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Avengers/JLA #2: Review

Oct 2003
Kurt Busiek, George Perez

Story Name:

A contest of champions

Review & Comments

4.5 stars

Avengers/JLA #2 Review by (June 26, 2021)
The issue title is again borrowing from Marvel's past and its penchant for series called Contest Of Champions.

Krona's story here is as described in Green Lantern (1960) #40. He was 1 of the people of the planet Oa. In the original story the destructive force he unleashed by trying to view the creation of the universe was the origin of evil. After banishing him the Oans dedicated themselves to fighting evil. They became the Guardians Of The Universe and started the Green Lantern Corps.
Krona has subsequently  been written into a lot of DC history, including the idea that his time-probe turned the DC universe into a multiverse of Earth One, Earth Two etc, including the evil Ant-Matter Universe (rather than creating evil in the Earth One universe?). The hand holding the universe was later revealed to be that of the Anti-Monitor.

Kismet is DC's equivalent of Eternity. She was introduced much later (Adventures Of Superman #494) and her back-story reveals that she was a mortal being who ascended into the role, unlike Eternity who was there from the beginning of the universe.

I described the Ultimate Nullifier last issue. The rest of the items of power are collected this issue.

The Wand Of Watoomb is a magic artefact 1st seen in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2 (guest-starring Dr Strange). It absorbs magic energy which the wielder can then use.
The Evil Eye is a devastating weapon wielded by Prester John in FF#54. It was divided into 6 pieces and used in another scavenger hunt in the Avengers/Defenders War.
The Casket Of Ancient Winters from Thor #346 can unleash the Fimbulwinter of the Frost Giant Ymir.
The 1st Soul Gem was given to Adam Warlock by the High Evolutionary in Marvel Premiere #1. The 6 Soul/Infinity Gems were gathered by Thanos in an attempt to wipe out half the stars in the universe in Avengers Annual #7. And of course he gathered them again for his next attempt at godhood in the Infinity Gauntlet event.
The 1st Cosmic Cube that we know about was created by AIM in Tales Of Suspense #79 and used by Red Skull. But many others exist so we don't know which this 1 is. Thanos used 1 to become a 'god' in the Thanos War story arc in Captain Marvel. A Cube can make happen whatever its user wills.

Green Lantern's Power Battery is the source of the power of his Ring, which has to be recharged from the Battery. The Battery itself gets its power beamed from the central Power Battery on Oa.
The Orb Of Ra is a mystical artefact that turned Rex mason into Metamorpho in hsi origin in The Brave And The Bold #57. As usual it's been given more back-story later.
The Eternity Book is a magic tome owned by Merlin and involved in the origin of Demon/Jason Blood.
The Bell, the Wheel and the Jar were used by Felix Faust in the original Justice League Of America #10. They are connected to 3 demons. The combination has troubled the JLA and others several times.
The Medusa Mask was used by the Psycho-Pirate to control the emotions of others. He played a large part in Crisis On Infinite Earths and was 1 of the few people to remember the pre-Crisis multiverse afterwards.
The Spear Of Destiny pierced the side of Christ on the Cross. It was used by Hitler to stop US superheroes entering Europe and has cropped up a few times since.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Avengers/JLA #2 Synopsis by Rob Johnson
Krona from the DC Universe has been wandering through universes seeking the Answer to the Question, and when he doesn't find it he destroys that universe. (Someone should have avoided all this trouble by telling him it was 42.) Last issue he met Marvel's Grandmaster. Then GM and DC's Metron set the Avengers and JLA against each other to gather 12 items of power, 6 from each of their universes. Each side is trying to avoid the destruction of their own universe. JLA won the 1st round by taking Marvel's Ultimate Nullifier. Then they clashed on DC soil.

But we begin this issue with a flashback to learn what Grandmaster and Krona talked about. Krona says he is a scientist who sent a time-probe back to the Big Bang of his universe and saw a huge hand cradling the nascent universe. When he tried to probe further he unleashed a destructive force. His people feared what would happen if he succeeded and so banished him as disembodied energy. (I can't resist another Hitch-hikers Guide bit:- Some scientists believe that if the Answer is ever found the universe will disappear to be replaced by 1 even stranger. Other scientists believe this has already happened.)

