JLA: Act of God, Part 1
April 19, 2010
It'll take a real act of God to wipe this one from my memory...
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. With the infinite possibilities presented by superheroes, people often wonder about stories that, well, just can't work because of continuity.
(Cut to a montage of shots for various Elseworlds-imprinted DC comics, many starring Batman (i.e., "Darkest Knight") and Superman (i.e., "Superman: Red Son", "Superman At Earth's End"))
Linkara (v/o): For example, one might wonder, what would happen if Batman had been chosen to be Green Lantern instead of Hal Jordan. Or how about if Batman was a vampire? Or if Batman was actually Superman? Yeah there are a lot of these with Batman, the point is DC occasionally produces a book with the Elseworlds imprint. Elseworlds are what happens when you take well-known superheros and put them in new and different situations. Sometimes, they can be interesting, never before thought ideas that actually stand out, like "Superman: Red Son". Or, they can be incredibly horrible and nonsensical, like "Superman At Earth's End".
Linkara: Which is why today we're digging into (holds up comic of discussion) "JLA: Act of God", an Elseworlds tale where superheroes lose their powers. Interesting premise; incredibly awful execution!
("AT4W" theme song plays, followed by title card for this episode, set to "Counting Blue Cars" by Dishwalla; cut to a shot of the cover of the comic)
Linkara (v/o): The cover's pretty good, with superheroes having fallen thanks to the mysterious light in the center. It instantly draws you in and wants you to know whats going on, plus shows a nice variety of heroes. (comic opens to the first page) We open to the giant looming figures of Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Green Lantern, and The Flash overlooking the earth with a gorgeous ray of sunshine coming across the planet.
(Cut to the ending of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, in which Spock's torpedo flies off into space)
Linkara (v/o): Or maybe that's actually Spock's torpedo from the end of Star Trek II. Quick, someone start playing "Amazing Grace"!
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): Actually I love how much in the background Kyle Rayner is, like he's trying to peak over Batman's shoulder.
Narrator: It is the 23rd of May, the dawning of a new millennium, and soon a new order.
Linkara: (as narrator) The Babylon Project was a dream given form.
Narrator: But right now, for a brief time longer, everything is still the same, still normal.
Linkara: (as narrator) Well as normal as a planet that features talking gorillas, aliens, and guys who dress up like bats can be.
Linkara (v/o) We see a montage of heroes across the world: Superman is helping seal a dam that's about to burst, the Flash is stopping a thief who's about to shoot a cop, and Green Lantern is about to stop a super villian named Sonar from attacking a bank, Metamorpho doing some archaeological digging, Captain Marvel saving a crumbling building, and finally, Starfire and... ummm, someone I don't recognize facing off against a couple of supervillains. All of a sudden, the entire planet is flashed in black light for a mere second. As soon as the light clears, everyone with super powers instantly loses them. Captain Marvel reverts to his young Billy Batson form, just in time to get out of the way of a wall crashing, and Metamorpho even turns back into a human. The event also crashes technology for a second as well!
Linkara: Millions cried out in horror as their torrents stopped working!
Linkara (v/o): Actually, the effects are a bit more serious, as Steel's suit completely fails and he crashes to the ground. Aquaman suddenly finds himself drowning and can't call any of the ocean life for help. The Flash loses his speed and the cop gets shot, though doing so while having the goofiest expression on his face, making this horrifying moment suddenly really funny. Good job, artist. Superman is swept up in the bursting dam, since he can't fly or use super strength to seal it. With Kyle's ring disabled, Sonar manages to just beat the snot out of him and make off with what he stole from the bank. Oh, and get aloe to the ungrateful dicks who suddenly yell at Superman, who's obviously bleeding and trapped under some rubble.
Man 1: Superman, why didn't you save us?
Man 2: Yeah, why didn't you do something?!
Linkara: Are we suddenly in the Marvel universe?! If I saw freaking Superman suddenly injured and trapped, I'd probably try to help him before I started the insane bitching!
Linkara (v/o): At the bar of Guy Gardner, then former Green Lantern and then former superhero named Warrior...
(Cut to a a clip of The Ultimate Warrior)
Ultimate Warrior: Load the spaceship with the rocket fuel! Load it with the worst!
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): Dammit, not that Warrior! ...they speculate about what may have caused the event, the scene is utterly pointless. Steel survived his fall but was taken to the hospital. Booster Gold and Blue Beetle also survived the incident and talk about all the hero's gathering at the JLA watchtower on the moon. Aquaman goes to see the Martian Manhunter, whose stuck in his Martian form and can't shapeshift. Hmmm, that's something we'll get to in a minute, but what really makes me raise an eyebrow is that Aquaman expresses fear for his people in Atlantis. After all, he's the king, so what happened to all the native water-breathers of the city? BEATS THE HELL OUT OF ME, since that's the last time in this entire miniseries where they're brought up! We don't even get a token mention of Aquaman's frickin' wife! Anyway the superheros of the DC universe have assembled at the watchtower.
