Back in 2003, a miracle happened: JLA/Avengers #1 hit stands. After almost 25 years of on-off discussions between DC and Marvel (and at least one false start), the “Big Two” of superhero comics finally made a crossover between their two flagship superhero teams a reality. Written and illustrated by the fan-favourite creative team of Kurt Busiek and George Pérez, JLA/Avengers was also the last time DC and Marvel partnered on a project, and the collected four-part miniseries has been out of print for years – until now.
In response to the news that Pérez has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, charitable organisation The Hero Initiative has announced it is teaming up with DC and Marvel to produce a limited 7,000 copy print run of the JLA/Avengers softcover. The Hero Initiative will donate proceeds from sales of the reprinted softcover to Pérez and his family.
So, in honour of the JLA/Avengers reprint – not to mention the legendary artist who inspired it – here’s a round-up of the five biggest moments from this DC/Marvel superhero team crossover!
5. Darkseid rejects the Infinity Gauntlet
JLA/Avengers is packed with references to decades’ worth of DC and Marvel continuity – like the fabled Infinity Gauntlet once wielded by Marvel’s deranged cosmic warlord, Thanos. When loaded up with all six Infinity Gems, the Infinity Gauntlet is one of the most powerful weapons in the known universe. So, imagine how freaked out both the JLA and the Avengers are when they discover the fully blinged-out space glove on the hand of DC’s own intergalactic tyrant, Darkseid!
Fortunately for everyone involved (except Darkseid), the Infinity Gauntlet ultimately proves useless in the DC Universe. See, the Infinity Gems derive their incredible power from the unique properties of the Marvel Universe itself – which means in the reality the JLA calls home, the Gems are essentially worthless, shiny rocks. Robbed of the Gems’ juice, the Infinity Gauntlet is no better than your garden variety oven mitt, which explains why Darkseid – in a previously unthinkable move – soon tosses it on the trash.
4. Superman versus Thor
For better or worse, superhero fandom is largely obsessed with endless variations on the same question: “Could Superhero A beat Superhero B in a fight?” And so, while JLA/Avengers quickly evolves into a team-up book, the miniseries also spends considerable time early on providing definitive, in-continuity answers to some of comics’ biggest, once-hypothetical superhero match-ups.
Of these, easily the most spectacular is the slugfest between Superman and Thor. Both heroes are renowned for their titanic strength and superhuman endurance, so this bout was always going to go down to the wire. But while Thor appears to have the upper hand thanks to his mystical hammer Mjolnir and overall magical nature – magic is something Superman has always been a little vulnerable to – in the end, the Man of Steel (just barely) comes out on top.
3. The JLA and Avengers make a heart-breaking collective choice
Although JLA/Avengers is rightly remembered for its epic battles and next-level fan service, the miniseries also boasts several disarmingly poignant moments, too. Scenes like the meeting of the minds shared between Batman and Captain America in the Batcave – as the pair acknowledge they both know the pain of seeing a teenage sidekick die – give Busiek and Pérez the chance to ground this bombastic series in real, human emotion.
Nowhere is this more apparent than towards the end of JLA/Avengers, when both supergroups must make a devasting choice: continue to live in a version of reality where their two universes overlap or restore things to the way they were before. The kicker? Setting things right again will also cause both their timelines to return to normal – which means the restoration of previously erased tragic events, like the death of Barry Allen/The Flash and the loss of Scarlet Witch and Vision’s children, too.
The JLA and the Avengers ultimately make the selfless choice like the heroes they are, but it’s heart-breaking to watch them agonise over their collective decision all the same.
2. Batman versus Captain America
JLA/Avengers’ other big showdown between icons, the fight between Batman and Captain America is the complete opposite of the Superman/Thor brawl – and arguably all the more memorable for it. Both famed for their exceptional martial arts skills and tactical smarts, the two opponents start out by exchanging blows with virtually no force behind them, as they probe each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
More stunning than that, by the time the Dark Knight and the Sentinel of Liberty are finally ready to cut loose with some proper, power-packed punches and kicks, the contest is over! It’s Batman who calls it quits, after first admitting that Captain America could beat him, given enough time – time he argues he and Cap could put to better use tracking down their real enemy. Cap promptly agrees, and with that, one of the greatest superhero throwdowns ever ends in a draw (albeit one slightly skewed in Cap’s favour).
1. Superman lifts Mjolnir – while carrying Captain America’s shield
The sight of Superman bearing the shield of Captain America on his arm in a real, non-fan-made comic book like JLA/Avengers is already a pretty big deal. But put Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir in the Man of Steel’s spare hand – loading up DC’s most recognisable character with Marvel’s two most iconic weapons – and that’s enough to send fans of both publishers into a frenzy.
True, Busiek and Pérez clarify during JLA/Avengers’ denouement that Superman only temporarily met the worthiness criteria needed to heft Mjolnir. Presumably, they included this little detail to preserve the awe-inspiring quality of Thor’s hammer – plus it also sets up a nice moment of reconciliation between Superman and Thor after their earlier scuffle. But even if Superman was only worthy enough to simultaneously wield Mjolnir and Cap’s shield for a few pages of JLA/Avengers, said pages still comprise one of the coolest scenes to ever grace a comic published by either DC or Marvel.
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