Wednesday, April 6, 2011

JLA/WildC.A.T.S. "Crime Machine" (1997)

Kid Flash Wally West was attacked by Epoch, the Lord of Time, who possessed a constantly evolving armor from millenia in the future. West was rescued by the JLA of his future, consisting of the electric blue Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern Kyle Rayner, and Wally himself as the adult Flash (whom he mistook for Barry Allen.) The JLA continued to battle epoch across time, involving a brush with the Justice Society in 1944, before getting stranded by a lost temporal drive unit in A.D. 33. Diana figured, "It's still here... He left the drive unit in the past so it musy still be here. Like dinosaur bones and coal." Green Lantern figured it for an easy find with his power ring, but it was the eighth or ninth anachronistic object located in a global search. Marcus Aelius, the future Alpha Centurion, happened to spot the JLA dig it up. The League channeled its collective willpower through Lantern's ring, and reactivated the drive to return "home."

Instead, the League landed in the Wildstorm Universe, having caused rampant gen-activation of previously non-powered humans who the proceeded to wreck havoc on this alternate Earth. The Wild Covert Action Teams and other Wildstorm super groups tried to contain the chaos and locate its source. WildC.A.T.s leader Mister Majestic was less than diplomatic upon finding the displaced JLA and laying blame at their feet, so a fight broke out. Superman threw the first punch at Majestros, followed by Batman socking Maul and disarming Grifter. The former went on to battle Green Lantern, actually disabling Rayner through a slow-acting spinal pinch before being finished off by the Dark Knight. The latter realized he was in over his head against real hero types, and sat out further hostilities. The Flash and Void also managed to talk their way to a solution.

Wonder Woman had to deal with Zealot, a caricature of the most bloodthirsty take on Diana and the Amazons, by way of the sisterhood of the Coda, "finest" all-female warrior caste in the galaxy. The Amazing Amazon repeatedly blocked slashing swords with her bracelets, demanding Zealot drop her weapon. "You're not a warrior, you're a coward. Throw down your weapon and face me with your bare hands." Infuriated, Zealot followed suit. "Fine. Now, before this continues, I'd like to suggest something... How about we stop fighting, we stop calling one another names and we try talking like rational, intelligent women? It's not difficult." Zealot wasn't open to such suggestions, and had to be punched through a wall. "...Stubborn! Why are you being so stubborn? We can fight and fight and fight and I will not fall, I promise you... I haven't even started on you. So... one more time: Talk." Having had enough, Zealot finally laughed and admitted, "You're okay."

As per the comic book constitution, the groups ironed out their differences and teamed up to stop the troubles surrounding them. With the help of Void and some other-dimensional friends, the teams traveled to DC Earth. In five days' time, Epoch had trapped all the other heroes on the moon, unleashed a plague of alien invaders, and merged with a 68th Century Omega Attractor. The two teams assaulted his base, tore through his defenses, and Zealot dropped a "Tom and Jerry" reference. Wonder Woman muttered, "Both our universes have Tom and Jerry? What are the chances of... Hera! What's that... noise?" Maul had grown big enough to wreck Epoch's operation, and his perfect strategies against the JLA wouldn't work against the unknown element of the WildC.A.T.s. Epoch was fated to rule the world, but he missed the minor detail of it being for about a week, until the JLA trapped what was left of him in a circular temporal prison.

Everything fixed, the two teams were split back up between their two worlds. Wonder Woman offered to Zealot, "We could use more women like you on our world..."
"One's generally enough for any world."

I remember liking and defending this book when I read it in 1997, within the first year of the JLA series. Grant Morrison was great with scale, unleashed torrents of technobabble, and I felt he handled both teams correctly with respect. Revisited nearly fifteen years later, the script seems a bit too flippant and definitely runs too long, with the Wildstorm characters given short shrift. If anything, the art by Val Semeiks and Kevin Conrad is even worse than I remembered. Semeiks was one of the worst artists getting mainstream work at the time, and he got a lot of work on JLA projects after this, before Mark Pajarillo did his best to take his place in every unfortunate respect. I really did like Morrison's take on Diana as a tough as nails peace negotiator, a far cry from the brutal harpy other writers would portray after the JLA franchise began to go off the rails.

ElseWednesday featuring Wildstorm!

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