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Mild Mannered Reviews - JLA Comics

Justice League Elite #6

Justice League Elite #6

Scheduled to arrive in stores: December 15, 2004

Cover date: February 2005

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

"The Aftermath: Part Two"

Reviewed by: Michael Bailey

Al-Sheikh sleeps at his desk before being awakened by a nightmare involving his late wife. He goes to light a cigarette and finds an envelope in his ash tray. The note reads, "Who do you trust?"

Meanwhile at Mercy Hospital in Chicago bystanders and staff are shocked to see Green Lantern, Mister Terrific, Power Girl, Menagerie and a disguised Green Arrow bursting in with the injured form of Hawkgirl in tow. Green Arrow demands that the staff get a bed ready and soon Mister Terrific and Doctor Mid-Nite are operating on the wounded hero.

On the roof of the hospital Kasumi tries to make a report of the incident that led up to Hawkgirl's injuries, but her shadowy principle tells her it makes no difference since she is out of the Elite. Kasumi retorts that they need her, but the man in the shadows feels that they need to be put down. He asks her how many people she will watch die, but Kasumi interrupts him by pointing out that if Hawkgirl dies it will be her fault. She takes off her mask to reveal a face full of scars and begs the man to listen to her report. Reluctantly he agrees.

She begins by recapping what led up to the battle in Chicago. The Elite, through the brother of their member Coldcast, had begun an investigation into an alien/meta-human drug ring known as the Aftermath. Coldcast was using his brother's connection to get in good with the organization, a plan that was succeeding until the Justice Society intervened and confronted Coldcast and his brother Christopher on the streets of Chicago. Coldcast overacted and attacked Power Girl, Green Lantern and Mister Terrific. The attack had little effect and Green Lantern reminds the two that Power Girl had asked them a question. Mister Terrific informs them that the JSA received a tip that Coldcast and Christopher would be there and that the authorities are en route. He offers clemency if they give them Aftermath.

Scared, Christopher asks Coldcast if his previous display of power was the best he had. Coldcast replies no and tells the JSA to leave. Mister Terrific is disappointed at what he considers another black stereotype with super powers and tells Lantern its trash day. Suddenly, Vera Black, in her Miss Morphine disguise, and Kasumi, in her role as the Nothing, attack.

From a distance Green Arrow, dressed in a black costume, and Menagerie watch the melee. Menagerie comments on how bad the situation is, but Green Arrow is quick to point out that the JSA are pros so collateral damage will be kept to a minimum. He opens a secure line to Al-Sheikh and informs him of the situation. Al-Sheikh tells them to contain the battle and to not break cover. He wants the JSA to take a few lumps and then the Elite should divert the JSA's attention and disappear. He ends the transmission after telling Arrow that he will do what he can for the group.

As Hawkgirl takes on Kasumi and the Flash, in his guise of Supersonic, battles Power Girl, Major Disaster and Manitou watch the battle. Major Disaster comments to Manitou on how his teammates have no idea that they are enjoying the freedom of cutting loose and being bad. Disaster turns and suddenly asks who the snake that killed the President of Changsha is, leading Manitou to ask if his companion is well.

On the ground Christopher unloads both of his guns at Black Canary, but the Flash travels faster than the eye can follow and catches the bullets. Green Lantern regains his composure and asks Terrific what is wrong with the situation. Terrific replies that they're not dead as Lantern attacks Vera. Vera decides that she has had enough of the situation and orders her group to pick someone and take them down, adding that they should make it look painful.

Hawkgirl gets a solid hit on Kasumi, who drops to the ground. Coldcast leaps to her aid and catches her, but is shocked when he sees the part of her scarred face through a whole in her mask. Kasumi tells him that Hawkgirl is coming back around and to drop her. Elsewhere Black Canary uses her sonic scream to knock Flash into a nearby car. While musing on her joining her old comrades for a "night out" she hears a sniper from the roof above her. She catches the arrow that was fired at her and is surprised to find a note written on it that tells her that they are undercover and that the JSA should concede the fight.

After telling Terrific about the ruse he orders the JSA to regroup. At the same time Vera Black orders her team to get out as well with Major Disaster providing a distraction with a gas main, adding that she wants the distraction to be all show with no damage.

