Some of this Morrison reading project has been fairly heavy going.  The Filth, The Invisibles, and Seven Soldiers of Victory are meaty lumps of sequential narrative.  On top of that, the modicum of research some of my posts have necessitated has felt a tiny bit like work here and there*.

So I’ve been saving up Morrison’s JLA for when burnout beckons and I need some simple 4-colour superhero fun. 

That moment has arrived! 

JLA was my introduction to the mainstream DCU.  Even though the stories weren’t designed to be read in conjunction with the rest of DC’s output at the time, reading about these central characters each month gave me a good handle on where the DCU was at back then.  I loved this incarnation of the team.  Morrison’s deft handling of these characters in their team book and his portrayal of them as a group bound together by mutual trust and respect allowed them to have a strong presence when they appeared as a team in other books, or when other writers borrowed the reins. 

Because I have a fondness for this period of DCU history, I’ll probably be taking side-trips to appearances of the JLA in other comics during Morrison’s tenure as chief custodian.  Such was my fanboyish enthusiasm for the JLA that I eventually bought many of those appearances, including events like JLApe and Day of Judgement.  These summer crossovers might have been knocked at the time, but they are veritable models of restraint in light of DC’s publishing practices since DiDio took over.

Here is a chronology of Morrison’s JLA and the storylines that intersected with it.  I’ll be using it to decide the reading order and possible side-trips.  Let us know if there are any glaring errors on it.  I’d love to read through every appearance of the JLA during 1996-2000, but unfortunately, most of them are amongst the comics I had to leave behind when I made my big move.  If you would like to chime in with commentary on JLApe, Paradise Lost, Day of Judgement or any of the other stories in the chronology, be my guest.

JLA was stratospherically popular back when it hit the stands, so it’d be good to hear what you all thought of it at the time and how you think it reads now. 

If possible, I’d like for all the early posts to focus on the first 2-3 storylines rather than ranging too far ahead.  Not really for SPOILER reasons, but just to keep the discussion from getting too general.  I don’t think we have to worry about spoiling later developments, though, as most of us have probably read this series already.

Given I’ll be branching out to the work of other writers, it seems right to begin the discussion with Justice League: Midsummer’s Nightmare, written by Mark Waid and Fabian Niceiza.

*Ironic, given where I wrote most of them…

 

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Earlier Border Mutt said:

 

Morrison did retcons all over the place. The next storyline actually is a pretty egregious retcon of Starro who had a pretty prominent storyline in JLI during the Giffen/DeMattis years, well after Crisis.

For what it's worth, we do get a scene here where the Flash is looking at old footage of the JLA fighting the Starro face-huggers. From the way one of them is comically whacking against the back of J'onn's head in the scene, it looks like the Geffin era. So the story does acknowledge post-COIE continuity to some extent

 

Anyway, a few extra comments before I move on...


First of all I don't think it's a coincidence that this story takes place right after Superman gets his old suit and power-set back.  This is a story about the classic iconic Superman and what he represents.  Perhaps Morrison had planned it for a while, but saved it for when he could tell it using the 'real' Superman.  Thematically, it ties in very closely with All-Star Superman, and from those interviews, it's themes are very central to Morrison's whole approach to Superman and his comrades-in-arms.

 

(By the way, in the Supergods interview, Morrison does equate Superman to the skyfather Zeus, so that showed me!)

 

We got two little twists at the close of the story that stuck with me long after I'd forgotten the rest of the details.  One was that the 'boy' in the dream that Superman saved turned out to be a homeless adult.  I liked how the story acknowledged how we carry our younger selves around like that.  Still, I also thought it was tough to read that the kid in the story had turned out to have such a hard life.

 

On this readthrough, I can see that making the key character a mentally troubled homeless person, Morrison is again shining the spotlight on the marginalised and the unfortunate in society, just as he did in Doom Patrol and the Invisibles.  Michael's early line about everybody thinking he's a weird child takes on a new pathos when we later realise how he fared in life.  Michael's outsider status is important to what Morrison is doing in Return of the Conqueror.  He shows that Superman even cares for the people we hardly notice as we step over them.  Also Morrison is showing that our dreams and inner life is one area untouched by our place in society, or how the world has treated us.  It is in the dreams of a homeless man that humanity's worth and values are tested.

