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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The first criminal counterpart of Batman was Killer Moth!!! In his debut in the 50s, criminals would shine the Moth-Signal to summon KM to protect them from the police! For a fee, of course! He even had a Moth-mobile! Then he sank into uber-Loserhood!

The Justice League had Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman from its beginning. It was the Crisis that took them out. Wonder Woman was eliminated, Superman was never a member but he sure showed up a lot and Batman's membership seem to change constantly as to when he joined, how long he stayed and how much he was involved. So the JLA was weakened in star power much like the Avengers had been when they went without Thor, Iron Man and Captain America. Marvel is now boosting that with the inclusions of Spider-Man, Wolverine, Doctor Strange, the Red Hulk and even the Thing!

Prometheus' dependancy on weird technology is precisely why Batman uses tech, upgrades his tech and respects his tech but does not wholly rely on it. I now realize how similar yet different Batman is to Iron Man. Bruce could have flight boots, energy beams and augmented strength but he keeps himself grounded without them. He uses tech far more subtly like the Black Panther was doing.

And I haved sinned! I thought Morrison wrote "Tower Of Babel"! Please forgive me!

Plus you're right about the Wrath. He made only one appearance and died at the end. Well he did discover Batman's secret identity, a capital offense! But hey, he was in Who's Who!

On Black Friday I bought New World Order and American Dreams at my comic shop. I started reading New World Order last night. Once I finish I'll probably jump on here post my 2 cents worth, if that's ok. I know you've already moved well past those first two volumes.

The more the merrier Jason, ... and 'merry' is the name of the game at this time of year!

 

Had you read JLA before? Looking forward to your impressions, either way.

 

Here are some short thoughts on the particular stage of comics history which these comics were produced in; the late nineties 'Silver-Age redux' phase which Chris Fluit has dubbed 'Reconstruction'. That title makes sense to me, although I'm wondering who the 'Carpetbaggers' were. Possibly Morrison Ellis, and Millar, landing in conquered territory to dictate the new order of things!

 

Here is another thread which I created to catch the eye of the Silver Age Savants, who sadly don't participate in Morrison threads enough. There's some good info on it relevant to Morrison's JLA, and it even has some input from Philip on how the expanded JLA (called JLA2 in the little chronology I link to in the top post, up there) map onto their classical Greek counterparts. That's fits in here, just as the new JLA begins in earnest.

 

donovan5 said:

I've been working my way through thes trades recently(didn't read them originally) one thing I'm struglling a bit with is Wonder Woman,it seems at one stage she's dead(I didnt see the death) and Hippolyta takes over then I'm not sure if it's Diana back and Hyp gone or still Hyp or someone new.anyone give me a quick overview

The chronology gives some impression of how Diana's replacement by her mother was handled. As far as I can tell, Diana was killed/transformed to godhood during a tussle with Neron, that ran parallel to his conspiring against the JLA in issue #6. It seems to have been an informal crossover written by Waid, Morrison and John Byrne. John Byrne was the writer on Wonder Woman at the time, and from what I've seen in his Genesis storyline, seems to have been setting Artemis up as Wonder Woman's replacement, whereas Morrison used Hippolyta - who'd already been shown in the famous blue and red beachwear prior to that. Genesis also seems to imply that Wonder Woman was killed by being reverted back to the clay she'd been made from, and Ares seems to have been involved too.

I like how Morrison plays down the replacement of Wonder Woman by her mother. Diana has a larger than usual role in the '15 years later' segment of Rock of Ages, with hardly an eyebrow raised that she came back from the dead in the meantime, and then Hippolyta is in place at the beginning of JLA issue 16, which we are about to look at. It was great that she had already been shown wearing a variation of Wonder Woman's costume, so where exactly Hippolyta takes over is kind of understated. (She wears a skirt whereas Diana wore a one-piece bathing costume.)

Morrison is much more interested in the power of the JLA as a bringing together of recogniseable 'brands', so Hippolyta's interchangeable role as Wonder Woman fits into that. (As does the already debated inclusion of Wally, Kyle and the new Green Arrow). Corporate manuevring has already been worked into the series with Luthor's big business-inspired battle plan against the JLA, and millionaire CEO Bruce Wayne's response to that. The corporate branding is also apparent in the New Year's Evil: Prometheus story currently under discussion, as Prometheus gets the idea to attack the JLA when he sees a huge billboard advertising(!!?!) the JLA as THE world-saving team everyone should depend on.

JLA uses Hippolyta, like fellow actual mythological character Circe before her, to legitimise the idea that this team is a pantheon of modern gods. Later in this collection, she declares Steel to be an avatar of Hephaestus, just as Circe had declared Plastic Man to be Dionysos in some way. The JLA being both a powerful corporate property (both within the DCU and in our reality) and a modern pantheon we should look up to is a strange dichotomy. It reminds me of the revelation at the end of Invisibles that the chief rebel of the team had become a CEO of a powerful corporation to undermine the system from within.

