JLA: Age of Wonder
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
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.