JLA-Avengers

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Big Damn Heroes personified.


JLA/Avengers (or Avengers/JLA -both titles were used) was a four-part comic book Miniseries co-produced by the DC Comics and Marvel Comics companies (each published two issues) in 2003-2004. It featured a Crisis Crossover between the companies' top superhero teams, The Avengers and the Justice League of America. The crossover has an interesting story both within the comics and without.

Originally, the crossover - which would have pitted the teams against their respective enemies Kang the Conqueror and the Lord of Time - was meant to come out in the early 1980s; noted artist George Perez, who had worked on both team's titles, was set to draw it. But some behind-the-scenes conflict (allegedly, Marvel's then Editor-in-Chief, Jim Shooter, pointed out some story errors -such as the hero Quicksilver being as fast as The Flash- and asked for a rewrite, which was not well received by the DC people) led to the project's cancellation, despite Perez having already drawn several pages. This caused resentments that prevented the companies from doing crossovers again for several years, and left many comics fans disappointed.

By the early 2000s, however, relationships between the companies - both under new administrations - were cordial again, and the project was revived, with Perez once again set to draw it, and a new story done by writer Kurt Busiek. The series was a financial and critical success, and is even (apparently) considered canonical by both companies (the "Krona Egg" artifact has appeared in some issues of DC's Justice League and Trinity series, while the events of the crossover are mentioned in the most recent Handbooks of the Marvel Universe).

The story involves Krona, a DC villain turned cosmic, obsessed with discovering how universes are born, and tearing several of them apart in the process. To save his universe, The Grandmaster, a cosmic being from the Marvel Universe, offered to give Krona the knowledge he wanted... if he beat Grandmaster in a game. Krona accepted. The "game" was to force the two superhero teams to compete against each other (without telling them the real reason) over several artifacts scattered over their worlds. This turned out to be a plan of the Grandmaster's to imprison Krona; it also resulted in a change of reality, creating a world where both teams had always co-existed. However, they discover the truth, and, finding out that Krona is about to free himself, decide to join forces to beat him once and for all. Alterations of time result in virtually every hero who had ever been an Avenger or a Leaguer showing up to help (but so did their enemies, under Krona's control). In the end, Krona is defeated and reality is restored to normal on both worlds.

It should be noted that this crossover seems to supersede the similar Marvel versus DC one that had taken places in the 1990's, despite that one having also (apparently) been canonical. This is never explained.


