JLA: The Tenth Circle review

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Given what seemed to be a great Internet backlash against JLA: The Tenth Circle, I had prepared myself for something truly adolescent and off-character. Instead, what I found was a fairly cogent, straightforward JLA story. Yes, it takes some ignoring of a "grrl" and an "Alfred, old friend," and a particularly jarring comparison of Wally West to Barry Allen at just the wrong time, but if you let those small comparisons go, and it doesn't bother you that the main villain, Crucifer, is a dead ringer for Paul Reubens in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie, there's actually a lot to love in this trade paperback.

I'm probably one of the few out there who doesn't know that much about Chris Claremont, having never been an X-fan. He and John Byrne both write here, and I've no way to know who's who. There's a tendency toward George Perez-style overwhelming narrative boxes in the beginning, but they disappear quickly. The character tics I mentioned above reveal an old school DC fan trying writing the "new, hip" JLA, but if you go in expecting it, it's not so bad. Perhaps the biggest asset to this book is the definitively gung-ho League, without much of the self-conscious doubting that plagued JLA: Trial by Fire. Superman is kidnapped, Wonder Woman is stabbed, but throughout it all we have a calm, cool Batman, always with a plan in hand. The creative team gets points for their portrayal of the Atom, too--as this may have been Ray Palmer's last big hurrah before Identity Crisis, The Tenth Circle is a fine sendoff.

John Byrne pencils here, his style most obvious in Superman's face, but more often than not, it's inker Jerry Ordway's art that this book most resembles. In the art, too, the portrayal of the Atom shown through, second only to a very smooth Flash, but the aptly beetle-browed Martian Manhunter and a dark Batman also worked well. Ordway is a true comics professional, and I remember him fondly from the old Superman issues, up to and including Zero Hour.

As for this trade's re-introduction of the Doom Patrol, "together again for the first time," I'm just not going to let it bother me. I've never read much Doom Patrol outside of this story, and the most I can think it affects is a Superman story from ten years ago, and JLA: Year One, neither of which bears on current continuity all that much, anyway. From what I've heard, Geoff Johns tweaks Beast Boy's origin in the upcoming Teen Titans: Beast Boys and Girls to fix the Doom Patrol/Beast Boy connection, though, if what I hear is true and Byrne's Doom Patrol is headed for the cutting block, to be waved away as an imaginary story, it's too bad that Johns may have to re-fix Beast Boy once more. But then again, aren't they all imaginary stories?

(Hey, it just occured to me. With JLA: Classified and the new JSA: Classified, how long you bet before we get Teen Titans: Classified, like the Teen Titans Spotlight of yore? You heard it here first, kids.)

So hey, I didn't think I would, but here I am recommending JLA: The Tenth Circle. Now on to JLA: Pain of the Gods, and then a little Green Arrow, what say?
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