JLA Deluxe volume 2


By Grant Morrison, Howard Porter & John Dell with Christopher Priest, Val Semeiks, Arnie Jorgensen, Yanick Paquette, Gary Frank, Greg Land & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-3518-5

Solid gold comics-concepts such as the Justice League of America generally wax and wane with terrifying regularity over the decades: constantly being reinvented for fresh generations before tailing off until the next big idea.

After numerous reboots came and went, in 1997 Grant Morrison, Howard Porter & John Dell, took their shot: offering a back-to-basics line-up of heroes battling in cutting-edge conceptual chillers and thrillers.

The result was a gleaming paradigm of comicbook perfection which yet again started magnificently before gradually losing the attention and favour of its originally rabid fan-base. Apparently, we’re a really shallow, jaded bunch, us comics fans…

These stories were smart, fast-paced, compelling, challengingly large-scale and drawn with effervescent vitality. With JLA you could see on every page all the work undertaken to make it the best it could be.

This second Deluxe Edition (still readily available in hardback, paperback and eBook form) offers issues #10-17 of the resurgent revival plus material from JLA Secret Files #2, tie-in one-shot Prometheus (Villains) and JLA/WildC.A.T.s #1, collectively spanning September 1997 to April 1998: re-presenting an astounding epic of cosmic wonder that still packs a punch nearly two decades later as old-world goodies-vs.-baddies met contemporary fringe science chic for a rollercoaster ride of boggled minds which only served to set up even bigger conceptual clashes further down the line. That’s the magic of foreshadowing, folks…

Stellar saga ‘Rock of Ages’ starts as the League faces the opening sally from a newly-assembled, corporately-inspired Injustice Gang.

Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, Flash, Green Lantern and Aquaman are the legends targeted by a coalition of arch-enemies comprising Chairman-of-the-Board Lex Luthor, the Joker, Circe, Mirror Master, Ocean Master and Doctor Light in the prologue ‘Genesis and Revelations’ wherein ghastly doppelgangers of the World’s Greatest Heroes go on a campaign of destruction all over the globe.

Even with new members Aztek and Connor Hawke (a second generation Green Arrow) on board, the enemy are running the heroes ragged, but the stakes change radically when telepath J’onn J’onzz detects an extinction-level entity heading to Earth from deep space…

The action and tension intensify with ‘Hostile Takeover’ as the cabal of killers press their advantage whilst New God Metron materialises, warning the JLA that the end of everything is approaching.

As Circe tries to head-hunt Aztek, Arrow and Plastic Man, Green Lantern and Flash are treated to a mind-crushing and distressing view of the Universes beyond our own reality, after they are dispatched to recover the fabled Philosopher’s Stone in a last-ditch effort to save the worlds.

In ‘Wonderworld’ the fabled last defenders of Cosmic Reality proffer the realm-lost superheroes a grim warning of Mageddon, the Anti-Sun, ender of all things, before, shell-shocked and despondent, they are rescued by Hourman, an artificial time-controlling intelligence who more-or-less returns them to our limited plane of existence.

Tragically, it is fifteen years too late and Earth has been conquered by evil New God Darkseid

‘Wasteland’ is a bleak, chaotic foretaste of the Final Crisis, with humanity all but dead, and its surviving champions fighting their last battle against the horrors of Apokolips-on-Earth, leading to a perfect Deus-ex-Machina moment of triumph in ‘Twilight of the Gods’ as this wicked universe is un-made and “our” reality triumphantly reinstated.

Unfortunately – if you’ve been keeping up – that was the continuity where the Injustice Gang were beating the stuffings out of the good guys…

‘Stone of Destiny’ brings the saga to a neat and immensely satisfying conclusion as the villains go down fighting and an approximation of order is restored in a cataclysmic clash-of-combat climax.

With Gary Frank, Greg Land, John Dell & Bob McLeod lending artistic assistance to the spectacular proceedings, Morrison & Porter splendidly resolve the epic and close with a perfect example of the maxim “always leave them wanting more” – a shocking twist to make the reader hungry for the next instalment…

Extracts from JLA Secret Files #2 follow, kicking off in full-attack mode with ‘Heroes’ (by Christopher Priest, Yanick Paquette & Mark Lipka) wherein the world’s costumed champions – plus a few obnoxious and/or hilarious hangers-on – gather to officially relaunch the JLA following its formal dissolution…

Then villainous wannabe Prometheus debuts in a chilling origin tale from the Villains Month event. ‘There Was a Crooked Man’ by Morrison, Arnie Jorgensen & David Meikis details how a child born to wicked criminal parents was spurred by their deaths at the hands of lawmen to turn himself into the ultimate enemy of all heroes…

His life’s work culminates in his first public attack. ‘Camelot’ (JLA #16 by Morrison, Porter & John Dell) sees the entire new team – including recent recruits Huntress, Plastic Man, Steel, fallen angel Zauriel and covert information resource Oracle – invite the world’s press to their lunar base. This unwise courtesy inadvertently allows the insidious and seemingly unstoppable mastermind to infiltrate and almost destroy them in their own Watchtower.

Concluding with ‘Prometheus Unbound’ (assistant-inked by Mark Pennington) the heroes strike back, aided by an unlikely surprise guest-star and the last-minute appearance of New Gods Orion and Big Barda proffering yet more hints of the greater threat to come…

Wrapping up this second foray into fantastic Fights ‘n’ Tight fiction is trans-company crossover JLA/WildC.A.T.s by Morrison, Val Semeiks, Kevin Conrad & Ray Kryssing: a frankly less enticing, but still vitally visual fiesta for fans of phantasmagorical fight phenomena.

Here veteran JLA antagonist the Lord of Time begins to rewrite history, causing dimensional rifts and forcing an uncomfortable alliance with parallel-Earth champions the WildC.A.T.s.

The tale is stuffed with guest cameos as all those heroes chase the increasingly ascendant villain through the ages, but – as usually the case with these unwieldy team-ups – far too much time is spent with the heroes hitting each other (presumably because all any comic fan could ever desire is to discover which hero is strongest/fastest/most buff or buxom…) before they finally unite to tackle the bad-guy – who defeats himself when they cannot…

This yarn is a poor example of Morrison’s exceptional talent, but Semeiks, Conrad & Kryssing do a great job keeping everything looking shiny, pretty and scary as necessary.

Compelling, challenging and never afraid of nostalgia or laughing at itself, JLA was an all-out effort to be Smart and Fun. For that brief moment in the team’s long, chequered career these were definitely the “World’s Greatest Superheroes”, in increasingly ambitious epics reminding everybody of the fact. This is the kind of thrill nobody ever outgrows repackaged in graphic novels to be read and re-read forever…
© 1997, 1998, 2012 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.