Too Many Long Boxes!

End of Summer

JLA Casebook:
"Terror Incognita"

by Bruce Bachand

A Waid-ian Retrospective: Issues #55-#56 reviewed

JLA Casebook Logo

So we are down to the last few months of writer Mark Waid's season on the JLA. As with everything that Waid does, this run of his on JLA has been anything but lacking in controversy. Now let me say three things right off the mark (no pun intended!). One, I have a great deal of respect for Mark and have found him to be a refreshing breath of passion, intelligence and realism in the realm of comic book writers. If he doesn't know something he says so. If he does then watch out! If he thinks he does but doesn't also watch out! Either way, what you see (or hear) is always what you get. Two, despite the incessant whining and grumbling about his run on JLA, the title is still DC's best selling title. Though numbers don't mean everything you can bloody well bet they mean something! It simply seems that the noisy minority have tried again to bring down a much-appeciated writer on a solid run on JLA. Whatever. Lastly, his run on JLA since Morrison has been anything but a carbon copy of his JLA: Year One mini-series. Many Internet voices (some objective, some just flame-war-aholics) have found his run odd, uneven or evn somewhat off of the mark. I disagree. He has taken chances with the title and characters. Though I haven't appreciated everything that he's done, I truly admire the risks he's taken with his approach to storytelling as well as with the characters availed at his disposal. In the years to come I believe that Mark Waid's all-too-short run on the title will be considered a bright light. I could be wrong. But not likely.

If you haven't already heard, the white martians are back. And I do mean back with a bloodlust vengeance. Those who have accused Waid of writing strictly "silver age" sentimental fluff had better pick-up JLA #55 and #56. These issues give us a snapshot into the psyche of Mark in a way not seen since, perhaps, Kingdom Come. Mind games. That's what it's about. Attack from ones' friends and family. Destroy from within. Needless to to say, the JLA's own green martian is the first one targeted.

Just in case you aren't aware, the martians have super-strength, invisibility powers, shape-shifting capability, telepathy and a few other world-class, bad-ass attributes that make them one huge threat to the JLA and to the world. Plus, they know the JLA have defeated them before (which they use to their advantage in a number cunning scenarios). There is no need for me to give too much away.

There is some of that great dialogue and characterization that we have come to expect from Waid when he is really in the groove. References to the Phantom Zone, Brainwave's "neural enhancer ", psi-spikes, and the "Hated One" add gems to this diadem of a story. You know that Mark can reach for dark when he has the martian leader declares ". find our foes! Hunt them. STALK them.. And in the most painful way imaginable. KILL THEM!". Yeah,  I would say that is dark. One could say that issue #56 is great food for the brain, in fact. My suggestion would be to buy the books. Experience the unfolding, parting tale of a seasoned writer first-hand. Mike Miller does some mighty tasty and vivid illustrating for issue #56. He will finish off Waid's run as artist and this reader thinks that we are in most capable hands. Simply look at the splash page I incorporated into the JLA' CASEBOOK logo for this month. Is that striking or what?! Personally, I would love to see him work with the JLA characters in a more permanent capacity sometime soon.

Let me address one thing that is anything but new news at this point: the being the departure of the very-talented art team of Hitch/Neary?Depuy. Issue #55 sees the last from this "family" on their JLA stint. Now I will be the first to admit that I am not entirely pleased with Hitch seemingly bail on the Waid gig near the end of its run. But the bottom line is this: I don't know what is going on in Bryan's personal life and who am I to judge anyway . As a fan, I'm disappointed. I never knew when the issues were bloody well gonna come out for a while there. Late is stilll late. As a human being I hope that he is well and is not burning out as has been reported. You're a fine talent, Bryan. Hang in there and I wish you nothing but freedom, wisdom and inspiration in your decision making and artistic future. Thank you for the gorgeous "JLA: Heaven's Ladder" Bryan, Paul and Laura, too!

But I also think that this art team has been hosed by DC Comics in regards to the inferior quality paper used on JLA (compared to such titles as The Authority, which this same art team has contributed to). If you are objective and honest, you will see night-and-day difference in the way the inking translates and the definition in the details/lines. No, I'm not a buffoon and I do realize that JLA is intended to make money for DC Comics. But you can't explain to me why Wildstorm can have the same length of stories in smaller printing runs and get away with kickass paper. If this was a deciding factor in Hitch's decision to leave the title then I think it is valid as supporting evidence of being screwed around by DC somewhat. I think that fans should petition DC to use the better paper on JLA in the future. After seeing it in The Authority I can honestly say that it makes the world of difference for the art. Food for thought (and action) to say the least.

The past year I can honestly say that I've enjoyed Mark Waid's run on JLA. Yeah, I wasn't initially all that thrilled with "The Queen of Fables". But, after the fact,  I think I "got it" and have been able to enjoy it for what is was (as well as for what it wasn't!). I know the points of view of those who hated it (as well as "Tower of Babel"). Waid took risks with Bruce, Clark, Diana, Arthur, and the others. Had he known a month or two sooner, there is no doubt he would be co-writing the JLA/Avengers special that is being written/drawn as I write this by Kurt Busiek and George Perez. Mark, between you and me (and those reading this review) I think you were royally sacked in the gems, brutha. Why they did not formally include you is just shameful from my perspective. Hopefully the Crossgen experience has been fresh and substantially different for you in regards to concerns you've expressed in the past years.

Well, that is for this month. See you again in 30 days or so for the second part of this review. I plan to look at each of Mark's arcs and give an overview his time at DC. Perhaps we can even lure him from the swamps of Florida to engage in an exchange/dialogue one-on-one.

Thanks for visiting FANZING. We welcome your ideas and comments.

Bruce Bachand
E-mail me here... I value your feedback!

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