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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

I Have Issues (14)


Tower Of Babel
JLA 43-46
(W) Mark Waid (A)Howard Porter/Steve Scott (I) Drew Garaci/Mark Propst





In the Himalayan retreat of Ra’s Al Ghul, (whose name translates to “The Demon Head”)  a conflict is boiling over, over a baby tiger. A young servant of the Demon is pleading for his life to his master because he accidentally fed the tiger some chocolate and now it’s dead. Ghul explains to the young man that the tiger he was charged with caring for had a special diet because it was supposed to mate with a female when it came of age and that was supposed to keep the near extinct species of Javan Tiger alive. Now the female is and will be the last of the species. Ghul then asks that his huge manservant show the young man the same courtesy. As the man is dragged off screaming, Ghul goes to meet with his daughter Talia in his nature preserve that is filled with near extinct animals of all types.

Here he discusses the shame that so many animals have to be protected while six billion parasites ravage the planets resources and destroy the world, all while continuing to flourish! (Psst, I think he’s talking to us.) But tomorrow he states he will being his plan to pare the human race down to a manageable size. Talia asks what he will do about the interference he will and always does encounter in his plans. The Demon replies that his League of Assassins has instructions that if followed to the letter will nullify that recurring problem. As for the Detective… he notes that distracting him was so easy that he can’t believe that he had never thought of it before.

Bruce walks through the Graveyard with a bundle of roses in his arms. He has a solemn look as expected on his face, until he sees something and his face goes to complete shock. The roses fall to the ground and on the next page we see the open and empty graves of Thomas and Martha Wayne.



Martian Manhunter is the first target as Talia watches him through goggles and the League of Assassins (LOA) fires off a large missile that catches the Manhunter full on in the chest but explodes into metal dust.  J’onzz wonders why there was no explosion and then he sees the dust up close and that’s when he realizes that the missile was carrying small metallic nanite-like insects.

A few hours later the Black Forest in Germany is on fire as Flash and Wonder Woman just arrive and start to take out the trees around the blaze to stop the fire from spreading any further. 


After they have stopped the inferno, Flash comments that J’onn was the nearest Leaguer but they lost his signal, though with his weakness being fire it makes sense he would be nowhere near the blaze. It’s then they notice a figure on fire in the center of the blaze and Diana challenges Flash to race her. Flash gladly obliges but Wonder Woman warns that she was granted the speed of Mercury, to which Wally replies, “Oh, I’m sorry I thought you were fast.” (Mark Waid writing Wally West is like the pairing of peanut butter and chocolate.)  As they reach the man on fire Wonder Woman tries to knock him out with a tree trunk and the man grabs the trunk from her and in a fit of insanity swings it and knocks Wally for a ride.

Diana flies up and catches him and they decide that they need to create a vortex around the stranger to take the oxygen away from his flame. Together they run in a circle around him and the flame dissipates, and it’s then they see the figure is J’onn his body looking like a brittle stone statue. The Manhunter begs for help.




Elsewhere at the United Nations Headquarters, representatives of Atlantis are meeting with the countries of Rhapistan and Turkey, when Aquaman and Plastic Mam come crashing through the roof. Plastic man forms a trampoline to stop the brunt of Arthurs fall. Behind the heroes and through the roof comes a small squad of LOA members. Ra’s Al Ghul’s crack team of murderer’s fire off a missile and Plastic Man stretches in front of it, and freezes solid upon impact. Arthur realizes that if his teammate is struck again he will shatter and dives in front of the next missile which opens with some type of strange gas. One of the soldiers charges forward with a hammer and strikes Plastic man crashing his form to the ground and with that the LOA are out. Aquaman still on the ground and weakened has every member of the U.N. handing him water to which he screams for them to get the liquid away from him.

