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Mild Mannered Reviews - JLA Comics

JLA 80-Page Giant 2011 #1

Justice League of America 80-Page Giant 2011 #1

Scheduled to arrive in stores: April 6, 2011

Cover date: June 2011

Various writers and artists
Cover: Stanley "Artgerm" Lau

Reviewed by: Ralph Silver

Click to enlarge


Writer: Adam Glass
Artist: Dennis Calero

Batman and Plastic Man find themselves in a place that appears to be Hell itself. They do not know how they got there. They encounter a demon Geryon, who claims he will feast on their souls for the sin of being frauds. Then people from their past (a former associate of Eel O'Brian; Bruce Wayne's parents) attempt to convince them that they are indeed frauds, and that they deserve to be there in Hell. Batman speaks to Geryon and asserts that BELIEF is what keeps you safe from the forces of Hell. Batman refuses to be seduced by the messages of condemnation, and prefers to believe in what he always has believed in, his mission as Batman. Batman tells Plastic Man to resist the images around him and the fears that they represent. Geryon taunts the heroes, saying that once they have tasted Hell and exposed dark and uncertain feelings from deep within, it is not easy to bottle those feelings back up. Batman and Plastic Man disappear, safe from the clutches of Hell.

4Story - 4: Batman is correct; belief is very powerful! I have experienced this in my own life; that belief... in yourself, in the core values of truth, justice, kindness, and compassion, and for some, belief in a higher power, can help you resist feelings of self-doubt and waywardness and keep you focused and positive. This is a very compelling and poignant message for such a little story.

4Art - 4: The art works well for this story. Everything is awash in a reddish-brown, as befits their surroundings. I love the image where Plastic Man's eyes pop out of his head. This is classic!


Writer: Adam Glass
Artist: Mikel Janin

Like in the previous story, Green Arrow and Ragman find themselves in Hell itself. GA and Ragman bicker and trade insults; and really do not get along. They encounter a bald demon whose sin was ANGER. Presumably, Green Arrow and Ragman are here because they are guilty of that same sin... anger. Green Arrow and Ragman call a truce, and join forces to bring down the bald demon. Vanquishing the bald guy is their ticket out of there; and Green Arrow and Ragman disappear.

3Story - 3: This story is similar in concept to the first one, but is much less thoughtful and compelling. Perhaps my bias is showing here, because I have never been much of a Green Arrow fan. He is just too self-righteous, as depicted in almost every story that I have read in which he appeared. The dictionary defines self-righteous as "confident of one's own righteousness, especially when smugly moralistic and intolerant of the opinions and behavior of others". Well, this is a perfect description of Green Arrow as depicted in this story and elsewhere. Here, GA is quick to insult Ragman and hurl nasty comments about Batman, whom they both have dealings with.

In the previous story featuring Batman, victory is the result of soul-searching, choosing to believe in what is true and right, and facing and overcoming your fears. Here, victory is not the result of soul-searching and conviction, but merely comes as a result of a well-placed arrow containing a swatch of cloth from Ragman's outfit. This is a much weaker concept. When asked by Ragman how he knew this would work, Green Arrow says he did not know, and was just "winging it". Perhaps this is a description of what the author was doing as well.

The only message of value I can pull from this story is that when Green Arrow and Ragman stop bickering and choose to team up, that is when they get the job done. I know some politicians who could use this same message. :-)

3Art - 3: For me, the artwork is just OK. It is kind of gloomy, which does fit the story.

We do see a bit of rear male nudity, which helps explain the rating of "T" for Teen, shown on the cover.


Writer: Steve Yockey
Penciller: Marco Castiello
Inker: Vincenzo Acunzo

Donna Troy and Bulleteer arrive in Hell. They discover a large monolithic cube with the Roman numeral 1917 carved on it. They decide to move the monolith out of curiosity, and see a chamber underneath with fire and people suffering. A female demon introduces herself as Lilith. Lilith says that her charges, the people who are burning, are heretics; and that Donna and Bulleteer are also heretics and should join the others in the fire pit.

Lilith gets her power from a glowing totem she is carrying. Donna and Alix combine forces to capture the totem. This gives them their victory; and Donna and Alix disappear.

3Story - 3: OK, we can all see the pattern here. As I read this, I wondered "Is every story going to be like this?" A JLA member finds himself/herself in Hell, accused of some specific sin. The JLA member finds a way to defeat the demon-in-charge and escape. Each story so far has featured a mainstream DC hero paired with someone a bit obscure or unusual.

