JLA: Act of God, Part 2
April 26, 2010
Our heroes – a bunch of whiney, self-centered jerks who prefer to philosophize pretentiously instead of doing something.
Linkara: (sitting on his Futon) Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. Well, let's continue our look at the theological thud that is "JLA - Act of God".
(Shots of Linkara's review of the first part of the series are shown)
Linkara (v/o): (dramatically) Previously on the "Act of God" review... (normal) Superheroes lost their powers; the Martian Manhunter said that losing their powers is great – ergo, he's an idiot; Kyle Rayner, despite his ring being technology, has lost the ability to use his ring and is obsessed with getting it back – ergo, he's an idiot; Superman is sitting on his couch – ergo, he's an idiot; and Steel is dead – ergo, he's dead.
Linkara: We now return you to our craptastic Elseworlds tale already in progress, so let's dig into (holds up comic of review) "JLA - Act of God, Part 2".
(AT4W title sequence plays; cut to title card for this review, set to "Music Makes You Lose Control" by Les Rythmes Digitales; cut to the cover of this comic)
Linkara (v/o): This cover, like last time, is pretty good, with a discarded superhero garb and a few heroes, though the downside being that we can see some figures walking off into the distance, implying that we have a whole bunch of naked former superheroes walking the streets. (the comic proper begins) We open to the giant robot from last issue attacking Lex Luthor's towers in Metropolis. The caption tells us that two weeks have passed since the black light event that nonsensically stripped all superheroes and supervillains of extra-normal powers, which is the first real indication that any sort of time has passed, since the first issue couldn't be bothered to tell us when the hell an event was happening after another! Luthor's security tries to get him out of the building, but he refuses to budge. Blue Beetle and Booster Gold come out, and I've got to say, as a fan of both these characters, it's good to see them in action. However, the Toyman apparently has a secret weapon: a group of tech-based supervillains that were hiding inside of the robot's chest. They go after Booster first.
Booster Gold: AHN! My arm-- frozen! I can't use my power gauntlet!
Linkara: (pretending to struggle like Booster) Oh, no! The force field that... I'm... supposed... to have... Wait...
Linkara (v/o): Blue Beetle's vehicle, the Bug, gets shot down by the robot, and he bails out, Booster Gold crashing on top of him shortly afterwards. However, before the villains can finish them off, the National Guard arrives. The villains flee, and it's revealed that Luthor paid off the villains, helping Toyman, that it was all a ruse to show the heroes getting beaten. With the assistance of Hawkman, the National Guard is able to down the robot.
Robot: The main circuits-- blowing out! Losing all control!
Linkara: (as robot) AAAAAAGH! MUSIC MAKES ME LOSE CONTROL!
Linkara (v/o): Blue Beetle and Booster Gold are pretty badly injured, especially since their own tech was heavily since their own tech was heavily damaged in the fight. Things are made worse when they see Steel's dead body... who looks remarkably intact, actually, considering a giant robot just stepped on him. We cut to Clark Kent doing what he's done throughout the series: watching TV and moping. However, here's where we really hit the zenith of mischaracterization: Lois tries to tell him that she knows how he must be feeling, but he interrupts.
Clark: I wish you did, Lois--but you can't know--because you're human. I was an alien...an alien with the power to save lives...the sole consolation of being a dead world's sole survivor. Now it's all gone--but I just can't put it behind me.
Linkara: Hey, did a quick check on Wikipedia: the guy who wrote this is named Doug Moench – and I do apologize if I pronounced that wrong – and I noticed that the only other time he wrote Superman was in the '80s. And even then, it wasn't in the main Superman books. Why, it's almost as if he has no idea how the hell Superman's character works or something.
(Cut to a clip of Kill Bill: Vol. 2)
Linkara (v/o): Hey, remember that scene in Kill Bill: Vol. 2, where David Carradine gives his opinion on the Superman mythos, that Clark Kent is actually the disguise for Superman, that Clark Kent is how Superman views us?
Bill (Carradine): He's weak. He's unsure of himself. He's a coward. Clark Kent is Superman's critique on the whole human race.
Linkara: (laughs uproariously) Yeah, that's a load of crap. Clark Kent was raised as an infant by humans for the stronger connection to Earth and his Kryptonian roots. He hasn't been "weak and bumbling" for DECADES in the comics, the occasional writers notwithstanding. He's a reporter, and an intelligent one at that. He's Clark Kent BEFORE he's Superman!
