Little Problems – JLA versus Predator

You’re probably not going to see me doing a lot of DC comics with these reviews, and the reason for that is simple: I don’t like DC.

Now, you might think my dislike for DC would incline me more to review them and make fun of their comics, but really, it’s not that I feel DC comics are worse than Marvel; on the whole, I think they’re about even when it comes to the quality/crap ratio. I just never got into the universe much, never cared much for the characters, never had much interest in changing that.

Except for Batman. I love Batman. Some of my oldest memories are sitting in front of the television, watching the old Adam West Batman series – they were reruns, I’m not that old – and dressing up as Batman for Halloween. I grew older and got into the amazing animated series; I grew older still and got into the comics. Batman, Batman, Batman.

A less pleasant childhood memory would be watching Predator 2, which I saw in Kindergarten and saw repeatedly in my nightmares for a few weeks after. But I grew to love the Predator movies, and like all sensible males do at one point or another, I eventually found myself asking which of my favorite icons would win in a fight: Batman versus Predator?

Well, happy day, I didn’t have to wonder, because DC had the good sense to team up with Dark Horse and make it happen. In fact, they made it happen a lot; there are three Batman vs Predator comics out there, and they’re all pretty good. Batman, fighting an opponent unlike anything he’s come across before, something every bit as skilled as he is, stronger and faster, with advanced technology and a murderous intent. Neat concept. So neat, in fact, that they did the same thing with Superman. And..it was…decent. Just decent.

Then somebody decided to cut to the chase and throw the entire Justice League in there. That somebody was an idiot, because this abomination was born from it.

COVER

Typically, this would be where I address the cover art, but I kind of feel there’s no need to go in-depth here – just look at it. That’s just about the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen. It’s not even accurate,  since the Predators in this comic never wear the costumes. So no, this comic isn’t as idiotic as the cover would have you believe. But it’s close. Very close.

The comic immediately starts assaulting your common senses with a spaceship burning in space, in spite of that little ‘no air’ detail. It just so happens that this spaceship is crashing near the Moon, and it just so happens that they happens that they’re near the exact spot on the Moon that the JLA HQ rest on. Lucky.

Anyway, since Martian Manhunter apparently has nothing better to do with his day, he’s hanging around and tries to contact the vessel, identifying it as a Dominion spacecraft. Who are the Dominion, you ask? Well, fortunately, Manhunter just so happens to have Oracle on the line, who helpfully summarizes with a ham-handed sentence to catch us up.

DOMINATORS

So, Dominators: smart, tech savvy, ugly as sin, and not to be confused with the Lincoln Dominators baseball team.

Oracle debates the sense of saving the Dominators when they’ll only keep dominating things, but before the ship explodes with a deafening BA-DOOM – lot of air in space today, isn’t there? And Manhunter saves them anyway, bringing them onboard the station.

As one might expect, the evil genocidal aliens are not the least bit grateful for the rescue, and one of them immediately start shooting at Manhunter, who uses his Purple Eyes Beams of Vagueness to heat the gun up and make him drop it. He starts to peek into the Dominators mind, just in time to sense…

FIREAIM

…the slowest laser blast in history.

Manhunter beats a retreat and phases through the floor, telling Oracle that he can’t sense the attacker for some reason and that he wants the rest of the League to hold back until he’s sure what they’re up against. Before he can investigate further, though we see the shadow of a claw sneaking up on him from behind…BUM. BUM. BUM.

He’s cut off, and Oracle calls in the reinforcements, smiling as she does so…for some reason. Anyway, it’s here were the comic starts to irritate me.

See, every time a superhero pops up in this story, they’re given a caption explaining who they are their powers. Which would make sense if this were some obscure group of nobodies…but they’re not. This is the Justice League. The most recognizable superheroes in all of comics. I know them, because there’s not a single rock on the planet I could live under and not know them. Maybe I’m just picky, I’ll admit, but I hate hate hate when a comic treats me like I’m an idiot. I get enough of that in real life. And this comic has a big problem with blunt exposition, but we’ll get to that.

Since the teleporters are locked up in the HQ, Batman tells Superman and Green Lantern to head up there since they’re the only ones who can reach the Moon fast – why they need to be told this is up for questions. While they’re en route, Oracle calls the rest of the league, including Plastic Man, who’s in the middle of…making a guy sniff his pits.

PLASFUNNY

Again, not a big DC reader, but isn’t Plastic Man supposed to be, you know…funny?

We cut back to Supes and Green Lantern as they enter the Watchtower, looking around for Manhunter, and they stumble on…okay, fair warning. Up until now, the comic has just be sub-par, at worst. This is where it starts to get straight up stupid. Brace yourself.

