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Mild Mannered Reviews - JLA Comics

Justice League Elite #10

Justice League Elite #10

Scheduled to arrive in stores: April 6, 2005

Cover date: June 2005

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

"Eve of Destruction"

Reviewed by: Michael Bailey

Click to enlarge

In the Justice League Watchtower Wally West is angry and demands to know why Batman had placed Batgirl undercover in the Elite. Batman is quick to point out that Wally does understand or he wouldn't be yelling. Wally becomes indignant at the Batman's explanation and accuses him of treating the team like a bunch of criminals. Wally feels that someone should have known. Green Arrow admits that he did know and asks why Wally thought he didn't leave after Changsha. Wally makes a quick little dig at Green Arrow referring to his affair with Dawn before telling the group that the Elite wasn't supposed to be about secrets and cover-ups. He almost asks if they had learned nothing from the incident with Dr, Light, but Green Arrow shuts him down before he can go on.

Wonder Woman ends the debate by informing the group that Al-Sheikh is waiting for them. Once the League is assembled Al-Sheikh gives the tally of their "grand experiment." Coldcast is in custody at the Slab and awaiting trial for the assassination of a foreign leader. Between the incontrovertible forensic evidence and Coldcast's own confession the case appears to be open and shut. Manitou Raven is dead. Menagerie is missing and presumed dead. Major Disaster is also missing and Al-Sheikh hopes to Allah that he too is dead. Batgirl, the former Kasumi, and Green Arrow have been exonerated by the League.

When Al-Sheikh comes to Vera Black Superman interrupts and informs him that there never was a Vera Black, only Manchester Black posing as Vera. Al-Sheikh agrees, but wonders which one of the members of the League will take responsibility for unleashing that fiasco upon the world.

Elsewhere, in the mind of Vera Black, hundreds of miniature versions of Manchester Black scamper over the chained Vera. As they attempt to "get in" and figure out how Vera's body works they, in turn, question how she thought her idea of the Elite could have worked in the first place.

Back at the Elite's headquarters Al-Sheikh and Dawn talk as Dawn packs up her belongings. He offers to set her up at a hotel in New Delhi where he has a standing reservation at since she no longer has a place to stay. She thanks him and adds that he is very kind. Al-Sheikh disagrees and insists that he is a monster and has failed her, but he does have class and wants her to know that despite the fact that the Factory is closing she will be taken care of if she wishes it. Dawn tells him she can take care of herself since she discovered that she can sell authentic antique Indian pottery on Ebay.

She then hands him Manitou's ax, which will never pierce the skin of a good man. Al-Sheikh at first refuses the offer, but she inists. He finally accepts the ax and asks her about Manitou's medicine stick. She tells him when they burn the poisoned place they now stand in to the ground he can use it for kindling since she believes it is worthless.

Back in Vera's mind Manchester is going through the complex system that is Vera. She asks him how he can be alive. Manchester is pleased that she finally asked the question and begins his story. To him, the whole thing began right after his attempt to break Superman's will and cause him to take a life. Through what he refers to as an addict's clarity he realized that he had become exactly what he hated, so he killed himself. At the last moment, though, he changed his mind and uploaded his consciousness out of his soon-to-be corpse. He knew that he needed a home and found one in a quiet little corner of Vera's head. He chose Vera because they were related and shared similar physiology.

Vera turns and tells him that, in her mind, he is a coward who didn't have the guts to do himself in and then stalked his own sister to take house in her mind. At first Manchester agrees, but then cries out that he has been lying and that she should get it through her head that he did, indeed, commit suicide. Vera doesn't believe him and asks if he implanted the idea for the JLE in the first place. Manchester tells her that she hasn't been listening. Manchester Black is dead and the only one in her mind is her. He reveals that he is just an illusion and that the image of Manchester is a manifestation of her dark side.

Meanwhile in Antarctica, at the maximum security penitentiary The Slab Coldcast is deloused by the guards and brought to see his lawyer. He asks about his mother and is informed that she is strong and more upset about the fact that there is no body to bury than the fact that Christopher is dead and that she didn't leave any word for him. Coldcast isn't surprised and asks about Menagerie. Green Arrow, who is sitting next to the lawyer, replies that there has been no word, though he has tried to locate her. Coldcast wants to make sure that someone visits her sister, adding that no one will have to tell her about Menagerie because she'll already know thanks to her damn bugs.

Coldcast then asks if he can get a message to Batgirl, but his lawyer refuses. Green Arrow agrees, telling him that he doesn't want to talk to Coldcast but is the only one who cares that he gets a fair trial. His lawyer wants to get to Coldcast's defense. Coldcast rather flatly informs him that he saw what the President of Changsha was doing to his citizens and saw a chance to stop him permanently so he took it.

Back in Vera's head the image of Manchester Black explains how she always knew that she had a dark side. From the day she saw her first dead body to the day they stole their first bit of food to the day when it was finally revealed that Manchester Black wasn't the only member of the family who was off his head. Vera tries to deny it, but Manchester is quick to point out that she covered up a murder to keep her team together. She begs for Manchester to help her and he tells her he is. She had told Superman that she loved Manchester. Well Manchester loves her as well and is here to take care of her because he knows better than anyone what she really is.