The interesting piece of this story for me is the accusation that Donna is a pagan. She rejects that label. Since Wonder Woman's origin is in fact directly dependent on the true existence of the ancient Greek gods who empowered her, it is of course impossible for Donna Troy not to believe in them. They are an integral part of her world; literally, not figuratively. Calling Donna a pagan is a bit like saying that Hal Jordan is a pagan because he believes in the Guardians of the Universe.

Does her belief in the Greek gods preclude the possibility of believing in a different God as well? I believe it does not. Thus I think the charge of paganism and heresy is particularly unfair and undeserved as it pertains to Donna.

The larger question of whether atheism or agnosticism is truly a sin, and would earn Donna, Alix, or anybody else a stay in Hell, is one that I have my own strong feelings about; and I suspect you do too. Personally, I believe the Universe is more inclusive than that, and would not punish folks for searching or questioning on spiritual matters. Others disagree. You can draw your own conclusions.

4Art - 4: The art is strong on this story. Donna Troy and Bulleteer are both drawn well. The dark turquoise backgrounds make a nice change-of-pace from all the reddish-brown in the first two stories.


Writer: Pepe Caldelas
Penciller: Emanuela Lupacchino
Inker: Guillermo Ortega

Like in the previous stories, Superman begins by wondering where he is. He encounters giant images of Jor-El, Lois Lane, and Lex Luthor. Jor-El asserts that his son is not truly Kryptonian. Although born there, Kal-El was not raised by his birth family on Krypton among his people. Lois asserts that Clark is a clumsy disguise, not a true human. Luthor insists that Superman is a "filthy alien", not a man at all. Superman listens to a chorus from the three of them claiming he is not Kal-El, not Clark Kent, and not Superman. But Superman asserts he is all of them at once!

Superman finds himself in a huge prison cell with inhabitants who wallow in grief and clamor to escape. He finds Red Tornado here. RT sees visions of his human family, Kathy Sutton and Traya, and also other androids like him, in a separate vision. Red Tornado feels pulled in both directions. Like Superman, the implication is that Red Tornado does not truly belong to either side.

The heroes are told they are in Limbo, and that the concrete wall, and other walls behind it, separate them from God. Superman and Red Tornado drill through the wall. They do not find God, but a demon named Minos, who tells them that he has the duty of judging all souls who pass through here and assigning them to the appropriate level of Hell based on their sins.

Superman and Red Tornado proclaim their innocence, and then battle and defeat Minos. This causes Superman and Red Tornado to disappear.

4Story - 4: The interesting part of this story for me is the question of which of the three identities (Kal-El, Clark Kent, Superman) is the real guy. This is really a central question in the Superman mythos. I like that Superman asserts he is all three; a sensible reply and the answer I would expect from Superman. He believes in each of these personas, and does not consider any of them false.

Red Tornado has a similar issue, and gives a similar answer.

Other than that, this story closely follows the established pattern from the first three stories. There is really nothing else to talk about; just press on to the next story.

3Art - 3: The art is visually lighter than the previous stories. It is not bad. The three giant characters from Superman's life are all well drawn.


Writer: Joe Prado
Artist: Joe Prado

Hawkman asks Etrigan the Demon where they are. Etrigan replies that they are in the fourth circle of Hell, the home of violence. Etrigan speaks in rhyme, which is his trademark.

They encounter Char'Rah, a vicious demon who resembles a tiger. Char'Rah claims that they will not leave unpunished, but will be victims of their own violence and anger.

Hawkman and Etrigan begin to battle each other. Fooled by an illusion, each believes the other is actually a villain from his past. When Etrigan realizes they have been tricked, he transforms back to Jason Blood, who casts a spell to defeat Char'Rah.

Etrigan tells Hawkman that they both have violence as part of their nature; and that they must both always work to keep that violent nature in check.

4Story - 4: I have always found Etrigan the Demon to be a compelling character. In his honor, I may start speaking in rhyme everywhere I go. I am not sure my boss at work will appreciate this. :-)

Etrigan is correct that he and Hawkman are two of the more aggressive and violent heroes in the DC Universe. I like that this fact was acknowledged in this story.

3Art - 3: Hawkman, Etrigan, and Char'Rah are all well drawn.


Writer: David Macho
Artist: Miguel Munera

Fire and Lobo find themselves in the circle of Hell devoted to Greed. They meet the demon Plutus, who calls them a hoarder and a squanderer respectively. These would appear to be two sides of the same coin: Greed.

He lectures each one, and covers each of them in gold, to "cover their sins". Each one escapes the gold coating; Fire using heat to melt it; and Lobo using his strength to crash out of it. They assault Plutus; Lobo extinguishing his cigar on Plutus' head, and fire using her green flame to give Plutus flaming shorts. Although not shown, I presume that assaulting the demon-in-residence frees Lobo and Fire, just like it did in the previous stories.

