Here we are, folks. Decades in the making and we finally have the two superhero teams, where the DC and Marvel flagship characters gather, together again for the first time. All previous crossovers are ignored, which in a few cases saddens me, but we’re here to judge the story on its own merits and continuity. Without further ado, let’s get to the review.
DC/Marvel (September, 2003)“A Journey Into Mystery” WRITER: Kurt Busiek ARTIST: George Perez COLORIST: Tom Smith LETTERING: Comicraft LOGO: John J. Hill ASSOCIATE EDITOR: Stephan Wacker ASSISTANT EDITORS: Andy Schmidt & Marc Sumerak EDITORS: Mike Carlin, Tom Brevoort, & Dan Raspler JUSTICE LEAGUE ROLL CALL: Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Plastic Man, Martian Manhunter, Aquaman, Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner). the Atom (Ryan Choi?), the Flash (Wally West) AVENGERS ROLL CALL: Captain America, Iron Man, Hawkeye, Vision, Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver
The world of Polemachus is destroyed just as Arkon is about to ascend to the imperial throne. Actually, the whole universe is destroyed. The same thing happens with Qward just as the Crime Syndicate is attacking it. In both universes a voice demands to be told the “secret”, the “truth”, and in both circumstances their universe died. Since Arkon’s mate, Thundra, and the Crime Syndicate have both made appearances past this event we can assume they got better. Yes, in comics even universes can’t stay dead.
So who is this mysterious voice? The Grandmaster is able to find out when he is somehow able to hold the force back. Said force is Krona, who won’t be denied the “ultimate truth”. This will be explained next issue.
Cut to a month later as the Justice League battles Terminus until they discover destroying his staff will defeat him. Or rather Batman gets the team to distract him while forcing events so Green Lantern can use Terminus’ own staff to blast the villain. The Spectre (at the time Hal Jordan) wisks him back to his home dimension. On the Marvel Earth, it’s Starro plaguing the heroes until Vision comes up with the plan of having Scarlet Witch connect to Starro and use her chaos magic (shut up, Doctor Strange) to send it away. In both cases their alien races start attacking other planets; Skrulls in the DC Universe and Lobo in the Marvel Universe. (I don’t recognize the other DC baddies that pop up. I want to say the Weaponers but that could be due to their showing up in Scribblenauts Unmasked.) This is the set-up. Things start happening now.
The Flash tries one of Barry’s old tricks to match his vibrations to the universe Terminus came from. He ends up in a quiet town where people are chasing a mutant boy, one whose mutation has physical alterations as well as whatever powers he may have. Flash tries to help but finds he can’t connect to the Speed Force here. With the connection snapped he soon returns to his proper universe and his report to the League isn’t a happy one. That’s when Uatu shows up, followed by the Grandmaster. And you know it’s serious when Uatu the Watcher makes an appearance.
Under the magic lasso, Grandmaster tells the heroes about a contest to gather 12 powerful items, six of which the heroes recognize from their own universe:
- the Bell, Wheel, and Jar
- the Medusa Mask
- The Eternity Book
- the Orb of Ra
- The Spear Of Destiny
- Kyle’s Power Battery
He claims others are seeking them and the League decides they better go after it first. Since the Flash will lose his powers in the Marvel universe (and his run-in with the locals freaked him out) the Atom will take his place on the team. However, the Avengers are keeping an eye out for any more appearances from the DC universe and when they appear in the Blue area of the Moon they’re unknowingly detected. My favorite moment in the miniseries happens about now as the League decides to check out the landscape. Green Lantern and Aquaman end up in Latveria and see Doctor Doom’s leadership, but Batman tells them to move on. Martian Manhunter and Wonder Woman end up in Genosha and see what anti-mutant hatred led to, but Batman tells them to move on. Superman spots the Hulk and assumes he’s dangerous but Batman tells him to move on. He and Plastic Man see the Punisher about to kill drug dealers but Batman….
I’m on Plastic Man’s side here. Batman tells everyone to back off but he can’t bring himself to do it with any hesitation at all. Still, I think we all wanted to see that fight. Then Superman starts going off about “how can they allow this?” and “How can they stand for it?” and the others (well, it’s Plastic Man and Wonder Woman in the picture, plus Batman but this is when Batman didn’t have emotions or something) wonder what’s up with him. I’ll get to that later because the first item has been found…on the island of monsters.
The League take out Fing Fang Foom and friends and recover the first item, the Ultimate Nullifier. However, it gets snatched by the Avengers and the Leaguers return to their world. Except for some reason the Atom, who secretly tags along with the Avengers when they get snatched by Metron. He gives them the same story the Grandmaster gave the Justice League and reveals the same treasures. The Avengers of course recognize the other items:
- The Wand of Watoomb
- The Soul Gems (aka Infinity Gems)
- The Casket Of Ancient Winters
- The Evil Eye
- The Cosmic Cube
- and of course the Ultimate Nullifier
Metron gives Iron Man a Mother Box, which takes the Avengers via Boom Tube to the DC Earth, where they take out a group of villains in Metropolis, and this is going to be important in the analysis later. Where in the DC Universe they’d have to go before folks panicked against them they are surprised that people ask for their autographs instead. This time it’s Captain America who gets all mad, demanding they have other things to deal with and the others wondering, to quote Hawkeye, “who jammed that star up his stripes?”.
