Tuesday, May 17, 2011

JLA #97 (Late June, 2004)

From out of a pink portal in the sky fell Wonder Woman tied up in burlap. Ma and Pa Kent an older couple swerved their RV to avoid the mass, and ended up rolling it. The couple was okay, and the man was a doctor, which was handy. Diana was soon at Memorial Hospital in Las Vegas, lying unconscious on supplemental oxygen, having miraculously survived her wounds. Batman, Green Lantern, the Martian Manhunter and the Flash watched over her. Inspecting Diana's removed costume, the Dark Knight Detective found a secreted bit of paper with the 10th Circle "X." John Stewart figured out it was a way of challenging the League, mafia style.

A group of haughty Amazons (are there any other kind?) demanded their injured sister be turned over to their care. Stewart insisted that she was in no condition to travel, but Batman ordered him to "Stand down, Lantern. They're here at my request." Batman felt Diana's injuries were far beyond the scope of modern medicine, so that advanced Amazon science was her only hope. However, Diana managed to get out of bed to protest by sheer moxie, which the Caped Crusader blew off as stupid. "You can barely stand... You've done your part. Leave the rest to us."

Crucifer presented Superman to his demonic overlords, but still had to explain why this story was dragging on, and was punished for his vanity. Nudge tried to help the blood-drained Faith, who remained unconscious, and was visited by the spirit of Manitou Raven.

The Atom was told the wardens who attacked him would be tortured to death for their transgression against his divine self, but he asked that they be spared. The priestess agreed, but pointed out that "The Precursor took delight in such suffering." This would be the first divinity, who appeared to the people scores of generations prior, and left them a sacred relic that Ray got an eyeful of.

Barnes, Saskatchewan. The writer made a point of naming a slew of citizens and assigning them admirable professions which benefit the lives of others. All the better to murder them violently, so that everybody really hates Crucifer and his metahuman thrall. The vampire also killed one of his minions for giving him the slightest hint of lip, and set a big fire in the shape of a Times New Roman font X.

Batman continued to sit on the League's hands, not taking the 10th Circle's bait, but instead seeking out more information on the group. The Caped Crusader was also able to connect the residue from Green Lantern's costume to limestone & coral from Key Mordaz, Florida.

Vortex helped Nudge and Grunt escape Crucifer's castle to Key Mordaz, Florida.

The members of the team still not explicitly identified as the Doom Patrol argued at their base on Key Mordaz, Florida. Robotman finally received his completed armor, with lots of bells and whistles and strength purported to rival Superman's. Just then, the JLA burst in on them, "And we're not in a nice mood."

I've read a lot of hate online for this story arc, which I thought was overheated, since the first half was just plodding and the storytelling quaintly anachronistic. With this issue, I'm starting to see where the venom comes from. Why wouldn't Crucifer chop Wonder Woman into pieces just large enough to identify if she was completely in his power and near death anyway? Why is it that only the female team members are brutally beaten and left for dead in this series? I can only recall two instances of Wonder Woman lying helpless in a hospital bed throughout my decades of reading her adventures, and both times John Byrne was the responsible party. Why is it Batman specifically orders John Stewart around like his pet soldier, but also gets to boss everyone else around like they were Outsiders? Four issues in, and neither Martian Manhunter nor the Flash have done anything. Superman has remained a total mind slave the entire time, unable to prevent himself from all but murdering Wonder Woman. The Atom keeps popping up for a few pages per issue in what appears to be a massively tangential b-plot. Instead of advancing the plot, the spectacularly unimpressive Crucifer keeps sadistically tormenting innocents to impress no one. Then there's the least subtle teasing of a new Doom Patrol possible, which not only seriously mucks with continuity, but tosses in two awful new members in Nudge and Grunt. Byrne keeps doing these annoying dutch angle layouts, which are a pain to scan. Finally, and most importantly, this book is relentless in its treading of water.

"Interlude on the Last Day of the World," part four of "The Tenth Circle," and possibly the most pretentious story title of all time, was by the famous X-Men creative team of John Byrne and Chris Claremont, joined by the inks of Jerry Ordway.

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