2Story - 2: As in the previous stories, this is just a variation on a theme. This story is distinctive only due to the inherent humor of Lobo. (He loves the word "frag", and he loves beer and women.) Other than that, this is pretty much just like all the other stories; and weaker than most.

Plutus is much less intimidating than, say the tiger-demon in the last story. Plutus even begs them not to hurt him when Fire and Lobo escape the gold coating and come after him.

4Art - 4: The artwork is strong this time around. I like the images of Fire, Lobo, and Plutus.


Writer: Mark Bernardin
Penciller: Ig Guara
Inker: Rodney Ramos

Booster Gold and Oracle are wondering where they are. They explore, to answer that question. Booster Gold carries Oracle, since her wheelchair does not work on the rocky terrain.

They find themselves standing on a sea of souls. Skeets tells them this scene extends indefinitely in all directions. Oracle recognizes this as Dante's Inferno, the circle of Hell devoted to gluttony.

Barbara Gordon goes into an altered state. Physically it is like a coma; but mentally, she is alert and plugged into a network of information that is designed to placate the lifeless inhabitants. Meanwhile, Booster goes into a long confessional speech.

They confront the local demon, a vicious giant three-headed dog. Oracle pulls out of her information coma, and the two of them manage to defeat the beast.

4Story - 4: Part of the charm of each story is the specific pairing of the heroes. I laughed when I saw the stars of this one. They seem like opposites. Booster Gold is a showboat and very self-centered. But Oracle works behind the scenes, and uses her computer genius to support the other heroes when they need information or computer hacking.

I got a kick out of Booster's confessions. He acknowledges that he is not as heroic as Superman or Batman. But then he searches for someone to compare himself to that would cast him in a more favorable light, and decides he is at least as heroic as the Phantom Stranger. LOL

By the way, in every story so far, the heroes are chosen because the specific sin in the title might apply to them. But I had to stop and think how gluttony would apply to Oracle. The best I could come up with is that she is a glutton for information.

3Art - 3: The artwork is pretty good. As depicted, the three-headed dog is quite scary.


Writer: Roberto Cruz
Penciller: Rodney Buchemi
Inker: Jose Marzan

Zatanna and Green Lantern John Stewart wonder where they find themselves. This time the surroundings include ice, not fire. The lost souls are encased in the ice. Zatanna tells John the impossible; that they are in Hell.

John creates a lighthouse construct to get a bird's eye view, but Zatanna warns him that the two of them must stay close together in this place. Giant ice pillars materialize, and the lighthouse comes crashing down.

An image of Batman materializes in an ice pillar and calls Zatanna a traitor. Zatanna denies it. A demon, half submerged in the ice, calls both of them traitors.

Zatanna uses her powers to melt the ice pillars, causing things to crash down on the demon. John using his ring to extract a tooth from the demon's mouth. Zatanna says the tooth looks familiar. She is in the middle of urging John to put the tooth down, when the two of them disappear.

4Story - 4: I like both Zatanna and Green Lantern. And I liked the interplay between the two of them in this story.

When I read this story initially, I did not understand what the deal was about the demon's tooth. Why did Green Lantern extract it? And why did Zatanna warn John to put it down? I found the ending perplexing. But when I read the rest of this book, the answers were forthcoming.

4Art - 4: I liked the artwork this time around. I noticed that Zatanna looks confident and relaxed initially, but seems to get rattled and emotional once the hat comes off.


Writer: Frank Mastromaro
Artist: Vicente Cifuentes

Supergirl and Wonder Woman find themselves in Hell. They meet a group of very powerful horned demons. Amazingly, these two very powerful superheroes are not able to overpower the demons using brute strength.

From within the fiery mists, the form of Batman emerges. Supergirl interprets this as Dick, and Wonder Woman interprets this as Bruce. The Batman creature invites each of them to take his hand and share eternity with the Batman of her choice. He promises to fulfill their every fantasy and hidden desire.

But Wonder Woman and Supergirl do not take the bait. Supergirl uses freeze breath on the Batman creature, and Wonder Woman gives it a whack, splintering it into shards. Supergirl grabs a shard, and she and Wonder Woman disappear.

4Story - 4: Again we have two of my favorite heroes. Supergirl and Wonder Woman are close; and I like that they express that closeness when they first meet.

