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Mild Mannered Reviews - JLA Comics

JLA #116

JLA #116

Scheduled to arrive in stores: July 13, 2005

Cover date: September 2005

Writer: Geoff Johns & Allan Heinberg
Penciller: Chris Batista
Inker: Mark Farmer

"Crisis of Conscience" - Part Two

Reviewed by: Barry Freiman

Click to enlarge

The Secret Society of Super Villains - the Wizard, Felix Faust, Chronos, Star Sapphire, Matter Master, and the Floronic Man - stand before Batman, J'onn, and Catwoman and the bodies of the beaten League. The Society knows Bruce is Batman. Wizard asks Batman how he'd feel if someone stole his mind.

Batman and Catwoman work on diverting the villains while J'onn uses his mental powers to wake up the other Leaguers.

Batman tells Catwoman this isn't her fight, but she helps anyway. As the villains gloat, Wizard insinuates that the Society had been assisted by an unseen benefactor.

Faust snares Catwoman in enchanted circles of fire. Batman comes to her aid but he is attacked by the Floronic Man.

Hawkman smashes Floronic Man's head with his mace. Because Hawkman cut off Matter Master's arm (in the pages of "Hawkman"), the Matter Master retaliates by taking control of Hawkman's shield and using it as a saw that cuts into his arm.

Green Lantern Hal Jordan protects the Flash and Ralph Dibny (Elongated Man, currently powerless because he hasn't drunk any gingold).

As Matter Master continues to torture Hawkman, he's taken out of action by the Black Canary's sonic scream. Green Arrow pulls the shield out of Hawkman's arm. Chronos uses his powers to detonate the time bomb arrow in GA's quiver.

As the battle rages, J'onn and Zatanna help the civilians trapped in the building. J'onn's Martian vision is clouded by the combined magic of Wizard and Faust. Faust prepares to sacrifice a black cat for a magical incantation when Catwoman jumps on him from behind. He cuts her instead and uses her blood. As the combined League prepares to face down the combined Secret Society, Faust's incantation is complete and the Society disappears in a blinding flash of light.

Flash super-speeds through Gotham 10 times and concludes the Society is gone. J'onn's telepathy isn't able to trace them. Canary asks Zatanna about the symbol in Faust's pentagram of blood. Zatanna explains that it is a third eye that sees and knows all of their secrets and sins. Batman and Catwoman slip away from the rest. Flash collects the torn apart pieces of the robotic Red Tornado.

Later, in the Batcave, Alfred and Bruce tend to the unconscious Catwoman's wounds. Alfred leaves to prepare a room for Catwoman to spend the night in Wayne Manor.

Suddenly, Batman is confronted by the League. J'onn tells him to listen. Zatanna speaks for the Leaguers who took part in the mind wipes and she attempts to take responsibility fully for the decision to mind wipe Batman. She says she's sorry and wants to make things right. Batman just wants them to leave.

GA retorts angrily that they need to join forces and stop the Secret Society. Black Canary says that they all need each other and Batman angrily responds that they didn't need him when they lobotomized Dr. Light, and Felix Faust, "or anyone else for that matter."

Hawkman defends what they did and tells Batman that all they did was take 10 minutes away from him. Given Dr. Light's threats to kill Sue Dibny, Hawkman wants to know what is more important to Batman - the 10 minutes during which Batman would have stopped them from lobotomizing Dr. Light or his friends? Batman swings a mean right hook across Hawkman's face and says that friends would never have done that to him. GL uses his ring to separate Batman and Hawkman.

Batman takes Catwoman in his arms and carries her up the stairs toward Wayne Manor. He tells the team they need to protect themselves because, if the bad guys remember what the JLA did to them, they probably also know why they did it - in other words, to protect their loved ones. With that realization, the heroes separate, running off to protect their loved ones.

J'onn is alone in the Batcave with the pieces of Red Tornado.

Back at the Watchtower, J'onn teleports in and sees someone sitting in the communications room.

Someone who says: "Someone has given the Secret Society their memories back. I wonder who that could've been."

It's Despero.

5Story - 5: As a Superman fan reviewing a non-Superman book for the Superman Homepage, the most exciting thing about this comic book for fellow Superman fans takes place in the "next issue box". The next issue description reads in part: "The Secret Society of Super Villains goes after their first target: Superman's wife, Lois Lane!" Now that sounds super-interesting.

Superman's involvement is certainly inevitable, but it doesn't take place in this issue.

This time around, Batman and J'onn continue to take center stage in a heavily action-oriented issue. Last issue's cliffhanger promised a slam-bang no holds barred battle between the JLA and the Secret Society and this issue delivers. The battle sequence is well-choreographed given the legion of super heroes and villains on hand.

The story reads much like "Identity Crisis II" and is probably more deserving of the title "Identity Crisis" than even "Identity Crisis" - though "Crisis of Conscience" has a nice ring to it. A rose is a rose, though, and, in the DCU, a crisis is a crisis. Between actions here and events taking place over in the four-part "Sacrifice" (over in the three "Superman" books and "Wonder Woman"), it's clear that the real crisis here is how woefully unprepared a fractured, untrusting assemblage of tainted heroes will be for the coming "Infinite Crisis".

5Art - 5: The art and lettering make things seem a bit claustrophobic at times but the truth is, with a storyline this big, involving nine superheroes, six super-villains, one guest-starring feline heroine/villainess depending on the day of the week, and one galaxy decimating purple finned despot, it belongs in a tabloid-sized book.

The face-off of heroes and villains with the injured, shadowed Catwoman right in the middle is an inspired image that aptly summarizes the entire story.

Is it just me or is Batman's bat symbol slowly evolving to become more like the symbol used in "Batman Begins"? Should we Superman fans resign ourselves now to Superman being drawn with a smaller "S" logo that protrudes up off the fabric, and inked with darker, more muted colors once "Superman Returns" comes out?

4Cover Art - 4: Batman's got a mean right hook in the comic, but, on the cover, it's his left arm that connects his fist with Hawkman's beak.

Nice bats though.

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

January 2005

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