 

The other little twist Morrison put in was to have Daniel declare at the end that his father's debt is now repaid.  Presumably he means the help Morpheus got in-story from the Justice League when he started out, in particular from J'onn J'onnz, who had mentioned their previous meeting in the course of this tale. 

 

More metatextually, Daniel must be referring to the way that Sandman began it's run as a comic quite firmly entrenched in the DCU, with Morpheus fighting an old DCU villain.  It's another example of the way this story blurs the boundaries between reality and fiction/dreams.  That Starro is just another of Sandman's errant nightmares that Daniel locks away with things like the Corinthian's skull, makes us realise that the DCU itself is only a tiny corner of Dream's vast dominion - which it really is in reality.  :-) 

 

Perhaps this story isn't the final one where elements from the Vertigo and the DCU imprints interacted, but it feels like the final one, and puts a capstone on that era nicely.


Strange that the interaction between the DCU and Vertigo was presaged by one Englishman, cemented by another, closed off by a third and restarted again by a fourth. (Moore, Gaiman, Morrison and Cornell) What's with that?

FInally, I read these stories in the Strength in Numbers collection. The last line in it goes something like 'As one adventures ends...' and its clear the next scene would show another beginning. I believe the team returned to the JLA Watchtower to discover the JLA of the 853rd century awaiting them, but the Strength in Numbers TPB doesn't show this. If anyone has the comic handy, I'd like to know what I missed.

It's problematic if the DC One,Million series began straight away, as there would seem to be a few JLA stories that slot in between JLA 23 and DC One Million.,

It seems DC One Million features the Diana Prince Wonder Woman, so she must have returned just at the end of JLA 23. She also stars in the few JLA adventures that weren't part of the regular comic series but were published around this time, and seem best placed before DC One Million.

Yes, Jeff, Hippolyta has also left the building!

 

So I'll be looking at a few non-Morrison JLA stories before we get into DC One Million.

 

In case you don't get around to reading it, Philip, I thought you might like the dialogue between Zauriel and Aquaman attached here.

Few would deliberately tweak Morrison's Aquaman. Unfortunately for the Sea King, they're all in JLA!

Daniel showing up in a DCU book is not as surprising as you may think as he is the son of Hector and Lyta Hall (Silver Scarab/Sandman III/the future Doctor Fate IV and Fury) thus he is the grandson of both the Golden Age Hawkman and the Golden Age Wonder Woman. Since they are, in the Post-Crisis reality, members of the Justice League, he's practically family!

Interesting that you bring up British creators, because the major Bronze Age Starro Vs JLA story was most memorable for its Brian Bolland covers.

Before we leave Waid's first stint as JLA writer, I wonder what will be considered his masterpieces in the long run?  Any contenders?  I've a feeling they'll be his long runs on series that I haven't followed.

I've only read Waid's stuff here and there, but I'd have to say Kingdom Come definitely, CrossGen's Ruse, and probably his Flash (although I personally haven't read too much of it).  I'm quite fond of JLA:Year One but I don't think it has enough action in it to be considered a masterpiece; it's playing a bit much to nostalgia, (albeit with spot on characterization).  I think his JLA proper work is actually worthy but tends to get lost as a footnote to Morrison's run.  (I guess he should have stayed longer instead of going to CrossGen... but then we wouldn't have gotten Ruse.) 

On the Marvel end of things, lots of people seemed to like his Captain America and Fantastic Four.  (I can't say personally, as neither property's ever really appealed to me.)

 

This brings up something you said earlier Figs about following authors not characters.  I'm sort of the opposite in that regard.  I'd consider both Waid and Busiek to be two of my favourite writers but there is tons of stuff they've each written that I just have no desire to read.  One of their names being attached to a project will get me to give something a second look but if it's a concept I'm not interested in I'll still pass.  There's not a single creator who's work I would pick up based on their name alone.  If Busiek is working on a concept I'm interested in, I'm there.  If it's a project I'm iffy about, that's where Busiek's name will make a sale where other names might not.  If I'm not interested in the idea, I'm just not interested in the idea.  On the other hand, if there's a title that I like, I probably give its creative teams more latitude than I should.  (It took a lot to make me stop buying Justice League... congratulations Robinson! )

 

 

Yes, my problem is with continuity as sole subject matter of a story.  It doesn't tell me anything about the world out here, or help me look at it with new eyes.  It freezes out possible new readers by making them feel like they've missed half the point, and contributes to the ghetto-isation of our hobby.