Each of these stories has an angle; and this time around it is the prospect of romance with Batman. Ironically, Wonder Woman and Supergirl are attracted to different versions, Bruce and Dick respectively. If you have been reading the monthly JLA book, it has been hinted that Kara indeed has romantic feelings for Dick.

It is interesting that Wonder Woman and Supergirl could not vanquish the horned demons, but then learned that they did not need to do so to find their escape.

If you notice, many of the stories end when a hero picks up something from the demon who was victimizing them, and subsequently both heroes vanish. This pattern continues here.

3Art - 3: The artwork is a mixed bag this time around. Wonder Woman looks good; but Supergirl does not look like herself at all. Supergirl looks too young, which is never a good look for her. The backgrounds are particularly eerie, setting a grizzly tone for this story.


Writer: Adam Glass
Artist: Scott McDaniel

All the heroes we have seen in the previous stories arrive in Purgatory. This is the in-between place between Heaven and Hell, where judgment is passed.

Batman notices that Plastic Man is missing. Superman says they cannot help Plastic Man until they first figure out what they are doing there and why.

They encounter Lord Satanus, the ruler of Hell. Satanus summons and fuses multiple components: the artifacts that the superheroes collected. Satanus fashions the pieces together, creating the Hell Mask. Zatanna says wearing it gives unimaginable power, allowing the wearer to even control God himself!

Blaze arrives, the sister of Satanus. She scolds Satanus for using the superheroes, their sworn enemies, to do his dirty work. Satanus says they will have time to discuss it as he tortures her for all eternity.

Satanus prepares to Don the mask, when out pops the face of Plastic Man, who was using his powers to hide among the components of the mask. Batman had suggested this bit of deception as a precaution.

Plastic Man grabs the mask from a very surprised and furious Satanus. Batman calls out for O'Brian to throw the mask to him, but Plastic Man declines. Plastic Man plans to use the power of the mask to undo some of the mistakes in his life. But when he dons the mask, it is too powerful for him, and he cries out in pain.

The heroes spring into action, attempting to remove the mask and save Plastic Man. But when Superman gets close to him, Plastic Man acts possessed, and commands Superman to kill everyone there. Since magic is one of the few things that can stop Superman, Etrigan the Demon immediately launches into combat against Superman.

Batman confronts Plastic Man and urges him to fight the forces that control him. Plastic Man comes to his senses. He says he is in control of the mask, but probably not for long. He asks everyone to use their powers on him. When told this will destroy him, Plastic Man says it is the only way. Plastic Man rephrases his request as a command.

The heroes turn their powers on Plastic Man. He is bombarded with heat vision, Green Lantern energy, and a whole lot of other stuff. Plastic Man disappears, and the others begin to eulogize him. Then Plastic Man makes a dramatic re-appearance, merely saying it is not his time to go. The heroes engulf him in kind of a group hug, and Plastic Man is very happy indeed.

Plastic Man asks Batman for a hug, and gets a one-word answer: NO.

In the last panel, Blaze is deciding how to get revenge on her brother.

5Story - 5: I loved this final story! As you read all the previous stories, you keep wondering what is really going on. Why are the heroes being drawn into Hell? What is the real purpose of all this? Why are the heroes picking up artifacts or pieces of their captors?

Then this last story brings it all together and answers your questions. It also presents a threat that is so huge, it is almost unimaginable. The Hell Mask allows the wearer to control anyone and anything, including God himself! Clearly the JLA members and associates must stop Satanus at all costs!

I loved the scene where Plastic Man pops his head out of the mask just as Satanus is about to put it on. I laughed heartily. There was something very amusing seeing Plastic Man, who usually provides comic relief, be the hero to save the day and prevent the nightmare scenario.

On a personal note, let me mention that I love 80-Page Giants! There is something compelling about a collection of short stories built around a common theme. They are a lot of fun. This one was no exception.

3Art - 3: Although I absolutely loved this final story, the artwork on this one is just average. As already stated, my favorite image is Plastic Man's head popping out of the Hell Mask, right in Satanus' face.

5Cover Art - 5: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, and Green Lantern John Stewart all have that "zombie" look. They stare right at the reader, scowling, red-eyed, and very menacing, as if possessed by dark forces. The background is red with a textured look, suggesting heat. The caption says "The JLA goes to Hell!"; and boy, that is exactly what this image looks like.

Stanley "Artgerm" Lau is a master. I suggest you Google him and view some more of his artwork. You will be impressed!

This cover is outstanding, and very creepy!

Mild Mannered Reviews


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

January 2011

February 2011 March 2011 April 2011 May 2011 June 2011 July 2011 August 2011 September 2011 October 2011 November 2011 December 2011

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