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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That view leaves TIME out of the equation. As these characters accrete backstory it becomes harder and harder to tell new stories.

I don't think you can tell stories about the same characters over and over again without a)repeating yourself or b) straying far from what the character's core concept is. I have my own problems with Byrne's Superman reboot, but it did allow them to tell another decade or two of Superman stories. Not great stories for the most part, but newish stories that sold comicbooks, and even bmade the cover of Time. :-)

I won't repeat what I said earlier, but I don't see that the creators have much choice. They have a very narrow strip of ground to reap a harvest from over and over again.

As for Captain Facepouch popping up when he should be dead, well, its obvious by now that he lives in a universe where people come back from the dead all the time. (Geoff Johns wrote a story about that, too.) What explanation do you need? A lot happens between these panels.

These comics are made under certain conditions, one of which is time and the accretion of backstory, another of which is the creator's being paid the same to have Captain Facepouch pop up after he's died than if they create a whole new character. Another is that stories have a spine and Captain Facepouch's miraculous return, while of great moment to his wife, mightn't have much bearing on the story at hand, beyond that he's here, now, and our hero has to deal with him.

To say that something is wrong in a created work is to implicitly blame the creators, which I can't get behind in the case of continuity. I say that given the conditions in which they work, they can't do much else. The execution might vary in quality, but they ALL bring back characters that are dead, they ALL up the ante until it has to be wound back. Another condition, paradoxically, is the demand for novelty, and how many stories do you want to read about voodoo resurrections, sons vowing to finish their father's work, time-travel turnabouts etc etc etc. Just stick Captain Facepouch in the panel, for gawdsakes, and get on with it.

There's a looooot of things to complain about in superhero stores that the creators should answer for, but keeping the continuity 100% watertight isn't one of them.
Or, to put it more succintly:

"Bob Haney"

I know - If "Bob Haney" is the answer, then the question should never be uttered...
Final Night
Written by Karl Kesel
Art by Stuart Immonen



I really enjoyed this story, on a number of levels. I included it in this thread because I wanted to look at Zero Hour, and I thought comparing Zero Hour with a similar crossover a few years later would be a fairer comparison of like with like. Just like Zero Hour, Final Night has all the heroes coming together to combat a threat to existence as they know it. A Sun-Eater has arrived in our solar system, it has surrounded the sun and will extinguish the sun or cause it to go nova within days.

Unlike Zero Hour, the threat is something that any reader, immersed in DC lore or not, would understand. Maybe we all take the sun’s light and warmth for granted, but this story puts its essential importance centre-stage.

I’ve posited that the DCU moved from the costumed soap opera mode to a more mythic presentation of its heroes between these crossovers, and there is much that is mythic about this story. There are the Sun’s blessings, of which there have probably been stories told for millennia. The mechanics of the story make Superman more obviously linked to the Sun than he had usually been. He is the benevolence of the sun incarnate, like old-time sun-gods in mythology. As the sun wanes he loses his power.

There is the dark flipside too, in the contemplation of the end of days. The story shows us concretely what the Earth freezing over might be like. I happened to read Final Night at the same time as Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, so the threatened cold end of civilisation seemed even more ominous. Night falling forever is surely a primal fear. The mythic is heightened by having a character called Dusk arrive to herald the Final Night.

And then there is a much more pointed discussion here of heroism and sacrifice, which have also been staples of important stories for as long as stories have been told. Instead of squabbling and shouting at each other, we see the heroes being truly heroic as they work together desperately trying to save the planet. A centrepiece of the story is the Stranger showing Dusk how the superheroes inspire humanity on the DC Earth with their deeds. Even Superman and Lex Luthor set aside their differences to work on saving humanity.

There is a sense of a pantheon here, with its major and minor deities. Superman prepares to sacrifice himself to save the Earth, while The Ray almost kills himself trying to keep only a small village warm. The Ray’s sacrifice, within his sphere, is every bit as noble as Superman’s and Hal’s. I liked that sense of different levels of heroism and ability. That idea of spheres of influence, each contained within a greater one is common to a lot of mythologies.

