Tuesday, November 6, 2007

JLA: Riddle of the Beast (2001)

The basis to every issue of “What If...?”: Ray Bradbury’s short story “A Sound of Thunder.” For the kids that Ashton Kutcher movie “The Butterfly Effect.” One little alteration of history sets a new course for all that follows, usually involving someone who died living and a whole bunch of the living picked off in violent fashion.

The basis for every DC Elseworlds: The time the “Facts of Life” girls went to Paris. Also, the episode where the Brady Bunch work a dude ranch. Also, the “Moonlighting” with David and Maddie recast in “The Taming of the Shrew.”

See, I hate Elseworlds. More often than not, they just retell the same tired origin and “first meeting” stories in slightly different dress or under a mild variation on the typical circumstances. To me, it’s a hackneyed cash grab based on name value and artistic bankruptcy. The only thing worse are stories like Alan Grant’s here, joined by no less than sixteen artists to insure no consistency, personal investment, or difficulty in churning out a painted hardcover on the quick. What we have here is a Tolkien fantasy story that couldn’t get published on its own slim merit, so vague allusions are made to DC characters in order to sell it to an editor. The boy adventurer is called Robin. His blond girlfriend, swiftly the victim of rampaging monsters without ever showing any exceptional abilities or a distinct personality, is “Dinah.” His other girlfriend is “Zatanna.” A callous but ultimately noble queen is “Diana.” A feline bounty hunter is “Green Arrow,” and so on. It’s dreck, and as such the details are irrelevant beyond a name-only appearance by J’Onn J’Onzz. After the main antagonist of the piece was initially defeated a decade or so before this story began (it’s Grant, so of course the demon is Etrigan, with Lobo popping up elsewhere,) he wandered into a hidden cave.

“Within its shade a mystery the master did behold. An unknown form crouched, quivering, as if from fear, or cold. ‘How came you here? The Beast would know. ‘Why is it you’re not dead?’ A voice replied, in alien words, inside the Demon’s head--“
“Greetings. I am...J’onzz. I... fell from... the sky, a thousand suns... ago.”
“You lie! How could you survive..?”

J’onzz’s slimy tentacle “ate” and then restored to life a rat whole. Hoping for aid from the Beast, J’onzz was instead scorched to ooze that the Demon used to raise an army of the undead... for over a decade, I suppose, before employing them. That cave must have gotten awful stinky. I suddenly long to see the Manhunter perish in another Superman-themed Elseworlds, at least if that’s the other choice to reading this flotsam.

Above piece by Michael Wm. Kaluta

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