Power Girl and Hawkgirl continue to take on Coldcast and Kasumi. From a distance Major Disaster comments how the distraction he needs to cause is going to do wonders for his hangover. Manitou begins to counsel caution, but Disaster goes ahead anyway and manipulates Coldcast's powers, causing them to go out of control. The blast is incredible and causes Kasumi to fall into Hawkgirl. Kasumi's swords fall into her as well, but Kasumi had some control and managed to avoid Hawkgirl's spine. Kasumi begins to feel guilty about the incident and dwells on whether or not Hawkgirl will die.

The man in the shadows tells her not to go there yet and begins to talk about how charismatic Vera Black is. He asks Kasumi if she has faith in her and Kasumi replies that she does. The man in the shadows informs her that he had faith as well, but ever since Changsha something has changed. He doesn't know what it is yet though he suspects she has a clue to what it is. Kasumi begins to peel the scar make-up off of her face and asks what he is requesting her to do. When the make-up is finally off Batgirl's face is revealed and Batman steps out of the shadows. He tells her that he is not asking her anything, but he is telling her that she is off the case before whatever is poisoning the Elite gets to her as well.

Back at the Elite's headquarters Vera slams Major Disaster against a locker and aims a gun at his head made out of one of her cybernetic arms. She screams that she can still smell the alcohol on him and accuses him of being drunk on duty. Disaster corrects her saying that he was hung over, but it doesn't wash with Vera. She asks what is wrong with him and adds that Hawkgirl might die because he couldn't control his power. Disaster asks her why it matters since they can just cover it up and insinuates that the group will let any of their members kill at least one person. Vera's other arm forms metal claws and she goes to stab Disaster, but Manitou intervenes with his staff. He demands that they apologize to each other or the poison that continues to kill their small tribe will be hastened. Vera doesn't apologize, but she does back down and tells Disaster that if he touches another drop she'll take his liver. She orders Manitou to do his hocus pocus thing to find the killer on the team that night. Manitou protests, telling her that the Eye is not primed, but she wants the killer found that night.

Elsewhere in the complex Kasumi begins to pack up her weapons as Coldcast tells her that the team needs her. He adds that if the case with Aftermath goes anywhere there is no one to replace her and that what happened wasn't her fault. Suddenly she throws a sword at him, which hits right next to his head. She tells him that it was her fault since she controls blades as he controls his fingers. He tries to appeal to her and strokes her face, asking if she is worried that something like what caused her scars would happen again. He asks why she keeps her face covered and she replies that it is a reminder of her past when she thought she was ugly.

He points to his eyes, which are almost completely white, and jokes that he shouldn't be talking since he is so fine. He takes her hands and tells her that everyone has an ugly past and begins to talk about the now, but notices that Menagerie is hovering above them. Before the situation can get more awkward Coldcast is saved by the ringing of his cell phone. He answers it and is informed that Aftermath wants to meet with them.

Soon after, Vera briefs Al-Sheikh on how the meeting is going to go down as her arms are being fixed. She tells him that they will be wired with Menagerie's bug bugs and she will pump out a G.P.S. beacon every few seconds at a random pattern. Green Arrow, Menagerie and Booker will serve as back-up and Manitou is whipping up his special mojo, so he is off the run. She figures they get inside, see what Aftermath's big scheme is and the second they lock it down he's finished.

Al-Sheikh asks her is there anything she needs to tell him. Vera comments on the fetching Galabiyya he is wearing, but Al-Sheikh wants to be reminded that they are doing good work and that his trust is not misplaced. Vera assures him that Hawkgirl is not going to die and that another mistake won't be made. He tells her that is what he wanted to hear, but he also holds a note that reads that someone on his team is a murderer.

At the meeting Coldcast's brother tells the aliens his version of what happened with the JSA. Coldcast tells him to stop, but Christopher is insistent that Coldcast convince them how great they were. The aliens tell them that they already know since they saw everything. Vera, as Miss Morphine, tells them that she knew they set them up against the JSA. The alien corrects her, saying that is was Aftermath set it up as a final audition. Aftermath needed to test the make of their mettle and they have pleased him, which isn't easy.

Coldcast asks where Aftermath is and the alien tells him to close the door. After a bit of protest he does leading the alien to immediately tell him to open the door. Coldcast becomes annoyed, but his brother tells him to calm down and opens the door himself. Christopher, Coldcast and Vera are shocked to see a giant alien craft in the vast depths of space. From their hiding place Major Disaster tells Arrow and Menagerie that the group is off the radar.

On the space craft the alien informs the group that they have only been privy to part of Aftermath's work. Aftermath himself works from the top of the stars and that the heroin they were dealing is not a simple narcotic. A voice calls to them and stops the alien from speaking. The alien orders them to bow before Aftermath, who tells them that he needs to know who he is dealing with, but since he is quite smashed out of his mind he is going to leave the inquisition to his associate, Mister Wolfwood.

