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…

 

(1224 - 240113)

Views: 5010

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Thanks for filling out the details Philip.  A few things strike me reading your summary.

 

It's fitting that it's Plastic Man, a Dionysian agent of chaos (or at least disruption and disorder) who first messes with Prometheus' carefully laid plans.

 

I hadn't noticed that Catwoman chose to disguise herself as someone called 'Cat' to get to the Watchtower.  Hiding in plain sight, indeed.  Her wavering between villain and hero is exactly how she's just been done in Batman Inc., right down to Batman's almost insincere disapproval of her pilfering ways.

 

The Prometheus One-Shot didn't interest me the first time I collected JLA.  Why get a comic about some unknown new villain? And the word JLA on the cover seemed academic when they didn't really appear in the comic.  So not seeing his origin, I missed how Promy was a reflection of Batman, which adds a lot to his interest.  I'm thinking now that the helmet-grill thing over his eyes is a visual pun on the Dark Knight's name.

 

Yes, strange how he didn't kill any of them, especially considering he'd had no compunction about killing poor old Retro.  Morrison may have been trying to inaugerate a classic Batman/JLA villain, but there seems to be something lacking in Prometheus.  I don't think Morrison used him after this.  Not even in crowd scenes.  The best villains do the wrong things for the right reasons, or sometimes the right things for the wrong reasons, but Promy does the wrong things for the wrong reasons.

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 no deep connection or love with the JLA or it's members.

 

A dissenting voice?  Shocking!  I think part of the appeal of JLA was in seeing Batman and Superman, especially, working so well with other DC heroes, and being well written.  Although I didn't know much about DCU continuity going into JLA, like many people I'd had a fondness for Bats and Supes that had waxed and waned since my earliest years as a comics reader.  Even non-comics fans have a relationship with those two.  All my neices and nephews under 3 know them by name shortly after they begin to talk!  JLA is a bit unusual as a comic in that it deliberately builds on these foundations - even ignoring then-current DC continuity to do so - eg showing Superman and Batman on such friendly terms. 

 

It sounds like you hadn't made the same connections to these characters in your formative years?

 

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 way kind of grim. That's not a criticism just an observation.

 

Morrison often talks the talk denigrating grim n gritty, but he's pretty good at doing it himself.  As the readership has grown up, evil characters have to be shown doing evil horrific things, otherwise they aren't a problem.  What Grant did do with the JLA, that bucked the grim n gritty mode, was to show the JLA as being very trusting and respectful of each other.  It's another example of his 'DCU-realism'.  If Superman has inspired all these heroes and ordinary people, and if Batman is so respected by everyone, then they must act in a way that we'd find hard to believe in people in real life.  They'd have to be nobler and better than us.  The heroes in JLA are Silver Age, but not nessecarily everything about their world is.

 

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.

 

I love Porter's art.  It's obviously the art of someone still learning, but its great that JLA gets such a distinctive look for most of its run.  Many artists say that they only really get better while on a long run on a single comic.  It's great that yo are noticing an improvement so early on.  I still find it strange that DC entrusted its flagship book to a relatively unknown artist back then.

 

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.

 

It's great for all the reasons you cite.  Also beyond the dialogue, Batman is lugging the unconscious bodies of 3 superpowered eight-foot tall Martians across the floor when he says this.  What a guy!  Grant is a great writer for summing up characters in moments like this.  One of the reasons I hate Johns' writing is in the way that everyone just goes on about how great Hal Jordan is all the time, but we never actually see what they are basing their adulation on.  That's TELLING not SHOWING!  When Flash freaks out at Batman's sudden disappearance in JLA # 18 (which I'm about to look at), the readers understood exactly why losing Batman was such a big deal. 

 

Batman steals the show in JLA and was probably responsible for much of its success.  Strange how Grant didn't get to write a regular Bat-monthly for another 10 years.

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.

 

Sheesh, indeed.  That's a lot of reading.  I do think Rock of Ages - the third TPB is well worth a look, but you've a lot going on in that pile.

 

Looking forward to your thoughts on the next trade.

Speaking of Rock of Ages, I wonder if B_Dog and Rob finished it yet...?


I've started reading the second trade. I just finished the story about Tomorrow Woman and I liked it. I'm enjoying the begining fo the next arc, about Neron. I'm enjoying  this a bit more than the first tpb and the art is appealing to me more.