HEADONSTICK

Superman immediately, right then and there, screams ‘PREDATORS!” and come to think of it, I have no idea why he makes that immediate connection. First off, he’s fought a Predator before and should know there’s no way in hell a normal Predator could ever kill the Martian Manhunter. Second off…what? Only a Predator would ever put someone’s head on a stick?

Oh, and Green Lantern immediately loses his lunch over this. He even uses the limitless, unimaginable power of the ring to create a barf bag. The man once came home to find his dismembered girlfriend stuffed in a fridge, and he still held it in. Just saying.

Superman uses his rarely seen power of exposition, and it’s here that I have to address Graham Nolan’s artwork of this book. It’s not bad, per say – the characters look a bit too rubbery, but you could do worse. Much worse. The main problem is, well…

PREDATORPICK

Graham Nolan doesn’t draw Predators well. At all. They look so silly, so wrong that it makes the entire situation hard to take seriously, and believe me, that’d hard enough if flipping Alex Ross was behind the pencils.

Now, the thing about crossovers like this is that they never change anything; nobody important dies, none of the new characters show up again, and they’re never mentioned again, even if they do fit into continuity. So, naturally, when the Martian Manhunter’s body comes strolling up sans his head, I’m not surprised.

MANHUNTERBODY

Amused, yes, but not surprised. Kind of makes me wonder why he didn’t bother to put his head back on himself, though. His body has eyes, it can walk around well enough, no reason not to just wait until the Predator left and reattach the damn thing. Maybe he really had to go to the bathroom first. We’ve all been there.

Manhunter sits down to rest and recuperate from the loss of his vestigial head, wondering how the Predator managed to block his psionic abilities. Batman appears out nowhere, skulking out of the shadows because he’s Batman and skulking is his thing, and says that the Dominators used the teleporters to take off to three seperate spots on Earth, which would make sense if not for the clearly established detail about the teleporters being locked before they got there.

Batman puts that world-class strategic mind to use and takes a page for the Scooby Doo playbook, suggesting they split into three teams to recover the Dominators. Why doesn’t he just have the Flash move at superluminal speeds and recover them all in five seconds? Because they wouldn’t have been able to fill enough pages to make this a 48-page paperback if he did, that’s why.

They put the plan into motion and we see the first team, Aquaman, Wonder Woman and Plastic Man, exploring in Paris. Then again, maybe ‘exploring’ is the wrong word. That would imply they were actively making an effort to look for the Dominators. They are not.

No, no. Instead, Plastic Man takes the form of a boat and leisurely floats down the river, while Aquaman and Wonder Woman talk about how romantic Venice is and the quality of the water. Seriously. A whole page of them just talking about crap that doesn’t have crap to do with crap. Just to look at them, you almost forget that there are a bunch of world-conquering aliens running around an intergalactic hunter with enough power to kill one of the strongest beings on Earth. Nothing serious, enjoy the scenery and have fun re-enacting every romance scene ever set in Venice.

Before Wondie and Aquaman can start making out on Plastic Man’s belly – which is the only thing I could see that page leading to, as much as it turns my stomach – they come under attack by…something, moving at high speed through the water. It rams straight into them, knocking Aquaman out of the boat as Wonder Woman takes to the skies and tries to get the civilians out of harm’s way. Meanwhile, Aquaman finds himself assaulted by something traveling like rocket…underwater!

WATERROCKET

It’s good that his thought bubble clarified that for me; I have the memory of a goldfish and forget that he was underwater at the time. Don’t you just love it when comics assume you’re too stupid to figure out what’s being clearly depicted?

Up above, Wonder Woman encounters a cloaked Predator with an electric whip, which is the first sign that this is going to be dumb. The second sign occurs when the Predator yanks her down with the whip and decloaks, revealing that he has a ‘W’ on his chest. Oh, and there’s the third and final sign, chasing after Plastic Man.

PLASPREDATOR

This was the point where I figured out that yes, the entire concept and basis of this comic is the Justice League fighting a bunch of Predators with superpowers. Upon figuring this out, I suffered a serious case of Head+Desk.

I’ll get into the utter stupidity of this concept in a little while when they get around to explaining it all, but for now I’ll focus on a bit of minor bit of stupidity: Plastic Man can’t fly. Yes, he can take the form of a jet, but he can’t fly like one. How is it that I barely read any JLA, but I know more about these characters than the guy who wrote this comic? Anyway, as poor plotting, I mean, luck would have it, he flies over St. Mark’s Cathedral and see the Dominator hanging around on top.

