Writer: Jeph Loeb
Artist: Ed McGuinness
Publisher: DC Comics
The final tag on the last page reads, ďWeíll be back! xox Jeph * Ed.Ē Please, Marvel, please hold onto Loeb for as long as possible.
Twenty-five issues in three years. If this series had stuck to its original schedule, it would have concluded a year ago. That way, the story wouldnít be as horribly redundant as it is, retreading on themes and characters that have already been covered by Infinite Crisis and even the current "Up, Up and Away" story arc. As watered down as the story is due to lateness, it canít nearly top the poor choice Loeb has made in turning "With a Vengeance" into an unabashed sequel to 2000ís "Emperor Joker" storyline that Loeb co-wrote. Heck, I liked "Emperor Joker" and still fondly remember it, and even I wasnít begging for a sequel.
The plot goes something like this: the Supermen, Batmen and Supergirls of infinite earths (you know, the ones that were brought back and then removed again just last month) gather together to duke it out with their evil counterparts and the Marvel knockoffs. Why? Because the Joker and Mr. Mxyzptlk are having a cosmic contest to prove whoís more powerful, and if Joker wins, he gets all of Mxyzptlkís power. How can Joker enter this gamble? Because heís still got a piece of Mxyzptlkís power left over from the Emperor Joker storyline even though he was soundly defeated back then and hasnít used the power to any significant effect since, regardless of Jokerís Last Laugh and the "Soft Targets" arc in Gotham Central and anything remotely resembling continuity. Yes, in the Jeph Loeb universe, a shared DCU is merely a suggestion.
The ego-stroking is really what ruins the story. Loeb likes Supergirl, therefore he adds a bunch of Supergirls. Loeb likes Bizarro, therefore Bizarro is one of the protagonists. Loeb likes Joker, therefore heís the main villain. Loeb likes making absurd amalgamations, like that Superman/Batman robot in issue #6, so he makes a composite Superman/Batman. Itís just a mishmash of anything and everything Loeb wants to throw together, with logic, consistency and cohesion thrown out the window.
Not even McGuinness can save the book. For some reason, half of his Joker illustrations omit the trademarked lipstick. He lacks the artistic ability to make a clear distinction between variant Batmen and his ďMaximum MaximumĒ is very poorly designed. His characters on the whole just look a lot rougher, especially the cover featuring Batman.
Iím eagerly looking forward to the next issue, written by and dedicated to Sam Loeb, but I hope itís a long time before I pick up another comic by a Loeb.
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