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Mild Mannered Reviews - JLA Comics

JLA: Classified #12

JLA: Classified #12

Scheduled to arrive in stores: September 28, 2005

Cover date: November 2005

Writter: Warren Ellis
Penciller: Butch Guice
Inker: Butch Guice

"New Maps of Hell" - Part Three

Reviewed by: Michael Bailey

Click to enlarge

The members of the Justice League assemble in the Watchtower to examine the black sheets of paper covered in green glowing letters that were found at various scenes of catastrophe around the world. Oracle informs them that the text is Sumerian script but all of her contacts are telling her that it is gibberish. Batman suspects it of being a code, a code that Superman believes may be too dangerous to release to a single specialist.

J'onn believes that the explosions were caused by a story, one that goes back to his home world of Mars. The tale is etched into a space halfway up the side of a volcanic plateau that is known as Tharsis. The story tells of the time that the polytheistic society was visited by the god of terror who lived apart from the other gods. The god claimed that he would make terror upon the people. If they failed he would scar them, if they fought against him he would annihilate them and if they bested him they would become him. Generations of philosophers studied the text not only for the story but for the apparent code buried within the supposed nonsense of the text. In the story two hundred million Martians died and they were too weak to be worth annihilating.

Oracle asks about the code. J'onn explains that they chose not to express the coded information because they gleaned a sense of what it was. Being a telepathic race they were aware of the possibilities of ideas, which are like viruses. They came to believe that the code hid a sequence of ideas that worked as a mechanism. Decoding the text would activate the memetic machine and they were aware of what the machine would do.

Superman believes that someone had a team decoding the gibberish. J'onn agrees, pointing out that the disasters are simply a prelude. The god of terror emerged from a world within a world that was outside of time and filled with monsters. The idea-technology was suspected to be a system to bring back the devil.

Batman orders Oracle to find a new decoding so they can understand what is going on. Superman, Wonder Woman and Flash also pitch in to help decode the material. The group decides to confront the man who controlled several of the operations they had been investigating.

The League travels to the White House and meet with President Luthor. J'onn demands that he tell them of the ancient documents they found at the scenes of destruction. Luthor finally reveals that it was part of weapons research that Lexcorp had won the contract to fair and square. They were found in the remains of an ancient city in southern Iraq where the people had been killed but the building remained standing. They found the documents there, which were indestructible and outside of their knowledge. The military applications of what happened in the city were too good to overlook.

Suddenly, Oracle informs the League that something is happening in Las Vegas. The Flash races off just in time to see a creature emerge from a pit spewing energy in the air. The League immediately teleports to the scene and after making a quick battle plan they go into action.

5Story - 5: The story arc I thought I was going to despise continues to surprise and entertain me. I really have no real complaints about this issue. The way Ellis has structured the story has been nothing short of fantastic and I am very curious why this story has been sitting on a shelf (if that is the case) for so many years when it is heads and tales above many of the arcs that had been running in JLA for the past two years.

I mean this story was a lot better than the Chuck Austen arc. Maybe the fact that it takes place when Luthor is still President presented some problems.

Ellis really made J'onn J'onzz shine in this issue. He played up the alien aspect of the character and gave him quirks that made for some amusing bits of dialogue. His annoyance at how the humans refer to the planet as Mars was funny but put into the dialogue in such a way that you really almost missed it. J'onn almost came off as arrogant in this issue, but I think that is the way Ellis writes. He isn't trying to act superior; it is just the alien nature that Ellis seems to see in the character.

This is a quintessential Justice League story with that Ellis flair that sets it apart. Everything about the League's action in this story screamed that this was the group of heroes on the planet. The way they marched on the White House was fantastic. If it were any other President besides Luthor it would have gone down different, but this group knows who Luthor is so the respect they would have normally given the office was gone. J'onn and Kyle's comments were great and showed how much they disliked Luthor.

If I were the type to read too deeply into the text you could almost see that Ellis may be writing out his feelings on our current President. The fact that Iraq is referred to as well as the reference to hiding in a cave could point to the similarities between the actions in this book and what is going on in the real world. I really don't care one way or the other because the story is so good, but the subtext could be seen and read that way.

In any interpretation this is a great story. I have mentioned many times that I was set to dislike this arc, but my reaction has been quite the opposite. My only hope is that the ending lives up to the quality of the previous issues.

5Art - 5: Guice's artwork, like the writing, has been consistently good. The League looks great and the page layouts balance well against the story. The scenes with Oracle and her flashbacks were particularly stunning. The sequence with the League "marching on Washington" was paced beautifully. I really liked how he focused on the boots before showing the uncertainty on the faces of the Secret Service and showing the wide shot of the League walking shoulder to shoulder like the astronauts in the film The Right Stuff.

My only real complaint about this issue was Kyle. I really do not like the armor Guice added to his costume. It looks bulky and out of place. Other than that I think that Butch Guice is doing some of his best work since his run on the CrossGen book Ruse.

3Cover Art - 3: Michael Stribling's covers, while nice to look at, really don't do much to promote the story within. I can't argue that they are done badly. In fact this was a great group shot, but the fact of the matter is that Butch Guice should be doing the covers. His interior art has been spectacular. Of course, I usually side with the theory that the cover should have something to do with the story, so maybe that is coloring my review of the cover. It does attract attention, but just to the cover not to the story inside.

This cover receives a seven out of ten on the 2005 Edition of the Grab Me Meter.

Mild Mannered Reviews


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

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