 

As far as Superman/Batman. I loved Batman as a kid. I watched the Adam West show and later the Batman the Animated Series. I also liked Superman growing up. Now that I think about it I did like the scene when the league splits up and Batman and Superman go together. Typically the best will split up but not this time. I liked that and thought it was cool. I liked that they got along but there were only a few scenes of them interactiing. I liked Batman doing his thing and I liked Superman going toe-to-toe with the leader of the Martians. It's better depiction of Superman than the one we're seeing walking around the U.S. currently. The parts I liked about the book involved mostly those two characters.

 

So I mispoke earlier I did have connections to Superman and Batman. Most things I've seen or read show them working together and having a respect for eachother but not exactly getting along. I guess I've never particuarly have much experience with the JLA as a whole. I'm unfamiliar with a lot their history such as how they operate as a team, what villains they've fought in the past, and so on. Like I said I enjoyed the book just didn't love it. It was good enough that I want to read more. Very rarely will I read a comic and initially love it. Usually it takes me reading other issues to see where the overall story is heading. Also after thinking about it for a day I usually form my opinions better and can think about certain aspects. That being the case I like New World Order better than I did yesterday.

 

I'm reading the second volume now and should have thoughts up today or tomorrow. So far I'm enjoying it quite a bit and it's making me appreciate the previous volume a bit more now.


Figserello said:

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 no deep connection or love with the JLA or it's members.

 

A dissenting voice?  Shocking!  I think part of the appeal of JLA was in seeing Batman and Superman, especially, working so well with other DC heroes, and being well written.  Although I didn't know much about DCU continuity going into JLA, like many people I'd had a fondness for Bats and Supes that had waxed and waned since my earliest years as a comics reader.  Even non-comics fans have a relationship with those two.  All my neices and nephews under 3 know them by name shortly after they begin to talk!  JLA is a bit unusual as a comic in that it deliberately builds on these foundations - even ignoring then-current DC continuity to do so - eg showing Superman and Batman on such friendly terms. 

 

It sounds like you hadn't made the same connections to these characters in your formative years?

 

Superman and Batman's friendship is, perhaps, comics' greatest one. Two champions of justice who are both vastly different yet strikingly alike. Both can rely on the other and both can be themselves without projecting their costumed personas. They don't have to be "on" when they're together. Respect, trust and honesty has forged a relationship that will endure, despite attempts to break it or dilute it. After all this time, it just feels right!

For all of Prometheus' bluster, I think that he wanted JLA's attention, more than its destruction. He demanded their fear, he vowed to "haunt" their lives. If justice's greatest heroes dreaded him, it validated his "mission". He seemed to wanted as much press for his debut but could he really beat Superman, Wonder Woman and the Flash one-on-one? Steel already had his number and Batman probably figured out how to win Round Two. He was dangerous but not unstoppable.

As for Catwoman, I was confused as to what Morrison intended for her. Why was she there in the first place? To try to steal something under the noses of the JLA? It wasn't because of Prometheus. She never heard of him. And how did she smuggle the whip in? Plus, she was included in the last group shot with the team. It also has a touch of pathos due to the future events of Identity Crisis.

As for her disguise, this was actually something she did quite a lot of in the Golden Age. Of course, it's one of Batman's specialties too. In a reprint in World's Finest, I read about The King, a Golden Age disguise based hero from Flash Comics and his friendly enemy, the Witch. I liked to think that he taught not only Batman and Catwoman his make-up tricks but also the Unknown Soldier, the various False-Faces, Lili from the original Secret Six, the Human Target, Jimmy Olsen, Nemesis and any other masquerading character, maybe even Superman. Just to neaten things up a bit!

You didn't bring them up but what is your take on Orion and Big Barda in the JLA, Figs?

I finished Rock of Ages, but haven't re-read beyond it, yet.

 

I'll get caught back up with the conversation soon enough.

 

Figserello said:

Speaking of Rock of Ages, I wonder if B_Dog and Rob finished it yet...?
I did, actually -- I was waiting for you to take the lead, and by now my thoughts of it are flown from my head. I'll have to give it another look before moving forward!

Respect, trust and honesty has forged a relationship that will endure, despite attempts to break it or dilute it. After all this time, it just feels right!

 


Amen, Brother! It seems obvious now, but it was quite revolutionary in 1997 for Morrison to reinstate this great friendship.

 

You didn't bring them up but what is your take on Orion and Big Barda in the JLA, Figs?

 

They have a strange relationship to the JLA, don't they?  In a way they don't really belong.  I've realised that their place in this team is very like Mister Miracle's in Morrison's Seven Soldiers of Victory.  Of the team, and yet not of it.  Connecting the team to higher powers on a higher symbolic plane. 