Superhero (probably Booster Gold): Superman lost a whole town.
Linkara: "Lost a whole town"?! We just saw him and the town four pages ago! People were yelling at him for no good reason!
Linkara (v/o): Naturally, the heroes start throwing out theories and important questions, like, what if this was the prelude to an invasion? The next important question is where all the supernatural or mystical heroes are, like the Specter, Dr. Fade, or Zorreal. The answer is that they're all missing, which begs the question of why the hell Wonder Woman is among those in the crowd, considering her powers are mystical in nature. For that matter, Red Tornado is also among the crowd. Sure, he's a robot, but what some writers forget is that he's also an air elemental, meaning that another mystical character is still around, despite others not being. Mmm, weird, isn't it? Anyway, Steel brings up the obvious: while they look for a solution or a cause to the power disruption, tech-based or martial arts-based superheros are now the only ones capable of fending off criminals. Batman leads the charge, organizing non-powered heroes and getting Oracle, former Batgirl, Barbara Gordon, and best hacker and information gatherer in the world to help the investigation. The Martian Manhunter is... strangely pessimistic about all this.
Martian Manhunter: Until then, our loss may or may not be permanent... But if it is, we'll have to learn to cope with it. In time, maybe answers will be found... and maybe not. Maybe some purpose will be revealed... maybe not.
Linkara: (as Martian Manhunter) Maybe I'll put salami on my sandwich... and maybe not.
Linkara (v/o): I mean, come on, guys, it's only been a day or two, and you're already acting as if this is the end of the world as you know it! And herein lies the first major problem with this miniseries: an idiot plot describes stories wherein the plot only works because all the characters are idiots. This is such an occasion. "JLA – Act of God" only works because all of the characters are morons, and rather whiny irritating morons at that. If this were a story arc in an in-canon comic, every scientific person on the planet would be working around the clock to search for a solution...
(Instead, the only person we ever see working on it is Oracle... whose expertise is on COMPUTERS.)
Linkara (v/o): ...would be contacting known sources for any kind of information or seek solutions to this. Now, some resources would be unavailable, like the Green Lantern Corp, because at this point in comics history, the Corp didn't exist and was only Kyle Rayner. However, they're also suppose to be aided by the new Gods whose technological mastery is far superior to Earth's, and we don't even get a cameo of one of them, or any of the superheroes of the new Gods that live on Earth. And here's our first example of idiocy, from the Martian Manhunter.
Martian Manhunter: And maybe, just maybe... this will all prove to be a change for the better.
Linkara (v/o): The Flash asks the natural question...
Flash: How could it possibly be that, J'onn?
Martian Manhunter: I don't pretend to know, Flash...
Linkara: Then why the hell did you bring it up, Green Jeans?!
Martian Manhunter: But perhaps... no one should have powers above and beyond the rest of humanity. Perhaps it's not... normal.
Linkara: That's right, people, don't have anything unique or special about you! Perhaps it's not... normal.
Martian Manhunter: We were extra-normal, supra-normal...
Linkara: Maxi-extreme-ultra normal,
Martian Manhunter: ...and perhaps it wasn't right.
Linkara: Uh... Martian Manhunter, your entire species was telepathic and could shapeshift. THAT WAS NORMAL FOR YOU!
Linkara (v/o): Anyway, Flash once again questions the Manhunter's idiotic speech.
Flash: You're saying we were wrong, J'onn? After all the people we helped--the lives we saved?
Martian Manhunter: Lives are saved everyday by those without powers--by doctors, police, fireman, rescue workers, the clergy.
Linkara: Uhh, yeah, but that doesn't negate his point. Not everybody is a firefighter or a doctor. Regardless of their powers, they were still heroes!
Linkara (v/o): The Manhunter laments the fact that he could finally understand humanity and be a part of it.
Martian Manhunter: ...Well, if only I weren't trapped in this bizarre Martian form.
Linkara: Uhh, hold the phone there, Jolly Green Giant, you're calling your own race "bizarre-looking"?
Linkara (v/o): As they wait for information, the Manhunter suggests that they all be available via telephone.
Martian Manhunter: Some of us won't like this, but we're all friends here and all in the same boat now. I suggest it's time to share full trust. In fact, I suggest we conclude this meeting by shedding our secret identities with a full exchange of names and numbers.
Linkara: Yeah, good idea, J'onn! (beat) Wait, don't you all have specialized communicators like JLA signal devices? If not, how the hell did all these people know there was a meeting at the watch tower? For that matter, what the hell phone service are you using on the moon?!
