason and sure enough, the reporters ask laughable questions ("Any advice for menopausal women, Hippolyta?" add an eye rolling smiley here.) They are also a nice, innocent crowd to threaten.

The second story wasn’t quite as enjoyable but still quite good. JLA gets (whether they want them or not) new additions Big Barda and Orion. Since I like established couples, Mr. Miracle and Big Barda are some of my favorites. However, Barda by herself is very impressive, too. Here, she's used a bit too much as a peacemaker between Orion and, well, other people.

The story itself is about vanishing people and odd coincidences that start to crop up with alarming frequency. Aquaman, Huntress, and Steel are the first ones to disappear and others follow. Similarly, seven air planes are in trouble at the same time and in close proximity to each other. Seven independent super villains decide to kidnap the president of USA at the same time. The JLA must try to quickly find out what is going on.

It also contains possibly one of the most chilling pages ever: Batman is just about to explain what is going on and how it can be fixed, when he vanishes. It also shows clearly, how dependent JLA is on Batman's brains and detective skills.

I thought the remaining JLA was a rather arbitrary group and I was a bit disappointed that the first members to vanish were pretty much the newest ones. What's the point of adding them if you aren't going to use them?

But otherwise the story was pretty entertaining.

The third story felt almost like filler. But I'm not familiar with Adam Strange; in fact this the first time I've seen him. He does seem like an interesting character and I think that he has interesting parallels to John Carter of Barsoom. (From another planet, rises to a hero, and marries a princess.) However, the story wasn't enough to become familiar with him.

Here, he has used his Zeta-beam to bring the JLA to Rann. He and the En'Taran slavemasters use collars to keep the JLAers in line and force them to work rebuilding the Rann world in honor of Adam's wife's retun to it. The problem is that she's been dead for a few years and Adam is insane.

Orion was in a fine form here; frothing at the mouth and raging all the while. :)

Overall, the trade has classic JLA action even though it's not exactly the best.

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