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Off The Rack Comic Review: JLA

July 19, 2020 | Posted by Rob Stewart
JLA
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Off The Rack Comic Review: JLA  

Something something Snyder Cut.

Yeah, so the long-awaited Zack Snyder cut of Justice League is due to be released somewhat soon/eventually on HBO’s new streaming service. A lot of folks have been petitioning for this for quite some time, and I guess they are finally going to get it.

I’m not one of them. I’m not opposed to the release, and if it makes people happy, I’m all for that. I just worry if it’s going to have an adverse effect on a DC cinematic universe that has gotten progressively better the further removed from it that Zack Snyder is.

I personally thought Man of Steel was one of the worst comic book movies ever made, and Batman Vs Superman started with an exhilarating opening fifteen minutes before descending into drivel, awful CGI, and parody memes.

I’m not here to defend Justice League—it also was bad—but I thought it was better than Man of Steel or Dawn of Justice.

Taking advantage of the timing of the Snyder Cut announcements, the actor who played Cyborg in Justice League has aired some sour grapes about Joss Whedon (who finished up the movie), and suddenly I’m thinking that he and the Snyder Cut horde deserve each other. I’m not defending Whedon as a person, but this timing is really suspect.

I would be perfectly happy for the Snyder Cut to not suck. I expect it will, but I will be fine if it doesn’t. I also don’t want it to retard the development that DC has made with Wonder Woman, Shazam, and (by the looks of it) Wonder Woman 84, though.

TITLE: JLA

Writer and Artist: Grant Morrison and Howard Porter

Publisher: DC

Protagonists: Superman, Batman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern, Flash

Antagonists: White Martians

SPEAKING OF THE JUSTICE LEAGUE…

In the late 1990’s, hotshot British comic writer Grant Morrison was tasked with rebooting the classic DC superhero team. With Howard Porter on hand to take care of pencils, he did so. And it stands as still one of the best Justice League runs of all time.

In Morrison’s JLA, the heroes find their first confrontation to be against the Hyperclan, aliens who have arrived on Earth with promises of saving humanity from all of its ills. They begin executing supervillains and turning deserts into lush spots of life. With humanity turning against the JLA, the Hyperclan play their hand a bit early and reveal to the heroes that they are there to conquer the planet.

That’s only half of the big reveal, however, as Batman eventually discerns that the Hyperclan are all martians, allowing them to fabricate a wide array of superpowers to match the JLA. With the illusion shattered and J’onn Jo’nzz having faked a double-turn against Earth, the Martians are defeated and brainwashed into living normal human lives. Which is fine, but you always knew that was going to turn around and bite the heroes in the butt.

From there, the heroes also deal with Tomorrow Woman, a being created by Dr. Ivo and Dr. Morrow with the intentions of destroying the league. Then they fight some angels alongside Zauriel! No sooner do they stop the angelic forces, than they are lodged in battle with Key.

There’s a lot going on early in this series; this is all the first trade!

This book isn’t as Grant Morrison-y as you might expect. It’s actually a pretty toned-down and basic superhero comic. Compare it to what Grant did on the X-Men years later, and it’s hard to imagine it is even the same author. Whether this is more deference to the fact that these characters had their own goings-on in other books or just Grant trying a reserved take, it is interesting.

To this day, JLA is my favorite line-up of the team, and my go-to “standard” when I think of them. You’ve got Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman, of course, but alongside them are the duo of Kyle Rayner and Wally West, constantly butting heads with each other as they accidentally form a friendship, and Martian Manhunter. J’onn seems to have fallen out of favor in recent years, but it’s impossible to picture a Justice League team without him. He is the glue that keeps everyone together, and the calm, dispassionate mind that works well with all the hotheads around him.

Morrison would fill out the team with Plastic Man (but not in the first volume here), as well as a great rotating cast of reserve members like Zauriel, Conner Hawke, and more. The first trade even sees the JLA hosting a recruitment drive!

The best story of the first volume is the single issue Tomorrow Woman tale. It’s what feels the most “Morrison” of the early run. With Ivo and Morrow bickering over who did the better work in creating her—Ivo who designed her powers and body or Morrow who brought her mind to life—Morrow ends up winning by losing. When Tomorrow Woman breaks her programming and refuses to ambush and kill the JLA, Morrow crows about how alive and self-aware she truly is. It’s a fun twist on the evil creation trope.

Howard Porter’s art is perfectly acceptable here. His facial expressions tend towards the exaggerated side, and he isn’t the best at art-as-storytelling. But he fits a lot of action in his panels, and everything feels deserving of the larger-than-life, bombastic adventures through which Morrison is running the team.

Talking Point: Who is your ideal seven member line-up of the JLA? The team has had many iterations over the years, but if you were to read a book on them, who would you want in it?

That’s enough homework, though. If you liked this article, check out Ghosts of the Stratosphere. That’s my website where others and I write comic book and pop culture articles every day. Comics, Wrestling, TV, Movies… it’s all there.

You can also follow us on Twitter, @gotstratosphere for updates! Mostly I tweet about food.

7.0
The final score: review Good
The 411
I love the team, I like the huge stories that Morrison runs them through, and I dig the art. It’s not perfect because you tend to just expect something “different” where Grant is involved, but he did right by the characters and gave us my preferred run of the team.
legend

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Off the Rack, Rob Stewart