"New Maps of Hell": Part One
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artists: Butch Guice, David Baron(c)
I'm going to once again be upfront with you gentle reader. I am not a Warren Ellis fanatic. I can't get into Planetary, and I have tried. I thought Batman/Planetary, lauded by practically everybody, was awful while I felt JLA/Planetary, hated by most, was quite enjoyable.
Ellis does a good job of characterizing a more mature version of the JLA that doesn't require their standing around and looking like costumed cretins or sending off their colleagues to Dan DiDio's meat grinder. Batman actually engages in detective work. Superman and Lois Lane, very spunky and snappy, track down a story that feeds into the mystery.
While Wonder Woman and Superman do nothing to prevent the tragedies that occur in the book, Ellis has really given the heroes full consideration and found ways to make such horrors plausible.
What happens in Superman's city occurs at night and through chance. Superman upon discovering what has occurred feels personally responsible. He believes he should have been there to stop it, but Lois is there to ground him. He cannot be everywhere.
What affects Wonder Woman comes as a complete shock not just to Diana but to the reader. You never see this coming, and it's this stunning surprise that really pushes the book into a realm of near written perfection.
Adding to the book's veracity, Butch Guice provides for Warren Ellis' more mature Justice League a realistic look that eschews any hint of cartoonyness. Distinctive body language evolves naturally through the panels and helps imprint Guice's style to icons.
Lois Lane looks beautiful, but she's a beauty you can see on your local news station. Superman in the guise of Clark Kent looks big and savvy. He issues a presence, which is what you may expect either from the Man of Steel or a trusted reporter. The scars on Batman's body speak the litany of his crusade against crime. This depiction incidentally was first referred to by Alan Brennert in Brave and Bold where the earth-two Batman marries Catwoman. It was light years ahead of Daredevil.
Guice in combination with David Baron's colors does not merely confine his realism to the characters. The settings and the special effects--such as lightning in the skies of Gotham City--all have feeling, texture and depth.
To be honest, I was going to drop JLA Classified after the Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha Festival of Giffin/DeMatteis/Maguire's, but Ellis, Guice and Baron have hooked me into staying for the next issue.
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