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Mild Mannered Reviews - JLA Comics

JLA: Classified #7

JLA: Classified #7

Scheduled to arrive in stores: May 18, 2005

Cover date: July 2005

Writter: Keith Griffen & J.M. DeMatteis
Penciller: Kevin Maguire
Inker: Joe Rubinstein

"I Can't Believe it's Not The Justice League" - Part 4: Hell Freezes Over!

Reviewed by: Michael Bailey

Click to enlarge



Power Girl and Guy Gardner fight their way through a horde of demons in search of their friends who had been accidentally sent to Hell. The two argue back and forth before Power Girl tells Guy to shut up and fight. Guy doesn't believe that they are involved in much of a fight since he is hardly working up a sweat. Power Girl is quick to point out that the demons are winning. Guy informs her that they are winning only because he is letting them win. At first Power Girl doesn't believe him, but Guy explains that the quickest way for them to find Blue Beetle and the others is to let the demons take them there.

From a distance the Demon (also known as Etrigan) watches the demons take Power Girl and Guy away and muses on how the choices they make better be right or they will end up in their own personal hell.

Elsewhere, Booster Gold and the Blue Beetle discuss the fact that it was Booster's fault that they are in their current predicament. Booster tries to defend himself, but Beetle is upset that because of Booster's actions they are going to be flipping burgers for eternity. Booster tells him that what happened in the past isn't important and they should focus on getting out of Hell.

Blue Beetle reminds Booster that the demon Garc told them that there was no way out of Hell. Booster remembers hearing it, but he also remembers something that Ralph Dibny, the Elongated Man, said. Ralph had said that how their being condemned to Hell makes no sense and Booster agrees. It doesn't make sense that they make one little mistake and are all forced to burn forever. To Booster there is no justice in that and Beetle finds himself agreeing, which upsets him since Booster is actually making sense.

Beetle asks if Booster believes that the place they are trapped in isn't Hell. Booster replies that it might be or it might be an aspect of Hell. It could also be that the supposed paperweight that sent them there may have taken them to someplace in their own minds. To Booster the possibilities are endless. Blue Beetle ponders the fact that they may be there because they believe they are. Booster doesn't know, but he is sure that things are not what they appear to be and if that's true they can find a way out.

Beetle is impressed, but Booster is quick to point out that they need to form a plan soon before Ralph succumbs to his fate of having to eat the hamburgers Beetle and Booster are cooking. Suddenly Power Girl and Guy, along with the demons they were fighting, crash through the roof. Guy is incensed since he believes that one of the demons licked him and puts the entire room to sleep with his ring. He turns to find Power Girl lying unconscious on the floor and for a moment has some salacious thoughts on what an opportunity it is for him. He decides against it and wakes her up. She accuses him of the very thing he had been thinking of doing, but the two put the argument on hold to find the others. They come upon the Blue Beetle first, who is fast asleep. Power Girls orders Guy to wake him up, but Guy wants her to apologize for doubting his abilities first. She starts to, but Guy laughs and admits that he just wanted to see if she had it in her to do so. He brings Booster and Beetle around and before Power Girl can disembowel him the demons Garc and Maul appear. The demons realize that they have to inform the front office, which means they will be tortured for thousands of years.

Beetle announces that they have to get Bea and Mary before finding a way out of wherever they are. They find Ralph and go through the same song and dance Power Girl went through with Guy. Suddenly Garc and Maul decide that enough is enough and grow to mammoth size. Guy quickly knocks them out with a smile but Beetle becomes upset because if they act up the demons take it out on Mary. Power Girl is confused at how they could hurt Mary and Beetle explains that the Shazam thing doesn't work where they are. They rush off to the front, leaving the sleeping Ralph behind, and find Etrigan tormenting Mary. Mary insists that she doesn't believe in Etrigan and that her God is a God of love and forgiveness who would never allow such a place. Etrigan is amused by this and points out that Mary's suffering is nothing compared to Fire's.

