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Mild Mannered Reviews - JLA Comics

JLA #119

JLA #119

Scheduled to arrive in stores: September 28, 2005

Cover date: Late November 2005

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

"Crisis of Conscience" - Part Five: Conclusion

Reviewed by: Barry Freiman

Click to enlarge

The mind-controlled Batman, J'onn, and Aquaman attack Catwoman in the Batcave. Catwoman calls for help on the Justice League Communicator in the Bat-Computer. In the blink of an eye, the super-cavalry arrives at the Batcave.

The heroes all jump Despero but slowly he turns more of them to his mental control. First Black Canary. Then Green Lantern. The League is engaged in all out civil war in the Batcave. The Canary cry shatters the case holding Jason Todd's Robin costume.

The battle shakes the foundations of stately Wayne Manor. Bruce Wayne's butler, Alfred, is shocked when Superman comes crashing up into the Manor from the Batcave below. The mind-controlled Batman follows but he's pummeled by Hawkman.

Despero attacks Superman and is about to attempt to bring Superman under his telepathic mind control when the android Red Tornado blasts Despero. Despero focuses his power on Superman again - but then Zatanna returns. With a few carefully uttered backwards words, Despero is subdued and the League is free from his mind control.

While not everyone (read: Batman) is happy Zatanna used magic to stop Despero, Zatanna defends her actions and then disappears with a promise to clean up the mess of the Secret Society.

Catwoman hands a seemingly injured Alfred over to Batman and leaves. Superman offers to help but Batman asks the heroes to leave.

The heroes discuss the future of the League. Batman has quit. Wonder Woman isn't returning to the team. Green Lantern, Aquaman, Green Arrow, Black Canary, and Red Tornado haven't been JLA members in years. And Hawkman's team affiliation is the JSA. That makes the JLA roll call just J'onn, Superman, GL John Stewart (not present), and the Flash. The Flash also resigns.

Superman expresses confidence in J'onn's ability to rebuild the League - which he's done over and over. Superman promises that, when whatever JLA forms from the dust, he'll be there.

Meanwhile, at Belle Reve, Zatanna stands before the Secret Society and magically compels them to forget the heroes' identities.

Back in the Batcave, Batman stares at pictures of Catwoman. J'onn materializes and suggests that this isn't just about Batman but that, to Batman, this is about Catwoman as well. Once Batman's sworn enemy, she worked with the Secret Society for a time - did her "decision" to ally herself with Batman's allies rather than his enemies grow out of free will or more mental manipulation?

John Stewart communicates with J'onn as they discuss potential new JLA members. They're looking over a roster of heroes including Zauriel, Blue Beetle, Nightwing, Vixen, Fire, Gypsy, Metamorpho, Huntress, Firestorm, Booster Gold, Hawkgirl, and Animal Man. J'onn updates Beetle's JLA file to mark him as deceased.

J'onn posits whether Beetle had it right, after all, that recent events are part of a conspiracy - the OMACs, the Villains United, the Day of Vengeance affecting the worlds of magic, and the intergalactic war between Rann and Thanagar. Just then, the teleporter tube is activated and the computer recognizes that it's Superman.

J'onn suggests to the person whom he thinks is Superman but hasn't seen yet that reorganization is a priority, that he fears all these recent events are somehow connected. The mysterious figure - wearing a red cloak or cape - looks to J'onn and simply says "I know." J'onn looks up and says "Wait... You're..."


Fear and flames engulf the Martian Manhunter as the JLA Watchtower explodes.

Infinite Crisis is here.

5Story - 5: Someone that the Watchtower recognized as Superman blew up my favorite Martian. Kingdom Come Superman? The Golden Age Man of Steel? Ultraman? Supergirl? Geoff Johns???

The set up to the first "Crisis on Infinite Earths" had the DC Multiverse pulling it together one last time. The heroes were pretty much at the top of their game and, still, they had their hands full going up against the Anti-Monitor and the end of all that was.

The "Infinite Crisis" - whatever it is and whoever is pulling its strings - will require emotionally exhausted and, in some cases, morally bankrupt heroes to become better than they currently are on behalf of a greater good. What could be more heroic than that?

It turns out Catwoman's inclusion in this final arc of the "New Pre-Crisis" universe isn't merely coincidence or irony. Personally I hope Batman turns out to be right about Catwoman. Selina Kyle, good guy, is infinitely more boring than Selina Kyle, Batman's feline fatale. In the end, though, it doesn't matter if Batman is right about Catwoman or not. Batman is scared. Everything he takes for granted about his world is crumbling. He's lost his mojo. Having his mind-wiped by Zatanna has made Batman insecure about the world around him. I can think of very little scarier than a Batman without confidence. Especially going into a Crisis-situation.

As if we need any further evidence that the heroes aren't making good choices right now, the JLA just finish self-destructing over the issue of secret identities so what do they do? They hang out on the front lawn of stately Wayne Manor. Clearly the heroes aren't thinking straight. Excellent.

Overall, this story arc has been a necessary final nail in the coffin. It book-ends nicely with "Identity Crisis" and provides a snapshot of disharmony literally at the moment one pre-Crisis universe ends and a new Crisis begins.

5Art - 5: Any artist who can pull off a tough-as-nails Red Tornado is aces in my book. And I'm not just blowin' wind.

Overall, the art on this series has been top-notch. Batista brings grittiness to his work that makes it a step removed from the hyper-reality of a George Perez or Phil Jimenez. For a story that is ultimately about relationships ending, rather than universes being barraged by red skies and anti-matter walls, the art places the story a bit more firmly into our reality rather than in a comic book hyper-reality.

But Catwoman's photo spread in Brucie's scrap book really whips my tail. The acknowledgment of Selina Kyle's many changing costumes reminds me of that moment in Batman graphic novel, "The Killing Joke", where the grim and gritty Batman looks at a photograph of the way things used to be and it's essentially an early Silver Age rendering of the Bat family as they were, including Batwoman, Bat-Mite, and Ace the Bat Hound. No one ever has to say the past happened as it's pictured - even though we all know photographs don't lie absent Photoshop - but it's ambiguous enough to leave it to the reader how literally to take the images.

5Cover Art - 5: This is the moment that DC Comics 'jumps the bat'. Again.

I like this cover a lot. The yellow background is a nice change - there've been quite a few white backgrounds on comic covers of late; black never goes out of style; red is typically reserved to represent carnage beneath the cover. The bright yellow contrasts nicely the mass of darker colors forming the "pile-on-the-Batman" assemblage of heroes. And the similarity between the scene depicted here and the image of the same heroes doing the same thing to Batman in "Identity Crisis" is clever recognition of exactly how destructive that moment was and is to the League.

The uneven book logo adds to the idea that this is a loud and violent end to the JLA. Again.

The only thing on the cover I'm not too crazy about is the "Infinite Crisis is here" blurb. Probably because the six-month countdown from the Countdown to Infinite Crisis was rendered the same way, the most important cover blurb of the year fades into the background.

It's time for a Crisis. Again.

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