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Mild Mannered Reviews - JLA Comics

JLA #100

JLA #100

Scheduled to arrive in stores: May 26, 2004

Cover date: July 2004

Writer: Joe Kelly
Penciller: Doug Mahnke
Inker: Tom Nguyen


John-Paul Zito Reviewed by: John-Paul Zito

Clark Kent wakes up from a nightmare involving Manchester Black safe in his apartment. A foreshadowing of things to come as the Elite make a reappearance on the world stage with a new leader. Her name is Sister Superior and she's Black's little sister out for revenge against the world. Her and the Elite bust into the Senate and declare themselves the new land lords of the planet Earth. This decision doesn't sit well with the JLA who rush into action to take out the resurfaced super villains. Unfortunately the newly reassembled Elite don't go down so easily. A massive battle lays waste to Washington D.C. and takes several JLA members with it as Batman, Flash and Manitou are all killed.

  The world convenes at the U.N. to organize a counter offensive. However they're all so scared they find themselves bickering and turning on one another. Wonder Woman finds her way to the podium and asks them to band together and face the coming threat as one, to forget borders and old feuds but to look towards preservation of the world. Moved by Wonder Woman's words they agree to do just that.

  Later Superman, Wonder Woman and Martian Manhunter use themselves as bait to lure the Elite into a transporter field that teleports them all into a huge military trap set by the whole world. A massive battle ensues as bullets and missiles fly. The world works together against a common enemy. Suddenly the earth moves and takes the shape of a woman. So moved is she by the actions of her children to work together that she agrees not to destroy the world herself.

  It appears as though the planet earth had decided to destroy all life on her soils as it had come to hate one another and destroy the world on which they exist. Major Disaster was the first to feel this as wide spread ecological disasters wrecked havoc over the last few weeks. But it wasn't until Sister Superior contacted the JLA that anyone really knew the magnitude of the event. The JLA and the Elite had staged the whole battle and war just to trick the people of the world, and the earth herself, into working together. That gesture convinced earth to spare the lives of her children.

  Of course the world can never know this. It would ruin the reputation of the JLA and all the heroes in their ranks. The news reports that the Elite have been captured and are imprisoned beneath the Watchtower on the moon. Sister Superior has other plans though. She feels that the Elite's current outlaw status would be a great way for the JLA to get inside the underworld of super-hero crime; that the Elite could be the undercover arm of the JLA working to prevent extinction level events that the JLA contend with only after they've begun. Superman is suspicious of the idea and feels that such a proactive agenda is too dangerous, he shuts down the idea without debate. However some are not so inclined to agree with their fearless leader. As the Elite walk off, back to their world of shadows they take a few JLA members with them...

To Be Continued in Justice League Elite #1...

4Story - 4: It's good to have Joe Kelly back. I really enjoyed his run on JLA and I'm glad they let him come back and polish off the 100th issue. There are a number of fantastic elements in this book that encapsulate Kelly's JLA themes and story execution gimmicks.

  The most obvious and famous Kelly element is the return of the Elite, a group of characters that starred in the best Superman story to come out in the modern era (Action Comics #775)... of course that's one guy's opinion. Here Kelly has the opportunity to bring his inventions full circle. As they were introduced they were unconscionable "heroes" out to stop bad guys no matter the cost to civilian lives or their own souls. After the mental breakdown of their leader, Manchester Black, many of them came face to face with the price of their actions. Now here they've reformed their ways and are playing ball with the JLA. This change of character doesn't feel contrived or forced. Thanks to Kelly's methodical turn of events over the last few years I'm invested in these reformed villains who see the error of their ways.

  In this issues, as he has in many others, Kelly plays with the passage of time. He builds the tension of mystery by skipping through time like a Tarantino movie to keep the story one step ahead of the readers at all times. Little by little the past unravels as it becomes relevant to the present of the story. It works best here in a stand alone issue, as it did in Kelly's very first JLA issue way back when, as opposed to jumping through time over a longer arc.

  One of the smaller Kelly touches that I really enjoyed was the dream Superman has in the first few pages. His nightmare isn't so much a flash back of Manchester Black's evil deeds as it is a metaphorical representation of Superman's fear. Fears that Superman keeps locked up in his head about losing the Earth, or everyone he loves, to a mad man with unlimited power. Too often dream sequences can be hokey and obvious foreshadowing, but here Kelly manages to serve the story by reminding us who Manchester Black was, as well as reminding us that Superman isn't totally impervious to everything. Somethings can get under that invulnerable skin and worm their way into his head and affect the way he conducts himself like anyone else would be.

  Most importantly I thought the little stain Kelly left on the JLA as he left was most interesting. The JLA have lied to the public about the Elite and the giant end of the world battle for their own good. I hope this decision has consequences for the JLA, an organization that depends on the trust of the people to effectively do their job. How are the JLA any different than the Elite when they start bending the rules themselves? Interesting elements I hope we can see played out, if not in JLA then maybe in the JLE miniseries coming out soon.

  My only real gripe is continuity related. An editing mistake more than anything else. Pete Ross appears as the V.P. which is no big deal in and of itself since Faith is also in this month's issue despite the fact that last issue she left for the Doom Patrol. So we could easily assume this issue takes place months ago before the events that led to Luthor's down fall. But there Faith has a throw away line about joining the Doom Patrol that mixed me all up.

  So I guess this is farewell to Joe Kelly. It's been nice reading your work, I hope you have the opportunity to do a few fill-in issues here and there for us. I know I'd appreciate it.

5Art - 5: As always Mahnke doesn't disappoint. The page where the Elite are teleported into the JLA's trap is priceless. I laughed out loud it had me so giddy for the fight to come. And with a pair of extended slugfests in this issue I was impressed at the diversity that Mahnke was able to conjure up in his pencils. Mahnke draws a great Superman at the end of his rope... He doesn't draw him crazy or deranged like one might draw Batman in the same position. Instead his bruised and battered face becomes incredibly focused and becomes strangely alien.

  Congratulations to Mahnke and Nguyen for putting their truly original take on the JLA.

3Cover Art - 3: It's a great concept. The JLA siding with their enemy against their leader. The character's all have very distinct facial expressions and the gun to Superman's neck is a wonderfully powerful image. Unfortunately there's no background and colorless beyond the character's knees.

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