Monday, January 30, 2006

This Comic Was Good - JLA Classified #16

What do you get when you mix a solid superhero story with artwork from not one, but TWO comic art legends? You get a darn fine comic book. In particular, you get JLA Classified #16, a strong opening to the six-part "The Hypothetical Woman," by Gail Simone, with art by giants Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Klaus Janson.

First of all, take a look at these sample pages (click on the pictures to enlarge them)!

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Isn't that amazing? Garcia-Lopez has not lost the touch at all, and Janson does his usual superb job on inks (although I would say that he also impressively seems to restrain his inks a TAD bit, perhaps in deference to the great Garcia-Lopez). So just based on the art, this comic would be interesting enough to read, just to see him draw all the Leaguers. Luckily, Simone gives us an interesting story, as well.

The comic opens with the Leaguers showing up to arrest a tyrant, General Tuzik, (the General gets to spout off some interesting lines about how the League operates like an army), only to be thwarted by international relations (what's great about this is the two-page spread on pages 2 and 3, where Garcia-Lopez depicts Tuzik calmly watching the League cut through his defenses - notice how he is clasping the envelope with the treaty allowing his escape...what a storyteller!!!).

You ever watch ER?

If so, there's a joke about how, often, when a topic is repeated on the show (and with a show as long-running as ER, topics are BOUND to be repeated), the positions taken by the doctors almost seem to be randomly drawn out of a hat. You know, like, "This time, Anthony Edwards is for Position X and George Clooney is for Position Y." Then, 3 years later, "Laura Innes is for Position X and Anthony Edwards is for Position Y." Well, there's a bit of the "pulling a name out of the hat" routine in this issue, as Simone needs a Leaguer to express outrage at the injustice of Tuzik escaping on what amounts to be a technicality, so Flash gets the short straw. Don't get me wrong, of the Leaguers available, he's probably the only one who COULD pull off the reaction, but it certainly is not born out some inherent aspect of Wally West's personality, but rather, simply out of the utilitarian purposes of needing a Leaguer to express Position X. As mentioned before, it is a common practice in fiction (particularly serialized fiction), but it still makes me smile a bit when I see it.

In any event, it is not like Wally's position is even all that shocking, more like a basic "letting tyrants get off on technicalities is bad." In fact, an interesting aspect of this comic is how little actual politics is involved in the story. This was a plot that could very easily become politicized, but Simone manages to deftly avoid any such happenstance, and it is quite impressive, really.

Upon his escape, Tuzik holds a meeting with all the OTHER tyrants out there who have not been overthrown yet, and suggests that, rather than each one of the other tyrants dealing with the Justice League on their own with whatever weapons they possess, the other tyrants give HIM all their weapons and research, and he will form ONE "Doomsday device," and attack the League with it, especially since, unlike the others, Tuzik has noting to lose - he does not mind being known as the "villain" of the piece.

The conclusion of the comic begins with the first manisfestation of Tuzik's mystery "weapon," the Hypothetical Woman that bears the title of this story arc. Whether Tuzik created her or found her, this "Hypothetical Woman" (and yes, that is a great name) can create seemingly impossible things, like (in this issue) a town that is plagued by a virus that is made up of microscopic Starros (leading to a line of dialogue, when Flash is infected, of "My god - he's full of Starro!!," which a pal of mine informs me is a reference to an obscure 80s Sci-Fi sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey called 2010, which has the line, "My God! It's full of stars!," which is cool by me, as I am always cool with obscure references that do not interfere with the plot).

The issue ends with the League struggling with the Starro virus (which has infected the Flash, whose metabolism is forcing it to affect him quickly), as Tuzik admires his prize, and we, the reader, wait for what plot will come next.

Nice story idea.

Even nicer art.

Worth picking up.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very nice review, and glad you liked it. I too am flabbergasted at Jose and Klaus. Sometimes I think, "what the hell am I doing here working with these guys?" because I'm such a huge nerd for both of them.

Anyway, just one small point. Flash was more emotional not because he was chosen at random, but because he's still the closest thing to an unaffected human, AND in my mind, this story took place while his wife was pregnant so the orphans and murdered children were just too much for him. I don't normally think of Flash as a hothead, and in fact, part of my goal in this story was to show a functioning JLA full of mature heroes, well past any childish bickering or silliness. But Flash saw a year's worth of the fallout from Tuzik's atrocities in a few short minutes and came out overwhelmed, in my opinion.

But I do get what you're saying, just tossing in my two cents.

Best wishes and thanks, that was fun to read,


1/30/2006 09:33:00 AM  
Blogger T. said...

I love Garcia-Lopez, and I can tolerate Janson when he's inking someone who pencils like chicken scratch, like Frank Miller or himself, but I felt he really detracted from Garcia-Lopez's usual smooth style.

His work looked much better in the Donna Troy mini.

1/30/2006 09:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Beta Ray Steve said...

So it's official, JLA:CLassified has officially stolen JLA:the Regular Series' mojo. Has somebody at DC HQ said "Ok, we can put the good stuff in JLA:Classified and the crap in JLA"? Because this is what it looks like.

1/30/2006 09:38:00 AM  
Blogger T. said...

Basically, it seems like this series has stolen the regular series' mojo because it gets to have JLA stories that don't involve childlike bickering, constant Infinite Crisis, internal conflict and neurotic handwringing by the heroes.

