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Mild Mannered Reviews - JLA Comics

Justice League Elite #4

Justice League Elite #4

Scheduled to arrive in stores: October 13, 2004

Cover date: December 2004

Writer: Joe Kelly
Penciller: Doug Mahnke
Inker: Tom Nguyen

"The Right Thing"

Reviewed by: Michael Bailey

As Vera Black listens to Al-Sheikh rant on his cell phone she remembers a time when she was a child and her brother killed all of the people inside of a factory after they had apparently hurt her. Al-Sheikh yells into his phone and tells the President of the United States that the assassination of the President of Changsha was a politically motivated local operation. After berating the President and ordering him to not say anything until he has gathered all of the facts Al-Sheikh terminates the connection. Vera looks at him and quips that he shouldn't look at her because she didn't vote for him.

Enraged Al-Sheikh throws the phone to the ground, breaking it. He tells Vera that he wants the Martian to use whatever mind probe techniques he has at his disposal to find out the truth. He asks Vera to stop hiding the assassin from him, which causes Vera to snap back that she sent the members of the Elite home so that Al-Sheikh wouldn't be up their ass with a microscope. The two argue protocol with Vera telling him that they will debrief the members of the team tomorrow. Outside Green Arrow tells the Flash that he hates it when mommy and daddy fight. The Flash counters that he wasn't there at the scene when the President died so he should shut his mouth.

Later, as Major Disaster drowns his sorrows in several kegs of beer, Vera confers with Manitou about current events. Manitou tells her that the spell that will extract the truth will be unpleasant, but she will know the identity of the assassin tomorrow. Vera asks if he wouldn't prefer to be back on the Watchtower where life is black and white. Manitou responds that he has seen Vera's spirit and that a time will come when the world will live or perish by her resolve. He ends by telling her that he has chosen his path wisely.

After Vera leaves, Mantiou's wife Dawn enters the lodge and tries to talk to her husband. Manitou dismisses her, leading Dawn to kick the skull he had been holding out of his hand. She is furious he will allow Vera into his lodge but cannot talk to his own wife. She demands to know what kind of man he is. Manitou replies that she cannot understand which leads Dawn to shout that he is no kind of man since he looks at everything but her, and storms out.

Elsewhere as Menagerie talks to a woman named Pam, Vera and Green Arrow argue about who the assassin could be. Green Arrow is convinced that the killer is a member of the Elite. Arrow accuses her of incompetence since she failed to detect the other assassin, but Vera explains that there was no way she could have missed a second killer. Green Arrow asks who it could be and Vera runs down how any member of the team could have done it. Green Arrows agrees with her assessments and Vera lets on that she may agree that someone on the team could be the killer.

Green Arrow realizes that she isn't going to tell Al-Sheikh, but Vera counters by pointing out how much good they have accomplished in only a handful of weeks. Arrow begins to tell her that they have a killer on the team, but Vera lashes out, punching a hole in the bricks as she screams that she is not throwing away what they have built because someone who deserved it got capped. The two stare at each other for a tense moment before Green Arrow announces that if that is the case he quits.

Meanwhile Coldcast visits with his mother and is introduced to his brother's new friends. They are ugly, vile creatures who Coldcast's brother introduces as his gang called Aftermath. Around the same time Kasumi fights with a group of gun wielding men, musing on the report she had given to her superiors. She asks them not to cancel her mission because she has to know what happened.

The next morning Al-Sheikh performs his morning prayer as Vera calls the team together to de-brief them. She begins by explaining that she wants to handle this nightmare in house and she is asking for their help to do so. She tells them that people on the outside do not understand what they do, pointing out that it is filthy work and it has already killed one of their members. She offers a two hour amnesty for the assassin to come forward adding that if they run there is nowhere that they can hide from the Elite. Before they can answer Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and the Flash arrive.

