JLA: Age of Wonder #1

Written by Adisakdi Tantimedh
Breakdowns by P. Craig Russell
Pencils and inks by Galen Showman
48 pages, color
Published by DC Comics

When DC Comics first introduced its Elseworlds line of books, it was known for its clever takes on existing characters and concepts; people buying every Elseworlds release was a pretty common occurrence. Over the years, though, it seems to have mostly turned into an endless series of uninspired retreads of movies and cornball ideas. Maybe that’s why so many people are talking about the first half of the new JLA: Age of Wonder mini-series… because it’s actually good.

In 1876, the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia is turned upside down by the appearance of Clark Kent, a man blessed with numerous super powers. With the Industrial Revolution in full swing, Clark quickly finds himself falling in with Thomas Edison and his assistant Lex Luthor to help move technology forward in leaps and bounds. As others with remarkable powers arrive on the scene, it truly seems to be an age of wonder—but how far will those with technology go to keep their superiority?

Author Adisakdi Tantimedh’s immediate understanding of what makes a good Elseworlds comic is a genuine relief. Instead of simply taking an overly familiar story with new names inserted, he’s taken a basic setting and built into it a whole new tale waiting to be told. His story of the rise of technology is interesting, and the appearance of superheroes in this time period not only seems natural, but it genuinely enhances the story. Because Tantimedh has wisely avoided telling a story everyone already knows, he’s also able to heighten suspense and does an excellent job at doing so; the twists and turns in Age of Wonder are fun and unexpected, but occur naturally.

Galen Showman’s pencils and inks (based off of breakdowns by P. Craig Russell) are just as much fun to experience. Showman and Russell’s designs for 19th century superheroes are fantastic; they show a genuine understanding for the fashions of the time, something evident by the look and feel of the rest of the cast of Age of Wonder. With Showman’s crisp art style, he’s able to put a lot of detail into each panel without making it look cluttered or distracting, the end result being a fully-realized glimpse into this time period. There’s a lot of nice storytelling on display here as well, with little touches like Lex and Lois walking along the bottom margin of the opening page to get a sense of them heading away from the crowds, to Lois’s plunge downwards through panels dropping all the way to the bottom of the page. Russell and Showman have control of the reader’s eyes from the very first page, and they make it quickly clear that they don’t plan on letting go until the book is over.

Age of Wonder #1 is one of the best Elseworlds books from DC Comics in a long time. Even better, this first of two issues is a complete story in itself; while there’s a lot of setup for the second half, you’ll be able to enjoy this first half in its own right. With that said, knowing that there’s still a second half makes me appreciate this all the more, because it’s bound to be even better.

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