But Krona managed to travel between universes and continue his investigations. However it seems his people were right because it always resulted in the destruction of the universe. En Dwi Gast has temporarily stopped Krona in the Earth-616 universe and now he tries a further ploy by mentioning he knows a being who came through the Big Bang of this universe and knows what came before. Krona demands to be told who this person is, but Grandmaster as usual proposes a game. (Last issue ended with Metron telling GM that Krona is unlikely to go quietly away if he loses. But Gast said the game was merely a delaying tactic while he got on with his real plan.)

We next get a shot of Kismet, DC's female equivalent to Eternity. And we enter the DC universe to find the Avengers (Captain America, Hawkeye, Iron Man, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, Thor, Vision) fighting the JLA (Aquaman, Batman, Flash (Wally West), Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner), Martian Manhunter, Plastic Man, Superman and Wonder Woman) in Metropolis. Hawkeye tries a boomerang arrow on Flash (but he's used to such tricks from Captain Boomerang). Batman and Cap test each other with feints and light blows and decide that if they fought for real the contest would be long and difficult to predict the outcome. They agree instead to find out what's really going on. Scarlet Witch is having difficulty using Chaos Magic but then she accesses this world's more powerful equivalent and emits a blast which knocks all the combatants for 6. And she can now sense where all the 12 items of power are. (Grandmaster mentally gave the JLA that information last issue.) Before the others can start fighting again Wanda Maximoff whisks her team away to collect the artefacts.

Aquaman says that Batman's missing and they haven't seen Atom for a while (we know where he is from last issue). Superman wants to split the team to find them but J'onn J'onzz reminds him that the artefacts are of prime importance. He mentally contacts some non-current JLA members to guard the ones in the DC universe. And Flash uses his vibrational attunement power to send the team here over to Earth-616. He stays behind again because he discovered last issue that the Marvel Universe has no Speed Force so he's powerless there. But before they go GL asks him to protect the Power Battery (1 of the 12 items) in his apartment.

The JLA materialise in open countryside where Metropolis isn't. In Avengers Mansion Triathlon, Wasp and Yellowjacket detect their arrival with Tony Stark's tech developed last issue. They alert Hercules, Jack Of Hearts, Photon (Monica Rambeau), She-Hulk, Warbird and Wonder Man scattered around the globe ready to move in when the tracking system reports the JLA's destination. There are 5 artefacts left on Earth (after the Nullifier). Not wishing to spread their forces too thinly Manhunter splits the JLA into 3 teams to go after 3 of them:- Green Lantern and Superman, Aquaman and Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter and Plastic Man. Triathlon stays on monitor duty in the Mansion and Wasp and YJ head out into the field.

Meanwhile back on DC Earth Flash has zoomed to Kyle Rayner's Manhattan apartment. But Hawkeye and Iron Man have got there before him via the Scarlet Witch express. The Mother Box that Metron gave IM last issue detects his approach and the Golden Avenger is able knock him down. Clint Barton grabs the Power Lantern and they're whisked away before Flash can recover. They end up in the Himalayas but without the artefact. And we see Grandmaster with both it and the Ultimate Nullifier declaring the score is 1-1 now. (The JLA haven't mentioned that the item they won has disappeared. We last saw Superman taking it to the Watchtower.)

Next we get 3 conflicts run in parallel, but I'll separate them out.

GL and Superman have gone to Santo Rico where they see a ruined and graffiti-covered statue of a large costumed man and small winged woman facing a single adversary. (We know the statue is of Giant-Man and Wasp vs El Toro in Tales To Astonish #54.) Supes takes it as evidence of the poor opinion the populace have of their 'heroes'. Then Warbird and Wonder Man turn up. GL and WM are evenly matched but Superman defeats Warbird and then takes out Wondy himself. The DC heroes locate the Orb Of Ra (which is actually an artefact from *their* world).

Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch are visiting the Central City Flash Museum. Among the exhibits they see Starro (who the Avengers fought last issue), and Pietro Maximoff reads about the Speed Force which powers several Flashes. The speedster wonders if he can tap into it. Then Black Canary, Blue Beetle and Hawkman (Carter Hall) interrupt their sightseeing. Hawk ensnares the Witch in a weighted net, but QS KOs him and Beetle. But then he falls to Canary's sonic scream. When he recovers he finds the 3 foes vanquished by a Chaos blast from his sister. And they acquire the Wand Of Watoomb (a Marvel artefact on DC Earth).

