The Justice League Hereby Elects…


By Gardner Fox, Denny O’Neil, Len Wein, Steve Englehart, Gerry Conway, Mike Sekowsky, Dick Dillin & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-1267-4

“Just Imagine! The mightiest heroes of our time… have banded together as the Justice League of America to stamp out the forces of evil wherever and whenever they appear!”

The moment the Justice League of America was published marks the moment when superheroes truly made comicbooks their own particular preserve. Even though the popularity of masked champions has waxed and waned many times since 1960 and other genres have re-won their places on published pages, in the minds of America – and the world – Comics means Superheroes.

The JLA signalled that men – and even a few women – in capes and masks were back for good…

When Julius Schwartz began reviving and revitalising the nigh-defunct superhero genre in 1956, his Rubicon move came a few years later with the uniting of these reconfigured mystery men into a team…

The band of heroes debuted in The Brave and the Bold #28 (cover-dated March 1960) and almost instantly cemented the growth and validity of the revived sub-genre, consequently triggering an explosion of new characters at every company producing comicbooks and spreading to the rest of the world as the decade progressed.

Originally – although Superman and Batman were included in the membership – participation had been strictly limited as editorial policy at the start was to avoid possible reader ennui and saturation from over-exposure. That ended with the first story in this collection as they joined regulars Flash, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, J’onn J’onzz: Manhunter from Mars to invite expansions to the roster.

Spanning June 1961 to September 1980 this full-colour paperback compendium of classics (also available digitally) compiles and re-presents Justice League of America volume 1, #4, 75, 105-106, 146, 161 and 173-174: issues that signalled the admission of many – but not all – new members…

First addition to the team since it’s premier, Green Arrow stormed into pride of place in #4’s ‘Doom of the Star Diamond’ (by Gardner Fox, Mike Sekowsky & Bernard Sachs, and cover-dated May 1961), saving the day in a science-fiction thriller wherein a well-meaning alien exile threatens earth with destruction as part of a cunning plan to return to his own planet.

Happily. when the whole scheme goes lethally awry the Emerald Archer is on hand to sort it all out…

Black Canary enlists after a tragedy on her own world of Earth-Two resulted in the death of her husband during the annual JLA/JSA team-up. As a consequence, Dinah Drake-Lance emigrates to Earth-One, handily becoming the JLA’s resident Girl Superhero, and picking up a new – if somewhat unreliable – power in the process.

The repercussions of her move and Green Arrow losing all his wealth made Justice League of America #75 (November 1969) one of Denny O’Neil’s best, and artists Dick Dillin & Joe Giella were on top form illustrating ‘In Each Man there is a Demon!’ Here the fallout of the trans-dimensional bout found the hero-team literally fighting their own worst aspects in a battle they couldn’t win…

Crafted by Len Wein, Dillin & Dick Giordano, the “More-the-Merrier” recruitment drive continued in #105 (April 1973) wherein the Elongated Man signed up to save the day against marauding, malignant putty-men in ‘Specter in the Shadows!’

He was anonymously aided by a miraculously resurrected robotic Red Tornado who joined up in #106 (July 1973), utterly unaware that he had been reprogrammed into becoming a ‘Wolf in the Fold!’ by his malevolent creator and future-tech plunderer Thomas Oscar Morrow. Nevertheless, the Amazing Android circumvents his malignant code to save the day and join the team…

Between that triumph and the next tale, the Tornado sacrificed himself to save his comrades, so they are rather surprised when he resurrects at the beginning of Justice League of America #146 (September 1977), as Hawkgirl is finally invited to fight beside her husband Hawkman as a member in full standing.

‘Inner Mission’ – by Steve Englehart, Dillin & Frank McLaughlin – details how electronic AI entity the Construct attempts to destroy the League from within and cements the growing tradition of making the team a multi-hued army of heroes…

Long-term associate Zatanna was finally given the nod in #161 (December 1978) via ‘The Reverse-Spells of Zatanna’s Magic-Cigam’ by Gerry Conway, Dillin & McLaughlin. She seemingly turns them at first but it’s just a ploy to expose a sinister magical infiltrator…

Wrapping up the narrative delights here is a smart two-parter with a twist ending as the League try to induct mysterious vigilante Black Lightning (JLA #173-174; December 1979 and January 1980).

After much fervent debate, they decide to set the unsuspecting candidate a little task but as a vermin-controlling maniac unleashes terror upon Metropolis the ‘Testing of a Hero’ and ‘A Plague of Monsters’ (Conway, Dillin & McLaughlin) takes the old recruitment drive into a very fresh direction…

Bulking out this catalogue of Crisis challengers are an assortment of extra features including ‘JLA: Incarnations’ listing of every League iteration and every member thereof; a poster by Ed Benes depicting the team in its entirety and a blank certificate affirming your personal membership in the ranks (don’t use ballpoint pen if you’re reading the eBook edition!)

