JLA: Ultramarine Corps - A Seven Soldiers prologue

JLA Classified #1-3

[Another thread in our Morrison Reading Project.]

 

Written by Grant Morrison, Art by Ed McGuinness.

Collected as Ultramarine Corps

This 3-issue ‘mini-series within a series’ came out cover-dated 2005.  In it, Batman has to stop Gorilla Grodd from eradicating human civilisation.  Unfortunately, as Alfred puts it, his ‘flamboyant allies in the Justice League are … indisposed.”   In the middle of all this, a complicating factor is the infant universe of QWEWQ becoming "a time-travelling bully".

Even though it is one of Morrison’s lesser-mentioned works it is noteworthy on several counts.  For one, it is a prologue of sorts to the revolutionary Seven Soldiers of Victory maxi-series, which followed it.  The coming threat of that series is foreshadowed and we learn a little of the rules they operate under.  Seven is a fateful number to the Sheeda, and thus they fear the seven mighty members of the Justice League.  These factors drive a lot of the action of Seven Soldiers.

Most notably,  this arc marks Morrison’s return to the DCU proper after a half-decade away.  Fittingly, his last story set in the DCU had also been a JLA tale – the final issue of Grant’s JLA run – and this 3-parter shows how his whole style and narrative technique have changed in the meanwhile.

Whereas I used to hold Grant’s JLA up as a most accessible comics series, and I was able to hand it to any reasonably intelligent person who didn’t usually read comics (an oxymoron, perhaps?), this story showcases Morrison’s much more condensed and compressed storytelling style, which was difficult and problematic for some readers. 

“I think fast, and I work fast.  Can you keep up, Beryl Hutchinson?”  Batman asks the Squire at one point, perhaps speaking for Grant too. 

Ed McGuinness has a wonderful bulked up cartoony style that serves this fast-paced superhero tale well, but the reader still has to concentrate to follow the action. 

The first time I read this, I was disappointed at how unlike the previous run of JLA it was.  Most of the first issue concerns the Ultramarine Corps – a very Authority-like, take-no-prisoners, superhero team who live in a floating island above the Earth.  As clueless as the Ultramarines, we too are thrown into the trap that Grodd has set.  So we have to work out their team-dynamics, powers and personalities as well as puzzle out the trap they’ve sprung, just as they do.  There are no Claremontian mini-essays to bring us up to speed. 

Issue 1 - Island of the Mighty

 

‘WHERE IS THE JUSTICE LEAGUE?’ asks the front cover of issue 1 and we don’t even see them until issue 2.  In JLA, Morrison allowed us into the inner circle of our favourite superheroes and we saw them joke and interact warmly with each other.  There is none of that here, even when we do catch up with the Justice League, later on. 

Morrison does do a lot with this slight-seeming arc, but giving old fanboys the warm cosies isn’t one of them.  It’s perhaps the main reason why this story is so under-appreciated.  Especially by those who loved Morrison’s JLA and read comics to feel closer to their heroes.  The distance between us and the Big Guns is important thematically, both in this story and as Grant develops his vast interconnected saga.  More on that later.

We do get some great Batman scenes.  This isn’t surprising.  Reading this story with the benefit of hindsight, I was amazed to see how this 3-parter foreshadowed and set up almost everything Morrison would do with the DCU right up to the present.  Ultramarine Corps is the first chapter of the vast interconnected Magnum Opus that Morrison has been working on since returning to DC in 2004, and as such, it is of interest to anyone looking at this phase of his career as a whole.

(I've grouped these recent-period Morrison DCU stories together as 'The Infinite Book' in my list of his work in the Morrison thread, named after the huge tome the Supermen of many worlds find on their voyage through the Bleed in Final Crisis.)

To take the first issue alone:

The Knight and the Squire get a lot of screen time.  They have since appeared in both the Black Glove / Batmen of All Nations storyline and the recent UK-set issues of Batman and Robin.  Each time they’ve appeared, we get only sketchy details, but taken together, they add up to a very rounded picture of Britain’s own Batman-inspired Dynamic Duo.

Irish hero, Jack O’Lantern is the first to come upon the infant universe of QWEWQ.  This entity becomes a major villain in the subsequent Seven Soldiers series, and provides a thoughtful aside in All-Star Superman.  The very concept of a sentient universe is something Morrison has made much of over the last 5 years.

