“A Midsummer’s Nightmare” — Justice League

[amtap book:isbn=156389338X]

All across the world, peo­ple are devel­op­ing super-pow­ers, and the estab­lished super-pow­ered beings are nowhere to be found. Called “sparks” and the phe­nom­e­non “spark­ing”, it is turn­ing the world into a super bat­tle­ground as gangs of sparks bat­tle for turf. Its a dream of some, of hav­ing super-pow­ers, that is turn­ing into a night­mare for the entire world.

Descrip­tion: Per­ry White, the edi­tor of the Dai­ly Plan­et, has his best reporter, Clark Kent (Super­man), assigned to the sto­ry, but even Kent is hav­ing trou­ble with it: for some rea­son, he is feel­ing out of sorts, dis­as­so­ci­at­ed with him­self. He’s not alone: comics artist Kyle Rayn­er (Kyle Rayn­er) is behind on his art­work assign­ments, his imag­i­na­tion fail­ing him; stu­dent Wal­ly West (Wal­ly West) is habit­u­al­ly late for class; cor­po­rate suit Adam Cur­ry (Aqua­man) feels he does­n’t belong as vice-pres­i­dent of a com­pa­ny; and instruc­tor Diana Prince (Won­der Woman) sur­pris­es her­self when one of her stu­dents sud­den­ly “sparks” and Diana equal­ly as sud­den­ly dis­plays super-strength in defend­ing the oth­er stu­dents from her “spark” stu­den­t’s acci­den­tal rampage.

But the worst off is Bruce Wayne (Bat­man): he knows some­thing is wrong, ter­ri­bly wrong, espe­cial­ly when his par­ents show up, trig­ger­ing dread images of the dark alley in which his par­ents were bru­tal­ly mur­dered. He knows that he is liv­ing a lie but he needs some­thing to help him break out of it. Some­thing, or some­one, and that some­one is Super­man, hav­ing bro­ken out of his own night­mare at the sight of the globe atop the Dai­ly Plan­et build­ing destroyed, trig­ger­ing his own mem­o­ries of his past. Togeth­er they seek out their fel­low Jus­tice League mem­bers. Won­der Woman and Aqua­man are easy to locate, but before any more can be found, a cri­sis aris­es need­ing the pow­er of the short-hand­ed team to con­front, a cri­sis that four are ill-suit­ed to face.

But not six: Green Lantern and the Flash have inde­pen­dent­ly dis­cov­ered them­selves, and come to aid of their fel­low Lea­guers, sur­pris­ing them. That leaves on the last mem­ber of the Jus­tice League, the Mar­t­ian Man­hunter: he’s trapped in his own dream of life back on Mars, with a fam­i­ly, but that dream is rude­ly shattered.

Togeth­er, the ques­tion is, what is going on? The whole prob­lem seems like a dream turned night­mare, and, to the Jus­tice League, only one per­son could do such a thing: Doc­tor Des­tiny, one of the Jus­tice League’s old­est oppo­nents, capa­ble of turn­ing dreams into real­i­ty and vice ver­sa. But why would he let the sev­en mem­bers of the Jus­tice League awak­en from their dream, and why was he leav­ing hints about his where­abouts in their minds?

When the Jus­tice League final­ly locates Doc­tor Des­tiny, they dis­cov­er that the true author of this night­mare is Know-Man, a pre­his­toric man trans­formed by a Con­troller into a being des­tined to become a pow­er­ful anti-war weapon. Over the cen­turies and mil­len­ni­um, Know-Man became con­vinced that a poten­tial threat faced the entire world, one that only a plan­et full of super-pow­ered beings could face and defeat. This, then was his solu­tion: using Doc­tor Des­tiny’s dream pow­ers to make Know-Man’s dream a real­i­ty. But a plan­et where every­one pos­sessed super-pow­ers with­out the train­ing or ethics to use them prop­er­ly is a dream that soon turned into a nightmare.

And that night­mare reach­es out to encom­pass the Jus­tice League, sev­er­ing them from their con­nec­tions to the peo­ple around them. Each is trapped in their own night­mare of iso­la­tion, except for the Mar­t­ian Man­hunter, who was already iso­lat­ed: Doc­tor Des­tiny, before he fades away like a dream upon awak­en­ing, releas­es the Man­hunter, who uses his telepa­thy and con­nec­tion to the oth­ers to free them. All togeth­er again, they man­age to restore the world to its nor­mal state. Know-Man leaves, being so pow­er­ful that even the com­bined might of the Jus­tice League can­not stop him, inform­ing them that they just doomed their world and it would up to them to pro­tect it when the time comes.

