First things first: this is a hell of an issue, and not in a good way. This eighty-page giant has a myriad of mismatched pairings from across the DCU, some with ties to the JLA, some, well, not so much. Those mismatched pairings give us Batman/Plastic Man, Green Arrow/Ragman, Donna Troy/Bulleteer, Superman/Red Tornado, Hawkman/Etrigan, Fire/Lobo, Barbara Gordon/Booster Gold, Zatanna/John Stewart, and Supergirl/Wonder Woman by over three dozen creators. The end result is a mash of styles, voices, characters, and combos that is much more cacophony than harmony.
With a couple of exceptions, those stories really weren’t very memorable and I’d be surprised if we see any of the antagonists from those tales at any point in the near future. The one and a half stars I’ve given this book truly only come on the shoulders of two installments in this issue: “Violence,” written and drawn by Joe Prado, and “Anger,” a segment written by Adam Glass, which is buoyed by the excellent art from Mikel Janin. Prado’s segment features Hawkman and Etrigan beating the heck out of each other for seven pages. Those seven pages are savage, strong, and entertaining, making me hopeful that we’ll see more of Prado in the writer’s chair, artist’s chair or both for either of these characters. Sure, the story was quick, but Prado proved more in those seven pages than many other writers can do in seven issues. Janin’s artwork for Green Arrow and Ragman is stunning and vitally detailed, making it among the most memorable contributions from this issue.
The book is filled with clichés of the clichéd concept of characters fighting their way out of Hell. This is a story we’ve seen before, and it’s been done better more than once. Actually, it’s been done better with quite a few of these characters before. Of course, being a cliché ridden with clichés, this issue throws a dig at Detroit (there are other down-on-their-luck cities in the United States, folks) in a lame attempt at humor that sets the hollow tone for this issue.
The art in this issue is all over the place, from the ill-matched pseudo-realistic work of Dennis Calero on Batman and Plastic Man (who really suffers from trying to have realism plied to his appearance) to the cheesecake-stuffed work of Marco Castiello. The characters, pencilers, and inkers in this book aren’t the only armies assembled for this issue. The colorists appear en masse, and every single one of them brings their own personal palette of reds, yellows, and oranges, clichéd hellish colors if there ever were.
To further muddy the waters, this issue wraps the story with some overly full, extremely dark Scott McDaniel art. That final chapter provides some relevance to the jumble that preceded it, but it is so full, so dark, and so late in this issue to serve true notice and save this issue. It also features the out-of-nowhere appearance of Power Girl who is nowhere else to be found in this issue. That one was a headscratcher for me, inspiring me to flip back through this book.
The spring season seems an odd time to pop out a book like this, and with the assembly of characters contained, I am left wondering what DC’s inspiration was here. Is this a knee-jerk reaction to “Fear Itself” from their marvelous competition, or is this the first block in a larger structure that DC is building? Whatever the reason or purpose, it doesn’t come through here.
With this issue, not only does the JLA go to Hell, but the reader does too. As for the location of the money from my wallet, well, I’m pretty sure six bucks is no match for hellfire. Maybe my money will come back in the next issue of “Brightest Day” or something.