One of the Ultramarine Corps called The Master has access to a quantum type-writer which allows him to rewrite reality just as the author himself does.  The metatextual aspects of this are under-played here, but they become more overt when we meet the Seven Unknown Men in Seven Soldiers of Victory, and moments to come where Superman and others become aware of us, the readers.

The Master also foreshadows a major plot point of Final Crisis as he gets sucked into the infant Universe of QWEWQ.  As he gets absorbed into it and begins to lose his personality he cries:

“Information!!!  Sent backwards through Time.”

The spotlight on Batman prefigures Morrison’s intense and extended work with the character in recent years, while the absence of the Justice League too, indicates Morrison’s refusal to revisit past glories. 

As Morrison says in the foreword to the first volume of the collected Seven Soldiers, “…there’s only so much you can do with the Big Guns, only so far you can go before you break them or repeat yourself.” 

This explains why he hasn’t come back to the Justice League since Ultramarine Corps, but it does cast an interesting light on his prolonged project of seeing how much repetition of cycles Bruce Wayne can take before breaking altogether.

We get an idea of the approach he was preparing to take with Bruce’s carefully compartmentalised mind when Batman equips himself for the strange adventure he’s about to step into.

“I’m opening the Sci-Fi closet, Alfred.  Don’t tell my friends in the GCPD about this.”

The closet itself contains such far-out gear as a set of Thanagarian wings, a deactivated Dalek (!), and a New Gods Boom Tube Gauntlet.

The New Gods would loom large in Grant’s plans for Batman and the DCU up to the end of Final Crisis.

All of that, and more, in only the first issue. 

Compressed, condensed storytelling. 

“Can you keep up?”

Tags: Batman, JLA, Justice League, Morrison, Seven Soldiers, Ultramarine Corps

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Oh, man, I love this story. And, yeah, as I read Seven Soldiers and All-Star Superman and Batman and Final Crisis, I would go back to this story in my head and be reminded of the things that Morrison had set up. It's amazing how well he's played with these concepts without seeming overly self-referential or redundant.

I don't think I ever knew this story as being under-appreciated, though. Admittedly, my exposure to such things is more or less limited to the conversations I've encountered on this board, but I remember it being well-received around these parts at the time.
It's good to hear that it went down well here. It was just before I joined the board, and I've read hardly any references to it in my trawls through old threads. Too late to check now though.

I was also going by how little it's mentioned out in the blogosphere, even on sites that rave about Morrison all the time. It wasn't helped by the fact that it didn't really have a collective name as a single arc until it was collected as Ultramarine Corps. I wasn't collecting comics when it came out, being on a break for a few years, but it doesn't seem to have been hyped too strongly, rather it was used to launch a new JLA non-continuing series on the strength of Morrison's previous JLA

Even the collected edition doesn't quite do it justice. It's bundled up with the WildC.A.T.s crossover which more properly has a place in the middle of Grant's first JLA run. Apparently the TPB doesn't even mention that it leads into Seven Soldiers, which is a dropped ball on DC's part.

I was a bit lukewarm, and frankly baffled, myself the first time I read it, so I imagined a lot of readers like me, expecting more old-school JLA would have felt the same. I've just noticed that one of the back-issues I got was for 50pee a few years ago, so that's literally undervalued!

The one thing I did want to get across with the post was that it was a keystone on which he built those subsequent works you mention.
I think this is a lot better when read after you've read Seven Soldiers. Either that, or when read with the intent of reading Seven Soldiers right after. I thought it was fascinating, and like you said, it really was like an explosion of mad ideas that was infused into a JLA comic, instead of being a JLA comic first and foremost.

Like you also said, so many of these ideas feed all the way throughout the end of Final Crisis, and hopefully we haven't seen the end. When those JLA robots appeared in the last pages of FC, I was geeking out like a madman.

Thank you for bringing this up, Figs! I love it so much. Last night and today I reread the first nine issues of Batman and Robin and I'm finding so many little things I didn't notice before. THIS is why I love Morrison!
I presumed they were Superman replacement robots as they all looked like him when Batman uncovered them. Love the idea that Superman would entrust these to his friend.