Vera moves the discussion inside where Batman informs them that it is over. The Flash reminds him that they were going to let Vera speak. Vera does so by insulting Batman, but is interrupted by Al-Sheikh who tells Batman that they are conducting an investigation and that the Justice League can be assured that the death of President Baht will not be taken lightly.

Superman enters the discussion by telling him that the League just wants to know what happened. The Flash had caught them up to speed but wasn't there for the end, which Batman thinks is a little too convenient. Vera asks them to spit out what they really want. Wonder Woman replies that the Elite cannot be allowed a license to kill and that if a mistake was made they will deal with it. All they want is the truth. Al-Sheikh tells them that despite his respect for her and the work she does he will be damned if she will use her lasso on any of his people.

Despite this Vera agrees and even though it is not what Wonder Woman had meant Batman takes the lasso and wraps it around Vera's arm. He questions her starting with wanting to know if she believes that someone on her team killed Baht. She says no. Batman follows with the question of who killed Baht. Vera informs them that it was an assassin named Wolfwood. He had taken her down in combat, but she thought he had run away. She was wrong.

At first the League doesn't believe her, but the Flash points out that she couldn't have lied to them. Batman wants to follow up with sodium penthalate, but Al-Sheikh ends the debate by explaining that Vera was trying to protect him. Wolfwood, it seems, had killed his wife and two children. With that he dismisses the League and tells them that the Elite have work to do.

Green Arrow storms out of the room muttering to himself about the fascistic nature of the Elite and Vera Black. Dawn finds him and asks if he is leaving. He tells her that he sees where the group is heading. Dawn tells him that he is a good man and that they need him, but he interrupts by yelling that the group can't work behind a code of silence. He goes on but she ends his tirade by kissing him. He is surprised at first, but then relents.

Meanwhile Vera asks Al-Sheikh why he didn't tell her about Wolfwood and the murder of his family. He replies that it all happened a long time ago and wasn't pertinent to the mission. She doesn't believe him and he finally tells her that he didn't want to give their people a license to kill. He informs her that they will bring the man to justice and that no matter how dark it gets she will do the right thing. He leaves and Vera seems to be alone until a figure lights a cigarette behind her and tells her that there will be no tears.

2Story - 2: In taking on this series I went back and read the reviews that John and Neal had written. I don't think that you could ask for two more diverse views on a series. It was amazing, but I felt it was important to read what had come before to get a sense how other people felt about the series.

As my rating will suggest I tend to side with Neal more than John but this doesn't mean that I have anything against John nor does it have anything to do with the fact that Neal and I share a last name. (We're not related just in case you were wondering.) I just happen to agree with Neal's take, though mine was not as well thought out as his.

The sad simple fact is that while it is an interesting concept (a tougher Justice League that takes a proactive approach to fighting the evil in the world) it has been done before.

Am I the only one who remembers EXTREME JUSTICE, the Captain Atom led group that came out in 1995? Or FORCE WORKS, which came out about the same time? How about the new OUTSIDERS series that is featuring the bad side of Judd Winick's writing ability? Sure this series has better writing, but the fact of the matter is that while the concept may be interesting the execution is muddled and confusing.

I mean if you showed me a group picture of the team I couldn't name half of them. Sure the Flash is simple, as is Manitou and Green Arrow, but how good is a character if an utter fanboy like me can't pick him or her out of a crowd? Kelly's writing is confusing and it is hard to keep up with who is who and what they are doing.

Don't get me wrong. I don't want every character to address who they are talking to by name, but a little roll call or something would be helpful.

I really didn't care for the previous three issues of the series because of the confusion. Well, that and the fact that I thought the introduction of the team in JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #100 was horrendous. It was forced and everything happened way too fast and this feeling carried over to the first story arc.

With issue four we are treated to your typical down time story where we get to catch up with the members in their personal lives as an overall plot is carried forward. The writing in this issue was better than the previous three and I enjoyed some of the character bits, but overall I didn't care for the comic, especially since there are plot holes you can drive a Mack truck through.

