Current Reviews


JLA: Classified #17

Posted: Friday, February 24, 2006
By: Ray Tate

"The Hypothetical Woman": Blood is Not Enough

Writer: Gail Simone
Artists: Jose Garcia-Lopez(p), Klaus Janson(i), David Baron(c)
Publisher: DC

In the forum, a discussion broke out about how we reviewers arrive at the conclusions we do. What do our bullet systems mean? How are they applied? This week I thought I would share my thought processes.

JLA Classified earns two bullets. Harsh, says you. Deserving, says I. The book earned two bullets solely because of Jose Garcia-Lopez. He is the saving factor. If you were to replace him with a lesser artist like say Michael Turner. This book would not be worth buying. It is only in my estimation necessary for those who enjoy Jose Garcia-Lopez's artwork and Gail Simone completists.

Ms. Simone writes poorly for JLA Classified. She opens the book with Some Mercenary Guys. Who are they? Why are they here in a Justice League book? Where is the Justice League, and why should I care about Some Mercenary Guys? Another question I have to ask because of the story is for whom are Some Mercenary Guys working? The United Nations last issue gave the dictator Tuzik immunity from prosecution or something along that line, and this is the whole basis for the story. A clumsy metaphor the JLA with the intent to remove him from his seat of power bludgeoned into his country. So which country if any sent Some Mercenary Guys to kill Tuzik? Gail Simone does not adequately explain their presence nor their involvement in the story.

The narration consisting of Tuzik's diary entries is unnecessary. This just gives Ms. Simone the opportunity to cover various weapons of warfare and show off that she picked up at least one book on the subject. The dialogue from Some Mercenary Guys doesn't impress any better. The leader of Some Mercenary Guys states that Tuzik is "an abuser of women." Such a statement does not gibe with what's seen on the next page. The two women with whom he shares a bed look whole, happy and satisfied. If anything, Tuzik is a lover of women.

This contrast may be intentional on the part of Ms. Simone, but it adds to one of the major problems of JLA Classified. Tuzik is supposed to be the villain of the piece. He's however likeable, and Simone seems to be arguing on his behalf. It's almost as if she transplanted Bond's sometimes Russian ally Zukovsky, played by Robbie Coltrane, to the pages of JLA Classified.

Ms. Simone has gained a reputation with Villains United, and perhaps this is why Tuzik seems more three-dimensional. However, the same effort in characterization should have been directed toward the stars of JLA Classified. Readers are here for them. By comparison to the shrewd, amiable, libidinous, commanding Tuzik, the League look like ineffectual dim-witted clods and amateurs.

Ms. Simone makes several gaffes regarding very basic continuity. While I'm willing to accept that STAR Labs' Kitty Faulkner is not just a physicist but also an "immunobiologist," I'm not willing to accept that Batman's relationship with Kitty is stronger than Superman's relationship with Kitty. Batman does not know Kitty Faulkner. I cannot recall a comic book in which the two characters met, let alone corresponded. John Byrne created kitty Faulkner as a supporting cast member and as Rampage a super-menace for Superman. It's therefore Superman, not Batman, who should be contacting Kitty Faulkner.

When the panels focus on Kitty Faulkner, she mentions, "25 years ago no one had heard of AIDS." Incorrect. HIV was first diagnosed in the fifties. It bloomed into a manageable disease in the eighties and once ignored as the "gay disease" became epidemic by the nineties. Regardless, all of Kitty Faulkner's name-checks are irrelevant to the story since the League do not face a virus. Flash suffers from an alien invasion by microscopic Starro entities. The Starro entities are not viruses. So why even mention viruses?

Regarding the broader picture are we seriously expected to believe that in a world where alien technology is widely available and in fact aliens frequently visit the earth that the same diseases that plague us in reality are prevalent in the DCU? Surely just the physical nature of the DCU must change the outcomes. The massive damage done to the ecosystem and the collateral damage inflicted on nature by say slugfests against Doomsday have at the very least annihilated populations of deer mice, which carry the Hantavirus.

Superman gives his word to Kitty that other than the Flash, the League are unaffected by the Starro entities. Superman's word philosophically is unbreakable but has no scientific validity. So why on earth would Superman, who contrary to popular belief is not an idiot, bring his word into the discussion? Kitty calls the President D'jour, and this scene also presents a problem. Why did Simone not bring in a real life President? Why not Clinton or Bush? She's mentioned real life diseases. Why not a real life President? We can have different Presidents and super-heroes both magical and scientific, yet the blight of HIV still exists in a world filled with diverse alien cultures. You've lost me. My suspension of disbelief has snapped. I now officially will be slamming your story.

At this point, the JLA have done absolutely nothing besides appear powerless and impotent. Their dialogue consists of mechanical reiteration of the plot and technobabble that does not pertain to the story. Somebody really needs to take a word whacker to Simone's dialogue. The author should have stopped dialoguing at "Except the {Starro creatures}--replacing virus--are progressing by the minute." We don't need to know anything else. Stasis fields and other gobbledygook spoken is either redundant or unnecessary. We can see the Flash is having a bad time. We can see that he's in a green plasma cocoon of some sort. We don't need to know anything else, twice.

So what could have been done to correct these errors in characterization and plotting? How about this? After the dialogue stop, we cut to Kitty Faulkner at the hot zone. She does not mention the real life viruses. Superman can appear on her computer screen instead of Batman, and he can say something worthwhile rather than giving his word.

