In the world of comic books, there are two pantheons of super hero characters, the Marvel Universe which features characters like The Hulk, Spider-Man, and The X-Men, while the DC Universe has been home to Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman since the late 30s. Each family of heroes existed in their own reality, so in the 70s when the two companies teamed up and gave us Superman vs. Spider-Man, it was unheard of. Through the years, there have been occasional cross-company team ups, but they were often bizarre match-ups like Batman vs. The Hulk. Aside from an excellent X-Men vs. Teen Titans book in the 80s, (which also featured Dark Phoenix and Darkseid), most of the reality bending pairings have been pretty underwhelming.
In 1982, work began on a series that would pair the company's 2 greatest super-teams, The Justice League of America and The Avengers in a giant battle. Unfortunately, things didn't work out, and despite several pages of artwork that were already completed by George Perez, the book never came to fruition.
20 years later though, the creative and red tape issues have been worked out, giving us a remarkable book by Kurt Busiek and the original intended artist Perez that kicks off with the 1st issue in a spectacular fashion.
The Marvel and DC Universes are bleeding in to each other causing tremendous confusion and chaos in both. Skrulls attack Hawkman's homeworld Thanagar, Lobo makes easy work of The Imperial Guard, and 80s X-Men menace The Brood give DC's Mongul a handful of trouble. As the heroes are instructed to obtain cosmic artifacts to prevent total destruction, they're made to be unwitting pawns against each other.
The heroes end up encountering menaces from the opposing universe in glorious fashion. I nearly cheered out loud to see one of my favorite obscure marvel monsters, Fin Fang Foom show up with some other Kirby classics to try and squash The Justice League.
Its also a great opportunity to compare the ways heroes exist and are perceived in their respective universes. The Justice League is shocked when they see the anti-mutant hatred on Marvel's earth, while Plastic-Man (who's been wonderfully characterized as of late) though already jaded by seeing vigilante style justice from Batman, is just blown away when he sees The Punisher gunning down drug dealers.
Meanwhile, as the panels above show, The Marvel characters get their minds blown in the DC Universe when they encounter a world that actually embraces their heroes and treats them like kings. To the point where Captain America is convinced they are "fascist overlords" who are "demanding the public's adoration instead of protecting its freedoms!" It provides for a great juxtaposition of the two company's hero theology.
Of course the action does not disappoint. Perez, who's made a name for himself drawing epic cosmic confrontations featuring hundreds of characters since DC's Crisis On Infinite Earths is in great form, while Busiek's writing gets things moving quickly, and doesn't disappoint with the action. As this closing panel shows, the prerequisite ass-kicking between the two teams starts off with a bang, or a KRAK, if you will, setting up for a battle in the second issue with high expectations.
Many of these characters have fought before in very quick skirmishes in the mostly awful Marvel vs. DC book a few years back, but this one appears to be putting things out there with a bit more style and quality. Will Batman destroy Captain America? How much will Superman's powers matter when fighting a Thunder God. And more importantly, why is Aqua-Man even here?
Priced at $4.95, I cried inside remembering the days when I could have bought 20 comic books for that price, but I really feel that I've got my money's worth, and for the first time in a long while, I'm actually looking forward to the next issue of a comic. If you haven't picked up a comic in a while, give this one a try. Whether its good writing, good art, or just great action from heroes you grew up loving, you're bound to find something worthwhile here.
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