These classical compendia are a dedicated fan’s delight: an absolute gift for modern readers who desperately need to catch up without going bankrupt. They are also perfect to give to youngsters as an introduction into a fabulous world of adventure and magic…
© 1961, 1969, 1973, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 2006 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Young Justice Book 1


By Peter David, Todd DeZago, D. Curtis Johnson, Mark Waid, Karl Kesel, Jay Faerber, Tom Peyer, Todd Nauck, Mike McKone, Humberto Ramos, Angel Unzueta, Craig Rosseau, Roberto Flores, Alé Garza, Joe Phillips, Cully Hamner, Amanda Conner, Ethan Van Sciver, Marty Egeland & various
ISBN: 978-1-4012-7116-9

There are many different aspects that contribute to the “perfect mix” in the creation of any continuing character in comics. How much more so then, when the idea is to build a superhero team that will stand out from the seething masses that already exist?

In the late 1990s a fresh batch of sidekicks and super-kids started cropping up at DC after some years of thematic disfavour, and as the name and modus operandi of the Teen Titans was already established, something new needed to be done with them.

But why were kid crusaders back at all? Ignoring the intrinsic imbecility – and illegality if you count numerous child-endangerment laws – of on-the-job training for superheroes who can’t shave yet, why should juvenile champions appeal at all to comics readers?

I don’t buy the old saw about it giving young readers someone to identify with: most kids I grew up with wanted to be the cool adult who got to drive the whatever-mobile, not the squawking brat in short pants. Every mission would feel like going out clubbing with your dad…

I rather suspect it’s quite the reverse: older readers with responsibilities and chores could fantasize about being powerful, effective, cool and able to beat people up without having to surrender a hormone-fuelled, purely juvenile frat-boy sense of goofy fun…

Spanning August 1998 – April 1999 and collecting Young Justice #1-7, JLA: World Without Grown-Ups #1-2, Secret Origins 80-Page Giant #1, Young Justice: The Secret and material from Young Justice 1.000,000 and Young Justice: Secret Files #1; this outrageously entertaining trade paperback (and eBook edition) offers a fetching blend of explosive action, sinister suspense and captivating comedy to delight every jaded Fights ‘n’ Tights fans.

‘World Without Grown-Ups’ sees a young boy use an Ancient Atlantean talisman to exile all adults, leaving the planet a responsibility-free playground. Planetary guardians the Justice League can only stew helplessly in some other isolated realm of existence as all the underage heroes left on Earth tackle a wave of idiocy and irresponsibility whilst trying to cope with the spiralling disasters caused by a sudden dearth of doctors, drivers, pilots and so forth.

Boy Wonder Robin, clone Superboy Kon-El and ADHD posterchild/super-speedster Impulse meanwhile seek out the root cause, desperate to set things right but painfully unaware that the malign entity imprisoned in the talisman has its own sinister agenda…

This canny blend of tension with high jinks, amusement and pathos, action plus mystery rattles along with thrills and one-liners aplenty courtesy of writer Todd DeZago aided and abetted by Humbert Ramos & Wayne Faucher (Kids World) and Mike McKone, Paul Neary & Mark McKenna (JLA sequences) who combine a compelling countdown to calamity with outright raucous buffoonery.

Closely following on is a related one-shot appearing as part of 1998 skip-week publishing event “GirlFrenzy”.

‘Young Justice: The Secret’ (by the Todds DeZago & Nauck, with inks by Lary Stucker) finds Robin, Superboy and Impulse being interviewed over the suspicious circumstances leading them to rescue a young girl composed entirely of smoke and vapour from supposedly benign federal agency the Department of ExtraNormal Operations – an exploit which will have major repercussions in later tales…

Close on those compelling scene-setters, the latest crop of “ands…” promptly stampeded into their own highly habit-forming monthly series. The monthly Young Justice comicbook saw fan-favourite writer Peter David script inspired, tongue-in-cheek, gloriously self-referential adolescent lunacy, beginning with ‘Young, Just Us’ (illustrated by Nauck & Stucker) wherein the unlikely lads arrange a sleepover in the old Justice League Secret Sanctuary and fall into a whole new career…

Whilst a nearby archaeological dig uncovers an ancient New Genesis Supercycle, the masked boys are busy vandalising the decommissioned mountain lair until similarly decommissioned superhero android Red Tornado objects. Before things become too tense the boys are called away to the dig-site where DEO operatives Fite and Maad are attempting to confiscate the alien tech.