Guy finds Bea surrounded by demons and is shocked to discover that the deceased Tora, who was also known as Ice, is with her. He forms a bed with his ring and brings Tora to him. Bea loses it and starts screaming that he can't touch her and for him to give her back. Guy forms a dome with his ring and sets Tora on a table. Bea continues to pound against the dome. Mary is confused by what is going on and Beetle explains that back in the day when they were the League Tora was their teammate. She was also Bea's best friend and the only person Guy ever seemed to care about.

Power Girl tries to calm Bea down, but Bea is convinced that Guy is going to do something to Tora. Then she looks over Power Girl's shoulder and sees that Guy is holding Ice and begging for her to come back to him. Ice begins to come around and Bea powers down and joins Guy in holding her.

The whole situation depresses Etrigan and tells the group they are free to go. Guy insists that Tora is coming with them. Etrigan tells them that it makes no difference to him since she was there by mistake anyway. Booster arrives with Ralph and once again the group begins to debate the existence of where they are. Etrigan informs them if they continue wasting time he is going to rescind the offer. He also warns that removing a soul from Hell is not at easy as they might think. The protocols state that they must have the strictest faith to remove her and warns that no matter what they always look back.

The group heads off with Tora trailing behind them. As per Etrigan's warning no one looks at her and they continue with their debate on the validity of Hell. Power Girl tells Beetle that she really wants to look back. Beetle does too, but Power Girl is more worried about Guy and Bea.

Guy and Bea walk in silence, fighting the urge to look back. Slowly, Bea casts the smallest look behind her. Tora tells her that she always did care too much. Suddenly, Tora disappears in a bright flash. Bea cries in despair and drops to the ground in tears. Guy joins her and the two hold each other, crying uncontrollably.

5Story - 5: Quick confession; I have been a huge fan of the Giffen/DeMatteis JUSTICE LEAGUE for a good ten or so years now. Back in 1996 or so I spent a good bit of money and time trying to get a full collection of their run on the book and for a month or so I read through the whole thing while working third shift at a convenience store. It was probably one of the best reading experiences I have ever had and I became enamored of the writing and art style of the book.

There seem to be two types of comic fans of my generation; those who really liked the Giffen/DeMatteis run and those who absolutely hated it and thought that it was a travesty to the League. Those who hated it obviously had either forgotten or never read the previous incarnation of the League (you know, the one with Vibe, Vixen, and the rest of the Detroit second stringers), but they were entitled to their opinions. For me, I thought using the so-called "B List" characters was great mostly because you could actually do something with them and not worry about contradicting what was going on in that character's book. Giffen and DeMatteis excelled at characterization and the filled the book with heroes that you could really get to know and like, which is why, I think, a lot of people went nuts when the Blue Beetle assumed room temperature in COUNTDOWN TO INFINITE CRISIS.

Then there was the humor. The book was funny. Laugh out loud funny. Sometimes the humor tripped over into the just plain silly (can you say Kooey, Kooey, Kooey?), but overall I think that the book balanced character and humor very well. The book being funny or silly was another common gripe that readers have had about their run, but what a lot of them seem to forget is that the book would be kind of light and fun for a while before something REALLY bad happened and the group had to come together. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and the rest of the "big seven" are all expected to win, no matter what. The big guns show up and the public feels a sense of relief. Blue Beetle, Booster Gold and the rest show up and people start praying to whatever deity is convenient for them. It is always more dramatic to have the underdogs come out on top, so when the Giffen and DeMatteis League saved the day it was much more satisfying, for me at any rate.

So it was a no-brainer that when the original team got back together I would be excited. I enjoyed the first mini-series and thought that while an ongoing would probably be overkill in today's market another mini-series would be great when another solid story would come along. I'm thankful for the JLA: CLASSIFIED format to give us these types of stories.

All right, enough gushing and onto the issue at hand.

This issue had all the trappings that made the original Giffen/DeMatteis run worth while. Giffen and DeMatteis managed to throw in a metaphysical quandary as well and made the reader question what was really going on. Are they in Hell or are they in the hell of their own making? It adds depth to the series and is a nice balance to the humor. Doing it through Booster Gold was great because he's really been the whipping boy of the series thus far.

