Friday, May 27, 2011

JLA #98 (Early August, 2004)

Batman did not wish to spring any of Crucifer's traps by following obvious leads, so he instead directed the League toward one he had generated that was only tangentially related: Key Mordaz, Floria. The Flash scouted ahead, and found very modern improvements concealed under the appearance of an old Spanish fort turned "abandoned" Confederate island prison. The Scarlet Speedster found Nudge, and assumed she was running in fear from Grunt, so a clash with another gorilla commenced. Martian Manhunter's telepathy detected intellect and consciousness within the four-armed beast, and allowed it to pass intangibly through him. Batman performed a judo move and Green Lantern John Stewart caged grunt.

John recognized Nudge as the girl who'd played "Jedi" mind tricks on him, and tried it again on other heroes. "Your mental wiles are wasted on the Dark Knight, child... and are even less effective against a trained telepath. A psychic scan should reveal the truth--! By the twin moons!" The Martian Manhunter was pained by his psychic violation from, "Voices! A multitude, crying out in rage... and hatred... not a part of her. From... somewhere else!"

At Castle Crucifer, Vortex was branded a traitor by an attacking vampire, who tore his blue face mask off. The sight underneath sent the vampire cowering in despair, declared incurably mad by Vortex, then executed. "...No witnesses."

Themyscira. The Amazons managed to take Wonder Woman from death's door to a speedy recovery, but not a complete one. Diana was already up and donning her armor, which proved upsetting to her sisters. "Charon's boat still waits below, to carry your shade to the domain of Hades." Diana insisted that the fate of the world was on the line, that she had to warn her team about Superman and-- oops! Wounds reopened. Too bad she wasn't conscious in her hospital room to tell the JLA everything they needed to know, or that the team didn't have a resident telepath, nor the Amazons any sophisticated communications equipment. What a stupid story.

Speaking of which, the JLA finally located Niles Caulder, Rita Farr, Larry Trainor and Cliff Steele in a secret lab within the decaying prison. Everyone was introduced, literally, because the creators had decided to pull a Hawkworld and try to treat the Doom Patrol as a brand new addition to the DC Universe. Yes friends, the entire JLA arc was just a backdoor pilot for a relaunch that would last less than two years. Anyway, Nudge told everybody her story, which allowed the Sleuth from Outer Space to deduce that "Her psychic discontinuity comes as a result of trying to integrate her already chaotic consciousness... with that of Manitou Raven." The ancient Native American mage almost uncovered the 10th Circle's plot, so he was neutralized by Crucifer. Nudge happened to capture Superman, Crucifer came to possess him, then Faith through Kal-El, plus the near killing of Wonder Woman. The logic behind this sequence of events as presented is confused, because there's no strong indication Crucifer directed Nudge to Superman, yet happenstance led him to target the JLA. Manhunter felt, "He left me alone because Superman and I are too evenly matched. Open conflict between us would alert the League before he was fully prepared." Except get over yourself, J'Onn, because Wonder Woman consistently fares better against Superman than you, and she was explicitly directed to the JLA as a warning. Maybe Crucifer just figured you'd spend four issues going, "Dur-- where'd Atom go," and if not, he could just light a fireplace in your presence. "I am now able to shed light on the whereabouts of the Atom." Well finally!

The Chief had Rita Farr shrink down to millimeter size, a power I don't recall her possessing, and one she herself only employed with complaint. I suppose if you're going to reboot a character, the early going would be the time to do such a thing. A line was attached to her and equipped with an audio-visual transmitter, Rita climbed into Manitou Raven's stones. Down she went through a "dimensional nexus," then off to the crystal palace, guided by alien worshipers to "Doctor Atom, I presume?" Ray offered, "Dr. Palmer, actually." He recognized Rita as a former associate of Dr. Caulder's who had an "accident," but she claimed not to have actually perished, as long reported. "Nope. Not permanently, anyway." The Atom explained that Crucifer had been using this place as a "side-door dimension" to get around from place to place and, during layovers, set himself up as a sadistic deity. Palmer showed Farr the "sacred relic," which was broadcast back to Caulder's lab, and seen on screen by the Martian Manhunter. "If Manitou Raven's opinion is any guide," J'Onn believed he knew what it was, "And more important, how it may be of use in our overall situation."

Barnes, Saskatchewan. Crucifer drained a host of human life energy, directed it into a small group of metahumans under his control, and laid the leftover mound of bodies in the shape of a Times New Roman font X in a football field. Apparently, ancient vampires hunted humanity for sport and meat, "Until we faced the Amazons. And found ourselves banished to a realm of unending torment." The banished Tenth Circle vampires merged with the metahuman hosts, just as the JLA arrived to quip on the grounds of a mass murder. Nice.

"Convergence," part five of "The Tenth Circle," can be blamed on the famous X-Men creative team of John Byrne and Chris Claremont, but leave inker Jerry Ordway alone. He was just following orders, and the book at least looked good most of the time through his efforts.

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