Grant Morrison might be better known now for BATMAN and FINAL CRISIS, but my first introduction to the warp savant was in ‘97’s JLA. This was his first high-profile assignment on a big title, and it arrived with a thunderclap. JUSTICE LEAGUE books prior to this were largely off-shoots of the great work Giffen, DeMatteis and Maguire had done to humanize the team in the 80s. You got second and third stringers who were easier to relate to, perhaps, but readers at this point were missing the basics of a league consisting entirely of the Big Guns. And big was, in all regards, the operative word. This was a harbinger of the widescreen comics movement that THE AUTHORITY and THE ULTIMATES would later make famous. Where the previous League had gotten deeply into the member’s psyches, this uniquely opted to leave their personal lives for their individual titles. Hence, Supes would suddenly be electro and Wallace West and Hippolyta would abruptly fill in for Flash and Wonder Woman, with only brief asides to explain why. This book thus felt larger-than-life onto the point of mythic. The threats were the real stars of the show and they were so huge that only DC's biggest names could battle them, let alone comprehend them. == TEASER ==
The mythic comparison was quite intentional. Morrison had the brilliant idea for his line-up to correspond to the gods of the Olympic pantheon, bringing full-circle the parallels between superheroics and mythology. Since this was never explicitly stated in the comic, I figure I ought to list the analogs for you insatiably-curious Comic Vine maniacs...
- Wonder Woman/Hera
- Green Lantern/Apollo
- Plastic Man/Dionysus
- Big Barda/Demeter
- The analogs for Martian Manhunter, Green Arrow, Oracle and Aztek weren’t as obvious.
Perhaps this wasn't as intricate as the symbolism Morrison used in his other work, but it clearly tapped into what readers wanted, because this series was a blockbuster for several straight years.
This run was about 41-issues-long, mostly drawn by Howard Porter, and the arc-for-arc batting average was impressively-high. NEW WORLD ORDER, ROCK OF AGES, WORLD WAR 3, CRISIS TIMES FIVE, ONE MILLION, the arcs introducing Prometheus and the Ultramarines, and even tie-ins like the ’97 SECRET FILES, the NEW YEAR’S EVIL one-shot, the EARTH 2 OGN the WILDC.A.T.S. crossover were all exceptional. Staying on point and objective is actually a little hard because the run was just filled with so many goosebump-inducing cool moments.
How about Zauriel valiantly shielding a wayward and helpless Triumph from the unstoppable wrath of the Spectre? How about Dream of Gaiman’s SANDMAN casually imprisoning Starro the Conqueror in a glass bubble? How about Superman moving the whole Moon?The Hyperclan. The Key. The Injustice Gang. The Lord of Time. Asmodel. The Evil Djinn of the Fifth Dimension. This era of the League boasted a bewildering bevy of bad guys, each with a concept high enough to sustain a series of its own. Morrison drew these menaces from DC's long history, but in a way that always pushed them forward in ways nobody could've predicted. And that went for the heroes as well. Batman was the most badass I've ever seen him in this series. Readers often question how a mortal man can work alongside gods but, if you read any issue of this JLA, you'll wonder how the gods can keep up with him. He was always prepared, always five steps ahead of every one else and he always handled threats with the same razorsharp rationality. From the classic comics to modern hits, from Elseworlds to the movies, the Batman is the best. This one is the legend.
I’d be remiss not to mention the inaugural arc of JLA CLASSIFIED, which was something of an epilogue to this run. It's one of the most creatively-inspiring comics I’ve ever read. There’s some truth to that old adage about distance making the heart grow fonder (or however that goes) and getting a dose of Morrison JLA after five years of going without certainly gave me a much greater appreciation for what I’d missed. The Ultramarines finally returns and got some needed redesigns from Ed McGuinness (his finest work to me, and I’ve followed him since the ’96 WOLVERINE ANNUAL!) in a prelude to the epic SEVEN SOLDIERS mega-series. The crazy ideas come rapid fire, the pages are just alive with creativity and everything just feels so new. I wish Morrison and McGuinness had gotten to work together during this era I'm talking about, because their sensibilities were very finely and uniquely in tune.
So there you have it. If you haven't experienced this JLA before, it's very easy to do so now. Every issue was collected and those trades are almost always in circulation. Much like how the Ultimate Warrior made lil' Tommy P expect every wrestler to be as outrageously intense, this run made an adolescent Pinchuk expectat all big super books to be as mind-bending and awe-inspiring. However, there's decades upon decade of JUSTICE LEAGUE comics to compare and contrast this with. Do you agree with me? Are these your favorite issues? Or are there other runs you prefer?
Voice your picks and opinions below in great detail!