Wonder Woman has taken Aquaman to Asgard by the same technique she gets to DC's Olympus. They are met by Hercules and She-Hulk. Herc has asked the Asgardians to let them have honourable single combat. But Diana attacks him with ferocity because (in the mythological Greece of both worlds) Herc 'despoiled' her mother Hippolyta, although the demi-god doesn't see it that way. They fight while She-Hulk beats on Aquaman. However he slips out of her grasp and dives into a pool where he finds the Eternity Book (another DC item on Marvel Earth).

Krona and Grandmaster now have 5 of the 12 artefacts between them, with the JLA winning 3-2. Krona is getting impatient, but GM wonders what the 2 players who abandoned their fellows are up to ...

... Batman has taken Captain America to the Batcave where Steve Rogers sees Robin's costume and deduces that Batman lost a young partner as he lost Bucky Barnes. Batman consults Oracle (Barbara Gordon) via computer screen. She's got no info on Grandmaster (obviously) but she's got Zatanna in the Watchtower dealing with Scarlet Witch's Chaos Magic, and she's coordinating the search for the artefacts.

Cap tells them about GM's penchant for game-playing, so he must have an opponent. Steve has also told them about Metron contacting the Avengers, but Batman doesn't think *he*'s a game-player. (Metron himself is watching Galactus consume another world.) Cap and Bats agree that they must keep the game going while they continue their investigations. Cap triggers a contingency he prepared earlier, summoning Thing with a dimension-hopping time-bike equipped to track Metron's energy-signature. Ben Grimm makes a joke about Batman's giant penny trophy before returning home (seemingly via Dr Doom's time platform). And then the duo are off on a Metron hunt.

Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch have joined Hawkeye and Iron Man freezing on top of a Himalayan mountain. Wanda Maximoff is under magic attack (by Zatanna or the Lords Of Chaos?) but she's managing to keep the whereabouts of Thor and Vision secret. Zatanna has been joined in the Watchtower by Captain Atom, Firestorm, Green Arrow, Red Tornado and Steel (John Henry Irons). Steel has created a battery pack for Flash to store Speed Force energy for use on Marvel Earth. On that Earth Aquaman, Green Lantern, Superman and Wonder Woman are wondering why the artefacts have been moved between Earths. Then Zatanna detects SW moving her 4 from the mountain.

But Firestorm and Red Tornado don't follow *her*. Instead they go to intercept Thor and Vision in Happy Harbor, Rhode Island (where the Justice League had their 1st HQ). (Presumably Wanda's protection slipped when she teleported the others.) Tornado's dual nature as an android containing an elemental being enables him to hold of both the Marvel heroes until Firestorm surrounds Thor with an atomic containment field and makes off with the Bell, Wheel and Jar (which count as 1 item - but at least they're a DC artefact on DC Earth). Meanwhile in Wakanda giant-size Yellowjacket and insect-size Wasp are defeated by Martian Manhunter with a little help from Plastic Man. But it is Black Panther who slips in and claims the prize, the Medusa Mask (another DC item on Marvel Earth). The score is now 4-3 to the JLA. (And there's only 1 DC artefact left to Marvel's 4.)

In Smallville Hawkeye and Iron Man are now facing Captain Atom and Green Arrow. But IM clobbers them both. Clint just wraps CAtom up with the lead-foil containment arrow he once used on Radioactive Man, and he's unhappy about not being given a chance  to match arrow skills with his DC counterpart. IM's just glad to take the Casket Of Ancient Winters (Marvel item on DC world). Wanda has taken Pietro and Vision to Wonder Woman's Paradise Island, and she's severely weakened by all she's done. While Vizh withstands the assault of Steel, Quicksilver races away with the Evil Eye (ditto) but Flash outruns him and takes it. Meanwhile in the Blue Area Of The Moon Green Lantern has Photon trapped in a force field while Quasar does the same to Wonder Woman. But Diana breaks free. However Iron Man makes a surprise arrival by Boom Tube from the other universe and temporarily stuns the DCers. Photon grabs the Spear Of Destiny (DC artefact on Marvel Earth). It's now 5-all and only Marvel's Cosmic Cube and Infinity Gems remain in play.

Batman and Cap have tracked Metron's energy through 1 of Krona's destroyed universes to Grandmaster's incredible homebase. Atom is glad to see them and explains how he hitched a ride on Metron's Mobius Chair last issue. He takes them to a control room which is automatically recording the events of the game. They currently see Aquaman and Superman discussing the Avengers. Arthur Curry opines that this Earth's heroes are mostly less powerful than DC's and they have more going against them, so he understands why haven't succeeded as well. Superman just thinks they haven't tried hard enough.

