Sunday, June 5, 2011

JLA #99 (Late August, 2004)

Through Nudge's contact with Manitou Raven, the Manhunter from Mars was eventually able to determine Crucifer's origins and an overview of his activities across centuries, including the nature of his arrangement with the insectoid creatures that rendered him "effectively unkillable." Since Vortex's wormhole was still open, Nudge led the JLA and the (still unnamed) Doom Patrol back through it to Castle Crucifer. Green Lantern John Stewart neutralized Vortex, until Nudge and the Martian Manhunter spoke out in his behalf. The Flash released Crucifer's human child prisoners from their basement cells, then contacted the authorities to see to their well being. Vortex then opened a portal to Barnes, Saskatchewan, so that most of the heroes could confront their prey. Martian Manhunter requested, "With your go-ahead, Batman, I would like to stay behind... and try to find some means to liberate Superman. We cannot afford to have Crucifer use him against us further."

The spell to free the Tenth Circle from their other-dimensional prison was ruined by the arrival of the super-heroes, but Crucifer still had a team of metahumans and a possessed town at his disposal. Most were subdued by the super-groups, but a number of vampires and other persons of interest managed to escape, including Crucifer himself. The Lord returned to his castle, where he was impaled by Vortex. Since there was no effect, Crucifer turned on the youth, but was then addressed by a sword-wielding Wonder Woman. In defense of Crucifer, Superman shattered the sword, and the vampire decided that he would turn the Amazon into his queen. Red blood was vomited out of Crucifer's pained throat, even though the just-arrived Nudge called it as green. Either way, "Wonder Woman" turned out to be the Martian Manhunter in disguise, and his alien blood had dealt Crucifer some damage.

The Atom and Rita Farr had just been kickin' it in the other dimension, waiting for the Chief to give the word, before finally, simultaneously, from opposite directions, they karate kicked Crucifer's heart box to pieces so that it reverted back to his chest on Earth. No, I don't know how that worked, or why they didn't just bring it back with them hours ago, or why they couldn't have staked it right there. Superman, while holding a crucifix, then punched Crucifer in his bloodless love muscle. Somebody should have picketed the DC Comics offices over that. Not religious people, but activists for the ethical treatment of comic book readers who kept buying this series after Joe Kelly left.

Later, Manitou Raven was already back at the Watchtower without explanation to deliver more exposition and shed a solitary tear over pollution. Faith, still dressed like an Oklahoman lot lizard, was feeling well enough to become Nudge's new mentor in the upcoming Doom Patrol spin-off series, which began with a two-page prologue involving those escaped vampires having captured the Chief, but only after the Doom Patrol had left the Watchtower alone, even though they were totally going to drag the JLA into a guest appearance anyway. Batman told a joke about Crucifer's heart being in the right place. In a metatextual moment, the JLA silently stared in horror and the petrified readers returning the terror-filled gaze. In Jesus' hallowed name, we beg thee, why?

Man, what a stupid resolution to a progressively more terrible story. Rather than tell the tale, Manitou Raven facilitates a massive expository data dump on all things Crucifer, so that the JLA never actually has to uncover evidence through a proper investigation. This forces a six page prelude to the cliffhanger from last issue, so pity the reader who bought this in trade paperback with the expectation of a single seating experience. Not that the cliffhanger mattered, because how exciting was the premise? It's the World's Greatest Super-Heroes plus the Doom Patrol on a small town football field against a handful of unnamed immature metahumans, some bloodsuckers, and townies. Whoop-dee-do. Hey, how is it Manitou Raven managed to leave a door open for the Atom to the exact point in the right dimension where Crucifer's heart was located. Also, why did the Chief make the Atom and Rita wait to smash Crucifer's heart, since if it had been back in the vamp's chest earlier on, Vortex would have killed him. That would have saved J'Onn J'Onzz some neck pain, but wait, why didn't Crucifer decide to make Wonder Woman his vampire queen in their first encounter? It would have been a lot more impressive having the Man of Steel and the Amazing Amazon on that football field. Hold up-- would that have even worked, given Diana's divine and not entirely human origins? Plus, after everything Wonder Woman had gone through, she never got to avenge herself against Crucifer? Also, hasn't the solar energy held by Superman's bodily cells killed vampires in the past? Additionally, where did Manitou Raven come back from at the end of the story, and how did he manage that? By the way, was anybody impressed with the Doom Patrol's performance here, or learning that the last two pages of this six-part story forced the reader to continue to a two part coda in their new series? Ooo-ooo, let's ship Faith off to the book where this creator dresses her like a hoochie-mama and sidelines her for an entire story arc, only to gank her after four issues for a different bad series nobody wanted, to insure that there is only one woman left in the JLA? Most importantly of all, who in their right mind figured generic ass vampires were enough of a threat to tie up the JLA for an issue, even before adding a second super-team? Holy Hanna, this thing got horrid in a hurry!

"Heartbreaker!" was blessedly the final chapter of "The Tenth Circle" to afflict mankind. It was foisted upon an unwitting populace by John "Hates You" Byrne, Chris "Bore" Claremont, and Jerry "The Bystander" Ordway. Did I mention they had one of the black kid metahumans call John Stewart "Homes?" That happened.

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