After a brief skirmish with fabulously mutated minor villain Mighty Endowed (transformed by a “booby trap!”) the bike adopts the kids and makes a break for it…

The action then switches to the Middle East for ‘Sheik, Rattle and Roll’ as the semi-sentient trans-dimensional cycle deposits Robin, Superboy and Impulse in a sandy paradise. Apparently uncounted years ago an Apokoliptian warrior named Riproar was entombed beneath a mountain there after stealing the bike from New Genesis. Now the machine, enslaved to the thief’s ancient programming, is compelled to free the monster, but it has brought some superheroes to fight Riproar once he’s loose. Of course, they’re rather small heroes and a bit inexperienced…

A short diversion courtesy of Young Justice 1.000,000 introduces future versions of the lads and some foes from the 853rd century – that’s a million months into the future, science fans!

Devised by David, Nauck, Stucker, Angel Unzueta, Norm Rapmund, Craig Rosseau, Sean Parsons, Roberto Flores & Faucher, ‘Just Ice. Cubed’ sees a future YJ squad reviewing the exploits of their antecedents with reference to Doomsday, the JLA, Two-Face, the Sun-Eater and the Millennium Chicken before a measure of normality resumes with the 20th century kids back in America just in time for Halloween…

A riotous Trick-or-Treat time-travel romp ensues as those meddling kids dabble in magic and accidentally snatch a nerdy Fifth Dimensional scholar out of his appointed place – naturally endangering the entire continuum.

Sadly, although YJ’s best efforts in ‘The Issue Before the One Where the Girls Show Up!’ restore reality, they might have had a delayed bad influence on the quietly studious juvenile sprite Master Mxyzptlk

Secret Origins 80-Page Giant #1 provides background insights on our stars, beginning with ‘Decisions’ by D. Curtis Johnson, Unzueta & Jaime Mendoza with Red Tornado regaling intangible recruit Secret with ‘The Secret Origin of Impulse (Actual Reality)’ by Mark Waid, Ramos & Faucher, ‘Superboy! Secrets! Origins (This One’s Got ‘Em All!)’ by Karl Kesel, Joe Phillips & Jasen Rodriguez and ‘Little Wing’ by Chuck Dixon & Cully Hamner.

The revelations continue with the history of Spoiler in ‘Daddy’s Little Vigilante’ from Dixon, Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti, ‘Truth is Stranger – the Secret Origin of Wonder Girl’ by Jay Faerber & Ethan van Sciver, and conclude with ‘Shafted the Secret Origin of Arrowette!’ by Tom Peyer, Marty Egeland & Rapmund…

With the scene properly set, a whole bunch of meddling females then join the exclusive boys’ club in ‘Harm’s Way’ as writer David unerringly injects some potently dark undercurrents into the frenetic fun.

Impulse’s sometime associate Arrowette (a second-generation trick archer forced into the biz by her fearsome Stage Mother, the original Arrowette) is being hunted by a psychotic youth who intends to become the world’s greatest villain.

Aforementioned mist-girl Secret and the latest incarnation of Wonder Girl are dragged into the clinically sociopathic Harm’s lethal practice-run before the assembled boys and girls finally manage to drive him off…

Johnson, Alé Garza & Cabin Boy then step in for ‘Take Back the Night’ (from Young Justice: Secret Files #1) as Secret leads the now fully-co-ed team in a raid against the clandestine and quasi-legal DEO orphanage-academy where metahuman kids are “trained” to use their abilities. It seems an awful lot of these youngsters aren’t there voluntarily or even with their parents’ approval…

Back in Young Justice #5 ‘First, Do No Harm’ (David, Nauck & Stucker) spotlights the malevolent young nemesis as he invades YJ HQ and turns Red Tornado into a weapon of Mass destruction (that’s a pun that only makes sense if I mention that the Pope guest-stars in this tale). As the Justice League step in, the tale wraps up with a majestic and moving twist ending…

The senior superstars are concerned about the kids’ behaviour and set out a virtual test, but since this is comics, that naturally goes spectacularly wrong in ‘Judgement Day’ when the ghost of alien horror Despero turns the simulation into a very practical demonstration of utter mayhem.

This terrific tome – hopefully the first of many – concludes with the edgy and hilarious ‘Conferences’ as assorted guardians and mentors convene for a highly contentious parents/teachers evening, blissfully unaware that their boy and girls have since snuck off for an unsanctioned – and unchaperoned – overnight camping trip together.