I really want to like the characters and there are several that I do. Major Disaster is kind of fun and I like Coldcast. Al-Sheikh was fleshed out a bit more in this issue and I have a genuine affection for Vera Black despite the fact that I hated her in JLA #100. Kelly also has a good grasp on Green Arrow and his place in the team and the relationship between him and Dawn is really the only thing keeping me around. Dawn is emerging and I hope Kelly follows through with her development.

Other characters bother me. Menagerie comes off as a non-entity and despite the fact that she was pouring her soul out to someone the effect is lost because I had no idea what was going on. Maybe I missed something. Maybe I forgot something. Maybe I am slipping as I get older. Whatever the case this sequence was confusing. Manitou is proving to be a puzzle as well, but I am reserving my final decision until everything plays out.

I was also confused on how Vera found out who the assassin was? Did Manitou tell her? Did one of the other members of the team tell her? Is he even the assassin? I would have appreciated the resolution being a little clearer.

The politics of the story bother me, but that has more to do with the fact that I am not much for politics and super-heroes mixing. It's not that I believe that people shouldn't write about such things. Far from it. I am a firm believer in a writer exploring themes as they seem fit, but at the same time it is not my cup of tea. I think the politics are handled rather heavy handed, but Bush jokes aside Joe Kelly seems to have backed off the political ramifications of the team's actions and focused more on defining how the team is going to handle the darker aspects of their missions.

If he is going to continue with exploring what the Justice League could be if they went just a little bit further in their cause I hope that he keeps Green Arrow around. Green Arrow has always been great as the conscience of the group. However, I don't believe for a second that he is actually quitting because he's done it so much in the past that I can't buy that he would be gone for long.

I thought the Justice League's appearance was rather cliched, which was disappointing because while I didn't think that Kelly batted a thousand with his JLA run he knows these characters. Wonder Woman came off okay and Superman was, well Superman. Batman, on the other hand, came off as paper thin. The Flash's second thoughts about the team came a little too soon, but again I am going to hold off on how I feel about it until later in the series.

In the end I am sticking with the series. It has the words JUSTICE LEAGUE in the title and despite the feeling that it is an ongoing series it will be over in another eight issues or so. I hope the quality of the story improves and that the point of the series, which seems to be to be a desire on the part of Joe Kelly to explore the concept of a team of heroes that goes deep cover without losing themselves in the hell that they work in. Maybe it will get better. Joe Kelly is a competent writer, as his run on DEADPOOL bears out. I just think that this series suffers from a lack of focus that may hurt it in the end.

4Art - 4: I am not a fan of Doug Mahnke, nor am I a fan of Dustin Nguyen. I think the characters Mahnke produces look chiseled rather than drawn. Despite this I think that this series suits him. It is a chance to draw really screwed up images, which Mahnke excels at. I just don't think he is good at drawing super-heroes, which is a good thing because this isn't a typical super-hero tale. Green Arrow looks good and I like Vera Black's design. Other than that the art doesn't do much to help make the story clearer.

4Cover Art - 4: It's kind of sad when the best thing about a comic is the cover. I really liked the layout. It was striking and had the two characters I like the best. The action and mood is great and I particularly like the fact that Green Arrow has this, "Is that your best shot?" expression on his face. It gets an eight out of ten on the GRAB ME METER.

Personal Note:

Over on my Live Journal I wrote a post about the death of Christopher Reeve. Here is a slightly re-written version since this is a Superman site above and beyond anything else.

So here we go.

As a rule I don't normally get upset when a celebrity passes away.

It's not that I'm cold or anything, but circumstances in my life have led to me having a rather particular view of death. My mother died when I was seventeen and it was such a devastating loss that when confronted with it I tend to shut down and not want to think about it because it makes me think of my mother and then I get kind of sad and all of those old feeling come flooding back.

