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Mild Mannered Reviews - JLA Comics

JLA-Z #1

JLA-Z #1 (of 3)

Scheduled to arrive in stores: September 24, 2003

Cover date: November 2003

Text: Mike McAvennie
Art: Jim Lee, Walt Simonsen, Dan Jurgens, etal.
Cover: Phil Jimenez

Reviewed by: Barry Freiman (barryfreiman@ameritech.net)



According to the cover of JLA-Z #1, this 3-issue series is meant to be a "Guide to the World's Greatest Super-Heroes". And the timing couldn't be better with JLA/Avengers bringing a bunch of Marvel readers into the DC Universe. Thankfully, DC eschewed -- at least temporarily -- its typical "Who's Who" format (which started to feel old before the end of the first Who's Who series, let alone the plethora of Who's Who books, and Who's Who pages in the Secret Files& Origins books of late) in favor of a one page picture accompanied by a one paragraph caption detailing the heroes' origins and/or significance to the Justice League.

Issue 1 covers letters A-G and while Batman of course received a page, there was no page for the Batcave even though there were entries for Flash (Barry Allen), Flash (Wally West), AND the Flash Museum of all things. Actually, the series is intended as a sister publication to JLA/Avengers and its late arrival (the first issue was originally slated for release simultaneously with JLA/Avengers # 1) helps highlight that point to those who have already read the first issue of the long-awaited DC/Marvel crossover. When the Avengers in JLA/Avengers #1 come to the DC Universe, the Flash Museum is amongst the DC mainstays that the Avengers point to as evidence that the JLA treat themselves as "Gods" in their world. DC responds to the Avengers' critique of the Flash Museum, some might say, with the first sentence of their paragraph about the Flash Museum: "Within a year of Barry Allen's debut as The Flash, the already grateful citizens of Central City financed the construction of a Flash Museum celebrating his exploits." So there, Avengers, the people decided to build the museum, not the Flash!

There isn't much that relates directly to the Man of Steel in this first issue (excluding the two-page ad for Smallville), though his image appears along with countless others on the cover by Phil Jimenez who continues to channel the spirit of George Perez in his "real looking" comic book characters and ability to include scores of characters massed together.

Issue 1 of the Guide covers Amazo, Aquaman, Atom, Batman, Black Canary, Blue Beetle and Booster Gold, Captain Atom, Captain Marvel, Chronos, the Crime Syndicate, Darkseid, Despero, the Elongated Man, the Extremists, Firestorm, the previously mentioned Flash entries, the General, and Green Arrow. The artwork is inconsistent as is usually the case with these types of showcase books, from a Jim Lee Batman (not Jim's best work and depicting the Batman in what has by this point become the Jim Lee pose) to a really interesting interpretation of Billy Batson and Captain Marvel by Scott Kolins.

2Story - 2: There isn't a story, you say, so how do I give a "2" to a non-story for story? Because the book is a sister publication to the JLA/Avengers crossover and the inclusion of the Flash Museum shows that DC actually thought about how to make JLA/Avengers reader-friendly to Marvel readers who don't know the history of the DC Universe. All of the text is written by Mike McAvennie and the focus of each short paragraph is on two points: origins and connection to the Justice League. The lack of meaningless statistics, like Batman's height and hair color, is very welcome.

One bone of contention that remains from the Who's Who days is the anal retentive alphabetical listing that relegates Superman and Wonder Woman to the last issue. The alphabet is boring -- that's why we only make children recite it. It might be more fun and spontaneous to readers in the future to present these types of gallery issues in some other format -- for instance, a chronological gallery that begins with the original JLA members and covers their bad guys as they faced the JLA for the first time might have been a bit more interesting and would convert the book from Gallery to actual story.

3Art - 3: As stated above, the artwork is provided by a variety of artists and the quality of the art ranges from poor (Scott McDaniel and Rob Stull on Elongated Man) to typical (Lee's Batman) to occasionally interesting (such as Captain Marvel and Chronos by Peter Pachoumis and Aaron Sowd).

SPOILER ALERT: Aquaman appears to be in for another change of costume, though long time readers will likely welcome the change.

4Cover Art - 4: Phil Jimenez is a talented artist. Except that talented artist is George Perez. I like Perez's realistic artwork very much and therefore I also like Jimenez's art. Every time I see a cover loaded with DC icons, my mind races back to 1985 and Perez's Crisis on Infinite Earths. As a fanboy, covers like these are fun -- especially once all three issues are released as the three covers form one picture of an awful lot of heroes. However, there are numerous characters on the cover who don't appear in the issue even though their names begin with A-G: including the Bronze Tiger, Blue Devil, Dolphin, Atom Smasher, Big Barda, and Animal Man. As fun as Jimenez's covers for this guide are, the artist might have displayed a bit more ingenuity and creativity by limiting himself to the heroes and villains appearing in the particular issue.


Mild Mannered Reviews

2003

Note: Month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic went on sale.

January 2003

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