Current Reviews


JLA #68

Posted: Tuesday, August 6, 2002
By: Jason Cornwell

Writer: Joe Kelly
Artists: Doug Mahnke (p), Tom Nguyen (i)

Publisher: DC

The book opens with Batman getting in touch with Garth to get his help in investigating the recent reappearance of the city of Atlantis. We then look in on J'Onn as he performs a mind-scan on Green Lantern, but he's unable to discover why Kyle is being plagued by visions of the JLA dying horrible deaths. We then join the rest of the JLA as they battle the Ocean Master & the Black Manta, who have laid claim to the ruins that now comprise Atlantis, and while these two villain put on an impressive display of their powers the JLA prove to be too powerful. We then rejoin the JLA as we see they've been joined by the magic-users of the DCU, who have arrived to investigate the return of Atlantis, or rather the ruins of the once great city. During the ensuing search the JLA discover that the city was cast 3000 years into the past, and that Aquaman has left them a message that at least he managed to survive this journey. As Garth prepares to perform the same spell that sent the city into the past, we see the JLA prepare to embark on this rescue mission. However after the JLA pass through Garth's magical portal it collapses & the JLA are lost in the past.

I guess that I should come right out at the start & admit to the fact that I'm a big Aquaman fan. My collection includes every issue of his previous monthly series, as well as all the various miniseries & short-lived monthlies that the character starred in during the late 1980s/early 1990s. As such I was among the fans who found the offhanded nature of his death during the "Our Worlds at War" crossover to be highly disappointing. However, now that he's slated to make his return I'm rather pleased that he was put on the shelf for the better part of a year, as not only is his return being used as a springboard for this latest JLA event, but at the end we're rewarded with a new Aquaman monthly. It's almost as if DC has stumbled upon the secret to revitalizing it's characters, as Aquaman is following in the footsteps of Green Arrow & Hawkman, as he makes his return from the dead. Now this JLA story still hasn't given us a look at Aquaman, but it has given us a pretty good idea of where he went, and how much certain members of the JLA are willing to do to bring him back, as Joe Kelly makes it quite clear that Superman & Wonder Woman are the two who are the most eager to set off on this mission.

This issue also rewards Aquaman fans by making the villains of this issue the two most notable members of Aquaman's rogues gallery (though I should really come out & admit to the fact that these two are really the only members of Aquaman's rather weak rogues gallery). Yes this issue features a battle between the JLA & the evil duo of the Ocean Master & Black Manta, as these two decide that thanks to Aquaman's absence, the city of Atlantis belongs to them. Now Joe Kelly does a pretty good job playing up the idea that these two are hardly JLA level opponents, but he does an equally impressive job offering up moments during the battle where various members of the JLA do look to be in a spot of trouble, with the Flash's over confidence allowing the Black Manta to almost hand the speedster a very humbling defeat. He also managed to smartly come up with a reason why the two members of the JLA who could've secured a JLA victory with far greater ease were occupied at the time the battle erupted. This issue should also grab the interest of Aquaman readers with it use of Garth, who plays key role in this issue.

Doug Mahnke is a solid, if not overly flashy artist, whose work manages to convey the material in a visually exciting manner, but it never really reaches the excitement levels of the more notable big action artists (e.g. Bryan Hitch, Adam Kubert, John Cassaday). Now Joe Kelly's writing does call upon the art to deliver some fairly complex ideas, like J'Onn's group telepathic conference & Kyle's nightmarish visions, and the art does a pretty nice job making these ideas quite easy for the reader to grasp. The art also does some nice work on the big impact scenes, like the sequence where the Flash finds himself in a fairly harrowing situation after he gets a little over confident during combat, and the message that Aquaman leaves the JLA is quite impressive. The sequence where the JLA is pulled through the magical portal is also a visually engaging bit of work, as Kyle nightmare adds a nice sense of foreboding as the JLA are pulled to their seeming dooms. Oh, and while I know this is just a trivial detail, I have to thank Doug Mahnke for bringing back Zatanna's top hat, as it's a vital part of the character's look.

Final Word:
This issue invests most of it's attention on laying the groundwork for this latest mission, though it also managed to clear up some of the more confusing points from the past couple issues. The issue certainly is designed to appeal to Aquaman's fans as the opening battle has the JLA fighting two of Aquaman's more formidable villains, and Garth's role in this issue is fairly substantial. The issue also has the JLA dealing with the idea that Aquaman is still alive, and Joe Kelly does a nice job reminding the reader that Aquaman was a vital part of this group, and that Superman & Wonder Woman were far closer to the man than the rest of the team. There's also a nice parade of guest-stars in this issue, as we see the assembled magic users of the DCU have gathered to help the JLA with this rescue mission. Joe Kelly also manages to develop a nice sense of dread, using Aquaman's rather ominous SOS to the JLA, and Green Lantern's visions of how this mission is going to play out.

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