 

It's another example of Morrison presenting the same general idea in several drastically different ways.  So what I think of Orion and Barda here is tied up with what I think Mister Miracle was doing in SSoV.  Which would take quite a bit of explanation!  It's not just what the New Gods are doing in each series, but how those two uses of Fourth World characters in teams comment on and illuminate the other.

 

And they are a strange couple too.  The main 'hero' of the central New Gods book, and the supporting character/love interest from another Fourth World book.  They didn't spend much time together in the Kirby stories, and they don't even compliment each other that well, being too alike.  Both are warriors of Apokalips that became champions of New Genesis and were played off against more peace-loving characters in their early Kirby comics appearances.

 

But all of that, as well as their total lack of romantic chemistry, might have made them a potentially interesting challenge for Morrison to work with.  Possibly all the obvious pair-ups had been worked through by writers since Kirby's original New Gods project got cancelled.  In any case, I'm not sure that Morrison got to do anything really great with them in the long run.  Their virtual absence from DC One Million attests to their unsuitability for some JLA stories.

 

WIthin the mechanics of the story, they are also physical reminders of the cosmic threat that Metron warned our heroes about at the end of Rock of Ages, so are a pointer towards the grand climax of Morrison's run.

 

As to why I think Morrison chose to bring them into his JLA:

 

Obviously Morrison believes that what the New Gods represent - powerful metaphors for fundamental forces that drive human beings and work through them - are concepts we should all contemplate and learn to work with.  Thus his superheroes are forced to confront them and work along side them or in their presence.  In Morrison's work superheroes themselves are metaphors and symbols so are already halfway to being New Gods themselves.  Kirby's futuristic, brightly coloured, spandex-clad New Gods are what these powerful and fundamental forces would look like in a simple, positivist superhero universe.  In the more 'realistic' Invisibles universe, these forces were murky and dark, and difficult, even dangerous, for humans to understand and perceive properly.

 

Finished JLA vol. 2: American Dreams, today. Figs, I'm a believer now. That was a great collection. While I enjoyed the first volume this one really came together for me. The art was great and I was more involved in the stories this time around. There were big issue for the team to deal with but each story had a personal focus whether it be on an android, an angel or a young hero.

 

First off, I really like Morrison's depiction of Superman. I'm not talking about the blue lightningbolts. I'm talking about the strong, heroic, capable character. I would buy a Superman comic if he wrote it. I missed All Star Superman the first time around but now I need to pick it up. It's hard to top Superman going toe-to-toe with an Angel. How about Superman playing Moon tug-a-war with a demon?

 

I like Conner Hawk a lot so I'm glad he was able to kick ass in this one. Using his dad's trick arrows was a nice touch.

 

Flash is pretty awesome here too. Aquaman is still kinda lame.

 

Where the heck was Batman during the Angel invasion? Do we see Zauriel again?

 

Reading New World Order then this I can see Morrison's idea of the JLA coming together now. I'm halfway tempted to pick up vol 3 to throw on my reading pile. I'm wanting to see where this goes now.

 

 

Glad you are enjoying these, Jason.

 

I think Batman's absence is allowed, given how busy he keeps in Gotham and his earlier insistence that he wouldn't be able to devote all his time to the JLA.  Also, as great as he is, I think he might have been out of his league a bit up against the Heavenly Hosts themselves.

 

The next collection - Rock of Ages - closes out the first phase of JLA with an almighty bang, Jason, in case that influences your decision any.  There is a definite demarcation betwen the end of it and the 2nd phase.

 

Anyway, to continue with Strength in Numbers...

 

JLA # 18 – 19 “The Strange Case of Julian September”

Unless you count the Prometheus prologue, each of the JLA stories in Strength in Numbers are two-parters. Morrison provides the first and last regular JLA stories in the collection, and Mark Waid provides the middle two, of which this is the first.

In an unusually long ‘pre-credits sequence’ we see a string of bizarre coincidences happening – things like aircraft computers all malfunctioning at the same time so that they all end up in the same airspace and superheroes happening to be in the same place when something unusual occurs (although this last happened in every issue of Marvel Team-up.)

We also see someone called Julian September invent a machine that affects the laws of probability and begin to become more and more successful. The members of the JLA also start disappearing from reality one by one.

In the 11 pages after the titles – Issue 18’s is “Synchronicity” btw. – things get even more frenetic as the JLA have to stop 7 supervillains who have all turned up to kidnap the President. They’ve all decided and planned to do so independently. When the JLA get to him, the President is none other than Julian September himself as his machine is now altering the past as well as the present.