Later on the Moon in the JLA Watchtower Superman uses microscopic vision to scan the nanites on J’onnz body while in the background they have the Manhunter in a water tank, ala Luke Skywalker in Empire Strikes Back. The Flash is trying to put Plastic Man back together at superspeed as Arthur is on the verge of passing out. The toxin has made him scared to death of water, but being that he needs water to live he is extremely weak.  Superman calls Bruce who is currently dodging bullets on a helicopter where more LOA members are flying to their next targets. Batman is unaware of what is happening to the JLA and is only taking out assassins because the trail of where his parent’s bodies have been taken has led him here. Batman blows Superman off as he looks at the manifest which points his next destination as being the Himalayas. Clark points out to Wally that it is not like Bruce to ignore them. As Wonder Woman and the Flash secure Plastic Man in his own protective pod they realize that they can’t get in contact with Kyle Rayner (Green Lantern).  Superman points out that he heard the LOA mention that they had a deadline on taking out the JLA, so he needs to investigate what the endgame is.


Ra’s Al Ghul is sitting in his control room with a silver tower on his view screen. The countdown has begun as the full unknown power of the Tower is about to be activated.

Superman zips back to the Daily Planet and gets back into his Secret Identity to use the newspaper’s resources to find out what is going on in the world to piece together what The Demon has in mind.  Clark asks Perry White if anything big has been happening in the news lately and Perry who is in a hurry tosses Clark the days paper and tells him to find out for himself. At this moment the Tower is activated and Clark attempts to read the newspaper and finds that it’s all gibberish! Everyone all over the office are going nuts as any written words can no longer be read. Looking outside, Clark comments that everything is all babble…! 

Wally and Diana are trying to find Kyle’s apartment but have no clue what’s going on as they do not understand the symbols used instead of numbers on the apartment doors. As they reach GL’s apartment door they knock but get no answer. Flash vibrates the door knob, destroy it and they enter the apartment to find Kyle sitting in a chair by himself.  Turning at the sound of his friends voices, Kyle asks, “Wally is that you…? To which we see that GL is blind.

In New York, everyone at the stock exchange is going haywire as the worlds economy is an hour away from complete collapse. Gang wars are started in Columbia as no one can tell where rival turf is located and Ra’s is watching the whole thing on view screens as he awaits the only one who has ever been able to oppose him. The door to the control room explodes as Ghul is surprised, Batman is early. The Dark Knight enters the chamber enraged leaving a trail of unconscious assassins in his wake as he demands to know where his parent’s bodies are. Ra’s shows Batman his screen showing the destruction and terror that his scientists have created. Technology that can scramble the language centers of the human brain. Ghul also points to his Lazarus pit that has kept him alive for so many years and wonders if it isn't time to use it for something else, such as raising the dead. Above the pit are the coffins containing the deceased Wayne's.


In Kyle’s apartment he is losing it at the thought of never being able to see again. Wally tries to calm him and explains that they are under attack. Arthur calls up the trio and tells them that they need to get ready for another attack; because he figured out that the LOA is using the frequencies of their signal devices to track them, which means they will continue to attack them wherever they are and right on cue the door to Kyle’s apartment burst open. The LOA soldiers fire off two devices, one for Wally and one for Diana.

Superman is rescuing people from accidents in all the confusion as he communicates with Oracle. Oracle asks Superman if he can see ultrasound. Superman squints and says he can see a Sine Wave and now that he sees it he’s noticed that he can hear it too. Superman asks how they can jam it. Oracle replies that they need six billion pairs of earplugs.

Wonder Woman shakes her head as she sees another female warrior in high tech armor charge at her and punch her through a wall. Diana wipes the blood from her mouth with a smile and the battle is on as Wonder Woman meets her equal in combat and fights for hours.

Wonder woman is actually unconscious with a VR chip embedded in her brain that makes her think she is fighting. Wally is on the ground and having epileptic seizures at light speed.  

Above Metropolis Superman is setting up an old device of Brainiacs. A force field emitter that he rewires to emit a frequency that blanket’s Metropolis in white noise.  Oracle remarks only 5.9 billion people to go. Clark mentions he’s going to need Wally’s help for the rest and he flies off to find the Flash.