As the Avengers continue their recon they see news footage of Superman getting an award, Wonder Woman meeting with sick kids, Supergirl being voted a favorite among high school girls, and then Quicksilver learns about the Flash museum. They’re amazed that here people idolize heroes instead of fear them and then Captain America becomes a killjoy. I’ll…get back to him in a moment because we’re near the end and the League arrives to confront the Avengers. There’s a nice nod as Hawkeye calls them knockoffs of the Squadron Supreme (which was actually Marvel’s way of ribbing the DC crowd–remember, the creators get along even if management doesn’t), and Superman tells them they’re to be arrested. Even Plastic Man and Kyle note that Superman seems to be a bit overboard and Cap says this confirms they’re fascist overlords. Wanda goes to object but Thor seldom met a battle he didn’t like and clobbers Superman with Mjolnir.
However, Atom learns that Grandmaster and Metron are in cahoots, and this is a plan to delay Krona’s possibly wiping out their universes as well. This will be explained next issue. (At least I think I’m dividing that right. Remember, I’m working from a trade here.)
Analysis: This is a good way to bring the two teams together, a cosmic threat putting everyone in jeopardy, a threat so huge that it will take the combination of the Justice League and Avengers to stop it. But of course it’s going to be fan service “who would win in a fight” material first. I’m used to that but it will always bug me because it’s an overused cliché and it involves heroes fighting each other instead of the villain. I’m the kind of guy who wants to go right to the joining forces part, but I appear to be a minority when it comes to these stories. At least the reason they’re fighting makes sense since Grandmaster and Metron are manipulating them to fight rather than join forces or even have a friendly competition. But if we’re going to have an unfriendly competition, having it be a scavenger hunt for the most powerful items in their respective universes works for me. Still, I’m getting flashbacks to Contest Of Champions. It also had the Grandmaster, only they were hunting pieces of an orb rather than the most powerful items in respective universes.
When I say that the following bugs me, don’t get me wrong. I do enjoy the story. The characters feel like the characters, save for two, and even that may be a plot point. The art is also amazing. Buuuuuuuuutttttt.. then you have Superman and Captain America in this story. Again, their argument is supposed to be a plot point and maybe it makes sense to have the supposed team leaders (even if Batman comes off as League team leader in this issue) having a problem with the other side. I don’t even have a problem with one side judging the other. However…what the hell?
Look, we all know that the Marvel universe is a bit more cynical from a meta standpoint. Things are not so easily good or evil. Superman saw the Hulk and assumed he’s a destructive, evil force. He heard about Doctor Doom and apparently forgot DC has its own share of tyrants. Remember, some time after this Black Adam will be running an Egyptian country and Superman will not do what he appears to think the Avengers should do. The thing is Superman is not this judgmental. He’s the one who always finds the good in everyone. He’s the eternal optimist. For Superman to immediately assume the Avengers are lazy and don’t care about their mission is out of character for him.
(Plus we see that when the Avengers appear on the DC Earth and meet supervillains their first movie is to actually do something while only Bat-hypocrite does anything when the DC heroes arrive. I find that interesting.)
For this I would have gone with Batman. He’s more cynical than Superman, less trusting (at least at this stage). Remember, he’s the one who broke the “don’t interfere” rule he kept laying down to the others. He’s the angriest of the group. He’s the one who is obsessed with Justice (insert Cry For Justice joke here). Of any of the heroes in this issue I would thing he would be the most upset to see some of the darker portions of the Marvel Universe (and the MU has more dark corners when this story takes place) than Superman. It’s the right rant considering the state of the two universes, but the wrong guy making the complaint. And then there’s Captain America.
He’s actually the right person to take issue with the Justice League. However, he jumps to the conclusion that they’re all Doctor Doom. Aquaman noted that they cheered Doom out of fear, but what are the odds that you would see someone in Latveria go to Doom and ask for his autograph? Who is going to give Victor Von Doom an award for peace? And seeing Doom hanging out with a kid in a wheelchair? I doubt he’s hugged anyone in his life even before the accident. This time they have the right voice, but the wrong argument.
What would have sat better with me would be Steve accusing the DC heroes of being celebrities, glory hounds, maybe even sellouts. (Imaging if he met the Booster Gold some writers want to write. Or the characters from Japan’s Tiger & Bunny.) But it seems like a huge leap to call them fascists or accuse them of forcing people to pretend to love them. These aren’t the Justice Lords or Sinestro Corp. So it’s the reverse problem from the JLA. They have the right argument but the wrong guy while the Avengers have the right guy but the wrong argument. Sure, they’re both wrong since they only had a brief encounter with their opposites’ reality but it would have made more sense to me to have Batman complain that the Avengers aren’t doing enough to stop Doctor Doom, Hulk, or the Punisher while Cap accuses them of being fame seekers. I don’t recall if this is the Gamemaster or Metron or both trying to keep them at each other by putting the team leaders against the other team but that’s the only way this will work for me. Otherwise both are acting out of character and over the top, and having their colleagues note this doesn’t change the fact that they are.
That’s really my only major complaint and it doesn’t change the fact that I did enjoy this first issue. It sets up the events but gives us enough action that it doesn’t feel like dull exposition. Tomorrow we learn more of the Grandmaster’s game and the scavenger hunt really begins.
Current Score: Avengers (1) JLA (0)