Tag Archives: JLA

Today’s Super Comics — Justice #1-12 (2005-07)

Classic super-heroic action gets a paint job in the miniseries Justice. It’s the Justice League of America vs. the Legion of Doom with painted art by Alex Ross, so you know it’s going to be a visual treat.

While there’s a lot to love, the art is the star here, as it lends suitable grandeur to some of the most recognizable superheroes and villains (and plenty of lesser-known ones). Story-wise, each character is true to his or her essence, and heroes and villains both get the attention they deserve. Plus, there’s no elaborate continuity bogging things down. If you haven’t read a DC comic in years, you can pick this up and your inner child will have a grand time.

And after you read, you can go back and admire the meticulous craftsmanship apparent in each panel.

Writer: Jim Krueger

Painter: Alex Ross

Penciler: Doug Braithwaite

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Justice volumes 1-3 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comics — JLA #43-46 (2000)

In which it’s confirmed that the Justice League’s most dangerous member is…Batman.

Mark Waid took over the writing on JLA with #43, and he kicked off with a superb four-part storyline that pitted the team against Ra’s al Ghul at his smartest. Ra’s, with his focus on reducing the global population in order to “save” the planet, is a great choice for a JLA foe, and his scheme here is a clever one—broadcasting a signal that interferes with the brain’s ability to comprehend the written word and, later, the spoken word. Rid humanity of language, and the resulting disasters will thin out the population in no time.

He knows beforehand the JLA will oppose him, and he’s not overly familiar with most of the members, except for Batman. And he’s well aware of Batman’s weaknesses.

The plot gets going right away when Bruce Wayne discovers his parents’ coffins have been stolen, which is a perfect way to keep Batman distracted for a while. Then Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter Talia and his men proceed to enact Batman’s emergency protocols against each member of the JLA, one at a time. Turns out Batman has maintained files on how to non-lethally incapacitate his teammates, such as dosing Aquaman with a fear toxin to make him terrified of water and making the Martian Manhunter flammable. Secretive soul that he is, Batman has neglected to ever mention this project to any of his teammates who have placed their trust in him.

That’s the true brilliance of Waid’s story—the main obstacle to thwarting a global threat is a protagonist’s own fatal flaw. It’s a great way to keep character at the center of the story without interfering with the stars’ respective solo series.

And didn’t I just recently say that Batman was a jerk during this time? See?

Writer: Mark Waid

Pencilers: Howard Porter and Steve Scott

Inkers: Drew Geraci and Mark Propst

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Superman #165 (2001)

superman_v-2_165All I remembered about Superman #165 was that it involved Superman visiting his JLA teammates one or two at a time and giving them amusing little gifts. Tube socks to the Flash. Jewelry polish to Green Lantern. So I was thinking, oh, yeah, that’s a cute one.

I totally forgot about the substance of it.

This takes place shortly after Lex Luthor was elected president of the United States in the DC Universe, and Superman has been struggling to come to terms with the results. How could the American people cast their votes for a man as despicable as Luthor? And what, if anything, should Superman do about it?

Talking with friends and listening to their diverse viewpoints helps Superman come to some sort of peace. He’s still not happy about it, and he’ll remain vigilant about what Luthor does in office. But as Wonder Woman says, “If you let this turn into an obsession, then Luthor has already defeated you.”

So he decides not to let this consume him. His life will go on. He’ll enjoy Lois’s company in a weekend getaway in the bottle city of Kandor. He’ll continue to fight the good fight for truth and justice, and somehow or another, the American way will prevail in the end.

It’s a nice little “quiet” issue, and it takes an excellent direction for a Christmas special. Sometimes you just need to spend time with your friends and loved ones to get some perspective. The world’s problems won’t go away, but they’ll seem more manageable.

The issue features several guest artists—a different one for each of Superman’s visits with his teammates. Normally, the drastically different styles would be jarring, but it suits the structure of this particular issue rather well and adds to that whole “holiday special” feel.

Writer: Jeph Loeb

Artists: Various

Cover: Ed McGuinness

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; included in Superman: President Lex (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comic — The Saga of the Swamp Thing #24 (1984)

saga-of-the-swamp-thing-24One of the earlier comics aimed primarily at adults was The Saga of the Swamp Thing, written by Alan Moore and drawn by Stephen Bissette. And it was a highly successful experiment.

Swamp Thing was never a superhero. He exists in the realm of fantasy horror, not fantasy action/adventure. To underscore the distinction, the Justice League of America guest-stars in #24…and they have no idea what to make of the situation.

The Floronic Man, previously a joke of a villain, has marshalled the world’s plants to increase the global oxygen supply by 10 percent, which isn’t going to do humanity any favors. It’s the environment’s revenge for years of manmade affronts. But how do superheroes fight plants?

