Monday, April 25, 2011

JLA #95 (Late May, 2004)

Superman was bitten on the neck by Crucifer, only to have his alien blood spat out in disgust. "He may look human, but the taste of him is unspeakable... Foul!" Crucifer instead ate one of his followers, before sending the Man of Thrall on a mission...

Green Lantern John Stewart hit paydirt while patrolling Baltimore, finding another van full of cloaked creeps. One, the blue-skinned Vortex, managed to knock Stewart out of the sky with a vertigo scream. The Emerald Knight managed to encase most of the group under a ring construct, but the persuasive girl was without, trying to nudge John into letting them go. "You playin' with my head, missy? ...In a word--no." While Green Lantern had more willpower than Superman, the girl was distracting enough to allow Vortex to smash the field. Both Stewart and Vortex were left the worse for wear, so Nudge helped her friend into the van and sped off. Stewart tried to follow, but it was "an effort just to form coherent thoughts," and a giant hand grabbing you from behind never helps. The giant shrank down to normal size, and she assured Green Lantern she and her leather masked companion were not enemies. The duo argued that Stewart had interfered with their sting operation, and the male released a skeletal energy being to trail the van. The girl carried her friend's limp body to safety, and politely asked that Stewart leave this matter in their hands. The energy being managed to tag the van with a tracking device.

Green Lantern reported to de facto leader Batman at the Watchtower on the moon, where the Dark Knight Detective managed to pull a residue sample from where the giant girl had grabbed Stewart. Meanwhile, Wonder Woman delivered ancient Amazonian scrolls that revealed their crusade against a cult of vampires thousands of years ago in Greece. The warriors successfully exiled the bloodsuckers after a final, terrible battle. The recently deceased Queen Hippolyta had been the last living Amazon to engage the cult, whose x-symbol represented the tenth circle of Hell.

The Martian Manhunter knelt down on a laboratory floor, calling out mentally to the Atom, who had vanished into Manitou Raven's stones. The Tiny Titan fell through an unknown space for some time, before landing gracelessly but unharmed on a crystalline surface. In the distance was a tower of similar material. From out of hidden tunnels in the ground emerged bipedal, somewhat insectoid green brutes. The Mighty Mite evaded them for a time, but was eventually encircled and beaten down.

Superman delivered the unconscious and shabbily dressed Faith to Castle Crucifer before being dispatched to the moon. At the Watchtower, Wonder Woman was struggling with the allegorical manner her sisters had written their scrolls, unable to decipher the means by which the Amazons defeated the cult. "Gods forbid my ancient sisters write short, declarative sentences. Kal-El talked Diane into taking a break, and when she wasn't looking, ignited her scrolls with heat vision.

In a Gotham City alley, the Batman found a police detective trying to wipe away the Tenth Circle symbol from the murder scene. The detective drew on Batman, while two cultists approached from behind. A bullet flew through the Crusader's cape, and he went down...

"The Enemy Within," part two of "The Tenth Circle," was by the famous X-Men creative team of John Byrne and Chris Claremont, joined by the inks of Jerry Ordway. Both the Atom and Green Lantern's dialogue was inappropriately informal and even irritating for the characters. Between Stewart's will and Crucifer talking up Faith and Wonder Woman being his near equals, Superman really looks like a punk. The backdoor pilot that is the second super-team is becoming increasingly obvious in identity. Finally, Atom aside, this has been a vampire story, which is something Claremont could rock hard with the X-Men and Bill Sienkiewicz, but not with John Byrne and the freakin' JLA. Besides, the X-Men never needed to revive a second old school hero team over vamps, at least before their latest series somehow managed to drag Spider-Man into the muck.


LissBirds said...

Have you seen the customer reviews for this trade over at Amazon? Wow.

Diabolu Frank said...

These comics have been sitting unread in a box for seven years. I'm halfway through them, and I can't really dispute the negative reviews. Incoming editor Mike Carlin dismissing Joe Kelly wasn't as bad of an idea as they make it out to be, because after "The Obsidian Age," he'd proven he was no Grant Morrison, but not for lack of trying. No, Carlin's idiocy was in trying to turn the book into "JLA: Legends of the Retirement Home." This collaboration reads like one of Byrne's earliest X-Men issues from the mid-'70s, as opposed to the glory years, and certainly not on par with Claremont's excellent '80s work. I don't find it repellant like some, but it certainly is quaint in a sad way. I especially hate the quasi-jive Ray Palmer and John Stewart speak, recalling the earliest Bronze Age stabs at "characterization" through dialogue that doesn't sound read by a court stenographer.