Com­men­tary: In a world where super­heroes exist, it would be nat­ur­al dream of many to have such pow­ers them­selves. But hav­ing super­pow­ers is not some­thing to be tak­en light­ly, espe­cial­ly here, where peo­ple are grant­ed them almost ran­dom­ly. Most, it seems, suc­cumb to their baser desires and use them for their own self-inter­est, fight­ing and rob­bing, instead of using them hero­ical­ly or even just casu­al­ly. Very few, with only one or two excep­tions not­ed, are will­ing to use them as true heroes.

That is because there is a com­mon theme among most heroes, in that they received or were led to obtain their pow­ers through some sac­ri­fice or tri­al that grounds them and grants them a sense of respon­si­bil­i­ty in using them. In that, Know-Man was wrong in try­ing to grant super­pow­ers to every­one with­out a cor­re­spond­ing self-lim­i­ta­tion on their use, so in try­ing to save the world, he was doom­ing it to a peri­od of chaos from which the most like­ly result would be a frag­ment­ed dic­ta­tor­ship run by the most pow­er­ful beings, where those who still had not devel­oped super-pow­ers, or those with lim­it­ed super-pow­ers, would be the slaves, unless Know-Man would step in as over­all dic­ta­tor of the world, some­thing that would nat­u­ral­ly fol­low from his present actions. Either result would, in effect, ‘destroy the vil­lage in order to save it.’

One more thing: one won­ders what Dream of the End­less would be think­ing of peo­ple using the pow­er of dreams to recre­ate real­i­ty: isn’t that one of things he is sup­posed to con­trol? He is a part of the DC super­hero uni­verse, as seen in anoth­er JLA storyline.

His­to­ry: The sto­ry col­lec­tion was orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished as a lim­it­ed series as “Jus­tice League — A Mid­sum­mer’s Night­mare” and was writ­ten by promi­nent comics writ­ers Mark Waid and Fabi­an Nicieza, with a fore­word by Grant Morrison.

Note: The glob­al threat that would require a plan­et-wide col­lec­tion of super­heroes would even­tu­al­ly be deter­mined an ancient dooms­day machine named Maged­don, a threat so vast that it took an army of super-pow­ered indi­vid­u­als to com­bat it. Maged­don was cre­at­ed by writ­ers Grant Mor­ri­son and Howard Porter in the World War III sto­ry. The Jus­tice League would use an adap­ta­tion of the Ama­zon­ian Pur­ple Ray, access­ing the bio­log­i­cal mor­phogenic field that unites all life on the plan­et to allow every human to expe­ri­ence a tem­po­rary evo­lu­tion­ary advance, grant­i­ng them super-pow­ers, there­by cre­at­ing the plan­et full of super-pow­ered beings Know-Man want­ed to cre­ate himself.

Rec­om­men­da­tion: Def­i­nite­ly rec­om­mend­ed. This sto­ry is what the revamped Jus­tice League is all about, dis­cov­er­ing the abil­i­ty to work togeth­er as a team (even the noto­ri­ous­ly team-denial­ist Bat­man) despite their var­ied per­son­al­i­ties, lev­el of expe­ri­ence and abil­i­ties. Actu­al­ly, it is a very well-struc­tured team that cov­er most of the wide range of super­hero abil­i­ties. There are four strong war­rior heroes (Super­man, Won­der Woman, Aqua­man and the Mar­t­ian Man­hunter), a skills-based, gad­get  hero (Bat­man), ranged heroes (Super­man, Bat­man, Won­der Woman, Mar­t­ian Man­hunter, Green Lantern), mar­tial heroes (Bat­man and Won­der Woman), psy­chic heroes (Mar­t­ian Man­hunter, Aqua­man and Won­der Woman), a speed­ster hero (Flash) and what I call wild-card heroes (Bat­man, Green Lantern) that do things out­side the nor­mal range of hero­ic abilities.

One of the most inter­est­ing group dynam­ics is Flash and Green Lantern. Green Lantern (Kyle Raynor) is the rook­ie here, paired with the vet­er­an Flash (Wal­ly West) by age even though the Flash has been a hero for much of his teenaged life and all of his adult life. They seem to enjoy the dis­parag­ing ban­ter between them in this book.

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