As ever, it’s not what you’d expect but it is incredibly entertaining…

In Young Justice, perennial teen issues and traditional caped crusading are perfectly combined with captivating adventure and deft, daft home-room laughs to produce a magical blend of tension, comedy, pathos and even genuine horror.

The secret joy of sidekicks has always been the sheer bravura fun they inject into a tale and this book totally epitomises that most magical of essences. Unleash your inner rapscallion with this addictive gem and remember behind every world-saving champion is a big kid trying to get noticed.
© 1998, 1999, 2017 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Justice League International volume 2


By Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, John Ostrander, Kevin Maguire, Bill Willingham, Luke McDonnell & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-2020-4 (TPB)

Way back in 1986 DC’s editorial leaders felt their then-vast, 50-year continuity was stopping them winning new readers. The draconian solution was a colossal braided-mega series to streamline and redefine whilst adding even more fresh characters to the mix.

The worlds-shattering, reality-altering bombast of Crisis on Infinite Earths resulted in such spectacular commercial success, those movers-&-shakers felt justified in revamping a number of their hoariest icons for their next fifty years of publishing. As well as Superman, Flash and Wonder Woman, the moribund and crucially un-commercial Justice League of America was earmarked for radical revision.

Editor Andy Helfer assembled plotter Keith Giffen, scripter J.M. DeMatteis and untried penciller Kevin Maguire to produce an utterly new approach to the superhero monolith: they played them for laughs…

The series launched as Justice League with a May 1987 cover-date before retitling itself as Justice League International with #7. The new super-team was formed from the ashes of the old on the basis of events comprising follow-up DC crossover-event Legends. The gathering comprised a roster of newcomers and relative second-stringers as America’s newest champions – Black Canary, Blue Beetle, Captain Marvel, Guy Gardner/Green Lantern, Dr. Fate and Mr. Miracle with heavyweights Batman and Martian Manhunter J’onn J’onzz as nominal straight-men.

As the often-silly saga unfolded the squad was supplemented by Captain Atom, Booster Gold, Dr. Light and Russian mecha-warrior Rocket Red. In many ways the most contemporary new pick was charismatic, filthy-rich manipulator Maxwell Lord – who used wealth and influence to recreate the super-team…

The creators took their time, crafting a convoluted mystery over the first year and this second volume of the (as-was) All-New, All-Hilarious Justice League completes that saga as insidious entrepreneur and1980’s archetype Lord reshapes the World’s Greatest Super-team for his own mysterious purposes and is transformed himself in the process…

The stories gathered here (Justice League International #8-13, Justice League Annual #1, and corresponding crossover issue Suicide Squad #13) are taken from a period when comics publishers were first developing the marketing strategies of the “Braided Mega-Crossover Event.”

That hard-on-the-pockets innovation basically crafted really big stories involving every publication in a company’s stable, for a limited time period – so a compilation like this perforce includes adventures that seem confusing because there are in truth “middles” with no beginnings or endings.

In this case the problem is deftly solved by inserting (mercifully) brief text pages explaining what’s happened before and elsewhere. It also doesn’t hurt that being a comedy-adventure, plot isn’t as vital as character and dialogue in this instance…

The merriment begins with ‘Moving Day’ (deftly inked by regular embellisher Al Gordon), wherein the heroes endure a catalogue of disasters whilst taking possession of sundry new UN embassy premises: a slyly cynical tale of institutionalized ineptitude and arguably one of the funniest single stories in American comicbook history.

Here, the main episodes are supplemented by brief back-up vignettes drawn by Giffen and ‘Old News’ deals with the abrupt and precipitous closure of previous UN superhero resource The Dome – summarily axed when the League achieved international charter status. The dismissals leave a very sour taste in the mouths of previously valiant and devoted defenders of mankind…

‘Seeing Red’ is the first of two episodes forming part of the Millennium crossover hinted at above. Broadly, the Guardians of the Universe are attempting to create the next stage of human evolution, and their robotic enemies the Manhunters want to stop them. The heroes of Earth are asked to protect the Chosen Ones, but the robots have sleeper agents hidden among the friends and acquaintances of every hero on the planet.

Millennium was DC’s first weekly mini-series, and the monthly schedule of the other titles meant that a huge amount happened in the four weeks between their own tied-in issues: for example…

The Rocket Red attached to the JLI is in fact a Manhunter, who first tries to co-opt then destroy the team by sabotaging an oil refinery, but by the second part, ‘Soul of the Machine’, the JLI are jarringly transplanted to deep space and attacking the Manhunter homeworld as part of a Green Lantern strike force.

