In what is probably one of the strangest DC Comics stories I’ve ever read and definitely the most odd JLA story, Riddle of the Beast makes up for its oft strange story with striking visuals. I will warn you, that if Heavy Metal is not a movie/magazine artistic style you appreciate you may want to steer clear of Beast as you are unlikely to find it appealing.
The premise of the story is that Jason Blood, essentially out of boredom, raised the Beast (whom we would know as Etrigan the Demon). The Beast set forth and waged war on the world before eventually being defeated by the combined forces of all of humankind. *cough* Lord of the Rings rip-off *cough*
So yeah…Alan Grant is doing what so many writers before him have done…failed to come up with an original thought and instead pilfered, rampantly, from one of the greats. I don’t fault him for wanting to follow in the footsteps of Tolkien, but I do take umbrage with doing it so blatantly. I’m not here, though, to retell the tale as I would have written it; I am here to critique.
The main character is Robin Drake who is called to the house of the Riddler, last of the wise-ones (apparently a now-deceased echelon of heroes who are rarely referenced and never explained) and given a warning he is to spread to the corners of the world of the Beast’s return.
He is, of course, met with doubt, distrust and disregard. But magically, as if pushed there by some outside influence, those who had recently cast him out saw the err of their ways and heeded his warnings and sent their armies to battle The Beast.
All the DC staples are involved: Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman (sort of…more on him later), Green Arrow, Flash, even Martian Manhunter makes a brief, albeit and unfortunate, appearance and is quickly killed by The Beast. Since it’s a fairytale the characters of course do not reflect their normal selves, aside from Batman who never fails to appear the same and the costumes and style of character design is an enjoyable feature of the story.
The crux is: how does it happen that The Beast is even able to rise up? You render the two most powerful members of the DCU inept or diseased. J’onn J’onz “crashed” in this land and lived in a cave for lo his many years, never able to move beyond it. Kal-El (who is still adopted but whose parents are Kryptonian?) is a weak and feeble man-child apparently due to a Kryptonite stone embedded in a necklace he never, ever, EVER took off. But as soon as Robin removes it he is immediately filled with powers and strength beyond reason.
I’m sorry, but that is just STUPID. Even royalty gets naked when they bathe. The idea that he would never have taken off this necklace…which is the implication from the fact that he immediately is healthy and strong with its removal…is absurd and stretches the suspension of disbelief mindset we all have when reading comics beyond its breaking point.
I was excited to read this story since it was a fantasy take on some of my favorite characters. It had incredible potential but for me, it fell short and failed in many regards. For all the reasons listed above I have to give JLA Riddle of the Beast a C-.
Next week I embark on a new adventure!
If you have suggestions for future Bin Fodder reviews, drop me a line in comments! Or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Check out this week’s Playlist!
Till next Wednesday…
Stabbing Westward – Violent Mood Swings (clerks soundtrack), Death Cab for Cutie – I will Follow you into the Dark, Alkaline Trio – We’ve had Enough, Owl City – Designer Skyline, Less Than Jake – Short Fuse Burning, +44 – Cliff Diving, Exit – When I’m Free, The Editors – Put Your Head Towards The Air, 36 Crazyfists – The All Night Lights, The Misfits – Dust to Dust, Green Day – The Ballad of Wilhelm Fink, Dishwalla – Above the Wreckage, Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Y Control, Motion City Soundtrack – The Worst Part, Deftones – Mein, Jonathan Coulton – Tom Cruise Crazy