Tag Archives: Justice League

Today’s Super Comics — JLA #62-64 (2002)

Truth becomes subjective in JLA #62-64, and the results are not good. Well, the story’s good, just not the Earth becoming flat or math not working.

Justice League stories require big, imaginative threats, and this qualifies, and it’s different from the usual fare of super-villains and hostile aliens. The enemy here is the loss of faith in objective reality, which in the DC Universe, naturally, will have sci-fi/fantasy repercussions.

Most important, the danger comes about in a character-based way, as Wonder Woman doubts her magical golden lasso when it offers up competing truths during a delicate situation, one with no tidy answers. Wonder Woman had recently lost her mother, and grief is clouding her judgment.

The issues serve up a worthwhile message: No one has infallible judgment, but truth is truth. We have to respect the truth, or else the moon will turn into cheese and people might die.

The More You Know.

Writer: Joe Kelly

Penciler: Doug Mahnke

Inker: Tom Nguyen

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in JLA: Golden Perfect (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up

Today’s Super Comic — JLA: Earth 2 (2000)

Writer Grant Morrison offers an interesting spin on the parallel-universe concept in the JLA: Earth 2 graphic novel. If the Justice League are destined to prevail in the one reality, then they’re destined to fail in the opposite reality.

The book revisits classic concepts from DC’s Silver Age continuity, but it takes a more modern, less child-friendly approach. In the old continuity, Earth 3 hosted an evil version of the Justice League, called the Crime Syndicate of America, who were opposed by a heroic version of Lex Luthor, who went by Alexander. DC had done away with alternate Earths at this point, but Morrison resurrected the basic concept for this standalone graphic novel—and he added some philosophical dilemmas to it.

Alexander Luthor recruits the JLA to save his world from the oppressive rule of the Crime Syndicate of Amerika, but will that world allow its nature to be overturned?

The concept makes for engaging science fiction, especially with Frank Quitely’s cinematic art providing a big-budget feel.

The characters are all static; no one has an arc to speak of. But what’s important is that they’re acting in character. This book is about the big ideas and the big JLA-scale action, and in that, it succeeds wonderfully.

Writer: Grant Morrison

Artist: Frank Quitely

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: Comixology; JLA: Earth 2 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 14 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 Comics — Green Lantern #101-106 & Green Arrow #136 (1998)

green_lantern_vol_3_101Nearly fifteen years before X-Men brought its Silver Age versions into the much darker present, Green Lantern did the same. But not for an ongoing series, just a mere seven issues.

Following the events of the anniversary issue team-up in Green Lantern #100, a young Hal Jordan finds himself stranded ten years into his future, which was DC’s present. He learns his home city has been destroyed, he’s destined to become a villain and eventually die, and some fellow JLA teammates are dead. Kind of a lot to take in.

It’s a fascinating situation to put a superhero in. And it’s far more compelling to bring a character from the past to the present, rather than from the present to a possible future. The past and present are already established and fleshed out over years’ worth of stories, whereas we’re less familiar with a newly introduced future scenario that might never come to pass anyway.

The real treat, though, particularly when I read it in 1998, was seeing Hal Jordan back in action as a heroic Green Lantern at a time when he was out of the picture. I would’ve been okay with him sticking around longer. This storyline could have lasted a full year without feeling forced, and it would have given us more time to see Hal reconnect more with old friends and deal with more modern threats (this was shortly before the trend of decompressed storytelling in comics).

We at least get a nice little team-up with the then-current Green Arrow (Connor Hawke, as Oliver Queen was also dead then), as well as a battle between young Hal and older, well-intentioned villainous Hal (calling himself Parallax).

Though I would have enjoyed more, these seven issues remain a fun time on their own.

Writer: Ron Marz (Green Arrow issue: Chuck Dixon)

Pencilers: Jeff Johnson, Scott Eaton, Paul Pelletier (GA issue: Dougie Braithwaite)

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; Green Lantern: Emerald Knights (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Booster Gold #1 (2007)

booster-gold-1Booster Gold resembles the CW’s Legends of Tomorrow closer than any book I can think of. It’s a time-travel series in which Rip Hunter guides his carefully selected superhero through DC’s history so they can repair damage to the timeline.

But this series has something the television show has lacked so far—a compelling character hook.

Booster Gold has always been a superhero who craved celebrity status. He performed good deeds first for the glory, and later he grew into the role. But even Booster at his most mature and heroic still wants to be admired and appreciated. And that makes him perfect for this book’s premise.

In order to stealthily save the timestream, Rip informs him, Booster needs to “go down in history as an ineffectual and incompetent fraud when in reality [he’ll] be the greatest hero history has never known.”

So, for the sake of the world as we know it, an egotistical superhero needs to sacrifice not only his present-day reputation, but also his own historical record for all time. That is a fantastic premise, and a guest appearance by the Justice League shows us just how painful this is to Booster. But he tries to do the right thing anyway.

This is a wonderful example of teaming up the right story with the right character.

Writers: Geoff Johns and Jeff Katz

Penciler: Dan Jurgens

Inker: Norm Rapmund

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Booster Gold vol. 1: 52 Pick-Up (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 11 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