Back underwater, Aquaman sees the AquaPredator’s laser sight on his hairy chest and dodges out of the way just in time, using the blast as a guiding point so he can charge straight into the cloaked Predator, which is automatically stupid since, in every movie that came out before or since this comic, the Predator cloak thing doesn’t work in water. It doesn’t even take a lot of water; in the second movie he just stepped in a puddle and the thing got screwed up. This isn’t some insignificant nerdy fact that only a die-hard fan would know, this is something that both Predator 1 and 2 clearly established. Something anyone making a comic with the word ‘Predator’ in it should be required to know.

Back with Wonder Woman, she yanks hard on the Wonder Predator’s lightning whip and punches him hard in the face with all her strength…too much, in fact; she hits him so hard that she falls to her knees, completely drained. I do not think that’s possible; Wonder Woman doesn’t run on batteries. It’s not like if she throws a really hard punch she runs out of energy and has to plug into a wall or something. It’s just one punch.

Plastic Man shows up with the Dominator and scoops Wonder Woman up for an escape, no doubt copping a feel in the process. Won’t blame him. He also sees Aquaman, but since his hands are full with an Amazon and an ugly-ass alien, he has to extend his jaw and catch him in his mouth. Why he doesn’t just create another arm to catch him, I cannot guess, but maybe he just secretly like the taste of AquaAss.

Plastic Man calls to be teleported back to HQ, but Martian Manhunter’s a little preoccupied at the moment – the Predator that cut off his head is still there! And he says he knew it all along, too. Why he didn’t warn the other that a powerful, homicidal telepathic Predator was in the vicinity kind of boggles the mind, but I digress.

We cut to Green Lantern, the Atom, and the Flash, deep within the jungles of the Amazon, searching for the Dominator. Said search takes all of two seconds, since the Flash just flits off and catches him in the blink of an eye. Impressive. Makes me wonder why the other two even bothered coming along if he could just do that, but impressive.

Before they can leave, though, they’re bum-rushed by…

PREDATORPOSE

Ever since that crappy Aliens vs. Predator movie, apparently. But hell, I’ve got a better question: Since when do Predators strike poses and dress in color coordinated outfits?

Despite no one saying anything about a Plan A, the Atom suggests they go to Plan B, which just consists of splitting up and running away. Genius.

The Flash tries to get away at top speeds, but it seems the FlashPredator is more than capable of matching the pace and manages to get up close and slash him in the shoulder with his metal deathclaw. Huh. That’s odd – typically, a Predator slash in the shoulder with a giant metal deathclaw means you have to say bye-bye to the whole arm. For the Flash, it just sort of rips the costume. Doesn’t even seem to cut the skin. Go figure.

Meanwhile, Green Lantern tries to scare away his counterpart with a goblin construct. To his great surprise, Predators are not total pansies, and he just blasts through it with a yellow blast. All right, okay, Green Lantern’s have the whole yellow weakness going on, I get it, I’ll buy that…except he keeps on firing and Green Lantern seems perfectly capable of blocking the yellow blasts with his shield. And this particular Green Lantern is Kyle Rayner, whose ring isn’t supposed to have the yellow weakness. So…I really don’t know what’s going on here. Neither does Kyle. I sincerely doubt the writer did, either.

The Atom shows his amazing grasp of the obvious by realizing that the Predators have powers designed to match their own, as he shrinks down to sub-atomic and does battle with the AtomPredator. He kicks a positive electron at him – I almost flunked out of science in high school, and that sounds impossible even to me – and shorts out his equipment, forcing them to go back to normal size. The Atom starts wailing away on the AtomPredator, beating him senseless, and I’m sorry, but I just can’t let this go. That. Is. Stupid.

Predator are much. Much. Much. Much stronger than even the strongest human could ever hope to be. Remember in the first Predator, how Arnold-Flipping-Schwarzenegger punched one in the face with all the strength he had, and all he did was just irritate the thing? Remember in Predator 2, when Danny Glover shot one at point-blank range with a shotgun eight times, and all he managed to do was stun it for a minute? That’s because they’re tough as hell. The Atom does not have super-strength. Yeah, okay, he probably works out and he’s in fine condition, but even on his best day, he shouldn’t be able to stagger a Predator. He’s punched a Predator in the helmet and he’s driving it back, how does that work?

Oh, and despite that whole inability to affect yellow that Green Lanterns are supposed to have, we can clearly see Green Lantern blasting away on his Predator in the background. The one wearing all yellow.

