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Mild Mannered Reviews - JLA Comics

JLA #103

JLA #103

Scheduled to arrive in stores: August 11, 2004

Cover date: Early October 2004

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

"The Pain of the Gods: Emerald Warrior"

John-Paul Zito Reviewed by: John-Paul Zito

On an otherwise sunny day in New York City John Stewart, the Green Lantern, zips through the skies on his patrol. Suddenly he hears a woman's scream coming from an apartment nearby. Before he can rush to her aid he hears a second woman scream for help from an apartment building just across the street. John rockets into the one apartment and halts a low life from beating on his woman. Then John speeds across the street to the other apartment only to find that he's too late. The woman in that apartment has been stabbed to death already; her killer lording over her with a knife clenched in his hands. The murderer rants and raves, shouting loudly that the woman got what she deserved. Horrified by the brutal abuse John losses control and beats the murderer within an inch of his life.

Later John looks out over the city that never sleeps and wonders aloud how the guardians of the galaxy could expect him to be responsible for every life on Earth. He's been charged with the protection of our world and our galaxy but he doesn't have enough power. John dismisses the negative thoughts and instead concentrates on doing a better job and ensuring that no one else dies a senseless death, not so long as he bears the Green Lantern ring.

Before he can leap into action Superman arrives to make sure John's all right. He hasn't slept, shaved or even bathed in a few days now. His guilt has kept him from doing anything other than patrolling and saving lives. John becomes defensive when Superman points out how worn out he must be. With a smug defiance John flies off to get back to his patrolling.

Not far away a man and woman lose control of her car and it crashes into the guard rail and spills over the side. Just before they crash into the water below John reaches out with a giant green hand and saves them. Suddenly, however, as he tries to set them back down on the bridge he starts to lose consciousness. He passes out and drops the car on the bridge before free falling himself. When he finally pulls himself together it appears to be too late. The car and her passengers have been dumped upside down on the bridge. Thankfully the JLA show up to lend a hand. Superman flies the car and its passengers off to the hospital while the rest of the League takes care of an exhausted John on the verge of collapse.

Later that week young Joey, the son of the slain super hero from several issues back, confronts a gang of bullies on the school playground. The young man sticks to his guns as the older kids prepare to wail on him. But Before a punch can be thrown Superman arrives. The bullies run away but not Joey. He turns around and faces the Man of Steel with the same resolve he showed the bullies. Joey tells Superman to get lost, he doesn't need him around and more importantly he doesn't want him around. The young boy still blames Big Blue for his father's death and aptly points out that Superman must feel guilty still as well. As the little boy walks away with his head pinned between his shoulders and a grimace etched on his face John Stewart arrives. John tells Superman just what Superman told him a few nights before: You can't protect everyone, not all the time.

To Be Continued...

3Story - 3: The first time I read through this issue on my subway ride home from work it didn't quite click for me. Like the other two issues in Austen's run so far this one works as a fantastic stand alone. I would expect to see it breaking up two longer arcs in the core Green Lantern book; but here it is, as part of a whole and it really doesn't do much for the arch.

This issue Austen abandons the raging fire rescue scene and opts instead for a pair of brutal crimes against women. The catalyst that moves the rest of the story forward then is John's guilt over not being able to save everyone, a theme we've seen move through all the issues so far in Austen's run. While I'm sure the special circumstances that lead to the woman's murder coupled with his inability to prevent it would be a tough pill to swallow for John I don't think the guilt ridden vigilance that followed was a natural progression of the character or events. Not to mention the fact that we've already seen the same exact course of action take place twice already, featuring two other characters, in this arch.

Instead I would have rather seen John's spotlight moment be more about a crisis of confidence than guilt. Having chosen the wrong domestic disturbance to break up first John allowed a woman to die. When a Green Lantern starts second guessing themselves their power and effectiveness are greatly diminished. If the rest of the issue had John questioning himself in the middle of rescues and the JLA having to rush in and clean up his mistakes I'd have been much more interested in his "pain."

The other element I felt was missing from this super-hero tale was the "super." Chuck Austen usually does a pretty good job of recognizing the fantastic elements of science fiction and fantasy that make comic books so much fun. And although there are a number of capes and masks floating around this issue the crux of the story, a stalker murdering his obsession, isn't very super at all. The Man of Steel's issue fit the JLA mold better than the Flash and Green Lantern's because it included a comic book flavor and relevance with the death of a super hero.

I continue to enjoy the visits with little Joey, however. By seeing the ramifications of Superman's tale of woe we have an emotional anchor to guide us through the remaining issues. If every character was given different emotions to explore then Superman returning to Joey every issue would be even more unique and interesting.

4Art - 4: I'm very excited about Ron Garney's work. I read that he'd be staying on the book when Kurt "Avengers" Buisek arrives in a few months and I can't wait to see what that collaboration will bring. Ron has a flexible quality to his art that feels very pulp when it has to, and very action-adventure when it needs to. His pacing keeps the pages turning and there is a constant fresh choice of camera angles for every panel.

4Cover Art - 4: The tag line "to serve and protect" calls to mind the police officer metaphor of the Green Lantern corps while juxtaposing it with the violent scene of John beating down on some crook in an alley way. The "police brutality" depicted defies the shinning poster of the JLA in the background and everything they stand for. It looks like they tried to do the rubbing text JLA title but the letters are emblazoned on there as usual so it doesn't really work this time. That's two really good covers in a row, Ron Garney is on a roll.

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