Hippolyta is only a member of the JLA for the duration of Strength in Numbers. Diana seems to be back for the World Without Grown-ups limited series which is best placed between JLA issue 23 and the beginning of DC One Million.  As with her death, the mechanics of Diana's return is outside the remit of the stories JLA is telling, so we don't get much detail.  It's a drawback to the multi-authored, patched together  'Miser's Coat' system of stories set in a shared universe.

Luckily the Post-Crisis Queen Hippolyta can easily continue the Wonder Woman brand as she greatly resembles her daughter in power and appearance, something the blonde Earth-One Hippolyta didn't.

Is Hippolyta still the WW from the forties, as per Byrne?

For that matter, are all Amazons equal in power or is Diana still a super-Amazon?

Welcome, Jason! I look forward to another point of view!

BTW, Figs, I reread this thread from the beginning and realized that I genuinely impressed you and genuinely annoyed you at the same time! :) Hopefully I've gotten less annoying (hopefully)!

Anyhoo, you made one statement that did not register at the time and, yes, it is off-topic! You said that Alias was supposed to feature Jessica Drew, the original Spider-Woman but it had to be changed to the new character Jessica Jones. Was that the case because I never heard that before!

I haven't read Morrison's JLA before. I've been interested in reading it for sometime now, I wanted to get the hardcover collection but my shop (Dagwan's store) had sold volume 1 and 2 while I was there and before I decided to pick them up. So I just got the TPBs of the first two arcs instead. Aside from Morrison I haven't read much Justice League. Just the first volume of the Giffen/DeMattis run and about 20 or so issues of the current series. I only bought comics at the grocery store occaisonally and never got full runs or complete stories of anything. I also focused on Spider-man and the X-men. Plus I stopped reading/buying comics in 96 or so. So I missed out on Morrison's JLA the first time around. I've since gotten into comics again and have branched out from Spidey and the X-men but still love those characters.

 

 I wouldn't call myself a Grant Morrison fan but I do enjoy his work. His run on New X-men is one of my favorite runs ever. I enjoyed his work on Batman & Robin as well. Return of Bruce Wayne was pretty good. The only thing I didn't enjoy that I've read of his was Final Crisis. It's probably due to the fact that I'm not super familiar with all of DC's history, I've always been more of a Marvel guy. I have heard enough good things about JLA that I wanted to give it a shot. I plan on reading New World Order once I finish this post.

 

And Figs, I know I have slacked off on my Avengers the Initiative project. I plan on getting back on that ASAP!

I must have missed the Wally/Kyle/Connor discussion.  I'll just say on the record that I prefer this trio.  I like Wally and Kyle more than Barry and Hal.  And I liked the way that they showed a generational shift in the JLA.  I even enjoyed the little crossover that the three of them had between their own titles.

Jason, if you dropped out of comics around '96, what brought you back? 

 

I ask because I suspect that many of us have similar stories.  I dropped out around '86 (moving on to "real books" like novels) but came back in '94 thanks to the Age of Apocalypse.

Thanks for the question. I'll explain but I'll start a new thread. Don't want to take up more space on this one.

Chris Fluit said:

Jason, if you dropped out of comics around '96, what brought you back? 

 

I ask because I suspect that many of us have similar stories.  I dropped out around '86 (moving on to "real books" like novels) but came back in '94 thanks to the Age of Apocalypse.

BTW, Figs, I reread this thread from the beginning and realized that I genuinely impressed you and genuinely annoyed you at the same time! :) Hopefully I've gotten less annoying (hopefully)!

 


Hah! Some of the continuity stuff you point out seems to be completely at a tangent to what the creators are trying to do with their stories, and misses the point completely. (Annoying!) And other stuff you point out shows that the creators were very aware of continuity when they put certain things in there, and your insights add even more meaning and depth to what's already on the page. (Impressive!)

But on the whole I'd say these threads certainly benefit from the amount of backstory you are able to bring, especially as it's a completely different way of reading these comics to my own, and its instructive to see where that backstory is being bent and where it is being broken. For the most part you are showing that Morrison has a lot more regard for continuity than he's often given credit for.

I hope you can stick around!

I think its a matter of record by now that Bendis wanted to use Jessica Drew, Spider-Woman as the main character in Alias. She hadn't been used in years, and he thought no-one would mind. Seems Marvel didn't want the female counterpart of their biggest property to be so bent out of shape and given an adult makeover.

No doubt Bendis was fond of her from her first go around in his youth, but I think there's also the case that he didn't want to create a new property for Marvel that he didn't own or control.