But I've read elsewhere they might have had something to do with the DC 1m Hourman. They looked a bit like him too.

Obviously it wouldn't take much to trick them all up like the JLA, except the one that Batman would have to 'cross-dress' as Wonder Woman(!)

Apparently, the internet got upset when Batman opened his sci-fi closet, put on a Boom-Tube glove, jumped in his Bat-saucer and zapped himself to his secret base on Pluto! Put like that, it was quit a mad thing to do with the character, but a lot of fun.

"Don't tell my friends in the GCPD", indeed.
Ultramarine Corps

Issue 2

Master of Light.

At last we get to see where the Justice League are. They have gone into QWEWQ, the infant universe kept at Batman’s Pluto HQ, to bring back a poisonous supervillain called Black Death. The Earth in QWEWQ seems to be exactly like our own, if not actually our own. There are no superheroes, and we see the TV news spewing out all the troubles of our world.

Each of the pages set on QWEWQ-Earth is a restrictive 16-panel block. It’s hard to see the bigger picture in each small panel, and the Justice League, when they appear, can only be glimpsed in the shadows. It’s a good contrast with McGuinness’ excellent large and expressive panels in the rest of this arc. (McGuinness actually lays out pages in JH Williams’ ultra-arty style, but because his work looks more cartoony, he didn’t get a lot of props for it.)

On our Earth, all we see is close-ups, we don’t see the full picture and there are no heroes doing full splash pages of action in the name of justice.

We do see a preview of the All-Star Superman when Clark’s seeming clumsiness saves a woman from being poisoned by Black Death. The Justice League are full of pity (and disbelief) for a world like ours, but know that they cannot act openly in it. We still don’t see much more of them than just their iconic symbols on their costumes and their weapons.

The Squire is a master of communications, and manages to reach into the universe of QWEWQ and get through to the Justice League via a public telephone they and Black Death happen to be near. As when she met Batman, she is in awe of them and excuses herself for even talking to them. The Justice League are depicted as being in a League of their own here. As time passes differently in QWEWQ, they only get the message and leave at the very end of issue two.

In their absence, the power of the League is illustrated in two ways in the pages in between. First of all, the Ultramarine Corps (described by Morrison as like the Avengers but with every notable hero in the MU as members), who have acted in the League's absence, fail to stop Grodd and Neh-Bu-Loh from hijacking them as super-weapons with which to smash human civilisation and take over the world. Grodd has mind control powers and Neh-Bu-Loh has his tiny Sheeda ‘spine-rider’ allies, who can also control their hosts. At the end of issue 3, Superman lectures the Ultramarine Corps that superheroes who kill and who simplify their mission to that extent were easy to convert into weapons of mass destruction. He gives quite cogent reasons why the seemingly old-fashioned League are more effective in an increasingly complex world than the Authority-esque Ultramarines.


Then, Batman’s robot JLA are quickly defeated once The Master realises they are only machines. The inference is that only the JLA have what it takes to defeat the bad guys. The JLA robots are so easily defeated, actually, that I can only see the thematic, not the strategic reason, why Batman brought them into play! Perhaps they buy him a little bit of time before the Real Thing charge in on a Boom Tube at the end of issue 2.

That’s most of the plot of this issue.

I loved the verbal sparring between the aristocratic, English Knight, and the Irish Nationalist (according to wiki) Jack O’Lantern. Knight’s put-downs of Jack are racist, but this kind of name-calling would seem to be the basis of their friendship. Irish people and English people wouldn’t josh each other like this otherwise. (We might think things like this though - ha ha!) As a British Celt from Scotland, Grant might just consider himself to be on neutral ground between the two, and thus allowed to present this kind of racial abuse.

The final notable thing is how terrifyingly over-the-top bloodthirsty Gorilla Grodd is. We see him chowing down on people and his face is covered in blood throughout. In my first post, I indicated some of the ways this story points forward to Grant’s later work, but some of it points backward too. Grodd’s hatred of humanity, bloodthirstiness and continuous spouting of simple “us and them” ideology reminds me of Dmitri 9 from The Filth. They are both apes, so might be a commentary on the kind of thinking we have to get away from as we evolve beyond our present state.