The epic ends with an assertion of the fundamental forces which the DCU spins around. As the sun rises once more and Batman and Superman part ways, after Hal Jordan has moved from the darkness to the light and saved the Sun, the narration cuts in:

“They are the world’s finest heroes and all the rest follow one or the other. They are as different as night and day, but that is what helps them guarantee the words which seem to hang in the new light.

“‘In brightest day, in darkest night, no evil shall escape my sight.’”

Hal’s journey has been paralleled with the Earth’s darkest coldest hour, and we learn that this has been a Green Lantern story after all. The new dawn washes over Metropolis, separating night from day.

That’s poetry folks!

The execution of this story is much better than Zero Hour. There is an equally large cast, but Kesel has grouped them so that the reader doesn’t have to cope with them en masse. Here is the Legion of Superheroes, trapped in the 20th Century, here are the heroes with powerful heat/light powers. Here are those running Hal’s bar as a ‘field hospital’ /staging post, here are the street-level guys. It doesn’t matter that I don’t know who they all might be, but I know their function within the story. Even their names are incidental to that.

The art is great. The heroes don’t just stand around in limbo flexing their muscles, but are given a context and they feel like real people doing real things. The women have normal-sized breasts, which is always nice. In many ways this is a collection that one wouldn’t feel embarrassed about handing to an open-minded reader unfamiliar with superhero ‘literature’.

Of the character moments, Zatanna’s is probably the most perfectly realised in a few frames. She is all showmanship, ensuring the crowd get a performance as well as a result. (Much like comics creators should aim to do.)

I like that the story turns on mythic, universal themes, rather than DCU minutiae, and that it wouldn’t be too hard for a casual reader to enjoy it and take something from it. I only found out on wiki that Ferro appears here as a parallel with Ferro-Lad, who defeated the Sun-Eater in a pre-Crisis story. Ferro did seem a little shoe-horned in. He was a brand new character that wasn’t really explained properly as an element within the story on its own merits, but I’ll allow it that one fanboyish nod to old comics.

There are a few bad notes. Batman, a rich man himself, seems to prioritise property over people as the end of the world looms. He saves the Mona Lisa from being stolen by Vandal Savage. Thematically, I love the connection between Superman and the Sun, but this story posits that he starts to lose power very quickly as soon as the sun disappears. There is at most 48 hours between the sun’s disappearance and the resolution of the threat. What? Superman is less strong in the few hours before dawn? What about if he spent a few days trying to get Chilean miners out of a deep mine? Didn’t he spend months away from our yellow sun on his space odyssey? Ah well, I’ll wear it! Thematic truth and all that.

I hope I’ve made a case for including Zero Hour and Final Night in this warm-up to JLA. Final Night might also display editorial turning towards the essential pantheon of noblest heroes too. The covers put much more emphasis on the central heroes of Morrison’s JLA than does the story itself, which is what made me include it in the reading list. Issue two’s cover, above, shows Batman’s and Wonder Woman’s symbols as equal to Superman’s even though their role isn’t that central. (I hadn’t realised that this was where 52’s publicity poster was drawn from.) The trade paperback has basically the top five JLA members staring out at the reader. (It’s fair to say Flash and Green Lantern outweigh Martian Manhunter and Aquaman, if only as ‘brands’.)

Reading Final Night hot on the heels of Zero Hour, its obvious that these are only middle chapters of a years-long DCU-spanning epic which documents the fall and rise of Hal Jordan. I love the scope of that, the long game being played. It goes back to Reign of Supermen and beyond and includes Underworld Unleashed (penned by Mark Waid, I believe). Etrigan the Demon has a moment in Final Night that prefigures the continuation of Hal’s redemption in Day of Judgement.

It’s another instance of a strong character being much more useful as a ‘’supporting’ character. Characters can’t carry their own books unless they are ‘nice’, but great Shakespearean arcs like Hal’s need to be able to take him through the whole spectrum of behaviours. Not having any opinion one way or the other on the Silver Age Green Lantern, I love the ambition of what they did here, as variable as each of the ‘chapters’ may be, and it’s a pity comics can’t do it more often.

