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Mild Mannered Reviews - JLA Comics

JLA: Another Nail #2

Justice League of America: Another Nail #2

Scheduled to arrive in stores: June 16, 2004

Cover date: August 2004

Writter: Alan Davis
Penciller: Alan Davis
Inker: Mark Farmer

Part Two of Three

Michael (George) O'Connor Reviewed by: Michael O'Connor

Green Lantern is making the rounds. From Coast City to Keystone City, GL drops in on some allies to sniff for anything that reeks of Darkseid or the New Gods. Hal's nose smells something, but his journey gets him nowhere.

Meanwhile, aboard the Justice League's satellite base, Martian Manhunter encourages Superman to take some time off. Until they've figured out how the Man of Steel's powers were drained from him while battling Evil Star and Despero, J'onn J'onnz doesn't want Earth's mightiest hero in the line of fire. Supes reluctantly agrees after J'onn introduces him to the three new Justice League recruits who have signed on to take his place: Firestorm, Halo, and the Astral Mage.

Down on Earth, the Metal Men and their creator, Dr. Will Magnus, are examining the now-defunct Amazo, whose brain was removed by the Flash a year ago. Magnus is still trying to unlock the secrets of the advanced robot, even though he was supposed to oversee the destruction of the body long ago. So when Power Girl, Black Orchid, and Star Sapphire show up through a wormhole to take Amazo with them, the Metal Men do their best to fight them off. Ultimately, their attempt is a futile one, and the girls get away with a robot in tow.

From there, Power Girl, Black Orchid, and Star Sapphire cause some more havoc in Midway City, laying down the girl power against the Doom Patrol and making off with the group's chief, Niles Caulder. When Green Lantern happens upon the scene hours later, a temporal anomaly, likely caused by the wormhole through which the girl trio traveled, catches GL and won't let go. It takes Doom Patrol's Negative Man to set off a potent and volatile reaction that finally frees Hal but leaves him a little shaken.

What other strange things are happening? Well, Hawkgirl and Zatanna run across a strange monster that has mysteriously slipped through the dimensions. And when Hawkgirl confronts the Shadow Thief a little later, the villain's attempt to flee through a dimensional portal results instead in his rather painful demise. The portal then opens wider, pulling both Zatanna and Hawkgirl into it.

Meanwhile, the Flash and the Atom notice some strange time anomalies (which I'm not even going to attempt to explain!) before they're attacked by the Justice League's evil doppelgangers from another dimension, the Crime Syndicate! Power Ring, Owl Man, Superwoman, Ultra Man, and Johnny Quick manage to capture the two heroes after a scuffle, and when the Flash tries to accuse them of causing trouble on their Earth again, Power Ring corrects him; it is Barry and Ray that are the dimensional trespassers!

Also, Batman is still coping with what happened a year ago: the Joker killed Batgirl and Robin before his eyes. Now, he can't get the dark memories out of his head, and after defeating Poison Ivy with the help of former Catwoman, and now-Batwoman, Selina Kyle, Batman starts to hear the Joker's laugh again. Following the laughter brings Batman to the site of the Joker's death - Arkham Asylum - and face-to-face with Deadman, who has also heard the laughter and believes it has something to do with the unstable dimensional fluctuations. Deadman agrees to track down the Spectre to get things fixed but admits that even he's scared by the extent to which the dimensional planes are wavering.

Elsewhere, Aquaman is minding his own business when he's attacked by a monster of the deep that won't respond to his call. The strange monster captures the Sea King and brings him to a cavern where one of Darkseid's minions, a spy, has been hiding out since before Darkseid's fall a year ago. Things don't look too good for Aquaman until Wonder Woman shows up, explaining to her friend and ally that the Phantom Stranger led her to him. The minion destroys himself in his attempt to build upon his own power, leaving Diana and Arthur to wander through the caverns and discover Apokoliptan technology. But before either of them can act, an explosion hurls both of them backwards into time, and before long, they're contending with a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

And in deep space, Barda, now a Super Green Lantern - a New God with a power ring and a Mother Box run by her husband, Mister Miracle - is on the trail of an energy signal linked to the attack on Superman. The signal leads straight to Kalibak and Grace, two refuges from Apokolips that have their own big plans. Barda dukes it out with them briefly before transporting the both of them to New Genesis, where they are captured and interrogated. According to Grace, Darkseid, when he was alive, sought "the One" - for what purpose we don't yet know - and Grace believed that "One" to be Superman. Before the New Gods can learn anymore, Kalibak and Grace get wrapped up in squabbling with one another.