Grodd’s intentions throughout this story is to wind back the clock on humanity and start over again as a savage planet of the apes. Thankfully our noble saviours descend from the skies via New Gods technology to save us.

BTW - I'm not sure who the Master of Light of the title is. John Stewart only has a cameo and The Master of the Ultramarine Corps is the first of them to fall. Neh-Bu-Loh shines with the light of the stars within, but he heralds the coming darkness.

Perhaps it is the Squire, who is able to manipulate light and heat within the infant universe of QWEWQ to get her message via telephone to the JLA. Batman knows that she is a 'communications expert'.

Communications = messenger = Apollo = Light .

Squire relays the message from the defeated Ultramarine Corps to Batman and from him to the JLA. She is also the one who finally gets through to one of the spinerider's hosts when she helps the Knight cast off his little Sheeda rider. She is constantly a go-between in this story, and the single most nessecary element that enables good to triumph.
JLA Classified #3

Finale



I’ve seen an interview with Morrison where he says Grim n Gritty was about asking the question “What would it be like if superheroes lived in our world?”, whereas he was much more interested in “what would it be like to live in their world?”, where the impossible is commonplace.

Issue 3 kicks off with one instance of this. We see a pre-recorded message on TV devised by the authorities to warn people that a superhuman rampage was underway and to stay in their homes. Rather than making the superheroes seem real by grounding them in our world, talking about Brad Pitt, or Starbucks or whatever, Morrison is good at little details like this that makes the whole DCU feel real. He continues a lot of this in Seven Soldiers of Victory, with its tiers of superheroes leading from the JLA down to the convention circuit and even lower.

Cairo is under attack from the mind-controlled Ultramarines, and finally we get to see the JLA in action, saving the day. John Stewart is the Green Lantern here, and Morrison has a little more going on with him that separates him from the other Lanterns than the degree of awe he holds Hal Jordan in. Unusually for a superhero - lots of them don't even have jobs - John is an architect and Morrison is able to work John’s understanding of structural engineering into his response to the stricken city.

The JLA happened to be in ‘classic’ mode when this came out, so we get no-nonsense Stewart, clean-shaven Aquaman, and Wonder Woman flying in her invisible plane to great, and fun, effect.

(As an aside, it’s good that impulsive thug Hal isn’t in the Justice League here, as his presence would work against Morrison’s depiction of them as the thoughtful, diligent and self-controlled apex of superherodom.)

Grodd monologues so much that he fails to notice Batman escape from his cooking fire, and he gets a kick in the ‘dynasty’ for his negligence.

Martian Manhunter is described rather wonderfully as “A living switchboard at the heart of the J.L.A.’s mind-to-mind instant communication network.” He is a key player in making this incarnation of the League such an effective and harmonious team. People were shocked at how his death in Final Crisis wasn’t foreshadowed in any way and seemed meaningless. Well, here is the meaning of his death. The top tier of superheroes were literally on their own once he was eliminated. As for foreshadowing, we also get J’onn being taken out virtually the same way as in Final Crisis. The disgraced “schizophrenic Superman” of Greece stabs him through the back with a possibly supernatural spear. Here however he is only incapacitated long enough for Demetrios to hurl him into the nearest active volcano, keeping him out of the fight for a while.

His eventual overcoming of his agony, like Knight’s defeat of the Sheeda spine-rider that is controlling him, is a little problematic for me. What’s the point of these setbacks if it only takes a bit of concentration to defeat them? Still, each hero gets his mojo back on facing pages and Grant is allowed his fist in the air moment as we reach the climax of the JLA’s victory.

Ne-Buh-Loh was already known to the JLA, as Squire had read about him in the “JLA: Classified files” (ooh, meta!) Thus Superman addresses him as Nebula Man when he flies in to deck him one. This refers back beyond Grant’s JLA run to the pre-Crisis, Seven Soldiers of Victory team-up with the Justice League where Nebula Man appeared. Assuming Grant is allowing everything about Nebula Man to be in continuity, we can also assume that the Nebula Man the Justice League met way back then was a future version of this character. We’ll see this trick repeated in a later work too.

In any case I will have to read the Justice League/ Soldiers of Victory team-up to see if it could play like that. I’m hoping to read some of those comics that influenced Grant’s DCU work at some point.

