Sunday, March 23, 2008

Justice League of America / The Avengers (1983)

I'm currently reading the Avengers/JLA Compendium, which reprints the twenty pages of art produced for the abortive 1983 team-up plotted by Gerry Conway and pencilled by George Pérez, with liner notes and an ending as recalled by Pérez. Since I got no blog work done this weekend, and expect lots on non-virtual work all next week, I plan to milk this book as a whole and in parts. We'll start with a review of as much of the book as is available.

Back in '83, Jim Shooter didn't like the story, and I can see his point. You've got three pages spent on Kang the Conquerer tracking down the vague deus ex machina "Time Egg." Then obscure JLofA villain the Lord of Time shows up, so underwhelming as to have been a b-story/foe in the first Felix Faust appearances. That led to 5 1/2 pages of generic Avengers character moments, a quick fight with Kang that served no real purpose, and a bunch of exposition to allow the inclusion of several extant/non-members. The JLofA then got 3 1/2 pages of the same, substituting the Lord of Time, and then including Kang for an additional 3 pages of exposition. Are we having fun yet? The other DC/Marvel team-ups got moving far more smoothly by quickly establishing all the heroes lived on the same planet and knew of each other for the purposes of any individual story. Now, with far more characters to juggle, 15 pages, just under a quarter of the book, was spent on set-up with no interaction between the two super-teams. My string theory parallel self, having paid a substantial premium on my budget for this thing, after journeying to a remote specialty shop, is seriously pissed. Hell, my Earth-1 self is at least annoyed, as after finally seeing all of Pérez's finished pages, I get only 6 of team-up action.

A World War I battlefield served as backdrop for the only confrontation to be drawn. Starfox had nearly reached the temporally displaced "egg" when Hawkman whacked him with a chain mace. Does that seem as severe to you as it does me, especially considering Katar had no way of knowing whether he'd crack Eros' own egg wide open? Starfox punched a hunk of mortar into the Thanagarian's mug in retribution, downing the bird for the duration. I suppose I can buy that, but I'd hope Hawkman could pull off better evasive action than that. Zatanna managed to capture the Scarlet Witch, but the freed-up Starfox sexed her up with his love touch, allowing Wanda to lay the zap on. Batman and Captain America fought to a draw, which I will whine about in the near future.

Per George Pérez, there were many additional match-ups, as I note at today's Idol-Head of Diabolu listing. His favorite took place on Galactus' ship, which had to be prevented from eating Krypton in the distant past. That all sounds fine, but all-in-all, the project sounded in line with the dissatisfying fan wanks that preceded it among the DC/Marvel crossovers. The quality of Pérez's art was also uneven, with some awkward anatomy and some pages skewing toward amateurish. I'm actually somewhat pleased this remained a "lost" project, as all appearances were that that the execution would fall short of the potential, not unlike the actual JLA/Avengers book released twenty-odd years later. The real saving grace, had the original incarnation reached fruition, was that these were the "iconic" takes on all the heroes. All Silver Age DC, excepting the nigh-universally approved adjustments to Green Arrow and Batman, plus the inclusion of fan-favorite Firestorm. A classic Avengers line-up, excepting Starfox and Photon, but with Iron Man's beloved red & gold. I still cringe at the later incarnation's use of dog-collar Kyle Rayner, harpoon-hand Aquaman, hangers-on like Triathlon, and general over-stuffed/under-cooked nature.

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