3Story - 3: Wow, this issue didn't suck.

Okay, that was crass and probably unnecessary. I mean it's not fair to just wail on a book because you haven't liked it in the past. I am an adult who is capable of seeing that not all comics are terrible (except for YOUNGBLOOD) and have some good in them (except for YOUNGBLOOD). In the past two reviews I have been vocal in my feelings that while the concept is good I really don't care for how Kelly is handling it. Not that I think I could come up with a better way to do it, but there is something about Kelly's writing that was very unappealing.

This issue, however, was paced better and the character work has improved. The way Kelly structured the fight between the JSA and the Elite was handled very well, especially the flashback angle. I thought that this was the clearest storytelling that Kelly has pulled off in this series and it was nice that every character was identified in case a reader was picking up the book for the first time. I didn't feel any of the confusion or ambiguity that I did from the first story arc, which was nice.

Kelly threw in some of his signature character flourishes in this issue as well. Power Girl was, in what few lines she had, in character, especially with the chest joke. Vera just keeps getting better and better. Also I liked what he did with Coldcast. The interaction he had with Kasumi added something to his character, even if it didn't make him particularly likable. I mean he was made out to be kind of a dog. A caring dog, but a dog nonetheless. This doesn't mean that I won't like the character, in fact between Coldcast and Vera Black I may actually end up liking the series.

The revelation that not only is Kasumi really Batgirl, but that Batman sent her in to watch the team was a surprise and made perfect sense. Despite my problem with Batman being portrayed as the most perfect person on the face of the Earth with how Kelly has staged the series, it works. Batman, more than any of the other members of the League, would want the concept of the Elite to work. He would also be the most suspicious and since he is Batman he will take some kind of proactive steps towards keeping the situation contained.

Another reason I like this is it adds something to the character of Batgirl. As much as I like Batgirl she has never really been defined as a character. Her series was entertaining at first, but after the original creative team left the book has floundered and I really didn't like it when Batman was cast into the role of overprotective father. This characterization works and makes her a little more human. She is obviously torn between her duty to Batman and her feelings towards her teammates. Batgirl has never been part of an organized team before, so it is interesting to see how she reacts to the feelings she develops for her teammates.

It was also nice for Kelly to pay off the Major Disaster waking up hung over bit from the previous issue. I was a bit confused, but it worked out nicely. For us, though, not for Hawkgirl. She got the raw end of that deal, though it did serve to show how this team, while trying to do good, keeps messing up, which humanizes the book.

The main thing I enjoyed about this series is that Kelly has backed off from the one-liners and stuck to telling a clear, entertaining and interesting story. I think that Kelly is a very gifted writer, but has the tendency to fall back on witty dialogue instead of doing what he does best, which is character work. His run on DEADPOOL showed that he can write well, but his run on JLA and ACTION COMICS had a tendency to ramble, especially in later parts of his tenure on those books. Now we are getting a better story and a better read.

The only question I have is how did the representatives from the Aftermath set-up and watch the entire battle with the JSA and not see Green Arrow, in his disguise, follow the members of the JSA to the hospital? Did they simply watch the battle until Hawkgirl was impaled and then leave? This seems unlikely as the group has considerable resources. You would think they would pay attention to the entire battle, not just the parts they want to see.

Other than that I rather enjoyed this issue. It was clear, concise and exciting. I'm actually looking forward to the next issue. I just hope he pays off this killer in the group sub-plot soon.

And for one, final thought; what do you bet that the writer of the notes sent to Al-Sheikh is either Batman or someone being controlled by Manchester Black? Any takers?

4Art - 4: Artwork wise this is the best issue thus far. I think that Mahnke and Nguyen did a fantastic job pacing the fight between the JSA and the Elite. There was a great balance between action and detail. They did an especially good job on Aftermath's ship. The shot had a great cosmic feel to it, which contrasted the gritty nature the artwork previously displayed.

Although I usually don't like Mahnke and Nguyen's artwork I thought they did a great job on this issue. I hope the future issues keep up the good work.

3Cover Art - 3: This was a fairly common cover. It was nice, don't get me wrong. The artwork was good, the composition was good and the color scheme worked out nicely. But it was pretty common and as much as I disliked the cover to the previous issue at least it got your attention.

This cover receives a Four on 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.

January 2005

February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005

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