Current Reviews


JLA: Exterminators

Posted: Friday, September 3, 2004
By: Ray Tate

Writer: Christopher Golden
Publisher: Pocket Books

Christopher Golden makes an extremely quiet return to comic books in the underhyped series of paperback novels starring the Justice League. I'm trying to think of a reason why DC hasn't promoted these books. I would think they had a ready made audience in comic book fans. Perhaps they don't believe comic book fans read books lacking artwork. For whatever the reason, you can find them in the books section of Previews or probably any major bookstore--online or on land.

Christopher Golden writes the Justice League as if he were doing it all his life. The smoothness of characterization is almost shocking. The first thing he does is drop the lion's share of post-Crisis continuity; there wasn't much of it left anyhow. For instance, the continuity black holes Hawkman and Hawkgirl cameo in later chapters. Nobody gives a rat's behind about their confusing history--much of it still contradictory--and Golden does not bother to extrapolate. He lets the names and their actions speak. Hawkman. Flying hero. Fights like a warrior. So, Hawkman is a winged warrior. Ah, hah. Golden does not waste words, and as a result he creates despite the respectable page count a lean book that you are loathe to put down.

Mr. Golden follows writing rules that very few seem to be able to grasp. What is important to the book happens in the book. It's not important that the Joker and bloodthirsty fans killed Jason Todd. What is important to the book is the way in which Batman and Superman interact based upon a long history that the book does not detail but simply and surely hints. Don't start blithering about how Lois used to be jealous about Wonder Woman. What matters is that Superman is devoted to his wife. Mr. Golden understands exactly how to build character. Infuse the story with history don't bludgeon it against the reader. A case in point can once again be seen in the scenario involving Hawkman. In the comics he seems to be just a natural berserker. Mr. Golden gives him an impetus. His rage is caused by the innocent dead, not his entire reincarnated lifeline which nobody cares about. Reincarnation does not play a part in the story. So, Golden wisely leaves it out.

In this way, Golden grows the characters for his story. He creates heroes who have depth and multiple facets of feeling. Batman is not merely dark and cold. He smiles in this book when a plan seems to be working. Superman is not just a "boy scout." He also is the number one protector of the planet. That forces him to make hard choices. The source characters are practically post-Crisis cardboard by comparison. For that reason, it's very easy to hear the cast of the Cartoon Network's Justice League when reading their analogues' dialogue. You do not just peruse these pages. You feel them. You feel Kyle's desperation as he tries to hold back a giant-sized threat. You feel the joy in the superb creation Ian Partington as he lives his life no matter the detours. You feel the pride the Atom has for his uniform and his membership in the League. You can feel Batman's determination and the sorrow in Superman's heart as he recalls the fifth Doctor's lament "There should have been another way."

The vivid palette of emotions is complimented by equally vivid description. JLA: Exterminators engages the senses. Wonder Woman has a Jim Aparo kick that reverberates up your spine. The Canary Cry pushes you back. Batman's leathery cape shifts. Superman's eyes burn. The Flash whips to and fro and vibrates through solid walls, which crumble in consequence. J'onn's telepathy feels creepy, and the running joke of teleportation does give the reader a queasy feeling.

The plot to the story merits the League's involvement, and Golden's science and rationale keep the plot air tight. Golden's twists are inventive and allude to the mythology. The Justice League does not just serve America. The setting for this tale is mostly in England, and these choices make the League less ethnocentric in nature. They are heroes and don't give a damn about flags or borders. As a reflection of the global attitude, the U.N., as the body was seen in The Super-Friends and Cartoon Network's Justice League, is the world power not the U.S. President. The League operates without sanctions from any one government, and that tiny little change produces an immense boost in credibility in terms of their status as protectors as well as their actions in the story. It gives them more mythological clout. They are not bound to bureaucracy nor afraid to go against a miscalculating government. They do what is necessary. They are the heroes, and this fiction makes you want to believe in them.

Christopher Golden triumphs yet again. JLA: Exterminators is a moving tribute to the heroes with whom you grew up. This is the Justice League, full of sound and fury and signifying "The Earth's Mightiest Heroes."

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