Nebula Man himself doesn’t fancy a punch up with Superman. Like his Sheeda allies, he prefers to work by less direct methods. After a little forewarningof the coming threat / advance marketing for Seven Soldiers of Victory he makes his excuses and disappears.

The final two pages of the story have a lot in them worth discussing, so I will deal with them in their own post.
The final act of hypercompression in the series is the jump-cut to Superman dispensing summary justice at the end of it all. Gorrilla Grodd is to be consigned to the Phantom Zone, and his accomplices sent back to Gorilla City for punishment. The Ultramarine Corps, however, have a ‘public relations apocalypse’ to deal with. Superman tells them that their Authority-esque methods are too simplistic for a complex world of jet-powered apes and time travel.

In a story typified by rapid quickfire dialogue, where the reader has to think hard and work hard to keep up, Superman’s admonishment is one of the longer speeches in it. In all this no-one doubts that Superman and his team have earned the right to pontificate.

Completely beyond this story, it may be the case that writers have brought the Justice League closer to the Authority/Ultramarines since this story was written, but diminished them as a result. Although Morrison managed it for over 40 issues, it’s a lot harder than it looks to keep them as paragons of virtue and retain an element of human drama at the same time.

In any case, they are required to be paragons of virtue by Morrison’s specific schematisation of DCU’s superhero hierarchy which he kicks off with this series. In Seven Soldiers we are about to experience the DCU seen from the perspective of those heroes, would-be heroes and also-rans who are much lower down the food chain. In Final Crisis, we see the New Gods are above the JLA and the angelic Monitors in turn are above the New Gods. Morrison’s DCU is now ordered like a medieval, or even pagan, multi-tiered cosmology.

Superman’s final words in this last issue make food for thought. He tells the repentant Ultramarine Corps that “...there’s a growing universe that needs a strong, guiding hand to keep it on the straight and narrow.”

In effect he is telling them that they have to atone for the death and destruction they’ve just been a part of by entering the infant universe of QWEWQ and prevent it from developing in the future into the malevolent cosmic huntsman Ne-Buh-Loh.

You have big ideas?” he goes on, “Start small.”

We then cut to the 16 panel grid that’s been used already to show events on Earth-QWEWQ which could be our Earth. Guns, drugs, violence, war, terrorism, corruption and other horrors of the nightly news are all in evidence on this last page.

I think Morrison is breaking new ground in his quasi-magical experimentation with fiction and reality here. He has found and/or developed a group of superheroes that won’t be missed in the DCU and set up a reason for them to enter our world and try to influence it for the better. As DCU heroes, they need a reason and a heroic mission to perform, and sins in their past to atone for. It’s a kind of exile, and a huge undertaking, given how wretched our world is, so it is a truly heroic sacrifice on their part.

It’s ironic that it is the so-called ‘realistic’ proactive superheroes who get tasked with the mission in the ‘real’ world. Possibly the JLA themselves would make a better job of cleaning up our planet, but they are needed in theirs, as Grodd’s attempts to eradicate humanity attest. Anyway, Batman is very disapproving of them taking on jobs outside their jurisdiction.

Perhaps it’s a little spell to bring the wonders of the DCU a little closer to the world we live in. Far-fetched perhaps, but no harm in it. If the US spends tax-payers money paying men to stare at goats, this is worth a shot too! The Ultramarine Corps may be entirely fictional, but so were the weapons of mass-destruction and that didn’t stop them affecting each of our lives...

There’s also something strange going on, in that QWEWQ, which might be our universe, is only a little undeveloped sub-universe of the DCU. That puts us in our place! As envisioned by Morrison, the DCU does seem a more developed place than ours, populated with Gods and men, superbeings evincing great nobility or villainy, Heavens, Hells, right and wrong. Ours is a grey, limited sphere of existence in comparison.

While typing QWEWQ for these posts, I’ve noticed that it’s like starting to type all the letters of the alphabet on a keyboard and then going into reverse early on and going back to the start. Its as if this universe is stunted and denied its complete development. It is constantly referred to as the ‘infant universe of QWEWQ’, reminiscent of the idea posited in The Invisibles that our universe is the larval stage of our greater destiny. In this story we see that QWEWQ may grow into a life-denying monster, but Superman, ever optimistic, thinks he can prevent that from happening. It’s a very hopeful ending.