Sadly, I think the Infinite Crisis stuff sells better. The fans seem to be eating the awful stuff up. It's still good to see that the occasional good superhero work can still come out even under Didio's watch.

1/30/2006 09:49:00 AM  
Anonymous Jer said...

The Infinite Crisis stuff sells better because it has that little "Infinite Crisis" logo on the cover, and after being deprived of large-scale shared universe recognition for so long, fans are grasping at it as acknowledgement that there is a large, shared-universe out there to play with, and that change is possible. Of course, those of us who have been through a couple of these "crises" know that change is not, in fact, possible, only the illusion of change. But if they're having fun with it, let them have fun.

Not that all of the IC stuff is bad - actually some of it is quite good - but the JLA stuff that I've bothered reading is pretty atrocious. There was really no point to it, as far as I can tell, other than to drag the book out for a few months before the reboot.

But hooray for the JLA Classified book, where different folks get to play with the toys without having to worry about the bigger picture. I hope that the quality stays up post "big event".

1/30/2006 10:01:00 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

"My God, it's full of stars" is in 2001, isn't it? Right before David Bowman goes into the monolith and drops acid. It's in the sequel, too, but I'm 99% sure it's in the original.

Either way, that's a funny line.

1/30/2006 11:41:00 AM  
Blogger Adam said...

"my god, it's full of stars" came from 2001, as bowman was about to step into the monolith, to infinity and beyond, etc etc etc, although i think it was reused in 2010, as a creepy loop of sorts that the star child/europa monolith used to make contact with earth (or somesuch event like that, haven't seen the movie in years, although did rewatch 2001 a few weeks ago).

1/30/2006 03:05:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Oh, I dunno if the "Full of Stars" line was in 2001 or not. It very well might have been. I do not remember the line from 2001, and I did not see 2010, so I'm going fully on what my friend mentioned to me...hehe.

1/30/2006 03:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

According to imdb, the line was in the book version of 2001, but not the film. It is in 2010

another link:

1/30/2006 05:02:00 PM  
Blogger Bill Reed said...

I think the art looks rushed, but I don't think Janson's inks are meshing well, and I'm a big Janson fan.

And the colors. My God, the colors. Eeee.

1/30/2006 06:03:00 PM  
Blogger markus said...

Except it doesn't make the slightest bit of sense that the JLA would engage the army, risking the lives of more or less innocent people when they could simply have Superman, WW or the Flash pick the tyrant up.

The lack of politics you praise is a weakness from my POV, as IMO superheroes and their relations to the real world is too interesting a subject to use it as a plot device for getting a pretty generic villain. Likewise, his call upon the other tyrants, while an interesting idea is basically setting him up to pull anything he wants from his hat. Call me small-minded, but to me it's just a tad too convenient. IMO leaving him in place and restraining his options a bit would have made for a much more interesting starting point.

1/31/2006 12:46:00 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

"Except it doesn't make the slightest bit of sense that the JLA would engage the army, risking the lives of more or less innocent people when they could simply have Superman, WW or the Flash pick the tyrant up."

And then his second-in-command takes over and orders a new round of purges. Good job, Superman.

1/31/2006 01:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Chuck T. said...

When Tuzik addresses the world leaders/tyrants, isn't an American flag visible behind one of them?

1/31/2006 02:40:00 PM  
Blogger markus said...

And then his second-in-command takes over and orders a new round of purges. Good job, Superman.
Yeah, that too! Thanks Michael.

1/31/2006 03:18:00 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

Actually, I was disagreeing with you, pointing out why taking out the army as well as Tuzik would be a good idea.

There's a reason they call it "regime change."

1/31/2006 05:26:00 PM  
Blogger markus said...

I realised the possibility, but as I thought the counter argument weak, I chose the optimistic alternative.

The problem with the 2nd in command stays the same no matter the approach. Sure, the more people from the top you take, the better the overall chances, but you run into people whose only crime is opportunism (and/or people whose guilt isn't easily estyablished) long before you've made a dent into the people keeping the regime up.

Granted, there are advantages over taking just the tyrant, but OTOH if every tyrant worldwide knew they might be mere moments away from being brought before the ICC by Superman, I'm sure we agree that very soon the seconds in command would loose their eagerness to step up and continue as before.

Bottom line: as long as you're not willing to stick around for the long term and handle things, removing the tyrant alone sucks as much as removing him and his loyal guard or him and his army. Given that, it doesn't make sense to endanger civilians/regular soldiers if you're not going to stick around anyway.

1/31/2006 06:52:00 PM  
Blogger Nimbus said...

"Except it doesn't make the slightest bit of sense that the JLA would engage the army, risking the lives of more or less innocent people when they could simply have Superman, WW or the Flash pick the tyrant up."


But if they did that there wouldn't be much of a story.

"Flash, get the tyrant!"
"...Got him"
"Right, now let's go home..."

And this is a comic book. With people dressed in colourful costumes with their underwear worn on the outside. Daft things happen. They get attacked by inanimate objects. They lock supervillains up when they know that they'll just break out within a year. And, yes, they fight the tyrant's henchmen first rather than just taking out the tyrant.

It's what superheroes (and heroes in general) do!

2/01/2006 06:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Relax, guys. It's the first issue. :)


2/05/2006 10:54:00 PM  

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