Tuesday, December 20, 2016

JLA: The Secret Society of Super-Heroes #2

Writers: Howard Chaykin and David Tischman
Penciller: Mike McKone
Inker: Jimmy Palmiotti
Letterer: Bob Lappan
Colorist and Separator: David Stewart

Cover Penciller: Mike McKone
Cover Inker: Jimmy Palmiotti
Cover Color: David Stewart
Logo Design: Todd Klein

Our cover shows our "heroes" floating menacingly above the ruins of a city. I find this slightly odd, since not all of these characters are able to fly, but I guess the general attitude of this image is in line with the story inside. One thing to note, though, is Bart's boots are red on the cover, but inside, his costume is one solid yellow piece from head to foot — kind of like little kids' pajamas. I also find this discrepancy odd, since David Stewart colored both the cover and the inside pages. For what it's worth, though, I like the red boots a lot better.

Our story picks up where we left off last time, with Bruce Wayne and Lois Lane having discovered the secret hideout of the Kryptic Order, just as Bart Allen is welcomed to the team. While Wayne and Lane sneak around the shadows, the "heroes" show Bart around, promising to get him a costume like Wally's before too long, but in the meantime, they present him with an invisibility device. Wonder Woman and Superman explain that the device is made of Amazonium, and comes from Wonder Woman's old invisible jet, which they broke down and put into these individual devices so the Kryptic Order can operate without being seen. Bart's first thoughts involve using this device to peek on pretty girls in the showers, but Wonder Woman tells the teen right out that this technology is for such activities.

Bruce and Lois then sneak away, but they pass through a trophy room and discover a Batman suit with a label saying it belonged to Bruce's dad, Thomas Wayne. Bruce heads to a hospital/nursing home of some kind to visit his old friend, Alfred Pennyworth, who appears quite sickly and nearly senile. Bruce asks him about his dad's connection to the bat suit, and Alfred whispers the truth in his ear. Lois publishes a story about her discovery, but she decides to keep Bruce out of it.

We then cut to Bart's first night on patrol with Green Lantern and Flash. (They never say if he's Kid Flash or Impulse. In fact, they only call him Bart, so that's what I'll call him.) Bart quickly grows bored, and to pass the time, Wally and Kyle tell Bart how some of them use their powers to make a little money on the side.

Kyle admits that Superman and a few of the others are opposed to this idea, so they conveniently forget to tell them about their side activities. The message to Bart is he can make a real killing if he's willing to keep his mouth shut. They eventually spot some criminals, and Flash quickly knocks them out by running around them and depriving them of oxygen. Bart thinks that was pretty cool, and he asks if it's like this every night. Wally hopes he'll be able to show Bart something a little more interesting soon, and Kyle says these guys aren't worth sending to the Phantom Zone, which opens up a whole new topic of discussion.

Bart gets pretty shaken up by all this, feeling that stealing money and exiling people to the Phantom Zone is wrong. In addition to the typical stresses of a teenager, Bart now has his mind occupied with trying to figure out a way to get out of the Kryptic Order. When he comes home one night, he's so lost in his thoughts that he doesn't even hear his parents trying to talk to him for several minutes, and they both fear their son is on drugs.

Bruce and Lois continue to work toward taking down the secret society of superheroes, and Bruce even quits his job at the FBI to focus full time on this mystery. Later, a meeting at the Kryptic Order becomes incredibly tense when Superman discovers that Green Lantern caused the Hong Kong market crash to line his pockets. During the course of their argument, Wonder Woman reveals that she has also been stealing money for years and lying to the team by saying it came from the Amazons. Despite this, Wonder Woman still stands with Superman's stance of keeping the team secret. The war of words heats up, and soon we have Superman, Wonder Woman, Hawkgirl and Metamorpho on one side, with Green Lantern, Flash, Atom and Plastic Man on the other. Both Superman and Green Lantern put a lot of pressure on Bart to join their side, but Bart realizes this isn't good and he doesn't want any part of it. So he runs away.

At Kyle's urging, Wally takes off after Bart, but he's unable to find him. Bart heads to Paris first, and sends an email to his mom, saying he won't be home for dinner. But it's unclear exactly how many dinners Bart missed, as we later see Bart on a cruise ship and later in George Washington's nose on Mount Rushmore. The teen realizes he needs help or he'll eventually be caught and sent to the Phantom Zone.

Bruce visits Arkham Asylum and has the Riddler help him in his investigation. He later steals an invisibility device and special goggles that allow him to see invisible people. Green Lantern, Atom and Plastic Man are shocked when a devastating hurricane in Florida wipes out their entire portfolio. They're also upset that Wally hasn't found Bart yet, and Plastic Man begins to wonder how their stock market activity is any different from the criminals they fight. But Green Lantern is mostly upset with his hunch feeling that Superman caused the hurricane.

Bart then visits his dad at the police lab, where Barry berates him for going missing and worrying his mother. As Barry threatens to ground Bart until he's 40, Bart starts to think the Phantom Zone isn't looking too bad. But he stops himself from thinking that way and he tells his dad that he's in big trouble right now and really needs his help. Barry looks at his son for a moment, then realizes he's serious, so he takes the rest of the afternoon off to find out what's going on with Bart. That night, Bruce puts on his dad's old Batman suit and begins practicing jumping around on the rooftops of Metropolis.

