Saturday, 22 May 2010

JLA Year One #11

Stalag Earth

Storytellers: Mark Waid, Brian Augustyn, Barry Kitson
Inker: Michael Bair
Letterer: Ken Lopez
Colorist: Pat Garrahy
Separations: Heroic Age
Editor: Peter Tomasi
Cover Artist: Barry Kitson
Cover Date: November 1998

In a series of attacks, the Apellaxians start their invasion of Earth by neutralising numerous super-heroes. Superman is severely beaten, the Atom is captured whilst exiting a phone line, Blue Beetle is ambushed in a tomb. The Metal Mens' responsometers are disabled, whilst Batman is captured in the Batcave. Hawkman, Johnny Quick and Doctor Midnight are all ambushed. All the defeated heroes are brought to the disused Blackhawk Island.

In Metropolis, the newly-formed JLA attempt to hold their ground against the invaders. Aquaman quizzes Snapper Carr about his Uncle Simon's involvement in the invasion, but quickly discovers that although the JLA defeated 7 Apellaians when they first formed, they are now up against a force of 7000. Green Lantern realises that the battle has been raging for so long that his ring is about to run out of power. Martian Manhunter telepathically directs the Flash to Coast City to retrieve the power battery, and Lantern is able to recharge. Despite this minor victory, the JLA realises that Metropolis is lost, and moves on to help out the next city.

In Gotham City, the entity inhabiting Simon Carr's body moves on to a more powerful, electrical form. Carr is left alone and confused, clutching a device that can destroy the Apallaxian consciousness. He is accosted by Vandal Savage, formerly an Apallazian ally and now their target.

In Midway City, the JLA fight their ground again. The heat of the battle causes Black Canary to kiss the Flash. Realising that they need help, Flash has a brainwave - the JLA need to access Martian Manhunter's files on other superheroes to summon help. However, when they reach Jonn's hideout, they find that his files are gone. Aquaman receives a message from the fish, who inform him of the heroes trapped on Blackhawk Island. As the heroes realise that they have been outmaneuvred, a group of Apellaxians prepare to ambush them. They attack, and quickly subdue the JLA.

On Blackhawk Island, the trapped heroes are dismayed to see the JLA arrive in chains. Suddenly, the JLA break free and attack their captors - they were only pretending to be defeated to be brought to the heroes. Mounting an assault on the armory, the heroes re-arm themselves. Led by the JLA, they prepare to take back their planet.

In the first of what will be a fairly regular occurence for this blog, we jump in head-first into a limited series already in progress, with little knowledge of the events that have led us to this point. I read JLA: Year One for the first and only time in late 2002, when I found a pretty battered copy of the trade paperback in the library adjacent to my student accomodation. I remember several pages being loose, and being pretty convinced that I was missing a couple. I enjoyed the book, but knew at the time that I had too little an understanding of the DCU, and that a lot of the series was going over my head. One day, I vowed, I would return and conquer the knowledge held within.

And I never did, until now.

So, what do I know about this series? Well, I remember some stuff with the Doom Patrol, that isn't really relevant to this issue. There was some stuff involving Green Arrow and him not being on the team, which iosn't really relevant to this issue. They fought some aliens, which is relevant, but is handily recapped by Aquaman. In fact, the only major plot point for this issue that doesn't come with a handy jumping-on-board point is the duplicity of Simon Carr, and the nature of the being that has inhabited him. Is he/it an Apellaxian, or something more?

There's some really fun moments here. I love the teamwork shown in the defence of Metropolis, where Martian Manhunter and Flash team up to save Green Lantern's backside. The Black Canary snogging the Flash moment is good, but is taken to a whole new level when he completely ignores her and has a brainwave that could save the Earth from invasion. And I just love the complete Silver Age moment where the JLA pretend to be unconscious to be taken to the captive heroes before turning the tables. It's a moment that if handled poorly can look cheesy and silly, but here works as a great moment of assertion for the League in front of their peers. It's no wonder that veterans of the JSA, the Doom Patrol, and the newer, more powerful heroes like Superman are ready to follow the Flash's lead at the end of the issue.

Unfortunately, from a Superman point of view there's not much to say - he gets beaten up at the start of the issue, and is ready to fight back at the end. This version of him meeting the JLA differs from the Man of Steel Annual in that this version of the JLA is less dependant on him to save the day, most likely as Superman here is a guest star in their book, rather than the League being a star in his book.

Oh, and I just love this cover. Seeing Batman, Superman, and the heavy hitters of the JSA all so helpless is very striking. And I love the defeatist pose of the first Green Lantern.

Next on World of Superman: The JLA vs the Apellaxians for the freedom of the Earth!

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