Tropes used in JLA-Avengers include:
  • All Your Powers Combined: Busiek mixes and matches a lot interesting power combos. Photon copies Green Lantern's energy signature to effectively gain his powers, Iron Man designs a complicated weapon that Lantern can then generate and use[1], Radioactive Man and Solarr generate Kryptonite's energy signature and red sunlight to depower Superman, Green Arrow adds Hawkeye's arsenal to his own, Martian Manhunter lets Captain America (comics) command the entire battlefield simultaneously. The list goes on.
    • And of course Superman armed with Thor's hammer and Cap's shield.
    • Kyle Rayner used the Cosmic Cube to recharge his power ring, which gave him a chrome color scheme and a considerable power boost.
  • Always Someone Better - Played straight and inverted with the speedsters. The Flash completely dominates Quicksilver in the DC universe, but the Avenger gets the upper hand on his home turf.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses - Superman and Thor take all comers.
  • Battle in the Rain - Thor summons rain in The Avengers' first bout with the Justice League.
  • Berserk Button: Superman (with some difficulty) knocks Thor unconscious. The Avengers go completely nonlinear upon seeing this, and Hercules, Iron Man, She Hulk, The Vision, and Wonder Man viciously beat Superman into the ground.
  • Big Damn Heroes
  • Bring It: Superman on the cover of Issue #4.
  • Butt Monkey - Poor Wally West really gets the short end of the stick in this one. On his first visit to the Marvel Universe he discovers that he has lost his powers, as there is no Speed Force there. He is summarily beaten by an angry mob mistaking him for one of Magneto's Acolytes. He then gets owned by Iron Man. And then by Quicksilver (much to the latter's delight). Then he is completely AWOL in the big brawl at the climax (save a one-panel cameo as Dark Flash) and shows up at the very end, having just missed a chance to see Barry.
    • He is owned by Quicksilver on their third encounter (though the second one was kind of accidental, because he was more worried about outrunning Darkseid's Omega Beams than beating Quicksilver). Wally won the first two.
  • Cat Fight - In the background of one panel heroic Marvel catgirl Tigra is wrestling with villainous DC catgirl Cheetah.
  • Chekhov's Skill - Photon learns enough from her first encounter with a power ring to drain Kyle Rayner's energy and use it to great effect. She later also uses this trick against Sinestro.
    • Subverted with Quicksilver. Hints are dropped that he'll learn how to access the Speed Force, but nothing comes of them.
  • The Chessmaster - Metron, who conspires with Grandmaster
  • Combat Breakdown - In the final battle, the Martian Manhunter establishes a telepathic link that allows Captain America to command the entire battlefield at once. Attack orders and enemy weaknesses are distributed in seconds, which allows the heroes to cut through Krona's defenses with a brutal efficiency. That all falls apart when the link is severed, leaving the heroes to fend for themselves.
  • Conflict Ball - Yes, the reasons for the two teams fighting each other are incredibly contrived. Do you honestly care?
    • Also the perfect example why this particular trope isn't always bad.
    • There's a bit of Fridge Brilliance here as well as the criticisms the Captain America and Superman have of each other's respective worlds mirror Marvel and DC's common criticisms of each other. The other heroes point out that what they are saying is unreasonable.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu - The combined strength of Superman and the Martian Manhunter is not enough to knock out Thor in the first fight. Later, Superman finds the strength to put Thor down by himself after a very short fight.
    • Arguably Fridge Brilliance: even irritated by two universes grinding against each other, Superman always holds back when first taking someone on, since he can punch a hole through most people. By their second encounter, he knows that Thor can take it.
  • Cosmic Entity - Krona and Grandmaster
  • Cosmic Keystone - Several, from both universes
