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Mild Mannered Reviews - JLA Comics

JLA: Classified #51

JLA: Classified #51

Scheduled to arrive in stores: January 23, 2008

Cover date: Late March 2008

"That Was Now, This is Then" - Part Two: "First Contact"

Writter: Roger Stern
Penciller: John Byrne
Inker: Mark Farmer

Michael Bailey Reviewed by: Michael Bailey

Click to enlarge

J'onn J'onzz relates the story of how the Justice League first met their mysterious attacker, which began a decade before on a tiny island in the Aegean Sea. A group of archeologists is come upon by a giant who declares himself the true almighty. They try to flee but the giant somehow compels them to stay and questions them about whom the Earth's mortals worship. In the next few days religious shrines and temples are destroyed, which takes nearly everyone aback, even Clark Kent of the Daily Planet. His suspicions of a connection between the attacks are shot down by Lois Lane, who believes that this is a job not for Superman but for the U.N.'s Interfaith Task Force.

Meanwhile the Justice League of that era is called to small inlet in the Falklands by Aquaman who has made an odd discovery. Quickly Green Lantern, Black Canary, the Flash, Green Arrow, the Martian Manhunter join Aquaman and perform a number of scans on the meteorite the Sea King discovered. They come to the conclusion that the meteor is actually a space craft of some sort and take it back to the Sanctuary for further study. They also find bipedal tracks heading away from the meteor. Black Canary asks the Flash what was his best guest for the weirdness and the Scarlet Speedster replies that it's hard to say, but they may have another visitor from outer space and hopefully a friendly one at that.

Meanwhile Superman is busy in Paris, which is being beset by a dangerous lightning storm. His attention is diverted by the sounds of a police officer shocked to discover the Spire of the Great Cathedral ripped from its home and thrown to the ground. Other officers join in and one claims to have a witness. Superman speaks to the monk, who claims a demon from hell appeared out of the heart of the storm and tore the Spire from the Cathedral before disappearing into the shadows. Superman is unaware that he is being watched by the very same "demon".

At the Secret Sanctuary the League continues their examination of the meteor with little to show for it. Batman contacts them to discuss a series of electromagnetic anomalies scattered across the world that all correspond to where the various incidents of desecration took place. Green Lantern informs the Flash that the anomaly looks like the reading he got from the ship leading the Flash to realize that the League and Batman are working the same case. Before they can go on however the Martian Manhunter announces that another anomaly has formed over Jerusalem.

High above the holy city the giant, who reveals his name to be Titus, begins his assault. The League arrives in short order and engage Titus but soon learn that he has the ability to control their minds. The Flash, Green Lantern and Martian Manhunter all attack and are all driven back. Green Arrow prepares to fire the missiles from his aircraft when Superman arrives and drives the creature into the ground. The Man of Steel pounds on Titus, his eyes glowing red with anger but a momentary distraction allows Titus to recover and strike Superman with his mace. The blow is so powerful that Superman causes a sonic boom and he flies through the air and crashes to the ground, leaving the rest of the League to simply watch on in horror.

5Story - 5: Well, I guess the question about whether this is a villain who had actually faced the League before or one created specifically for this story is answered.

Not that it matters. This story rocks.

I say that mainly as a fan whose perceptions of what a good comic book story is are based in large part by the man who wrote this issue. I mentioned last month that I might be a little biased when it comes to Roger Stern because I am such a fan of his past work. Not every single bit but enough to know that if I pick up something written by Stern then chances are I am going to enjoy it.

This story is no exception. The pacing of this issue was spot on. There was the mysterious intro, the bit with Clark and Lois in the Daily Planet, the character driven scene between Flash and Black Canary, the League investigating the strange meteor, Superman over Paris with the bad guy watching from the shadows, more fun with Oliver Queen, Batman's introduction to the issue, the fight with Titus, the classic Clark into Superman scene and the dramatic ending with Superman having been laid low.

It's like a text book for what makes a good super hero story.

The scene with Black Canary and Flash was one of my favorites of the issue. I liked how Stern brought up their connection as legacy characters which led into a little bit of the history of the League in general. The fact that it was followed by a funny exchange with Green Arrow makes me realize how old school I am when it comes to comic books.

More than anything I was impressed with Titus as a villain. It's kind of novel to have a god-like villain actually attack other houses of worship and shrines. It's an interesting take on the concept, especially for a DC book. Sure it's easy to say that you're the new lord and master of the mortals who dwell on this mud ball of a planet but it's another to try to go about destroying his "rivals" first. I really liked this. I'm not sure that Lois would have overlooked a connection between the various attacks but I thought it was a neat way to bring Superman into the story.

Overall I like this story. Roger Stern has delivered another solidly written issue with the right mix of character and action with an exciting cliffhanger ending to make us want to come back for more.

Oh and I could be wrong but I think Kanjar Ro's Energi-Rod is going to have something to do with brining Titus down. Just a hunch.

Is it too fannish to want Stern back on Superman in some way?

5Art - 5: Again, I like Byrne's art. Always have. I may not like every single character design in this issue, specifically Black Canary and Aquaman, but half of the storytelling came from the art and Byrne is well deserving of that credit. Titus had a serious Kirby feel to him which gave the villain a great of presence and power. There were little details, like the Flash being in three different places around the meteor that just made me smile. It's interesting to see him draw Superman in this issue, though. He was a little...slimmer...than Byrne usually draws him. Still, I dug the art as much as I dug the writing.

5Cover Art - 5: Now this is a cover. I really enjoyed this Middelton piece. No question here that Titus is not only a bad guy but a powerful one as well. Sure it kind of looks like Titus is about to break into song, but that's just my bizarre sense of humor kicking in.

Mild Mannered Reviews


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

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