Mild Mannered Reviews - JLA Comics

JLA: The Island of Dr Moreau

JLA: The Island of Dr Moreau

Scheduled to arrive in stores: August 21, 2002

Cover date: October 2002

Writer: Roy Thomas
Penciller: Steve Pugh
Inker: Steve Pugh

Reviewed by: Michael Bailey (

Lucas Carr finds himself adrift at sea, dying of dehydration and malnutrition eight days after the ship he was on, the LADY VAIN, was lost. At the point where Carr is contemplating suicide he spots a ship, but soon falls unconscious. He awakens to find himself in a small cabin being addressed by a drunken man named Professor Edward Ivo. Behind Ivo Carr also sees a large, hulking figure with green skin. Ivo informs Carr that he is on a trading schooner bound for Hawaii. After Ivo's voice trails off Carr asks him if the green man does in fact have green, scaly skin. Ivo replies that his eyes are not playing tricks on him and that he may get used to Komodo's appearance, though most do not.

Commotion topside distracts Ivo and he and Komodo go off to investigate. Carr follows and watches as Ivo and the ship's Captain argue about the Captain's treatment of Ivo's cargo, which is a menagerie of animals. The ship has reached port and the Captain wishes to simply toss the animals overboard. Komodo knocks the Captain down, but the Captain recovers and draws a pistol. Before the conflict can continue the Captain is informed from a voice on the docks that if he intends to harm his men or his cargo that he will answer to the owner of the voice. Carr looks to the speaker and is shocked to see not only a very tall, older gentleman but also four other hulking figures behind him.

The Captain returns his pistol to its holster and explains that he meant no disrespect but instead wanted the cargo off as soon as possible. The man agrees and instructs two of his creatures, the dog creature Bernardus and the cheetah creature Jubatus, to help the Captain. The creatures, including Komodo, unload the cargo quickly. When one of the boxes hits a snag Bernardus extends his hand, which is covered in electric eels, and uses the electricity to free the box.

After watching the spectacle Carr tells the Captain that he is as glad to be done with this journey as the Captain is. The Captain hits Carr, telling him he can stay on this island with the rest of them. Delphinius, the dolphin creature, leaps to save him and brings him to the surface. The ape creature Dianna picks Carr out of the sea and nearly follows the gentleman's comment to throw Carr back at the ship. Ivo tells the old man, whom he calls Dr. Moreau, that Carr could be useful. Moreau relents and instructs Dianna to let Carr down.

With the creatures lugging the cargo, Moreau, Ivo and Carr make their way to a compound in the jungle. Carr is shown to a hut and Moreau tells him he must rest for the night but they will talk in the morning. Moreau and Ivo leave, locking Carr into the hut. Soon Carr remembers where he had heard the name Moreau. Ten years before Moreau had published astounding facts in connection with blood transfusions and morbid growths. A curious journalist discovered that Moreau had been performing illegal experiments and vivisections on animals. Moreau was banished from England.

After sleeping for a while Carr was stirred from his sleep by terrible screams. After breaking out of his hut Carr tracks down where the screams had been coming from and finds Moreau and Ivo experimenting on a bear. Carr yells at Moreau telling him the experiments he is performing are vile. Moreau explains he is not simply combining animals with humans but turning animals into men through injecting the animals with chemicals and operating on the brains to make them more human. When Carr comments on the pain they bring Moreau explains that while his operating theater may be a House of Pain the pain is in the cause of science.

The creatures come when Moreau tells Carr that he calls them the Justifiers of the Law to the Anointed. After going through where he got each creature Moreau tells of the animals that did not make it, including the first animal, an orangutan which drowned. He informs Carr that he doesn't like to dwell on the failures but on the successes like the hawk/wolf he names Dirus Falconus and the porcupine/bear named Black Arrow. Moreau then informs the group that they are returning to London. Ivo is ecstatic and tells Moreau that the next boat will be there in three weeks.

While Moreau and Ivo leave to plan their trip Carr follows the creatures as the two new members join the fold. He watches as the five original members instruct the two new ones on the laws of the group. During the initiation Carr stumbles and falls, drawing the JLA's attention. At first Carr is afraid for his life, but after telling them that Moreau doesn't know he's there. After that they ignore him and go on with the initiation.

Several weeks later Moreau, Carr, Ivo and the JLA are in London with Moreau ready to announce his findings to the world. After unveiling the JLA a member of the audience questions their authenticity and is met by Bernardus' eels. The police try to intervene and a scuffle ensues. Moreau finally manages to gain control of the situation, but the man who started the fight still insists that the JLA are actors or acrobats, but if they are real he suggests that they should go after a real threat, Jack the Ripper.

Moreau asks who this Ripper is and is handed a newspaper. Since the group had been sequestered since their return they had heard nothing about the murderer who has already claimed four victims. Moreau agrees and pledges that his JLA will capture this Ripper. Soon the members begin their patrols. Carr begins to notice that while on these patrols that the members of the JLA seem to be reverting, albeit slowly, to their more animal nature.

Finally, on the night of November 8th and 9th at midnight the Ripper claims his fifth victim. The JLA track the Ripper to his hideout only to find the Ripper waiting for them and more prostitutes chained to the wall. He welcomes them to hell, as he signed his correspondence with the police, "from hell." Jack explains that he prefers to call his home The House of Pain where he performs his experiments on the dregs of society. He pleads with the JLA to join him to create a new race, one that Moreau could have never dreamed of. When the JLA ask him who he is and how he knows of Moreau Jack reveals that he is the orangutan that had thought to be killed. He explains that he faked his death and made his way to London where he planned to reverse Moreau's experiments and turn humans into animals.