In Kyle’s apartment Talia and the LOA relay that Wonder Woman and Flash are down and Green Lantern is no longer of consequence. GL in anger yell’s that they are wrong and goes berserker rage as he fires off green energy blasts everywhere. Kyle is trying to create and trying to shield attacks but without his vision he has no way to aim the ring and one shot brings him down, to which Talia replies that they only have one target left which is good because she is tired of her father’s manipulations.



Batman thinks over the possibility of his parents being returned from the dead for several seconds, then throws a batarang at Ra’s Al Ghul and then punches him right in the face. With a smile the Demon pulls out a red stone and Batman knows exactly what it is and starts to panic.

Just as Talia and her team begin to leave the apartment, they are attacked by Martian Manhunter who is in a water suit that keeps him from catching on fire and he barrels through the guys. Talia thinks quick and pulling Diana’s metallic tiara off her head she tosses it into the water suit and busts it open just a crack, enough for J’onzz to start burning up again. Its then Superman bust through the floor and Batman calls through the device to Warn Superman but Ghul warnns that his device will not penetrate the compound walls.

Batman fights tooth and nail through the soldiers as he gets to the outside all the while Superman is being introduced to a piece of mutated red kryptonite from out of Talia’s pocket.  Batman calls through the transmitter that he needs to get out of their! It’s too late as Supes skin has turned translucent and he is screaming in pain. Batman calls through the device that everything the LOA is using were from his own plans to take the JLA down. 



Batman runs through the snow dodging bullets and being chased by LOA soldiers as he yells into the transmitter that Ghul must have raided his secret files but that he can get them all out if they listen. It’s then that Ra’s decides to go two phase two of his plan and activates it. Just as Batman’s solution is starting to get transmitted to Aquaman, his words turn to gibberish and Aquamans response sound like the same nonsense. Batman turns to find the Assassins have trapped him on the edge of the cliff and as they spout babble he realizes that Ra’s has stolen the language from everyone now. Batman leaps off the cliff and when the idiot Assassins leave under the assumption that Batman must be dead, Batman scales the cliff.


Back in the JLA headquarters Aquaman struggles to remain conscious as he tries to teleport Superman back and away from the manufactured kryptonite. Plastic Man appears, still very much with cracks in his body and catches Aquaman as he drops. On the next page Aquaman finds himself in a desert and feeling fine. In the next panel we see he is in a water capsule as J’onzz telepathically places his mind in a place devoid of water. Plastic man makes his finger extremely thin and extracts the VR device in Wonder Woman’s ear to stop her mental battle. (Finger…Wonder Woman, this joke writes itself.) Superman struggles to keep himself from exploding with power as his transparent skin enables the yellow sun to go directly into his cells and gives him more power then he can handle. Still he is the only one that can microscopically laser the device attached to the Flash and he does so with great difficulty. J’onzz detects a post hypnotic suggestion in Kyle’s mind and he tell’s the young GL to remove his ring from his finger. As Kyle takes the most powerful weapon off of his hand his vision starts to return. The Martian explains that the ring does whatever Kyle wants and the post hypnotic suggestion was making him subconsciously create the illusion he was blind. (I don’t know if that was clever or far fetched, but since it is Mark Waid I am giving him the benefit of the doubt.) Kyle put’s the ring back on and of course his vision returns because subliminal messaging doesn't work if you are aware of it. Superman relays what he sees and hears on Earth, with his powers amplified to pre-crisis levels here and the JLA doesn't know where to begin as the world is tearing itself apart without being able to communicate with each other.

Back in Ra’s compound The Demon is having a disagreement with his daughter as one of his masked foot soldier assassins approaches. The soldier claims that the Batman has perished. Talia asks him if they have the body. He admits that they don’t and gets slapped.  Ra’s orders the soldier to have everyone on the mountainside search for the Detective. As the soldier leaves the still bickering Ghul’s he pulls off his mask revealing Batman himself.

