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Mild Mannered Reviews - JLA Comics

JLA: Secret Files and Origins 2004

JLA: Secret Files and Origins 2004

Scheduled to arrive in stores: September 15, 2004

Cover date: November 2004

John-Paul Zito Reviewed by: John-Paul Zito

"Same Coin"

Writter: Joe Kelly
Penciller: Doug Mahnke & John Byrne
Inker: Tom Nguyen

The Elite track down a pair of female mystics preparing a sacrificial spell designed to bring about the resurrection of Norse gods. Meanwhile, half a world away, the JLA battles the manifestations of those gods... Flash, a member of both teams manages to be in the thick of it on both sides of the battle.

The Elite manages to shut down the spell and the Gods fade away. The teams return to their respective headquarters, neither organization aware of the other's status or situation. That's the way it has to be, the Elite is a "don't ask don't tell" operation that the JLA turn an uneasy blind eye to.

Batman discovers through Oracle that the appearance of the Norse Gods was linked to The Spear of Destiny. A powerful magic spear used to pierce Christ's skin during his crucifixion. Hitler was tied to the spear by mystical means and used the spear to defeat the original JSA during World War II. Now someone has exhumed Hitler's secret hidden remains that are kept in an old KGB building somewhere in Russia. Batman believes someone is trying to use Hitler's remains, and his connection to the spear, as a means to track it down and harness its awesome power... Flash knows this to be true...

Earlier along side the Elite he interrogated the female mystics and discovered the spear was their ultimate goal. The one witch gives up the location of her Master, Circe, and Flash is off again to pull double duty as another Norse god appears in Norway and the Elite go after Circe.

Vera Black, in the undercover disguise of one of the captured witches, presents Circe with the head of the torture victim from the first incident. He is apparently the last living descendent of Hitler and his blood is all that will recall the spear from its other dimensional prison. But Circe gets wise to the double cross and attacks Vera. Flash is there just in time to rescue her.

Around the world Felix Faust makes his presence known as the other end of the magical equation. He has with him the last earthly shard of the spear; he intends to use it as a homing beacon to call the spear through to our world.

As the JLA and Elite engage in combat with evil minions; Flash crisscrosses the globe to save the day. As a portal opens on two sides of the world the spear is revealed to both Circe and Felix. Flash snatches the spear shard away from Felix and replaces Circe's talisman's with a magical stone concoction from Manitou. He tosses both into the portal from their respective ends. Once both items find themselves trapped in the other dimension along with the spear the portals close leaving the spear imprisoned.

Flash, exhausted from his multiple round trips around the planet, collapses at the midway point between both teams for a long well deserved nap.

The End...

2Story - 2: I enjoy that the focus of the story is Flash. The hyperactive nature of his powers and abilities lend themselves to the proactive behavior of the Elite. It made sense to me that he would sign up with them when he did. Even if his personality is more suited to the JLA's reactive nature his super speed and the way his body and mind operate are no doubt always looking for problems to fix which is what the Elite are here for.

Unfortunately the story itself was a bit confusing in execution and logic. I was very confused as to how a magic spear that was granted its powers by piercing Christ has any connection to Nordic (Re: heathen) gods. More importantly how could anything endowed with power by such a holy figure be tied to the destiny of Adolf Hitler? Is it because Hitler was destined to do good things but fell to the temptation of evil? I don't know, it's not explained.

I was never quite clear on whether or not Faust and Circe were working together. The concept of their team-up is great, but I'm not sure it's intentional. I get the feeling that each one is coincidentally working the same agenda at the same time because the anniversary of Hitler's death is upon them. If it was a team-up it could have been saved for a longer arc where we could really get into some great back-and-forth between the snide Faust and the godliness of Circe.

4Art - 4 (Mahnke): I'm taking a wild stab here, I could be totally wrong, but I think the reason to use two different artists to tell this story is to illustrate the darker "harder" edge of the Elite versus the cleaner and brighter JLA style. It's a good plan but because Mahnke was on JLA for so long the dynamic is lost. I think of him as a JLA artist already and no amount of dark hues will change that. The concept would have been better executed by using two artists we've yet to see cut their teeth of the JLA... Maybe a pair of unknowns or a duo like Alex Maleev and John Cassaday. I'm not saying those guys are better artists; I'm saying their styles are so many worlds apart that it would really drive the thematic point home.

3Art - 3 (Byrne): While Mahnke's art is dependable as always Byrne's is a hundred times better here than it was on his recent JLA arc. Nguyen's often underrated inks and Jeromy Cox's colors take years off of Byrne's work. Things look fresh, interesting and fun again. Byrne gets lazy here and there with energy and power effects but he's pulling double duty, as is everyone else, doing this short work plus the monthly title.

