Sunday, August 05, 2007


So last night I caught a nasty fit of diarrhoe and spent most of the night on the crapper instead of watching MERLIN 2 ( which was a total waste fo time now that I have finally seen it ) rereading old comics.

Now some people may find it degrading but in my humble opinion the toilet is the ideal place to read comics. No distractions, better light and you lock the door until you´re done.

And it helps to distract from the pain that hits your bowels like a hungry wolf.

So I decided to pick up a few old JLA comics to pass the long hours. Which in this case meant digging up my issues of TRIAL BY FIRE one of the best storylines of the Dough Mahnke / Joe Kelly run.

Because some comics are just too good to only read one time. I would have read the two trades of OBSIDIAN AGE but I have just read this two trades too often in the last years. Aside from JLA / JSA : VIRTUE AND VICE by David Goyer, Geoff Johns and Carlos Pacheco

which I could read everyday I have read THE OBSIDIAN AGE at least two dozen times.

That´s just one of my favorite JLA stories ever. And I didn´t even want to keep on reading JLA when the previous run ended.

I had started reading JLA with issue 4 because I had read such raving reviews about the new series on the internet. Always one to come late to the party ( where comics are concerned ) I had to get the first three issues in german and than followed the series in the original. But after the run by Brian Hitch ( that had too many fill - in artists for my taste ) I thought : this was it.

What greatness can there come after artwork as fine as Brian Hitch´s pencils ? Don´t get me wrong I was a huge fan of Dough Mahnke after his MAJOR BUMMER series ( a book that was cancelled before it´s time ) but I didn´t think this new league could deliver anything to surpass what has come before. I was looking for titles that I could take from my pull list because money was tight as always.

Big mistake.

From time to time I skipped over the issues of the JLA in the comicshop but I was not very inclined to pick up the title again. Until OBSIDIAN AGE. I saw the first trade of the storyline in my emergency comic store and I instantly was mesmerized. Now this was a league that rocked !

From what I later learned there were some JLA fans that didn´t care for the JLA stories of Joe Kelly but I love them. It was like a big blockbuster movie with no holds barreled. Like in the old days when Stan Lee was writing comics they didn´t try to save everything for later issues they just packed everything into one story. The best story of the run.

Obsidian age is like a rollercoaster ride but without the possibilities of accidents ( one of the reasons I stay away from them ) and if it´s possible for a comic to give you a shot of adrennalin right into your brain - this is definetly the one.

The whole scope of the story is just breathtaking. Since I hadn´t read all of OUR WORLDS AT WAR I didn´t know that Aquaman had disappeared. But with the search for Arthur begins an adventure for the league like no other. Not only does the JLA travel hundreds of years into the past to encounter an older version of themselves they also die - which had a lot of readers pi$$ed.

Because not everyone likes so many science fiction stuff in league stories. I know, it sounds crazy that there are people who don´t want science fiction stuff in a superhero team with at least two aliens that have their secret headquarter on the moon. But I like this stuff. I just eat it up. And that´s why the story worked for me so well.

The league travels back in time. Then they die. And then they come back and kick the bad guys asses. This is even better than one of those " alternate reality where everyone dies " stories. It´s not an imaginary story, it´s not an elseworld - this happens IN continuity. The whole league buys the farm - this is the big one.

And besides the big moments there also were the small character moments. Joe Kelly is such a good writer that I felt sympathetic for Kyle Rayner. Kyle Rayner - the worst lantern ever. And not only does Kelly give him the centerstage he also brings me to like him. Now that´s good writing. Good use of the members of the league. Flash is always fastthinking and rash, Bats is gruffy and Wonder Woman is just wonderful. In fact one of the aspects I liked about Joe Kelly´s league was the romance between Diana and Bruce. I know a lot of readers thought that Diana and Clark were the ideal couple but the way they are written in current continuity I have a bigger chance of getting lucky with Janet Jackson than those two hitching up.

Superman´s so strung up on Lois that he even spent thousand years with Wonder Woman in another dimension without knowing if they would ever return....and he still didn´t try to score.

But for me the breakthrough character of the story was Manitou Raven. I never watched SUPERFRIENDS so I have no idea who Apache Chief is and whether he was cool or not. Nevertheless I instantly hearted Manitou Raven. Maybe I have just a thing for halfnaked shamans covered with runes and wielding big bone - looking clubs.

Another highlight for me was the second league with Nightwing as the leader. And Green Arrow who of course brought some comic relief. No matter if he was complaining about Nightwing doing " the voice " or trying to hit on Faith and Hawkgirl ( on the same time ) and failing miserably. Which had something to do with the fact that the girls were more interested in Jason Blood´s " magic stick " than in Ollie´s " arrowhead ".

But the story is not the only thing that´s just mindblowing in this book. Dough Mahnke really flexes his art muscles in this one. Not only does he draw the best monsters and aliens hands down - you can really see how much fun he had drawing the book on every page. There is another artist on the book which for me is a minor fault of the book. One thing that trades have over the " floppies ", the single issues is that it´s not as aggrievating when there are more than one artist on a story.

If I had been reading the story as it came out in the single issues I would have been bitching about the guest artist. No really. I know myself and that is always one of my main problems. I´m probable spoiled by comics in the 80s when you had a guest artist every 25 issues or so. But it just takes me out of the story when I turn the page and the art just changes.

The clever thing DC did in this story is that the guest artist does the issues with the new league in our time while Dough Mahnke does the regular league in the past. This way it doesn´t feel like a guest artist and more like a storytelling device to differentiate the two leagues.

Speaking about two leagues : the " obsidian " league just looks awesome. The woman is even more butch than Wonder Woman and you just have to like big white guys with giant fists. One of the members was the league´s antagonist from the storyline GOLDEN PERFECT just before OBSIDIAN AGE which I read later on. So I can´t say how it feels to see this guy in an earlier incarnation. Which is not that big a deal. Because it´s more about big brawls, moves and countermoves, and a whole lot of justice leaguers. It kind of reminded me of the KORVAC SAGA when the Avengers had like two dozen members.

One of the things I really like about the Justice League is that members are always joining and leaving. The roster is in constant movement and you can have Firestorm, Zatanna or Hawkgirl coming or going as need be. Just like in real life.

I just whish that DC had published the story in one trade instead of two. I know that the comic companies are afraid to cross the magic 20 bucks line. And I can understand that as I am also one who thinks twice abut it if I have to spend more than 20 bucks on one comic. I just whisehed I had the whole story in one volume. Maybe DC will do a definite collection somewhere down the road.

Wow, I just realized how much I have written and I haven´t written much about TRIAL BY FIRE which is the story I did read. I just get carried away sometimes but I think that´s the charm of my blog. You never know where these posts will end and neither do I. For today it´s time to wrap this up now since I don´t want these posts to become too long ( I know, too late for that ) and also because I don´t know what else I could say about THE OBSIDIAN AGE. I don´t want to spoil too much of the story for those who have not read it.

I just want to add if you have not read it and you like big superhero epics and blockbuster movies.....if you were like me not apalled at STAR TRECK : NEMESIS but rather enlightened at this new approach to the old should definitely check out htis two collections. In my opinion those two are well worth your money having nice extras like the design sketches of Dough Mahnke for the obsidian league in the first one and an afterword in the second one by Joe Kelly giving the reader some insight to the writing process - and explaining how it all came from his fascination with the Superfriends and Apache Chief.

Isn´t it crazy how one cartoon show that is considered cheesy by today´s tv audience was the inspiration for such fantastic stories like THE OBSIDIAN AGE and JUSTICE by Alex Ross ? Maybe there´s more to this series than I thought.

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