JLA, vol. 7: Tower of Babel
Collects: JLA #42-46, JLA Secret Files #3, JLA 80-Page Giant #1
Writer: Mark Waid
Artists: Howard Porter and Drew Geraci
By Doran Murphy
Batman is a campy character. I hope this isn't news to anyone. He's prepared for just about anyone, any contingency, always, all the time. It's just who he is. So, I imagine it does not come as a shock to many of you that he's got backup measures to take out everyone in the Justice League — should he be forced to. It might not come as a shock to you, but it sure as hell did come as quite a shock to the JLA once Ra's Al Ghul discovered Batman's emergency back up plans, and put them to use to take the JLA out of action, so Al Ghul could distract the JLA (including Batman) while he pared the human population down to a manageable size.
And that's what JLA: Tower of Babel is all about. Batman, being the mastermind that he is, has constructed methods to take out the JLA in a really, really short amount of time, and take them out for good. He had plans (and Al Ghul implements these) to make J'onn J'onnz the Martian Manhunter turn into a human torch — which is doubly fearsome when you consider his greatest weakness is fire. Aquaman is crippled by a fear of water — which he needs to survive. Wonder Woman is subdued by making her imagine she is in a fight to the death with an equal — until her heart gives out due to exertion. Plastic Man is frozen then smashed. The Flash is given epileptic seizures — that carry on at light speed. The Green Lantern is put into a hypnotic state and told he's blind — which his ring makes so. What's the Green Lantern (and graphic artist Kyle Rayner) if he's blind? Worthless. Finally, a Kryptonite isotope is dropped in front of Superman. It won't kill him, but it will hurt him — badly.
Anyway, with the pesky JLA out of the way, the door is wide open for Al Ghul to bring his latest plan into play — a new Tower of Babel. What it does is broadcast some sound waves into the language center of the human brain, crippling it. People can speak their native tongue, but can't understand it when it's spoken to them. Same goes for writing. The stock market crashes, ambulance drivers can't read signs, you know how it is. Batman has to round up the remaining (and super pissed) members of the JLA to outsmart his own plans and stop Al Ghul. Oh, and Al Ghul? He's got Mr. and Mrs. Wayne's bodies above his Lazarus pits, and is threatening to drop them in, and bring them back to life — which is somehow bad. Don't ask me why.
But the point at hand — that Batman would have these plans (and keep them secret) causes quite a stir (and imaginably so) with the Justice League. Not only that, but it resonates with Oracle, Robin and Nightwing. How can they work with someone who would have backup plans to take them out? Personally, I'm going to have to side with Batman on this one, as the amount of times Leaguers have turned (or been forced to turn) on the JLA is rather high. I mean, if Batman had this plan years ago, there'd be no worries about Parallax or Agamenno — nothing like that. It's still a frightening look into the mind and preparedness of the Batman, though.
The artwork here is about the usual. Nothing to write home about. There's a noticeable lack of full page, dramatic spreads that pop up in issues like this. I really like those, but I guess I'll do without them, as there was a lot of story to tell here. A lot of dialogue and inner monologues going on, that didn't really allow for that type of drawings. Oh well.
Overall, an awesome story idea that could have used some tinkering to make it stronger. Brilliant idea, slightly sloppy execution, and it definitely could have played out a lot better. Not that it's a bad story; it's just not an A+ story. I'd give it about a B. So, that means I'd recommend reading it, just don't pay too much for it.