In the JLA Headquarters they scan Aquaman and see that his fear toxin is wearing off, but not soon enough for him to be able to help the team. The JLA discuss the fact that they can’t believe Batman would do this to them. Wally West calls him a control freak and Batman calls to them through his transmitter that he has uncovered where Ra’s signal is coming from and that he will send them coordinates to follow him. (Batman has one of the Assassins nullifiers, if you’re wondering how he is able to talk to the JLA right now.) Flash, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and Plastic Man are all in a hurry to join the party but Superman, still hurt from Batman’s actions and no longer completely trusting the Dark Knight, zips off on his own and position’s himself in the sky right in front of the Batplane. Batman turns at the last second and Superman pulls alongside him. Batman tells Clark that they will have to use J’onn and his telepathy to communicate once they get on the ground. The whole time he is talking, Superman is staring at him as if to say, “this shit right here… not over!” 


As they reach the ground, Batman is barking orders while the League just stares at him and then a couple of Jet’s from Ra’s are spotted heading there way to stop them from taking out the silver tower. Green Lantern says something which is complete nonsense and Wonder Woman thinks to him that Batman did not understand him. Kyle thinks back that it was a good thing, because he must have told Batman to Fuck Off! GL and Wonder Woman take off to intercept the jets and the other four ready themselves to take on more assassins assigned to protect the tower. As Superman and the Flash break through the ranks and get inside the building even the telepathy is starting to fail as they are at ground zero of the signal. Superman jumps at the red light inside the building and Wally asks him if he is okay to go on. Superman looks at the Flash with a look that only someone with the power of a demigod can and orders him to get everyone out. Several seconds later with all of Ghul’s scientist and guards out of the tower, Superman single-handedly brings the whole place down. 


Marching out of the flaming wreckage, Superman walks right up to Batman and demands to know “Why?” Batman responds that he has his reasons. Then they hear Talia’s voice over the transmitters. She explains to them that her father put in a failsafe and that even without the tower he could still do damage. Ghul’s plan was to escalate worldwide tensions and it worked as the country of Rhapastan is preparing a biochemical strike on Turkey over misunderstandings. The League finds it hard to trust Talia but she tells them that she is tired of being a pawn and that she is going to direct them to the bioterrorists, but before she can say anything a gunshot is heard. Taking over the transmission is Ghul’s right hand assassin and he tells the JLA they will never be able to stop it.

Don't ever promise cake and not deliver, EVER!

Back on the Moon, J’onn takes off the water suit he has been wearing and notes that Martians shed their skin and with it some of the nanites have been peeled away. His body is steaming but no longer on fire. With this the Martian loses some of his concentration and Aquaman starts to panic as he realizes that he is in water. J’onn climb’s into the tank and holds Aquaman still, telling him to turn the fear into anger as he thinks about who did this to him…Batman. 

At the site of the tower, Plastic Man of all people is berating Batman. Batman responds that they will talk about it later. 

When you can make this guy angry you have really accomplished something.

Batman orders the angry League to find the men who are going to set off the weapons while he and Superman will take Ra’s on personally. Superman asks, “why?” to which Batman replies “because he knows where Ghul is and Superman can fly.” As Superman picks up the Dark Knight, Superman says, “that was not they "why" he meant.” Wonder Woman, Plastic Man and Green Lantern travel across the ocean to the tiny country of Rhapistan while Flash runs ahead to find the weapon. As the trio reach the shore they find Flash vibrating intangible as he has found the canister with the virus already opened on the shore and if he runs he will scatter it even further, if he becomes intangible he contracts the virus, essentially he’s stuck!

As Superman flies Batman towards Ra’s hideout, Batman explains that it was the villain Agamemno giving criminals access to their bodies back in the silver age as his reason for setting up the weapons against his teammates. Superman is not buying the excuse for one minute but they are nearing Ra’s so he cans it.

