Mild Mannered Reviews - Specials

JLA: Gatekeeper #1

JLA: Gatekeeper #1

Scheduled to arrive in stores: October 17, 2001

Cover date: December 2001

Writer & Artist: Timothy Truman

"Gatekeeper" - Part 1 of 3

Reviewed by: Michael Bailey (

In a lost catacomb beneath the Syrian Desert, Green Lantern muses over the fact that he had left an old friend, Professor Sala Nisba, behind on a previous adventure. He had promised her that he would come back and he has, with Superman, Batman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman and Doctor Fate. He tells his fellow heroes that his friend lies in the world beyond the doorway in the catacomb that is marked with a Green Lantern symbol. Aquaman scoffs and says that they have done this before but is corrected by Doctor Fate who tells the group that the world beyond the doorway is the hell known as Kurnugi.

Beyond the doorway in Kurnugi, Sala contemplates her fate. She is lost and hunted and her rational mind cannot fully grasp what she is going through. She bathes and thinks of how much she has learned in terms of what she can and cannot eat. Despite all she has learned Sala realizes that she cannot survive much longer.

After her bath the Enkum and Ninkum, the male and female honor guard of the usurper Enkimdu, attack Sala. Part way into the battle Sala notices the approach of the Captain of the crew, the shape shifter Kulullu. The attackers are after Sala's weapon, the Ringstaff and she cannot allow that to happen. Kulullu taunts Sala telling her to give up since her ring bearer, Green Lantern, is not there to help. Despite her doubts about whether Kyle will be back to help her as he promised Sala is able to summon the power within and become the goddess of battle, Istar. With the power of the Ringstaff, Istar is able to fight off the attack, but is left drained and washes up on a beach.

Before she can recover Sala comes around to discover another sea creature, the Eridu. Before the monster attacks it is killed with bows and arrows by a group of strange creatures. The leader of the creatures Nergal-Kin argues with the others in the group about what to do with her. They eventually decide to take her with them. Sala, barely conscious, can do nothing to stop them.

Back on Earth, Batman questions why the marking on the doorway matches Green Lantern's insignia. Doctor Fate explains that the Guardians of the Universe who formed the Green Lantern Corps are also responsible for the brutal creatures that lie beyond the gate. A millennia previous these beings migrated to Earth, proclaimed themselves gods and subjugated the people of the Syrian Desert. However not all of the immortals were evil. The female warrior Istar fought her brethren and found allies among the natives. She gave one of them named Ninurta a prototype of the Oan power ring. After fusing the ring's energy with that of her Ringstaff she lured her enemies into another dimension and they were imprisoned there forever.

Green Lantern then explains that some time ago Sala's archeological team and he were kidnapped by the demon Nergal and taken to Kurnugi after Nergal discovered that Sala is a descendent of Istar and possesses the goddess' latent powers. Nergal knew that he could re-open the portal by combining the power of the Ringstaff with that of the power ring and tried to force GL and Sala to help him by torturing one of Sala's friends. With Sala's help they broke free but before GL could get her out too the gate closed.

Before they enter the gate Green Lantern goes on to explain that they have to not only deal with Nergal but with his wife and sister Ereskigal. Worse than them is their mother, the creator of the monsters to help Nergal whom Wonder Woman recognizes as Tiamat. Apparently the Amazon's had to fight against Nergal, Tiamat and Ereshikigal, as did the people of Atlantis when the three tried to destroy Poseidonis.

Superman chimes in with a story J'onn J'onzz once told him about a renegade group of Oans that attacked Mars. Batman doesn't like all of the coincidences but Dr. Fate says that it was, appropriately, fate that they were all together. He opens the gate and tells them that while he can get them in he cannot bring them back. Not only that but he cannot join them as opening the gate has left him drained. The heroes jump into the breach with Dr. Fate leaving them an ominous warning to beware.

At the palace of Lord Nergal, Nergal is showing some of his minions the finer points of torture. After the waif he was cutting passes out, Nergal goes to find his sister/wife and his mother. Ereshikigal is busy being pampered by her demon servants and slays one of them after they chip her nail. Nergal discusses the fate of Sala with his mother before Kulullu bring news that he has seen the Lady of Battle but was unable to capture her.

