Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: George Pérez
The book opens with the complete destruction of two universes by an insanely powerful entity, but when this creature arrives in the Marvel Universe we see it encounters something that makes it pause in it's destructive ways. We then join the JLA who find themselves battling a massive entity named Terminus, as it rampages it's way across the country, and our band of heroes manage to use a clever bit of trickery to bring down this mighty giant. We then look in on the Avengers s they are faced with a full scale Starro invasion, but again some solid teamwork, and a somewhat risqué plan manage to drive Starro away. We then see both groups are contacted by a powerful entity from the other's universe and both group are given the task of gathering twelve objects of power, with six in their universe, and six in the others. As the JLA use Flash's ability to match the vibration frequency to first probe and then travel to the Marvel Universe, we see the team is deeply disturbed to find a world that plays host to a genetic war between humans & mutants, as well as rampaging gamma irradiated monsters, murderous vigilantes, and Superman basically arrives at the conclusion this world's heroes have done a very poor job. However when the JLA make off with the ultimate nullifier on their quest for objects, we see the Avengers follow them back to the DCU, where they find a world that worships the ground heroes walk upon, and this greatly disturbs Captain America. We then see the two teams meet, and they have very little reason to like, or trust each other.
If this miniseries does nothing else I have to give it credit for perfectly crystallizing the biggest difference between DC and Marvel. In fact it's this difference that acts as the driving motive for the impending fight between the two teams, as both Superman & Captain America have taken a good look at the other universe and taken great offense to what they witnessed. When DC was created super-heroes were exactly that, as these were the classic heroes of literature amped up to an extraordinary degree by their bright & colorful powers and fantastic accomplishments. Then we had Stan Lee come along with the Marvel Universe, and the one fundamental change that he made to the super-hero concept was to give the characters feet of clay. This divide was made even greater about a decade later when Spider-Man failed to rescue his beloved Gwen as this established the Marvel Universe as a place where heroes could, and often did fail to win the day. So Superman the hero who can accomplish near anything looks at the Marvel Universe with it's blind hatred of mutants, it's rampaging monsters, ruthless vigilantes and sees a world that has been woefully abandoned by it's so-called heroes. On the other side Captain America looks at the DCU and sees a world where the heroes are fawned over & almost worshiped as gods among men, and this really tweaks his belief that the heroes serve the needs of the people and not the other way around.
Now there will likely be some fans that grumble and gripe that the two heroes don't really have a face to face meeting until the final pages, but I feel this story is going to be far stronger for the groundwork that is laid out in this opening issue. Now there's a somewhat manufactured quest aspect, as the two teams are each given six objects of unimaginable power to locate in the other's universe, while at the same time protecting the six objects the other team will be trying for in their home universe, so in the end what we have is a fairly high stakes game of capture the flag. However, since this quest has been put into place by two cosmic entities who have a history of making heroes jump through hoops, Kurt Busiek has wisely installed a buffer zone between himself and the quest aspect of his plot, as the heroes are being manipulated by the two cosmic entities who are serving the needs of Kurt Busiek. However, the real fun of this issue is that both groups are allowed to move through their counterparts universes, and essentially provide commentary on what they find there, and while there is a hint of mind control in the air that seems to be playing up the foul moods of both Superman & Captain America the book smartly has the teammates of these two acknowledge this odd behavior, which makes it far easier to accept. Plus, some of the observations made are priceless, such as Hawkeye's moment of realization when it comes to the J.L.A.
George Pérez was born to draw this series, and while the wait between the announcement of this crossover, and the actual arrival of this first issue was certainly a lengthy one, I'm pleased to learn that most of the issues are already in the can, so to speak, as now that this train is moving, I don't want it to have to endure any waiting along the way. George Pérez offers up some of his most detail intensive work since Crisis, and you can clearly see he's invested his heart and soul into this project, as each and every panel offers up something to either discover, or admire. Now of course the big appeal of a book with art by George Pérez is that he's one of the few artist who can deliver an army of characters in a clear, exciting manner, and he certainly doesn't disappoint, as this issue offers up two large scale battles, and in addition to the truly magnificent double-page spread that open these sequences, there's also some wonderful little moments as well, from the Flash's rock barrage, to the wonderfully ominous shot of the rain of Starros reflected in Iron Man's face-plate. The double-page shot where the two teams finally meet face to face is also well worth the wait, as not only is it a poster worthy image, but the background cityscape is a truly wonderful display of how much care & attention to detail George Pérez employs. Then there's the money shot of the entire issue, as we see Thor does something that is sure to get fandom buzzing.
A very solid opening chapter as the miniseries that spent almost two decades mired in a creative hell finally arrives in the station. Now, it would appear Kurt Busiek is working under the principal that these characters have never met before, or that they don't remember these meetings, and this certainly adds a nice new car smell to this historic meeting, as this issue introduces the JLA to the Marvel Universe, and the Avengers to the DCU, where they are allowed to make some highly engaging observations, that are both humorous (Quicksilver's reaction to the Flash Museum), and insightful (J'Onn's study of the Genosha massacre). We also receive two large scale action set pieces, as the JLA battle Terminus, while the Avenger find themselves dealing with a massive Starro invasion. Both of these action sequences convey a wonderful sense of danger, and a clever solution is arrived at by both groups, that nicely display the competence of both groups. The big meeting between the teams is also well done as they both enter the picture with good reason for wanting to do battle with each other, but this hatred doesn't feel manufactured, or artificial.
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