Linkara (v/o): And even if we did grant this little "I'm an alien, no one understands me, wah-wah-wah" bullcrap, why the hell isn't he up on the JLA watchtower, getting examined? Or consulting with some of his scientific supporting cast? This comic will flat-out tell us that nobody sees Superman after the black light incident. Hell, not even friggin' Batman stops by to say, "Oh, hi, Clark. How are you doing after losing your powers?" Oh, but here, it gets better: Lois hands over her wedding ring to Clark. Yep, that's right, Lois can't bear to be with him because he's not Superman anymore. Mm-hmm.
(Linkara sits, pondering something, then looks offscreen)
Linkara: You gonna give me trouble if I talk about this?
(The continuity alarm is heard, with the message: "Nah, this comic's too much for me. I'm gonna sit the rest of this one out.")
Linkara: Hmm, goodie. (takes a deep breath)
Linkara (v/o): BUUUUUULLLLLLLL... CRAAAAAAAAAAAAP!!!! LOIS FELL IN LOVE WITH CLARK KENT, NOT SUPERMAN! He only revealed himself AS SUPERMAN to her after they were already engaged! This is not quite as bad as Spider-Man and Mary Jane's little tryst with Satan to end their marriage, but it's sure as hell up there! This story is ridiculous! It can only work the way it is if this was some original universe, without characters who already have an established history. Hell, I might have even believed it was an entirely different set of circumstances, like if this was supposed to be the Silver Age versions of them or something, but Doug Moench wants us to believe that the modern versions of these heroes are a bunch of, to co-opt a term from the U.K., TWATS! Anyway, five days later – because it's really important to know how many days took place since Clark left – the Martian Manhunter is visiting Steel's niece after the funeral for the poor guy. She's going to give the JLA all of Steel's tech, but when they enter his lab, the place has been ransacked and everything stolen.
Linkara: You'd think somebody with access to the tech of the Justice League would have better security systems.
Martian Manhunter: The world's in danger, its protectors crippled, and now... someone's stealing our crutches.
Linkara: (as Martian Manhunter) Boy, will we be in trouble if they think to steal our wheelchairs and our asthma inhalers.
Linkara (v/o): Surprisingly, it's only Billy Batson who's actually acting reasonably in the wake of losing his powers. He walks the streets of a city, saying the magic word that would transform him into Captain Marvel, but he continues on doing his work at a radio station. And hell, it's easier to understand the frustration of a little kid who lost that kind of power, especially someone as innocent and kind as him.
Linkara: And yet, for some reason, he's acting more like an adult than the actual adults!
Linkara (v/o): So, where did Superman-child go after separating from Lois? Why, he's gone to see Wonder Woman, who's settling in a little bit better than he is. Clark explains how he and Lois are finished... ugh... and he has been considering where to go. I'd imagine so, especially since he's been kicked out of three poetry slams already for too depressing. Of course, the idiocy affects even the spirit of truth in this comic.
Diana: Were we too arrogant, Clark?
Linkara: NO! You weren't! Shut up!
Diana: The Super Man [sic] and the Wonder Woman... Beings so exalted that we felt like gods?
(Cut to a panel from earlier in the comic showing Superman trying to repair the dam at the moment of the black light disaster)
Linkara (v/o): Yeah, I mean, just look at Superman here trying to seal that dam. You can just tell that he's thinking, "Hot damn, it's awesome to be exalted by humanity! I feel just like God! Maybe I should let this dam burst just to spite them all!"
(Back to the current panel)
Clark: But if so...then we've been humbled by the blasphemy.
Diana: And reduced to the level of those over whom we once towered.
(Cut to a shot of the very first panel in the comic, showing the Justice League standing over a ball of light)
Linkara (v/o): Yeah, I mean, look at this very first page of this miniseries. You guys used to be, like, bigger than the flippin' planet, even.
(Cut back again to the current panel)
Clark: Yes...limited to small pursuits...petty concerns.
Diana: Limited to human concerns, Clark, even if we don't fee human.
Linkara: I'd like to remind you all that for a while, Wonder Woman worked at a Taco Bell and considered the work no less noble than any other pursuit. It's like Doug Moench has never even heard of the DC universe!
(Cut to a shot of a Wikipedia page, showing Doug Moench's work in DC Comics)
Linkara (v/o): Oh, I take that back, actually. You see, the majority of DC stuff that Doug Moench has written? It's Batman works! And this story is no different, but I'll get into that when Batman reenters the picture.
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): Anyway, Diana and Clark decide they're gonna get through this crap as a couple.
Diana: Two "gods" humbled by an act of God...with no one else to turn to. But together, will our humbling be cancelled... or doubled?
