Mild Mannered Reviews - JLA Comics

JLA #53

JLA #53

Scheduled to arrive in stores: April 25, 2001

Cover date: June 2001

Writer: Mark Waid
Penciller: Bryan Hitch
Inker: Paul Neary

"It Takes a Thief"

Reviewed by: Jason Czernich (

Synopsis: As more and more wishes happen across the globe the JLA, in their costumed incarnations, team up with the Cathexis, the "keepers" of ID, the force that's making wishes come to life across the globe. The split-off civilian identities of the JLA are rallied by Eel O'Brian, Plastic Man's no nonsense alter-ego, to be reunited with their costumed personalities and confront the Cathexis, who have been using the JLA all along for their own greedy purposes. All throughout the story we see more of the disadvantages of the JLA alter-ego split; Batman has no identity without Bruce Wayne to guide him, Wally West has no spark without his Flash identity to ignite it, Superman is colder and more Kryptonian without Clark Kent to root him to humanity, Eel O'Brian is a desperate thug without the wackiness of Plastic Man to help him relax, etc...

3Story - 3: It's a decently scripted plot with nice touches here and there; i.e. Eel O'Brian recreating the mugging that changed the course of Bruce Wayne's life, the "Flowers for Algernon" dialogue, etc. However, when put together with the other installments it lacks character development and build up.

Last issue the Cathexis were just thrown into the story without warning. They just appear out of left field in part two. This issue the cowardly thug Eel O'Brian becomes a leader. How does this happen? He gives his reasoning but it just doesn't fit in with his whimpering, desperate demeanor that Mark Waid has shown us in previous parts of this JLA tale. Make no mistake, I find it very interesting how Waid uses O'Brian in this issue, I just can't see how this timid robber gained so much bearing so fast. Wouldn't it have been more interesting and tragic to have John Jones rally all the secret identities together for battle and a possible cure? Jones was the most reluctant to merge back with his other self but maybe he could have come to the wisdom and strength to reverse his good fortune for the greater good on his own. Remember, John Ostrander also separated John Jones from the Martian Manhunter in recent issues of the Manhunter's own monthly. That John Jones was a strong persona so why is Waid's John Jones so weak?

Other than my above comments the plot and scripting on this issue was suitable but not enough to garner a higher rating from me.

5Art - 5: Bryan Hitch can emphasize the important points of a story and Paul Neary can make it all look smooth and clean.

From Eel O'Brian's sweaty close up on page one to the properly proportioned double page spread of the JLA's secret identities on pages twenty-one and twenty-two, Hitch gives us visuals that are not overly busy but still give your eyes details to wander over and delightfully take in.

Throughout the whole issue we can see that Hitch pencils in varieties of architecture, shapes, costumes, anatomy, etc. He spices it up and doesn't crowd his panels. Take a look at page six, panel one. Hitch lets the city background shine, while the main focus of the scene, Wally and Linda, only take up a small portion of the panel. This helps establish setting and helps promote a zoom in effect as we get closer shots of the table conversation in the next two panels until the forth panel where we zoom back out and then the fifth panel cuts to Eel O'Brian peeking out from behind a newspaper. This series of panels isn't a collective series of random talking head shots, it's something that brings our focus closer into the scene! Bryan Hitch and Paul Neary will be moving on from this title soon but I will sincerely miss their fine craftsmanship when they leave.

4Cover Art - 4: Of the six Leaguers who have undergone the alter ego split, Superman, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, and Flash are the ones who have changed the most visually. Superman revels in his Kryptonian look, Green Lantern stands ready for battle in his ring generated armor, while Martian Manhunter doesn't seem to mind his Martian mutation.

Like the interior pencils and inks by the same art team, it's basically well composed. Hitch's control of anatomy and stance work well together to make it exude attitude. Superman's pose very much stands out in this respect. His eyes closed, chest thrust out, arms and head thrown back, all contribute to Superman's Kryptonian attitude of power, might, and even superiority.

It's a great cover and it might have earned a rating of five but there's the matter of the UPC symbol blocking a good chunk of Martian Manhunter and the empty background gives a sense that this cover was lacking. What would that be? Background? Characters? I can't say for sure.

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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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