Jack is surprised to learn that one of the ladies he picked up was Dianna. He pleads with her and the group to join him, but she attacks him, smashing his head into the wall. The JLA react with surprise but soon their animal nature takes over and they soon break the laws Moreau had established by eating Jack's flesh and tasting the blood on the wall.

Later, at a press conference, Moreau announces that his JLA has captured the Ripper and that his Justifiers have earned a place in society. Later that night Moreau sends for Carr to reveal his future plans. He shows Carr his new apes, chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans. He explains that Jack showed him the way and he now plans to combine the apes with the existing members of the Justifiers. Carr argues that he can't do that because due to Moreau the Justifiers are now considered men. Moreau counters that they are his property in the eyes of the law. Carr leaves but later in the evening he begins to wonder if Carr would go too far and leaves the company of the woman he was seeing an opera with to check out his premonition of doom.

Returning to Moreau's Carr tries to convince Ivo to help him to stop Moreau. Ivo knocks him out and drags him downstairs where Moreau was busy addressing his Justifiers. He tells them that he is going to operate on them one final time to turn them from men to gods. Komodo, Black Arrow and Bernardus defy him causing Moreau to draw a pistol. Moreau tells them that they are to follow his law and they are men, but the Justifiers tell him that they are not men.

Ivo pleads with Moreau to leave explaining that the animals don't fear him anymore. Moreau tells him that he will make them fear him and fires his weapon. The bullet hits Delphinius sending the Justifiers into a rage. Dianna breaks Ivo's neck. Dianna then pleads with Komodo, Bernardus and Black Arrow to join her and the others in revolt. They refuse and begin to fight. During the melee Carr tries to stop them but is knocked unconscious. When he regains consciousness he finds that Moreau and his creations are dead save for Delphinius. When Carr tries to find out what Delphinius is saying the dolphin creature only says, "None escape."

After that Carr decides that the only thing he can do is destroy everything the scientist had created. He severs the gas line that powers one of Moreau's burners and starts a fire. With that he leaves Moreau, his creatures and his notes burning in the night so that no one else can discover how to create the perversions of nature that Moreau was able to give rise to.

3Story - 3: I hate to say this because there are few writers that I can say that I look up to (and Roy Thomas is on that short list) but I really didn't care for this story. It really wasn't up to Thomas' usual level of quality. Everybody has hits and misses and I am not trying to insult Roy Thomas, but this story was not executed well. For one thing the JLA and Dr. Moreau don't mix. Giving the creatures that Moreau creates comparable powers was kind of weak. The animal choices made sense, in a way, but the whole concept didn't agree with me so the fact that these creatures had powers didn't sit well. I will admit that Bernardus having electrical powers a la Green Lantern's power ring was a nice touch.

Another problem I had was the several times characters refer to other characters by the wrong name. In the beginning of the story Moreau instructs Bernardus and Jubatus to unload the boat but Jubatus and Delphinius are the ones to leave. At the end of the story Dianna pleads with Bernardus, Jubatus and Black Arrow to join her revolt, but the characters shown were Komodo, Bernardus and Black Arrow. This could have been the fault of the letterer. In any case it was kind of confusing since the characters are not immediately recognizable like the characters they are meant to represent.

My main problem with the comic was the revelation of who Jack the Ripper was. I guess in terms of the story it makes sense and it was pretty apparent when the revelation was made, but overall it really didn't work. It just didn't agree with me. I know that doesn't give much in the way of an explanation, but it is how I feel. Having one of the first recorded serial killers turn out to be an orangutan is a cop out. I was very interested upon reading that the story was going to involve the Ripper because Roy Thomas has a history of interweaving history and literature nicely, such as in the case of Neptune Perkins' origin, which combined 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and a short story by Edgar Allan Poe. Here it just didn't gel .

Despite my many problems with the comic I have to admit that outside of the Ripper's identity and the character names it was pretty well crafted. It was a long shot to combine the JLA and The Island of Dr. Moreau but while the comic had some serious lags it had a nice beat and you could dance to it, which is why I chose to give it a three. The characterization of Lucas Carr was very well done and he served as a fine narrator to the story and gave it a solid structure. Moreau was portrayed as a mad man who could fake his way in society and this was done very well. I also liked the inclusion of Ivo, which in addition to some good characterization gave it some credibility as a JLA Elseworlds.

I wish I could comment more but I know little about The Island of Dr. Moreau. I really can't write much as far as how close Roy Thomas got it or the little insider bits. I have never read the novel or seen any of the movie adaptations. So as far as that is concerned I can't say.

In closing I have to say that I really wanted to like this book. As stated Roy Thomas is one of the few writers I look up to and I like about ninety-eight percent of what he has written. The conspiracy theorist in me likes to think that maybe this book was messed with in post-production and dialogue was changed and all that, which has been known to happen. In any case I really can't say to run out and buy this book today, but it is a fun read at times and worth a once over.

4Art - 4: The artwork was excellent. Steve Pugh managed to really capture the era that the story took place in. His line work wasn't slick and neat, but the story called for a rougher style. Pugh's interpretations of the JLAers as animals were enjoyable and he did his best to let you know whom the animals were supposed to represent. Pugh really shined when it came to Moreau. He really captured the madness in the man's eyes and let us know that this man was crazy.

The action was well done and the storytelling was excellent. I honestly have to say that the art was a highlight of the comic.

4Cover Art - 4: As much as I enjoyed the front cover I have to say that I preferred the back one. The front had an excellent group shot and set the tone of what was to come as far as the interior art, but the back cover was just fun. It fit as far as the era in which the story takes places and had that a carnival barker quality that made it very enjoyable.

Mild Mannered Reviews


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

January 2002

February 2002 March 2002 April 2002 May 2002 June 2002 July 2002 August 2002 September 2002 October 2002 November 2002 December 2002

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