Linkara: What the hell does that... Diana, do you keep your brain in your tiara?!
Linkara (v/o): Anyway, while Booster and Beetle were recovering from the fight, someone ransacked their their warehouses, too, stealing their tech as well. Naturally, since everyone's a moron, they don't get Batman to start tracking this kind of thing, since the last thing you'd want to have is the world's greatest detective on the case when advanced weaponry and devices have been stolen from high-security locations! Booster, Beetle and Rex Mason, the former Metamorpho, meet at Guy Gardner's bar to drown their sorrows. Turns out that Guy Gardner lost his Warrior powers, too – except for the fact that we saw him in the last issue and his powers looked fine. That isn't war paint on his face. When he had those powers, his body changed to have those little rectangles everywhere. Did he just paint all that on so he wouldn't feel underdressed next to the other heroes? Anyway, Guy being Guy, he's found a way to profit from the event by writing an autobiography. Admittedly, I do have to scratch my head at this, since Guy Gardner, when he's not acting like a complete asshole, is still a hero... buuut hey, I don't expect him to be moping about it either. What is a major character turnaround is that Booster suggests that maybe they can profit off of the loss of the superheroes as well.
Linkara: (rubbing his forehead) Oh, God, another "Booster Gold is only in it for the money" retcon BS! You know, I've got Booster Gold's (holds up Booster Gold comic) entire first series right here in my hand, and I can assure you he didn't save Ronald Reagan's life just for cash! Though that did help.
Linkara (v/o): So anyway, Rex isn't sad that he lost his power since he gets to look like a regular human again. Admittedly, I was pretty sure he made peace with that long ago, but frankly, at this point, trying to keep track of the character inconsistencies would be like counting grains of sand at the beach. As such, at least to Booster Gold and Blue Beetle, deciding to sell their tech to heroes who want to stay in the game. This leads to them having a brawl with some bikers in the bar. I have no idea what the hell point this is supposed to serve. You have 48 pages in this comic, and you devote a few of them to a barroom fight that contributes nothing to the comic or the characters. Oh, but we do occasionally cut to Superman and Wonder Woman making out... What is this, "The Dark Knight Strikes Again" all of a sudden? ...and Lois crying that she feels bad for loving Superman for who he was, rather than who he is.
Linkara: Well, if this comic is any indication, who he is, is actually a lazy dumbass who thinks that sitting around, listening to "Crawling In My Skin" will somehow accomplish something instead of consorting with other superheroes.
Linkara (v/o): We cut to six months later, where we see Linda Danvers, former Supergirl, chasing down a purse snatcher as a police officer. Seems a little quick to be on the force, but my research does say that a police academy usually takes about six months, and since her dad's on the force already, it might have helped her get ahead of the game. However, she's clearly not getting the same satisfaction out of it.
Linda: (narrating) Arrest reports, Miranda rights, rules and regs, everything by the book... Everything by the numbers. Not like the old days... Not like the glory days.
Linkara: Yeah, due process is just dull. (holds up his fist dramatically) Vigilante justice all the way!
Linkara (v/o): Actually, that's exactly what this comic is suggesting.
Narrator: Before the black light event, she was her own boss, all-powerful judge and jury--but maybe that was abuse of power, unnoticed until the power was lost.
Linkara (v/o): That might have made a good point, except right afterwards, that idea is completely scoffed by the next narration!
Narrator: And yet, a simple purse-snatching report will consume an hour--after which she can only react to some other crime already committed, the damage already done. In the same time, as Supergirl, she could have spotted three crimes in progress, three victims in peril, maybe five. She could have saved the victims, prevented the damage, acted instead of reacted...
Linkara (v/o): And yet, just a few pages ago, Wonder Woman suggested that it was an abuse of power through their "arrogance"!
Linkara: (looking offscreen) Yes, we're very sorry you had to die, innocent civilian, but we had to teach Supergirl a lesson in humility.
Linkara (v/o): Also, apparently, the Martian Manhunter has spent six months just watching TV, including a televangelist who suggests that the fallen heroes were actually arrogant demons. J'onn even suggests that maybe the televangelist is right about them being demons. Um... why? Or is it the arrogance part of it that you're taking issue with?
(Cut to a clip of The Princess Bride)
Inigo Montoya: (to Vizzini) You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): And he's now trying to figure out what the hell it was about Earth culture that he liked so much.
Linkara: Maybe if you did what I did and only watched Doctor Who, you wouldn't have this problem, Green Machine.
