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Mild Mannered Reviews - JLA Comics

JLA #99

JLA #99

Scheduled to arrive in stores: May 26, 2004

Cover date: July 2004

Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciller: John Byrne
Inker: Jerry Ordway

The Tenth Circle - Conclusion: "Heartbreaker"

John-Paul Zito Reviewed by: John-Paul Zito

The JLA and Doom Patrol team up to stop the evil Vampire Crucifer from bringing his ancient Vampire Brothers into our world. Apparently the Amazon's banished them to a pocket dimension, without a coporeal form, canturies ago. Crucifer managed to escape and take a body of his own, but he couldn't find any human bodies strong enough to contain the essence of his fellow Vampires. Now, with new technology, science and the stronger than average bodies of meta-humans his plans are closer to completion than ever before. The Vampires will enter our dimension, take over the bodies of selected super-humans and then feast on the catatonic townspeople that Crucifer has under his control.

The JLA and Doom Patrol teleport to the Crucifer's mansion where they enlist the help of Vortex and then hopscotch to the town where Crucifer is held up. A great battle ensues which splits the Crucifer's concentration and forces him to lose his grip over the meta-teens and the catatonic towns people. Crucifer retreats to his mansion where he finds Wonder Woman there waiting to engage him in combat. After Superman makes quick work of her Crucifer proceeds to suck her blood only to find it poison "green". This further distraction breaks Crucifer's hold over Superman who realizes that Wonder Woman is really a shape-shifted Martian Manhunter. The Manhunter deduced that since Superman's blood was a bad taste for the Crucifer, his Martian blood would be even worse.

But still the Crucifer can not be killed. It seems that his "heart" is actually being cared for in a pocket dimension. The same pocket dimension that Atom and Elasti-girl find themselves in. Crucifer's heart is the mysterious contents of the tabernacle. With a swift pair of kicks Atom and Elasti-Girl destroy the tabernacle and send Crucifer's heart back where it belongs... The empty cavern in the Vampire's chest. Just then Superman punches through the Crucifer's chest, crucifix in hand, and turns the Vampire to dust. The day is saved.

Later The Doom Patrol, including Grunt, the four armed ape, Nudge, the psychic girl, Vortex, the blue faced teleporter, and Faith, former JLA member (?) return to their headquarters from their first mission as a team only to find the Chief strung up and held hostage by a pair of Vampires.

To be continued in Doom Patrol #1...

1Story - 1: The worst thing for a writer is to have the audience walk away rewriting the comic in their heads. Unfortunately that's all I could seem to do throughout every issue of this arc. In fact there are so many plot holes scattered across these 6 issues that you have to do a little "script doctoring" of your own to make sense of a few things. For instance, how is it that Crucifer manages to cross over into our world without the benefit of a super-human host body but his Tenth Circle compatriots can't?

The Dialogue remains bogged down with exposition, uninteresting and in some cases out of character. I was specifically weirded out with Superman's speech concerning the righteous nature of the crucifix and why it can destroy vampires. This is to say nothing of Batman's corn-ball vampire joke.

Something I was very disappointed with was the way Faith's team switch was handled. I have no deep attachment to Faith, she really hasn't gotten a real chance to shine since she showed up. Super Heroes switch teams every once and a while, it happens. The original X-Men formed X-Factor, Hawkeye left the Avengers for the Thunderbolts and Changeling jumped from the Doom Patrol to the Teen Titans... Or did he now? Continuity being what it is I guess that last one is anyone's guess. My point being that in all these cases there are legitimate reasons and repercussions. Faith's transfer to the Doom Patrol is dealt with in one panel and we never even get her response or see her say goodbye. Hell there isn't even an explanation given as to why the Chief is interested in her. And if his interest stems from some deeper, darker conspiracy to be revealed later how about we get some foreshadowing? Not to mention that Faith, along with the other new members, don't fit the Doom Patrol themes of survival and the support group atmosphere that came from the tragedy in these character's lives.

Overall I was unimpressed with the re-teaming of Claremont and Byrne. The whole even felt like a cheap ploy to help launch the new Doom Patrol comic.

1Art - 1: Last week I received an e-mail through the Superman Homepage feedback forms from a reader who directed me to John Byrne's web site. There I found a gallery of penciled pages from this very arc of JLA and I have to say I've been somewhat unfair to John Byrne. The pencils weren't bad. They were clean and classic looking. The heavy inks and pitiful colors were missing and saw a little spark of the old John Byrne in there. This doesn't erase the silly or cliche character designs like Crucifer with his foppish undercut or Grunt and his mechanical underwear/suspender ensemble; among other problems I've previously mentioned.

The Inks and the colors were pretty sloppy over the past five issues and that trend continues here. At one point when Crucifer drinks Manhunter's blood Nudge calls out that it's "green" but it's been colored red. Things like this made me feel like I'd wasted my $2.25 on a comic the creator's "phoned in."

2Cover Art - 2: I've never seen less action in action-posses before. I will give the cover credit for letting you know exactly what you're getting when you pick it up off the shelf: A stagnant story uninteresting art.

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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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