As annoying as they can get I can read scenes with Beetle and Booster all day long. I like the fact that their relationship has changed since the old days and it adds to the realism of their dialogue. And it is realistic as any one who has been friends with someone for years can attest. Friendships evolve and yeah you can fall into old patterns, but sometimes you have to admit how much things have changed as well. I always thought Booster and Beetle's dynamic was one of the cornerstone's of the original series.

The fact that Guy was brought into the series was great. Guy Gardner was one of the best parts of the original line-up. As much as he grated on your nerves and you thought what a huge jerk he was Guy was always a hero. He was a pig, but no one could question his commitment to the cause and you knew that deep down he was a softy, especially when it came to Tora. Guy was in perfect form throughout the issue, whether he was fighting demons or enjoying the fact that Power Girl had to work with him.

The sequence with Guy debating whether or not to take advantage of the unconscious Power Girl was pure Guy Gardner. You knew in the end he was going to do the right thing, but going though the motions made for a great scene. It was also great to see him making the other heroes apologize or say please made me very nostalgic, as did the bit where the demons admitted that they had been watching him for some time.

The scene that really sold this issue, though, was watching Guy deal with seeing Tora again. Guy's relationship with Tora was always one of my favorite aspects of the old days. Here is a woman who is nave as they come and she is the one Guy falls for. He had no idea how to deal with it, so he blundered through the romantic angle, making rude comments and taking her to an adult movie. But he cared and you could see that then and you could see it again in this issue.

I mentioned the balance between humor and character before and it was proven in this issue. I hate to admit this, but I got a little misty eyed when Guy begged Tora to come back to him. (Then again I always get misty eyed with scenes like this. Beneath this hardened, fanboy exterior beats the heart of a true romantic.) The scene was intensified with Bea's reaction to the situation. At first she is angry and jealous, I think, but finally she admits to herself that Guy cares about Tora too and joins him. This followed by the final scene made for one of the most emotional reading experiences I have had in awhile. I hate to say it but this issue hit me harder than the death of Tim Drake's father. That's how good it was.

This story-arc started off kind of slow, but it has really kicked into gear. While I hold to the fact that it is hard to go home again and an ongoing version of this team wouldn't work out in the end (especially since two of the best characters have gone tango uniform), but this is one of those stories that will stick with me for a while.

5Art - 5: It may not be flashy and it may not have the detail that many artists have, but the team of Kevin Maguire and Joe Rubinstein is probably one of the best in the industry. It is important with a story that has a foundation of character and humor to have an artistic team that can pull off the subtle facial emotions to sell the scene. Maguire and Rubinstein do a fantastic job with this. This issue's artistic highlights include:

Pages three and four: Maguire and Rubinstein can really pull off the talking scenes. The expressions on Booster and Beetle's faces are incredible.

Page six: I don't think the scene with Guy debating his more lecherous feelings would have been as good without the art to back it up.

Page eight: The bottom four panels tell a lot about Guy with absolutely no dialogue on his part.

Page ten: Again, the picture sells the scene, especially Guy's expression at the bottom of the page.

Pages fourteen, fifteen and sixteen: This is some seriously heart wrenching artwork. The care that Guy takes with Tora is stunning and you can really feel Bea's wrath as she fights to get to her friend. Then, on page fifteen the close-up in a series of panels really intensifies Guy's feelings and I defy you not to choke-up at the first three panels of page sixteen.

Page eighteen: Etrigan makes this page work. I love the expression on his face when Beetle points out that he didn't rhyme.

Pages twenty, twenty-one and twenty-two: Wow. I mean just wow. Page twenty was intense, but it was outdone by the emotion that leapt off of page twenty-one. The utter innocence that Tora displays coupled with Guy's reaction made for some powerful art. Nothing, though, compared to that last page. I'm not joking when I say that I nearly cried. It was that powerful, for me at any rate. I mean if I was going to buy some original art I would fork over the money for this page.

3Cover Art - 3: As much I loved the interior art I have to say that the cover didn't do too much for me. The art itself is fine, but compared to what followed it seemed weaker. The demons look good, as does Guy and Power Girl but it doesn't leap off the stands at you.

This cover gets a six out of ten on the 2005 Edition of the Grab Me Meter.


Mild Mannered Reviews

2005

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

January 2005

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