ďA Journey into MysteryĒ
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: George Perez
God I want to love this book, I really, really do. Itís full of characters I love interacting with characters I never thought theyíd come into contact with. The story will obviously be epic in scale and universe threatening, but Iím not sure Kurt Busiek can make me care. I read two of his Avengers arcs, didnít like either one of them and to the best of my knowledge Busiek has never written the JLA (and that lack of familiarity shows). Busiekís style does nothing for me as I think he was born about thirty years too late. What I mean by that is his verbose and melodramatic style fits better in the Silver Age than it does now (people very rarely talk to themselves, regardless of what Busiek may say). The author canít seem to get out of the way of his own story, and that doesnít bode well for the rest of the series as apparently no one has told Busiek that itís OK to have the art tell the story for a few panels. I felt like I was reading a Kevin Smith book as not a panel goes by that doesnít contain some kind of caption.
The plot is interesting enough; cosmic entities from both universes have bet on the outcome of the mixing realities with sinister undertones. Their machinations have set the super teams against each other (at least for now) as both try to recover objects of power that they have been told will fix the universe-mixing problem. While the real reason the teams have been sent after the objects is a mystery, I find I didnít care as much about the overarching story as I did about the inevitable fight between the teams. After waiting 20 years for this issue, I wanted some action and didnít get it. I have a feeling that comic fans across the country are as disappointed as I am over the teamsí inability to tussle even though itís obvious thatíll happen next issue.
Whatís more annoying than that is the way Busiek writes some of the characters, particularly Superman and Captain America. Both are overly critical of the other team and overreact in a big way when confronted. The Superman in this book reads more like the Man of Steel found in Red Son than the one found in the regular DC universe. I realize that someone or something is affecting Supes and Cap, but I want to read about the classic characters interacting, not these paranoid versions of them. Some of the action is a bit confusing as big things happen in between panels that I think most readers would like to see. Allow me to illustrate: As the JLA is conducting a little recon Batman and Plastic Man see the Punisher. The next panel has Plastic Man wondering where Batman went as the readers see a broken window reflected in Plastic Manís goggles while the next panel has Plas yelling at Batman on an island. Huh? How did they get there and wouldnít most of us like to see Batman lay the smack down on the Punisher? This kind of confusion reigns far too often.
We all know by now what to expect out of George Perez so this issue should be no surprise. Unfortunately Iíve never been able to see what sets people off about his art and this book did nothing to clarify that for me. Sure, I can see that itís good and maybe this is a case of someone being over-hyped, but I donít see what the big deal is about the guy. I realize that he built his reputation by packing each panel full of detail, but thereís such a thing as too much of a good thing. Detail is the foundation of a good artist, but when thatís all there is youíre not left with much more than that foundation. People and vehicles blend into the backgrounds, but thankfully our heroes are never subjected to that. Let me put it this way; imagine this series drawn by John Cassady and youíll see why Iím a little disappointed.
Overall, this is an inauspicious debut for the long awaited series. Iím starting to think that four issues just wonít be enough to satisfy everyone and that itís a shame the two companies couldnít agree on a longer run. Busiek said in a recent interview with SBCís own Tim OíShea that he could write 50 issues of JLA/Avengers and never run out of ideas and Iím thinking this is the kind of book that will get better the longer it goes. Iím hoping that the next three issues justify the 20-year wait, but Iím afraid that no matter how good they are no one will be completely satisfied.
P.S. Busiek said in that same interview that no matter who wins the big fights (Batman v. Cap, Thor v. Superman) that people would be upset. You can consider me one of those people since Superman should whale on Thor something awful.
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