Sunday, June 26, 2016

Crisis after Crisis

JLA: Tower of Babel (2000/ Collected 2001): written by Mark Waid, D. Curtis Johnson, John Ostrander, and Christopher Priest; illustrated by Howard Porter, Drew Geraci, Eric Battle, Ken Lashley, Prentis Rollins, Ron Boyd, Mark Pajarillo, Walden Wong, Steve Scott, and Mark Probst: Mark Waid began his run on JLA [Justice League of America] back in the year 2000 by pitting the League against its greatest enemy yet. 

Of course, that enemy was a founding member of the League itself who came up with secret contingency plans to take out every member of the League in the event of an emergency. Unfortunately, that founding member's security wasn't as secure as the member believed. A super-villain gets the information and uses it, crippling the world's mightiest heroes as part of a plan to wipe out as much of humanity as possible so as to save the Earth.

Who is that member? Well, technically it's a spoiler. All I'll say is that it isn't Aquaman.

Waid's contemporary Silver-Age grooviness and knack for superhero characterization and plausibly implausible super-scientific threats make this particular story arc sing. Departing JLA penciller Howard Porter handles most of the art duties in his usual craggy, energetic style. 

The fill-in issues and stand-alone stories by other hands collected here are all very enjoyable as well, especially the opening story penned by D. Curtis Johnson, which reads like a lost JLA story from the Denny O'Neil era of the 1970's. Highly recommended

JLA: Syndicate Rules (2004-2005/ Collected 2006): written by Kurt Busiek; illustrated by Ron Garney and Dan Green: Among other things, the Syndicate Rules arc is a sequel to JLA/Avengers, also written by Kurt Busiek. This is never stated completely outright because DC doesn't have the rights to actually name the Avengers in a DC-only book, but there it is regardless. And it's really a fine sequel to that gigantic, over-stuffed, bombastic, hyper-enjoyable DC/Marvel crossover. We even get two artists then mainly associated with Marvel, Ron Garney and Dan Green, on the art duties. 

This is also a follow-up to Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's JLA: Earth-2 graphic novel, which introduced new versions of the evil, alternate-Earth Crime Syndicate of Amerika to the early-oughts DC Universe. They're evil, anti-matter versions of Superman, Wonder Woman and company first introduced way back in the 1960's when Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky did the Justice League of America.

Anyway, Busiek is one of the masters of extrapolating and expanding and expounding upon comic-book continuity without making that continuity ponderous or onerous. And he's an expert at the necessary short-hand of mainstream superhero characterization. Syndicate Rules rings some interesting variations on old JLA/CSA stories while also adding new dimensions to this inter-dimensional tussle. Busiek also manages to give Silver-Age Green-Lantern-foes The Weaponers of Qward an interesting back-story while also making them a real threat to villains and heroes alike.

Ron Garney and inker Dan Green do nice work on what for them were unfamiliar characters at the time. This is an extremely action-packed saga, and Garney and Green render the action in convincing, epic fashion throughout. An enjoyably rousing, clever, and beautifully plotted story arc. Highly recommended.

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