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From A Library – JLA: The Tenth Circle

JLA #94–99 by John Byrne and Chris Claremont (writers), John Byrne and Jerry Ordway (art)

Continuing my reading of old Claremont books because I just can’t quit him … It was quite something when the news was announced that The Uncanny X-Men team of Claremont and Byrne was getting back together again, and for the Distinguished Competition as well. It was a shame that the two creators hadn’t parted on the best of terms from their collaboration, and they spent a lot of their Marvel career sniping at each other’s work in their books. That they managed to patch things up enough to work together again is quite an achievement. The resulting story isn’t quite an achievement …

This story feels like a Byrne-generated idea – magic being used against Superman, the enemy of the piece, both feel like something from Byrne’s stable of plotlines. I don’t see much of Claremont’s traditional obsessions in these comics, which makes you wonder why he became involved in the book (unless it was just for the sake of creating buzz about the comic). It could also be the amount of DC work the two creators have: Byrne has a long history of DC books, whereas Claremont only has his creator-owned Sovereign Seven.

The main problem with this story is the villain, Crucifer: he is an incredibly embarrassing creation, who looks silly and has the most ridiculous name I’ve seen for a villain in quite some time. He is a vampire of sorts who wants to bring about a return to the world order where he and his kind were dominant; so he’s basically evil for the sake of the story, which is a Byrne conceit (Claremont liked his villains to have a justification). He is not the sort of villain that is worthy of the JLA, and to spin a six-issue story out of him is optimistic in the extreme.

The story is well constructed, as you’d expect for two old pros, with the JLA and the Doom Patrol working together, although the young characters feel superfluous and even a bit irritating, but there is nothing great about it, nothing special or unique that suggests the heritage of the two creators. Claremont brings his dialogue to the book, making it seem almost Marvel-like, quite unlike DC dialogue, if that makes any sense. The art doesn’t seem as sharp, a little muted; I’ve never been a big fan of Ordway’s inks, especially on Byrne’s pencils, and it feels rather staid and workman-like. In fact, the whole thing feels old-fashioned all round, which may work for some but feels like an artefact rather than something for the 21st century.

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