Title: Strange Adventures
Release Date: Late November 2003
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Penciller: George Perez
JLA Members: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), Green Arrow, Black Canary, Elongated Man, the Flash (Barry Allen), Red Tornado, Zatanna, Blue Beetle, Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Guy Gardner, Firestorm, Aquaman, the Atom, the Martian Manhunter, Dr. Fate, Fire, Ice, Captain Marvel, Booster Gold, Vibe, Rocket Red, Green Lantern (John Stewart), Dr. Light, Gypsy, Vixen, the Flash (Wally West), Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner), and the Phantom Stranger.
Avengers Members: Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, Vision, Wasp, Ant-Man, Beast, Yellowjacket, Quicksilver, Photon, Black Panther, Hercules, Moondragon, She-Hulk, Wonder Man, Dr. Druid, the Black Knight, Ms. Marvel, Hellcat, Black Widow, the Falcon, Spider-Man, Mantis, Starfox, Gilgamesh, the Sub-Mariner, Goliath, Tigra, and the USAgent
Guest Stars: Eternity, Kismet, Jarvis, Sue Dibny, Snapper Carr, Rick Jones, the Grandmaster, and Metron.
Bad Guys: Krona, Amazo, Ultron, the Grim Reaper, the Key, Kang, the Lord of Time, Silver Swan, Killer Croc, Shrapnel, Mammoth, Bloodsport, Sonar, Silver Banshee, and Poison Ivy.
Cameos: Dr. Doom and Brainiac.
Special Features: Death of the Grandmaster.

So what happens?
A few cool things happen here, but for the most part, this is complete crap.

It starts out pretty good--at the Source Wall, in the DC Universe, which is covered with the gigantic, stony bodies of those who have previously tried and failed to penetrate it and learn the ultimate secrets of the New Gods, someone new has been added--Marvel's Dr. Doom, who was defeated in his quest to get past the wall by members of the Justice League from the Silver Age, including Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Black Canary, and the Elongated Man, with a guest-starring role for the Avengers' Hawkeye. But suddenly and for no reason, Hawkeye disappears, replaced by the Flash, and only Green Arrow seems to kinda-sorta-halfway realize it. But since Doom did make it over to the DC Universe, the Justice Leaguers make the trip over to the Marvel Universe to see if there are any problems over there.

Turns out that after the big blowup at the end of last issue, history has been rewritten so that the Marvel and DC Universes have co-existed for decades, with heroes from both universes regularly traveling to the other to fight crimes and socialize. And the Avengers have just finished dealing with their own visitor from the DC Universe--Brainiac just got done getting his robotic ass kicked by Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, the Scarlet Witch, the Vision, the Wasp, Ant-Man, and the Beast. Everyone starts to compare notes, Hawkeye and Green Arrow start arguing about who's the better archer, and Superman and Captain America keep getting the feeling that something is somehow wrong.

And then everything changes, and only Supes and Cap seem to know it. Now everyone is aboard the JLA's satellite having their annual social gathering. There are a lot more Leaguers and Avengers here, and everyone's having a great time, but Superman and Captain America are still tense and nervous. What the hell is going on? Everything changes again, and everyone is at Avengers Mansion. This time, Captain America snaps, hollering at the Justice League to get out. He thinks he sees Hal Jordan and Barry Allen briefly turn into Kyle Rayner and Wally West, and everyone thinks he's lost his mind. They try to remind him of all the other JLA-Avengers team-ups they've had, but Cap doesn't care. He and Superman start yelling at each other, then they attack each other, and everything turns into a stark white void again.

When everything clears, Aquaman and Vision find themselves in a devastated, snowbound Metropolis, in the modern era. Their memories are hazy, and Aquaman can't remember why he feels like he's supposed to have only one hand. They're suddenly attacked by a group of DC supervillains who say they're serving a mysterious "Master". Vision and Aquaman are badly outnumbered, but luckily, a mixed group of Avengers and Justice Leaguers show up to save their bacon. Not even Wonder Woman's magic lasso can get the villains to tell who their Master is... and what the heck is Hal Jordan still doing around here? And everyone learns that the moon has been badly damaged somehow. Curiouser and curiouser.

