Thursday, February 15, 2007


JLA: Gods and Monsters is a cautionary tale about the dangers of steroids, nuns, and pleated skirts and/or slacks.

A one-shot comic by writers Dan Jolley and Josh Krach, Gods and Monsters is the story of a cult of people in pleated legwear who have all been saved at one point by the JLA heroes, who they now worship as godlike saviors. The cultists are manipulated by the mysterious Sister Glory, a woman who may not be what she seems to be… and for the record, she seems to be a buff blonde nun with breast implants in spandex.

The basic idea of Gods and Monsters is pretty cool, but it loses some impact with the addition of elements like these giant “war wheel” flying saucers that the cultists cruise around in for some reason, and the distractingly buxom Sister Christian or whatever her name is. There's a tangential plot line wherein the Justice League heroes are considered public menaces and are hunted by asshole heroes like Captain Atom and Guy Gardner, but it goes nowhere and sort of distracts from the main plot and theme.
Gods and Monsters is a bit of a mess, but Scott Benefiel and Jasen Rodriguez's stylized art makes it a pretty mess, at least. Benefiel draws exagerated, massively proportioned heroic figures that work within the plot and Rodriguez has a nice clean inking style that compliments Benefiel's pencils well.
Everyone in the book looks like they've been hittin' the steroids, particularly Sister Christian and Superman. Lay off the gym candy, Superman, that D-Bol will fuck you up. If your biceps are bigger than your skull, you need to stop and get help before you lose all your hair and grow breasts.
Actually, Benefiel's superhero physiques don't look creepy and vascular and steroidy so much as they look inflated, like everyone's been hitting the Ed McGuinness Gym. I can appreciate that clean, smooth, cartoony aesthetic - there's only so much cross-hatching and scratchy lines a fella can take. The style fits nicely with the colorful, larger-than-life JLA characters. Even Batman looks pretty cool with shiny balloon muscles.
In addition to his fun, stylized rendering, Benefiel brings some solid visual storytelling skills to the book. He has a playful approach to sequential art that really enhances the story and glosses over some of the less-than-gripping aspects of the comic.
Check out this sequence where The Flash stops the Pleated Ones from committing mass suicide by stealing every single poison pill from their hands before they can pop it in their mouths:

I love that sequence. Christ, look at the size of Flash's jaw! Talk about leading with your chin.
Gods and Monsters derails somewhat in the third act, when we learn that Sister Christian is actually... well, that would be spoiling the ending. The big reveal at the end undermines the whole superhero cult concept - without going into detail, we learn that it's all an Evil Scheme from an old enemy you've never heard of. Big whoop.
The art and writing in Gods and Monsters does manage to strike a playful, light-hearted tone throughout the whole book which makes the book fun to read but glosses over the more disturbing aspects of the Pleated Ones suicide/murder cult. I don't think the book should have been painted in virgin blood and oil by Dave McKean or anything, but the creators of the book don't seem to be taking the cult too seriously so it's hard for the reader to do the same.
One of the things I did find adorable was the way Benefiel draws characters with huge gaping mouths. Everybody in the book can unhinge their jaws like a python or like a Muppet. Green Lantern looks like he could swallow a canteloupe whole!
So there you go. JLA: Gods and Monsters doesn't quite hit the mark but you could do worse.
Reading this has made me want to hunt down Scott Benefiel's other work to see how his pencils look with a different inker and to see if he draws all his characters with inflatable biceps and trapdoor mouths. His art may not be a good fit for all aspects of the storyline, but I'd really like to see more of his stuff.
Because really: Muppet-mouthed, hyper-muscular superheroes? Can that be a bad thing?
I say thee nay.
Bonus art! Spot the vaguely inappropriate sound effect in the panel below! And man, look at the guns on Wonder Woman, she is ripped!


Anonymous said...

Yeah, it'd be real tough to get me to join a cult run by a hot blond with assets like that...real tough.

Is it just me or does Wonder Woman look like she's about to go all "Falling Down" on the cover?

