JLA / WildC.a.t.s (one-shot) – Grant Morrison

4 out of 5

We’ve read these kinds of hero crossover romps before, and we’ve read this same type of time-bendo bad guy battle before, but no one really writes hero romps like Grant Morrison – especially during his JLA era – and the dude kinda cornered the market on time-bendo tales, and has proven time and again that he can pull them off in multiple iterations, successful each time out.  So what would normally be a disposable cash-in in most instances turns out to be a ridiculously fun book.

The setup is the norm: cataclysmic event – caused by the randomly appearing Lord of Time, who’s got some self-improving suit turning him into a godlike being with each abuse of the time stream – has the JLA ‘time cube’ing it into the past and future, winding up back in an alternate present which happens to be that of the WildC.a.t.s.  The usual disagreements over who’s good and bad takes up some pages, with the expected pair-offs – Superman and Majestic – and some required ones like Green Lantern and Maul (because, uh, they’re both green), and then good ol’ crossover fun to best the Lordy and set timelines right once more.

That’s the norm, mostly by-the-books setup and plot.  And then there’s Morrison-yness all on top of it.  There’s the mile-a-minute storytelling, which drops this evolving Lord of Time – villain monologueing hilariously the whole while – into jam-packed explanations of the various timelines we flit through, and this time cube the JLA are using to travel, and why time is breaking down and etcetera – much more than your usual pseudo-science prattle, as it’s Grant’s need to construct 50 universes between the panels just for a couple throwaway scenes.  There’s the humorous way we coast through the JLA / WildC.a.t.s battle, as a lot happens off page and it’s moreso people automatically showing respect for one another (Wonder Woman and Zealot; Batman and Grifter), which is carried through the final battle, as well, yet somehow not to the point of removing a sense of escalation and stakes – it’s still an exciting read.  And there’s Grant’s confident grasp of time flip-flopping stories, which results in a perfect little pause at the story’s conclusion: waiting one second to see if things remain the same, because if they do… it means the heroes win.  (Which they do, spoiler.)

Val Semeiks finds a good balance between Howard Porter’s expressive JLA style (artist during part of Grant’s run on that book) and the big ol’ muscularity of Image, although there’s definitely the sense that he’s not quite sure how to illustrate some of Grant’s more complex concepts, and so panels where the descriptions go wild have sort of unmatching visuals.  But overall, he brings much needed energy to the pages.

And it’s a silly book, no doubt.  There’s not enough room to build this up, so it opens and destroys and repairs the world and ends without much breathing room, but Grant’s skilled at hand waving us past things in a compressed format, so it’s a grand time being ushered through this silliness.