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Cover date: October 2006
Writter: Howard Chaykin
Penciller: Kilian Plunkett
Inker: Tom Nguyen
"Secret History... Sacred Trust" - Part 1 (of 6)
Reviewed by: Michael Bailey
They bring their concerns to the President of the United States and are soon joined by former member Faith, who has already briefed the President on the issue. The President wants the League to contain the threat the meta-humans in both countries pose, but Aquaman is still insistent on letting the United Nations handle the problem.
Meanwhile Victor Blasco, leader of Del Canto, discusses the remarkable "gift" given to his country by Dr. Hernandez. Hernandez isn't so sure and believes they showed their hands too soon adding that the Americans concern her. Blasco is far more concerned with their neighbors in San Bertiza. In San Bertiza, the metahuman called Tadeo discusses the similar breach in security with his leader. Tadeo promises to look into it.
The President addresses the United Nations and lays out his plan to have the Justice League go on a fact-finding mission in San Bertiza and Del Canto. The Representative from the Netherlands has misgivings about this fact finding mission and strongly recommends against it and further proposes that an international watchdog committee be formed to make certain that the League doesn't engage in any international adventurism.
The League immediately forms a plan and inform the President that of their intentions to continue despite the United Nation's feelings. They don't let him know the whole plan to allow for plausible deniability. Sometime later the Leaguers meet at La Cintura Del Milagros, the tiny strip of land between Del Canto and San Bertiza. They remove their uniforms and prepare to go on their undercover mission.
Story - 5: Now this is a politically themed Justice League story that works.
Of course I expected nothing less from Howard Chaykin.
I'm serious. After three very lackluster story arcs I finally get a JLA Classified tale that I enjoy. Howard Chaykin is not the first person I would have thought of to write a Justice League story given that he is best known for independent books, but then again he is also the guy who drew the first few issues of Star Wars back in 1977 in addition to writing and drawing the Shadow and Blackhawk, though both had a lot of controversy around them. He even wrote a very heartfelt and nostalgic introduction to the trade paperback of the incredible Golden Age (since renamed JSA: Golden Age) mini-series.
He also wrote for the Flash television series.
So the guy obviously has some affection for super-heroes and the like.
What impressed me the most about this issue is the fact that he mixed solid characterization with a rather dense plot. Politics and super-heroes are not an easy mix. As much as I love Gail Simone's writing I thought her attempts to mix the two didn't quite hit the mark. It had some great Justice League moments, but the overall plot felt a little thin. Here we not only have two small countries using meta-humans to their own ends but a real division among the ranks of the Justice League. In Simone's tale the League is forced to go into direct action and damn the consequences. Chaykin takes the exact opposite road and has the League hampered by the United Nations and forced to take a different road.
(By the way, I'm not comparing Simone and Chaykin as writers. Both are very talented and I have nothing but respect for Gail Simone as a writer and creator. The thing is that both stories had similar themes and are four months apart, so the comparison is easy to make.)
The banter between the members of the League was the other aspect that made this issue great. It seems that Chaykin has put some thought into who these characters are as people and played them off each other accordingly. Aquaman represents the voice for letting the Untied Nations handle the situation. Batman represents direct action. Flash comes off as the pragmatist who feels that direct action is what they, as heroes, do. Everyone has an opinion, but in the end they act as a group. Not to get too political, but it seems that the League is America as a microcosm. I'm not saying this is what the United States is doing now, I'm saying that frankly this is what we should be, which is what this type of fiction is all about.
Anyway... (He writes, trying to avoid becoming too political in a comic book review.)
For me, aside from the sequence where J'onn telepathically links the League during the President's address to the United Nations my favorite moment came from the first scene with Superman and Batman. In one page Chaykin sums up what makes Superman the hero that he is. He gave Superman a line that stuck with me throughout the issue.
"My world is built around the idea that I refuse to allow the world to be terrified."
If that isn't Superman, I don't know what is. As cynical as some of Chaykin's past work is he gives us a Superman who will not give up because that is who the character is.
If nothing else I can look at this page and think, "This story was worth it."
In all honesty I think this story arc will be nothing but good. Chaykin has set up a story I've wanted to see ever since I saw a piece of art Alex Ross did for a series that was supposed to act as a kind of prequel to Kingdom Come. The piece had Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Robin (I believe) in their secret identities and I thought wouldn't it be neat to see these people have to get out of the costumes to stop whatever menace they are dealing with? The last page gave that same feeling of excitement that the Ross piece did.
This is going to be good.
Art - 4: You know, the art by Kilian Plunkett and Tom Nguyen wasn't as slick as I usually like to see but it really served the story. The rough quality matched Chaykin's story and the storytelling was strong. You can really tell that Tom Nguyen inked this issue, especially in the panel where Superman uttered that line I liked so much. The backgrounds were detailed and Plunkett and Nguyen did just as well with the super-heroes as they did with the people of the South American countries featured in the story. I was especially impressed with the way they laid out the scene where J'onn brought them together during the United Nation's address. Each character is doing what they do best and are in their own milieu but still connected to each other. It was a great scene in a book full of fantastic art.
Cover Art - 4: So is this JLA Classified or Superman/Batman? I'm slightly confused because it is 2:30 in the morning and I had to review both books this week.
In all seriousness I liked the cover from this issue. You don't get much more iconic than Superman and Batman jumping into battle with masked men. Like the interiors the cover isn't as slick as I like but I am enough of a fan of the medium to know a good cover when I see it. I can't think of any legitimate complaints about this piece of art.
Check out the Comic Index Lists for the complete list of Superman-related comics published in 2006.