Ray Palmer quickly rewinds to the part he wants to show them which is more of the meeting between Grandmaster and Krona. They have obviously already agreed to the scavenger hunt for the 12 artefacts between Avengers and JLA. Krona confirms the stakes. If Grandmaster's side wins Krona will leave the Avengers' universe alone, but if *his* side wins then GM will take him to Galactus who Krona will interrogate even if it destroys said universe. But then K throws in a curveball. He insists that the Avengers fight for *him*, and GM takes the JLA. En Dwi Gast reluctantly agrees. Ie the DC universe was never at risk and the Avengers are fighting to possibly doom their own!

Next stop is Apokolips. It seems that Scarlet Witch has taken Iron Man and Vision back to Earth-616, but Hawkeye, Quicksilver and Thor have fought their way through Parademons to get to Darkseid. However Firestorm, Flash and Steel have done the same. And Darkseid has the Infinity Gems in the Infinity Gauntlet (that's another Marvel item in DC-land). But he can't make it do anything, and DeSaad confirms that it only works in its own universe. So Darkseid tosses it away for the heroes to squabble over. Quicksilver and Flash race each other for it, and also race against Darkseid's Omega Beam which will destroy it. Flash succeeds in getting it. The score is now 6-5 to the JLA ...

... and all the heroes from both teams, including their extras, find themselves in Marvel's Savage Land where the final artefact the Cosmic Cube hangs between them (at least this 1's on home turf). A somewhat recovered Scarlet Witch yells for somebody to get it. Hawkeye fires a grab arrow which Green Arrow's shaft knocks aside, and then it's a melee centring around Superman vs Thor, including some grudge match repeats like Green Lantern/Photon and Hercules/Wonder Woman. But everyone stops when Supes holds back Mjolnir and KO's Thor. Then Hercules, Iron Man, She-Hulk, Vision and Wonder man pile on Superman until he too is down.

Smaller battles continue. Photon has used her power to absorb most of the Green Lantern energy from his Power Ring and is using it against his friends. With the last dregs of that energy Kyle Rayner makes a grab for the Cube but Warbird beats him to it. Then it's Flash. But his Speed Force battery is also running out so Quicksilver is able to get revenge for losing the Evil Eye.

GM and Krona appear floating overhead with the other 11 artefacts arranged between them. GM declares the game a draw. But then Captain America's shield knocks the Cosmic Cube out of Pietro's grasp and into the hands of Batman. Hawkeye knocks an arrow to turn the tables again and GA aims to stop him. But Cap orders his side to stand down. Bruce Wayne tries to use the Cube to solve everything, but the Grandmaster whisks it away to add to his side of the board declaring that now he has won 7-5. He asks Krona to abide by the agreed rules and leave this universe.

But of course Krona will do no such thing. He blasts his opponent and then uses eye-beams to dig the information he wants out of his mind - the identity of Galactus. With this he is able to bring Big G here before him. Batman and Cap tell their teams to combine forces, including still-weakened Superman and Thor. Everyone piles on Krona as he beats up Galactus who refuses to tell him what he wants to know. But battered Grandmaster reaches for the 12 items of power, which was the true aim of the game all along. And then everything swirls down a cosmic plughole.

George Perez
George Perez
Richard Starkings
George Perez (Cover Penciler)
George Perez (Cover Inker)
Tom Smith (Cover Colorist)
Letterer: Tom Smith.
Editor: Tom Brevoort. Editor-in-chief: Joe Quesada.


Listed in Alphabetical Order.

Black Panther
Black Panther

Captain America
Captain America

(Steve Rogers)

(Clint Barton)
Iron Man
Iron Man

(Tony Stark)
Jack of Hearts
Jack of Hearts

(Jonathan Hart)

(Wendell Vaughn)

(Pietro Maximoff)
Scarlet Witch
Scarlet Witch

(Wanda Maximoff)

(Jennifer Walters)

(Ben Grimm)


(Janet Van Dyne)

Plus: Photon (Monica Rambeau), Triathlon (Delroy Garrett Jr.), Warbird (Carol Danvers).

> Avengers/JLA: Book info and issue index

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