Current Reviews

subheader

JLA: Classified #18

Posted: Saturday, March 18, 2006
By: Ray Tate



"The Hypothetical Woman": Salvage the Steel Heart

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

A comic book buyer can only appreciate the elegant gorgeous pencils of Jose Garcia-Lopez in JLA: Classified. This is not meant to disparage Klaus Janson. I just don't think his and Garcia-Lopez's styles compliment each other. David Baron's colors are adequate for the book, but this is the one time I would have liked to see the whole project illustrated in black and white, to better marvel at Garcia-Lopez's art. As for the writing....

In no way, shape or form can JLA: Classified be considered good or even decent writing. Simone bases this chapter of "Hypothetical Woman" on yet another dicey premise:

"I've heard rumblings. Rumors of countries bidding vast sums in secret auctions for the detritus of battle..."

Superman has heard rumblings, but he did not bother to investigate. Perhaps he was too busy. Well, then surely he would have notified somebody else. Oh, but wait. Maybe he knows of no one capable of investigating such rumblings. It's not like he has a detective's number on his Rolodex. Oh, wait. Yes, he does, and son of a gun, he's allegedly "the world's greatest detective."

Simone's story depends on smart villains and dumb super-heroes. Worse. These dumb super-heroes are the cream. This is not Some Super-Powered Group of Generic Crimefighters. Simone implies that the Justice League turned a blind eye to the rumblings that have put them in their current situation. I'll be honest with you. I wanted to hit somebody repeatedly after reading the first page detailing this plot point.

The current situation the League finds itself in involves ships based on "Tamaranean" technology from the period of "Final Night" and a trio of Chemo wannabes confronting Superman and J'onn in the skies of Santa Prisca:

"It looks like earth just declared war on the Justice League."

Problem number one: The Final Night never existed. It involved continuity poster children The Legion of Super-Heroes, who were rebooted, again! Their adventures dissolved "in a puff of logic," to quote Douglas Adams. Therefore, Tamaranean technology could not be threatening Superman and J'onn in the skies of Santa Prisca. Q.E.D. Oh, and if somebody mentions Superboy Snotty's punching of time as an excuse for the writer's laziness, I will hunt them down and kill them.

Problem number two: Even if I accept that these ships do exist within the context of the story, there's no explanation of how they got to Santa Prisca so fast. Where exactly were they based? They certainly weren't in flying range because the League on their way to Santa Prisca would have seen them or their base. They are not capable of some kind of hyperdrive or teleportation drive because then the pilot would have used this on Batman. So how did they make it to Santa Prisca so fast? While we're at it, where is Santa Prisca located these days? The pilots appear to be Chinese? So is Santa Prisca off the coast of China or what?

Problem number three: Superman's statement is artificially inflated drama. The earth isn't at war with the JLA, and Superman should know it. If the earth really was at war with the JLA, then the entire sky would be filled with ships, Chemos, missiles aimed in their general vicinity, etc.

Problem number four: Where did the nations who bid on the "detritus of battle" get the brains to figure out how to repair and operate the--lets call them--technological wonders of mass destruction? Alien technology, maniacal inventions, spine-healing routinely stymies the best minds at STAR Labs.

After this confusion, Simone cuts to Batman examining a concussed little girl. Simone includes these nuggets of dialogue:

"Are you expressing concern for me Superman? I'd rather you not."
"...You were injured before the fighting ships showed up."
"Yes, well...It wasn't nightfall then..."

Simone's dialogue is unnecessary, nonsensical and as usual undermines the more potent artwork. It's also incorrect. It's not nightfall in Batman's relative now either. Superman and J'onn are facing a sun that has only just begun to go down. Superman's and J'onn's conversation in the air couldn't have lasted more than five minutes. The check in with Batman couldn't have taken up more time than three minutes. At the most, eight minutes have passed. Night could not have fallen. One begins to recall the sudden seasonal changes in Monty Python and the Holy Gail.

Simone cuts back to Superman and J'onn about to face the alien stuff. Doing his best Hal Jordan impression, Green Lantern, unconscious, floats out in space. Then Simone checks in on Wonder Woman last seen threatening to euthanize the Flash. To get even with her, the Flash does a super-speed hurl. This splatters her with Starro.

So let me get this straight. Once infected by teensy Starro that take over the mind, they grow and grow and somehow end up in the stomach, where instead of being consumed by the acids in said stomach, they induce the victim to hurl. Man, do I miss the days when Starro just attached itself to a victim's face. It was creepy, and I could accept it secreting slime that acted as a conduit for telepathic domination. That added legitimacy gave me the wiggins.

Simone's conqueror strain has a life cycle that's biologically ridiculous. If a non-powered victim were to hurl out Starro, it would then do what? Flop on the floor in a pool of partially digested food? How would it find another victim? The mind boggles. Maybe it would do something like this: "Hsst, hey, conchita? Come here. Put your face near this smelly pool of vomit. I've got something important to tell you."

Bad enough Simone's threat to the Flash and Wonder Woman is a migraine-inducing noisome puddle of nonsense, the writer also feels the need to keep Wonder Woman talking:

"To heal the body by destroying a cancer, monster. That too is Amazon."

