"Hell Freezes Over"
Writers: Keith Giffin, J.M. DeMatteis
Artists: Kevin Maguire(p), Joseph Rubenstein(i), David Baron(c)
When last we left the League, Beetle and Booster were trapped in hell with Fire and Mary Marvel. Power Girl and Guy Gardner mounted a rescue mission. Etrigan the Demon is your host while touring the pits of hell.
This is another at first surprising issue from Giffin, DeMatteis and Maguire. There's fun to be had in JLA Classified. No doubt about that. Notice the classic comedian dialogue quoted by the more at heart comical members of the team. The scene in which Guy Gardner's conscience and cartoon devilish influences takes its cue from the classic cartoon styled corker, but through dialogue and behavior of the simulacrums, Giffin, DeMatteis and Maguire refresh the tradition. Blue Beetle catching Etrigan when not rhyming adds an amusing and original running joke that remarks on continuity that's both internal to the story and external to the broader allegedly shared world. Primarily though, Classified is more dramatic than comedic.
The Super-Buddies' undergo an emotional turmoil catalyzed by Ice's mistaken placement in hell. Giffin, DeMatteis and Maguire are aware that Ice does not belong in hell. They also don't cop out with a off-the-cuff answer. The explanation only seems that way. It instead creates a philosophical question and may or may not strengthen Booster Gold's argument.
The way in which Ice's presence forges an instant camaraderie between the group differs strongly in this dark age of idiotic uncharacteristic behavior designed solely to feed inane plots. Giffin and DeMatteis rather than invest in the plotting of the tale instead make the reader care about characters. That's the secret to great writing whether it be comedy or drama. Make the reader care.
When readers become upset over the death of a character in a typical Big Stupid Event the outrages is usually due to an echo of the character's history written by better authors and not due to the executing ham-fists. The fact is almost every character in a Countdown to Infinite Greed can be interchanged. Would it have mattered had for instance Bibbo shot Superboy, after being rebuffed by Superman, in the head? How about oh, Trevor Barnes shooting Wonder Woman, after being rebuffed by Oracle, in the head? The result would still be the same. Formulaic writing with a lack of historical characterization that has no resonance or real payoff for the readers. You could have not read a single issue of Giffin's, DeMatteis' and Maguire's run of Justice League and still care for the characters within these pages of Classified because they care for each other. You would still be moved by their plight in this story and astonished by the raw emotion instilled by the artwork in this story.
JLA Classified exemplifies how comic books directed toward a mature audience should be done.
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