And what about Superman? Well, he's been taking it easy in Smallville, Kansas, where the Kents have tried to integrate Kal into normal society by disguising him. When Lois shows up, she and Kal hit the movies and kick back, both unaware that super villain Eclipso lurks nearby.

The issue concludes when Deadman starts riding the dimensional waves and comes across Etrigan the Demon, battling hordes of attacking creatures. When Deadman asks where the Spectre is, Etrigan reveals that their battlefield *is* the Spectre, who fights both for his own life and all of reality.

4Story - 4: The Universe-is-ending shtick is an old one. In the comics world, it's the subject of almost every major crossover event, maxiseries, and annual publishing plan. Ever since Crisis on Infinite Earths, we've been trudging through the likes of Zero Hour, Genesis, Final Night, Underworld Unleashed, Our Worlds At War, and countless others... and that's only DC for you. Most of these events just leave me feeling unfulfilled. They become so self-important, massive, and technical, that they serve only to alienate readers (or at least this reader) from identifying with the conflict or even just understanding what the hell's happening.

Which brings me to Davis' Nail series. This is, of course, not current continuity. It's an Elseworlds tale, but that doesn't stop it from being one of *those* stories. The dimensions are fluctuating, some weird stuff is happening, and all these anomalies are probably bad omens for what's likely to involve the fabric of reality being torn away... and some sinister force is behind it. Sounds familiar, right? How many times has this been done?

The difference is that Davis' story manages to somehow be both entertaining and exciting. What's his secret? Maybe it's the character choices he's made. Along with the standards (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, and Green Lantern), Davis has thrown in some fun back-up characters... the kind of heroes that you just don't normally see in these types of stories. In this issue alone, there were appearances by the Doom Patrol, Metal Men, Ragman, the Phantom Stranger, the Crime Syndicate, Deadman, Hawk and Dove, and a slew of super characters that I've never even heard of! And the best part is that Davis excels at developing each of these characters and making them unique. For instance, Deadman frightened? I mean, how cool is that?

Davis even manages to fiddle with the staples and provide his own interpretation. Particularly, I like the Flash's jealousy of Superman and Green Lantern's detective instincts kicking into gear. And even though I wasn't a big fan of Amish Superman, I'm warming up to him. He's *different* from the Superman we're all used to, and that's at least intriguing! And despite all his powers, I can't help but feel a little concern for the big guy. He's nowhere near as confident as our Superman, and he's more naive and pacifistic. I get the feeling he's going to be taken advantage of by evil forces and never even see it coming.

What else works? Davis keeps this story manageable. Three issues. No 12-part maxiseries with ties into all the ongoing monthlies. Granted, this is the advantage of Elseworlds in general, but I just like the fact that this is an end-of-the-world story that stands on its own and isn't likely to overextend itself or get its readers bored with ceaseless convolutions. And because it's Elseworlds, the reading experience isn't hampered with tracking down all the continuity details (except for its predecessor series - The Nail); the story can be enjoyed for its own merits rather than what it means for the DC Universe at large. Similarly, the Elseworlds label means that we don't know what's going to happen. If Davis wanted to, he could have the world torn apart by evil forces next issue. The bad guys could win. And even if that doesn't happen, it doesn't mean that super-characters, even big super-characters like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, are going to make it through alive.

The format lends an unpredictability and a tension to proceedings that would otherwise be ho-hum.

But can Davis wrap things up as well as he's strewn them about? I was a little nonplussed by the ending of the last Nail miniseries. Hopefully, Davis has learned from past mistakes and will provide us with a solid ending to an otherwise satisfying miniseries.

5Art - 5: This stuff is drop-dead gorgeous. Some of Davis' finest work to date, if you ask me. He manages to make brightly colorful characters look both natural and realistic. Even though some of these heroes (admittedly most) should look nothing short of absurd, Davis manages to work the fine line between cartoon and hyper-realism and fit those strange looking costumed individuals into a world that matches them fashion clash for fashion clash.

Meanwhile, the action sequences are terrific. Power Girl, Black Orchid, and Star Sapphire are knockouts, and Wonder Woman and Aquaman against monsters of the deep and dinosaurs? Aw, yeah! Batman, as always, is terrific, and the Green Lantern and Flash sequences were nothing short of jaw-dropping. And one more shout-out: the Barda sequence‹she looks great with a power ring!

4Cover Art - 4: Holy Hoo-hah! A trio of hot chicks on a cover may have been done before (countless times), but that doesn't make Star Sapphire, Black Orchid (who the hell is this anyway?!), or- especially - Power Girl any less sexy. There's nothing like a cover that hits below the belt, and this one certainly qualifies!

Mild Mannered Reviews


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

January 2004

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