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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Paul Levitz and Martin Pasko, actually. I've read most JLA stories from the period - and all the other giant-sized issues, I think - but that two-parter eluded me.
Justice League # 147-148 (O-N'77) featured the JLA/JSA/Legion team-up. It was referenced by Batman in "The Lightning Saga", the last JLA/JSA/Legion team-up. It's reprinted in Crisis on Multiple Earths, Volume 4.

I remember being disappointed in how the Legion was treated. They were considered youngsters that needed the JLA/JSA's help as if they couldn't handle Mordru on their own.
Thanks for the correction, Luke -- I guess I assumed it was Conway, simply because the last time I looked at the story, I was disappointed it wasn't Englehart, even though it occurred around the time of his run.
JLA #7 Heaven on Earth



Philip earlier summed up the concusion – and the thematic content of these two issues - thus:

It's Superman who, after preventing the moon from crashing into the Earth, then physically grapples with an archangel, even as the Man of Energy, that truly becomes mythic. In fact all of them could be described as god-like by their actions against the angels.

Can’t argue with that.

Most of the team are involved in vanquishing the Angels. Probably most instrumental is Green Lantern who constructs a machine that disrupts the Angels earthly vibrations, sending them back to a higher plane. We saw him earlier constructing a telephone line to the Watchtower, and all this makes me wonder if his power needs him to know how an Earth-Moon communications device might work and then build all the ‘working parts’ with his green light, or if he just has to imagine a general ‘communications device’ and its capabilities, which the ring makes real. The same could be asked of his sound converter in this issue.

The other question his ring-constructs raise is how much they need to look like the elaborate equipment they mimic. It's not just the telephone connection to the moon that Kyle manifests, but a whole phonebox as well.

Of course, questions like this didn’t even come up when a knuckle-dragging lunk like Hal Jordan was using the ring to generate big fists and anvils to hit his opponents with! I’ve a feeling knowledge plays some part, not just will. Just as knowledge as much as power was involved in Superman’s plan to generate poles on the moon.

Biblical/Miltonic rebellion is referenced over and over in this story, but Morrison, in keeping with his Gnostic leanings, keeps mixing up who is playing which roles. Asmodel is the one plotting against the divine order of Heaven, but it is Zauriel who falls in flames from the heavens at the start and is hunted as a renegade. Similarly, J’onn is paraphrasing Milton’s Lucifer when he forcefully tells Asmodel’s Angels that he will not obey or serve them. He is motivated, however, by selflessness and love of humanity rather than selfishness and pride.

Asmodel himself is indignant that a mere mortal like Superman should attack him, whereas Superman, as a representative of humanity, is equally indignant and filled with fury that a representative of the Heavens should threaten and endanger humanity. Superman is asserting a ‘democratic’ idea of man’s relationship to the divine.

Explaining how they won, Superman later tells the Flash that ‘There were larger forces at work today’. Does he mean that God was on their side, or that Superman merely harnessed the physical forces of gravity and electromagnetic attraction/repulsion to win the day? Superman is essentially a creature of science, but he’s also linked to the divine via his role as a Sun-God, so the ambiguity is deliberate.

Zauriel’s story is left at this point at the Wings of Desire scene. All this high drama and spiritual conflict has been for the love of a simple human.

It’s really annoying me that I don’t have all my comics here with me, as I’d love to follow this up with JLA: Paradise Lost. It’s interesting to see how DC as a company ran with Morrison’s concepts and central status quo, as most of his other work is quite marginal to the DCU. I’m also very interested in looking at more of Millar’s 90’s work.

Ah well. If anyone wants to throw Paradise Lost into the mix, that’d be ‘way cool’ as the younglings used to say.
Speaking of JLA-branded miniseries, it seems that JLA: World Without Grownups is being re-released in December as one of their 'DC Comics Presents...' I'm looking forward to getting that as I missed out first time around and it's one of the few Starman appearances I don't have.