Dan said...

I know you want your hero to have a strong jaw, but good lord, Superman looks like Mickey Rourke as Marv on that cover.

Of course, he also looks like he ate forty Taco Bell burritos for lunch and just realized that there's no bathrooms in the JLA Watchtower.

Anonymous said...

To paraphrase Roger Ebert, I may not know a lot about Scott Benefiel, but I do know one thing: He likes big boobs.

Edward Liu said...

I think I may have been better off not knowing that "fwap" had a rather specific slang definition. The sly and entirely appropriate insertion of Animal more than makes up for it, though.

Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator said...

Aw come on, tell us who the bad guy is.

Word verification joaht -- I have my joaht on today, how about you?

Vincent said...

I honest;y didn't know "fwap" was the sound when metal crashes into Superman. Interesting stuff.

Anonymous said...

Spot the vaguely inappropriate sound effect in the panel below!

I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I couldn't do that.

Lame repartee, I know, but I still can't see why FWAP is inappropriate.

Anonymous said...

I heart! Apparently to "fwap" is to hit someone with a fish. Of course this is only true if you ignore the 11,000 other entries defining "fwap" as something else that doesn't involve fish. Or shouldn't, if you know what's good for you.

Big Murr said...

Sorry, boss, but I say thee "yea".

I'm not at all familiar with this Benefiel's stuff. The samples you show stink on ice. I can only guess that someone instructed him to mimic the cartoon animated DCU.

"But I only draw hyper-ripped muscles and colossal boobies! I've never even seen a DCU cartoon!"

So they showed him five minutes of one and let him go from there.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure why "FWAP" is an innapropriate sound effect but this was a funny entry. Good reading.

Anonymous said...

Wonder Woman is sweet. Now THAT's an Amazon!

Is fwap too understated? I'm not sure what it should be. Maybe something like PLOK or FWOK?

Anonymous said...

Based on the cover, I'm guessing that the old enemy you've never heard of is Chindi, the mystic master of Dark Arts who can cause peoples' maxillofacial areas to swell painfully using only the POWER of his MIND. Because my God! Both Supes and Wonder Woman look like the lower halves of their faces are about to burst.

Oh, and hulkster, you owe me a new keyboard.

Anonymous said...

To anyone who watches the show Psych on USA, tonight Gus reclaimed his old Airwolf windbreaker and even wore it for a scene.

Oh, and Superman looks like a freakin' freak on that cover.

The Icon said...

I fell out my chair when I saw the panel of characters from the comic followed up with a mugshot of Animal.


Anonymous said...

I don't know jack about the mystery villain, but if I could make myself look like Sister Glory, I'd never leave the house.

Actually, that might even work, because the girlfriend is bi.

Mike Haseloff said...

That cover is enough to make me want to set my own head on fire.

Not a fan of the artwork at all.
Dry highlight colour pallette? Super-deformed faces? Gravity-defying breasts that make me envious?! Fanboy RAGE!

Word verification: iojezmt
Good for one ejaculation. Sorry MJ.

Anonymous said...

Admit it, this was posted just picture of the Muppet, wasn't it?

Anonymous said...

So when did Emma Frost become a nun?

Anonymous said...

Here is a theory:

Flash + Unnamed attractive girl in skirt = Unmentioned upskirt fun.

Check out any issue of Flash after Wally took over and you will find proof of this.

Phillip said...

I never heard of fwap before, but I gather it's the b3ta version of "fap". Learn something new every day I guess...

West said...

Ugly stuff.

It takes some STRONG storytelling skills or a really exciting concept to distract me from those hideous illustrations.

WW doesn't look so bad, though.

Anonymous said...

um. Is Superman catching a giant buttplug?

'Sup with THAT??

My v-word is FCAAZ....that's what the damn sound effect SHOULDA been!

lazy_cg said...

daaaaaaaaaamn... she like a brick builder's house.

Algar said...

Pretty helpful data, thank you for the article.
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