The Ultramarines discuss amongst themselves the task ahead of them:

“A doomed micro-Earth in an infant universe”

“With no such thing as superheroes”

“This should be interesting...”


Just before the end credits for the creators, looking like the title of this chapter, are the words “SECONDS TO GO” and then on the other side of the picture of the cube-shaped QWEWQ universe: “THE END”.

I love the way the ending hangs there in those few moments just before the heroes enter our(?) world. There’s a magical little space there between fiction and reality.
I think Morrison is breaking new ground in his quasi-magical experimentation with fiction and reality here. He has found and/or developed a group of superheroes that won’t be missed in the DCU and set up a reason for them to enter our world and try to influence it for the better. As DCU heroes, they need a reason and a heroic mission to perform, and sins in their past to atone for. It’s a kind of exile, and a huge undertaking, given how wretched our world is, so it is a truly heroic sacrifice on their part.

It’s ironic that it is the so-called ‘realistic’ proactive superheroes who get tasked with the mission in the ‘real’ world. Possibly the JLA themselves would make a better job of cleaning up our planet, but they are needed in theirs, as Grodd’s attempts to eradicate humanity attest. Anyway, Batman is very disapproving of them taking on jobs outside their jurisdiction.


I was a bit thrown by the emphasis on this team I knew nothing about. The collection includes the page from the DC Encyclopedia that gives their origin and introduces most of them. Squire is in the illustration, but not mentioned in the text, so everything I knew about her I found out in the story (and of course she was heavily featured). The whole ploy is reminiscent of Alan Moore's use of superhero analogues in Watchmen. And I thought Squire was very Robin-like: perhaps a nod to the female Robin in Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns? Having not read much of Morrison's earlier JLA run, I wasn't expecting that. But I suppose I was expecting a more conventional superhero narrative, since it has the JLA on the cover. As I said in my daily posting, I did think it was stuffed with mad ideas, so much that I had trouble following it in places. I'd argue that The Invisibles and The Filth are easier to follow, and that's saying something!

The other thing I mentioned just after reading it was the disconnect between my memories of the Gorilla Grodd stories in the Flash and this super-powerful, cruel threat to humanity. I remember him as dangerous, but played for laughs just a bit too. Of course all of the Silver Age Flash villains were somewhat ridiculous in their original form, which was part of the charm.

So I'll be interested to see how reading this prepares me for reading Seven Soldiers. I intend to read the first TPB collection this weekend.
I meant to say something about the Wildcats/JLA crossover: I didn't read it. As a former Flash fan I felt compelled to read the beginning, but I bailed as soon as the Image gang showed up. I don't know anything about them, and I'm not interested enough to correct that. I see what you mean about it being from a much earlier time period: I haven't thought about Superman Blue in ages. And the Image-style art was a big contrast, in a bad way.
Mark Sullivan said

I was a bit thrown by the emphasis on this team I knew nothing about.

So was just about everyone. It left me quite cold the first time I read this arc. They did appear briefly in the JLA series itself, but that was maybe 8 years previously, so I don't think anyone was expected to know all about them from the outset. I accept its not a defense if you found the story hard to read, but Morrison kicks off his latest extended phase of DCU writing the way he intends to go on. There are no Claremont-esque paragraphs telling you who these chaps are, and what their hang-ups are. We can surmise these details by looking carefully at everything they say and other little details. Morrison is producing comics that only start to give up their treasures on second and subsequent readings. Its not a defense of them, if you just want to pick up and enjoy the things and leave them down. They do give enjoyment to a lot of people. I will say that.

It is a problem if someone like yourself, who is receptive to Morrison's style and wasn't wanting or expecting Claremont-style superheroing, finds it too willfully obscure and jarring.

The collection includes the page from the DC Encyclopedia that gives their origin and introduces most of them. Squire is in the illustration, but not mentioned in the text, so everything I knew about her I found out in the story (and of course she was heavily featured). The whole ploy is reminiscent of Alan Moore's use of superhero analogues in Watchmen.

Another Alan Moore influence maybe? I found them very like the Avengers in personel and like the Authority in tone.

And I thought Squire was very Robin-like: perhaps a nod to the female Robin in Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns?

