Title: A Journey into Mystery
Release Date: September 2003
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Penciller: George Perez
JLA Members: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Green Lantern, the Martian Manhunter, Aquaman, the Atom, and Plastic Man.
Avengers Members: Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, the Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, Vision, Wasp, Yellowjacket, Hawkeye, Warbird, She-Hulk, Triathlon, and Jack of Hearts.
Guest Stars: Lord Arkon, Lady Thundra, the Weaponers of Qward, the Crime Syndicate of Amerika (Ultraman, Superwoman, Owlman, Power Ring, and Johnny Quick), Eternity, the Grandmaster, the Spectre, Quasar, the Watcher, the Punisher, and Metron.
Bad Guys: Krona, Terminus, the Star Conqueror, Fin Fang Foom, Vandoom's Creature, Tricephalus, and Loophole.
Cameos: Lobo, the Shi'ar Imperial Guard (Hobgoblin, Oracle, Manta, Smasher, Starbolt, Nightside, Fang, Magick, Neutron, Astra, Warstar, Impulse, Tempest, Hussar, Mentor, Electron, and Titan), the Wingmen of Thanagar, the Skrull, the Brood, Mongul, the Khund, Dr. Doom and the Hulk.
Special Features: Death of the Crime Syndicate.

So what happens?
There's lots of skipping around between different comic book universes for this one, but we start out on the high-fantasy world of Polemachus, where Lord Arkon is about to be appointed Imperion (and his wife Lady Thundra lounges around nakedly in bed). But there will be no king-making nor bedspring-squeaking this day, for a mysterious entity looms overhead, demanding to know "What is the Secret? What is the Truth?" When no one is able to answer it, the entity nonchalantly destroys Polemachus and its entire universe with its smoky black tentacles!

And in another universe, the villainous Crime Syndicate, the evil twins of the Justice League, have found the war-torn and psychotic antimatter world of Qward and are happily mopping the floor with the Weaponers out of, mainly, boredom. But without warning, the mysterious entity is here, too, demanding to know the Truth and ultimately destroying Qward, the Crime Syndicate, and their universe. (For you non-comic-reading kids out there, there was once a very well-known DC series called "Crisis on Infinite Earths". George Perez drew it, the Weaponers were one of the primary villains, and the Crime Syndicate were destroyed in a similar manner in the first issue. Clearly, there's gonna be lots of universe-shakin' goin' on here.)

Now we move on to the Marvel Universe, where the Grandmaster, a cosmic gambler, is accosted by the mysterious entity, who at last reveals himself: Krona. The Crisis again rears its head here, as in that story, Krona was an Oan scientist who sought to see the origin of the universe and ultimately ended up splitting the originally solitary universe into the multiverse we kinda, sorta, maybe know and love.

And finally, we move over to the DC Universe, where the Justice League is battling a giant, armored Marvel villain called Terminus, who is wrecking a mall in Keystone City. The JLA is ultimately able to defeat him by directing the energy blasts from his own staff back into his face, but not long after Terminus hits the ground, the Spectre (former Green Lantern Hal Jordan) appears, announces that Terminus doesn't even belong in this universe, and whisks him away.

Meanwhile, in the Marvel Universe, the mighty Avengers have their hands full with the Star Conqueror, a world-conquering giant starfish from the DC Universe. Its mind-controlling starfish-drones have already taken over scores of New Yorkers, including Avengers like Quicksilver, Yellowjacket, Triathlon, the She-Hulk, and even Thor! They're able to pry one of the drones off of Quicksilver, who reveals that the Star Conqueror's greatest desires are control and order. The Vision comes up with the idea of slapping a starfish over the Scarlet Witch's face and letting her chaos magic, driven deep into the Star Conqueror's ordered mind, scare the monster away from Earth. After it's gone, the Scarlet Witch reveals that Starro didn't belong in this universe. And once the Avengers get back to their HQ at Avengers Mansion, they learn that other worlds throughout the Marvel Universe are being invaded by races from outside the Marvel Universe...

Meanwhile, the Justice League, trying to investigate where Terminus came from, has the Flash take a chunk of the villain's armor and match his vibrational frequency to it (It's a DC speedster thing--it means he can move from one universe to another by temporarily attuning himself to match the "vibrations" of other universes). Once he gets to the Marvel Universe, he discovers an angry mob chasing a mutant, but when he tries to rescue the guy, he discovers that there's no Speed Force (which powers all of DC's speedsters) in the Marvel Universe; when the mob attacks him, he barely escapes back to his own universe. And the rest of the JLA have discovered that a bunch of other-dimensional invaders are attacking various worlds throughout the universe...

And then the Watcher shows up. Hey, who's this giant, big-headed dumbass hanging around outside the JLA Watchtower? Luckily, the Grandmaster shows up and explains that the Watcher shows up to observe momentous occasions (though he doesn't normally do that outside the Marvel Universe). The Grandmaster explains that the vibrational barriers between the Marvel and DC Universes have been weakened, and that could end up destroying both universes. The only way to prevent that is to assemble a collection of powerful artifacts from both universes. From the DC Universe, the items include: the Green Bell of Ulthool, the Silver Wheel of Nyorlath, and the Red Jar of Calythos; the Medusa Mask; the Spear of Destiny; Green Lantern's power battery; the Orb of Ra; and the Eternity Book. From the Marvel Universe, the items include: the Soul Gems; the Casket of Ancient Winters; the Evil Eye; the Cosmic Cube; the Wand of Watoomb; and the Ultimate Nullifier. If the Justice League can't bring all these items together, one of the universes will be destroyed. The Grandmaster also warns that others will be attempting to thwart the League so they can assemble the artifacts for their own purposes. Hey! He's talking 'bout the Avengers! But--But they're both the good guys, aren't they?!