I mentioned elsewhere that I get a mild headache when the two Jessicas are in the same scene together in New Avengers.

My reading history has a lot in common with yours Jason. I took a break too, going into Secondary (High) School, I was almost solely a Marvel guy in my formative years, and I could only pick up bits of storylines here and there until I was in college.

Really interested to see what you make of JLA coming at it comptletely fresh.

(Yes, I wondered what happened to that Avengers Initiative thread. I won't be able to join it again anyway until I get the rest of run cheap somewhere. Slott took a lot with him when he left!)

Chris said:
I must have missed the Wally/Kyle/Connor discussion.

I was referring to the discussion we touched on about the arbitrary nature of Kyle, Wally and Conner's membership of the JLA when other candidates within the DCU would have made more sense as members. Their membership makes absolute sense from a business/ brand recognition point of view, in real life. I do think that Morrison works these 'corporate' aspects of the JLA into the text of this particular series. One of the ways he fuses reality and fiction and one of the things that lifts this series above being 'mere continuity'.

Now onto Morrison's first contribution to Strength in Numbers...

JLA #16-17 – Camelot/Prometheus Unbound

Another example of the stitched together, ill-fitting ‘Miser’s Coat’ aspect of most superhero stories is how issue #16 here begins with the words ‘3 months later’.  Obviously it means 3 months in-story after Rock of Ages ended in the previous issue of JLA.  Still, the action follows on immediately from Prometheus taking Retro’s place on the transporter to the Watchtower at the end of the one-shot we’ve just looked at, and which would have come out 3 months earlier...

 The title of issue 16 is another pointer that other mythical reference points are being used rather than the classical Greek pantheon.  We’ve already seen that Kyle, especially, embodies much of the ‘Young Knight Arrived at Court’.  As the leader of a group of warriors who fight for justice, Superman maps better onto King Arthur than the selfish and dictatorial Zeus.  Like Arthur, Superman is a fairly uncomplicated character that inspires others towards idealism, and has the potential to become the figurehead of a golden age.

Throughout the two issues we see Prometheus taking down each of the JLA in turn.  Whatever about his being relatable, it’s obvious that he has much in common with Morrison himself, both having spent so much time and ingenuity working out how to nullify the powers of these heroes and beat them.  With the JLA, their strength is their weakness, as they care so much about each other and about innocent lives.  Prometheus uses this against them. 

Prometheus embodies other recurring ideas in Grant’s work.  The classical Prometheus heroically stole fire from the Gods to benefit mankind, but this guy just embodies the ‘stealing’ part, so is a negative of the ‘benevolent Pantheon’ aspects of the JLA we’ve discussed.  Most of his powers come from his ability to gather and upload information directly to his brain.  The power of ‘Information’ is a big theme throughout JLA.  We’ve seen how both the Key and Epoch tried to attain Godhood by absorbing more and more information, ascending to ‘pure information’.  There was something of this in how the Angels were depicted too.  I mentioned earlier that thought, energy and matter are posited in this series as the intertwined building blocks of the universe , but more correctly that should be ‘information, energy and matter’.

Regarding how he uploads his data, I presume Prometheus has upgraded the CD drives on his ears since his 1990s debut? 

The villain also embodies notions of evolution and co-option that run through Grant’s work.  To take one example, however strong and skilled Batman is, Prometheus can simply turn that against him, by becoming just like him.  This is a kind of ‘arms race’ that forces each side to constantly improve, or become redundant.   

“Well, that was a humiliating experience!” is a great line from Bruce evincing how he is already taking on board what happened to him. 

A lot of the frustration with Grant’s work shown by certain editors and fans lies in his tendency to evolve and push his characters while he writes them, breaking the ‘illusion of change’ taboo that the status quo relies on.  As one of Thatcher’s post-punk Children, Grant hates the status quo! 

In a nod to the extras that appeared in Silver Age comics, Prometheus brings up the schematics of the Watchtower base, so that we get a page showing ‘The Secrets of the Watchtower’. 



 

This storyline perhaps betrays some of the difficulties Grant was having keeping the ideas coming month after month.  Prometheus’ ambush of our heroes on their supposedly impregnable Watchtower has been done before with the Key.  Catwoman’s surprise appearance, disabling the villain with an old-fashioned Silver-Age weapon (in this case, her whip) feels like a reprise of Conner’s role at the end of the Key storyline.

In any case, I’m sure Grant was glad of the 4-issue break that Waid was about to provide him with, even though Grant had to use that time to produce a full four issues of DC One Million, anyway. 

Catwoman is currently starring very entertainingly in Batman Inc, but I’d been under the impression that Grant hadn’t used her since the text story in the 1986 UK annual I’ve looked at elsewhere.  Catwoman’s behaviour and relationship to Bruce are very consistent in all three, even though Grant has only been using her once every 12 years or so!