…you know, I wasn’t paying much attention to the credits page when I started this comic. How much do you want to bet that there’s no credit for an editor?

CREDITSPAGE

I must be psychic.

Back with the Flash, he’s still busy running away, worried about the two extremely shallow cuts the FlashPredator’s got on him so far. He nabs the Dominator and calls for a pickup, but Manhunter’s still busy with his old friend in the JLA HQ, as we see him with his back against the wall and a cloaked Predator before him.

Wouldn’t you like to see that? Wouldn’t you want to see the Martian Manhunter in a life-or-death struggle, being hunted by a strange enemy in the bowels of the JLA stronghold? Yeah? Well, too bad. Instead, here’s a page of Superman and Batman in a forest, talking about how pretty it is while they’re supposed to be looking for the Dominator. Did you know that Beatrice Potter owns these forests? Yeah, the same one who wrote the Peter Rabbit stories. She bought them and gave them to a trust and will you idiots please shut up and just get the damn Dominator so we can get this crappy comic over with?

Superman acquiesces to my demand and gets the stupid alien, but before they can leave he finds himself under attack by, you guessed it: SuperPredator.

SUPERPREDATOR

You know what really gets me, here? The cape. Why the cape? I’ll forgive the colors and the symbol, but the cape is just too much. It serves no purpose, helps him in no way, probably screws up his cloaking…why would he bother? Why would he care? And it’s not like the others follow suit; we’ll see BatPredator in a minute and he doesn’t have a cape, and the Predator after Manhunter isn’t wearing one, either. It’s just SuperPredator. And why isn’t he wearing the mask; it’s not like that thing’s just for decoration. They can’t see for crap and they have trouble breathing without it, not too mention they look badass with them on. But no, it’s off, and I get a reminder that Graham Nolan can’t draw them for crap, and just…did anybody involved in this comic watch the movies? Anybody?

Sorry. We’re almost done. Moving on.

Batman grabs the Dominator and runs while Superman deals with SuperPredator, but it turns out he’s got problems of his own; the Dominator screams as a targeting laser locks on to Batman from behind, and somehow that scream is all the warning Batman needs to leap out of the way and avoid the blast. And, again, because you’re a complete idiot, Batman’s thought bubble explains everything I just described right after it happens.

Batman wonders where the Predator’s hiding, just as we see BatPredator sneaking up on him, and wow – you have to feel sorry for him, don’t you? Talk about drawing short straws. SuperPredators get Superman powers, Wonder Predator gets that neat electric whip, Green Lanern Predator gets that weird…yellow…stuff. What does BatPredator get? A laser cannon thing – we never actually see what he’s firing with – a black costume and gloves, and fighting skills and stealth training…which any normal Predator would have, anyway. So, he’s just a regular Predator…hell, he doesn’t have a mask, so he’s even worse off than a regular Predator. What a gyp.

So, yeah, this fight might actually be interesting to see, if a bit of rehash, and we can’t have that; Manhunter teleports the league back up to HQ, having finally dispatched of his Predator by…I don’t know how.

MANHUNTERPRED

I guess the implication is that he lobotomized him or something. That’s my guess, with all the drooling. Doesn’t explain the mustard on his forehead, though. Also, I don’t get why Martian Manhunter couldn’t just teleport the rest of the league up; yeah, he says the watchtower wasn’t secure, but the entire league would’ve beat this guy in five seconds flat, total curbstomp.

So, now that there aren’t Predators bearing down on them, Batman gets in the Dominators’ face and demands some answers, and we finally learn the ridiculous truth behind this whole fiasco. See, the Dominators, unrivaled intelligences that they are, thought it would be a good idea to clone a bunch of Predators with superpowers and use them to take over the Earth. Apparently, none of the Dominators involved with this project watched any sci-fi movie ever made, because they were actually surprised when the Predators woke up and started killing them, as Predators are wont to do. These three managed to escape and came to Earth seeking protection, but the Predators followed, and their instincts to hunt caused them to latch onto the Justice League and hunt them.

Oh. Wow. Where. To. Start?

First thing, screw what Oracle said about Dominators being strategic geniuses and super-smart; they’re a bunch of dumbasses. Ignoring how stupid they are for trying this in the first place, why only make eight of these things? Why not make, like…fifty SuperPredators, or fifty FlashPredators, or just a whole damn army of the stupid things? The Justice League would be crushed, victory assured. And, taking a step back, why waste your time making a BatPredator?