Nergal becomes very angry and destroys a few of Kulullu's men. Tiamat, however, is more interested in what Kulullu's soothsayer has to say. The soothsayer reveals that Green Lantern and other heroes have come through the gate. Nergal launches into action and calls for the Neti and the faithful gait guardian Humbaba to bring him Green Lantern's weapon.

The heroes appear in a clearing and are immediately faced with the bodies of the civilians who had tried to fight against Nergal. Superman launches into the air and discovers, by way of crashing to the ground, that the world they are on has two suns one red and one yellow, which affect his powers. As Superman takes to the air once again Batman joins him. The two have little time to do reconnaissance as Nergal's men fly towards them. On the ground, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and Aquaman are also surrounded. Green Lantern sardonically welcomes the heroes to Kurnugi.

2Story - 2: For those of you who missed DC's "Planet DC" annuals of 2000 this story is a sequel to the Green Lantern Annual of that year. While I thought that most of the stories that came out of those annuals were rather good and while I liked the GL Annual in particular I didn't care for Gatekeeper all that much.

For one thing I think that DC is putting too many of these Prestige Format books out, especially the JLA stories. The one shots are not all that bad because they are self-contained stories that have been entertaining. A mini-series, though, is a bit much, especially at five bucks a pop. This story did not deserve the Prestige Format. Seriously. It could have been done in a standard mini-series at a lower price.

Of course that wouldn't have really changed my opinion of the story on its own. As stated I liked the Green Lantern Annual but I don't think it deserved a mini-series to resolve the plotline. It would have been better served to have the story be resolved in the pages of GL's own book and not involve the Justice League. For one thing it would have been more heroic for Green Lantern to help his friend by himself. To have him go to the JLA for help takes away from the character and Kyle has an image problem from the get go.

Writers outside of those who work on his book have a tendency to treat Kyle like a rank amateur and while he is new to the hero game he is no novice. To have him running to his friends for help demeans the character and takes away from the progress that the character has made over the past few years. You could have had the appearance of Dr. Fate and even had some flashbacks of him talking to members of the JLA for their advice, but I feel the story would have been much stronger if Kyle tackled Nergal and the gang alone.

The coincidence factor was way too high in this book. I can see having Wonder Woman knowing the bad guys in question and maybe Aquaman as well, but drawing J'onn J'onzz and the Martians into the fray especially when J'onn isn't even in the book was a bit much. I don't care if it was fate it was also bad story telling.

Sala herself was a bit of a disappointment. I liked the character from the Annual and while this was a natural follow-up there wasn't much there. After a gratuitous bathing scene (Come on, did that really have to be in there?) she's attacked and after a bit of deus ex machina she defeats her foe and is left drained before being taken off by rejects from an issue of Elfquest. If she is one of the main characters, and I assume she is, there wasn't all that much in the way of character to make her interesting.

(Fate is also left drained and cannot go on. Once is okay, twice is a bit much. It's seems like bad storytelling to use the same explanation twice in one issue.)

The villains were decent but way over the top. While it fits with mythology to have the main villains be brother and sister and husband and wife the way the villains were portrayed served to discredit this. It's an interesting idea on its own, but the fact that the villains are so B-movie makes it seem unnecessary.

I am also assuming that this story takes place before "Our Worlds At War" since Aquaman is still among the living.

3Art - 3: I was very disappointed with Timothy Truman's art. Where is the usual slick and haunting style that came with such series as "Hawkworld"? The JLA all looked blocky and stilted like they were almost afraid to move.

The alien landscape of Kurnugi was nice and the creatures who dwelled there were interesting. The designs were nice, it's just that the human figures distract from what is good about the art in the book.

Overall I was disappointed with the art. Maybe I expected too much from Timothy Truman but the art was more of a let down in certain respects than the story. I'm hoping for more in the second and third issues.

3Cover Art - 3: The armored form of Nergal was nicely detailed and the dragons around him looked nice. It's too bad that the figures of the JLA take away from that. Again the figures are blocky and uneven. The one thing that struck me more than anything in this cover is that Kyle looks like Tom Welling who plays Clark Kent on the new "Smallville" TV series with a Green Lantern mask.

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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