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Sunday, May 07, 2023 

A fluff-coated take on a late 90s JLA tale

The Valdosta Daily Times recently wrote a fluff-coated view of Mark Waid's JLA story "Tower of Babel" from the late 90s, which, after all these years, for certain reasons, I can't consider a great story:
“JLA: The Tower of Babel” is one of the earliest looks at Batman’s contingency plans to stop each of his fellow Justice League of America colleagues.

If Superman goes berserk or is absolutely corrupted by his absolute power, Batman has a plan ready to stop him. Same with Aquaman, Plastic Man, the Flash, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, etc.

It’s one thing to have these plans but it’s something else entirely if someone steals those plans and uses them against the JLA. and if the JLA doesn’t know about the plans until the plans are being used against them.

That’s the prime premise behind “The Tower of Babel.”
On its own, and under better circumstances, this might've been an interesting premise, but seeing how it all built on a status quo where Hal Jordan was kicked to the curb circa Emerald Twilight a number of years prior for the sake of a cypher in the form of Kyle Rayner, and especially because of how this story's ideas were apparently exploited for later crossovers like Infinite Crisis, that's why I find it so discouraging in hindsight. Besides, it also builds on the whole notion Batman's hysterical and distrustful of almost everybody, a premise that began as early as Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns, and that didn't help in the long run either.
A super villain uses these plans to implement the plan of reducing the world’s languages to gibberish. What happens when the world can’t communicate and the JLA feels betrayed by one of its own?

Though several years old, this is still a great tale by writer Mark Waid and artist Howard Porter.
I'm not sure "several" is the fitting description, since it was written nearly a quarter century ago. I do wonder though, what PC advocates might think of a tale that could preface their whole shoddy idea of "pronoun propaganda"? That's what the allusion to gibberish in this tale might suggest, even if it's only a vague one. Come to think of it, would even a leftist like Waid be willing to stand by this story if anybody said it were that kind of metaphor? Good question. Even if it were such a thing though, it doesn't excuse the questionable taste the tale's written in, based on how it built on some of the ingredients that served to taint Batman's legacy since the late 80s-early 90s, and creating a situation where the JLA could wind up furious with the Masked Manhunter for secretly planning behind their backs is also dismaying. If such a scenario had taken place in the Avengers, that too would've been tasteless, as it was when Brian Bendis turned Scarlet Witch into a cheap scapegoat, and Identity Crisis did the same with Jean Loring.

And, just in case it matters, whatever one thinks of an old JLA story like this, is there anything here that couldn't have been done with Hal Jordan? The simple answer is "no". The editorial mandate that kept Hal in the fantasy afterlife for a decade at the time was very sad indeed.

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  • From Jerusalem, Israel
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