  • Crazy Prepared: Hawkeye keeps his Lead-Foil Containment Arrow around on the off chance that he'll run into Radioactive Man at any given moment. He has a plan for possibly bumping into one single guy. Naturally this came in handy against Captain Atom, but still.
    • Considering how often the Radioactive Man attacks the Avengers (the man was one of the original Masters of Evil), this makes a lot of sense.
  • DC Universe
  • Desperation Attack - Superman lands the knockout punch on Thor while lying on his back, leaving himself wide open for the Avengers' No-Holds-Barred Beatdown.
  • Development Gag - When the Marvel and DC universes are given a merged history, The Wasp recalls the original proposed storyline (the 80s-era teams battling Kang and the Lord of Time) as a previous meeting of the two teams.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Galactus. Krona casually and effortlessly whacks Galactus like a bug, which makes perfect sense as he had destroyed a significant number of universes at that point, and overpowered infinitely more powerful entities such as Eternity.
    • And then builds a house out of him. Let it never be forgotten that Krona beat a planet-devouring entity within a minute, then built a house out of him.
  • Doing It for the Art - The cover for the third issue, representing every member either team had in its 40+ years of history. 208 characters in total.
    • Perez actually injured his wrist drawing that cover, which delayed the miniseries for about a month.
    • There's a page where a bunch of DC characters are stacked up against their Marvel characters on various chessboards. If you squint real hard, you can see Death of the Endless face to face with Marvel's Death.
  • Drama-Preserving Handicap - There is no Speed Force in the Marvel Universe, which prevents The Flash from winning Grandmaster's game single-handedly.
  • Executive Meddling
  • Fan Service: On literally every page. And we're not just talking about Wanda's belly-dancer outfit.
    • The belly-dancer outfit is Author Appeal. Perez loves to draw Wanda in that thing.
  • Foreshadowing - Likely unintentional, but it's almost eerie seeing the Scarlet Witch becoming corrupted by the evil of chaos magic, and nearly having a nervous breakdown when confronted with the memory of her children. This was a full year before Avengers Disassembled and House of M, remember.
    • In the series, Hawkeye had saved the day when he fired an impossible shot to beat Doctor Doom. Guess how Krona is beaten?
    • And forget not that some of the headlines the Avengers first saw in the DCU included feats such as Superman bringing water to drought-ridden lands and Wonder Woman working with the UN as Themyscira's emissary. The Avengers are bothered by the idea that if they were a little more out-of-the-box in their approach, the world might be significantly better. And what does Thor do immediately after this storyline? Become king of Asgard and begin trying to make the world a better place by doing more than just punching bankrobbers. ( It doesn't end well.)
  • First Blood: Thor knocks Superman through a building with his hammer to start the battle in Metropolis, literally drawing first blood in the process.
    • Fridge Brilliance because Superman, while normally invulnerable, is vulnerable to magic.
  • Forgotten Phlebotinum - In the first encounter between the teams, Iron Man uses a device called the signature modulator to send the Justice League back to the DC universe against their will. That technology is never seen or mentioned again.
    • Though this might be the only instance where it would have worked. Wally found it immensely difficult to crossover between the two universes even after the barriers between them are weakened (harder than many other universes he's been to) and snapped back to his universe on his own as his powers (and vibrations) faded. As the story progresses, the two universes move closer and closer together to the point that their histories starts being retconned by historical instances of the two universes crossing over.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar

Atom: In the six-inch flesh, Batman!

