Review: JLA: Pain of the Gods trade paperback (DC Comics)

Well, if Internet backlash was loud over John Byrne and Chris Claremont writing JLA, it was practically deafening when Chuck Austen came to town. Personally, I'm not sure what it is people don't like about Chuck Austen -- I'll have to look at this more once I've read some of his Action Comics work. I know he did get one fairly poorly placed issue of Superman, a good story that simply fell too close to Superman: Ending Battle. But I've also heard people don't like his X-Men work for this or that reason. I don't know. Eddie Berganza likes him, and I steadfastly believe Eddie Berganza knows what he's doing, so that's good enough for me.

And JLA: Pain of the Gods is a good story. People who don't like so-called "decompressed storytelling" (I'm not sure there is such a beast, but) are advised to steer clear -- there's plenty of gratuitous splash pages and panels upon panels of word-less fighting. Which can be iritating. But this is probably one of the most forthright, honest, and realistic JLA stories I've ever read, and that is solely to Chuck Austen's credit.

To wit: first of all, I was somewhat concerned that this trade contained six stand-alone tales, only thematically connected, which would have probably read better as single issues. Not so. Don't be fooled by other reviews -- there is a definite, and suprising, plot here that spans the entire trade. This is not just a JLA story, but a JLA adventure, one that ultimately requires the entire JLA to solve. I was not expecting this, and I was thrilled to find it.

Second of all, Chuck Austen doesn't seem afraid to pull punches, and moreover, to let his characters sin, something Identity Crisis tried to do as well, except Pain of the Gods accomplishes it much more naturally. Toward the middle of the book, it seems that the issue is resolved ... except the Flash is still uncomfortable with it. At another point, Superman doles out sage advice ... and then in the next panel, is shown not to be following it. Batman defends his arrogant attitude toward his teammates, Wonder Woman speaks of the League as a place where heroes "will not be judged" for their pain, and in the end ... everything is not resolved neatly. This is a wise JLA story, and this is a grown-up JLA story. It may read quick, but I firmly believe that in that sitting, Pain of the Gods can stand as a benchmark for other JLA tales to come.

Given that response to JLA: Pain of the Gods was so varied, I'm curious to hear what others thought of it. Please take a moment and post your comments below.

On now to Green Arrow: The Archer's Quest, heading toward Green Arrow: City Walls ...


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