Of course, the fanboys had to be palliated by telling them the whole thing happened because of demon-possession. A pity, as that renders meaningless the ambitious groundbreaking superhero saga of Hal’s passion, descent into hell and redemption.

Still, maybe someday it will get its own thread. I’d say it deserves one, at any rate.
Final Night has never been one of my favorite crossovers. I liked the real science they incorporated into the plot, but when I've re-read it (mostly in the days when everyone except me it seemed had abandoned Hal Jordan), I read it in a particular order. I agree with you that Final Night is a Green Lantern story (perhaps the most important one of its time), and consequently, when I re-read this story I start with the Parallax one-shot and trim the fat by continuing directly into Final Night #3-4, skipping issues #1-2 entirely.

I never fully bought the "Hal-was-possessed-so-we-can-forgive-and-forget" rationale. He was obviously influenced by Parallex. In Zero Hour, he justified his destructive acts by saying it was for the greater good. It was his idea of the greater good but Hal could be arrogant at times. He couldn't accept that the others did not see the logic of his actions. He was no villain in his eyes. His sacrifice made up for a lot of what he had done and tried to do!

Strange note: Ferro was from the 20th century, not the 30th!
Philip Portelli said:
I never fully bought the "Hal-was-possessed-so-we-can-forgive-and-forget" rationale.

Nope, me either. My theory is that he was under the influence of Ergono at the time he went bad.

What no one seems to remember is that the GLC was down to only 41 members at the time of Emerald Twilight, and the number of confirmed deaths attributable to Hal Jordan is ten. Of course this number has since been "retconned" into the thousands, but the fact of the matter is his crimes were originally far less heinous.
Jeff of Earth-J said:
Philip Portelli said:
I never fully bought the "Hal-was-possessed-so-we-can-forgive-and-forget" rationale.

Nope, me either. My theory is that he was under the influence of Ergono at the time he went bad.

What no one seems to remember is that the GLC was down to only 41 members at the time of Emerald Twilight, and the number of confirmed deaths attributable to Hal Jordan is ten. Of course this number has since been "retconned" into the thousands, but the fact of the matter is his crimes were originally far less heinous.

See I always wondered if Hal was still a murderer since that original ten he killed are all back from the dead. (I didn't know they retconned it to him killing thousands).
I'm pretty sure Geoff Johns (who should know better) did so in GL: Rebirth, as if the GLC had been at full strength and he killed them all.
Which goes back to a point I made about Blackest Night #8 where Reverse-Flash and Max Lord were revived to absolve Flash and Wonder Woman of their original killings!
Philip Portelli said:
I never fully bought the "Hal-was-possessed-so-we-can-forgive-and-forget" rationale. He was obviously influenced by Parallex. In Zero Hour, he justified his destructive acts by saying it was for the greater good. It was his idea of the greater good but Hal could be arrogant at times. He couldn't accept that the others did not see the logic of his actions. He was no villain in his eyes. His sacrifice made up for a lot of what he had done and tried to do!

This is part of my beef with Johns' Green Lantern. The journey that DC took Hal on during his 'wilderness years' showed first of all that good people, when pushed beyond endurance, could do terrible things. (Even ten people murdered is still quite a lot! Photobucket ). Then it went on to show that no matter how terrible someone's past has been, no-one is beyond redemption. They need to recognise the harm they did, admit to it and move on to contribute to society again once they have paid their debt.

As someone who has studied the 'war' in Northern Ireland for many years (and lived through a few bits of it), I think there is truth and value in both those statements. During the last 20 years we've seen many hardened killers on both sides reassess their positions, acknowledge the harm and grief they'd caused, and take huge steps to make amends. That profound change really happened even if other less noble things motivated some of them too.

In the Final Night: Parallax one-shot, Hal is only starting on this journey upwards. He tries to close the book with his former friends and comrades and makes his big sacrifice. He does the right thing, but his reasons aren't the most noble. He sees that everything he has tried to do has turned to crap, and that this might go some way towards salvaging his pride and reputation. That it will probably end his life is a bonus for him. He doesn't see at all that by going on living he could start to make amends, as that is a very difficult road for someone as proud as him, and he's not up to that at this stage. His conversations with his former comrades are very one-sided. He tries to justify himself and doesn't let them say much about his situation.