Meanwhile Ra’s is ordering his henchman that has shot Talia tossed into a lion pit (The henchman shot her in the leg if you’re wondering.)  Superman busts through the ceiling and Ra’s releases his jungle cats, knowing they could slow down the heroes and also that the heroes would never harm innocent creatures. (This is true in this day and age but I can remember reading numerous silver age stories where many an innocent animal was clocked by a superhero, back when cat punching was done behind closed doors and no one talked about it, those were simpler times though.) Superman swoops down and saves the henchman in the pit as Ra’s runs for it.

Meanwhile in Rhapistan, GL has quarantined the area around the Flash but knows they need to find the second canister that Talia mentioned. ( I know the goal is to poison Turkey but wouldn't it poison Rhapistan also? Man you just can’t trust assassins.) Seeing the heroes nearing them, the Assassins start spraying the crowd in the city with machine guns and Wonder Woman runs in and blocks every single bullet with her bracelets.  As Wonder Woman and Plastic Man near the man with the canister he jumps off the roof and is saved by Diana with her lasso.


Back in Ra’s compound Superman has used heat vision and pipes to fashion a cage around the big cats. (Old school baby!) As the world’s finest duo charged after Ra’s Batman warns Supes that there is one more fragment of Red Kryptonite unaccounted for and that he needs him to recover the coffins as he drops the bombshell that his dead parent bodies are in the compound as well. They bust through to the main chamber and as Supes goes to save the Waynes he finds the red K sitting in between the coffins. Batman busts heads of LOA members as he goes after Ra’s. Ra’s drops the caskets and they come falling down on top of Clark ready to drop everyone into the Lazarus pit.  At the least second Aquaman uses his hook to pull Superman to safety and Martian Manhunter pulls the Wayne’s coffins to safety. In the meantime Ra’s has escaped but they League has the scientist that created the Tower of Babel.

At this same time in Rhapistan the terrorist is holding the canister and threatening to twist it open. Wonder Woman asks him if “he is ready to die?” He responds that he is but Wonder woman convinces him that he will not be a martyr because Ra’s does not care about his soldiers. Nothing will be remembered except for the suffering he will have brought to millions. When she asks him again, he has a different answer and secures the canister.

Later on the Moon Flash recounts that Superman used heat vision to destroy the virus and heaved the contaminated soil into the sun. (Ookay.) But the JLA has a bigger problem right now, what to do about Batman? Batman waits in a separate room as they discuss what to do. Wally explains that he was a child when the JLA were taken over all those years ago, but that everyone was afraid of the JLA, so he can see that they may need strategies against themselves. Flash votes no for expulsion. J’onn replies that he would be a hypocrite for voting for expulsion when they all know that in his early days in the JLA he was keeping tabs on all of the members as well, though he never created weapons, he just was new to the planet and didn't trust anyone. J’onn and Arthur disagree and argue to which it takes the League to keep them from tearing each other apart. Next it goes to Kyle who says, that he’s not happy with Batman, but he can’t see getting rid of him. Wonder Woman makes the case that she cannot go side by side into battle with someone and completely trust them if they don’t trust her and she votes for him to be expelled. Plastic Man has a great respect for Batman but as his memory returns to being shattered he votes for Batman to be gone. The vote comes down to Superman and Superman is aware as well as the entire League that Batman knows them all well enough to know how they will all vote and as they go to see Batman in the other room they find he has left.

J. Ryan Buck (Lostscribe@gmail.com)

Previous installments here http://lostscribe0.blogspot.com/

16 comments:

  1. I've been re-reading the Morrison/Porter jla run recently. I just finished the qwsp/triumph storyline. I gotta say, in hindsight, the best stories are the waid ones. For instance, in a lot of the Morrison stories, there's way too much going on. It's like there's pages missing as we jump from scene to scene. There's some good stuff in there (white Martians, Prometheus) but the rock of ages story and the 5th dimension one are just screaming for an editor to come in and tell him to slow down. Meanwhile the Adam strange and Julius September storylines are concise and well-paced.

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  2. For as much as everyone has always wanted a Mark Waid Superman ongoing, I'm pretty worried it would turn into Silver Age wonkiness.

