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Mad Man 1: You say mall, I say, “Maul!”
Mad Man 2: That joke would work a lot better if you had a word balloon over your head when you said it.
Synopsis "The City of Tomorrow"
The City of the Future is a brand new high-tech, eco-friendly metropolis built under a protective dome in the deserts of Arabian Peninsula. It has taken seven-years to build and has been partly designed by Waynetech’s Lucius Fox. Members of the Justice League and The Ninety-Nine superhero teams address the assembled press telling them how the City matches their own multi-cultural endeavourers. A man called Doctor Chou shakes hands with Superman, but is pushed away by the Ninety-Nine when they recognise him as a representative of Rughal, a man sworn to destroy them. Suddenly the crowd erupts into a senseless riot and the superheroes from both teams wade in to stop the spontaneous and unexplained violence.
John Weller, a member of the 99 called Darr, has returned to his home town of St. Louis. He is in possession of a Noor Stone that gives him the ability to broadcast waves of pain and he wants time to reconsider his future. However, he ambushed by members of the New Madmen and his power triggers uncontrollably. Batman dispatches a Justice League team to the site and they assume that Weller is part of the super villain attack. It is only after they’ve brought Weller back to the Hall of Justice that they recognise him as one of the 99. The JLA then take him to the 99′s headquarters in Spain, but both teams are at a loss to explain why Weller’s power is flaring uncontrollably. The Atom shrinks down to take a closer look.
Archaeologist Carter Hall is on a field trip to the Amazon Basin when he witnesses a massive uplift of a new rocky plateau and changes into his Hawkman costume to investigate. Parallel seismic activity rocks the City of the Future. The three 99 members there link their powers to help the injured, but the crowd remain inexplicably hostile to anybody that would try to help them. Superman is also out of character and stands-by passively bemoaning the nature of humanity. Back in the Amazon, Hawkman reaches the source of the earthquakes and meets another trio from the 99 who tell him that the quakes are being caused by a newly activated Noor Stone.
The 99 are an easy group to get your head around when you realise that they are the International X-Men (Razim is Professor X, Rughal is Magneto, etc) crossed with whatever gotta-collect-them-all fad is fashionable at the moment (the Noor Stones). My comment about the X-Men isn’t too surprising in hindsight as most of the 99′s adventures have been co-written by Fabian Nicieza who worked on the 1990s X-Men.
I can understand how these characters would be really impressive if you’ve never seen a superhero that looked like you, but measured against standard western superheroes? Well, they ain’t half bad, but it’s hard to tell from this issue as almost nobody gets enough screen time to judged properly. Dan @ IGN hammers the comic for this,
JLA/The 99 #1 is a haphazard, slapped together comic in which the Teschkeel Comics super-team and its characters are barely introduced, let alone placed into a coherent, captivating story.
And he’s not entirely wrong. The characters are undeveloped and the sheer number of them jostling for screen time leaves little room for any real characterisation. As Doug@CBR says this book “leaves me wanting more information” about the 99 and that’s because it supplies so little information about them upfront. To be fair this is no different than something like the DC Vs. Marvel crossovers.
This is the JLA and 99′s first team-up yet it is presented as if they’ve always been resident on the same Earth (no parallel world’s plot device here). That strains the credibility of the story a bit as they bump into each other at every single twist and turn. I’m also not entirely sure if this is meant to be in JLA continuity as the team is completely different, however, there are instances (Weller’s condition) which implies that this is part of the 99′s continuity or at least set at a specific juncture during their adventures. Many people have clamoured for this version of the JLA and this may be the only place they get to see them.
Ralph’s review @ Superman Homepage cuts to the core of this series. For JLA readers this is just another inter-company crossover and not a particularly good one at that, but for the younger audience of the 99 comics this will be their first encounter with such a thing. This series was mentioned in Naif Al-Mutawa’s TED Talk and maybe its more important for what it represents – the cross-over of the premier Islamic superheroes with the most American of superheroes – more than what it actually is.
|Reviews Portal||Comic Book Resources||Doug Zawisza||2.5/5|
|Reviews Portal||IGN||Dan Philips||5/10|
|Community Reviews||Comics Vine User Reviews||Av. of 2 reviews||1.75/5|
|Community Reviews||iFanboy||42 Pulls||2.7/5|
|Character Site||Superman Homepage||Ralph Silver||3 (story) & 2 (art)/5|
|Reviews Blog||Comic Book Bin||Koppy McFad||6.5/10|
|Character Site||Captain's Justice League Homepage||Jason Kirk||2.5/5|
Page 1 – The Empty Quarter is a name given to the vast desert that sits between Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the south of the Arabian Peninsula. As the name suggests it is virtually impassable nowadays, but it does overlay one of the richest oil reserves in the world.
The idea of the City of the Future as a place where there is a large influx of migrants from many different countries to the Middle East has a parallel with Dubai (part of the UAE) where they have created an entirely new city out of the desert. Dubai Architecture has a fun gallery called “Dubai is Nuts” show casing their new city – at one point they had 25% of the worlds cranes and there were more foreign construction workers in the country than the native population.
There are three corporations that get name checked on this opening page – WayneTech, The 99 Steps Foundation, and Mamluk International. WayneTech is the high-technology company owned by the Batman in his secret identity as Bruce Wayne. The 99 Steps Foundation is run by Dr Ramzi Razem and is the umbrella organisation behind The 99 superhero team. Mamluk International is a Hong Kong based conglomerate owned by Rughal.
Pages 2-3 - This is, I believe, the first appearance of the redesigned Wonder Woman outside of her own series. In the Wonder Woman comic the Olympian Gods (presumably) have rewritten Diana’s history so that Paradise Island was destroyed while she was still a child. The surviving Amazons smuggled Diana to Man’s World where she was raised in secret. She is now on a quest to discover who is hunting the surviving Amazons. The conversation between Wonder Woman and Superman shows that in her new reality she knows his secret identity as Daily Planet reporter Clark Kent.
