The Moviehunter

Pulp Culture
is worth the
20-year wait

September 11, 2003
By Franklin Harris

It took 20 years of planning and waiting — mostly waiting — but George Perez finally realized his dream project. The cold war between DC Comics and Marvel Comics thawed long enough for him to draw "JLA/Avengers."

''JLA/Avengers'' No. 1Fans have been waiting, too, ever since Perez's first sample art appeared back in the '80s. But the wait was worthwhile, if only because now Kurt Busiek ("Astro City," "Marvels") is around to write the story for Perez to draw. If Perez is the perfect artist for "JLA/Avengers," having done stints on both "Justice League of America" and "The Avengers," then Busiek is the perfect writer for it. He knows more about superheroes than anyone else writing comics today. Together, they are a fanboy's dream team.

This isn't the first time the superheroes of Marvel and DC have clashed. But previous meetings have been disappointing. And the last major cross-company event, "Marvel vs. DC," was hamstrung by its gimmicky premise, which had readers voting on who would win fights between the companies' characters.

In contrast to those past efforts, Busiek delivers a solid story, at least judging from the first of four issues. It follows the rules for superhero-team crossovers, established decades ago when the JLA first met the Justice Society of America, and plays out as a sequel of sorts to DC's landmark mini-series "Crisis on Infinite Earths," also drawn by Perez and written by Perez's "New Teen Titans" partner, Marv Wolfman.

One by one, entire universes, existing parallel to each other across multiple dimensions, are being destroyed. And the one destroying them is Krona, who, as readers of "Crisis on Infinite Earths" may recall, accidentally created the multiverse during his attempt to look backward through time, to the moment of creation itself.

Krona is still trying to find the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything, even if it means destroying what he created.

We know that eventually the Avengers and the Justice League will team up to face Krona, but first they have more immediate problems. A cosmic villain from the Marvel Universe has crossed into the DC Universe where he threatens Metropolis, Keystone City and the rest of the JLA's hangouts. Meanwhile, in the Marvel Universe, an old Justice League foe, Starro, is trying to assimilate the citizens of New York City as if they were so many Borg drones.

And that's just for starters.

Busiek and Perez play with the big guns from each superhero team. Their JLA is the classic line-up of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, the Martian Manhunter and Aquaman, plus Plastic Man and the Atom. Their Avengers roster is pretty much the same team they used during their "Avengers" run a few years ago. It includes Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hawkeye, the Wasp, Yellowjacket, the Vision and Scarlet Witch.

The highlight of the first issue is each team's reaction to the other's universe. Captain America thinks the squeaky-clean DC Earth is authoritarian, while Superman is horrified at the disorder of the more grim and "realistic" Marvel Earth. For reasons of plot, neither Cap nor Superman is behaving quite in character, but their overreactions do underscore the difference between DC's and Marvel's approaches to heroes. DC heroes are archetypes, while Marvel heroes are ordinary guys with super powers.

Of course, no universe-shaking crossover would be complete without guest appearances, and there are guests aplenty. Doctor Doom, Lobo, the Punisher and even Fin Fang Foom pop up for a panel or two.

"JLA/Avengers" No. 1 is a crisply drawn, fast-paced and, at times, quite funny book — especially if you get the Squadron Supreme joke. If you've ever been a fan of superhero comics, even if you haven't read one in years, "JLA/Avengers" will remind you of everything you love about them.

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