"An Angry Tide"
Writer: Matthew K. Manning
Artists: John Delaney(p), John K. Snyder III(i), John Kalisz(c)
Another lack in JLA-JSA Virtue and Vice is the absence of threat. The innocent are being forced to labor for the villains, but the threats are all internal. Call me old-fashioned, but I like the threats to be physical or at least have their damaging effects shown.
One of the things making Justice League Adventures superior is that we see the threats. Batman is surrounded after a tasty teasing prologue, but of course, he's Batman the world's greatest fighting artist, and John Delaney shows this with punches, heaves and smart blocks. The aggressors are shown to be dumbfounded by this man or creature's ability just before they are dumbfounded by the wonders in dreamland. Batman isn't incidentally doing all this to show off. He's protecting an innocent woman and her child.
Despite being in the midst of battle, he's also working mentally on another case: one in which he requires the Justice League's aid. That's right. This Batman is not the Batman from No Brain's Land. He's the smart one who would have hit his Justice League signal device once he extricated himself from the rubble.
This particular threat does not involve earthquakes. However, immediately its dangers are shown as the League rescues scores of people from Gotham's beachfront. At this point, we get a glimpse of the League's procedures: "His City. His rules." This rule does jibe with the pre-Crisis idea that leadership falls to the hero at the scene as well as the post-Crisis rule that leadership falls to the hero who answers the trouble alert. Batman's love for Gotham will also come into play later in the book as it bites him in one electrifying scene on the backside and then shows him at the end in another way to be more human.
Because of these feats of daring, when the Flash is convincingly downed by a sea threat, the scene of his downfall comes as a shock. The League of course comes to his aid. It's what they're about.
Part of that help arrives in the form of Batman's status not only as a detective but also a scientist. Mr. Manning applies accurate research to Batman's recognition of an incongruity. Because Hawkgirl is also a detective, her joining Batman on the case makes perfect sense. I like how Batman respects her enough to use her as a sounding board for his theories. Batman naturally would have deduced the nature of secret villain--a big tip of the fedora to all involved for keeping this twist a secret--but Hawkgirl becoming his partner allows him to arrive at that solution quicker.
Since the villain is more associated with Batman, Hawkgirl's lack of recognition is understandable, and her little joke alludes to a stronger history between them that was suggested in the series pilot--"Hawkgirl? What's she doing here?" Both heroes knew each other before they became part of the Justice League.
Just because the villain is revealed doesn't mean that the book's value decreases. The League still needs to trap the Sea-King and find a means to lure the villain into their custody. The second encounter leads to an inventive stand-off at an aquarium. John Delany at this point cuts loose with forceful scenes of Hawkgirl, Batman and GL in action.
The pin-up worthy page twelve emphasizes all the artists contributions to the panels. The penciled idea is brilliant. The inking not only traces but also enhances the sketching. Hawkgirl's tights for instance reflect the light and looks shiny like Batman's trunks and leathery gloves, cape and cowl. The colorist in the animated books becomes more involved with the final look of the art. In this case, John Kalisz uses darker grays and golds to evoke depth in Batman and Hawkgirl's form. Another perfect issue.
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