"Kitty, Batman has run every conceivable test, and I'm sending you copies of the results now. See for yourself, the rest of the League isn't infected."

That's really all that needs to be said. Naturally, the government would be either cautious or suspicious, and if you keep the President in the shadows and his identity secret, then it's up to the reader to decide the intent behind the dialogue. He's acting as a symbol not a person:

"Could they have faked the results, Dr. Faulkner?"
"Why would they?"
"They might be acting under alien influence."
"The results of their tests seem to be sound, Mr. President."
"Very well, Dr. Faulkner. Keep up the good work." Cuts off communication. Speaks to the Secretary of Defense also in shadows. "Just in case, the League is infected, I want to know the consequences the planet would suffer if the moon were destroyed."

Ms. Simone does have the President Whomever state: "I need to know what we have that can turn that moonbase into a crater," but President Whomever already should know "what we have that can turn that moonbase into a crater." Frankly, it shouldn't take much. The JLA's moon based Watchtower is made of earth materials. A nuclear missile would take out the Watchtower. The question is would it get there? It's all nonsensical talk. Green Lantern could stop the missile. So could Superman. Even if you painted the missile yellow, there's no guarantee that Superman or Wonder Woman would die in the explosion. For these two, you have to think bigger. Simone does not think big. She thinks small. She doesn't fully comprehend the capabilities of her stars. She's too busy beefing up Tuzik to even worry about the League.

What characterization there is of the League does not suit them. Simone forces an innocent title that was just minding its own business to get in bed with Infinite Crisis. The artist draws what the writer writes. The panel shows that Batman is uneasy leaving Wonder Woman behind to look after Wally. Ah, yes, the separation of the Big Three. Why? Why on earth would Batman feel perturbed? Classified is set in the past. It's a sort of Legends of the JLA, but the criterion is to set the stories in the past. At this point Batman is unaware of the mind-wiping. He is unaware that Wonder Woman will snap Maxwell Lord's neck. He should be perfectly fine leaving the Flash in Diana's care. There's no reason why he should behave in such a manner. Of course, were he capable of reading Diana's thoughts, he would discover that yes indeed like she will do to Maxwell Lord, she is quite willing to snap Wally's neck: "...I know I can end your life to ease your pain."

Somebody hand me a bottle of Whiteout!

Is there any reason why we need to hear this? Does it make the story any better? Does it strengthen the characterization of Wonder Woman? It may have done so had she not already executed Maxwell Lord because then her thoughts would have been groundbreaking. They would have entered into the political arena of the real world. Because however these thoughts are set in the past and have no precedent in previous years, these thoughts are neither groundbreaking nor political. Regardless of what you think of ICk, the scene would be given more power had there not been a single word on the page. Ms. Simone has yet to learn restraint. She has yet to learn the power of artwork. By taking away the reader's ability to interpret the scene, she disservices the character. She undermines the resonance. What could have been a potent scene accenting the drama of the Flash's condition and Wonder Woman's heroism just becomes a retcon meant solely to foreshadow Wonder Woman's behavior in ICk, and it doesn't work because ICk has already been published and you cannot foreshadow something that's already been seen.

The mindless, pedestrian dialogue continues as the League go off to Santa Prisca to answer a trouble-alert. Let Lopez's artwork speak because it's far more eloquent and meaningful than the story. Rather than have Batman state his feeling a headache as he approaches the city, rather than have the Martian Manhunter blabber about his Martian cellular structure, just shut up and cut to the chase of Superman stating: "It is not the conqueror strain." Don't have him repeat it either. Once is powerful. Twice is just stupid. All the reader needs to know is that "it's not the conqueror strain."

The rest of the book consists of a boring fight between Flash and Wonder Woman--no doubt hoping to snap the Flash's neck as painlessly as possible. We know the Flash is in no real danger. ICk has already happened. Wally was in ICk. Wally may be dead after ICk, but he's not going to die here, and Wonder Woman is not going to kill him. Knowing this doubles the uselessness of Simone's worshipping the all mighty ICk.

Meanwhile in Santa Prisca, the League save lives. Finally they're doing something, but the scene in which the plane flies into the island of Santa Prisca does not make sense. The plane would be in constant contact with the Tower. The plane would not come into Santa Priscan airspace if they did not hear from the Tower. Once again, Ms. Simone does not adequately give reasons for the events that transpire.

Superman saves the plane, but he has incredible difficulty. Why is Superman having a hard time stopping the plane? He's done this before. He introduced himself to the post-Crisis by saving a plane. In Trinity though less powerful than he is in DC continuity Superman actually has less difficulty in preventing a repeat of September Eleventh, courtesy of Ra's Al Ghul. So what exactly is the problem? He acts unaffected by the weapon giving Batman a "headache."

Green Lantern, while being affected by the weapon, somehow flies from Santa Prisca into space in the span of a few minutes, but instead of using his ring at a safe distance to blast apart the satellite that's beaming out these "headache" inducing pulses, he does the stupid thing of getting close--thereby causing himself to bleed--and hits it with I guess a ring protected fist. So many methods he could have chosen to knockout the satellite, and he chooses to smash it like the Hulk. This is just so dumb, and that's how Simone makes the League appear. Dumb.

The conclusion I'm forced to strongly consider is that Gail Simone does not really like the Justice League all that much. This conclusion is reinforced by the cliffhangers in which Tuzik captures Some Mercenary Guys and tells them he's going to execute them. Thanks for that because I care so much about Some Mercenary Guys.

What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!