Linkara (v/o): We cut to Kyle Rayner's apartment, where he's throwing a complete hissy fit over the loss of his power ring. I notice he doesn't go to his friends in the JLA and tell them, "Say, my ring isn't working either. Maybe you guys could scan it and see if anythings wrong with it." His girlfriend Jade tries to reassure him that losing his powers isn't the end of the world, but instead, Kyle decides to start sculpting a clay statue of Sonar. You know, Kyle's been defeated before, even with the ring, so I'm not entirely clear why this particular incident has him so incensed, especially since, again, it's only been a day or two since the thing stopped working. And here's where we run into the next major problem of this book: this comic makes no sense when you actually stop and think about what has actually happened.
(Cut to a shot of the poster for the movie "The Amazing Colossal Man")
Linkara (v/o): The thing is, the stereotypical super story is that something radioactive or some freak accident grants a random individual powers and abilities beyond those of mortal men.
(Cut to a shot of a Flash comic)
Linkara (v/o): Okay, so someone like the Flash, who gained his powers through a combination of chemicals soaking him, plus a lightning strike that granted him incredible speed. Then this event reverts him back to a normal human. Okay, fine, makes sense.
(Cut to a shot of a cover for a Martian Manhunter comic)
Linkara (v/o): However, people like the Martian Manhunter and Superman, THEY DON'T REALLY HAVE SUPERPOWERS. We call them superpowers, because they're things human beings can't do.
(Cut to another Martian Manhunter comic)
Linkara (v/o): But what we have to remember is that THOSE TWO AREN'T HUMAN. The Martian Manhunter's shapeshifting and telepalethy are a part of his species; they are natural biological functions. It'd be like if something caused every human being's heart to stop beating, but we were still alive regardless of that.
(Cut to a shot of Superman in a comic)
Linkara (v/o): Superman comes from a planet with a very different kind of sun then ours. While he may look human, his genetic structure is incredibly different from us. When he's under our sun, he gains enhanced strength, invulnerability, heat vision, etc.
(Cut to a Superman comic panel, battling a monster near the sun)
Linkara (v/o): This event either had to suppress something completely natural to his species, or completely alter his DNA so that it was like a human's. The thing is, though, to make such extensive alterations to that, it would more likely KILL him as actually make a permanent change. DNA IS NOT LEGO BRICKS! You can't just rearrange the pieces and make it different!
(Cut back to the current comic, featuring the very alien-looking superheroes, like Starfire and Metamorpho)
Linkara (v/o): Which leads us to the next little problem: consistency! Let's say, for the sake of argument, that something could do that to them, that the abilities of people like the Martian Manhunter can be altered like that. But what about beings who look radically different? Metamorpho was transformed into what he is thanks to a mystical orb. When the black light event happened, he became a regular-human again. But if that's the case, why the hell do we see characters like Killer Frost still looking like they are when they have super powers? Maybe you can get away with Jade still being green-skinned because at this point, she had lost her superpowers in canon, but characters like that should start looking like regular humans again. But okay, maybe I'm just nitpicking here. Let's once again grant the comic's thesis that this event stripped them of their powers, leaving technologically-based superheros unharmed. Buuut the thing is, that the Green Lantern ring that Kyle Rainer utilizes? IT'S TECHNOLOGY! It's alien technology and based on made-up science, I will grant you, but still technology! The Guardians of the Universe forged power rings that tap into a specific kind of energy, which can be manipulated in various ways based on the person who wears it.
Linkara: It's not magic, it's not a superpower, it's a little green gun! Yet it's not working despite no explanation why it wouldn't be!
Linkara (v/o): "Well," you might be saying, "maybe as part of this grand scheme by God, alien technology is also disrupted so people will be on an even keel." Well, that might have worked if not for the fact that both Hawkman and Booster Gold are still in action. Hawkman is also an alien and the technology he uses for flight and for hitting things derive from tech from the planet Thanagar. Booster Gold is from the 25th century, utilizing some bits of alien technology that seem perfectly functional. Some people have criticized me for not letting my suspension of disbelief kick in, but the thing is, suspension of disbelief doesn't throw away all logic. It just allows me to believe that there are people who can run really fast, or that there are aliens that can shapeshift living among humans. This story is asking me not to think, and I refuse that request, because the story is presented so idiotically! As the story progresses, it will attempt to tell us that this is the "will of God", and it's only narrative convenience that all the characters who could give a definitive answer to that have all vanished! Yet, by the logic of this story, they should just have lost access to their mystical abilities. Anyway, back to the story itself: the heroes are basically sitting on their asses, watching TV, while Oracle continues searching for answers.
Linkara: (as Oracle) Well, I could be looking for answers to this horrible event, but hey, (holds up remote control) Gilligan is on!
Linkara (v/o): Meanwhile, tech-themed supervillains have come to realize that they have an opportunity to suddenly be upper-tier criminals by teaming up. Back with Superman, he's still mopey about having, quote-unquote, "lost that town", despite plenty of people still being alive.