Meanwhile, in the Marvel Universe's New York City, another group of Avengers and Leaguers are struggling to put out a bunch of out-of-control earthquakes and fires. Barry Allen is the Flash again, despite the fact that he's been dead for years. And everyone learns that the superheroes aren't the only people crossing over between universes--lots of normal citizens are finding themselves switching back and forth between universes. Then it starts snowing, and everyone starts to panic--apparently, this has happened before, and when it starts snowing, it starts thunderstorming, strange ghosts start appearing, then people start to vanish! Turns out that the storms are causing people to switch randomly from one universe to the other. When the heroes find the dividing point between the two universes, they discover a glowing energy field with Krona's taunting face in the middle of it! Superman and Captain America start arguing again as soon as they see each other, until everyone else tells them to shaddap and quit acting like idiots.

At once, the energy erupts, and Krona launches himself skywards. The superheroes all find themselves in the same universe again, and the earthquakes and storms immediately get worse. Superman and Iron Man follow Krona's energy into orbit and discover that he's trying to cram both universes together to turn them into one! But the two universes are just too different to merge well, and the stress is tearing both universes apart. Scarlet Witch and Green Lantern try to stop Krona, tapping their teammates' wills to fuel their powers. Everything goes white again...

When the smoke clears, the two universes are separate again, but everyone knows the crisis isn't over yet, so the JLA and Avengers get back together to try to figure things out. They discover that there's been some timeline mixing going on--several heroes are wearing costumes they haven't worn in years, and Krona's "warp energy" is twisting outer space into pretzels as it tries to combine planets all over the place. It's going to be necessary for everyone to find the Grandmaster, since he was behind a lot of this. But can they find him in time? Fortunately, the Phantom Stranger appears out of nowhere and offers to help. He takes both superteams out into space, where the Grandmaster lies, beaten, broken, and dying.

The Grandmaster explains a few of the things that have been going on. He says that he used the power of the 12 artifacts to draw the universes together and trap Krona at a point between them. He says that some of the heroes--Captain America and Superman in particular--were too strongly attuned to their own universes and reacted harshly to all perceived differences between the two. He also says that, since Krona has gotten free, he intends to use the knowledge he gained from Galactus to combine the universes until they reach critical mass and collapse on each other, triggering a new Big Bang that will let Krona discover all the secrets he wants to learn. The Grandmaster tells them that Krona must be faced and defeated before the proper order of the two universes can be restored.

The next problem: the heroes' memories are still swiss-cheesed--they can't remember for sure exactly what their universes are really supposed to be like. So the Grandmaster shows them what their lives have been (or, in a few cases, are going to be). They see friends and foes, triumphs and defeats, happy moments and tragedies. Hank Pym sees himself become a wife-beater, Aquaman sees himself lose a hand, Scarlet Witch sees the loss of her children, the Flash and Superman see their own deaths, Green Lantern sees himself go insane and destroy the Green Lantern Corps. The light show ends up taking the last of the Grandmaster's energy, and he dies, leaving the Avengers and Justice League wondering if they really want to save the universes if all those terrible things will really come to pass. But there's a whole 'nother issue to go, and it'd be really silly if they all just gave up on the last page and let the world be destroyed, wouldn't it?

Cool Moments!
The front and back covers feature several hundred characters--every character who has ever been a member of either the Justice League or the Avengers. Reportedly, drawing this cover actually gave George Perez tendonitis. There is no question that the cover is absolutely awe-inspiring. (And thank GOD that not all those characters made it into this issue!)

Uncool Moments!
The whole issue is, frankly, a barely comprehendible jumble. Far too many things are never explained. There are far too many setting changes. Far too many people come and go. Listen, I know a hell of a lot about comic books, but I could barely make heads or tails of this. It reads like it was written by someone who'd been working for two or three days with no sleep. Yes, I know that a lot of this will be explained in the last issue, but it wouldn't have hurt anyone to explain a few of these things a bit more clearly. What's with all the body-switching? What was up with the few items that were found that combined elements from both universes, like the newspaper with a Clark Kent interview with Spider-Man? Why are Hal and Barry back? Why did the world go ka-blooey when Supes and Cap attacked each other? Why is everyone's memory so hazy? TOO MANY QUESTIONS!

Final Grade: D

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