They can’t. But Swamp Thing knows the language and understands what’s really going on.

Moore portrays the Justice League as seasoned pros who are simply out of their element in this particular case. Even with all they’ve seen, there’s still a bit that eludes them. And within one of those gaps of experience, the Swamp Thing has things under control. This might have been the first time the JLA was shown through a truly adult lens (which shouldn’t be the case all the time, nor even most of the time, but it’s a refreshing change of pace).

Bissette’s art also exudes maturity. His style is a perfect fit for the series, and the final-page splash panel is nothing short of iconic.

I’ll admit, Swamp Thing has never been a personal favorite of mine, but this series is so extraordinarily well done and important to the maturation of the medium that I have to give it the respect it deserves.

Writer: Alan Moore

Penciler: Stephen Bissette

Inker: John Totleben

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Saga of the Swamp Thing vol. 1 (HC)

Appropriate For: ages 16 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Superman #76 (1993)

superman_v-2_76The Death of Superman storyline was a missed opportunity. Ample media coverage got tons of people interested, people who didn’t normally read comics. The whole world was watching. This was DC Comics’ chance to prove that comics could be more than musclebound men punching each other to death.

And how did they choose to kill of Superman? By having him and a monster punch each other until they both fell. Ugh.

But when it came to the events after the death, the Superman creative teams knew exactly what they were doing. They understood the real meat of the story wasn’t the death itself, but other characters’ reactions to a world that no longer had Superman in it. The Funeral for a Friend arc, followed by Reign of the Supermen, defined Superman through his absence, demonstrating just how irreplaceable and inspirational the character can be. And this was during a time when characters like the Punisher and Spawn were gaining in popularity, so taking time to reflect on what makes the original superhero super was indeed warranted. (It still is.)

Superman #76 occurs in the middle of the funeral storyline, shortly after the funeral itself. The Justice League honors Superman’s memory by carrying on one of his Christmas traditions—reading letters written to Superman seeking his aid, and helping as many of these people as they can, even though not a single plea involves pounding a super-villain into submission.

Meanwhile, the only civilians who know Superman’s identity—the Kents, Lois Lane, and Lana Lang—share their grief and discuss whether to reveal Clark’s secret. Jimmy Olsen bonds with a teenager who was saved by Superman during that final battle and is experiencing survivor’s guilt. Attention-seekers try to capitalize on the national mourning. And nefarious scoundrels steal Superman’s body (had to be something comic booky in there).

It’s a shame most people stopped reading after Superman and Doomsday punched each other out.

Writer/Penciler: Dan Jurgens

Inker: Brett Breeding

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in World Without a Superman (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 9 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Justice League of America #11 (2007)

justice-league-of-america-11There’s one more CW show to acknowledge—the animated Vixen on CW Seed. Solo Vixen comics are few and far between, but she’s spent some time with the Justice League, including during writer Brad Meltzer’s 2006 relaunch of the title.

Issue #11 is a nice “bottle episode” focusing on just Vixen and Arsenal (hey, remember him from Arrow?) as they’re trapped under a demolished building…and under water. They’ve just saved a bunch of people from a super-villain, and now they have to save themselves.

It’s a great short story about hanging on long enough to figure out a solution to a seemingly insurmountable problem. And the painted art by Gene Ha adds a slightly dream-like quality that suits both characters’ disorientation.

The story ties into an ongoing plot about Vixen’s malfunctioning powers, but it mostly stands on its own as a superb example of a done-in-one comic.

Writer: Brad Meltzer

Artist: Gene Ha

Cover: Michael Turner

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Justice League of America vol. 2: The Lightning Saga (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comics — Batman and the Outsiders #1-2 (1983)

batman_and_the_outsiders_vol_1_1The early ‘80s was a golden age for team books. Uncanny X-Men, The New Teen Titans, The Avengers, and Justice League of America were all putting out excellent stuff at the time. But that clearly wasn’t enough, so along came Batman and the Outsiders.

The series was built in the same mold as New Teen Titans, but with mostly adults. It took a few established characters (Batman, Black Lightning, and Metamorpho) and teamed them up with a few newcomers (Halo, Katana, and Geo-Force), and the stories drew inspiration from the characters’ diverse backgrounds while the reader had fun watching these distinct personalities interact. The main difference was that one character got top billing, and of course he did, because he’s Batman.

The team forms in the first two issues, and it comes together organically, with each character drawn to the conflict for his or her own reason. Batman has a nice little mini-arc, as he swiftly progresses from team member to loner to team leader.

