JLA: Foreign Bodies
Len Kaminski, writer,
Val Semeiks, artist
(DC Comics, 1999)

I really hate it when someone comes up with a really great story idea, then ruins it by rushing through the plot so fast that the characters -- as well as the readers -- never have a chance to come to grips with the plot.

In JLA: Foreign Bodies, ubervillain Kobra decides to take over the world by first taking out the Justice League. After drawing them into action with a series of mass madness in major cities, he first smites them with primal fears and then shuffles their minds and bodies with reckless abandon. The result is Batman's mind in Superman's body, and vice versa. Green Lantern finds himself unable to control the Martian Manhunter's shapeshifting abilities, the Flash can't figure out how to work Steel's armor, Steel can't get over being in white Green Lantern's body, Aquaman is distracted by the voluptuous Wonder Woman shell he finds himself inhabiting, and so on.

The story is rife with potential which unfortunately remains largely untapped. There are a few great moments as the heroes try to adapt to their new bodies and powers, but it zips too hastily towards resolution. For instance, there's a key point when Oracle asks Batman what it feels like to have Superman's powers at his disposal. At first he hedges, confessing "psychological discomfort from going maskless," but then he admits that the feeling is "exhilarating. Dangerous. The temptation to fall back on the powers instead of relying on skill, training and intellect could easily lead to an erosion of judgment." This is the sort of thing the book should have focused upon, but instead it's raised and dismissed in two panels.

And, sure enough, by the time the final battle approaches, Green Lantern has become an expert shapeshifter, Steel has mastered the GL ring and Aquaman has gotten over the impulse to run to the bathroom mirror at every opportunity. And, all too soon, the crisis is over and everyone is back where they belong.

Apart from wasted story potential, the book does feature some nice appearances by JLA second-stringers who pop in to help A-team members adapt to their new situations. The Huntress, Plastic Man and fallen angel Zauriel render aid and provide a strong backdrop for the befuddled heroes.

I generally hate to see stories reused and recycled, but I hope to see this one picked up and expanded by someone willing to go the extra mile and truly explore the possibilities. As it is, Foreign Bodies is over too soon, leaving readers unsatisfied.

[ by Tom Knapp ]

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