JLA: Act of God
Doug Moench, writer,
Dave Ross, artist
(DC Comics, 2000)

This is a great idea for an Elseworlds tale.

An unexplained "black light" event strips everyone, heroes and villains alike, of their super powers. Only those with technological advances (such as Steel and Booster Gold) and natural abilities (Batman, Nightwing, Green Arrow, etc.) are still in the game. But this story isn't really about them, it's about how those who once reigned like gods with powers beyond those of mortal men cope with the loss.

There are some surprises. Big guns like Superman and Wonder Woman don't handle their new situation well at all. Others, like the Flash, Supergirl and Aquaman, find new ways to express their idealistic need for heroism. Green Lantern becomes obsessed with the villain who defeated him when his ring first failed him. The Atom gambles everything to find a scientific cure. Guy Gardner looks for ways to capitalize on the story, while a few heroes settle gracefully into retirement. And criminal masterminds begin taking steps to corner the monopoly on technology.

Probably the most interesting chapter of this story is the "school" for former superfolk who have turned to the finest example of non-powered heroics for help. And Batman, with the aid of his associates Robin, Nightwing, Huntress and others, begin preparing them for crimefighting without the crutch of special powers. Meanwhile, Superman has been emotionally wrecked by his loss, and Wonder Woman is seeking something new -- romance, financial power, spirituality -- to fill the void.

This is a dramatic work, and the fates of a few of the remaining heroes suddenly facing crises without their usual superpowered backup is at times witty, at times very grim. Writer Doug Moench has created a variation on the DC universe which could easily have stood apart as an ongoing alternate series. Likewise, penciller Dave Ross, inker George Freeman and colorist Ben DiMagmaliw have provided excellent visuals to accompany the story. This three-part tale is one of the best recent releases on the graphic arts market.

[ by Tom Knapp ]