Anyway, the JLA prepares to take a trip over to the Marvel Universe. The Flash can't go with them, but he can go ahead and adjust the rest of the team's vibrational frequency to allow them to make the journey without him. The Atom is going to go with the rest of the Justice League in his place. And over on the Marvel side of things, Iron Man has just set up a detector that will let the Avengers know if anyone from the DC side of things makes another trip over to the Marvel Universe. (God, I hate writing about the cross-dimensional crap, solely because trying to hash out who's in whose universe gets so pointlessly confusing) Anyway, the detector rings the alarm as soon as the JLA arrive. While the Avengers are trying to pin down their signal, the Justice League takes a quick tour around the Marvel Universe to scope out the situation, though Batman warns them that they are only to observe, not interfere. They visit Latveria, home of the despotic Dr. Doom, former mutant homeland Genosha, now destroyed by war, Michigan, where the Hulk has just gone on another destructive rampage, and New York, where the Punisher is killing drug dealers without a fair trial (Batman breaks his no-interference rule and kicks Punny's butt).

Finally, they arrive at an island in the Sea of Okhotsk, where Superman goes off on an uncharacteristic rant about how Marvel's heroes have allowed too much injustice and aren't doing their job. And then the JLA are attacked by a trio of giant monsters--Fin Fang Foom, Vandoom's Creature, and Tricephalus (Don't blame me--blame Jack Kirby, King of Comics but Patron Saint of Whacked-Out, Goofy Monster Names). They beat the monsters pretty handily and recover the first artifact, the Ultimate Nullifier. But the Avengers arrive, and Hawkeye knocks the Nullifier clear with some kind of improbable suction-cup-boomerang-arrow. Iron Man fires a weapon that's designed to cancel out the vibrational frequencies that allow them to stay in the Marvel Universe, but before the JLA is forced out, Wonder Woman manages to grab Hawkeye's arrow and the Nullifier.

So the Justice League is back in their own universe (and Supes is still griping about what stinkbutts the Avengers are), but the Avengers discover someone else on the island watching them--Hey, it's Metron, one of the New Gods from the DC Universe! And he feeds them the same story that the Grandmaster told the Justice League about needing to acquire all those artifacts! Metron gives the Avengers one of the New Gods' Mother Boxes to allow them to ride a Boom Tube over to the DC Universe. But no one is aware that the Atom stayed behind and has heard the whole exchange--he knows something fishy is going on.

A smaller squad of the Avengers--Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, Vision, and Hawkeye--quickly travel over to the DC Universe and, after taking a moment to trash a goofball villain named Loophole, they discover something that's completely alien to them: in the DCU, normal people love superheroes. After signing a few autographs and watching a few news reports about superheroes getting awards for good deeds (and after Quicksilver gasps jealously that they have a museum--a whole museum--devoted to a speedster!), Captain America goes off on an uncharacteristic rant about how DC's heroes are ruling over the people and demanding public adoration instead of taking care of the freedom-fighting business. Hmmm, first Supes, now Cap... I smell mind control.

And then the Justice League shows up. Superman and Captain America bellow threats at each other for a minute, then Thor knocks Superman on his ass with his giant ball-peen hammer, Mjolnir. Oooo, there's gonna be one hell of a slap-fight now!

But first, we sneak a peak on the Grandmaster and Metron. Turns out they've engineered this whole thing in some sort of scheme to foil Krona's plans to destroy both universes. Can this gamble hope to succeed? And since the Atom has sneaked over with Metron, what part is he going to play in this?

Cool Moments!
The hand that holds the universe (an image from, again, DC's Crisis) is revealed to belong to Eternity, a cosmically-powerful figure from the Marvel Universe; the Avengers-vs.-Starro fight was plumb nifty; the Scarlet Witch is real purty; the fight happens off-camera, but the idea of Batman giving the Punisher a beat-down is fun; and the huge two-page splash page of the Avengers meeting the Justice League toward the back of this issue is just monkey-crazy-cool.

Uncool Moments!
The death of the Crime Syndicate--dammit, those guys were cool. Also, does this take place in anything resembling standard comic continuity? A lot of these characters met each other during various other inter-company crossovers--is their inability to recognize each other now a plot point or just an indication that we're supposed to pretend this is the first time these guys have met? I really couldn't tell...

Cool Quotes!
Yellowjacket, after getting the starfish-drone off his face: "I may never look at calamari the same way again...!"
Wasp: "Uh, Hank... Calamari is squid..."
She-Hulk, also shedding a starfish: "Oh, who cares? Just get me a gallon of Listerine and a bucket of breathmints! That taste...!"

The Grandmaster, arriving in DC-ville: "I hail from the same universe as the various... intruders you are concerned about. But it is not in my nature to see any contest be an uneven one--so I have come to tell you of the peril you face."
Plastic Man: "Ooo, space referee."

Hawkeye, finally figuring out why the Justice League seem familiar to him: "Oh, right, now I got it! These losers--they're nothin' but a bunch of Squadron Supreme wanna-bes! Five gets you ten they're mind-controlled!"

Final Grade: A

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