Of course it is Batman who starts to put together what is going on, once he has personally divested September of his reality altering machine. Unfortunately, reality is now too far gone and even stopping September from using the machine can restore the universe back to normal levels of probability.

Batman notices that the number 7 keeps coming up in the improbable situations, and asserts that the JLA members, having been whittled down to 7 should now stop disappearing. Further, he has figured out that the universe is trying to communicate the meaning of the chaos and the solution with all the repeated 7’s.

He is just about to reveal this ... when he himself disappears.

 


 

End of part one.

 

Waid constructs a great story here. The coincidences, the number 7s and the disappearances of the JLA members are all interweaved with September's rise and rise in the bacground. Batman’s catastrophic disappearance is nicely foreshadowed by how Flash enthusiastically explains to the newbie members how indispensible Batman is and how easily he will figure out the answer!

It is an indrawn breath moment when Bruce pops off the stage. 

In part two – titled Seven Soldiers of Probability – the rest of the team have to figure out the problem themselves and solve it. This issue is equally clever and fun and well-constructed. The US has by now retroactively lost the War of Independence, so Martian Manhunter gets access to the file on Julian September by disguising himself as the King of England. They use the file to find September’s lab, where the source of the problem becomes apparent.

Batman had thought there were 7 JLA members at work on the case when he disappeared, but he had reckoned without Oracle, who’d been out of contact up to then. Waid makes her story a major sub-plot of the second part. She sees that events in the past are being unmade and J'onn J'onnz thinks she's hesitating about fixing the problem in the hope that her maiming by the Joker will be cancelled out.

In September’s lab they find out the significance of the number 7. September had split 7 light photons in his experiments affecting quantum probability (it's comicbook science – run with it) and they need to be put back together again. Just after he complains that none of them are physicists, Martian Manhunter starts to fade out too, but tells them not to worry, he thinks that help is on the way.

Sure enough, by a ridiculous coincidence, the Atom gets a ‘wrong number’ while travelling through the phone lines and ends up in the lab with the JLA. He is a physicist so with his help they start to reunite the 7 photons.

Waid throws some extra drama into the story at this point by doing a version of The Monkey’s Paw where Bruce’s resurrected parents are climbing the stairs to Oracle’s base and about to open her door. We are given to think there might be something menacing about this, but the story hasn’t really built up to this in any way.

Needless to say, our heroes save the day and with the laws of probability fixed, everyone pops back into reality. Martian Manhunter gets a lot of time in the postscript as he explains that he thought the Atom would arrive as he was the seventh member to join to original Justice League. He also has to apologise to Oracle who had been hesitating in the hope that Bruce would be spared the life-defining trauma of his parent’s death, rather than trying to prevent her own past tragedy. I can see how she would weigh Bruce’s suffering very heavily. It seems to be such an integral part of his whole existence, whereas she has moved on from her trauma.

 


Yes, we do. 


Jason Marconnet said:

 Do we see Zauriel again?

 

 

Zauriel is a somewhat unusual hero isn't he?  Even stranger that he was created especially to be a member of the JLA of 'big brand names'.

 

We've talked about the connections to the Greek pantheons, but perhaps Morrison is being a little mischievous here. Zauriel is a divinely-powered hero from a different belief system - a living modern faith that many of the readers believed in, at that!  There's a certain audacity there...

 

It's also a little commentary on how the DCU relates to our world.  Guardian Angels generally don't manifest themselves physically out here in real life, but of course they'd have the "Full Milton" in the DCU, even though I don't think God and his divine messengers did much in previous DC comics.

 

As pointed out above, Zauriel has appeared recently in Bill Willingham's Shadowpact.  I have a TPB of it on my reading pile, and might report back here my thoughts on how he is handled, since he's one of the few heroes created almost from scratch for the JLA series.  I'm still annoyed that I can't look at Mark Millar's Zauriel mini-series anytime soon.

Reply to Discussion

RSS

Welcome!

No flame wars. No trolls. But a lot of really smart people.The Captain Comics Round Table tries to be the friendliest and most accurate comics website on the Internet.

SOME ESSENTIALS:

RULES OF THE ROUND TABLE

MODERATORS

SMILIES FOLDER

TIPS ON USING THE BOARD

FOLLOW US:

OUR COLUMNISTS:

Groups

© 2020   Captain Comics, board content ©2013 Andrew Smith   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service