JLA: A League of One
Writer: Christopher Moeller
Artist: Christopher Moeller
By Doran Murphy
A League of their Own is a movie about girls playing baseball. I think it had Kevin Costner in it. You know what it didn't have? Batman. Already you know JLA: A League of One is better than the baseball movie from the mid 90s. Much like the film that must not be named, focuses primarily on those bearing Y chromosomes. Given that the JLA has two women in its roll call, that narrows the scope of who could be the focus dramatically. If I told you she was a founding member of the JLA, you cross Helena Betinelli off the list of candidates, and now you know JLA: A League of One is a book focusing on the often underestimated Wonder Woman.
The book kicks off, oddly enough, in 1348. A topsy-turvy time of war, famine and disease, it is an important time for one Drakul Karfang. What you don't know about our pal Drakul is that she is very, very old. She's the last line of ancient Queens of yore; her kind being hunted to extinction for hundreds of years. Oh yeah, she's also a huge dragon who spits fire that can turn people and other creatures into her minions. The armies of men have pursued her near mountains, and have her cornered. There, she is pierced, but manages to fly away, supposedly to die.
The book then switches to present day. Wonder Woman is enjoying some time off, kicking it old school, as superheroes do, when she's visited by her pals — a Wood Nymph named Althea and a Water Nymph named Zoe. Turns out, there's going to be a prophecy at Delphi that evening, and it'd be a cool idea to check it out. So, Diana wanders over to Greece to hear the Oracle at Delphi where she is cautioned not to hear it — for it is about her. It turns out that your buddy and mine, Drakul Karfang is decidedly not dead and is planning to have a barbecue in Switzerland that night. The prophecy says that anyone who fights the Dragon Queen from the JLA will succeed. The problem here is that the prophecy also says that anyone who fights the big lizard dies. The hitch here is that the Oracle (not to be confused with Batman's Oracle) is never wrong.
So, Diana hatches a devious plan to spare her friends — as she can take the dragon by herself, according to the prophecy — and be the only one to die. Unfortunately, they would follow her to the grave; and she knows that. So, Wonder Woman sets about disabling the Justice League to save their lives. Those she can't take out by physical prowess, she outsmarts. Then it's off to fight the Dragon Queen. Along the way, she gets some help from her pals Zoe and Althea, and a Gnome named Elmen. (Evidently, Gnomes are the traditional servitors of Dragons — once they have been transformed by dragon fire.)
The story of JLA: A League of Oneis no less believable than any other comic book story, but it blends quite a bit of the Fantasy genre (i.e. Lord of the Rings) with the traditional comic book lore. It also defines Wonder Woman as one of the most powerful characters in the JLA, in pure power and strength of will — possibly only secondary to Superman in both areas. After totaling the JLA, she still has the ability to go after a dragon, which will presumably kill her.
The art in JLA: A League of One is really pretty incredible. Like Alex Ross' work, it's all painted. I didn't think it was possible, but Christopher Moeller's work with paint here (he handled everything in the book, including writing it) is second to none — not even the venerable Alex Ross. There's a small picture of Superman on the verge of tears that is honestly the best picture I have ever seen of him. There's also a picture of Wonder Woman, standing in fire on the inside cover that is incredible. Artistically, this is really, really super-awesome to the Nth power.
The artwork alone is enough to justify the purchase of JLA: A League of One. Fortunately, it is coupled with a winning story. Possibly one of my favorite comic book stories, in fact. So, best art ever and a really good story? This one's a keeper.