Wednesday, May 11, 2011

JLA Classified: Cold Steel #2 (2006)

The JLA mechs briefly engaged the Voruk warships in outer space, but Green Lantern pointed out the pointlessness of it, and Superman agreed, "You're right. This is stupid. Let's move." The League flew down to Penumbra, where the Voruk lacked shielding to follow. Only armed scouts could handle the "Infinity Coil," so they were sent in, while Mhak-Lord Gordoruk ordered the creation of "our beloved God-of-Storms."

Aquaman's shields had been damaged, so his ship fell to Penumbra in a heap. Superman struggled to fly "a bloody skyscraper, here." Everyone managed. Maiko deployed from Batman's ship in a probe to repair Aquaman's shielding. Green Lantern discovered his "power ring's gone all funny," not functioning effectively. Flash noticed flying "black snakey things" floating amongst the still world.

In space, the Voruk's many warships were sacrificed to create one massive craft, but not without sorrow and salutations.

J'Onn J'Onzz was concerned about the snakes. "I can't touch them telepathically. It's like there's nothing out there." They were "spooked" by fire from the Voruk scouts. Tsaru ordered the Ghoji to fall back, even their outcasts, but Maiko refused. "I won't run away, Tsaru Kar. I am not-- not afraid." She chastised, "Death without Shai-Tar's blessing? You compound your crime!" Superman protected them with his four arms and twin blades. Wonder Woman noted Maiko's bravery. Batman observed, "He's got nothing left to lose." Aquaman's shields and consciousness were brought back online.

Kyle Rayner rescued and revived Green Lantern Shiera Vaas, who thanked him with a kiss. The Flash unsheathed "superconducting myomer" which basically turned his mech into a War Wheel. Martian Manhunter took a hit, terrifying his young co-pilot, Gaida. Light emanated from her eyes and mouth, until her mind exploded. J'Onn melted into near nothingness before struggling to collect herself. "She went off like a bomb. I've never felt such a powerful mental attack... If I had been slower erecting a defense--" It was Wonder Woman who checked in on J'Onn, and quizzed Tsaru Kar on what had happened. "She was just a child... Her noble heart would not be restrained."

The Ghoji had long tried to telepathically probe Voruk ships, but "protective scarring" had foiled them. Using her magic lasso as a conduit and a psychic pulse from the Martian Manhunter, an "oscillation pattern" was broadcast that saw the Voruk probes rain down limply from the sky. This afforded Wonder Woman time to press the resistant Tsaru about Gaida's death.

The God-of-Storms arrived, providing plentiful distraction. Batman managed to blind it, while Aquaman penetrated the craft. Wonder Woman used her lasso to draw information from the organic behemoth to feed Aquaman. The Sea King exited his mech to swim within. Batman transformed into a fighter jet, while Flash's shields were blasted by the God-of-Storms. The Green Lanterns continued to worry about the snakes, and rather intimately shared their powers and wills to affect the creatures. Superman focused his attention on the snakes, including a giant one bearing down on him.

Aquaman fought his way to Mhak-Lord Gordoruk, who detected his telepathy, cursed, and tried to eat him. "Mouth-Breather!? On my world, I am the lord of the sea. And you, you murderous piece of filth, have the audacity to call me a mouth-breather!?" The Mhak-Lord's guards promised to get him. "You'll try." The Martian Mech tore through the chamber walls. "About time, J'Onn." J'Onzz exited in an amphibian form, and tried to reason with the Mhak-Lord. Gordoruk explained of the Ghoji that they worked very much like H'ronmeer's Curse, telepathic suicide bombers who could infect the minds of their oppressors. "In the hours before you kill yourself, you'll know a pain you never imagined possible. If you're strong enough, you'll survive to infect your mate and your broodlings. Everyone you love. You'll watch them chew off their tentacles in their death agony. You'll kill them yourself, in the end-- as a gift... Imagine spending the rest of your life as an exile. Swimming in a sea of pain and madness."

"Aquaman, I require your assistance. This creature is in pain. Can your mental abilities get to it?" Aquaman could, while the Manhunter from Mars revealed, "It began to dawn on me, when Gaida died, what the Ghoji's Shai-Tar really was. Not a god, but a psychic weapon. Gaida harnessed the energy of her own body to fuel a violent psychic attack. The ultimate vengeance for a powerless people." With the red mist lifted, Gordoruk knew such relief that he immediately sought redemption.

The Infinity Coil collapsed, and all hell broke loose. It was revealed that it had been a gate, but instead of connecting two points in space, it looped one back on itself, causing a compression in time. Too long destabilized, it was now rending reality. The snakes were shadow anomalies, and the best hope (suggested by Manhunter) was to redirect the gate. It would require "a stardrive of massive proportions," and Aquaman pointed out, "We're swimming in it." The God-of-Storms had existed in some form for nearly nine hundred years, so Tsaru Kar had to telepathically convince it to sacrifice itself, against Wonder Woman's protestations. "Shai-Tar is the only way. The Ghoji god and the Voruk god. Together they will cast down the shadows." Mhak-Lord Gordoruk refused to abandon ship, and would pilot the God-of-Storms to its death alongside Tsaru Kar.

Superman and Batman had been grounded by the snakes. The other mechs looked on as the deaths of gods ended the threat of annihilation. Wonder Woman ripped open her hatch. Martian Manhunter passed through his. Heroes and survivors looked out at the new dawn, while a bird sang.

Let me just say that I hate giant robots. The mechs were the least interesting thing about Robotech, I only liked the puzzle aspect of forming Voltron and I could not be less interested in Transformers turning into cars, planes, and other devices I've always seen as mere conveyances. Despite having adored JLA: A League of One, I passed on this book when it was released. I don't seem to have been alone in that, given its ranking of 111 in ICv2's Top 300 Comics for December of 2005 with sales of 20,543.

That's a shame, because the admittedly silly giant JLA robots don't show up until page 35 of 45 in book one, and there's plenty of Star Trek grade science fiction preceding them. Book two is a little dodgier, dominated by mech action and exposition, so I'd recommend reading both in one sitting. I love the savagery of the aquatic aliens, a dominant aspect of sea life that makes the jungle look fit for pussycats. It makes for an exciting milieu which remains unexploited in the various Aquaman and Sub-Mariner series. Most of the Leaguers got their spotlight moments, and after an overabundance of weirdly eyeless Batman in the first book, the second was good enough to de-emphasize the World's Finest Duo. The Flash probably had the least to do. It doesn't hurt my feelings a bit that personal Martian Manhunter and Wonder Woman have plenty to work with, especially since in a more perfect world Moeller would have painted the covers to Martian Manhunter #1 and 2, and created one of my favorite Wonder Woman stories.

"Chapter Two: The Sleeping World" was by writer/painter Chris Moeller

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