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JLA/Avengers #1
A Journey Into Mystery
writer: Kurt Busiek
artist: George Perez

You know the drill by now. This is it, True Believers! The senses-shattering, pulse-pounding crossover event of the millennium! It's the one fans have been waiting for!

Well, yes, and therein lies both the strength and the weakness of JLA/Avengers. Written by a longtime fan turned professional, the story has everything that we've come to expect from such events. It's so slavish to its roots that it even opens in homage to Crisis On Infinite Earths, with the destruction of two different realities. (Farewell, Crime Syndicate -- again.)

Instead of The Anti-Monitor, however, the source of this chaos is the being responsible for unleashing evil in the DC Universe, Krona. (Though I had money on The Beyonder.) Still on an endless search for the meaning of it all, the Guardian-gone-wrong has evidently decided to just annihilate everything and sift through the rubble for answers.

As Galactus might be too easy a counterpart for Marvel, Busiek uses The Grandmaster. And somewhere off-panel, a deal is struck that will bring in other cosmic entities and, sorry, it's contractual, pit the world's greatest superheroes of two worlds against each other.

It may sound a little familiar at this point. And it should: something similar happened in DC vs. Marvel. The maguffins are different, but the feel is the same. What that series didn't have that this one does, of course, is George Perez.

The veteran artist seems to have fallen out of favor with fanboys of late. This book should put him back on top. If he isn't one of the greatest in comics history (merely devil's advocacy here), he is still one of the most fun, willing to take on any challenge. The more complex the scene he must draw, the better he seems to like it. And this book is overstuffed with characters and talismans from the Big Two universes, more than one man should be able to remember, let alone render.

Perez handles it all with equanimity. From the malleable skin of Plastic Man to the cold metal of Iron Man and The Vision, it all looks cool. He seems to have added a few new tricks to his arsenal, too, as his facial expressions vary more than they did on books past. Hawkeye in particular has a couple of new smirks.

As fun as it might be for fans, however, the book does become a game of "do you remember this?" No one may weep for Arkon and Thundra, but to a casual reader (will there be any?) their loss is less than involving; it's just puzzling. At least the Crime Syndicate are recognizably an anti-JLA, even if you don't know who they are specifically.

Yet I get a thrill seeing the Justice League taking on Fin Fang Foom.

Busiek at least does make stabs at pointing out the differences between the two companies. Heroes in the DC Universe tend to be treated with reverence, a situation that leaves The Avengers rather nonplussed. And Flash's brief foray onto the Marvel Earth reveals the angst and almost overplayed social illnesses that run rampant through those books.

But it's not really that simple. In general, the Fantastic Four are highly regarded, and considering that on the DC Earth Coast City is completely gone, the Martian Manhunter's distaste for the ruins of Genosha seems out of place.

There are clues, however, that Busiek is exaggerating these things for effect; at least two heroes appear to be under some sort of subtle mind control. The better to make the teams fight each other, my dear.

Already, though, Busiek has brought up an interesting idea that so far fizzles. Between the two universes, science works differently. (I'm reminded of Stan Lee's good-humored claim that Thor's method of flight is far more accurate scientifically than Superman's.) When Wally West switches dimensions, he no longer has access to the Speed Force, because Marvel doesn't have one. He gives a warning to his fellow Leaguers that they, too, might encounter problems, but nothing ever comes of it. At the very least you might expect The Scarlet Witch to be cut off from the "Chaos Magic" of her world. Maybe in the second issue.

It's also apparent that despite the resemblance to earlier crossovers, and the claims that this is in continuity, nobody remembers the events of DC vs. Marvel. (Although if Access shows up, all is forgiven.) The closest anybody comes to acknowledging it is Hawkeye's nagging feeling he's met all these guys before.

Finally, Busiek follows the new rule of DC events, which is that somehow, The Atom must be crucial. Nobody can make him cool on his own, but somehow when the entire universe (or more) is in danger, it's the Mighty Mite upon whose shoulders everything rests. Good thing that cosmically aware entities can't detect the six-inch tall guy hiding behind a crossbar.

Still, for some of us this book is a foolproof proposition. Made for longtime fans, it serves its core well. But the publicity surrounding the book should bring in others, and it may be too mired in history for them. As for me, I'm wallowing. Thanks, Marvel and DC. I'm just sorry that you didn't invite anybody I didn't already know.


Derek McCaw

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