Writer: Joe Kelly
Artists: Doug Mahnke (p), Tom Nguyen (i)
The book opens in the far reaches of the past where we see the city of Atlantis is about to be attacked by a fleet of Egyptian ships, but we see this invasion force is handily defeated by a pair of super-powered individuals who we soon discover are part of a larger group. We then see that this group of empowered individuals are a team of sorts and with their fantastic abilities they control of an army of slaves who they are using to take down the massive dome that encases Atlantis. We then discover that there are a regular string of attacks upon Atlantis, and given one of these attacks in a rain of fiery rocks, we see this group have themselves a very powerful enemy. We then see that the J.L.A. have arrived in this time period, but that they've taken to covertly studying the situation in Atlantis before they take any action. Plus, we see that Batman is suffering from a lingering illness that inflicted all the human members of the J.L.A. upon their arrival in this time, and as such Superman is exercising a look before leaping approach until Batman can get back on his feet. However, we see that their curiosity gets the better of them, and as they investigate the pool where Aquaman left his message, they make a rather surprising discovery.
The biggest problem with this issue is that Joe Kelly has created an infinitely more interesting situation back in the present day. I mean I'm a big Aquaman fan and I'm eager to learn how he'll make his return to the DCU. However, up until J'Onn's arrival on page fourteen this issue is focused on introducing us to what I suspect will be the main opponents that will stand in the way of the J.L.A.'s bid to rescue Atlantis, and truth be told these new creations simply aren't all that interesting. I mean they're basically interchangeable villains who wander around confident in their superiority over others, though I will give Joe Kelly credit for making the world these super-beings inhabit feel like an ancient society brimming with tradition & history. However, the opening two thirds of this issue are a bit of a chore, as very little of interest happens, and the characters that are called upon to carry the material don't have any elements that really sparked my interest. However, the final third of the issue does make up for this slow opening, as Kyle's continuing visions do lend a sense of impending doom to the material, and of course the final page left me counting the days until the next chapter.
This issue does open with a fairly impressive sequence as we see an Egyptian war fleet is driven back with an ease that makes the J.L.A.'s chances of emerging the victors in this contest seem quite slim. There's also the various discoveries that we make as the issue goes on, like the fact that J'Onn's unable to use his telepathy on the people that inhabit Atlantis, or the discovery that Batman, the team's greatest hope of getting a handle on this situation, is in pretty sad shape. In fact this issue has a great little scene where we see Superman has to reign in Wonder Woman who was all ready to storm the city in search of Aquaman, and he does so by making mention that Batman would recommend extreme caution. I also have to give Joe Kelly credit for allowing us to see what Kyle is subjected to in his visions, as it adds a nice sense of danger to the impending battle, when we see the Flash looks to have his legs shattered, while Wonder Woman lifeless body floats in water. There's also something to be said for a threat that has the J.L.A. creeping around for fear of being caught, and the mystery of what happened to Aquaman & the people of Atlantis has my utmost attention.
Doug Mahnke turns in some very nice work on this issue, starting with a wonderful establishing shot of Atlantis. The art also does a nice job capturing the sheer scale of the removal of the glass dome that encases Atlantis, and it also conveys the horror of the rituals that these people practice, with page twenty's look at one of their ceremonies being particularly disturbing. There's also some nice work on the panels that detail Kyle's nightmarish visions, as that shot of the Flash is decidedly creepy, as is the follow-up look at what's happens to Wonder Woman. The final page shot of the J.L.A.'s discovery is also quite good at leaving the readers highly curious about what exactly it is we're being shown. However, there are also moments in this issue where I find Doug Mahnke's work doesn't quite do the story justice, as there's a scene where Atlantis is attacked by a rain of flaming rocks, and this visual showcase is decidedly unimpressive. I also find the designs of the villains of this arc to be rather uninspired, as while I know they can't run around in spandex, surely Doug Mahnke could come up with more imaginative designs than this.
I'm a big fan of Joe Kelly's work, but there are times when his attention does seem to be drawn to ideas that aren't nearly as engaging as the time he spends on them would suggest. I mean until J'Onn puts in his appearance this issue proves to be a fairly uneventful introduction to a group of ancient super-beings who are working to make Atlantis their home, and while the mystery of what happened to the people of Atlantis is interesting, the simple fact of the matter is that Joe Kelly is far more interesting in playing with the idea of an ancient version of the J.L.A. than he is on advancing the disappearance of an entire population. Now once the J.L.A. arrive on the scene the book does pick up, as we learn what they've been up to since their arrival, and in a rather unique twist we see the team is quite up to charging into battle. Plus, the final page discovery is certainly an attention grabber.
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