Thursday, July 16, 2009

JLA Classified: New Maps of Hell

JLA Classified: New Maps of Hell
by Warren Ellis and Guice Jackson.
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: DC Comics (30 Jun 2006)
ISBN-10: 1401209440
ISBN-13: 978-1401209445

Find this on Amazon.

JLA Classified: New Maps of Hell is a Justice League of America comic by Warren Ellis and Guice Jackson. It features Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern and the Martian Manhunter. It also features some of the most stunning artwork I have ever found in a comic book.

Like I said, the artwork is amazing. There is a thoroughly realistic look to the human characters, and Lois in particular is striking: smoking hot facial expressions and exquisite depiction of her posture, even reclining on a couch. She is truly beautiful, and not in a smutty way. From the first few pages I was hooked on the treatment of Superman and Lois; more adult and serious - not dark per se, just "down to earth" (pun intended). However, Lois and Superman were the only characters I got this good feeling for, probably because none of the other characters had a "partner" of any sort to contrast with.

Secondly, I was pleased to find a decent level of science fiction in this comic. I readily admit that I am not well read in comics, so maybe this is a norm for super hero comics, but I don't think it is. Superman uses his super-vision to see his environment at a microscopic level; he discovers a weakness in the antagonist by analysing the wavelengths of visual signals. The Oracle at the Bat Cave uses a network of super-hero analysts to decode messages. Some of the sci-fi elements seemed natural to me, like Superman using his super vision to look at the microscopic world. Some elements seemed a bit dodgy, such as telepathic broadband! Does that mean there are some super heroes stuck on telepathic dial up??

A third element I enjoyed was the brief introduction to Lex Luthor as a hard hitting business man who had made himself president of America. I imagine he will be a serious antagonist in this role in future issues.

What I didn't enjoy so much was the overall story. It was too short. There wasn't enough of it to really suck me in, to involve me emotionally in what the characters were going through. Perhaps it is simply a reflection of the relative brevity of the comic. Maybe it needs to be "novel" length to get really serious with the story. Or perhaps Watchmen spoiled me; having read Watchmen recently, I secretly expect the same depth in every comic.

I thoroughly enjoyed this comic for the artwork and science fiction concepts used. I found the story deficient, but not so much that I regret buying the book. 4 out of 5.