I pretty much agree with this... if you were talking about a whole series.  I don't think an issue or two every few years is really the same thing though.  Personally, I consider a continuity plot once in a while to be a plus in itself.  It's like a reward for longtime readers, or for those that aren't long term readers, a puzzle.  Now not everyone likes puzzles but then again, we couldn't get everyone to agree on anything.  But my feeling is, if you want to go looking for the pieces, it encourages you to get more into the history.  If you'd rather just see the last few pieces be slid in and then look at the finished picture, it's all laid out for you.  Now, this doesn't work if the story isn't entertaining by itself, (who wants to look at an all white puzzle?), but if it is, I think a continuity issue is a perfectly reasonable "plus" without being exclusionary.  Sometimes I want to watch a movie and marvel at the chemistry between the actors, sometimes I want to read a book and ruminate on themes and subtext, and sometimes I want to set my tongue and wrap my head around doing a puzzle.

 

This comment has been brought to you by Bits and Pieces, makers of fine puzzles. ;)

Hey Figs, just so you don't think I disagree with everything you say, I think this statement is spot on:

Too many resets and the stakes keep getting lowered in a fictional universe, and the charcters and readers are cheated of growth and evolution.
Hopefully DC will learn this lesson and the DCnU will be the last reset (or whatever) for a while.

Hector and Lyta Hall (Silver Scarab/Sandman III/the future Doctor Fate IV and Fury) thus he is the grandson of both the Golden Age Hawkman and the Golden Age Wonder Woman.

 

Nope, that still washes off me like water off a duck's hind quarters!  And I still can't believe Gaiman put something so continuity-heavy at the heart of his almost mainstream, breakout hit series.

 

And I can't believe I identified Morrison as an Englishman in my last post!  Let's hope he's not reading this!  He is of course, a Scot, and a true Celt like myself.  Nothing either Anglo, nor Saxon about him!

 

We do approach these comics quite differently, Mr Mutt.  I can see the attraction of following these universes as vast entertwining mega-stories which thus make consistency and continuity so important. 

 

There are many factors pulling the stories out of a strict continuity.  The one this story highlights is the way different writers use the contents to symbolise different things, so they are used differently.  Starro had previously been an incredibly hoaky alien invader.  I can't say what it might symbolise in any of the stories it appeared in before the 90s.  But here it stands very effectively for ... well a lot of things.  Things that haunt us and sap our will to live our lives in the best way.  Depression, how society works against the individual, the darkness within. 

 

Perhaps if Morrison had made it his priority to synchronise this appearance of Starro with all the previous ones, this story wouldn't have been as effective, and Starro wouldn't have such indefinable symbolic power in it.

 

As I said, I was just using the Adam Strange story as a whipping boy when I felt like venting about where comics often go wrong.  It's probably better than most of DC's output ever, to be honest!  And I was willfully ignoring the pleasure stories like that give longtime readers.

 

I forgot about Kingdom Come!  Yep, that's a good one. 

 

Hopefully DC will learn this lesson and the DCnU will be the last reset (or whatever) for a while.

 

It has to be. From before Infinite Crisis through to now has been almost constant change and rebooting. Then the recent collections of those short Origins were meant to show how the DCU had settled down, and I distinctively remember DiDio in an interview/convention speech recently saying that there'd be no more reboots for a while. That was just before the latest big DCnU hoo haa.

Going forward they have to either let this reboot take hold and be effective for a while, or else just forget about linewide consistency and concentrate on telling good stories, relevant to our times!

It's going to be really hard for them to be original too. Are they going to show the guys training their sidekicks again so that Wally and Dick can take over? Have Superman divide into Superman Red and Superman Blue again? Have Ollie or Hal go nutso again? That's a lot of story avenues shut down, or else risk slipping into Deja Vu mode again.

Considering how a lot of modern DC comics storylines were retreads of old Silver/Bronze Age stories or imaginary stories, the readers aren't going to stick around to see DC do them all again, AGAIN.

Some thoughts on Return of the Conqueror:

 

This story has a strong theme and lots of great lines and moments but it also had a number of spots that pulled me out of the story.

