Hello, Geeks, and welcome to our latest installment of Comics You Should Have Read By Now. For those of you joining us for the first time, we make it our mission with this article to highlight the best works that the industry has to offer. But while this sounds pretty straightforward, it is somewhat tricky to quantify, as different things can be the “best works” for entirely different reasons. Things can be good for thought-provoking stories, or for beautiful artwork, or for a profound message. Sometimes, a comic can move you with ingenious storytelling that pushes the limits of the medium. Today’s selection, though, manages to do something entirely different: it represents what I think think to be the greatest fan book to ever grace comic shops. That’s because today we’ll be taking a look at the most epic comic crossover of all time, JLA/Avengers.
Now, before I go any further, I should probably explain what I mean by “fan book.” It is, after all, sometimes used as a pejorative term. Often, it describes an offering that focuses on style over substance, one that sacrifices good storytelling to give readers a shallow experience that relies too heavily on just giving the audience what it wants to see. Yet while I would agree that these types of stories can often be shallow, there’s no rule that says that a fan book has to be bad. There’s nothing inherently wrong with giving your audience material that they’ve been longing to see, so long as you don’t sacrifice good storytelling or betray the core of what makes a character good to begin with. JLA/Avengers, I would argue, is a perfect example of this good sort of fan book that gives audiences an epic melding of the most prominent superheros in existence tied together by master storytellers in one satisfying package.
It’s fair to say that the element that sets this crossover apart from lesser crossovers is the creative team, which I would contend was the perfect pair for this project. Handling the writing duties, we have Kurt Busiek, a scribe who made his name with his run on the Avengers. On pencils, we have the legendary George Perez, a man with a long, storied career drawing characters from the stables of both DC and Marvel.
To tie this massive crossover together, our heroes are pitted against each other in the deadliest scavenger hunt the multiverse has ever seen. While that might sound a little silly, it allows the reader to go on a grand tour across both the DC and Marvel universes to find some of the most hallowed baubles from some classic story arcs. In this way, we are able to watch teams travel to Apokolips to find the Infinity Gauntlet as well as a quest for the Ultimate Nullifier on Monster Island, all building up to a no-holds-barred slugfest to claim the Cosmic Cube, after which the teams inevitably overcome their misunderstanding to take the fight to those responsible.
Now granted, none of this will make you feel a profound appreciation for your place amongst a vast and majestic universe, but what it DOES do is give us a nice excuse to see Thor throw Mjolnir at Superman.
And really, that’s what this book is all: a deluge of pure fun that will make your inner fangirl/boy scream with delight. Drawing from the rich histories of the industry’s biggest publishers, JLA/Avengers reads like a love letter to decades of continuity and the rich tapestries of characters and stories that form them. Time after time, this story gives us moments we’ve been waiting a lifetime to see. From Captain America fighting Batman…
We have Dr Doom pinned to the Source Wall…
Heck, we even have the Captain Marvel/Captain Marvel team-up you never thought you’d see…
Practically every page of this story is full to bursting with amazing moments with tons of shout outs, cameos, and easter eggs in the periphery (I seem to spot at least one thing I’ve never seen before every time I read it. For my own part, I enjoyed the fight scenes the most (if for no other reason, because they actually had the fortitude to declare a winner, for the most part), but there are also amazing homages to a plethora of classic story arches, covers, and moments. And that’s all on top of the Crowning Moments of Awesome put on display.
Like I said earlier, though, even the grandest spectacle of fan-love can be soured if there isn’t a talented crew to tie it all together. After all, this isn’t the only time Marvel and DC have done a crossover, and those past efforts were…a mixed bag, at best. Fortunately, Busiek and Perez are more than equal to the task. Busiek provides us with a plot that strings together an astounding array of set pieces and provides us with coherent reasons for so many heroes and villains to be gathered together. Perhaps it’s not the most mindblowing of stories, but providing coherent narrative for an event like this is no mean feat; that the plot isn’t mindnumbingly stupid is an accomplishment in and of itself, and that it’s actually pretty good is astounding. Even if you disagree with me there, though, I’d be willing to bet that you’ll enjoy every panel of George Perez’s art. Perez is one of the greatest talents in the industry, and is unmatched when it comes to drawing sprawling scenes, a skill set which is on full display here.
JLA/Avengers is treat for comic nerds of all ages. More than any book I’ve ever come across, it beautifully brings to life the team-ups and arguments that have spun out of comic shops and fans’ imaginations across the globe. Certainly, this is the comic book equivalent of a popcorn movie, but it is some damn tasty popcorn. It’s a comic that speaks to the fan in all of us that wants to see Superman charge into battle with Captain America’s shield, to see Batman take on the Punisher, and to see the two most prolific teams in comics together at last.
Feel free to comment below, and as always, thanks for reading!