Sunday, March 20, 2011

JLA/Cyberforce (2005)

In Budapest, Hungary, a cave-in revealed catacombs under the city lower than any recorded that had been sealed off for ages. The military was called in to investigate, and an entire unit was slaughtered by an unknown force...

Carin Taylor was literally on the run as Velocity, haunted by the memory of her loving friend and mentor Robert Bearclaw, who had betrayed their super-team Cyberforce. Ripclaw had been reported as active in Budapest...

The Flash was freaking out at the Watchtower on the moon, trying to figure out where on Earth the Martian Manhunter was, as he was meant to relieve him on monitor duty. "He's never late!" Batman was also present, and asked, "Did you happen to check a calender? The Martian calender?" Flash felt like a selfish jerk for having forgotten K'Don-Fete...

In his natural form, J'Onn J'Onzz was having one of his "bad days," the holiday forcing him to recall in meticulous detail times and places forever gone. "His loss is too deep... his pain as endless as the great deserts that became graveyards to his people... his family." An alarm shook J'Onzz from his revere. "Good. Work is good."

Innocents in Budapest were being slaughtered by "the reanimated corpses of the crew of the Russian vessel Karpovskaya, returned to a godforsaken semblance of 'life' by viral organic technology. Resurrected to serve a monster... who was once the spiritual center of a close-knit family..." Ripclaw was that monster, and Cyberforce were set on returning his minions to their graves. The team of cyborg heroes fought their way into a church above the catacombs, where they found the JLA were already engaging the robo-zombies.

The Martian Manhunter mentally requested, "Status report, people... and quickly please... you know how well I do with fire." Superman doused the flames, Wonder Woman addressed the incoming Cyberforce, and Flash wondered what they were fighting. With tentacles full of the abominations, J'Onn confessed "I cannot say. They have no true thoughts to access telepathically... They do not appear to be alive." While various Justice Leaguers took issue with some of Cyberforce's more extreme tactics, the groups managed to work together against the common threat.

The Manhunter from Mars continued to extend his arms into inhuman shapes to toss, slash and bash the creatures when Velocity raced by. "I have the last of the civilians. There's a safe zone outside! I-- you're touching my mind."
"No... only your sorrow... it reaches out to me. Like finds like." The unintentional contact seemed to inspire the Manhunter, who decided then to expend the JLA's telepathic link to Cyberforce. "The Martian has been a telepath for the entirety of his long life. With the dexterity of a surgeon, he sifts through only the surface histories of those connected to his mind... and shares them all... in the span of a single breath." Through these Cliff's Notes of the two teams, the Sleuth from Outer Space discovered discordant truth, and was asked by Velocity not to reveal what she had hidden from her teammates. Ripclaw having been driven mad by a virus was an outright lie, and his search for immortality through an army of undead technoslaves a half-truth.

"You love him."
"Yes. And I-- I made him the monster that he is now... I made them all. Please don't tell them. Please." While it was not revealed in this special, Cyberforce had apparently been around long enough to suffer through an ill-considered retcon during the Image Anniversary Hardcover (solicited as the 10th, released closer to the 15th after production delays) involving the team actually being duplicates of aliens, and Ripclaw having died but been resurrected as evil, and some other convoluted nonsense. Velocity didn't think it was any of our "damn business," and J'Onn was inclined to agree. "No, it is not... but you are not the only one who has been foolish in the name of love and loss... I would not see you repeat my mistakes... To live in the past is to invite madness into your heart, child."

The two teams made their way to the depths of the catacombs, where they found Ripclaw commanding his forces to prepare for the utilization of a massive alien corpse spewing energy. "Friends make good food." Ripclaw somehow managed to slash Superman's belly open, while Velocity was frozen in a trance from the same "song of creation" that had called Ripclaw to the scene. Martian Manhunter stopped a technoslave from bashing her head in with a boulder, then shook Carin back to her senses. "You must not think of that thing as Robert Bearclaw, girl! Your obsession with the past will--"

Velocity stopped him short, explaining that the orb spewing energy out of the alien's chest was the same organic technology that had (unbeknownst to the team) created Cyberforce and resurrected them body and soul (except for Ripclaw) at an earlier date. Again, T.M.I. for DC readers. The important thing was to keep Ripclaw away from this "godtech." J'Onn realized Velocity's motivation for wanting to attain the orb. "H'ronmeer... you mean to save his soul?"