I finished New World Order this morning. I enjoyed it. However, I wasn't particularly blown away with it. It may be that I really have not deep connection or love with the JLA or it's members. I like the idea of big superheros working together but I've never followed those type of series for very long. My collection is primarily made up of underdogs like Spider-man, Green Arrow and X-men (yes they're more powerful than the other two but still underdogs). I have been curious about Morrison's JLA and wanted to see how he handled them. Esspecially in comparrison to another big team that Morrison tackled a few years back, X-men.

This series starts out very accessible for new readers and those not up on their JLA. It starts out at full steam and never lets up. While it's action packed, it still tackles the big issues of why we need super heroes and why they do what they do. Each character gets at least a few moments to shine. For being action packed with a lot of great super hero moments it's not a particularly "light" story. I found it to be in a why kind of grim. That's not a criticism just an observation.

I think one thing that kept me from really enjoying this was the art. There are moments it great and other times it seems kind of scratchy and disorienting. It may be the way the panels are laid out. I flipped through the second volume and the art seems to have calmed down which is a good thing.

As far as the characters I thought they were all pretty good. Aquaman was probably my least favorite and it is probably because he wasn't in it that much. I liked to see Superman figure out that they were Martians even if it was after Batman and J'onn. I keep forgetting that around this time Kyle was new to the superhero gig, thus his portrayal. I did like the begining up his friendship/friendly rivalry with Wally.

One of my favorite moments in this book has to deal with an exchange between Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and Batman. It goes like this:

Wonder Woman: Can't, Can't believe how long she held her breath

Green Lantern: So how long can you hold your breath?

WW: Obviously longer than Primaid. What a strange question. Why should anyone know who long they can hold their breath?

Batman: Three minutes. Fifteen secons. You'd be surprised why.

 

This put a big smile on my face. First it's funny. It says a lot about the characters. Kyle is still in wonder about the company he's found himself in. Wonder Woman is about taking care of business and not particulalry thinking about who can do what. Batman is, well Batman. He's a calculating, bad ass. He's got a plan for everything.

 

Now for a brief comparison between JLA and New X-men. JLA started out with a bang. We get action and big concepts. New X-men got off to a slow, weird start but still tackled big concepts. It took a few issues for me to finally get into it. I guess I was expecting some weirdness in JLA. Most of what I read of Morrison has something off kilter about it. JLA is straight up Super hero action but still has the Morrison touch to it, just more subtle.

 

I'm going to read the second volume and then take a break. I've got a lot of stuff I need to read before I buy the next volume of JLA. I plan to continue reading this arc but not anytime soon. I've got volume 2 to read, American Vampire vol 1, Spider-man the newpaper strips, 69 Spectacular Spider-man issue from ebay, in the mail, 2 Marvel essentials (Team-up and two-in-one)  also in the mail, and a month's worth of new comics I'm picking up later this week. As well as Avengers the Initiative reading project to finish. So I've got my work cut out for me. Oh yeah and Wednesday Comics to finish.  Sheesh.

 

Thanks for letting me join, Figs. I'll be back shortly with my thoughts on JLA vol. 2: American Dreams!

JLA # 16-17: Prometheus starts off well, taking out Steel and J'onn fairly easy though J'onn seemed a trifle subdued for confronting a trespasser. Then he banishes Zauriel, instead of battling him, hypnotizes the Huntress then beats up Batman! Fairly quickly, too! But he doesn't kill him. In fact he doesn't kill any of them. He incapacitates Flash and Green Lantern and actually shoots Kyle but it's only a flesh wound. For someone who wants the rep for destroying the JLA, it seems that he would rather showboat than slay.

Plastic Man prevents Steel from smashing through the bulkhead the hard way! This is the first thing that goes wrong with the Egotistical Antagonist's plan. Meanwhile, to safeguard the 100 or so journalists, including Lois on the Watchtower, he wants Superman to kill himself. No, that's his brillant plan. He really believed that Superman would commit suicide based on his threats. Oddly enough, we don't see what his methods would have been against Wonder Woman (Hippolyta) or Aquaman. Turns out that he wasn't the only "villain" who invaded JLA HQ in disguise. Cat Grant was really Morrison's dominatrix ex machina, Catwoman who saw a problem come along and then she whipped it! Then the JLA regroups and like Nemesis Kid from the Legion or any classic bully, he runs away, vowing revenge!

In the aftermath, Orion and Big Barda are presented to the JLA by Takion as "protectors of Earth"! Wonder how Prometheus would have dealt with the Dog of War!

All in all, I wouldn't rate Prometheus as a great JLA villain. His plans are too complex and hinge on everything going according smoothly. He seems unable to improvise and that, my padawan, is why he fails!

And his future doesn't get any better!

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