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JLA: Divided We Fall
Mark Waid and Various Artists
It's safe to assume that veteran comics scribe Mark Waid felt some
trepidation in taking the reins of the hugely popular JLA from Grant Morrison. Waid's long since established himself as a comics writer of distinction and
merit, most especially during his long run on DC's Flash. But Morrison's
take on the re-vamped superteam set a disturbingly high standard, as the writer
best known previously for The Invisibles and Doom Patrol applied
his wickedly fertile imagination to the DC universe's most iconic properties.
Waid would be forgiven for wondering whether or not he was in Morrison's league
Divided We Fall, the most recent collection to anthologize Waid's run
on the book, proves that he's more than up to the task. Following the events of
his previous collection, Tower of Babel, Divided steadily builds
on themes of distrust, betrayal and the division between a hero and his or her
In Babel, you may recall, the members of the Justice League were
shocked to discover that Batman had secretly been compiling data on his
teammates, including information on how to neutralize them should they ever
become a threat due to mind control or other reasons. (Readers recognizing
similarities to Waid's JLA: Year One miniseries will be relieved to know
that this storyline is no mere rehash of that tale.) They learn this in the most
alarming way, when Batman's cataloged methods are employed by his longtime foe
Ra's Al Ghul. It's not giving too much away to say that heroes eventually
overcome their individual adversities, and find themselves shocked and deeply
divided over the issue of what to do about Batman, who is voted out of the
As Divided begins, the seeds of dissent are sprouting into full-blown
alienation and antipathy. Batman's stubbornly Machiavellian method of helping
the team defeat the Queen of Fables (the wicked Queen of Snow White come back to
real life) only undermines those tensions. A subsequent battle against the
reality-warping Dr. Destiny further erodes the team's trust, even as Superman
takes comfort in the fact that the members' subconscious selves, not yet
hardened against one another, eventually act as a unit to save the day.
At this point, the DCU's most popular duo, Superman and Batman, reluctantly
agree that the only way to restore the Leaguers' faith in each other is for
Batman to take the drastic, trusting step of revealing his alter ego. Superman
also decides to reveal his other self, and the assembled members (most of them,
anyway) follow suit. It's at this pivotal moment that the League finds itself
"divided" yet again, as all but Wonder Woman and Aquaman find themselves facing
their alter egos. In effect, most of the heroes have been somehow split in two.
It's in this final arc of Divided that Waid masterfully asserts
himself as a gifted storyteller and strategist in his own right, as both the
alter egos and the heroes from whom they've split begin to feel the detrimental
effects of the separation.
The artwork teams on display here each do a more than capable job of
investing Waid's story with the requisite grandeur and grittiness. While the
Morrison-era dynamic duo of penciler Howard Porter and inker John Dell is still
missed, the overall quality of the art remains high. Particular praise must go
to the Queen of Fables arc, in which we're treated to some of the most beautiful
depictions of Wonder Woman yet committed to paper.
With Divided We Fall, Waid hits his stride with this powerful
assemblage, ably examining the issue of the deep commitment and confidence such
beings must display toward, and have in, each other. Although it's a story in
which politics trumps all-out action, the book is none the poorer for it.
JLA: Tower of Babel is an engaging tale in its own right,
although not essential to enjoying Divided. For more flashes of Waid's
writing, check out his run on Flash (many issues of which are collected in
their own paperbacks) and -- for a further taste of his treatment of the DCU's icons -- the
Kingdom Come miniseries, painted by Alex Ross.
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