Dr Ramzi is an internationally recognised philanthropist and businessman. His public goal was the promotion of world peace, but he secretly believed that peace would only be attainable if the Noor Stones could be found and uses to elevate humanity. The rediscovery by archaeologists of the Fortress in Spain meant that the Noor Stones (see commentary) must also still exist so Ramzi went public with his beliefs.
The first evidence for the survival of the Stones presented itself when a young Saudi man called Nawaf Al-Bilali was forced across a mine field by criminals. An exploding mine shattered a Noor Stone that the youth was unwittingly carrying and embedded its fragments within his skin. The stone gave him vast superstrength and turned his body into an almost uncontrollable hulk. Ramzi convinced the Saudi’s to leave the boy in his care and transferred him to Paris where they removed enough of the fragments to give Nawaf control over his abilities. Ramzi then named him Jabbar, the first of his 99.
The number of Noor Stones is not arbitrary. In Islamic mysticism God has 99 names – perhaps names isn’t the right word, “attributes” or “qualities” would be a better description. Each of the Noor Stones embodies one of those attributes and thus gives a name to its possessor. Dr Ramzi is the gentleman in the suit. Stood behind him are Jabbar (mentioned above), Noora (Dana Ibrahim of the UAE, her Noor Stone gives her the ability to manipulate light and to see the truth, i.e. though deceptions and illusions), and the younger girl is Samor (Aisha Mokhtar, she has the power to project a Sue Storm style force field). Other members of the 99 are shown in the computer screen: (starting top left, circling to the right) Darr, Fattah, Widad, Rafie, masked woman, Hadya, and Jami.
Page 4-5 - Doctor Albert Chou of Mamluk International. Superman shakes hands with Chou – this’ll be important later. The Mamluk group is important in the 99′s stories as its a company owned by Rughal, the immortal that is seeking the Noor Stones.
The Justice League – top line – l-to-r: John Stewart fighting the Construct, Batman twice. Middle – Green Lantern John Stewart, the Flash, the Martian Manhunter, Vixen, Superman, the Hall of Justice. Bottom line: Atom, Firestorm, Aquaman.
Page 6 - Ramzi doesn’t shake hands with Chou.
Page 7 - Lucius Fox the CEO of WayneTech. He is the person who does all the day-to-day business work that allows Bruce Wayne to concentrate his time on being the Batman. You may recognise him as the character played by Morgan Freeman in the recent Batman films.
Page 8 - Chou takes off a flesh coloured glove – there was something on that he wanted to transfer to Superman and Ramzi, but only Superman shook his hand.
Page 9 - Darr is John Weller. He’s American, the victim of a drink driving accident that left him paralysed from the waist down. He visited a new age healer to help his depression and was given a stone to aid his meditation. You’ve guessed it, the stone was a Noor Stone, and John gained the power to project his pain outwards at other people as a “painwave.”
Page 10 - The Madmen were a gang of criminals who used outlandish matching costumes and acrobatics to confuse their foes. They originally fought the second Blue Beetle (Ted Kord). These are New Madmen and appear to be more than simple thugs.
Page 14 – The line-up of this Justice League is something of a greatest hits version and not the current version. In fact the current Justice League – Batman (Dick Grayson), Jesse Quick, Jade, Starman, Congo Bill, and Supergirl don’t appear at all in this first chapter. Doctor Light has new current costume so this takes place after Justice League of America (vol 2.) #41. A Batman is shown in the Watchtower, but he isn’t identified as Bruce Wayne or Dick Grayson. It would make sense for him to be Bruce Wayne – not a current JLA member – as Wayne is heavily mentioned in the opening pages.
Page 15 – St Roch is Hawkman’s home town and Hawkman is Carter Hall. The quip about thousands of years is because Hawkman is an Ancient Egyptian Prince who has been reincarnated generation-after-generation down to the present day. It would be quite significant if Carter Hall has found evidence of the Maya in the Amazon. The Maya were a north Central American (Mexico and its immediate southern neighbours) people whereas the Amazon Basin is in South America.
Page 16 - The Justice League have two headquarters, the Hall of Justice in Washington D.C. which is based on the old Super Friends headquarters, and the Watchtower space station which is based on the League’s headquarters in the Justice League Unlimited cartoon.
Page 18 – Triad Link – A key aim of the 99 comic book is to promote cooperation so the characters are shown with the ability to combine their powers in groups of three to produce results that are greater than any one of them alone would be capable of.
Page 21 - Jami is Miklos Szekelhydi from Hungry. He was an insular child-genius whose abilities were boosted to a superhuman level by the family locket he unwittingly wore (yeah, it was a Noor Stone). He can visualise the blue prints of any device he looks at and can assemble advance machinery by sheer effort of will. Bari is Haroun Abrens from South Africa. He discovered a Noor Stone whilst digging his sisters grave and used it to heal his sick mother. The stone accentuates his ability to diagnose disease and can even heal wounds.
Page 22 - Hadyra is Amira Khan from the United Kingdom. She escaped the constraints of her traditional family by becoming fascinated in maps. Even as a child she could draw maps of places she’d never been and annotate them with details she could never have actually known. Her power is gifted to her by a Noor Stone embedded in a necklace that she always wears.
Page 24 – Fattah is Toro Ridwan from Indonesia. He was just a restaurant washer-up until he discovered a strange belt in a local second-hand shop. It gave him the power to create teleportation portals. Mumita is Catarina Barbossa from Portugal. She is a mysterious runaway who when found by Dr Ramzi was working as a criminal enforcer. Rafie is Murat Vyaroglu who can control gravity.