 

The Good:

As per usual, Morrison was spot on with the dialogue and captured Daniel brilliantly.  Daniel's line to Kyle about 'his obsession with Hal and how he'll become greater than him because he knows fear' feels true, like it should be a turning point moment but since it was said in a dream I guess it would be more something his subconscious would ruminate on. 

I also quite liked how the dream king seemed primarily interested in something else entirely than repelling the alien invasion.  The dream team's mission was to keep hope (and faith) alive and you could look at this story two ways, as two separate missions or two reinforcing missions.  Maybe the dream team was buying extra time for the real world team to defeat the creatures, maybe Batman's tactic wouldn't have worked without the reinforcement of what happened in the dream, but perhaps they were two separate missions.  One to keep (restore) a person's hope (faith) and one to stop alien invaders.  This kind of reminds me of Final Crisis; one way of looking at it, the Flash was necessary to take Darkseid down, the other, he was completely redundant.  The funny thing is, in Final Crisis I like the Flash being necessary but in this story, I personally like to think they were separate missions, the dream team only contributing at most as a delaying factor.

 

The Bad:

Internal consistency on this story is a mess.  I'm willing to let slide the fact that the dream people are completely under the sway of the Conqueror without face huggers and then suddenly face huggers are required, that part's a dream, but what about the "real world" stuff. Why is Batman not asleep if he was in Gotham?  People were falling asleep behind the wheel of cars and every other place.  A simple line saying he was out of the country would have been fine but instead we get a line implying he was in Gotham.  Superman saying no one's awake on page five and then being contradicted on page seven.  Showing the giant starfish completely submerged in Hudson Bay and then saying it's bigger than Hudson Bay... come on.

The transitions are a little abrupt in some places, typical Morrison, but the transition between pages 12 and 13 is positively jarring.  The sad thing is, one extra panel could have made this work so much better.  A simple panel of Flash zooming from the trophy room to the lab.  It's not that it can't be understood, its the fact that leaving the panel out temporarily knocks you out of the story.

There's a panel on page seven that I found both cool and irritating.  I thought it was a neat idea having scanners when you come out of a transporter; it especially makes sense after Prometheus.  Then, in the same damn panel, "the machines say he's completely abstract".  Exactly what kind of machine would say that?  This is the kind of line that Morrison haters latch onto... and with good reason.

Where was the editor?

 

Questions:

The line the boy was drawing down the centre of Superman's face, what was the purpose?  I kind of had two ideas on this.  First, maybe he was getting ready to draw a star on Superman's face; I know a lot of people draw a star starting with a perpendicular line.  Second, I was thinking it represented a mirror, like in those symmetrical drawings, but I guess the cape kind of contradicts that.

Superman makes a statement that if he still had his powers he could have counted all the people with a glance.  Is Morrison suggesting there's a mental component to his powers?

The starfish necklace at the end is a nice funky image.  I wonder if Morrison decided to tell this story with a reimagined Starro instead of creating a new villain for this story because he had that image in mind?

I wonder if the dream boy wasn't just a homeless man but a veteran suffering from a post-war stress disorder?  Perhaps the ordeal brought back some of his innocence so that he can better face the world again... and of course, gold doesn't hurt when facing the world either. ;)

 

Continuity:

This brought to mind the Justice League of America (original series) annual #1.  The dream dimension was used in both and the idea of hope or faith in heroes, specifically Superman.

Superman's comment when meeting Daniel may have been referencing the Sandman story, The Wake.

I'm left scratching my head as to why Morrison had Flash looking at a (presumably) JLI adventure.  It just reinforces the fact that he's mucking with previous Justice League, (post-Crisis), continuity.  It's not like he just redesigned Starro, he's having the League act like they're not very familiar with the villain, despite the fact both MM and Wally both personally dealt with Starro in JLI.

 

All in all, I liked the story but I wish Morrison would pay more attention to the details.

 

 

 

 

FInally, I read these stories in the Strength in Numbers collection. The last line in it goes something like 'As one adventures ends...' and its clear the next scene would show another beginning. I believe the team returned to the JLA Watchtower to discover the JLA of the 853rd century awaiting them, but the Strength in Numbers TPB doesn't show this. If anyone has the comic handy, I'd like to know what I missed
I'm not sure if this is what you're referring to or not, but at the end of the second issue there's a two page "Epilogue 2" that states it's one month later and shows Diana returning while Hippolyta leaves and just as this is occurring Justice Legion A arrives.

