Thursday, June 12, 2003

JLA: Age Of Wonder #2 - A Review

Written by: Adisakdi Tantimedh
Penciled by: Galen Showman
Inked by: Galen Showman
Colored by: Dave McCaig
Lettered by: Bob Lappan
Editor: Andy Helfer
Publisher: DC Comics

As I noted last month, there are two types of Elseworlds; the ones that change a character completely within the bounds of another world and those that leave the characters we know and love untouched, but in another place in time and space.

Age of Wonder is one of the later and generally that means a story that is nothing different or special. And in regards to the characterization, everyone is just as you’d expect them to be; the characters who get developed at any rate. Starman, The Flash and newcomers The Atom and Plastic Man are given relatively minor roles in the final chapter and fall to the wayside as we are introduced to this world’s versions of Wonder Woman and Batman. Still, while some characters are given little to do besides being there in a fight scene, this book shines in other areas which more than make up for some spotty characterization.

Fans of alternate history stories will enjoy this crossover just for the concept and the well-researched references. References are made to the final days of Nicola Telsa, his rather flighty ideas regarding energy weapons and in one mildly humorous scene, his suffering from an obsessive/compulsive disorder.

The action starts some ten years after the apparent death of Superman at the end of last issue. American is entering the sunset of the Age of Invention. Hal Jordan is now a general in the US Army, Lex Luthor is Secretary of Defense, Nicola Telsa has almost perfected his death ray and the US is on the verge of joining World War I. The Germans have access to high technology thought to be possessed by only the USA and Luthor is actively working to prolong and escalate a conflict that is making him rich. Diana is helping Luthor by giving him access to superior Amazon technology and acting as his muscle.

Galen Showman proves himself quite the showman with his pencils and inks on this book. I commented before that his takes on steampunk technology are gorgeous to look at and that his redesigns of the JLA costumes to fit a turn of the century setting are among the best I’ve ever scene. I stand by that comment, even though I do wonder why The Atom looks like he is wearing Orion’s Astroglider and why they couldn’t be bothered to redesign the Batman costume? It is a bit jarring to the sense of historical accuracy to see Batman in his scenes in a story 100 years past, looking exactly as he does on the cover of Batman #615.

Despite it being nothing different in terms of character portrayal, I did enjoy this story. The setting is well-set and the mood well established. And while some characters are given the short end of the stick when the lines are being handed out, the ones who are focused upon do very well. Still, this story is a wonderful tale about a wonderful time…even without the airships and death rays.

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