Nevertheless, the story is surprising coherent, and the all-out action is still well-leavened with superbly banter and hilarity.

The back-ups follow the suddenly unemployed Dome hero Jack O’Lantern as he travels to terrorist state Bialya in ‘Brief Encounter’ and then show an unfortunate training exercise for Blue Beetle and Mister Miracle in ‘…Back at the Ranch…’

JLI #11 started exposing all the mysteries of the first year by revealing the secret mastermind behind the League’s reformation. With ‘Constructions!’ – and the concluding ‘Who is Maxwell Lord?’ in #12 – the series came full circle, and the whacky humour proved to have been the veneer over a dark and subtle conspiracy plot worthy of the classic team.

The drama and action kicked into overdrive and the characters were seen to have evolved from shallow, albeit competent buffoons into a tightly knit team of world-beating super-stars – but still pretty darned addicted to buffoonery…

Giffen illustrated #13, wherein the team ran afoul of America’s highly covert Suicide Squad (convicted and imprisoned super-villains blackmailed by the government into becoming a tractable metahuman resource – and happily lacking the annoying morality of regular superheroes).

‘Collision Course’ found US agent Nemesis imprisoned in a Soviet jail with the UN-sponsored League forced into the uncomfortable position of having to – at least ostensibly – fight to keep him there even as the Suicide Squad seeks to bust him out.

Written by John Ostrander and illustrated by Luke McDonnell & Bob Lewis, concluding chapter ‘Battle Lines’ originated in Suicide Squad #13 and offers a grim and gritty essay in superpower Realpolitik which remains a powerful experience and chilling read decades later.

This volume wraps up with an out-of-chronology yarn from the first JLI Annual. Drawn by Bill Willingham and inked by Dennis Janke, P. Craig Russell, Bill Wray, R. Campanella, Bruce Patterson & Dick Giordano, ‘Germ Warfare’ is an uncharacteristically grim horror tale involving inhuman sacrifice and all-out war against sentient bacteria, with oodles of savage action and a tragic role for new team leader J’onn J’onzz…

This collection was – and still is – a breath of fresh air at a time where too many comicbooks are filled with over-long, convoluted epics that are stridently, oppressively angst-ridden. Here is great art, superb action and a light touch which mark this series as a true classic. So, read this book and then all the rest….
© 1987, 1992, 2007 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Justice League International volume 1


By Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, Kevin Maguire, Al Gordon & Terry Austin (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-84576-787-7(HB)                      978-1-4012-1739-6(TPB)

Way back in 1986 DC’s editorial leaders felt their then-vast 50-year continuity was stopping them winning new readers. The solution was a colossal braided-mega series to streamline, redefine and even add new characters to the mix.

The worlds-shattering, reality-altering bombast of Crisis on Infinite Earths resulted in such spectacular commercial success, those movers-&shakers must have felt more than justified in revamping a number of their hoariest icons for their next fifty years of publishing. As well as Superman, Flash, and Wonder Woman, the moribund and unhappy Justice League of America was earmarked for a radical revision.

Editor Andy Helfer assembled plotter Keith Giffen, scripter J.M. DeMatteis and untried penciller Kevin Maguire to produce an utterly new approach to the superhero monolith: they played them for laughs…

The series launched as Justice League with a May 1987 cover-date before retitling itself as Justice League International with #7 (November) and all those splendidly enticing tales can be found here.

The new super-team was formed from the ashes of the old on the basis of events comprising follow-up DC crossover-event Legends. The gathering comprised a roster of relative second-stringers as America’s newest champions – Black Canary, Blue Beetle, Captain Marvel, Dr. Fate, Guy Gardner/Green Lantern, and Mr. Miracle with heavyweights Batman and Martian Manhunter J’onn J’onzz as nominal straight-men.

As the often-silly saga unfolded the squad was supplemented by Captain Atom, Booster Gold, Dr. Light, and Russian mecha-warrior Rocket Red.

According to Keith Giffen’s reflective Introduction the initial roster was mandated from on high, but there’s certainly no stiffness or character favouritism apparent in these early tales.

Introducing the charismatic filthy-rich manipulator Maxwell Lord – who used wealth and influence to recreate the super-team – the creators took their time, crafting a convoluted mystery that took an entire year to play out (happily there’s a second volume sitting on my “to be re-read again” pile and another nostalgic review coming soon!).

The neophyte and rather shambolic team started their march to glory by fighting and defeating a bunch of rather inept terrorist bombers in initial outing ‘Born Again’ (inked by Terry Austin), before confronting displaced alien heroes determined to abolish nuclear weapons in a 2-part thriller ‘Make War No More’ and ‘Meltdown’ before seeing off old-fashioned super-creeps the Royal Flush Gang in #4’s ‘Winning Hand’, which added future-born tech hero Booster Gold to the mix.

