Sunday, August 30, 2015

JLA vs. The Titans #2

The Generation Gap

Devin Grayson Co-Plotter & Dialogue
Phil Jimenez Co-Plotter & Pencils
Andy Lanning Inks
Jason Wright Colors
Heroic Age Separations
Comicraft Letters
Frank Berrios Assistant Editor
Eddie Berganza Editor

The first issue of this miniseries was just called JLA/The Titans. But for issue #2, a "vs." was inserted, which shouldn't come as any surprise, since the wraparound, interconnecting covers clearly show a major fight between the two teams. And at the center of this cover/poster is Nightwing vs. Batman, the central confrontation of the whole fight. It really is an exciting, impressive image.

Our story picks right up where last one left off. Everyone and anyone who was once a member of the Titans has been kidnapped. Batman and Plastic Man found the Titans on the former Titans Island, and the entire JLA has been summoned to that location. Orion, however, is furious that Batman is showing more concern over a handful of children than the entire planet, which truly is threatened now by the arrival of a large conglomeration of spaceships that have enveloped the moon. Orion argues that they should let the Titans free themselves while they try to save the world. Batman sees Orion's point, but he still feels their best course of action is to save the hostages. As Steel starts working on the force field protecting the hostages, Batman warns the JLA that they are dealing with about 30 powerful people who hold personal significance to each of them, but could be injured or even brain-washed.

The computer holding the hostages recognizes the presence of the JLA and the threat they represent. So the computer sends out of a few more shape-shifting spheres to gather some reinforcements. Meanwhile, Nightwing, Raven and the Flash are chewing over Changeling's theory that Cyborg is behind all this. Wally does a quick check of all the other prisoners, and he reports that the only former Titan not there is Cyborg. Changeling tells them how Cyborg slowly became less and less human through the years to the point where he allowed himself to be absorbed into a cyber-alien called the Technis. Cyborg became Cyberion, providing the humanity and soul to the technology's goal of exploring and cataloging. Changeling joined Cyberion on his journeys for a while, but the further they got from home, the weirder Victor Stone became. No longer recognizing his best friend, Garfield Logan returned to Earth, while Cyberion grew and evolved until he virtually became a small planet comprised of various ships and satellites.

Raven explains that she stayed with Cyberion, even after Changeling left, in an attempt to soothe Vic's troubled soul. At some point, Jarras Minion decided to return to his pacifist ways, and he gave the Omegadrome to Cyberion as a gift. The technology of the Omegadrome increased Cyberion's power exponentially, but it drastically diminished Vic's humanity. The only command Cyberion interpreted from Vic was a desire to return to his friend, the Titans. But Cyberion was unable to distinguish between the Titans Vic personally knew and those he didn't. Cyberion even sent a probe to collect Vic himself. Raven explains that Cyberion placed all the Titans in pleasant virtual reality worlds to take care of them, while also attempting to turn the moon into a new Technis planet. At this point, Raven finally gave up trying to connect to Vic's soul and decided to warn and help the former Titans.

The free heroes find what appears to be Cyberion's energy center, which they believe still houses Vic's consciousness. Changeling is still optimistic they can save his friend, but first, they decide to save all the former Titans. While Wally searches for a way out, Nightwing and Raven begin visiting each hostage in their virtual reality to help them snap out of it. The only person not in a pleasant virtual reality is Terra, who has understandably been confused with the traitorous Terra. (The difference between the two Terras is far too confusing and lengthy for me to get into here.) Another highlight with a familiar face is Arsenal, who is in Arizona with the deceased Green Arrow. But Nightwing and Raven have little trouble pulling the hostages out of the virtual reality worlds.

Wally then finds the entrance to the prison, where the JLA are just on the other side, debating the best way to break in. Superman combines his heat vision with a blast from Big Barda, and the JLA is soon through. Flash leads the heroes to the freed hostages, and explains to Batman that Nightwing is still helping free the others. Steel comes across the central power unit, and suggests they destroy it to free the moon and save the Earth. But Wonder Woman tells him to wait until all the other former Titans are freed.

We then see Impulse in a shared virtual reality world with Prysm. Both of them were raised in virtual reality, so they feel quite at home in this strange land of abstract shapes and mythical beasts. Prysm says she was happy there, and Impulse says virtual reality rocks. But Raven soon arrives and pulls them out. Damage is honored and accepted by the original JSA in his fantasy, and Supergirl and Starfire are surrounded by their lost family members. But all of them are brought back to the real world quite easily. The last hostage is the saddest. Donna Troy's fantasy is a simple white background with just her toddler son who died. Nightwing tells her it's not real, and with tears streaming down her face, Donna says she knows.

With all the hostages freed, Orion and Big Barda begin to destroy the technological menace that threatens the planet. But Changeling begs them to stop, saying Vic's soul is still in there and they have to save it. Superman says Vic isn't alive anymore — he's just a program they need to shut down. The former Titans are shocked to see the rest of the JLA share this opinion. Green Lantern joins them, but Flash surprisingly sides with the Titans, saying they need to save Vic. As the argument intensifies and sides are being picked, Bart sheepishly hides behind Wally. But when the two sides gear up for a full-on fight, Bart actually tries to hold Wally back.

