Tuesday, February 8, 2005

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breakfast with the JLA: issue 122

JLA #122, September 1975: "The Great Identity Crisis"
Breakfast: A bowl of Total

cover of issue 122

I'm missing a bunch of issues of JLA, so the next issue for brekkie is 122. Now I'll never find out what happened to the Doodang!

The title of this issue is "The Great Identity Crisis," and the plot involves Dr. Light and messing with super-minds. My jaw hit the floor and I mentally prepared for rape and flamethrowers. Happily, that wasn't the case, but it did drive home something I've thought before. Anyone who says that you can still go back and reread earlier innocent stories and ignore the events of contemporary grim-and-gritty tales? They're talking only to pre-existing fans who've read them before. New readers who have never read the early stories before are inevitably going to have their readings colored by having been first exposed the recent ones. I'm a Jenny-Come-Lately about the JLA. I've read only The Nail, various miniseries, and, of course, Identity Crisis. So whenever I go back and read early issues, I often end up thinking things like 'She's acting pretty happy. Didn't she just get raped recently?'. It's like watching The X-Files seasons 6 and 7 and then going back and watching season 1. It'd be a lame experience watching those early shows and knowing that they spiral down to a scattershot ending and "Hollywood A.D." (Edit: Seasons 7 and up. I blanked out on there being nine seasons, because the last were so poor.)

Anyway, the JLA story is inventive but lame. Dr. Light tricks all of the JLA members into meeting up near Superman's fortress of solitude, where he uses "amnesium" to swap their memories around and mix up their civilian identies (Batman thinks he's Oliver Queen instead of Bruce Wayne, and so on). Aquaman saves all their asses (go Aquaman!) and then there's a huge team-up fight back at the fortress.

What a difference three years makes in writing style! Well, that and different writers. The characters have real personalities now. They use slang and nicknames. Green Arrow says "freaking!"

Way too many epithets in this guy's writing, though. "The Sea King," "the Man with the Ring", "Cowled Crusader", "the Green-Clad Bowman" - give it a rest! Just use their names, for crying out loud. Reminds me of the fanfic pet peeves list that complained about the same thing. It was a slash fan's list, though, and her example involved "The Assistant Director" and "The FBI agent's mouth".

Plot gripes for this story:
1. Once again, the plot hinges on the JLA doing their job suckily. They get mysteriously called to the Arctic, and they never follow up on who summoned them? Slackers! Gonna hit them with my Total Quality Management stick. Do your damned job!

2. The underlying problem was that they didn't know each others' secret identities. Except, uh, Aquaman saves the day because he does know their identities. Weirdness.

3. Like the previous issue, the story involves an unexpected fight against monsters outta nowhere. I'm calling this a Scorpion Stadium plot twist, after the deus ex machina critique of a bad Dungeon Master technique I read once: "Suddenly, your party is transported to a stadium where you must fight ... GIANT SCORPIONS!"

It was just way too elaborate a plan. If Dr. Light can set up all of these ridiculous snares and gimmicks to take out the members of the JLA, he can just wield a shotgun or something. Listen up, villains: If you can set a trap, you can bust a cap!

like you love it, Hal!

"Hey fun boys, get a room!"

Quote of the issue: "A booby trap! And I was supposed to be the booby!"

Bait and Switch Cover Count: 2. Cover shows JLA mourning at Aquaman's grave. Inside story has Aquaman pretending to get killed at Dr. Light's hands, and nobody ever actually finds out about it because he shows up and saves them all shortly afterwards.

This is the best letter column entry ever.

dude. It's just the JLA.

Say Your Piece

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