Linkara (v/o): By the way, six months later, and the Flash is still having nightmares about the guy who got shot in the face, though, for some reason, goofy-faced cop doesn't have a mustache, like he did in the first part. I guess in the afterlife, you still got to shave. The heroes apparently still do the weekly meetings, but by this point, it's just down to Aquaman, the Martian Manhunter, Linda Danvers, and the Flash. It's a weird scene, too. I guess a lot happened in the intervening six months.
Wally: We'll never forget what it was like, never stop craving the life! We'll only be "cured" if we're always recovering! Remember? We all agreed--
Linda: To meet like this, Wally. Not to model ourselves on losers.
Wally: Former drinkers are not losers! They're winning--one day at a time!
Linkara: Did this suddenly become a PSA comic?
Wally: Alcoholism is a disease which--
Arthur: We are NOT ALCOHOLICS!
Linkara: (as Arthur) WE CAN STOP WHENEVER WE WANT!
Arthur: I'm serious! Look how we've reacted! Except for Metamorpho, losing our powers has killed our reasons to exist!
Linkara: Finally! Someone's seeing some sense! Okay, now get to work finding the Atlanteans. Oh, and check in with the Amazons; I think something screwy is going down with Wonder Woman and–
Linkara (v/o): Oh, wait, never mind. What they mean is they need to become superheroes again. Linda Danvers suggests that they become a "Phoenix Group".
Linda: Let's face it, our power was intoxicating, and we're addicted. Why not kick the habit without kicking the bucket?
Linkara: That metaphor is dumb, and so are you.
Linkara (v/o): How the hell were you "addicted" to saving people's lives? And how exactly was saving people leading to your death via a drug overdose? Naturally, since someone has to be bitching insanely in this series, the Flash gets that job, saying it'll never work, since it was their powers that made them heroes. The hell?!
Wally: Because without the powers, it's stupid! It won't work!
Linkara (v/o): Dear Lord, I feel like I should be saying everybody's dialogue in the Superboy-Prime voice. Naturally, Linda says that they should go talk to Batman. Speaking of which, the Joker is meeting up with the tech criminals, who apparently have done jack squat for six months, because now the Joker is telling them they need to go back to being criminals. Um, didn't we have this exact same scene last issue, except without the Joker? Anyway, the four have teleported to the Batcave, apparently not bothering to call ahead. The Martian Manhunter about how much he likes the cave, how it and Batman remind him of the old pulp magazines. Linda Danvers comments about what she likes best about it is the freedom to do good outside the law. The Manhunter says they should be like the old pulp heroes, just a costume and a gimmick. The Flash points out that Batman had a lifetime to train and hone his skills, while they'll need to start from scratch. Batman suddenly appears.
Martian Manhunter: I think we all know what we're facing, Batman.
Batman: No, J'onn, you don't--not even you, not really, not yet. You have no idea.
Linkara: (as Batman) The war against rock 'n' roll is a tormenting, haunting experience.
Linkara (v/o): He asks if they'll use guns, which they all steadfastly refuse to do.
Batman: Good...because for reasons of my own, going back a long way...I hate guns.
Linkara (v/o): You know, Bats, you've been working with some of these people for years. You'd think by now you'd already know their own hatred of lethal force. Robin starts them up on the training course. Meanwhile, there's a pointless scene of Rex, Blue Beetle and Booster Gold acting like douches, as if I didn't hate this comic already. Next, we see that Sonar is still on the prowl, robbing banks, and six months later, Kyle Rayner still hasn't taken off his damn costume! You know, for someone who's so damned obsessed and insane like he is now, he seems to be doing pretty well health-wise. It's been six friggin' months, and he's only got a five o'clock shadow! His muscles still look pretty damn good, despite the fact that I doubt he's eating and exercising properly. Plus, despite the fact that Jade flat-out said in the first part that he wasn't doing any actual work, he still got his apartment! How the hell is he still paying for the damn place if all he's doing is being an obsessed freak?!
Linkara: I mean, he never changes out of the costume! You'd think the landlord would stop by and ask what the smell is that's coming from his apartment!
Linkara (v/o): Back with the Bat brigade, Batman, Robin and Nightwing are training the four, but when Wally falls off the track, he whines for a bit and says he can't do it. Batman says he has to master the course.
Wally: Easy for you to say, when you don't know what it's like to lose--
Batman: You're right--I can't identify with your loss, because I never had a power. You had it easy, and now you've got it hard. Welcome to the club. Now either pay your dues--or quit.
