[Jason Powell, in his final epilogue to his HUGE look at every issue of Claremont's initial X-Men run. This has been a tremendous ride. Thanks for everything Jason. And of course you are always welcome to come back and write about whatever you want, whenever you want.]
This one is from 2003, I believe. Claremont was well past the peak of his popularity, and I’m sure one could make a strong case that his writing skills had atrophied by this point as well.
I don’t care – I love these comics.
The premise here: A Lovecraftian race of otherworldly demons is attempting to make an incursion into our world, at a dimensional junction point located – conveniently – in the same physical space as a resort where Wally “Flash” West and Kyle “Green Lantern” Rainer are vacationing. (This trope is a Claremont favorite, of course. See: The N’Garai, Fall of the Mutants, Inferno, Star Trek: Debt of Honor, etc. ) (Alan Moore, an avowed Lovecraft devotee, also uses this one a lot.)
When it becomes clear to Wally and Kyle that something’s amiss here, they summon Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter and Plastic Man to help out. And once again – just as with Renegade in “Aliens/Predator” and Huntsman in “WildCATs” – Claremont seems to be using this story as a pilot for his own original superhero. This time it’s a female cop – half-Black, half-Native American – whose tribal ancestors fought the Lovecraftian demons several generations back. So yeah, Claremont is doing the “magical Indian” cliché again. Not very politically correct, but … well, look, I happen to have dated a Native American for years, and hell I’ll just say it: they ARE pretty darn magical.
At six issues, the story is maybe a little long given the straightforward nature of the premise. As the simplistic title suggests, this is just the JLA fighting monsters for six issues. Still, I very much like how Claremont uses his large page-count: He demonstrates a really shrewd understanding of the iconic DC characters, and he fills this series with truly charming character bits. Oh, and since I’ve gone to such pains to suggest that Grant Morrison did absolutely nothing “new” on New X-Men, that it was all just a recycling of Claremont … it’s only fair to concede here that Claremont’s JLA characterization in “Scary Monsters” has got to have been influenced here by Morrison’s revisionary take.
Claremont’s vision of the Superman/Batman relationship I find particularly convincing. As someone who has come to hate the whole “Batman is an ass-kicking genius, and Superman is a hick and a wimp” line of thought (thanks a lot, Frank Miller), I love Claremont’s intelligent, articulate Superman. Clark and Bruce are intellectual equals in this story – and they both know it -- yet each is able to offer something unique to the situation at hand. (Unfortunately I don’t have the issues in front of me, else I’d quote some dialogue from my favorite Batman/Superman scene in the series.)
The other characters are done just as well by Claremont. This is a superhero writer who knows how to craft a story so that each member of the team has something significant to contribute, and at his best he comes up with some delightfully original stuff. Claremont’s use of Plastic Man at one point is hilariously novel, and the use of the Martian Manhunter – not only his powers, but his alien origin – is marvelously creative.
No hidden Easter eggs here for X-Men fans, although there is a more blatant nod to Claremont’s roots: At one point, during a very inventive use of The Flash, Wally comments that what he’s doing is straight out of “Lee and Kirby.” I love a reference to the founding fathers of the Marvel Universe, right smack in the middle of a story starring DC’s biggest icons. Nice one, Chris.
Despite leaving matters perhaps a bit too open-ended in order to set up a solo series for his new super-heroine (which he must’ve known was unlikely to ever see fruition), the story nonetheless ends extremely satisfyingly, with a neat twist that even explains a slight inconsistency in the nature of the Martian Manhunter. (Not being a DC fan, I have no idea if Claremont’s take on DC’s martians accords with canon, but personally I thought it was fantastic.)
Although “Scary Monsters” was published in the era of TPBs, I guess the miniseries didn’t sell well enough to warrant a collected edition. That makes this a fairly obscure little gem, and one I’d heartily recommend. The individual issues are worth picking up anyway, just for the awesome covers, all six of which are drawn beautifully by Art Adams. God, it would have been great if Adams could’ve been convinced to do the interiors as well … !
And so ends my little post-1991 Claremont examination.
I think I have now said all I can say about Claremont’s work. And about comics in general, to be quite honest. With this, I’m hanging up my comics-blogger hat. Thanks for reading, guys!
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