The goal was moot, as Wonder Woman severed Ripclaw's left arm with her Lasso of Truth, which was autonomous enough to reach the orb while the rest of him distracted the two teams. The Martian Detective was unable to read Ripclaw's mind, but deduced the play just in time to fail to stop it. Ripclaw became a giant-sized version of himself and began producing normal sized clones. Velocity pleaded for help in saving Bearclaw, but the Manhunter couldn't see what good could be done with the godtech in Ripclaw's possession. Also, he didn't see the prehensile circuitry that infected him with some thinly-veiled rip-off of Marvel's techno-organic virus (as if the entirety of Cyberforce wasn't a blatant X-Men franchise swipe.)

Psylocke Cyblade managed to stab super-Ripclaw in the brain, and Velocity nabbed the orb, but another priority stood in the way of restoring Robert Bearclaw. Superman explained, "Ripclaw's technology... it looks like... like it tried to bond with J'Onn's cells... There's no movement. I'm staring into mitochondria and... nothing's moving. I can't hear his thoughts." Velocity and Cyberforce selfishly tried to argue for saving Ripclaw, while the JLA wanted J'Onn cured. Superman played the guilt card over J'Onn having saved Velocity's life, and after Stryker insisted it was Carin's call to make, Flash basically said screw that. A rumble between the two teams began which should have ended in picoseconds, as the JLA wanted something from Cyberforce, but inter-company contract negotiations sprawled this out over eight pages.

Velocity lost the orb, which rolled to J'Onn J'Onzz. While attempting to retrieve it, Carin was drawn into J'Onn's mind, where she saw him ascending
The Golden Pyramid. "Traveler... peacekeeper... Protector... Husband... Father... Beloved. In a painfully sobering instant, Carin Taylor realizes that J'Onn J'Onzz is exactly someone who Robert would have called a 'true warrior.' A man of honor... with treasures to offer the world."

J'Onn reached the top of his pyramid, and was reunited with his family. Carin began calling him back to life, but J'Onn refused, until his wife explained that his lifesong was not yet finished." The Martian Manhunter came back to life with Velocity in his arms and a gentle smile on both their faces. All was forgiven.

Outside the Watchtower, J'Onn J'Onzz took a stroll "in the cold vacuum of space." Wonder Woman paid him a visit, as the team was concerned about this unusual behavior. "For a few minutes, my consciousness was no longer tied to physical realms... I guess I needed some 'fresh air.' Watchtower felt like a coffin." Diana wondered why J'Onn had returned to his friends after being with his family again in the afterlife. "Words do not do it justice, Diana. Even my thoughts, if I could translate them for you... would be but a shade of it. The Golden Pyramid. Ta'-Dun." Despite the contentment he felt, J'Onn's wife told him, "Your life is like a song, and you honor us with everything you do... every note you play. We would hear more, if you can bear it... for it fills us with joy and pride to watch you sing your life. Now go home, J'Onn-- and sing."

Velocity also had a touching moment with her family, but nobody cares about Cyberforce, and rightly so. Among their many crimes was to help bury a very revealing and insightful Martian Manhunter story in an overpriced, largely ignored one shot. The book was at the very bottom of the top 100 comics released in July of 2005, selling 20,782 copies. That month's issue of JLA was ranked twelfth at 87,644 copies. Kudos go out to the creative team for incorporating Cyberforce's screwy mythology into a relatively painless crossover with clearly redeeming qualities. It was by the former JLA creative team of Joe Kelly and Doug Mahnke, with inconsistent but sometimes stellar inks by Norm Rapmund. I managed to avoid mentioning Ballistic even once, but she was present. Apologies to Aquaman and Green Lantern for getting left out entirely, but so was Faith, so more kudos to her creators for that.

Top Cow Productions is Cyberforce's company, and was created by Marc Silvestri, who supplied this book's cover. Top Cow spun out of Homage Studios, as was Jim Lee's Wildstorm Productions, now owned by DC.

Homage Studios Sunday

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