Tuesday, 25 May 2010

JLA Year One #12

Justice For All

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

Chaos reigns in the Daily Planet newsroom as the staff try to keep up with the reports of the Apellaxian invasion. Suddenly, the wall turns to glass, and Alan Scott gathers the staff up in a green bubble. With the civilians clear, the fightback starts, as Hal Jordan and Human Bomb destroy two Apellaxians. In Washington, Black Canary and Starman help the Blackhawks to plant a symbolic American flag. In the oceans, things are not looking good for Aquaman and the Sea Devils, until Animal Man arrives to help with his animal powers. With the assistance of the Challengers of the Unknown and Cave Carson, several Apellaxians are defeated. In the skies, Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Black Condor, Shining Knight and Martain Manhunter hold their ground, although Condor's recollection of how he was captured in his private life visibly disturbs J'onn.

At Stonehenge, Kalar rallies his soldiers before flying away. As his lieutenants discuss their plans, Vandal Savage appears and destroys them with the machine from last issue. Impressed with its power, Savage realises that he has the means to destroy both the Apellaxians and the Justice League.

In St. Louis, Flash, Superman and Atom destroy several diamond-based Apellaxians, although the strain of forcing diamond apart from between the molecules renders Atom uncoscious. In Paris, the Global Guardians fight on, but their leader, Dr Mist, realises that they need more powerful help - the Spectre. The Spectre has formed a truce with Wotan to fight the invaders, but Wotan takes the first opportunity to attempt to destroy the Spectre, but is imprisoned for his treachery.

The Flash returns to Central City, where Black Canary attempts to explain the kiss to him. Flash is not interested, as he hears Iris Allen searching for her husband. Changing back to Barry, the couple reunite. Returning to Canary, she explains that she won't turn out like her mother, she won't turn anyone into a cheater. As Flash races away, Canary is menaced by an Apellaxian, but is saved by Green Arrow and Speedy. As they fight on, Green Arrow attempts to get a date out of Canary. The fight conitinues at the Great Wall of China, where the Doom Patrol attempt to hold the line.

In the cave headquarters of the Justice League, Snapper Carr watches reports of the fights, realising that despite their victories, the sheer force of numbers of Apellaxians mean that the League will eventually lose. Simon enters, woozy and unsure, and informs Snapper of Vandal Savage's ownership of the machine. Snapper calls out for Martian Manhunter, asking for a meeting of the League. A short time later, Carr tells them all of what has happened, but before they can act, Savage appears, ready to attack. The League quickly subdue him, but immediately realise that they have only captured Clayface, posing as Savage. Through Clayface, Savage presents the League with a conundrum - they can use the machine to defeat the entire Apellaxian force in one move, broadcasting a lethal telepathic signal, but they would have to discard their morals in order to save the Earth.

As the barriers holding the defeated Apellaxians at bay weaken and require more and more support to maintain, Martian Manhunter activates the machine, using his own telepathic powers to weaken the broadcast so it merely incapacitates the aliens. Seeing J'onn's torment, Aquaman lends his support, followed by the rest of the League. With the Apellaxians incapacitated, Dr Fate opens a portal to another part of space, and the invading force is repelled. As Kalar attempts to resist, Snapper gets revenge for his uncle by whacking him with a sturdy piece of wood.

In the aftermath, the League forgives J'onn for the files he kept. Hawkman pledges the support of the Justice Society to the League if ever needed, and Superman leaves with a promise to aid whenever he can. Clark Kent writes up the story, introducing the Justice League to the world. Later on, the League votes on wether to admit Green Arrow to their ranks, whilst wondering who their mystery financier is. In an office block, Oliver Queen is revealed to be bankrolling the League. He reaches for his costume and bow.

Wow, what a rushed synopsis. I certainly learned the difference today between a comic about Superman and a comic which happens to have Superman in its pages. In the past two issues, Waid uses Superman as one of many heroes who are first captured by and later fight back against the invading Apellaxian forces. Superman's iconic nature is only really exploited in the first page of issue 11, where we are confronted with a battered and bruised Man of Steel. Otherwise, there is no real distinction between Superman and any of the many other heroes featured within. If you remove Superman from this book, then the story still holds up.

Looking at this from a non-Superman-obsessed point of view, we can see that this is a massive, sprawling fight. There are so many moments featuring guest-characters mixing it up with the League to fight the Apellaxians, almost too many, that the general thrust of the plot kind of gets lost underneath it all. Certainly the Martian Manhunter keeping files on everyone plot point does not end strongly here. There's a nice moment where Black Condor's recollection of his kidnap sparks a feeling of guilt, but the payoff is a bit muted, as he strains his mind a bit, gets some help, and is instantly forgiven. Waid would return to the suggestion that a distrustful Leaguer keeping files on his team-mates would eventually backfire two years later in Tower of Babel, and the idea would again be revisited in the runup to Infinite Crisis, especially in the OMAC Project miniseries.

I wish I had the time to grab and read the TPB of this maxiseries, as I'm sure I'm missing more than I'm gaining from these last two issues. But here is a promise to all the readers (both of them!) - unless it's an important issue or cornerstone to the main plotlines, if Superman is just guest-starring in a book without taking a major role, I'll be recapping and reviewing a lot more briefly to allow us to focus on the good stuff. My heart's just not been in this one, no matter how many times I've listened to 99 Red Balloons in both English and German.

And talking of the good stuff... we must be about due for a trip on a yacht courtesy of Lex Luthor, surely?

Next on World of Superman: Suicide at Christmas - we have jumping from the roof of the Daily Planet, and blowing yourself to smithereens. It must be the 1997 DCU Holiday Bash! Meh, guess we'll have to cancel those yachting tickets...

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