Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Butch Guice
Publisher: DC Comics
An angry British misanthrope reluctantly returns to a world and career that has forsaken... what? This one doesn't have any foul-mouthed English hermits? Does Batman at least hallucinate something interesting? No? Are we sure this is by Warren Ellis?
Ahem. Suicide is the latest craze around Lexcorp Tower, and investigative reporters Clark Kent and Lois Lane have a personal interest in finding out why. Meanwhile, a brutal murder in Gotham mobilizes the Batman. Plus, terrorism strikes Paradise Island.
Wow. Who would have suspected Mr. Ellis would be the natural successor to the Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League of Humor? A story arc called "New Maps of Hell" is going to be necessarily dark, and the plot is certainly grim, but the newsroom interaction between Clark, Lois, and editor Perry White is dizzying with wit. Wonder Woman greeting guests to her island, while more subdued, is also quite amusing.
Ellis backs up his snappy banter with a layered mystery, three seemingly unrelated disasters connected to the JLA's Big Three. Although the Lexcorp suicide plot thread receives the most attention, Batman's mystery is most compelling, as it hints at a murder-turned-assassin, raising all manner of questions. Wonder Woman doesn't get much page space at all, but she gets the firework finale as Mr. Ellis loves to top off a first issue with a grand explosion.
Butch Guice's art is suitably dramatic, complimented beautifully by David Baron's colors. Crisp linework lends poise and purpose to the characters, and Guice's facial expressions bring these heroes to life. The artist has a real handle on Lois Lane, which is more difficult than you'd expect. Also, Guice makes it easy to see why Ellis is so proud of writing Batman's "suiting up"—it's just like movies. (The good ones.)
For a project that the writer has described as a grudging obligation, JLA: Classified #10 is a remarkably fun read. No, it's not as innovative (at least so far) as Ellis's creator-owned work, but the man can tell a story, and having the anchor of familiar characters allows for a quicker pace since Ellis does not have to spend an issue explaining the situation and who the players are. The art style, too, is reminiscent of the best in animation, with vibrant colors and heavy inks playing off each other to set a mood "just so." This is one of those rare comics that hits its mark on every level.
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