    Tower of Babel is awesome, though.

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  3. I love the Adam Strange story! And your totally right about the Morrison parts of the JLA run. Lots of really cool ideas but you do have to wade through some of the crazy sauce to get to it.

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  4. I really liked this storyline, despite the fact that there was probably a bit too much happening. Just the "Ra's used Batman's protocols against the JLA" was more than enough to sustain a few issues, especially when you figure that Bats would've had more than just the one solution prepared for each League member --- Ra's could've used a second wave of anti-League attacks once they invaded his compound.

    The whole thing about the world no longer being able to communicate could've and should've been part of a much larger storyline, given the utter chaos that would cause.

    The Big Seven + Plastic Man is my favourite incarnation of the JLA. Just a great mix of characters, personalities, great sub-pairings (the great Flash/Wonder Woman friendly chemistry, Flash and Kyle being best friends, Kyle being scared of Batman, Plastic Man providing comic relief, Aquaman being secretly in love with WW, etc.) made it a great read. The follow-up to this story when they're all split from their secret identities was also a tremendous read.

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  5. Like every Morrison story EVER?

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  6. Those are some strange-looking covers. I like the TPB cover though.

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  7. They used this storyline as the base for the recent "Justice League: Doom" direct-to-DVD release, changing up the big bad from Ra's to the Legion of Doom. The story lost a lot in translation...


    Mark Waid did some great work as the fill-in writer on JLA during the Morrison era, and it's a shame he never got a chance to write the League full-time. Sometimes I wish Waid was the guy they tapped to remap the universe instead of Geoff Johns, but I guess his time at DC Comics has probably passed. Very unfortunate.

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  8. The worst part, IMO, of the Morrison-era JLA was Howard Porter's artwork.

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  9. Loved the story. Batman planning some shit like that is totally something he'd do.

    Side note: I'd always wished DC would do a "what if" type thing and had Batman side with Ra's and marry Talia.

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  10. Mark Waid's a strange case he's clearly a DC guy at heart but he's done great work for Marvel over the past 2 decades as well and is clearly enjoying a career renaissance with his Boom/Marvel work over the past 3 - 4 years when he looked burnt out after his last DC run fizzled (Those damn Flash kids) I don't think Mark would have enjoyed throwing the baby out with the bathwater which has been the DC reboot but what do i know he did go along and reboot the Legion Of Super-Heroes...twice!

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  11. Of course it lost a lot in translation, how the hell could Hawk and Animal beat the JLA?


    ZING!

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  12. That's something I've always had an issue with Morrison: a lot of his stories tend to throw TONS of different ideas at you at once, but never really stops to fully realize that idea's potential.

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  13. This story is one the shining examples of why I cannot stand Batman. It's such god-awful stupid Batdick riding that it comes across like some sort of internet fan-fiction. Seriously, re-constituting the Scarecrow's fear gas to make someone specifically frightened of water? Jesus...

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  14. I remember a "JLA Secret Files" special showing a story of how Batman was keeping these protocols with nice notes like how on Superman "It's going to come down to me and him in the end." Also, how Talia stole them and how Batman puts a post-hypnotic suggestion in his mind so J'onn can't read it and find out what he's doing. Also suggested something that was sadly never touched on again, which is Young Justice and the Titans finding out and wondering that if Batman did this to his teammates, does that mean Robin and Nightwing do the same with theirs? Overall, great story.

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  15. The thing with Morrison is that his mind operates on a totally different level than the rest of us so he honestly doesn't get how his story doesn't adapt so well. I remember with "Final Crisis," him talking about how clear and obvious it was, not understanding people thinking "the HELL is going on?!" For that taken to the ultimate level, see "The Invisibles."

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  16. I usually like Waid's stuff, but for whatever reason his run on JLA really left me cold, maybe because he had to follow Morrison's run which I really just loved. Waid's seemed like lots of great ideas and some great moments but just couldn't stand up to Morrison's and felt like it was stretched out quite thin at times.

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