JLA: Golden Perfect
by Kelly Jones, Tom
Mahnke, Tom Nguyen
(DC Comics, 2003)

Joe Kelly's mystically dense Golden Perfect story arc packs an awful lot into three parts. This is one of those graphic novels that takes more than one read to fully absorb the avalanche of folklorish fantasies and philosophies concerning our relationship to truth, the foundation of which has been compromised in this particular JLA adventure. It's writing that's worthy of Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman, and one of the best JLA adventures ever written.

The spotlight is on Wonder Woman in this adventure as she journeys with the JLA to the mythical city of Jarhanpur to rescue a kidnapped child. But it's no ordinary kidnapping case: the boy is a sort of Dalai Lama-ish type holy person whose presence is in Jarhanpur to ensure that timeless jewel of a city's ongoing perfection. The Rama Khan, a being of incredible power, arrives on a glass tower erupting from the middle of the earth, to inform the League that Jarhanpur is a place outside the ordinary rules of time, and will continue to remain a paradise free of war, crime, want, pollution, et al, as long as there is a new Rama Khan every few centuries or so. Unable to accept the child's being torn from his mother, WW attempts to use her lasso against Rama Khan in order to reveal the truth to her unwilling teammates. The unbreakable lasso actually breaks, creating havoc worldwide as truth is turned upside down and fables and wives' tales come to life.

As her teammates try to hold down the fort, Diana seeks out the Fates in order to blow the lid off Rama Khan's lies once and for all. Instead she finds the old goddesses rent apart, the fabric of their reality torn asunder. Restoring the Fates to a semblance of power, she is informed that this catastrophe is her own making: her refusal to accept the truth corrupted and destroyed the lasso. Truth is not the absolute that she believes it to be.

As the League battles with a truth become wildly protean, Diana returns to Jarhanpur to plead with Rama Khan to release the world from the web of lies that's strangling the life out of it. He refuses. She turns to an outside source for help: the land itself, from whom she begs forgiveness and asks for a second chance.

The land agrees and the citizens of Jarhanpur forgive Wonder Woman, but Rama Khan does not. In the end it's his belief that undoes everything.

This story can be incredibly confusing but it's well worth the read. For one thing it's an excellent character study of Wonder Woman, who seems to have a special place in writer Joe Kelly's heart. Kelly skillfully toys with our normal assumptions about Diana's purity as the representative of truth, showing that her black-and-white perspective may not always necessarily be the truth, which is not an absolute. It is possible for a hero to betray her own ideals if she follows the rules too closely. It shows both great understanding and empathy for the character, who never comes across as wrong-headed or stubborn, merely dedicated to her job. Her fierce dedication to the truth is actually quite admirable, and her need to always do the right thing does guide her toward a better truth in the end.

The artwork is exhilarating, tackling huge subjects such as ships falling off the end of the world and the coming to life of all the old myths and fables with such skill that it's a visual feast for the eyes, actually adding to Kelly's skillful character explorations with stunning depictions of the Leaguers as they are seen by the world at large. The action shots are simply fantastic. The JLA is at its best in the talented hands of Joe Kelly and artists Mahnke and Nguyen.

- Rambles
written by Mary Harvey
published 15 March 2003

Buy it from Amazon.com.