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JLA: Age of Wonder Review

SteamPunk, that grand segment of science fiction that briefly took over the world of publishing. Remember I said briefly, with books like Gibson and Sterling's The Difference Engine and movies like Wild Wild West, SteamPunk made a large impact on the world before fans started to tire of it and move along.

Comics have seen their fair share as well, with The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Girl Genius both making fine statements in the genre. The Elseworlds miniseries JLA: Age of Wonder is a fine example of a universe where science advanced in a few spots, but stayed very much the same in others, particularly the society. The miniseries, which just concluded with issue two, may be the best Elseworlds in years, reminding me of the grand old days of Gotham by Gaslight.

The first issue story that Adisakdi Tantimedh writes is a sweet mix of classic heroes, such as Superman, Starman, The Flash, and Green Lantern, the classic villain, Lex Luthor, and a few real individuals like Nicolai Tesla. The story leans heavily on the often ignored concepts that Tesla had been dropping for years in the late 1800s, and the tales of the creation of the heroes.

While these tend to be a little too convenient, they are important to the establishment of the world and characters. Once the story begins moving, we see the rise of Luthor as a villain, the rise of electricity in the world, the conning of one of our heroes, and some very well done romance.

Elseworlds comics must be an artist's dream, as Galen Showman obviously has great fun drawing the buildings and devices that live in the world. The first issue was great, and perhaps my favorite bit of reading so far this year.

Issue two suffered the same problem that many team comics face: they expand the team and shred the focus. The originals return, supplemented by Batman, Wonder Woman, Plastic Man (Hell Yeah!!!) and The Atom.

These heroes are good, but the book doesn't hold together as well as the first. The issue of WWI and the heroes at first trying to stay out of it before finally being pulled in is an excellent take on the US's stance in the same war. The book brings a certain sorrow with it, as the fact that invention leads to violence and betrayal is laid at our feet in heavy layers. The art is still fantastic, and the rewrite of history at the end is a nice nod to research.

JLA: Age of Wonder isn't on the level of Kingdom Come, but is certainly up there with many of the classics. I would love to see more done with this world, but as the follow-ups to Gotham by Gaslight proved, it's not an easy task. Folks who enjoy H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, or Motter's Terminal City will definitely enjoy the two books, and most folks will find the take on the World's Greatest Heroes to be refreshing.

All in all, a fun book, that starts strong, lags a little on the finish, but brings SteamPunk very much into light after a long decline.

Chris Garcia

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