As the journey through Amalgam Comics nears a conclusion, I find myself at “JLX Unleashed”, the follow up to the disappointing 1996 “JLX”. Luckily for everyone, this story is a significant improvement.
Some of the lesser members of the Justice League have been mixed with the X-Men, and in Amalgam continuity the team pits the mutants against the superhumans of the Judgment League Avengers. New characters include Chaos (Havok + ??), the brother of Apollo (Cyclops + Ray).
This issue was written by Christopher Priest with art from Oscar Jiminez and Hanibal Rodriguez. It was a DC production.
Somewhere in Senegal, the Hellfire League of Injustice convenes to summon a demon. They call forth Fin Fang Flame. When they command him to destroy all metamutants, Flame responds by incinerating them. He flies away musing how all humans have mutated in some way through evolution, and therefore he must destroy all life.
The story jumps forward in time to a point where Flame has already attacked several cities and everyone knows his goal. As the remaining members of the JLA try to protect New York, Amazon (Wonder Woman + Storm) suggests releasing the JLX, who were imprisoned by the Armageddon Agenda. Super Soldier isn’t keen on breaking the law even for assistance in a crisis, and Captain Marvel (Captain Marvel + Captain Marvel) is outright racist when he says “those people” can’t be trusted. Flame interrupts with an attack, and Amazon escapes to free the JLX.
Mr X (Martian Manhunter + Professor X) isn’t too keen to help, but Amazon points out that he’ll be killed by Flame if he doesn’t. X assembles his team, including Apollo’s brother Joshua (Chaos).
Later, SHIELD and Bruce Wayne (Nick Fury + Bruce Wayne) try and fail to stop Flame in Tokyo. The JLX show up and execute a plan that required everyone’s mutant powers to stop Flame. It ends with Apollo absorbing Flame’s mystic radiation and evolving further from humanity. Having saved the world, the team must flee from the survivors who still hate and fear them. Amazon joins them, finally admitting she, too, is a metamutant.
What “Wizard” thought then
“Wizard” let readers know this issue was set much more than a year after the 1996 issue, but most of their coverage was promotional fluff. Priest promised to include Amazon, and said the artwork was gorgeous.
After “JLX Unleased” was unleashed on readers, the “Wizard” Market Watch mentioned it as a good seller in passing while discussing how most Amalgams weren’t doing so hot.
What I think now
I like it. The 1996 “JLX” seemed like a huge missed opportunity in every aspect: plot, characterization, and art. This was a major improvement on all fronts.
The plot was direct and tight, with most of the needed exposition handled in a way that felt natural. The villain has a simple motive that puts him at odds with the heroes, and the JLX have an appealing moral conflict about protecting people who imprisoned them. The twists at the end are based on established elements and avoid pseudo science jargon or deus ex machinas. The final pages emphasize the changes the cast has endured and leaves you knowing where they’re headed next.
Speaking of the cast, the characters were given distinct personalities, even if they were a bit cliché at times. Priest wisely reduced the size of the team when he removed Mercury (Impulse + Quicksilver), Mariner (Aquaman + Submariner), and Wraith (Gambit + Obsidian [Thanks, Matt Sabonis!]), plus most of the JLA. Everyone had more room to breathe. The inclusion of Bruce Wayne and the cameo from Super Soldier really made this feel like an event book that united the Amalgam universe. The story also featured some good humor, such as this scene where Chaos was losing control of his powers inside the JLX’s aircraft:
Jimenez uses a unique layout on each page, but keeps the panel sizes and arrangements regular enough to keep the reading order straightforward. In some cases where it might be complicated, he utilizes negative space to keep your eye moving in the path he wants it to follow. Rodriguez compliments him well, especially in the shadowy prison scene where the solid blacks are vital to the mood. The team let colorist Patricia Mulvihill do the heavy lifting on Fin Fang Flame, where the gradients go a long way to sell the demonic nature of the monster.
If this creative team returned for a second issue, I would definitely check it out. I might regret that when it got mired in some Amalgam Universe-spanning event, but that’s the price you pay sometimes.