That's exactly the info I was asking for. The scene might have been included in the DC One Million trade, but I have THOSE comics in floppies.  So I missed the scene either way. The one month gap is useful, but Diana and Hippolyta switching places just as DC1m starts leaves us back where we started.

 

That's good close reading of JLA 22-23.  I'm glad you mentioned things like Kyle's lesson and the possibility that Michael is a war vet. 

 

You are a much more literal reader than myself.  I happily skimmed over the bits that you found jarring or inconsistent. 

 

Things like the machines registering Daniel as completely abstract is the sugar on the doughnut for us Morrison-loverzz!

 

And 'abstract' has been known to take on physical form in the DCU.  Just ask anyone who has survived a hiding from Orion the New God of War.  This story comes close to stating outright that the DCU is but another level of Fiction, just a level up from Michael's dream, and a level down from Dream's overarching Kingdom (which in turn is a level down from our 'reality') 

 

As such, abstract symbolic beings can have form there.  Themes and symbolism are very real in a story, but not much in evidence in our reality.

 

On the same level of symbolism, Batman is nothing if not the guy that stays awake all night ensuring the rest of us sleep soundly.  Although I did wonder momentarily why he wasn't affected, I just figured he'd long-since picked up a trick or two against hypnotically-enduced sleep, and I got on with the story.

 

The solution occuring on two levels (or only one?) is something that Morrison does sometimes.  Although he usually gives us a very positivist spin, sometimes he leaves the possibility open that all the positivism is only a comforting delusion against the cold indifference of the universe.  Or something.

 

That the terrible self-negating fears and horrors of life can be viewed as a funky necklace is another way he changes the viewpoint on things.  Just as the great war between light and darkness in the Invisibles is just an entertaining game from a 'larger, more complete' point of view.

 

I think Morrison often shows Superman with a brain just as developed as his pectoral muscles.  I read some Superman comics from the early Nineties last night.  Enjoyable super-soap opera at best.  But that Superman was a bit of a klutz, who seemed to be an easy pawn of cynical political and military types.  The JLA Superman is a different order of hero. Morrison downgrades fidelity to the earlier comics in order that his Superman can be someone we can hold in awe and look up to.  Someone who can be slightly scary and strange, as he must have seemed to his first audience in the 1930s.

 

So the loss of consistency looks like an OK price to pay from my POV.

JLA - World without Grownups.

(Aug-Sep 1998)

 

 

This prequel mini-series to Young Justice works in a very similar fashion to how Midsummer's Nightmare preceded JLA itself.



 

Again we get the stars of the upcoming book thrown together by circumstances and not quite forming a team just yet. Both are written by someone other than the main writer of the upcoming series, and it's probably fair to say that neither of these expensively formatted mini-series are quite up to the standard of the regular series they paved the way for.



 

As in Midsummer's Nightmare, events are set in motion when the taken-for-granted status quo is turned upside down. Here, a kid in a bad mood with his Pop uses an ancient Atlantean artifact to divest the world of those pesky adults. With no-one to tell them what to do, the kids don't waste much time before they start to party. The strength of the series is in the fun, spiky dialogue between Superboy, Impulse and Robin. Their three personalities come across well as they spark off each other.



 

Anyone who has ever read a superhero comic will know how they turn a situation that depends on wishes to their advantage, and will know by what mechanism the kid with all the newly acquired power decides that he wants things returned to normal.



 

On first readthrough, I was amazed that there was no depiction of the emotional agony the parents, trapped on Adultsworld must have been going through. It seemed like a dropped opportunity to me to explore some core human truths, but I can see that the story sticks to certain lighthearted tone and concentrates on the three likeable kids who try to keep level heads and be responsible when it falls to them to save the day in Kidsworld.

 

Not to harp on an old tune, but continuity is used in 'the bad way' here. The Genie granting the wishes bases himself and his young 'master' in the Justice League's former HQ in Happy Harbour.  However, there is no logical reason for this in-story besides continuity fanservice.  Captain Marvel is introduced very late in the story as the nexus used by the Genie to seperate the adult and kids worlds. Yes, he magically embodies both states, but using him out of the blue like this depends on readers' prior knowledge.