The Creeper outrageously guest-starred in ‘Gray Life, Gray Dreams’ and concluding chapter ‘Massacre in Gray’: joining forces against an immortal man tasked by supernal gods with collecting mankind’s excess dream essence. When he went mad and rebelled, all of humanity was imperilled…

Lord’s Byzantine scheme bore fruit in #7’s ‘Justice League… International’ as the team achieved the status of a UN agency, with rights, privileges and embassies in every corner of the World…

Sadly, that merely meant that phase two of his plan came into play and deadly links to New God hellworld Apokolips began to be revealed…

To Be Continued…

Available as an impressive hardcover, accessible trade paperback and even digitally for the go-getting moderns among you, these wild and woolly tales are a perfect panacea to all the doom and gloom that infests so much of today’s comics content.

I’m also happy to say that the editors found room to include alternate covers, the great Ed Hannigan, Maguire & Austin JLI poster from 1987 plus a fact and picture-packed Who’s Who entry to back up the fun with some irrefutable facts about the World’s Greatest Superheroes…

These wonderful yarns are full of sharp lines and genuinely gleeful situations, perfect for young fans and old addicts alike and still as appealing today. That the art is still great is no surprise and the action still engrossing most welcome, but to find that the jokes are still funny is a glorious relief. Indulge yourself and join that secret comics brotherhood who greet each other with the fateful mantra “Bwah-Hah-Hah!”…
© 1987, 2008 2014 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Justice League of America: The Silver Age volume 3


By Gardner Fox, Mike Sekowsky, Bernard Sachs & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-6862-6

The moment the Justice League of America was published marks the moment when superheroes truly made comicbooks their own particular preserve. Even though the popularity of masked champions has waxed and waned many times since 1960 and other genres have re-won their places on published pages, in the minds of America – and the world – Comics means Superheroes.

The JLA signalled that men – and even a few women – in capes and masks were back for good…

When Julius Schwartz began reviving and revitalising the nigh-defunct superhero genre in 1956, his Rubicon move came a few years later with the uniting of these reconfigured mystery men into a team…

The JLA debuted in The Brave and the Bold #28 (cover-dated March 1960) and cemented the growth and validity of the revived sub-genre, consequently triggering an explosion of new characters at every company producing comicbooks and spreading to the rest of the world as the decade progressed.

Spanning June 1963 to September 1964, this latest full-colour paperback compendium of classics (also available digitally) re-presents issues #23-30 of the epochal first series with scripter Gardner Fox and illustrators Mike Sekowsky & Bernard Sachs seemingly able to do no wrong…

The adventures here focus on the collective exploits of Superman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, J’onn J’onzz – Manhunter from Mars, Green Arrow, hip and plucky mascot Snapper Carr and latest inductee The Atom and see the team further transform the entire nature of the American comicbook experience…

The wonderment begins with Justice League of America #20 and ‘The Mystery of Spaceman X’: an interplanetary adventure and cunning brainteaser featuring a marauding giant roaming Earth, serving up oodles of action and mystery but only really serving to whet the appetite for the pivotal classic which follows.

‘Crisis on Earth-One’ (Justice League of America #21) and ‘Crisis on Earth-Two’ (#22) combine to become one of the most important stories in DC history and arguably one of the most important tales in American comics.

When ‘Flash of Two Worlds’ (Flash #123 September 1961) introduced the concept of Infinite Earths and multiple, diverse iterations of heroes to the public, pressure began almost instantly to bring back the lost heroes of the “Golden Age”. Bizarrely by modern standards, the editorial powers-that-be were hesitant, fearing that too many heroes – especially with the same name – would be silly and unmanageable, or worse yet put readers off. If only they knew what we know now…

Here the plot sees a team-up of assorted villains from two separate Earths plundering at will and trapping our heroes in their own HQ. Temporarily helpless, the JLA contrive a desperate plan to combine forces with the champions of a bygone era and alternate existence: the Justice Society of America!

It’s impossible for me to be totally objective about this saga. I was a drooling nipper in short trousers when I first read this story and the thrills haven’t diminished with this umpty-second re-reading. This is what superhero comics are all about! You really should read it and see for yourself…

Faced with the impossible task of topping themselves, creative team Gardner Fox, Mike Sekowsky and Bernard Sachs rose to the challenge with an eccentric outer-space thriller: as ‘Drones of the Queen Bee’ the team was compelled to make the alien Zazzala immortal empress of the universe… Morevoer, even as the team combine to escape enslavement to an alien seductress, the continuity bug was growing, and the mention of the individual cases of members outside the confines of strictly JLA pages would become a mainstay of most future issues.

