By Mark Waid & various (DC Comics)
When Grant Morrison and Howard Porter relaunched the World’s Greatest Superheroes in 1997 the result was everything jaded fans could have asked for, but nothing lasts forever. By the time of these tales (four years later, kick-starting a new century and reprinting issues #47-54) they were gone and nearly forgotten as scripter supreme Mark Waid assumed full control of story-making and a selection of top-notch artists took turns to produce a delightful run of exciting, entertaining epics that cemented the title at the apex of everybody’s “must-read” list.
Starting off this volume is a dark fable illustrated by Bryan Hitch and Paul Neary introducing a supernatural hell-queen who makes fairytales real – but not in a good way – in ‘Into the Woods’: an extended yarn that stretches into ‘Truth is Stranger’ (with a fairyland section from J.H. Williams III and Mick Gray) before Hitch, Neary, Javier Saltares and Chris Ivy bring it all to a conclusion in the spectacular ‘Unhappily Ever After.’
That brought up the celebratory fiftieth issue, and true to tradition it was resplendent with guest artists. ‘Dream Team’ reaffirmed and revitalised the heroes – who had developed a healthy distrust of Batman – through a series of pitched battles against old foe Doctor Destiny, with art from Hitch, Neary, Phil Jimenez, Ty Templeton, Doug Mahnke, Mark Pajarillo, Kevin Nowlan, Drew Geraci and Walden Wong, which segued neatly into another End-of-Days cosmic catastrophe, as a sixth dimensional super-weapon was unleashed on our universe.
In ‘Man and Superman’ (with art from Mike S. Millar and Armando Durruthy) the extra-planar Cathexis came seeking the JLA’s help in recapturing their rogue wish-fulfilling “Sentergy: Id”, but it had already struck, separating Superman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter and Plastic Man from their secret identities, rendering them into twelve incomplete and ineffectual half-men. But all was not as it seemed…
Hitch and Neary resumed the art-chores as the wishing plague devastated Earth in ‘Element of Surprise’ with one unexpected benefit in the grotesque resurrection of dead hero Metamorpho, but the prognosis was poor until the un-reformed thug Eel O’Brian (who turned over a new leaf to become the daftly heroic Plastic Man) saw which way the wind had been blowing in ‘It Takes a Thief’ and led the disjointed team’s resurgence in the apocalyptic climax ‘United we Fall.’
Any worries that Morrison’s departure would harm JLA were completely allayed by these spectacular High Concept super-sagas, and the artwork attained even greater heights at this time. This volume is one of the very best of an excellent run: if you read no other JLA book at least read this one.
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