"The Fall of Modora"

Written by: Kurt Busiek
Pencils by: Ron Garney
Inks by: Dan Green

Modora is a tiny eastern European Nation very unique in this world: They're the only country to avoid invasion from the Crime Syndicate of Amerika thanks to an impenetrable Sonic Dome... Until today that is. The CSA go to work destroying the country's infrastructure and bureaucracy all the while killing any civilians that get in their way.

The only one left to stand between them and total world domination is Lady Sonar, once a member of the CSA's greatest foes: The Justice Underground. But long ago the CSA managed to dismantle their foes and scatter them and their body parts around the world. Now lady Sonar has returned with mechanical limbs to replace the ones the CSA tore off.

Johnny Quick tries to take Lady Sonar out but even he isn't fast enough to escape her frequency ray that increases his bodily vibrations and leaves him disintegrated. She then launches an ear drum bursting attack that cripples the CSA. Only Owl Man manages to shield his ears and attach an explosive to Lady Sonar. The detonation destroys what's left of her body but doesn't do the service of killing her. Modora has fallen, crushed beneath the heel of the CSA.

Lady Sonar is put into cryogenic storage in Ultra Man's flying Fortress as a trophy of sorts. Meanwhile the CSA ponder what's next. Ruling the world will be fun for a while, but what then? Release old enemies from jail just for the fight? Conquer other planets? Double cross one another?

Suddenly Johnny Quick materializes. He's in a frantic shock. Lady Sonar's ray sent him a year into the future where he saw the most horrible thing...Nothing at all... There is no future, it's all gone, in one year the whole universe is gone missing...

More to Come...

5Story - 5: Excellent opening shot from Kurt. It was such a short little story but it packed the biggest punch. I was always a pretty casual fan of Kurt Busiek, I only bought Avengers or Astro City if I liked the Diamond preview. In reading this quick tale I'm brought face to face with what an idiot I can be. Was Kurt always this good? How could I have been just a casual fan? Kurt Busiek has brought together a handful of cool elements and executed them extremely well.

First just the dynamic of the story's plot progression is pitch perfect. We join the Crime Syndicate on the eve of their greatest victory: total world domination. It's a fantastic introduction for those who don't know the characters from the silver age, or are unfamiliar with the Grant Morrison retool. Then after proving how powerful and almost omnipotent the CSA can be he cuts them off at the knees by revealing the end of the universe nears. For the reader and the CSA it becomes a question of "What is powerful enough to not only defeat the big bad Syndicate and destroy the universe?"

When we meet Lady Sonar we come face to face with the CSA's vicious and evil nature. She is the fruits of their vile labors; ripped limb for limb she's left to survive as a mutilated shell of her former self. None of this is explained in long silly soliloquy, it's just there for you to pick up subconsciously.

And how great is the flashback defeat of the Justice Underground? The CSA are all wearing their Silver Age costumes; a little nod to continuity, giving those old stories a little credibility in this universe. Most entertaining was the appearance of the Hal Jordan/Power Ring double.

Can't wait for more.

3Art - 3: In all fairness, like I said before, Ron's pulling down double duty and it might be that he didn't ink his own work this time around. Honestly most of these pages are great but they make the average pages look bad in comparison. But all anyone has to do is turn to the ad for JLA vs. CSA early on in the book. Great poster shot of the two teams facing off. I'm sure Ron's whole run on the CSA will look that crisp and tight.


Justice League Elite

Text by: Joe Kelly
Pencils by: Doug Mahnke
Inks by: Tom Nguyen

4Rating - 4: Individual run down of the JLE members and the mission manifesto works. The team photo would benefit from being more action packed and less "class photo".

The Red King

Text by: Dan Slott
Pencils by: Dan Jurgens
Inks by: Jerry Ordway

1Rating - 1: I still don't know who the Red King is and I don't know why there are giant melting ball bearings all around him. The profile mentions Dr. Destiny but it doesn't mention his powers or what his gem does. I mean I know because I have no life and I like Dr. Destiny, but this is profiles and origins and I got neither out of this.

The Justice League of America (Satellite Era)

Text by: Mike McAvenie
Pencils by: John Byrne
Inks by: Al Milgrom

3Rating - 3: It's an OK pin up of the JLA from 25 years ago (5 continuity?). It's meant to serve as a quick intro to the old time JLA for people getting into Identity Crisis. But where's the depiction of Sue Dibny?

Ultra Marine Corps

Text by: Grant Morrison
Pencils by: Ed McGuiness
Inks by: Dexter Vines

4Rating - 4: One point mandatory reduction because these guys really should have done a three page story or something to wet the appetites of people eagerly awaiting Morrison's return and Ed's arrival.

2Cover Art - 2: You're gonna sell a 5 dollar comic book and there's no eye candy on the cover to make it a must have? There should be an editor at DC whose exclusive job it is to make sure covers jump up off the racks and slap people in the face...

Mild Mannered Reviews


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

January 2004

February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004

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Check out the Comic Index Lists for the complete list of Superman-related comics published in 2004.