  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: The Flash and Hawkeye engage in jovial banter, even in the first battle when the JLA and Avengers are enemies.
  • Heroic Sacrifice - Vision gives Superman the last of his solar energy reserves to counter Radioactive Man and Solarr's ambush.
  • Heroic Willpower: Using Green Lantern and Scarlet Witch's powers as a conduit, the classic members of both teams prevent their two worlds from being forcibly merged by concentrating really really hard.
  • Identical Stranger: Surprisingly not noted within the story itself, but Vision and Metron look a lot alike. Justified because they were both designed to resemble Leonard Nimoy.
    • Thor and Aquaman both have blue eyes, long blonde hair, and identical beards (on the second half of #3 and first half of #4 at least, in Thor's case). Only their headgear sets them apart in certain panels.
      • Plus their obvious height difference. Aquaman is 6'1" while Thor is 6'6".
  • Legacy Character - It's genuinely touching to see Barry Allen and Hal Jordan assuring each other that Wally West and Kyle Rayner will continue their legacies after they've died. Well, it was more poignant back in 2004...
  • Let's You and Him Fight - Several of the confrontations of this are of this nature; a partial subversion occurs between Batman and Captain America, however, who briefly test each other's skills before deciding that continuing the fight would be a waste of effort that would be better served finding out why they were put in that position in the first place.
    • Another subversion is when Aquaman fights She-Hulk; he soon remembers that all he needs to do is go after the artifact they were sent there to collect, and so he flees from her to pick it up, while Wonder Woman is busy beating the crap out of Hercules.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters - Even more than you'd expect, since the final issue features everyone who'd ever been on the roster of either team up until that point fighting virtually every villain they'd ever faced.
    • That number gets really big considering that just about every major hero in the Marvel Universe has been an Avenger (save Daredevil and the Human Torch), and no small number of heroes have joined the Justice League, including many members of the Justice Society of America.
  • Marvel Universe
  • Mythology Gag - Loads and loads. The opening sequence in the first issue is an homage to the beginning of Crisis on Infinite Earths, down to the Crime Syndicate's universe being the second one destroyed on-panel. In the third issue, the Masters of Evil are imprisoned in the omni-lingual Green Lantern bubble in which the Justice League trapped the pre-Crisis Crime Syndicate; Hawkeye becomes a Justice League member in the same manner as pre-Crisis Black Canary; and a painting of the JLA and Avengers' first meeting is modeled after the cover to the first JLA-JSA crossover.
    • Heck, it even goes beyond the comics continuity. What toy does Iron Man come up with when he gets his hands on a Green Lantern Ring? Why, the Proton Cannon. To top it off, Iron Man is wearing the Modular Armor when the cannon is fired.
    • There's also the Marvel Comics Captain Marvel taking down Black Adam while the DC Comics Captain Marvel punches out Ronan the Accuser. Also in the same panel is Marvel's Photon, who originally also called herself "Captain Marvel". Meanwhile, Doctor Light shouts "Captain Marvel, Look out!", to which both Captain Marvels reply "Thanks!"
    • Superman fighting Count Nefaria, a Marvel villain who was originally created as a parody/homage/AlternateCompanyEquivalent of... Superman.
      • The panel where Superman catches Thor's hammer is almost identical to one from Count Nefaria's first fight with the Avengers after gaining his powers.
    • Hawkeye considering the Justice League a "bunch of Squadron Supreme wanna-bes". Marvel's Squadron Supreme was originally created as a parody/homage/AlternateCompanyEquivalent of DC's Justice League.
    • Wonder Woman angrily attacking Marvel's Hercules, referring to him as the "despoiler of Hippolyta". In the DC Universe, Heracles (a villain) at one point enslaved and raped Hippolyta (Wonder Woman's mother). In the Marvel Universe, Hercules (a hero) did at one point have an affair with Hippolyta... who's actually considered a villain there. (The event is based in Classical Mythology, where Heracles/Hercules seduced Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons, and stole her belt. Marvel and DC both gave it their own spin.)
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown - Superman gets one from the Avengers (specifically Iron Man, Vision, Wonder Man, Hercules and She-Hulk) after he punches out their buddy Thor.
  • Not Himself - Superman and Captain America become paranoid and irritable once the walls between universes start to collapse.
  • Off-Model: Considering how the Scarlet Witch is artist George Perez's favorite character, it's curious how he can't seem to draw her consistently at all. Every closeup of Wanda in this story looks like a completely different person.
    • Well, she was trying to use far more Chaos Magic than she was used to having access to.
  • Oh Crap: Hawkeye's reaction to Darkseid getting ahold of the Infinity Gauntlet. However, Darkseid discards it when he learns that the powers the gauntlet should allow him to control don't exist in the DC Universe.
    • Made even better by the fact that Hawkeye recognizes Darkseid as being the most evil being in the multiverse even though he never met him (he says Darkseid "looks even worse than Thanos, if that's even possible").
  • Omnicidal Maniac
  • One-Scene Wonder: The Thing only appears for two pages, but absolutely steals the show by just being his ever-lovin' self, rendering Batman speechless until he leaves. After this the stunned Dark Knight has to admit that Grimm has a "rough-edged charm" all his own.
  • One Steve Limit - Dr. Light yells "Captain Marvel - look out!" Marvel!Captain Marvel and DC!Captain Marvel simultaneously thank her.
    • And in the background of that panel is Monica Rambeau/Photon, who originally went by "Captain Marvel" as well.
    • Hero Despero takes out Villain Despero in one panel.
  • Pinball Protagonist - Wonder Woman could be removed from the story and have almost no impact on the plot.
  • Plot Induced Stupidity - Plenty to go around, but Thor and the Flash suffer the most.
    • Thor can block, deflect, and absorb energy attacks with his hammer, yet never tries to defend himself from Superman's heat vision. He is also fast enough to block bullets and energy attacks, even those fired at point-blank range. Given how effortlessly Thor's defended himself from heat vision-style attacks over the years, even against opponents he's never fought before, for the God of Thunder to suddenly "forget" his most reliable defensive ability is bad writing at best.
      • According to Word of God, both Superman and Thor were starting with their standard "tank" options and would have worked up to their more advanced abilities if the fight had progressed further. Alluded to when Thor mentions that he could have taken Superman now that he has his measure and knows how to counter him.
    • Despite being unable to use his powers in the Marvel universe, Wally West should still be fast enough to defeat most of the Avengers by himself. As it is, Wally is limited to the basic speedster skill set: running fast, dodging attacks, and little else.
  • Reality Warper
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Just before knocking Thor out, Superman lays this on him (and the Marvel Universe as a whole).

