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Mild Mannered Reviews - JLA Comics

JLA #102

JLA #102

Scheduled to arrive in stores: July 28, 2004

Cover date: Late September 2004

Writer: Chuck Austen
Penciller: Ron Garney
Inker: Ron Garney

"The Pain of the Gods: The Scarlet Speedster"

John-Paul Zito Reviewed by: John-Paul Zito

Flash rushes to the rescue of a woman falling from a burning building. He runs right up the brick edifice, catches her and sets her down gently on an adjacent roof. He rushes back into the building to look for others who may be trapped. Instead he finds the dead bodies of two children, clutching one another, dead from smoke inhalation. Flash is hit hard by this find, after the fire is under control Flash catches his breath by a fire truck and talks to the Keystone Fire Chief. He tells Flash he did his best, and that while you never get used to dead kids, you can't dwell on it.

Later Flash goes to work buying up all the fire detectors in the city and rushing them into all the homes he can. He installs them in the blink of an eye before anyone realizes he was even there. Flash even finds the time to chastise one family for having a smoke detector but no battery.

Before Flash can continue his crusade against smoke and fire his JLA team mates intervene. They escort him up to the watchtower where they talk things out. Superman explains that it's not supposed to get easier, and that you don't get over that sort of thing. You have to press on...

Later in a Metropolis suburban school yard a young boy by the name of Joey tries to balance himself atop a jungle gym. The boy is likely to hurt himself but he doesn't anyway; with a reckless abandon. The dialogue snippets of the other children inform us that he's the son of the slain hero from the last JLA issue. Another student shouts: "Your gonna fall and there'll be no one to catch you." Floating in the distance, keeping a watchful eye is Superman.

To Be Continued...

2Story - 2: On its own this is a fine one shot featuring the Flash, nothing too note worthy but not a clunker. It has a bit of a preachy attitude to it, like a P. S. A. especially from a character like the Flash.

What I didn't like was that as part of a larger story arch this story doesn't work. In the last issue Superman is plagued by guilt over the death of a new hero. Superman's "Pain of the Gods" gimmick tied into his survivor's guilt and really said a lot about Superman without having to say much at all. In this issue Flash is disturbed by the death of two young children. A shocking sight I'm sure but it lacked the comic book flavor and relevance that the super hero death carried in Superman's issue.

Add to that the repeated use of fire disasters and I was a bit disappointed. Now I understand that Chuck might be trying to build a theme here with the fire, I don't know yet I haven't seen the other issues. They could all open up with a fire rescue for all I know. However it's an ineffective theme and doesn't work as well as if fire in some general form was included in every issue. For example a matchstick in J'onn's or the lack of fire to provide warmth to citizen's of Sub Diego in an Aquaman tale...

While every issue might open with a fire rescue, I don't think they can all end with a heartfelt discussion over guilt and living with it. We don't need seven issues to explore the same emotion in seven different people. Just snowballing from my previous example; J'onn's could be about shame of his weakness to fire and Aquaman's could be about the cold heart that must come with leadership's role.

What I did enjoy was the return of the dead super hero's son from last issue in the end of this one. Something I liked about Chuck's Metropolis maxi-series was his ability to weave characters into the overall arch. He didn't throw is some villains or supporting characters for no reason, by the end they'd all resurfaced and proved relevant. I hope we get to see the rest of Joey's story, it really was the saving grace of this issue.

3Art - 3: This isn't a slight against Garney's style or pacing or choice in angles. I'm just very particular about the way the Flash is illustrated. Red streaks with lightning cracking around them can get boring and flat, not to mention distracting. I don't collect Flash regularly, so I'm basing this opinion on what I've seen reading JLA. Artists who can really make Flash's powers look interesting are few and far between.

5Cover Art - 5: I really dug this cover. First of all the illustration of Flash is just so interesting. He's hunched over with his hands on his knees like he's out of breath. The Flash out of breath! That's a powerful image. I love the leaves that are getting blown around him like they were caught up in his wake. I even enjoy the lack of background like Flash out ran it and it has to catch up. Most interestingly of all is the logo. JLA is streaked over with black ink, like a rubbing of sorts. It's very different from the regular logo and it really stands out.

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

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