 

The JLA themselves are minor players in this adventure. (Their sequences are drawn by Mike McKone whereas the scenes on Kidsworld are by Humberto Ramos)  Batman, with his usual panache of course, starts to solve the case by simply scratching some dirt off the Batcave floor.



 

I was going to be snooty about this lightweight intro to Young Justice, but the three young heroes are engaging and worked well together on the page. The fun tone is well-sustained and I wouldn't mind reading their continuing adventures after reading this. Their youth, energy, and relative innocence are well captured by DeZago's scripts and Ramos' art.



 

Once again we see what perhaps has been lost by the Johns-driven return of the original brands.  This time we see how it has taken something from the generation even younger than Kyle and Wally. Their future to be exact!



 

 

I was also going to be snooty about how DC were merely using the success of JLA to flog other comics, but when you look at the period of JLA publishing we’ve covered so far, they actually showed remarkable restraint up to this.  It is only now, going into the 3rd year of JLA, that there is a sudden increase in the number of titles spinning out from Morrison’s JLA.  We get this JLA-related launch of Young Justice, then a vast and ambitious takeover of every DC title for a month with DC One Million, and shortly after that, the JLA/Titans mini-series, which kicked off yet another series focusing on the DC sidekicks.

 

It would seem that DC deliberately allowed JLA the time to define itself and establish ‘the Brand’ before starting to use it's success to garner other sales.  By the time the previous incarnation of Justice League had gone out with a whimper, it had severely diluted its brand with too many spin-offs and its cast spread too thin.  It had been recent enough history for those involved to want to avoid going down that route too soon.  Perhaps Morrison and co had made a special plea for his JLA to be allowed this grace period at the start.  There is ample record of Morrison considering the marketing strategies of his series as well as just the stories. 

 

Whether Morrison’s input contributed to the JLA’s early consolidation period, Morrison seems to have knowingly worked it into the text of the second phase of the team, that they would expand to include a wider group of DC characters.  It looks like he’s harnessing what DC were about to do with their tentpole team and trying to incorporate DC’s marketing strategies into his greater tale.  If Morrison felt he had to make the fictional team reflect what DC were doing with the team as part of their upcoming publishing strategy, it would explain why the gear-change in the team size and mission around issue 16 felt so sudden.

 

It’s another example of the way Morrison is merging reality and fantasy in this series, in making his corporate-looking super-team reflect DC’s actual publishing manoeuvres of the time.

Just a few extra comments on World Without Grownups.

 

I was able to read this thanks to a copy of DC Comics Presents: Young Justice #1, which came out last October.

 

It's hard to see DC's publishing strategy with these reprints.  They say that they allow access to stories which haven't been reprinted since their original publication, but World without Grownups was released as trade paperback and is still available on Amazon.  Further, it's hard to see what the conection is to DC's current or upcoming projects.  Johns 2002 version of Teen Titans (which, let it be noted, I quite enjoyed, ) is going to be more or less reformed in the September relaunch, and this is the first time the three stars of that book got together as a team.

 

In any case, the print runs for these 100 page collections are very small.  For example, the DCCP: Young Justice #1 doesn't even appear on the Comichron top 100 lists, meaning that they sold less than 2000 copies!  (So if DC kept every cent from the sale of this collection, they would get less than $16,000.  I could do with that kind of money, but would have thought it'd be small change to a major international entertainment giant!)  Their low numbers are hard for me to understand as most of these reprints look interesting to me, and I love the fact that I can pick up storylines that I missed first time around.  I've bought about 5-6 of these so far.  It's a little depressing to think that the market today is so focused only on what is coming out this month.  Maybe it explains why the Big Two get away with so much!

 

I was initially dismayed when I saw that this JLA spin-off had less-than-stellar creators on it, but was then amused when I realised that the writer and both artists were connected to various threads I've been posting to on this board.  Ramos was the artist on Avengers The Initiative: Disassembled, and McKone was the artist on New Avengers 63 & 64 which were part of my "Reading Siege" thread.  Even DeZago, who has a rather short resume, wrote a rare solo one-shot featuring Bug, one of Mantlo's original Micronauts.