So he still had a ways to go. Standing back from it now, I have to admire how DC shepherded him through this in careful stages. Next was Day Of Judgement, which I'd like to have read on this thread, just for the hell of it (heh!) and then DeMatteis's Spectre series. I didn't read any of that run, as I don't know squat about DeMatteis and it was still too soon after Jim Corrigan had departed for me. I know nothing about the execution of it, but looking at it from a distance, the idea of Hal wrestling with the Spirit of Vengance while the two are bound up together is very poetic and fitting. It is what he was doing metaphorically in the lead up to the series, after all. I'd like to read that series someday, but I guess it won't be reprinted for a while. If the series was handled well, it could have been the perfect natural redemption of a great hero and left him at the end ready to at last don the old green tights again.

That's all an incredible journey for a four-colour superhero to make. It was ambitious, careful and well-paced, as well as loaded with symbolic weight.

After all that, I don't understand why Johns then took the route he did. Hal was ready to become Green Lantern again anyway. However, instead, Johns decides that he's going to ride roughshod over all that backstory and say 'it never happened - at least, not like that!', which ironically was the kind of thing that annoyed the steadfast Hal fans back in the 90s. So Hal was possessed all that time. He had nothing to redeem himself from and all that patient careful company-wide manouvring to bring us this amazing Shakespearian, almost biblical arc was rendered meaningless!

One of the powerful mysteries of Christianity is the idea of redemption through suffering, which was ultimately what Hal's arc was illustrating. Johns reboot negates that. Maybe the meaninglessness of his suffering is what has made Johns' Hal Jordan so filled with guilt and angst and violence. His Hal Jordan has been denied a kind of Christian grace that comes through humility, suffering and acknowledgement of your faults.

Johns threw out the incredibly mature themes of good people doing bad things and bad people redeeming themselves and instead gave us the comforting lie that good people can do bad things and still be good people. A very comforting and timely story indeed given the excesses of the 'War on Terror' over the last decade. Good people can do bad things and still be good people.

Not content with the lengths he goes to to illustrate his soothing, pacifying philosophy, Johns rubs it in further. He doesn't seem aware of the irony of having someone who's damned himself by killing a lot of people, get better and join the US Air Force during a phase of military history when the level of 'acceptable collateral damage' is sky-high.

There's the crux of my beef with Johns. Comforting lies for fanbeards.
The corruption of Hal Jordan was the number one factor in making me quit comics cold turkey. I was done. The story was so sudden, one issue Hal is a hero, the next a murderer. It wasn't a steady fall from grace, it was stepping off a cliff!

Maybe he had an alien entity whispering in his ear, maybe he was affected by an attitude-altering energy, maybe it was several tragedies happening at once. In the end Hal made a choice to go down a path seperate from his peers. Hal was naturally a risk taker but now was reckless. He had no fear now of consequences. He fully realized his actions, he could have stopped but didn't. When he failed the first time, he tried again with bigger stakes. He became Sinestro, Krona, Hector Hammond and the countless enemies he constantly defeated.

Zero Hour was the peak of his lack of conscience. He was willing to destroy billions just so he could have his way, so he could be right, so he could show the Guardians. (I'm really amazed no one has brought them up in this. Their aloofness helped caused this. I know they couldn't give Hal what he wanted, but they could have gave him what he needed!) No matter what happened, he wanted to prove he was THE hero and the others were wrong to oppose him!

Final Night was Hal waking up and seeing beyond himself again. His sacrifice was the same as his plan for restarting the multiverse. He was going to fix things, he was going to make it better, he was going to save the day! His death was simply him learning to be a hero again. It reminded his friends of the man he was and could be again.

I was glad to see Hal back as Green Lantern. A little humility, some guilt and a lot of soul-searching would have been preferable to "I have returned!" "You are the greatest Green Lantern!"

Batman's doubt was well-placed but Hal was still cocky, arrogant and lacking some common sense. Back to normal, indeed!
A little humility, some guilt and a lot of soul-searching would have been preferable to "I have returned!" "You are the greatest Green Lantern!"

That rankled as well!

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