Mild Mannered Reviews - JLA Comics

JLA: Black Baptism 1

JLA: Black Baptism #1

Scheduled to arrive in stores: March 14, 2001

Cover date: May 2001

Writer: Ruben Diaz and Sean Smith
Penciller: Jesus Saiz
Inker: Keith Champagne

Book One: "Magicide"

Reviewed by: Jason Czernich (

The story opens with Zatanna in the grasp of gangster-styled demons called The Diablos. As Anita Soulfeeda, a succubus, starts to consume Zatanna's soul, Superman and Plastic Man arrive on the scene and engage the demons in battle. During the fight Superman is wounded by a magical crossbow resulting in Plastic Man having to transport the Man of Steel and the fishnet garbed magician to the JLA Watchtower on the moon's surface.

Once there Superman is tended to by Martian Manhunter in the sick bay where he is surrounded by other characters of magic from the mainstream DC Comics universe; Deadman, Madame Xandu, Bloodwynd, etc. All of the magical heroes seem to be under attack by the Diablos. J'onn tries to mind probe the comatose Zatanna and finds her turned mad due to the succubus' halfway draining of her soul. With Superman incapacitated Wonder Woman and Plastic Man travel to Detroit to obtain the help of one of the few magical beings who has not been attacked by the Diablos yet, Faust, son of longtime JLA foe Felix Faust.

Once the two JLAers meet up with Faust they change scene again and come across Blue Devil, who has been interrogating a member of the Diablo gang. Faust makes the "Tatters" of the demon's soul confess what he knows about the oncoming Black Baptism, and the truth makes the creature of lies explode. Wonder Woman then gets a distress call from Aquaman saying that he's under attack from the Diablos above the Arctic Circle.

The Amazon Princess and Plastic Man, with Blue Devil and Faust along for the ride race to Aquaman's aid and find that Tempest is also there on the scene in combat with the demonic threat. The Diablos achieve their goal of uprooting an undersea fountain and cause a whirlpool due to the fact that the uprooting left a raw breach that in turn caused a vortex. Tempest uses his water control powers to slow the whirlpool to a halt but not before claiming the underwater city of B'miria.

Enraged by Faust's apathy towards the tragedy of B'miria, Tempest demands Faust use his soul magic to show Tempest the dead spirits of the wasted city. Faust complies and the experience is too much for Tempest, making him pass out. Faust then reveals that he has obtained a fragment of the Fountain of Lessing. Meanwhile, Wonder Woman notices that the moon has grown an eye and a pair of wings. The whole issue is topped of by a text piece, in the form of a placemat letter written by Blue Devil and addressed to Faust, that explains who the big movers and shakers of DC's magic realm are.

1Story - 1: Comics are a visual medium. If they weren't then they'd be prose, novels, or some other form of fiction with little or no pictures. My point is that this story is too wordy. There are words in just about every panel. Pages seventeen and eighteen have Aquaman speaking to himself, gratuitously explaining his maneuvers and the situation when the art could tell some of this instead of it being stated in text. Maybe the art couldn't communicate this and more word balloons were added or maybe both Ruben Diaz and Sean Smith originally intended the story to be this verbose.

Also, thought balloons were used by Blue Devil. The use of these devices are becoming increasingly rare in comics. More common is the use of thought captions. They read more like narrative and don't attract as much attention. We don't have to have thought balloons and loads and loads of word balloons. Take a look at some of the Japanese masters of the comics medium, such as Goseki Kojima (Lone Wolf and Cub) or Hiroaki Samura (Blade of the Immortal). Some of their works can go a few pages of story without words, just pictures depicting the events of the plot. They know that, like the old saying, a picture is worth a thousand words. Don't tell us but instead show us. Comics are supposed to be a visual medium.

2Art - 2: The penciling in this issue is not downright unviewable but I see nothing commanding my attentions here. Jesus Saiz opened with an excellent establishing shot of Zatanna, in what one can presume to be her study, being terrorized by gangster-styled demons. There is a shattered picture frame holding an image of her father Zatarra off to the side and the rest of the scene is in shambles as well. Take away all the text and I still would have had a good idea at what was going on and I still would have wanted to turn the page as I did on my initial read of this issue. After that there are many panels that show people from the waist up and the body types don't seem to vary much. Even some group shots like the second panel on page twelve give clusters like Wonder Woman/Faust/Plastic Man similar heights! Too much zoom in and similar body types and styles make the visuals come across as bland. Add that to the words telling the story over the visuals and I think that this story still needs to improve upon it's visual presentation.

5Cover Art - 5: Tim Bradstreet's covers will seize your gaze and compel you to at least try the contents inside, regardless of the quality level. He's done it for the Punisher, Hellblazer, and other projects and now he does it again for this book. No matter what one may think of the story and art inside, this cover can attract attention on the racks. Even if I hadn't planned on picking it up in advance, I would probably have been swayed to at least thumb through this book.

A heroine, Wonder Woman, and a villainess, the Anita Soulfeeda, adorn the cover and stare right out at you. The Amazon Princess of Peace clasps her lasso as if she is ready for oncoming battle while the succubus strikes a sexy pose as if to tempt you.

The logo is tailor made for a mini-series with a supernatural tone. It evokes a fantasy style and is arranged so as not to obscure any of the gorgeous cover art by Bradstreet.

This illustrative cover displays static figures but combined with the imagery in the background and the stylish logo one can get a feeling for the subject matter inside. It's not an easy piece of art to miss. Too bad one cannot simply miss the combination of art and story the interior does offer if they do pick this book up.

Mild Mannered Reviews


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

January 2001

February 2001 March 2001 April 2001 May 2001 June 2001 July 2001 August 2001 September 2001 October 2001 November 2001 December 2001 Annuals

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