Alien despot Kanjar Ro returns in ‘Decoy Missions of the Justice League’: a sinister world conquest plot featuring a return engagement guest-shot for off-world adventurer Adam Strange, followed by a perplexing mystery with planet-shaking consequences that temporarily baffles the team in rousing cosmic romp ‘Outcasts of Infinity!’

In issue #26,‘Four Worlds to Conquer’ reveals the insidious revenge plot of three-eyed alien despot Despero after which a far more metaphysical menace troubled the team in ‘The “I” Who Defeated the Justice League’, despite deadly android Amazo appearing to add some solid threat to the proceedings…

The charmingly naff Headmaster Mind and a bunch of second-string super-villains tried to outfox the League in #28’s ‘Case of the Forbidden Super-Powers’ by orchestrating a UN ban on using superpowers but the real treat is saved for last in this epic collection…

‘Crisis on Earth-Three’ and ‘The Most Dangerous Earth of All!’ reprised the team-up of the Justice League and Justice Society, after the metahuman marvels of yet another alternate Earth discover the secret of multiversal travel. Unfortunately, Ultraman, Owlman, Superwoman, Johnny Quick and Power Ring are ruthless villains from a world without heroes who see the costumed crusaders of the JLA and JSA as living practice-dummies to sharpen their evil skills upon…

With this cracking two-part thriller a tradition of annual summer team-ups was solidly entrenched in heroic lore, giving fans endless joys for years to come and making the approaching end of school holidays less gloomy than they could have been.

A little note: although the comic cover-date in America was the month by which unsold copies had to be returned – the off-sale date – export copies to Britain travelled as ballast in freighters. Thus they usually went on to those cool, spinning comic-racks the actual month printed on the front. You can now unglaze your eyes and return to the review proper now, and thank you for your patient indulgence…

With iconic covers by Sekowsky and Murphy Anderson, these tales are a perfect example of all that was best about the Silver Age of comics, combining optimism and ingenuity with bonhomie and adventure. This slice of better times also has the benefit of cherishing wonderment whilst actually being historically valid for any fan of our medium. And best of all the stories here are still captivating and enthralling transports of delight.

These classical compendia are a dedicated fan’s delight: an absolute gift for modern readers who desperately need to catch up without going bankrupt. They are also perfect to give to youngsters as an introduction into a fabulous world of adventure and magic…
© 1963, 1964, 2017 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

JLA Deluxe volume 5


By Mark Waid, Chuck Dixon, Scott Beatty, Brian Hitch, Mike S. Miller, Darryl Banks, Cliff Rathburn, J.H. Williams III, Javier Saltares, Phil Jimenez, Ty Templeton, Doug Mahnke, Mark Pajarillo, Steve Scott & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-14012-4750-8

When the Justice League of America – driving force and cornerstone of the Silver Age of Comics – was re-imagined and relaunched in 1997, the sheer bravura quality of the stories propelled the series back to the forefront of industry attention, making as many new fans as it recaptured old ones. The 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…

The JLA were a phenomenally hot property at this time and got to star in an oversized new format. Moreover, thanks to author Waid and artists Bryan Hitch, Paul Neary and colourist Laura DePuy, the content matched the packaging. JLA: Heaven’s Ladder precedes the monthly JLA issues #47-60 which comprise the majority of this fifth Deluxe Edition (available in hardback, paperback and eBook formats) and collectively spanning October 2000 to January 2002.

Also packed into this blockbusting bonanza are snippets from JLA Secret Files #3: all combining to provide charming character yarns and astounding epics of cosmic wonder and universal upheaval which still pack a punch nearly two decades later…

Heaven’s Ladder reveals how beings of truly cosmic scale face their ultimate dissolution by almost taking the rest of the universes with them when they go.