Manchester comes to reality, claiming the whole thing was schizophrenic brain freeze. Eve asks if he is one now since it was hard to follow both of the personalities. Manchester tells her that Vera is gone for good and he thinks its time for an official comin' out party. She agrees.

In Seattle, Washington Paul Booker attends a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. His attempt at suicide failed, mostly due to his own powers, but he also believes that Manitou, through a raven, intervened.

In a London pub Manchester debates the bartender on the matter of whether or not man is good by nature. Manchester becomes rude and the bartender asks him to leave. Manchester asks him why he should leave since he fits in there as an explosion rips through the pub. Outside London is a mass of fire and destruction as Eve unleashes her power onto the city. Manchester tells Vera to stop crying since he could never stand to hear her cry. He insists that humanity needs this destruction and that they need to see themselves as he does. Manchester calls it tough love before telling Eve to give them hell. Eve agrees.

In an empty room Dawn explains to her deceased husband why she cheated on him. She did it to hurt him and to see the fire in his eyes once again directed at her. She saw their coming to the future as a chance to start over and not deal with all of the problems they had with their tribe. But when they came to the future Dawn felt that magic became his mistress and there was room for nothing but his work. Now he is dead and she can't feel his rage. She raises his medicine stick and tries to smash it to the ground, but the ghostly image of Manitou appears before her. He tells her that the end comes and without the magic of the Stony Path all will be undone. He demands that for the sake of her mother and the soul of all that is she should speak the word and cry for salvation. At first she is hesitant, but eventually she cries out Inukchuk.

4Story - 4: My head hurts.

I mean I consider myself a pretty smart guy. Not the most intelligent cat in the world, but I can be quick on the uptake. I watched the movie MEMENTO and followed it well. I understood the more complicated themes of the MATRIX films. I even called some of the plot points for STAR WARS EPISODE III: REVENGER OF THE SITH, at least according the novelization I am currently reading.

So I like to think of myself as one who when faced with something extremely complex, like the intricacies of the human mind or time travel that I can read through it and not have a loud and persistent pounding in the right corner of my head.

Such is not the case. As much as I understand things like multiple personalities and time paradoxes there is something about them that make me want to scream to the heavens and ask why I have been forsaken. It's not that I don't want to think while reading. Far from it. I like it when my intellect is engaged and I have to put some thought into the material. I also like feeling sane.

In other words, the whole Manchester and Vera Black thing has me wanting to pound my head into the wall until my skull or the dry wall cracks, whichever comes first.

This is not to say that I dislike this month's issue. Actually I thought it was, overall, a great story and a wonderful set-up to the series' conclusion. Joe Kelly has taken the premise of this story and really played with all of the angles with a great mix of action and character. I have had problems, which I have detailed in my past reviews, but the story has won me over to the point where I am certain that if I went back and read the whole thing over again I would be more generous with my opinions.

This issue did a fantastic job of wrapping up most of the sub-plots before getting to finale as well as showing a few things designed to make the reader either go, "Whoa!" or "What is that?" or even, "Why is there a bug in Coldcast's ear?"

So, before I get into the whole Manchester/Vera thing, the rest of the issue.

The only real problem I had with this issue was the pacing. In previous issues Kelly should a particular flair when it came to how he paced the issue out. This time it was a little more jarring. Maybe that was Kelly's intention since the images in the scenes with Vera and Manchester were designed to be disturbing. As a reader, though, it was a bit much.

The scenes surrounding the main thrust of the issue more than made up for this. The initial scene was the best opening sequence from the entire series and went a long way to bring the series into the major events that have occurred in the DCU over the past year. When this series began IDENTITY CRISIS was just beginning, so a lot of the more startling plot point hadn't been revealed yet. Like fellow reviewer Nick Newman I am a big fan of a unified (or at least more connected) DC Universe where an event occurs in Book A and the repercussions are felt in Book B. The Flash's reference to the Justice League playing with Dr. Light's head and the fact that Plastic Man seemed to have no idea what the Flash was talking about was great for me. I could see how someone who doesn't read a good deal of DC's titles would be annoyed with this, but it really works for me.

As always Al-Sheikh is one of the best characters in the series. Kelly has evolved the character into a man of honor and someone who feels that those who do wrong should be held accountable. His insinuation that a member of the League should be held accountable for letting Vera Black have a team was great. I also liked the scene between him and Dawn where he still held to his own religious/social beliefs while acknowledging that Dawn is a competent, honorable woman who deserves to be happy.

The Coldcast scene was brief but jibed with how the character thinks and feels. Of course the whole bug in the ear thing causes a few questions to pop in my head and theories begin to form, but mostly I just want to sit back and see where Kelly is going with this.

