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JLA #99
writers: John Byrne and Chris Claremont
artists: John Byrne and Jerry Ordway

For those completely upset about The Doom Patrol making their "debut" in modern continuity, you can pretend that this story is actually a "lost" Justice League adventure. There's no better way to explain how, even though it's the modern line-up, the members of the League seem to have no clue how they each operate.

Granted, in Manitou Raven's case, it's understandable. Nobody has yet figured out how to use the guy, so Byrne and Claremont can be forgiven for shuffling him off to the side as quickly as possible. The same goes for Faith, a character sort of dumped into the mix by Joe Kelly without really getting established. It's quite possible that Kelly could go to his grave being the only guy that knows for sure just what Faith can do.

But master tactician Batman should not be surprised at the Martian Manhunter disguising himself as another key player to throw Crucifer off the scent. Nor should he be chiding The Flash for being inexperienced as a superhero.

Let's face it. This historic reunion of the Claremont/Byrne creative team was only nominally for fans. On one level, it could possibly have brought readers back into stores. On another, the story was meant to simply bring in new readers. But did it have to read like an above-average episode of Super-Friends?

Not that that series would have had vampires, but still…

Claremont's characterizations are light and breezy at best, devoid of almost all the development that has gone on in this book. It's not just a throwback to his glory days on X-Men, but to the days of 100-Page Giants. Wonder Woman speaks and acts very formally toward her comrades. Superman is somewhat aloof. The Atom is as insecure as the story needs him to be. (It's the only way to justify bringing Rita Farr in to save the day.)

It's editorial mandate, I suppose, to position The Doom Patrol as a cool team. Hey, they are. But they're not a team so powerful that the Justice League actually needs their help. So the whole storyline has a false premise, though they sort of redeem it by creating a junior Doom Patrol that had gotten wind of Crucifer's plans before the League did. (Any resemblance to the New Mutants is strictly coincidental.)

In truth, if not for the forcing Rita into the climax, the Doom Patrol could have easily been replaced by …just some guys. Except the Doom Patrol is getting their own book in a month, overtly sold by the cliffhanger ending of this issue and a couple of dangling plot threads. At least, we must hope they are purposely dangling to be picked up by The Doom Patrol #1, or that's simply bad writing.

The art, however, has been terrific. Byrne and Ordway really are a classic artistic team, and it has been great to see them back on a certain Kryptonian - and that brings me to another gripe about the plotline. Superman shouldn't be able to be put under a vampire's sway via bite because his blood is charged with solar energy. Heck, Jeph Loeb used that as a plot device a few years ago.

Argh. Let's leave it at this: "The Tenth Circle" plotline is just the sort of thing you can hand to a ten-year-old, and he'll be excited to see all these different heroes fighting vampires. It's cool. But for the rest of us, it was just time-killer instead of being the historic moment it was promised to be.

And yet I'll still buy The Doom Patrol.


Derek McCaw

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