Good point! Hadn't thought of that even though it's astoundingly obvious. A lot of Carrie Kelly in her plucky attitude too. I know we're talking about the readability of these things on their own merits, but Knight and the Squire are thematically very important looking ahead to Grant's Batman run. It's all about replacements, and doubles and copies of Batman, and K &S are one of the few that are almost as noble and effective as Bruce. Certainly they want to be, anyway, even though they are only Limey copies - heh, heh!

Having not read much of Morrison's earlier JLA run, I wasn't expecting that. But I suppose I was expecting a more conventional superhero narrative, since it has the JLA on the cover.

On the first JLA run was Grant going as far as he could with weirdness while keeping the fanboys on board - and pleasing the hell out of them mostly. It wasn't as weird as Doom Patrol or even Animal Man, and I'm sure Grant didn't want to scare the horses on his most succesful mainstream title back then. This time around, maybe he's writing superhero comics for Invisibles fans, instead of trying to keep the stories simple (which he already did so successfully. Been there, done that).

As I said in my daily posting, I did think it was stuffed with mad ideas, so much that I had trouble following it in places. I'd argue that The Invisibles and The Filth are easier to follow, and that's saying something!

I enjoyed JLA:classified this time around, but it really does gain a lot in hindsight to see how Grant had seeded it with loads of little pointers to his work over the next 5-7 years. I didn't think it through very much, but I think it was a good move on my part to include all his current DCU work under the one banner. The different parts throw light on each other, taken together.

Just as The Invisibles or The Filth, taken altogether, is much more than the sum of its parts, so too all these comic series add a lot to each other, and work together to produce something really satisfying. Like the Invisibles, you have to let it work its magic in its own time. (Albeit, like the Invisibles, some of it is just nonsense and dead ends.)

For a readers like me, its very exciting to have our beloved superhero stories done with the same depth and ambition as Grant's Vertigo work.

The other thing I mentioned just after reading it was the disconnect between my memories of the Gorilla Grodd stories in the Flash and this super-powerful, cruel threat to humanity. I remember him as dangerous, but played for laughs just a bit too. Of course all of the Silver Age Flash villains were somewhat ridiculous in their original form, which was part of the charm.

Its a problem with all current superhero stories. What to bring forward untouched and what to soup up for the 21st century. As I say, the Ultramarines are from JLA 8 years earlier, but Nebula Man is from an old 70s comic, and this JLA seem to remember both. Later in Final Crisis they don't seem to have had much experience meeting the New Gods, even though Orion was a member in Grant's JLA run. I hate it when it happens, but put it down to all the Universe re-sets that go on in the DCU. The writers will always insist that the story they are telling now is the one that other considerations are second to. As a continuity loving fanboy, I have problems with that, but there you go. Morrison is slavish with continuity in other ways however.

I thought Grodd was interesting in how like Dmitri he was, with his ideology and hatred of us humans. The ideas to do with unevolved thinking that we mentioned in the Filth thread are confirmed here by Grodd, who even mentions Darwin.

So I'll be interested to see how reading this prepares me for reading Seven Soldiers. I intend to read the first TPB collection this weekend.

Looking forward to your next foray into the DCU. The art and subject will be more to your taste, but the writing style is very similar, in how information is often given to us in "blink and you'll miss it" fashion.

Like Batman, Morrison thinks fast and works fast and we have to keep up.
Mark Sullivan said:
And the Image-style art was a big contrast, in a bad way.

That's funny, because I thought the art (by Val Semeiks) was way too "DC 1998". I thought that if a DC book was going to cross over with an Image book, it should look like the more unique book, in this case, the Image book. Instead, it looked like very plain superhero stuff instead of the dynamic Image look.

For instance, if there were to be a JLA/BPRD crossover, I would want it to look more Guy Davis and less Ed Benes.

But evidently this wasn't even a factor for your experience. It was definitely mine.
Val Semeiks is usually solid. I thought his run on Demon was excellent.

I haven't looked at the JLA WILDCats yet (I will when I get to Blue Superman JLA ...) but maybe they made it a little scratchy for the Image crowd?

But the DC house-style might have been a little bland then in any case...

I liked what they did with the story. All kinds of things could happen when you are fighting a time-travelling villain.

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