And this ‘hunting instinct’ thing is a load of crap, too; Predators aren’t born with the instinct to hunt, they learn it. It’s taught. It’s basically their religion. And, even if I accept the – admittedly cool – notion that hunting is so engrained into Predator life that it’s become etched into their DNA, that doesn’t explain how they learned to use the weapons or the cloaking device, or how they even know there’s a Justice League out there for them to all hunt. It’d be like a Christian having the instinct to pray and go to Church, or Michael Jordan’s kids automatically being good at basketball. DNA does not work that way – period.

But here’s the icing on the cake – this isn’t a hunt, it’s a fight. In every single instance, save for the Martian Manhunter, the Predator just came out and attacked the Justice League. No stealth. No tactics. Just fighting. They barely even use the cloaking, for crying out loud. You could replace the Predators with just about any random alien species, and this would all play out about the same. That’s really the cardinal sin of this whole thing – it’s a Predator comic that in no way has content relating to Predators, aside from the poorly drawn faces of them. It’s almost like the writer of this crossover had no idea how either of the franchises he was writing about worked…but that’d be crazy. Right? Right?

Also, the Dominators call them ‘metapredators, but screw that noise; they’re the Predator League of Space. Because that sounds cooler.

As soon as the Dominator finishes his story, the Predator League shows up. I don’t know how they all got to the Moon so fast and I don’t care; we’ve only got ten pages to go, we’re in the home stretch.

So, the fight’s on; Green Lantern’s Predator fires on them, and despite the fact that Green Lantern seems to have no real trouble blocking the blast, Aquaman gets the idea that they should all switch fighting partner, which means we’ve now completed the cliche framework of every single movie, cartoon, TV show and comic where a bunch of heroes fight clones of themselves – the Old Switcheroo.

Green Lantern fights the AtomPredator – who’s pulled a pickaxe out of butt since we last saw him, no kidding – Martian Manhunter and Aquaman double-team Wonder Predator, Wonder Woman punches Plastic Predator and makes his neck stretch as well as ruining my ability to take the species seriously ever again, Supeman says nuts to the plan and takes SuperPredator on in an amazing fight that happens totally off-panel, the Flash dances with Green Lantern’s sparring buddy, Plastic Man adds injury to insult by wrapping up the BatPredator, the Atom says he’ll deal with Aquaman’s Predator ‘from the inside!’…which baffles me, since he never goes inside anything I can see, but whatever…and Batman handles the FlashPredator. How is Batman supposed to fight a Predator that can move at the speed of light, you ask? Because he’s Batman, that’s why.

So, yeah, the Justice League of America beats the Predator League of Space in about three pages. I’d summarize it, but there’s honestly not much to tell; the Justice League just slaughters them. It’s actually kind of pathetic, really.

SUPERMANWINS

HEROICBRUTALITY

And no, I have no idea what’s up with the giant, pink Superman symbol behind them.

So, they’re all down and out, but, well…you’ve seen the movies, you know what Predators do when they’re defeated, right? The explosion? Well, you’re WRONG!

No, these Predators just blast a hole in the wall – which you’d think would be better protected from that sort of thing – and explosive decompression occurs. Plastic Man and Superman save the Dominators, but the Predator League floats out. However, Superman manages fly out and uses his superspeed to gather them all up, then transfers them to prison where they can be kept in captivity and later returned to their species proper.

Oh, no, wait; that’s what Superman would do in a good comic. Here, he just lets them die.

DEADPRED

I love that. ‘It’s over’. Not like you could fly out and get them or anything. A vacuum will kill you fast, but not faster than a speeding bullet. And it’s not like a Predator with Superman’s powers could breath in space and wouldn’t be killed by that, anyway. No, no…’It’s over’. Yeah.

But it’s not over, one more page to go. They send the Dominators home, the Dominators don’t understand why the Justice League would save them, the Justice League try to explain, they leave, Superman wonders if there’s hope blah blah blah are they seriously trying to throw a moral message into a comic with super-powered Predators?

Now it’s over, thank God. This comic isn’t the worst I’ve read, but it’s so sloppy all across the board that I almost feel embarrassed for everyone involved. Graham Nolan’s a decent artist, but he’s phoning it in, and it shows. The writer acts like he got all his information for the Justice League and the Predators from reading a Wikipedia article for all of ten seconds, and I wouldn’t surprised to find out that’s close to the truth. On top of all that, the concept is just weak; it’s often a problem in crossover stories that you have to weaken or strengthen one faction to make it equal with the other, but if you can’t think of a logical way to do that, know what? You shouldn’t make the damn comic.

And I thought DC Universe vs. Mortal Kombat was a lame premise. Sheesh.

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