Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Justice League of America: The Nail (comics)

Writer/Artist: Alan Davis
Collects: JLA: The Nail 1-3

Elseworlds seem to divide people, I've noticed. Some like them, just as many don't. Why is something of a mystery; it's interesting to see alterations on a familiar universe. Sure, not all of them are winners, but that excuse has never washed for me; no form of entertainment is filled with nothing but perfection.

So, here we are with an Elseworld. The concept behind the story? The Kents truck recieved a flat tire and were kept from finding the Kryptonian shuttle that contained the child who would become Superman. Such a simple change, but Alan Davis makes a world without Superman feel suitably different; without such an icon or a shining example of the metahuman community, humans grow to distrust the heroes, or so it seems. All signs point to an alien conspiracy as the heroes fall one by one.

I thought the writing was quite decent, if a little overwrought. Once you start reading, it isn't long before the style smacks of the Silver Age writing conventions; characters more or less narrate their actions, exposition at times reigns supreme and some conversations are overly wordy. But when you can simply accept those quirks, it works. The story also works nicely with a few red herrings and surprises in store; I spent two third of the story convinced Starro the Conqueror was behind everything. In some ways, the story ends as you might expect, but it's still an interesting ride along the way. In a nice twist, it's a story that focuses on all members of the league rather equally as well; no character will steal the show here, which I liked.

The art also feels like a bit of a throwback. Alan does a hell of a job with the artwork, giving us visuals that feel like the solid, colorful work of the seventies. It's great stuff, to be certain, proving that Alan is the rarest kind of comic creator; someone who can competently write and illustrate a story. It's hard to find much fault with work this solid.

As an Elseworlds, I suppose I can say that it does it's job rather effectively. It's not as much of a radical departure as some others; take the story where Batman became a Green Lantern instead of a dark avenger of the night, for instance. Still, it does show that things would be different without Superman. Lex Luthor becomes the mayor of Metropolis without the hindrence of his narrow obsession with the Man of Steel, for example. Without the shining beacon of Superman, the superhero community is feared almost irrationally. The world without Superman is a convincingly different place; so mission accomplished, even if a bit more subtly than other Elseworlds.

The Score: Dramatic Thumbs Up

I quite enjoyed this story. It's quite a solid Elseworlds tale and I'm not sorry I made the purchase. I'm interested enough in where the story could go from the end to pick up this Elseworlds direct sequel, Another Nail. I only hope it's as solid as this one. Recommended.

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