A Few of Today's Editions:

*Not too too much time here. All sorts of rock and roll pending.

JLA Classified #3


Well, that’s a little better. I can usually trust Grant Morrison to bring about a decent ending, and it looks like this holds true even when the rest of the story is as under whelming as this one. It’s not near the top of the Morrison canon; in fact it’s not even near the top of the Morrison on “JLA” canon, but it’s a more satisfying ending than I was expecting, which counts for something.

You see, last issue, Morrison did some interesting playing around with the JLA hunting down the villain Black Death in the infant universe of Qwewq, which bore a striking resemblance to our own in that it’s filled with average (non-superheroic) problems and has nothing particularly fantastical about it. The point is raised that even the lousiest D-list supervillain could whip up a lot of trouble in such a world. It’s also suggested that the JLA are too big for this world, with panels focusing largely on details of their bodies and costumes, as if they have to be stuffed into a world of realism, with the grand universe of delightful super-adventure looming majestically over our own reader’s baby universe. This sort of idea fits in perfectly with Morrison’s ongoing rhetoric as to how superheroes must live in a larger-than-life world of color and danger, not a grim/gritty facsimile of our own little place. But a lot of these ideas were brushed aside last issue in favor of more antics involving the underwhelming Ultramarines Corps, who are filling in to battle Gorilla Grodd and the mysterious Nebula Man and their pack of simian terrorists and a fleet of mind control Mystery Cosmic Neuro-Parasites. The action wasn’t all that thrilling.

But perhaps that was the point. Needless to say, the JLA show up to save the day on all fronts, their names and introductory captions scattered throughout the story, as if each prior issue has been leading up to their (re)introduction. The action whips from scene to scene; my favorite was Green Lantern’s fight with a mind-controlled Ultramarine who has the power to change the story of reality by typing away at an invisible keyboard. He thusly reinstates Green Lantern’s old weakness against the color yellow, and the battle goes from there. But seeing as how there’s five or so fronts to this little war, there’s not much time to get more than a glimpse of what’s going on with each fight. Oddly, this sort of aids art team Ed McGuinness and Dexter Vines, who get to keep the action contained to a few short bursts before relocating to a new area and starting a fight anew; a lot of their weakness that I’d been picking up in earlier issues seems to focus on longer action pieces . There’s still some burps; at one point Grodd is taunting Batman, who’s tied to a spit revolving over flame. Grodd is facing right, toward Batman, on the spit. Then (on the next page), we have a close-up of Grodd still talking, still facing right. Except he isn’t really facing ‘right’ spatially because we hear Batman’s voice behind him, and we later see the spit beside Batman; Grodd‘s actually turned around, but we’ve been given no indication of this, so I was left going over the panels again quickly just to see how the hell Batman escaped and got behind Grodd so quickly, when really Batman didn’t go anywhere as the presence of the spit indicates. It‘s confusing. But there’s less opportunity for things like this when there’s tons of quick-cut action in the air.

So there’s a nice twist regarding Nebula Man that I won’t ruin, the heroes save the day, and Superman makes a speech about how ‘dark’ heroes like the Ultramarines are going about this the wrong way (“These ’no-nonsense’ solutions of yours just don’t hold water in a complex world of jet-powered apes and time travel”). So Superman suggests that they all ‘start small’, and we’re suddenly shown a whole bunch of panels of drugs and corruption and desert war, all familiar sights to us, and in walk the Ultramarines, the first superheroes in a tiny world in need of them. It’s the converse of last issue: if the lousiest supervillain can become a terror in a non-super world, then even a bunch of dodgy superheroes (like the ones we’ve spent the last few issues with) could make great strides toward good. Or at least a bunch of dodgy superheroes who’ve been educated as to the Morrison way; otherwise, we’d just be heading back to the gritty grindstone, and we‘ve had curious superheroes in the ‘real’ world a thousand times over; these curious superheroes have been made Better.

It’s a pleasant ending. It makes its point quickly, and it makes you smile. The look of it wasn’t great, and even a nice finale can’t quite crush the feeling that much of this story was just treading water (all those Ultramarine fights). But we’ve got a nice partial recovery here, which is ok.

Planetary #22

Good old “Planetary” formula. Mr. Snow (with or without company) encounters a person or area that prompts riffs on a certain area of 20th century pop culture, which Mr. Snow may take an active role in, or maybe he’ll just observe. The overall plot will advance incrementally. This issue is no different, so let’s break it all down like we're filling out a worksheet or a hospital questionnaire :

THE ENCOUNTER: Mr. Snow is interrogating one Mr. William Leather, the Human Torch element of the “Planetary” universe’s Fantastic Four-derived supervillain makeup. Leather just tells Snow (and us) the story of his grandfather and father and how their deeds led to his own path in life.

ALONE OR WITH THE TEAM? Snow is alone.

THE AREA OF CULTURAL FOCUS: Loner vigilantes, of both the western dime novel and the early 20th century pulp magazine. The capricious lottery of production delay has deemed that this story would pop up only a few weeks after the appearance of Ellis’ similarly pulp vigilante focused “Simon Spector”. But unlike the earlier one-shot’s intent to reinstate the pulp-style icon as a comic book protagonist without cutting the mix with superhero influence, this issue deals with the progression of violent vigilantism throughout generations, and the effects such activities have on the vigilante’s descendents. As it stands, the story here is clever and amusing, and John Cassaday’s art is suitably brutal and larger-than-life.

DOES SNOW PARTICIPATE OR OBSERVE? He observes the story only.

PLOT ADVANCEMENT: Not too much. Snow might have a mean of confronting the rest of the Four now. But more predominantly, we’re exploring the relationships between various cast members and cameo players, and their own relationship to the book‘s universe; there’s stuff in this issue that references material and characters introduced in issue #1. I pulled my trade from off the shelf and got flipping.

Given the emphasis on done-in-one pop culture explorations and the slow build of any overarching plot, I sometimes wonder if “Planetary” is the idea ongoing book to experience the sort of delays that it does. While I sometimes feel that more is ‘happening’ when issues are read in big chunks, I think that maybe the formula of this comic cushions it against a lot of distraction that delays can create. I need to sort through old issues to fit together the new nuggets of plot info, but I’m rarely confused when diving into each irregular installment. It’s when I’m out of the pool I need to get my bearings.