Superman: Tell yourself that, Mister... Ease yourself to sleep at night while you let your world go to Hell! Where I come from, though, LIVES MATTER!

  • Red Eyes, Take Warning. Superman, twice. But he's not the only one.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni - Thor (Red) & Superman (Blue)
  • Rock-Paper-Scissors: (Superman + Manhunter) < Thor < Superman < Doomsday < Thor < Count Nefaria < Superman
  • Shirtless Scene - Thor manages to lose his shirt not once, but twice.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns - Hawkeye and Plastic Man are pretty much absent for the mostly somber third chapter. Notice how quickly they come back in the more adventurous fourth chapter.
    • During the third chapter, the classic JLA and Avenger teams were around, ie. Barry Allen and Hal Jordan are The Flash and Green Lantern, Aquaman still has his left hand, while Hawkeye is in his "blond hair, purple costume" look and not a part of the Avengers.
  • Shout-Out - Several, but especially, to the original story for the crossover.
    • Crisis on Infinite Earths. Barry Allen pulls nearly the same trick on Krona that he did on the Anti-Monitor. Of course, Barry was only distracting Krona to give Hawkeye a good shot. Since it was only a distraction, it wasn't literally fatal for Barry, though Wally returned, sending Barry back to his normal state: dead.
    • Signs in Metropolis include the following: Siegel Shuster Co., Marston Industries, and Kane.
  • Sorting Algorithm of Evil - Used in the final issue, and a reason is given for it, too. Krona wants to use all the power he can to continue his research, and as little as necessary to spend on the heroes. So at first he uses just a tiny bit of power to summon the easiest, lamest goons with practically no willpower; easy to control, both physically and mentally, and throws them at the heroes. As they tear through the mooks, however, Krona is gradually forced to use more and more power and recruit stronger, smarter villains (as Metron lampshades) until at the end, he is literally summoning gods and world-destroying fire demons. Finally, he ends up destroying all of the heroes, Superman included, with one energy blast. Save The Flash and Hawkeye, who save the day.
  • Status Quo Is God - By necessity, since neither company can directly cite the other's trademarked characters. However, the JLA arc immediately after this crossover spun out of the destruction of the Anti-Matter universe in the first issue.
    • Also Krona only managed to escape the Cosmic Egg recently in Trinity.
  • Strong as They Need to Be - Superman and Thor are as strong as the plot requires. Thor can take on Superman and the Martian Manhunter simutaneously in the first fight, but Superman alone can knock him out (even so, Thor claims in the last issue that he has a good idea of how powerful Superman is and could possibly beat him in another fight). In the final battle, Superman defeats Count Nefaria, a villain who can take on Thor and the entire Avengers team at once. Rising to the challenge, Thor defeats Doomsday, who is famous for killing Superman.
    • Word of God is that Thor only knocked Doomsday off the panel, not that he was actually defeated.
      • Even that justification is unnecessary, if you just take into account Doomsday's actual powers. He's got super-strength and resilience, sure, but what makes him truly dangerous is that every time he dies, he comes back to life practically immune to whatever killed him. He was such a problem for Superman because, presumably, he's been 'beaten to death by raw physical force' before. Given that Thor's hammer, Mjolnir, is made of a mystical element that doesn't even exist in the DC universe, it's easy to say that Doomsday just wasn't ready for that.
  • Take Up My Sword: First Captain America gives Supes his shield, then Thor tosses him his hammer at a critical moment.
  • The Worf Effect: Terminus nearly kills Superman with an energy blast. The Star Conqueror turns Thor into a brainwashed slave. After this, Superman and Thor spend most of the story giving each other the Worf Effect.
  • This Looks Like a Job For Aquaman - One of the artifacts the heroes seek is at the bottom of an incredibly deep pool of water at Odin's tomb. She-Hulk gets it.
  • Time Travel
  • Took a Level in Badass - Yes, Scarlet Witch, the DC Universe has Chaos Magic, too, but it's a little different there. Let's just point out The Lords of Chaos are an organization of disembodied God-like beings capable of wielding nearly infinite power.
    • Iron Man gets a significant power boost after interfacing a Mother Box with his armor. His sensors gain range and sensitivity, which allows him to detect and stun a surprised Wally West. Iron Man's repulsar blasts become strong enough to overpower Captain Atom, whose body was still smoking minutes after the battle. Even Superman cannot withstand their power, as a full blast to the chest leaves the Man of Steel helpless while the Avengers swarm him.
  • Ungrateful Bastards: The fact that the Marvel Universe citizens are these while the DCU citizens are very much not, gets played for laughs. Praise of the DC heroes in the news and overt friendliness and respect from the curious DCU civilians come as a big shock to the Avengers. Quicksilver is pissed off at the fact that The Flash has an entire museum dedicated to him, while Quicksilver has been hounded by anti-mutant prejudice all his life, and Cap (being Not Himself at the time) even says the DC heroes must be tyrants who force the human race to worship them.
    • Ironically, when Superman sees a broken and vandalized Hank Pym statue, he gets angry because the Marvel Universe's citizens have no respect for their heroes, which to him must mean that they aren't doing enough.
  • Unlimited Wardrobe - The Wasp goes to the extreme by having a different costume in every panel she appears in during the final battle.
    • The Atom, as well.
    • In both cases this was caused by the time-warping effect.
  • Up to Eleven - Superman notes this explicitly with his knockout punch to Thor.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds - Makes you wish for a Green Arrow/Hawkeye crossover someday.
  • We Are Team Cannon Fodder - Just about everyone in the final battle, especially those brought in by waves of chronal chaos.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Wonder Woman and The Wasp have both had enough of Superman and Captain America's animosity by issue #3.
  • Xanatos Gambit - At the story's end, Metron notes that everybody won this one, in one way or another. Even Krona, in a manner of speaking.
  • You Cannot Grasp the True Form

Notes

  1. Kyle Rayner's day job as a designer also helps, plus his constructs tend to be more complicated than his GL partners due to this