And then there's Major Disaster. I have to say that I am really happy with the fact that Booker is still among the living. I was also impressed that Kelly managed to put him in a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous and not have it be contrived or feel like a very special issue of JUSTICE LEAGUE ELITE. The Manitou intervention, if that is what that was, had a poignant touch to it and was a great way for the character to realize that he needed some help.

Dawn is probably the most realized character Kelly has created on his tenure with the Justice League. It took a while but she has come into her own and the two scenes she was in this time out practically stole the issue. Her "conversation" with Manitou didn't reveal everything that had happened to her and Manitou in the past, but gave you enough information to paint a picture in your head of where she is coming from.

Also, how can you argue with that last page? Awesome. Very awesome.

Which leads us to the main question of the issue; who is Vera/Manchester Black?

The Justice League thinks that it Vera is Manchester and that there never was a Vera.

Manchester tells Vera that Manchester is simply a different personality that serves as the manifestation of her darker feelings.

Eve, well I have no idea what Eve believes. I don't think it really matters.

Despite the head pounding this type of story element causes I think that Kelly pulled it off nicely. This scene was mainly sold through the visuals, but the dialogue really helped as well. The Star Wars reference was great and I really enjoyed how Kelly played out this whole scene where we get the usual comic book flashback origin scene and then Kelly takes it and turns it on its head. I liked how Manchester (or was it?) had her thinking one thing and then gave her the big "Nah, nah, fooled you!"

But the sequence does beg the question of who is Manchester? Is it a crazy Vera? Was there never a Vera and everything was Manchester?

My take is that the story Manchester gave Vera was the truth. He went to kill himself, had second thoughts and then managed to separate his consciousness, which floated around until he found a new host. I don't buy that Vera never existed because why would Joe Kelly go to all the trouble to develop the back story of a young Vera and Manchester a few issues ago. Then there is the fact that Manchester is taking the time to go through her system where if it was Vera he wouldn't have to do that. I also don't buy that Manchester is another personality because I think it would take away from how Kelly developed the character. She has been shown to be a strong, independent woman who is trying to make up for the sins of her familial past and willing to do anything to make her dream work. It may be the wrong choice, but it was hers to make.

To have it revealed that she was "just crazy" really ruins the character. So, as much as it may sound like wishful thinking, I am going with the option that Manchester has taken control of her and is using her body towards his own bloody ends.

I am really looking forward to seeing how this wraps up. Maybe I will be wrong, in which case I will have to admit that I was. I have a feeling, though, that no matter what happens it's going to be a wild ride.

4Art - 4: Quick off the topic suggestion: if you are enjoying Mahnke and Nguyen's artwork I suggest you check out their current work on BATMAN. It is fantastic and is probably the best art either of them have done.

Not that their work on this issue was terrible. Actually, as with their previous efforts, their work gets better and better. I was really blown away by some of the imagery from this issue and thought that the scenes between Manchester and Vera would not have worked without the visuals they were able to pull off.

In order, though, I have to admit that while I hated Mahnke's Wonder Woman when he was working on JLA I have come to really enjoy his version of the character, especially this time around. The flat hair suddenly works for me and I have no idea why. This tends to happen with me. I will hate an artist for years and then suddenly something clicks and I become a believer. This was the case with Jon Bogdanove. I hated his Superman until about 1995 when I realized what he was trying to do.

Of course the opposite can happen as well, but I won't go into John Byrne as he has nothing to do with this book.

The JLA group shot had the good iconic feel it should have. I especially liked the layout of the characters. Superman, front and center, arms crossed with Batman and Wonder Woman on each side. J'onn is in the back, which suggests his role as the back bone of the League. Plastic Man off on his own, suggesting his role as the outsider of the League. John Stewart is right beside Batman, showing that he can play with the big boys (and girl). Then there is the Flash, who is in the back and off to the side, which plays up his feelings towards the League at the moment. He's there, but not quite comfortable standing with them due to recent events.

The quiet scenes continue to be good, like the one between Dawn and Al-Sheikh. Really and truly this book would not be as good as it could be if it wasn't for the versatility of the artists and their ability to make all the scenes work, quiet or big. The emotional context of the book is solely on the artists' shoulders and they have come through nicely.

But they can also pull off the messed up stuff as well. The whole of the Manchester/Vera sequence was phenomenal. The Star Wars references, the scene in the pub with little Vera, the bugs, everything. It was creepy as all get out and I just stared at the pages getting those funky feelings that the scenes were supposed to evoke.

Also the double page spread of London burning was jaw dropping.

I feel the need to also say that attention must be paid to colorist David Baron for the fantastic job he did with setting the dark tone to the book. As with last issue the coloring he did with Major Disaster's suicide attempt made the book and I was glad to see it carried over here.

4Cover Art - 4: You know, the thing that really sells this cover isn't the fire or the image of Vera tied to a chair. It's the hundred of little Manchester Blacks running around, especially the guy in the front who is waving at the camera. It certainly makes for an interesting cover and I really enjoyed the overall layout. Also it was nice to see that "Dream a Little Dream" could be more than just a Mama Cass song or Corey Feldman movie.

This cover gets a nine 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.

January 2005

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