The next day, Superman is suddenly attacked by Green Lantern while doing a quick patrol during his lunch hour. Green Lantern is joined by Plastic Man, Atom and Flash, and since everybody is invisible, all the passersby on the street have no idea why things suddenly start breaking and getting smashed. Superman calls in his allies to help, and soon we have a full-fledged fight on our hands in the middle of the street. Wonder Woman tells Metamorpho to take on Plastic Man and Hawkgirl to handle the Atom, while she battles the Flash. Wally starts by throwing a bunch of rocks at Diana, which she manages to block with her wrist bands. Wally apologizes, saying he's made his bed, even if he's not going to sleep well in it.

Meanwhile, Bart is telling his dad about everything at a restaurant when the TV reports on "poltergeists" in Metropolis. Bart instantly recognizes this as the Kryptic Order, and he tells his dad he has to go there to stop Green Lantern from killing everybody. Barry reluctantly agrees, and Bart gives him a piggyback to the scene of the battle. Bruce, now officially Batman, has also joined the battle, using a device to negate the effects of everyone's invisibility discs.

Green Lantern hits Superman with a big kick and sends the Kryptonian flying right toward Lois. Bart arrives in just the nick of time (now wearing his costume) and he saves the reporter. He stops to make sure she's alright, then he confronts Green Lantern, saying this has to stop now. Kyle says he doesn't think so, and Barry yells at him to stay away from his son. Wally also tells Kyle to back off, but Green Lantern ignores him. He knocks out Barry, then prepares to kill Bart. But Wally steps in front of the blast and dies protecting Bart.

Hawkgirl then kills the Atom by stepping on him, and Metamorpho enters Plastic Man's body. Superman notices their fighting has caused a building to begin to collapse, so he tries to stop it from crushing all the people on the street. Green Lantern, injured by a gunshot from the police, is taken down by Batman, who breaks his arm, knocks him out and leaves him on a pile of rubble. Clark successfully saves everyone from the collapsing building, but the strain of the battle is too much for him, and he dies in Lois' arms, telling her he's long admired her from afar.

Hawkgirl and Wonder Woman quietly slip away in the commotion, with Diana regretting that she never told Clark she loves him. Plastic Man dumps Metamorpho out in the sewers, since Metamorpho thinks that's the only place for a freak like himself. Bart cradles Wally's dead body, and Barry stands over his son, sadly telling him that Wally is dead. But Barry does refer to Bart as a hero — perhaps the only good thing to come from this horrific event.

Later, Bruce and Lois officially become a couple, and while out fighting crime one night, Batman rescues a black teenage girl named Robin. Selina Kyle reads about Batman in the Daily Planet and decides to turn to a life of crime as Catwoman to get some attention. Barry gives Bart a yellow Volkswagen Beetle to show him how proud he is of his actions in Metropolis. Bart gives him a hug and thanks his dad for coming through when he really needed him.

We end with Bart meeting Bruce in the Kryptic Order's now abandoned headquarters. Bart is now wearing a red costume to keep Wally's dream alive, and he hopes that he and Batman can work together to keep alive the dreams of Superman and Thomas Wayne. Their first action is to open up the Phantom Zone.

Well, that happened. Just like with the first part of this story, there's just way too much stuff going on here. In addition to everything I went through, there was the ongoing subplot of Martian Manhunter leading a peaceful life in the Phantom Zone. And that had absolutely no bearing on this issue. It potentially did set up a third part of this story that never came. As such, those pages wasted valuable real estate that could have been spent further developing Batman or Bart. Since those are the two heroes left standing at the end, they should have been the main focus of this story. But there was too much going on, and I never fully understood why anybody was doing anything. Suddenly they were fighting in the streets and dying, and the next thing I knew, Bart and Batman were trying to restart this team of superheroes. But why?

I did like how Bart was the conscience of the Kryptic Order, refusing to become involved in their bewildering politics. (I mean, if Wonder Woman was also stealing money, then why was she still on Superman's side in the fight?) I also liked how Bart was able to be reconciled with his father, but I still find it an extremely odd choice to put Barry Allen in this story but not make him the Flash. At the end, though, I didn't understand why Bart and Batman wanted to honor the memories of Wally and Superman. Wally was stealing money right along with half of the Kryptic Order, and Superman personally sent hundreds of people to the Phantom Zone without giving them a fair trial. Yeah, Wally did save Bart's life at the end, and Superman did catch that building, but those disasters wouldn't have happened in the first place if they hadn't been engaging in unethical activity for so long.

I just don't know what to make of this ending, which in turn effects how I feel about the story as a whole. There were a lot of interesting ideas here, for sure, but after reading it all, I can't help but ask, "What was the point?" It almost felt like the writers were too focused on world building and setting up future stories to focus on this single story. And in the end, we were left with a disjointed, forgettable story.

Next time, we'll take a very quick look at JLA Secret Files & Origins #3.

No comments:

Post a Comment