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Mild Mannered Reviews - JLA Comics

JLA: Classified #20

JLA: Classified #20

Scheduled to arrive in stores: April 19, 2006

Cover date: Early June 2006

Writter: Gail Simone
Penciller: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez
Inker: Sean Phillips

The Hypothetical Woman - Part Five: "Conduct Unbecoming"

Reviewed by: Michael Bailey

Click to enlarge

Despite receiving a rather savage beating at the hands of Jin Si the Batman is still able to strategize against General Tuzik's machinations. In Metropolis John Stewart tracks down Tuzik's son, who had given up his life of opulence to live as a dishwasher. Stewart tries to recruit Azir, but the young man refuses, citing that he does not have the courage to stand up to his father. John isn't so sure and leaves his card in case Azir changes his mind.

Wonder Woman holds her own against the People's Liberation Army and Dysbuk and manages to take down the metahuman before facing a larger military force.

In Three Sister, Oregon the Conqueror Strain mutates inside the children, who awaken and attack the people who are trying to help them. Dr. Faulkner contacts J'onn to inform him of the situation, who is then also assaulted by the living strain. Meanwhile Soldat orders Marieke and Ghost Lion to confront Wonder Woman. Marieke unleashes a flood before Ghost Lion uses his abilities to make the stories he tells come to life to summon the Titanic.

Elsewhere Superman loses his patience with Chairman Deng and informs the official that if he won't extend them diplomatic allowances for the JLA's action in China then he will not only free all of the country's political dissidents but also uncover their military secret and make them public.

General Tuzik watches the battle from his base of operations and continues his pontificating on the Hypothetical Woman. After admonishing Chen for not responding to him Tuzik requests a situation report. Chen finally has enough and accuses Tuzik of being a coward for not fighting in the battle himself.

Finally, Superman and Green Lantern arrive and confront Soldat and his crew. J'onn J'onzz takes a different approach and apparently executes a People Liberation soldier.

4Story - 4: While I still stand behind my previous stance that the overall story has been somewhat padded out to make it six issues long I was very impressed with how this installment turned out. As a matter of fact this issue reinforced, for me anyway, that the last three chapters could have been compressed into one or two issues and not lost anything in terms of characterization or impact.

The opening pages of this issue prove just how solid of a writer Gail Simone is. Her take on Batman as a man who will try to think his way out of any situation, even when receiving a rather harsh beat down, was excellent and well written. It was also a clever way to bring a potential new reader up to speed on the story without sacrificing story space. Batman sums everything up and then gets on with defeating General Tuzik.

This sequence also highlighted what is different about this story arc. I think the point kind of got lost in the muddle of the previous three installments but this is a rather inspired plot. For some reason, and it is most likely my own fault, I did not see this before, but Simone has used General Tuzik as a villain that attacks the JLA in a different way. As Simone, through Batman, points out, Tuzik isn't some grinning idiot in a cape. He has the flash and monologues of those villains but his place as a deposed world leader makes him different. I liked this. The only snag to my enjoyment is the fact that the last few issues have been so thin on plot and his actions spread out over several months that it was hard to see the forest for the trees, so to speak.

Simone also nails the other members of the League as well. I was very fond of the John Stewart scene with Tuzik's son. She showed John as a man of compassion, which appealed to me. Wonder Woman had a great moment even though there is something a tad silly about her facing such a huge force and asking them to line up. It was funny, though and that makes all of the difference. Superman's actions were kind of disturbing, though the story does allow for his attitude. For a moment Superman channeled Batman and used threats instead of managing to somehow inspire the Chairman to do the right thing by simply being Superman. It was a bit off for the character but the situation itself is so different that I see why Simone chose to go in this direction.

Part of me thought it was kind of cool. Another part of me realized how scary Superman's threats were. Either way it was a great moment.

The bit at the end with Chen suddenly finding a spine was interesting but not unexpected. What was unexpected was his accusation that Tuzik is a coward for not using all of the weapons, implants, potions and compounds to take on the JLA personally. It was such a great moment but I think by having Tuzik not taking a direct part in the battle Gail Simone is making a point about men who use soldiers like disposable tissues to serve their own ends. Maybe I'm reading a little too much into this but I don't think I'm far off here. By Tuzik using the People's Republic of China and his Hypothetical Army (which was used very well in this issue by the way) Tuzik becomes such an immoral character because unlike Amazo or Despero or Prometheus he won't face the JLA personally but rather use others to do his dirty work.

In the end I was very impressed with this issue. From the beginning with Batman playing a mental game of chess to the end when Superman and Green Lantern arrive like the angry wrath of God this issue really saved the overall story. It also had one of the best endings I've ever read. J'onn shooting the soldier was a great way to close out the book even though my feeling is that J'onn is using his powers to creep into the soldier's head and make him believe that he was shot. No matter the case it really made me as the reader want to come back and find out what happens next, which is a new feeling to have for his particular story.

4Art - 4: There was a lot to like about the artwork in this issue. Sean Phillips continues to be a much better inker for Garcia-Lopez than Klaus Janson was. The page layouts in this issue, particularly at the beginning with Batman's mindscape, were wonderful. The action scenes worked out beautifully and there was a lot of power to them. The smaller scenes, such as John Stewart talking to Azir, were also fantastic because I really felt the emotions that both the artists and writing were attempting to convey. The big iconic moments worked out as well, especially when Superman and Green Lantern arrive on the scene of battle. Lopez has always had a good handle on Superman and this was a great image for the character.

2Cover Art - 2: Ugh.

Just when last issue's cover thrilled me beyond belief we get this month's attempt. It's kind of odd that the interior art is so good and the covers are so blah. This time out we got JLA versus the Hypothetical Army in one of the most boring layouts ever. Usually I like these types of covers but between the awkward positioning of the characters and the horrible background color this cover did absolutely nothing for me. This is kind of disappointing since I like Jose's art so much.

Again, ugh.

Mild Mannered Reviews


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

January 2006

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