Batman’s resignation from the Justice League is particularly well done. Bruce Wayne’s right-hand man, Lucius Fox, gets kidnapped in the war-torn country of Markovia while on business, so naturally Batman wants to gather his JLA teammates and stage a rescue. But the JLA’s hands are tied—the State Department fears the Markovian situation would escalate if troops or superheroes got involved, so Superman promised the JLA wouldn’t intervene. But Batman has a friend to save, so if the JLA’s rules get in the way, then it’s time to quit the JLA and go save his friend.

The scene illustrates how Batman’s morality is either more complex or more simplistic than the rest of the League’s, depending on your point of view…which in turn demonstrates how comics were beginning to tackle more mature themes at this point (while remaining appropriate for and still largely aimed at kids).

If you’ve enjoyed other ‘80s team books, this one’s well worth tracking down, too.

Writer: Mike W. Barr

Artist: Jim Aparo

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Showcase Presents: Batman and the Outsiders vol. 1 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comics — JLA #16-17 (1998)

jla_vol_1_16The Justice League and the Avengers love changing their lineups. It’s a staple of both franchises. They also both like to shake up their rosters in issue #16, apparently. But whereas the original Avengers #16 replaced the old guard with mostly new members, the ‘90s Justice League reboot instead doubles its membership in JLA #16.

So we’ve got fourteen JLAers, plus the party-crashing Catwoman, and about a hundred reporters aboard the Justice League’s moon-based headquarters. And of course a new villain strikes and starts taking the team down one member at a time.

This villain, Prometheus, instantly appears to be a formidable and credible threat. His motivation is sketchy, but in writer Grant Morrison’s defense, he is juggling a ton of characters in the course of two issues and still manages to give everyone time in the spotlight.

The plot is pretty basic, but it’s really all about showing off the new team and introducing a highly skilled and intelligent new villain to DC’s ranks. And in that regard, it succeeds in being tremendous fun. Prometheus may be underdeveloped here, but he certainly shows potential. Maybe one of those CW shows might want to consider using him. Just a totally random thought there.

Writer: Grant Morrison

Pencilers: Howard Porter and Arnie Jorgensen

Inkers: John Dell and David Meikis & Mark Pennington

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in JLA: The Deluxe Edition vol. 2 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Justice League of America #171 (1979)

justice_league_of_america_vol_1_171I always loved the “satellite era” of the Justice League of America, particularly when I was first discovering comics as a kid in the early ‘90s. Those late ‘70s/early ‘80s JLA books were always a treat to find in the quarter bins.

Justice League of America #171 is a good example. It begins with a joint meeting of the JLA and Justice Society of America (visiting all the way from the parallel world of Earth-2), and it ends by kicking off a locked-room murder mystery aboard the satellite HQ.

It’s harder to recommend for adults (other than for nostalgic reasons), but it shows what makes these classic JLA stories great for kids. These superheroes are adults and consummate professionals, and they respect and trust each other enough to freely share their secret identities. After the meeting, writer Gerry Conway takes time to show the two teams simply enjoying each other’s company, like a bunch of firefighters hanging out in the fire hall between calls, having forged close bonds in the course of their dangerous work. But when disaster strikes, they drop everything and leap into action.

If you’ve got kids interested in superheroes, show them old Justice League of America books from circa 1980. You’ll be giving them terrific role models.

Writer: Gerry Conway

Artists: Dick Dillan and Frank McLaughlin

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology

Appropriate For: ages 8 and up

Today’s Super Comics — JLA #1-4 (1997)

JLA_1This is how you do a classic-style Justice League of America story with a modern sensibility.

In 1997, DC Comics injected fresh energy into the franchise by relaunching the title as JLA and reuniting the original lineup from the early ‘60s (the current versions of those characters, anyway). For probably the first since those earliest days, the Justice League consisted exclusively of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash (Wally West, not Barry Allen), Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner, not Hal Jordan), Aquaman, and the Martian Manhunter. All A-listers.

First on the itinerary is—what else?—thwarting an alien invasion. The aliens claim to be benevolent superheroes here to save the world, and they instantly get the public on their side. But of course things aren’t what they seem.

This entire JLA lineup, except poor Martian Manhunter, had their own series, so no major character developments were allowed in these pages. The trick to a great JLA story, then, is to simply let the characters be their awesome selves and interact with their awesome teammates as they awesomely save the world. Split them up, pair them off, knock them down, and let them get back up again and heroically prevail. Writer Grant Morrison gives everyone moments to shine, and artist Howard Porter makes them look suitably epic as they do so (he draws a particularly excellent Batman).

I remember when this series first came out. It was exciting, and I looked forward to each next issue. It’s good guys being good guys—exactly how the JLA should be.

Writer: Grant Morrison

Penciler: Howard Porter

Inker: John Dell

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; JLA: New World Order (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up