Monday, June 5, 2017

JLA: Our Worlds at War #1

A Date Which Will Live in Infamy

Jeph Loeb Writer
Ron Garney Penciller
Mark Morales Inker
Tanya & Rich Horie Colors
Richard Starkings Letters
Tom Palmer Jr. Ass't Editor
Eddie Berganza Editor
Superman created by Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster
Batman created by Bob Kane

Like all the Our Worlds at War one-shots, this cover is by Jae Lee. And I'm happy to say that he apparently draws adults much better than teenagers. Not that I'm in love with this style still, but it feels a lot more natural than his cover for Young Justice. He also kept things simple — the JLA surrounded by flames — avoiding the odd Revolutionary War imagery that Young Justice was saddled with. This cover is a decent representation of the bleak tone of this story.

Now, Impulse barely makes the briefest of cameos in this issue, but I'm more than happy to review it, since it is essential reading for understanding the Our Worlds at War event. But before we dive in, a quick recap: After a lot of buildup involving Warworld, Apokolips, an alien alliance transporting the entire population of Metropolis onto a massive Space Ark, President Luthor secretly dealing with Brainiac 13 and a superpowered individual in Germany calling himself General Zod, war finally begins with the arrival of an Imperiex probe that destroyed Topeka, Kansas. Superman battled and destroyed that probe, but several other probes began heading for Earth. The JLA tried to stop them ... but they didn't do a very good job.

Our story begins on a horrific image of a beaten Martian Manhunter, floating through space, with his eyeball popped out of its socket. All he can do is telepathically call out for help while Green Lantern tries to protect him from the attacking Imperiex probe. Kyle creates a bunch of missiles and Flash tries to help speed them along. (Yeah ... Flash and Plastic Man and everybody can somehow survive and run around just fine in outer space. I guess I'll just have to assume they were given some kind of invisible space suits to help them out.) Anyway, our heroes' efforts are in vain, as the probe easily knocks out Flash, Green Lantern and Plastic Man. Only Wonder Woman and Aquaman are left to try to prevent at least one probe from reaching Earth.

We see that some of the war has spilled out to Gotham City, where Batman is calling for help from Nightwing, Robin, Batgirl and Huntress, while asking Oracle to tell the Justice League that he's made Gotham his priority now. After defeating the probe that destroyed Topeka, Superman visited Smallville, only to find it completely leveled. Before he can spend any time searching for his parents, he hears Martian Manhunter's distress call and blasts into space.

Superman helps Aquaman and Wonder Woman battle the probe, and Diana delivers the final blow, cracking open its armor with her shield. But doing so created a huge explosion that knocked her out. Superman rushes her to the Paradocs on the Space Ark, and Aquaman learns from Starfire that one of the Imperiex probes landed outside the capital city in Atlantis, so he immediately heads down there.

At the White House, General Rock reports to President Luthor that the JLA only turned back one Imperiex probe. The others have landed in Kansas, Russia, Germany and Atlantis, but Luthor already knew this. Doctor Magnus points out that each city Imperiex has attacked is the dead center of their respective continents, indicating Imperiex's plan to tear the planet apart. Luthor asks which heroes are  left after the Justice League, and he's told the Justice Society, the Titans and Young Justice. When asked who he wants, Luthor simply says, "Everyone."

And that's all the Impulse we get in this issue. But there's still more, so let's keep going. Blue Beetle, Booster Gold and Guy Gardner take on the probe in Russia, and Guy is killed. General Zod battles Imperiex in Germany, Jesse Quick joins the Titans in their fight against a probe in Africa, and the Outsiders attack another probe in Antarctica. Back on the Paradocs, Green Lantern is alert and talking while recuperating, but Wally is still too injured to respond. Superman has a brief moment with Lois Lane before he learns of the Imperiex in Atlantis. So he immediately takes off again to help Aquaman. The King of Atlantis faces the Imperiex probe on his own, ultimately piercing its armor with his trident. Superman arrives just as the probe explodes — too late to save Aquaman. The Man of Steel cries out, "Imperiex! If you want war — I'll give you WAR!"

Throughout the story, we were given the speech Franklin D. Roosevelt gave to Congress on December 8, 1941 — the day after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. The speech details America's resolve to respond to this surprise attack, as well as listing all the islands and nations that are currently being attacked by Japanese forces. I think this story paralleled that moment in history fairly well.

This issue is pretty darn explosive. So much happened. Maybe a little too much. The pace could have been slowed down just a bit, especially when characters died. But I guess that's what the tie-in issues are for. In any way, I actually am enjoying this story. It was hard when our first two issues felt inconsequential. But now the threat is real. Earth is under attack, and the situation is dire. I think this might be the most credible threat I've felt in any major event we've covered. Imperiex is more imposing than anything we saw in Genesis, DC One Million or Final Night. The only thing that compares was Zero Hour.

The art was dynamic, often using breathtaking splash pages to show the enormity of this story. Sadly, the one panel I used for a picture is probably the worst panel of the whole issue. Perhaps the images of those heroes around Luthor was an afterthought, because the rest of the art looks much better than that.

This issue is also included in the Superman: Our Worlds at War Book One trade paperback, which makes sense since there is no way to understand this event without reading this issue. My trade was published in 2002, and seems like it was hastily and cheaply thrown together (using the more newspaper-like paper). Most the issues in this trade feel essential, except for one Supergirl issue (even though I love Peter David's writing). The issues building up to the war feel a bit slow, which is contrasted by the super fast pace of this issue. But my biggest complaint is that DC pushed all the covers to the back, perhaps in a poor attempt to create the illusion of making this one connected story. But it's not seamless, and can sometimes be quite jarring when you turn the page and jump into a completely different story without warning. And they made the covers really small in the back, squeezing two on each page, taking away any chance to properly enjoy them.

Next time, we'll see how our favorite teenage heroes are brought into this war in Young Justice #35.

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