Oh, shut up. First it's a virus, then its a cancer, and apparently Amazons can destroy cancer--but are unable to fix spines or exterminate the HIV virus mentioned last issue. Just let Jose Garcia-Lopez's battle scenes speak. Wonder Woman doesn't need to say anything. We can see what's going on, and if she talks she leaves her mouth open. This means that she risks exposure to the bits of Conqueror Strain flying all over the place. Never the less, she keeps talking:

"Flash, I didn't want to do this."

Ah, yes. This must be the set up for her euthanizing the Flash. This is so pathetic. As I said in the review of last issue, the Flash cannot die in this series. Wonder Woman will not kill him. He's alive and well in first few issues of ICk. Classified is set in the past, and Simone doesn't even pretend that she's willing to kill him. That whole scene was just contrived garbage to set up this scene to make a seriously stupid reader think Wonder Woman was going to put the Flash out of his misery. Instead she uses the golden lasso to make the Flash "see what's inside" him. Well, pardon me for asking, but...

WHY DIDN'T SHE USE THE LASSO LAST ISSUE!

Damn it! How stupid must Wonder Woman be to not use the golden lasso last issue. She could have spared the Flash a lot of pain. She could have saved the reader from the whole stupid conversation between Batman and Kitty Faulkner regarding HIV. She could have stopped Superman from making that dumb comment about his word being a shield against plague. She could have cut the scene showing Incompetent President Whomever trying to find out what the government has to destroy the League. As I said, Simone's story depends on the League acting extremely dumb. A writer who treats the League as amateurish idiots must at heart really loathe them.

Back to the battle, Superman buys a vowel and wrecks one of the aliens. Perhaps, we'll get to see some fine Lopez renditions of super-heroes creating carnage. Guess again. Simone cuts to....wait for it....

Some Mercenary Guys

Yes, they're back! The real stars of JLA: Classified! They're the Some Mercenary Guys sent by Some Country to kill Boris Tudinov, who promptly shoots them in the head. Tudik is once again shown to be smart, decisive and ten steps ahead of everybody else. Abnormally smart but dime a dozen villain. Congenitally Stupid Justice League.

Despite being shot in the head Some Mercenary Guys manage to live long enough to meet up with Some Wild Girl Archetype, beautifully illustrated as a gowned Rima, who serves as a tour guide to the Butterfly Zone. Despite the fact that being shot in the head will kill zombies, that wily Tudik manages to use co-opted biotech to reanimate our heroes Some Mercenary Guys.

Okay.

Tudik clearly has too many toys, but then Simone is so in love with this character that she treats him like how a mother treats a spoiled child. She gives him not just the edge, but the whole razor. First, he cons the U.N. into granting him asylum. He then has the League escort him to his country of choice. He next somehow gets his hands on the Key's technology to induce headaches. Then, he's also got the Conqueror Strain. He's got Rima of the Jungle under his thumb. He has alien tech and Chemos at his disposal. He can make zombies that are immune to being shot in the head. The League? They're acting like headless chickens on ice.

A good example of this stupid behavior can be found in Batman's method of subduing a pilot steering one of the alien craft. Batman drops down on the alien-tech-plane. At point blank range, while waiting for the pilot to draw his gun, Batman straddles the cockpit as he shoots his batarang in to pull a lever. Now, I've heard of lousy shots before, but this pilot is the absolute worst. He cannot hit Batman standing still, at point blank range. His bullets go everywhere, and Batman does not even get a flesh wound. That snapping sound you just heard was the remaining shreds of my disbelief. Not only is Batman's ploy astoundingly dim-witted, but he lucks out!

Superman also lucks out. He, Wonder Woman and J'onn slam the Chemos together to make one big Chemo. Why does this work? Got me. Simone apparently hasn't a clue either because she doesn't bother to explain it. She just coasts on the faith of the reader, which is like George Bush asking people to trust him that he's not having the NSA and the Pentagon spying on them, especially if they're protesting his holy, good war. Regardless, the scene is so unnecessary. All three of them could have taken each one of the Chemos out into space for a butt kicking. The frictionless surface isn't much of an impediment to a thinking Man of Steel. He could have found some cable somewhere and just lassoed the sucker. He needn't wait for Wonder Woman to show up. J'onn could have shape-changed into a giant hook. This unexplained merger was just grandstanding on Simone's part.

The story ends with a bizarre scene showing the League breaking for milk and cookies, baked by Wonder Woman. Yes, folks. She snaps necks and bakes cookies. So if you're good, you get cookies. If you're bad, she'll consider euthanizing you. She's sort of like a stacked Santa Claus with mood swings.

Batman mentions the Exxon Valdez disaster, which Superman and several other super-heroes should have and could have prevented. So, they're stupid and useless in Simone's universe. The story seems to end, but we're not that lucky. You just know Tudik will be back next issue with I don't know leftovers from Chronos' yard sale to vex the League.

Simone offers the reader slip-shod plotting, atrocious dialogue and unformed characterization in a cohesively bankrupt story. Her love for her creation Tudik and The Some Mercenary Guys is evident, but a cogent, effective League that's comprised of "The World's Mightiest Super-Heroes" does not balance her love for a derivative character I recently saw an episode of South Park that spoofed the Super-Friends. It was far more reverent to its source material and creative.



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