Linkara: Hey, writers? Superman doesn't exactly have a flawless track record. Why is this incident the one that's making him emo?
Linkara (v/o): Now, I know what you're thinking: "It was a still pretty big blow to him emotionally, Linkara. Why are you criticizing Superman for character development?" Well, the thing is, and I'm not kidding here, HE SPENDS ALL THREE ISSUES LIKE THIS! All three issues, he can't get over the fact that he lost his powers and that people died.
(Cut to a shot of the cover for "Superman: Redemption")
Linkara (v/o): You know, even Superman knows that he can't be everywhere at once, and that he doesn't always succeed.
(Cut to shots of the cover for "Hitman")
Linkara (v/o): For as much as I disliked Garth Ennis' work, even he understands Superman more than this piece of junk. In an issue of his series, "Hitman", Superman and an assassin named Tommy Monoghan talk about an incident where he failed to save someone's life.
(Cut to shots of another Superman series "52")
Linkara (v/o): Or how about the series that I always love to promote, "52"? Superman lost his powers for an entire year, and he didn't spend it sitting on the couch watching TV.
(Cut back to this comic)
Linkara (v/o): After Superman whines to Lois for a bit, we cut to Kyle Rayner, who is yelling and ranting at Jade over his inability to use the ring.
Linkara: And here, we come across the next major problem with the series: the implication that all of these superheroes are neurotic wrecks, incapable of living their lives without superpowers.
Linkara (v/o): Look, I'm sure the loss of their powers, for many, was a major blow to their lives, but at the same time, not all of them were born with them. Hell, Kyle Rayner had the ring given to him out of nowhere! Sure, he'd feel sucky about losing his power, but he wouldn't become some freak making clay figures of one loser, and never taking off his costume. This story is completely at odds with who they are as characters! The writer wants them to be in a specific place, but because that place makes absolutely no sense, given their personalities, he instead has to alter their personalities! As a result, I wouldn't believe that these are the same heroes who routinely save the world. These are the kind of people who would barely be able to function in everyday life; just one cut string away from going nuts on everyone around them! And it only gets worse from here! After several intense battles with super-criminals, the heroes reconvene at the watchtower with the bad news that there's still no explanation. Also, the government, assuming they mean the American government, isn't crying over what happened, since now, without metahumans around, everyone is now on the same level. Yeah, I'm sure that'll be a great comfort the next time Darkseid decides to invade Earth with full-scale armies and super-powered new god. We get our title shoved in by them speculating what an "act of God" could mean, be it from an intelligent power or simply something random and unforeseen that could forever remain a mystery.
Linkara: Which basically is the cop-out of the writer saying, "Yeah, you're not gonna get an answer for this, ever! HA HA!"
Linkara (v/o): The Manhunter suggests that they continue to meet weekly, regardless of their lack of powers, but Aquaman and Flash go all angsty, wondering what the point is without having their powers. Again, Aquaman is the king of Atlantis! He's never exactly been the most traditional superhero. For that matter, we also see Wonder Woman discarding her tiara, which then begs the question of where the hell all the Amazons are in all this nonsense! Like the black (?) event itself, it will remain a mystery. When Superman villain Toyman decides to go after Lex Luthor in a giant robot, Steel decides he needs to forego waiting for his broken arm to heal and try to stop him. Linda Danvers, then Supergirl, decides she wants to still fight for truth and justice and all that, and decides to become a police officer.
Linkara: (holding up index finger) Uh, hey, writers? Some consistency would be nice! At this point in comic history, Supergirl's supposed to be an Earth-born angel, so why the hell didn't she disappear along with the others?!
Linkara: (looking offscreen) Oh, what, NOW is when you decide to pipe up?!
(You Switched Me Off Before the Review. I'm Back, Baby!)
Linkara (v/o): Steel flies in to engage the robot, the police having no effect on it. Yeah, I bet the governments are feeling real good now that Superman isn't around.
Newsman: It's the cybernetic hero known as Steel-- now perhaps Earth's most powerful being!
Linkara: Really? Don't get me wrong; I like Steel, but I could probably think about a dozen other heroes and villains who are still more powerful than Steel right now.
Linkara (v/o): Steel puts up a valiant fight, but sadly, the robot is just too much, blasting him out of the sky before crushing him under its foot. And so, our comic ends with Lex Luthor smirking in triumph, since now people will be clamoring for him to find a solution to the loss of the superheroes.
Linkara: It's a really bad sign when the only person written in-character is Lex friggin' Luthor! (snaps comic shuts and holds it up) This comic sucks, but it's not over yet. Tune in during the next two weeks, because it's only gonna get dumber and more nonsensical from here, people!
(TO BE CONTINUED)
(Stinger: a shot of the robot Steel is fighting is shown again, set to the sound of Godzilla roaring)