Risk is the first to attack, but he is immediately blasted by Orion. Tempest attacks Aquaman, and Green Lantern blasts Flash. The Cyberion computer then expands the cavern by creating illusions of pieces of each virtual environment it had previously created. Batman and Nightwing discuss how much power Cyberion has to pull this off, and whether he's distracted by all this commotion. The fight really starts to get out of hand, and Flash tries to get Green Lantern to stop attacking him, saying he's heard Martian Manhunter's telepathic message. But Kyle Rayner refuses to relent, calling Wally a double-crosser. Arsenal even attempts to attack Batman, but Nightwing stops him.

Meanwhile, Cyberion's probes begin collecting other heroes who once helped the Titans. This time, the spheres politely ask for help, gathering Thunder and Lightning and Chris King from San Francisco, Azrael from Virginia, Magenta from Blue Valley (who has her room decorated with crossed-out Flash posters), Harlequin, Hawk and Dove from New York, and Robin from the Secret Sanctuary in Happy Harbor, Rhode Island. Robin happened to be with Superboy when the sphere arrived, and he agreed to go with it, asking Superboy to follow him. Only one person turns down the probe's offer, Deathstroke the Terminator, who is apparently retired and hunting lions in Africa.

Back to the fight, Kyle calls Wally a self-righteous traitor, and Wally responds by calling Kyle a safe-playing wannabe. Wonder Woman takes on Donna Troy, and Mirage torments Martian Manhunter by turning into a burning image of his wife, M'yri'ah. Nightwing tries to convince Batman to call off the JLA, but he refuses. Nightwing says that Vic's damage to Earth is unintentional, and they need to focus their efforts on trying to communicate with him. But Batman insists that Victor Stone is gone, and all that remains is an automaton bent on mass destruction. Nightwing thinks Vic's attack is a clumsy call for help, and he tries to explain the special, familial bond unique to the Titans that the JLA doesn't share. Batman continues to disagree, reminding Nightwing of his oath to protect innocent lives, and points out there's no justice in sacrificing millions to save one already-dead friend.

The fighting continues, and some heroes seem seriously hurt — especially when Martian Manhunter retaliates for having his dead wife used against him. But once Batman realizes Cyberion is protecting and aiding the Titans, he has J'onn J'onzz include Nightwing in the telepathic conversation. Nightwing learns that the whole battle was just a ruse to distract Cyberion. Nightwing is still pretty mad at this, but Batman says he'll give him 30 minutes to take whatever countermeasures he wants while the JLA dismantles the CPU and the moon-based construct. So Nightwing contacts Raven, while Batman tells J'onn two teams will be heading to the moon, and he urges him to keep the fight going during that time.

Nightwing chooses a team of Donna Troy, Arsenal, Tempest and the Flash. Changeling, who's in a shape-shifting contest with Plastic Man, notices Raven gathering up heroes into her soul self. He asks Impulse to help him take on Plastic Man, so he can turn into a fly and sneak into Raven's soul self with the original Teen Titans.

Cyberion's reinforcements arrive at the island, as well as Superboy and the rest of Young Justice — Secret, Wonder Girl and Arrowette. But they're met by the JLA's reinforcements — Power Girl, Elongated Man, Mister Miracle, Mary Marvel, Black Canary, Captain Marvel and Green Arrow. But before these two new groups start to fight, Batman tells everyone to stop. Meanwhile, the Cyberion computers begin analyzing the blueprints of all the previous Titans bases — including the satellite and Liberty Island base that Impulse briefly stayed at — and combines elements from all of them to design a new Titans headquarters.

This was a very exciting, action-packed issue that unfortunately had a very weak ending. Devoting the last couple of pages to blueprints was not particularly captivating, and really killed the momentum. But what really hurt the story for me was the reveal that Batman and the JLA were staging the fight the whole time. I thought the fight was really emotional, and both sides had a valid point. But then it turned out the JLA were all just lying through their teeth, refusing to let the Titans know what they were planning until the end. And this makes all the JLA look like complete jerks. The Titans were passionately fighting for their friend's life, and they believed their mentors were diametrically opposed to them. But the most powerful heroes in the world were just toying with their former sidekicks as part of an overly elaborate plan to distract Cyberion. We had a really interesting debate going on for a while, but then the whole thing was negated once we saw that one side didn't actually support its own arguments.

But the issue as a whole was great. The fighting sequences were beautifully framed between Nightwing and Batman's intellectual debate, with the constant update on the recruits scrolling across the bottom of the page. I just wish Nightwing and the Titans could have convinced Batman and the JLA to give them a chance to save Cyborg. I would have done everything the same right up to the part where Batman reveals they've been pretending to fight all along. Instead, I would have had Nightwing or Changeling say something significant, or have Cyborg himself show some proof that he still has a soul — anything to get Batman to change his mind.

As for Impulse, he was rather quiet, but I loved the idea of having him fight Plastic Man. They have very different power sets, but very similar personalities, making this a truly intriguing matchup. Sadly, we didn't get to see too much of what happened. And I was disappointed with Impulse's virtual reality world. So he had to share a world with Prysm because they were both raised in a VR setting? Or did they naturally gravitate toward each other because they were used to virtual reality? And why did it have to be so boring? Everyone else got their heart's greatest desire brought to life — although usually in a creepy way. So it would have been fun to see what Bart wants in the bottom of his heart. Maybe it really is just random geometric shapes floating in space.

Next time, we'll lighten things up a bit with the DCU Holiday Bash #3.

No comments:

Post a Comment