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by Bruce Bachand

To Live and Die in JLA, part 2

Last month we took a look at three of seven JLA'ers who have died since 1990. Last month we looked at the deaths of Mister Miracle, Superman, and Booster Gold. This month we will be reflecting on the deaths of Ice, Metamorpho, Tomorrow Woman, and Wonder Woman. Death in the comics is not much like the death that we experience in real life. It is quite permanent in our plane of existence (though much speculation attempts to illuminate the shrouded mystery of life beyond the grave). In the DC universe death can be temporary, semi-permanent, permanent, or just plain weird and inexplicable! And life beyond the grave…well, we don't want to be here forever, right?!

Let me say this, though. The issue of death is the single most terrifying thought that an adult can ponder and then only until the point at which numb uncertainty sets in. We are inundated daily by hundreds of "voices" (via the radio, TV, our computers, our co-workers, fellow students, etc..) who vie for our attention, money, energies, and resources. These same voices do their best (or worst!) to tell us about death and what it all encompasses. The shear number off variations wearies the most resolute woman or man. Yet the fact remains that, like choosing a life partner or a career, it is a decision of ultimate importance and needs to be prepared for just as much as marriage or a vocation. Death in the comics should be lasting, sober, and startlingly realistic. We do not need melodramatic sob stories. I have always felt that death and religion have never been incorporated into comics, for the most part, with realism, dignity, and serious intellectual reflection. Yet in our world death is certain. And inevitable. Let's get to the heroes!

4. Ice (formerly known as Ice Maiden). This once-timid woman becomes a very aggressive and stalwart combatant in her final appearances in the JLA. She was the current love of Guy Gardner (a Green Lantern at the time). The battle was the FINAL JUDGMENT storyline, as noted last month, that also resulted in the apparent death of Booster Gold. Ice is in the midst of attacking the Overmaster when a vision of her father and brother overwhelms her (JLA #89). As a result, she has now become an agent of the Overmaster (not very convincing in my books!). All too late she realizes the error of her ways (though she is, functionally speaking, a traitor big-time) and attempts another assault on the god-like enemy of the JLA (JLTF #14). Sadly, she is mercilessly fried to a crisp. The Overmaster is defeated (JLI #66). The Ice who died though is no illusion or robot. A JLA'er has died in battle and the loss leaves a permanent impression on the League. Her body is taken back to her homeland (JLA #91) and is laid to rest. Perhaps even sadder is that Guy Gardner is not even around to be told of the death let alone attend the burial ceremonies.

DA SCOOP: Well, Ice was an odd person to have in the JLA. She was always this sheepish little, underachiever who could make things cold (not exactly stunning powers, you may say) or be encased in ice. She started out as Ice Maiden and I am glad that she shortened the name. She and Fire were the best of buddies. Ultimately, though, she was not very valuable to the League as a core figure of power, leadership, or combat ability. She is lucky that Doomsday hadn't killed her the year before! Why heroes have to go "bad" first before they are killed is beyond my mental grasp… nevertheless, I think that Ice got ripped off prematurely from the League roster. Her death was overshadowed by Superman's the year earlier. The one highlight is that Guy really and truly did love her and for good cause, too.
5. Metamorpho: Known for decades as the Element Man, good ol' Rex has made his mark in the DC universe. He served in the somewhat lackluster League of the mid-90's. He and his version of the JLA were being de-commissioned so that the "big guns" (i.e. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc…) could be brought back into active service. Issue #1 of the new JLA series captures the transaction of powers as a strange alien craft lands at the White House. Rex and his crew end up packing things up and are moving out of the League's temp headquarters on the "other" alien ship. The HQ is attacked, which results in a forced emergency evacuation. All escape pods are rendered useless so the Element Man forms a handydandy bubble and attempts to save his colleagues as they re-enter the Earth's atmosphere. Upon hitting the surface it is revealed that Metamorpho has been left "inert" and has died for all purposes. He is buried in JLA #5 with only Superman attending the service.

DA SCOOP: Yet another "permanent" death in JLA (though I do think that it is only a matter of time until he is resurrected). The League-run that Rex was part of was pretty bad. I gave up buying the series at this point because it was so boring. The stories seemed horrible to be honest. Metamorpho as a character is quite interesting and has a great deal of potential. Sadly, he was only a wisecrackin' veteran as portrayed in the League. His death brought a few whines and grunts but it went largely unnoticed in light of the new JLA roster that has burst onto the seen the past 2 years. Element Man's powers and charm will be missed.

6. Tomorrow Woman: Tomorrow Woman was a one-issue-appearance heroine. She auditioned for and was accepted into the JLA in issue #5 of the most current Justice League series. It ends up that she was an artificially created life form, brought into existence by League-enemies T.O. Morrow and Prof. Ivo. She trains and serves with the team for months. Much to the bewilderment of her creators she comes "alive" through independent thought and action. Tragically while confronting an alien called "IF" she sacrifices her life so that the needs of the many may be extended by the life of the one. The JLA captured the "duo of malevolence" and Tomorrow Woman was buried in the JLA graveyard. End of story.

DA SCOOP: She was a reasonably decent idea. The story simply seemed too rushed for my taste. As a result, Tomorrow Woman will quickly fade into the netherworld of DC forgetfulness. One final thought about her… what a ridiculous outfit! Ugh!

7. Wonder Woman: It simply seemed only a matter of time. DC had "killed" Superman and had crippled the Batman, so why would they leave the Amazonian free of major trauma? Wonder Woman, along with the Martian Manhunter, has been a vital and key figure in the League the past 10 years. Her strength, valor, courage, intelligence, and beauty have set her apart from the wannabe's of the same time period (I still find it odd that people would want Vibe back!). The JLA series has flown proudly because Diana was reunited with the other "big" players of the DC universe in the premiere superhero team.
Wonder Woman #125 is the "death issue" for Diana. In issue #124 of the same series Neron blasts her with a blow of lethal consequence. The JLA appear in WW #125 and each of them do their best to see her live though to no success. The Batman visits and gives an especially tender farewell to this former warrior of Paradise Island. After everything that she has done it seems that her number has truly been called. The JLA experiences a profound and lasting loss with her demise.

DA SCOOP: Diana's mother, Hippolyta, takes up the mantle of Wonder Woman and joins the Justice League in JLA #16. Diana ends up being transformed into the goddess of truth by Zeus. She is now a deity-class being in the DC universe. I don't want to spoil any secrets so buy an issue of Wonder Woman to get any more info. Diana is one of the greatest assets that DC has. I look forward to any future exploits she may have with the JLA.

That sums things up, y'all. There never was any real threat that Diana or Clark would be permanently killed… or was there? The times are truly post-modern in that everything is considered "fair game" in the eyes of writers. Like I said, it would have been far more valuable and had longer lasting resolve if DC had kept Superman dead. Readers need to know some measure of reality in regards to death. Yeah, I know, we are talking about comic books. But they are a source of pop/folk tradition and should accurately reflect the issues and challenges that real people face. And, regrettably, death is an issue that we cannot begin to ponder too early, because it will affect how we choose to live, ultimately.

All characters are ™ DC Comics
All scanned artwork is ™ DC Comics.
This article is © 1998 by Bruce Bachand.