Mild Mannered Reviews - JLA Comics

JLA #45

Cover date: September 2000

Writer: Mark Waid
Penciller: Howard Porter
Inker: Drew Geraci

Tower of Babel (Part 3 of 4): "Protected by the Cold"

Reviewed by: Jason Czernich (

The opening pages recap what you need to know about the story so far. All the Leaguers have been disabled by Ra's Al Ghul's men. Green Lantern, has been blinded, Aquaman now has a fear of water, Flash is having epileptic reactions to speed, etc. Meanwhile all over the world the human population has had the language centers of their brains scrambled, so communication, oral or written, is rendered useless courtesy of Ra's Al Ghul's technology.

The next three pages show Batman fleeing Ra's henchmen on the mountain while communicating with Aquaman and letting him know that Ra's Al Ghul raided his personal files and used them to take down the JLA. Batman dives over a cliff and pulls and clings to a handhold on the side, fooling his pursuers into think him perished.

Back in the Watchtower, Plastic Man and Martian Manhunter work to release all the other leaguers from their hardships and succeed. Superman uses his heightened senses to observe the communication crisis on Earth and is dumbfounded at where to begin.

The story then flashes over to the stronghold of Ra's Al Ghul, where his daughter, Talia, is scolding him for betraying her beloved (Batman) and making her take an active part in assassination, something she loathes. A masked underling then enters and informs them both that the Detective (Referring to Batman again) perished on the mountain. Talia will not accept this without the proof of a body and she scolds the underling as well. Ra's sends him off to find Batman's remains saying, "He could be anywhere". The underling walks out of sight of Ra's and Talia, and pulls off his mask revealing none other than Batman himself!

Later, Batman then radios the JLA and informs them that he will issue coordinates when he arrives at his final destination Ra's transmission location, the source or the language scrambling signals. Disappointed in his teammate's decision to keep secret plans to defeat the rest of the JLA, Superman races to confront Batman before he can arrive at Ra's broadcasting center. Superman meets Batman in the sky, all the while not saying a word while Batman gives him the location for the team to meet, Antarctica.

Once there Batman gives them the orders to get inside the broadcast station. The other Leaguers still feel betrayed by him, still they do as he recommends. Still shaky from exposure to the deadly Red Kryptonite (see JLA #44), Superman shuts down the station with his heat vision.

After the destruction, Superman demands answers from Batman on why he made secret plans to take out the League, but before any further discussion Talia beams the team a message directly into the speech centers of their minds warning them of her father's biochemical plans. She is shot in the leg before she can give the JLA the location of the bioterrorists. The henchmen responsible then tells the League that they cannot be stopped.

5Story - 5: Ra's Al Ghul does what he does best, manipulate behind the scenes. Batman's cleverness, his daughter's loyalty, the language of the world, the Leagues weaknesses are all used to suit Ra's Al Ghul's goals and nobody else's. This is a craftier Ra's Al Ghul than what we experienced in the Legacy storyline that ran through the Batman titles in the summer of 1996. The only two people that can rival Ra's Al Ghul's scheming capabilities in the DCU are Batman and Lex Luthor. Mark Waid knows how to handle this distinguished Batman foe. While the Batman Adventures #4-5 had a storyline where people just went illiterate, this story line adds in oral communication as well and picks a larger way to put the plan into action.

Martian Manhunter proves once again why he is the heart and soul of the JLA. Taking charge to fix up his fellow Leaguers was a great way to display his compassion and his intelligence.

Waid also knows how to handle Batman. What better way to spy on your enemy than to disguise yourself as one of their henchmen and bring them news of their enemies "demise". It was perfectly smug and perfectly Batman.

The thought balloon has been thought by some to be on it's way out. In JLA it's essential when you have a telepath like Martian Manhunter as a main character. Almost all the dialogue on pages 16 are in thought balloons. Nice way to communicate when vocal language is scrambled and a good way to quietly plan a sneak attack.

4Art - 4: Sharp as always. No matter who wanders into an issue of JLA, Porter can draw them and make them all fit together on the same page. The inks by Drew Geraci, however, are not as sharp as the ones John Dell used to do over Porter's pencils and he can sometimes make things appear too angular like the second panel on page 14. Then again the sun in the background effect isn't the easiest to do.

3Cover Art - 3: If I saw this cover staring at me on the newsstand would I buy it? Maybe. The pencils are good and the inks work well on the cover. The word balloons with gibberish can make a potential reader curious, but how about more Leaguers on the cover? Any less than three make it seem bare. All in all JLA is one of the best mainstream titles today and this issue was certainly no exception.

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

January 2000

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