A Contest of Champions
writer: Kurt Busiek
artist: George Perez
For those who felt left in the heavy dust of comics continuity
by the first issue, the
first couple of pages should catch you up to speed. A flashback
to the panels Busiek and Perez didn't show us previously firmly
sets the rules of the game.
Exiled Guardian of the Universe (not to be confused with
a Guardian of the Galaxy) Krona seeks to understand the origins
of existence, regardless of the tricky little consequence
that to do so means to destroy that very existence. Faced
against a weird Marvel villain The Grandmaster, they make
a wager. Two teams of heroes, one from both of their respective
home universes, will race and combat each other for key artifacts.
If The Grandmaster's team gathers more items, the Marvel Universe
will be spared.
So now everybody knows why the two teams are fighting,
though the jury is still out on exactly who of us among fandom
is reading. Did anybody not know all this already, besides
Worse, Busiek winks at us with the story title: "A Contest
of Champions." Yeah, it sure seems like the same story as
that bizarrely crappy little mini-series of the early '80's.
Instead of international Marvel heroes, you get the JLA. Acknowledging
the sameness doesn't somehow make it better.
However, this issue does pace better than the first one.
Though a couple of battles still get short shrift, it seems
hard to avoid with only four issues total. And yet, would
fans really rather see the two teams contend against each
other in the Flash Museum, when the alternative could be Apokolips?
We must take Darkseid's word for it that they "…invaded (his)
domain, bested (his) parademons, and abused (his) personal
that unevenness, the story feels less like a bunch of mindless
battles and more like a tale moving forward with a purpose,
even if that purpose may be to have another mindless battle.
Batman and Captain America take themselves out of the game
after a fight that really does have a point. They each measure
the other, then let their cooler heads prevail.
But wasn't Captain America being subtly influenced by a
sinister outside force to ensure the two teams would clash?
Superman is definitely still under something's power, to the
point that his teammates are noticing. The Last Son of Krypton
turns out to be something of a bigot, calling the entire Marvel
Earth "backward" for a very interesting difference: it's literally
a smaller world. At last we understand how the DCU can have
Metropolis, Gotham City and New York City when they're so
clearly all the same place.
Busiek continues having fun with the differences between
the two realities, and in those moments this book is at its
best. Allow me to chew a little crow here, for previously
only The Flash suffered from the different physical laws,
and I complained that the Scarlet Witch should have some problems.
She does, and in spades, but it's the opposite of Wally West's
liability. DC magic is apparently much, much stronger than
Marvel's, a strangely reasonable supposition. Though Wanda
possesses more power on the world of the JLA, it just may
On the flip side, items such as the Infinity Gauntlet can
do nothing if not in their home reality. Not that it matters,
because The Grandmaster and Krona immediately take them away
from their champions anyway.
Making it all spring to life, Perez gets a little more liberal
with his composition, and it holds together pretty well. A
few splitscreen pages are particularly effective. His hand
for detail, too, helps cover up those battles we didn't get
So it's better. And for those not all that familiar with
the characters' backgrounds, this issue feels more like something
they'd want to read. It should have started that way; let's
hope it carries the feeling through to the end.