Saturday, August 20, 2011

NEW TO ME: JLA American Dreams – part 2

The next two issues in the “American Dreams” trade paperback by Grant Morrison, Howard Porter, John Dell, et al. comprise a quick story dealing with the fallen angel Zauriel – a member of Heaven’s angels who attune their frequencies accordingly, in order to exist on a given plane of existence – and his unwillingness to return to the fold.

Zauriel is surprised to find, once he regains consciousness, that he has become mortal – as, we discover later, he wished. J’onn J’onnz finds him in San Francisco Bay just before the first ranks of Asmodel’s army show up to try and take Zauriel back. Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner) alerts Superman and Flash (Wally West), who are in the JLA watchtower on the moon, and Flash zips into the transporter for San Francisco. (At this point, the league members aren’t sure what the alert might be). But when Wally hops into the tube, he becomes stuck in time, unable to jump to Earth or retreat back into the watchtower.

Shortly thereafter – once the heroes (GL, Wonder Woman, J’onn, and Aquaman, along with the angel Zauriel) have dispatched the preliminary group of angels – the league finds out that, not only is Wally stuck in the transporter, but the moon is falling to Earth, which means Superman cannot come to their aid as Asmodel approaches.

We also learn that there is another entity, Neron, behind this entire catastrophe. And the first of these two issues ends with the arrival of Asmodel’s ship in the skies of San Francisco, an event of cataclysmic import.

In the concluding issue, the League members come together in order to take down Asmodel and his ranks. Flash calms down and thinks through his predicament, changing his rate of molecular motion to pull free of the wave of ambient matter utilized by the transporter to teleport members between Earth and the moon. In San Francisco, J’onn J’onnz faces off against Asmodel while Wonder Woman and the angel Zauriel attack the ship causing much of the destruction in the Bay Area. And Arthur Curry (Aquaman) stands ready to take over for J’onn if he should fall, while Green Lantern works to keep the other angels at bay with his ring.

And, on the moon, Superman takes enormous chains, wraps them around some smaller towers at their base, hooks them up to the gigantic power cords they have for the Watchtower, and utilizes his electrical powers (since he’s Superman blue, at this point) to channel the electricity into the chains, producing an enormous magnet. He creates magnetic poles on the moon that are charged oppositely to those of the Earth and, in turn, causes these two astral bodies to repel one another, averting the devastation that would have occurred had the moon fallen to Earth.

He is the mother$%#*ing Superman!

Having averted this catastrophe, Kal-El flies to Earth where his friends are turning the tide of battle, but are still not assured of winning. J’onn is tired, but still standing, when Superman arrives and tells his friend to take a breather. This was an incredibly touching moment for me. The dialogue by Morrison is spot on and really gets across the depth of feeling Superman has for the Martian Manhunter through a minimum of words. Just brilliantly handled.

Meanwhile, Flash and GL join forces to find a way of defeating the angels. Kyle creates a device that will translate Flash’s speed into sound waves, sound waves that will negate the supersonic frequencies of the angels and cancel them from our plane.

And all is right with the world again.

The epilogue has the members of the JLA teleporting to the watchtower – with Batman taking the place of J’onn so that the Martian Manhunter can recuperate from his battle – and before Batman can say anything, the six members find themselves unconscious on the floor, an old enemy standing over them.

With this second collection, I can see Morrison really coming into his own with the JLA. I love how he writes the characters, and the fact that he has them utilizing their brains (Superman creating the magnetic poles on the moon, GL and Flash conceiving of the sonic disruptor to defeat the angels) in order to defeat their enemies is a refreshing change from the boring battle scenes that pass for drama in modern comics. It shows a lot of thought and care, and it excites my brain – something that made me a science fiction fan long before I discovered comic books.

Morrison has some great little bits in these two issues as well, including Aquaman believing Zauriel (who, being an angel, has feathered wings) might be the return of his lost friend Katar Hol (Hawkman, whom, I believe, was dead at the time), and Flash re-arranging trophies in the watchtower in less time than it takes for Superman to take a step.

And although the art is still not anything approaching stellar, the inclusion of Ken Branch as inker for much of the second issue of this two-issue arc does improve the quality quite a bit. I apparently need to re-assess Porter’s artwork. It’s bad, but can be made worse by an inker who is, as John Dell appears to be, beholden to Rob Liefeld and the “Awesome Studios” style.

The bad taste of the first trade is long gone now, and I am anxious to read more. And, flipping ahead, the arrival of Oscar Jimenez for the next two issues will be very welcome indeed.


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