I'm still not sure if $7.99 is an acceptable price for an all-reprint comic. I wonder will it be bookshelf format at all? Good if it was.
Figserello said:
Most of the team are involved in vanquishing the Angels. Probably most instrumental is Green Lantern who constructs a machine that disrupts the Angels earthly vibrations, sending them back to a higher plane. We saw him earlier constructing a telephone line to the Watchtower, and all this makes me wonder if his power needs him to know how an Earth-Moon communications device might work and then build all the ‘working parts’ with his green light, or if he just has to imagine a general ‘communications device’ and its capabilities, which the ring makes real. The same could be asked of his sound converter in this issue.

I have a memory of this being specifically addressed somewhere — I want to say Final Night, but it could've been elsewhere. I remember a scene of heroes and villains (specifically, I remember Lex Luthor being involved) working together to invent some magical machine that can solve whatever problem it is they're facing, and having Kyle use his ring to fabricate the whatever-it-is on the fly, and there specifically being a line of dialogue explaining how he can get his ring to make something that doesn't, strictly speaking, exist.

Can anyone provide substance to this memory?
I am under the assumption that since Kyle is an artist, his constructs are more intricate then Hal's are. Also, he doesn't have to know how things work, just the basic function and the ring takes care of the rest.


Figserello said:
Speaking of JLA-branded miniseries, it seems that JLA: World Without Grownups is being re-released in December as one of their 'DC Comics Presents...' I'm looking forward to getting that as I missed out first time around and it's one of the few Starman appearances I don't have.

I'm still not sure if $7.99 is an acceptable price for an all-reprint comic. I wonder will it be bookshelf format at all? Good if it was.

The originals were $4.95 a piece, so $7.99 doesn't seem out of line to me. The trade that came out the same year was $9.95. I personally am interested to see how these DC Comics Presents sale. They seem to be pumping a buttload of them out every month now. Sorry for the threadjack, on with the JLA stuff!


David Warren said:
I am under the assumption that since Kyle is an artist, his constructs are more intricate then Hal's are. Also, he doesn't have to know how things work, just the basic function and the ring takes care of the rest.

I agree -- I think imagination is more important than knowledge, especially in Kyle's case. Half of what he creates are transformers-style robots, but he's hardly a robotics engineer.
If you want to stretch a point, Zauriel could be a counterpart to several Leaguers; winged warrior (Hawkman), sonic powers (Black Canary), otherworldly knowledge (Zatanna) and a different being in love with a human (Red Tornado).

Is Zauriel still around?

As for Hal and Kyle, Hal was much more direct and physical than Kyle who had more creativity and flair.
Someday, I'd like to see Hal school Kyle on the one construct he does well. "No, the laces go on the inside wrist... have you ever even seen a boxing glove?"
I think Morrison puts a special emphasis on Kyle's ring functioning through a combination of thought, energy and matter. The esoteric (pseudo-scientific) thinking that he seems to be basing the comicbook science on around this time argues that all three are intimately bound up. He just makes use of the Green Lantern concept that was around long before he was born to illustrate it.

The other aspect of the ring's functionality that he keeps emphasising is that 'vibrations' are an area where all three aspects meet. Kyle builds a cage for one of the Angels that converts the energy of his attempts to escape into sound, thus neutralising it, and in the end it is through converting sound that they change the Angels vibrations to banish them from the Earthly plane.

That's a lot of emphasis on vibrations. According to string theory EVERYTHING s made up of vibrations, wth the nature of the vibrations affecting whether something is matter or energy.

I think imagination is more important than knowledge, especially in Kyle's case. Half of what he creates are transformers-style robots, but he's hardly a robotics engineer.

Good point. Kyle uses imagination + will. Hal would try to constuct a cage with will alone that would have to withstand angelic battering, but Kyle uses knowledge and creativity to neutralise the Angel's strength and make it work for him.

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