So I don't like to think about.

There are a few exceptions. I was depressed when John Denver died. My mother had been a huge fan of his music and his songs were part of the soundtrack of my youth so when Denver died in that plane crash I was sad for a few days. I was also affected by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's death, but that had more to do with the fact the men had created what had become my favorite character than anything else. I felt honor bound almost to pay my respects to them.

Other than maybe one or two other people unless I am related to them in some form or the other I don't get broken up over the death of a famous person. I feel bad for their families and loved ones, but normally it doesn't get to me.

Then Christopher Reeve dies.

You'll notice that I wrote Christopher Reeve and not Superman. This was intentional. Sure it's jazzy and makes for exciting copy to write, "Superman Dies!" but I feel it is in bad taste to do such things. Despite the fact that Reeve played Superman in four films and became closely associated with the role I feel that it would be a true disservice to the man and what he represented to make it seem that the only accomplishment in his life was to portray the Man of Steel.

There is a catch to this, though and that is the fact that to me he was Superman. I was a little over two years old when SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE came out. Some of my earliest memories are of watching the commercials that ran of television. It was the first film I remember sitting all the way through and I could recite the dialogue before I had a firm grasp on my ABCs. I have probably seen the film well over a hundred times in my twenty-eight years (and that is a conservative estimate) and it had a lot to do with the fact that I went from being a Batman person to a life long Superman fan.

So while Christopher Reeve was an actor who appeared in such films as DEATH TRAP, SOMEWHERE IN TIME, SPEECHLESS, THE AVIATOR, VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED, THE BOSTONIANS, STREET SMART, MONSIGNOR, ABOVE SUSPICION (a really great thriller where Reeve showed his acting chops by playing a really good bad guy), NOISES OFF and even SWITCHING CHANNELS (where he played a man afraid of heights) as well as serving as an advocate to a wide variety of causes to me he will always be Superman.

He brought to the role the one thing that people always believed to be the major problem with Superman and that is buying the fact that a simple pair of glasses could fool people into thinking that there was absolutely no was that a mild mannered reporter could also be a man of steel. In addition to making us believe that a man could fly he also made me believe that by changing your whole body language, raising your voice half an octave, putting on a pair of think, plastic framed glasses and acting like a complete klutz that there was no way that Clark Kent could be Superman. It was a testament to his acting abilities that Reeve was able to pull this off. His Clark Kent may not have been the way I like to see the character portrayed but it was absolutely right for the movie and made an impression on me that has stayed with me to this day.

And then there was his Superman. In one interview that he just let the costume do the work, but I think he was selling himself short. Superman is a hard character to play. The character was an icon in 1978 and he is an icon today. It is easy to overplay the part. Reeve brought a humanity to the character that showed through all of the movies, including the fourth installment where he did some of the best work with the character despite the fact that the film in considered the worst in the series. Somehow Reeve's delivery transcended the sometimes clichéd dialogue and made Superman someone you could relate to as well as a hero to be in awe of.

Beyond that Reeve was a man to admire. He had convictions and from all accounts stuck to them. After his accident in 1995 he could have secluded himself and fought his battle alone. He didn't. He saw a chance to use his celebrity to increase the public's awareness of spinal cord injuries and to raise money for research. It was amazing to see the transformation from actor to, as clichéd as it may sound, hero. It wasn't much of a surprise, though, when you consider his past efforts on behalf of artistic rights all over the world.

His injuries didn't stop him from acting and directing either. In 1997 he directed IN THE GLOMMING about a young man dying of AIDS. He also starred in the remake of REAR WINDOW. He even returned to the Superman mythos by playing the role of Dr. Swann in several episodes of the SMALLVILLE television series.

Christopher Reeve was a director, an actor and an activist. He was a hero. He was Superman and I believe that had he lived longer he would have walked again.

Rest in peace, Christopher Reeve. You will be missed, but never forgotten.

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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