Linkara (v/o): And here is revealed what "JLA - Act of God" really is. This story is one big love letter from Doug Moench to Batman. It's Batman's training techniques. Batman is the one who's right. Batman isn't affected by the black light event. They all talk about how awesome Batman is. Batman doesn't even bother to interact with anyone who was directly harmed by it until this point, opting instead to sit in his cave and wait for people to come groveling to him when they need his help to learn how to be superheroes again. Oh, and by the way, remember how we were suggesting earlier that being Supergirl was somehow an abuse of power, since she was acting as all-powerful judge and jury? Well, it kind of undercuts your dumbass lesson when she becomes a vigilante again! Sure, she's not invulnerable and she can't fly, but she's still working outside the confines of the law as judge and jury!
Linkara: What is the moral of the story? That it's okay to be revered by the populace as long as you don't really have any powers?!
Linkara (v/o): Anyway, the Flash quits, and Batman says that if he won't keep up with the training, then it's his own damn problem. We cut to Zen-Gen Biotech Systems, where we see a former superhero signing on to be a guinea pig in the company's attempt to reverse the black light event. Well, good to see that somebody is trying to fix it, though, of course, the company is actually a front for Lex Luthor, but that's not the truly stupid part of this. See, the hero who signed on, it's our old, great, disaster-stopping pal, Ray Palmer, AKA The Atom. This is a double whammy of stupid! The first thing: his shrinking powers come from a freaking BELT HE INVENTED! His powers aren't genetic at all – they're technology! What, are they gonna install white dwarf star matter inside him?! Furthermore, he's a frigging physicist! Even if we accept that he somehow "can't live without his powers", what the hell's he been doing for the past six months?! Shouldn't he be working on this from his own scientific angle and resources? Meanwhile, Flash continues to wander around and mope in the Flash Museum about his lost powers. Argh!
Linkara: I could seriously replace half the dialogue in this stupid comic with "Wah-wah-wah!", and you wouldn't be able to tell the difference!
Linkara (v/o): Oh, and it seems Superman's already reverted back to his whiny behavior as Wonder Woman arrives back at their condo. And what has Wondy been up to? She's on Wall Street, apparently making a killing in the high-tech sector. Yeah, because why would we want the most loving, compassionate and champion of the downtrodden superheroine doing something like, say, helping AIDS victims in Africa or working at a homeless shelter, when instead she could be on Wall Street, complaining that Clark hasn't gotten a normal job?
Linkara: I want to punch this comic. In fact, I will. (he punches the comic, knocking it to the ground)
Linkara (v/o): It looks like the treatment for The Atom was a success... sort of. They managed to shrink him down to six inches and put him in a dollhouse, but he has no control over it, and he lacks the ability to manipulate physics to accommodate his size; i.e., speaking in a normal speaking voice is too loud for him, though that begs the question of how the hell he can breathe when the air molecules are too large for his lungs to process, but whatever. They say they might be able to try microsurgery to repair him, but they'll need more time to think over their options. The Flash returns to the others, and to Batman's credit, he doesn't rub it in that he quit before, just telling him that he needs to get to work to catch up to the others. Back with The Atom, he suspects that there's something sinister afoot.
Atom: (thinking) I may be a physicist rather than a geneticist, but still... the very notion of "micro-surgery"... it's patently absurd...
Linkara: Um, no, it isn't. Microsurgery is real, and it's been done for decades. Also, it isn't a matter of genetics, it's a part of various surgical fields.
Linkara (v/o): There are six pages left, and I'll cover them real quick. Kyle Rayner has a telescope that he uses to look out at the stars before breaking it and making him scream like the idiot he is here. The Atom overhears the scientists saying that they're on the right track with his treatment, but that he's going to die because of it as well. He also overhears that they plan to use their treatment as a way of selling super powers to the highest bidder. The Atom tries to contact the Martian Manhunter, but because of his size, J'onn can't hear him. In a last-ditch effort, he uses a paper clip to carve a warning into a table on the dollhouse. And so, our comic ends with him shrinking some more, going to the atomic level. However, he's phased into the atoms of the dollhouse, and as he starts to grow again, his expanding mass causes a miniature atomic explosion.
Linkara: (holding up comic angrily) This comic sucks! Oh, but there's still one more week of complete idiocy left, so come back next time, as we see just how much dumber these characters can get!
(Stinger: The aforementioned panel of Kyle screaming after breaking the telescope is shown again)
Linkara (v/o): (as neighbor) SHUT UP, WE'RE TRYING TO GET SOME SLEEP! GO WHINE ABOUT YOUR STUPID POWERS SOMEWHERE ELSE!