 

All three would normally be quite anonymous to me, but it's an indication that I've been spreading my net wide in my reading for this board.

JLA -Secret Files and Origins #2

(Aug 1998)



 

I’d have to commend the trade descriptions correctness of the first two issues of this infrequent series of tie-ins. Both publications stick to a specific brief, showing the behind the scenes 'secret origins' of the two versions of Morrison's JLA. I've already slotted the main story, written by Christopher Priest, here in my readthrough, as it's a retrospective look at the formation of the new expanded League that the readers first saw in JLA #16.


 

As I noted before, it's interesting how quickly secrets and lies, distrust and betrayals within the team arise, as soon as Morrison lets go the reins.



 

Most of these ancillary comics serve the longtime fans in tying Morrison's team into DC's over-arching continuity. The second story here, repeating the 'lost pages' format of the first 'Secret' special is nothing but a series of references to previous continuity. In "Secrets of the JLA Trophy Room", Zauriel, perhaps with the benefit of his special celestial awareness, seems to be showing the reader herself around that part of the Watchtower.

It's written by Mark Millar, and will induce a wry smile in anyone who's read a typical interview with him, where he usually tries to play down any suggestion that he's a nerdy fanboy.



 

The coverage of Justice League backstory from each of the previous four decades is encyclopaedic in its detail as Millar crams Zauriel's speech balloons with gloriously geeky information on the mementoes the JLA have collected down through the years. Julian September's Probability Machine is shown too, placing this guided tour after JLA #19.

This is Millar's last work on JLA, as he moved on to do the wildly successful Ultimate X-Men for Marvel, and The Authority for Wildstorm. Knowing this in hindsight, perhaps there is a wistful tone to Millar’s farewell to the franchise. Zauriel refers to some ‘undocumented’ adventures which may have been ideas Millar had been working on for JLA stories he never got to do, and Zauriel lists by name some Justice League adventures from the 70s that are probably fondly remembered favourites of Millar himself. Zauriel himself seems to hold them in high regard.

 

 

(Am I the only one who is reminded of Borat's 'Mankini' every time I see Zauriel's JLA-era costume?)

 

Considering we have a very JLA-focused crossover from Geoff Johns coming up, it looks like the JLA in the Morrison period got to be written by some major blockbusting talents.

 

Actually, it’s a pity they don't include the work of Priest and Millar in the recent Absolute JLA volumes. These stories are mainly fanservice, but they do fill out the world of JLA more and integrate it into the DC Universe and its history. Perhaps when they are figuring out how to sell Morrison's JLA to the same market all over again in ten years time?



 

This comic is rounded out by a collection of file pages on characters who've appeared in the JLA over the previous 12 months. They don't have the same spark or playful touch as Millar's in the first JLA Secret Files and Origins, nor do they reveal his intriguing insider's knowledge of the backgrounds and attitudes they'd devised for the main characters as part of the groundwork for JLA.

I was surprised to see Tomorrow Woman get another page, this one updating her story to include her retroactively penned battle with the Taint from the Girlfrenzy one-shot. Tomorrow Woman’s beautifully self-contained story must have infuriated those at DC more interested in property management and stringing out fan interest in the brands!

 

My new best friend Adam Strange gets a file page, asserting his universe-reknowned cunning and superlative problem-solving skills. How this accounts for Adam’s lunkish behaviour in Man of Two Worlds, I’m not sure. As it is, I want to know why no-one has written the story about the Venusian Brain Virus that he’d picked up on his previous Zeta Beam to Rann that affected his cognitive abilities in Bruning's tale. Otherwise it’s a gaping hole in the continuity that must not stand!!!

 

Alan Moore’s playful suggestion that Adam first met Alanna solely because Sardath deliberately brought him to Rann as her breeding partner has now become canon, being baldly stated here. I haven’t read the other 90’s Adam Strange tales, but I have to point out that even the much-maligned Bruning left that issue open. In his mini-series, Sardath speaks to Alanna off-panel when she confronts him about the possibility. It’s called leaving story avenues open. Again, I’d have to lament the literalness amongst the fans and ‘custodians’ that leads to this kind of thing.

 

Finally, notwithstanding the actual art, is that an ugly cover, or what? Like many ghastly covers of the late 90s, it looks like they’d just discovered Photoshop.

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