Grant Morrison Week #2: JLA

NOTE: This was meant to be posted yesterday, but I’ve been really sick and exhausted, so I had to postpone it. Also, this was meant to be about another one of Morrison’s DC works–which I’m still planning to review–but I didn’t get it done in time. So instead, this.

Source: Wikipedia

One of the things I talked about on Wednesday was about how Morrison’s writing is full of incredibly big ideas, some of which pay off, others don’t. Morrison’s 41-issue tenure on JLA, the Justice League comic that ran from 1997-2006 (with Morrison kicking the book off), is full of ideas that do. Even better, they manage to feel completely true to the spirit of all these iconic characters while incorporating their history and their (then-current) status quo.

I haven’t finished the full run yet–at present, I’m halfway through the famous “Rock of Ages” story–but I like a lot of what I’ve read so far and Morrison’s go-for-broke plotting, along with the dynamic artwork of Howard Porter and Oscar Jimenez, are the reason why.

Basically, the setup behind this version of the Justice League–something stated explicitly in the first story arc–is that the League–which here has Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner), The Flash (Wally West), and Aquaman, with Green Arrow (Connor Hawke) and Aztek joining later on–only meets up in response to bombastic, large-scale threats.

Accordingly, every issue is full of gigantic, crazy stuff. For example, the first arc has the League facing off against the Hyperclan, a group of proactive superheroes from space who win over the public with their grand gestures but (of course) turn out to have sinister motives. A two-part story, which introduces the one-time DC Universe mainstay of Zauriel, involves Superman, who at the time had electric powers (it’s complicated), wrestling an evil angel named Asmodel who looked like a giant bull.

I repeat: Electric Superman wrestled a bull angel. How do you not want to check that out?

Basically, it’s everything I love about old-school comics–the crazy ideas, the weird stuff just tossed at the reader without any rationalizing other than “because”–combined with that punk rock energy Morrison always has, a reverence for and understanding of these characters and a lot more literary pizazz.

Of course, a comic book writer is only as good as his artist, and Porter (with Jiminez subbing in at some points), delivers the goods in droves. His characters and backgrounds are big. It’s been said that the DC heroes are gods, and Porter underlies that assumption with art that is energetic, bombastic and pleasing. He’s great fun.

If you liked the two Justice League cartoons–my friend at Critical Hit! wrote a great post about them which reminds me I really should get back into those at some point–and you want to know where the go-for-broke stuff came from, this entire run has been collected in trade and is really easy to find. Check it out.