After adding Earth to a batch of planetary baubles strung together like a necklace, stored in an incomprehensibly huge starship, the hyper gods are tackled by the comparatively infinitesimal Justice League who discover the invaders have no concept of an afterlife and are infiltrating the mythologies of the galaxy’s lower lifeforms so they can build themselves one to repose in…

As if that’s not enough, a rebel faction – determined to die graciously without polluting themselves – violently opposes accepting the assistance of lowly bacteria like humanity…

Cosmic in conception and epic in scope and delivery, Heaven’s Ladder is an astounding example of big sky comics serving as a perfect appetiser to the wild dramas which follow, beginning with a dark fable illustrated by Bryan Hitch and Paul Neary introducing a supernatural hell-queen who makes fairy tales real – but not in a good way…

‘Into the Woods’ is an extended yarn describing how an evil empress of imagination escapes from fiction and reshapes reality to suit her vicious whims. Her crusade leaves the League nonplussed and helpless, but even though Batman is no longer a member, the Dark Knight is still pulling the heroes’ strings…

‘Truth is Stranger’ (with a portentous visit to Fairyland limned by J.H. Williams III and Mick Gray) offers more horror and a glimmer of hope before Hitch, Neary, Javier Saltares and Chris Ivy bring it all to a conclusion as Fantasy and reality collide in the spectacular ‘Unhappily Ever After’

That brought up the celebratory 50th issue, and true to tradition it’s a tale 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 nightmare-materialising 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 is unleashed on our universe.

In ‘Man and Superman’ (illustrated by Mike S. Millar & Armando Durruthy) the extra-planar Cathexis come seeking the JLA’s help in recapturing their rogue wish-fulfilling “Sentergy: Id”. Sadly, it has 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. As always, however, all is not as it seems…

Hitch & Neary resumed the art-chores as a wishing plague devastates Earth in ‘Element of Surprise’ with one unexpected benefit in the grotesque resurrection of dead hero Metamorpho, but the prognosis is poor until the now un-reformed thug Eel O’Brian (who turned over a new leaf to become the daftly heroic Plastic Man) sees which way the wind is blowing in ‘It Takes a Thief’ and leads the disjointed team’s resurgence in the apocalyptic climax ‘United we Fall’.

Th strictures of order firmly re-established and Batman back on the team, the JLA than endure a devilish attack dubbed ‘Terror Incognita’ as the sinister White Martians (who first reared their pallid, spiky heads in JLA: New World Order) return to transform Earth into their own recreational slaughterhouse.

Launching the campaign with a series of blistering personalised psychic assaults in ‘Came the Pale Riders’ (Waid, Hitch & Neary), their ever-intensifying efforts are met with valiant resistance in ‘The Harvest’ (Mike S. Miller & Dave Meikis), before Batman leads the counterpunch with plenty of guest-stars in tow, displaying ‘Mind Over Matter’ (Miller & Neary) and ultimately resulting in a calamitous crescendo and glorious triumph in ‘Dying Breath’

With no appreciable pause for breath the team are then drawn into a cross-company publishing event that saw “Jokerised” super-villains running amok throughout the DCU (see Batman: the Joker’s Last Laugh for further details).

Set deep in the icy Antarctic wastes, ‘Bipolar Disorder’ (scripted by Chuck Dixon and Scott Beatty, with art from Darryl Banks & Wayne Faucher) sees magnetic malcontent and world-class loon Dr. Polaris made even crazier when infected by the Crazy Clown’s unique brand of insanity; stretching Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter and Plastic Man to their utmost in a bid to preserve the planet …

This leads into a classy Christmas neo-classic as Plastic Man reveals how Santa Claus joined the JLA in the outrageously engrossing, frolicsome fable ‘Merry Christmas, Justice League… Now Die!’ by Waid, Cliff Rathburn & Paul Neary. In case you’re wondering, this one’s played for laughs, kids…

Inserted next to wrap up the proceedings are mini-treats from JLA Secret Files #3, beginning with ‘Lost Pages’ (Waid, Mark Propst & Tom McCraw), revealing the superhero community’s reactions when Batman was kicked off the team, after which Scott Beatty scripts a selection of villainous pin-up/fact file pages: ‘White Martians’ (illustrated by Dale Eaglesham &Andrew Hennessy), ‘Queen of Fables’ (Yanick Paquette), ‘The General’ (Doug Mahnke & Tom Nguyen). ‘Mageddon’ (Norm Breyfogle), ‘Qwsp’ (John McCrea & Tom Chiu) and ‘Queen Bee’ (Greg Land & Al Gordon).

Witty, engaging, challenging, beautiful and incredibly exciting, these are some of the best superhero adventures ever created: timeless, rewarding sagas that must be part of your permanent collection…
© 2000, 2001, 2002 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

JLA Deluxe volume 4


By Grant Morrison, Mark Waid, Devin Grayson, J.M. DeMatteis, Howard Porter, Mark Pajarillo, Steve Scott & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1401229092 (HC)            :978-1401243852(PB)

When the Justice League of America – driving force and cornerstone of the Silver Age of Comics – was re-imagined and relaunched in 1997, the sheer bravura quality of the stories propelled the series back to the forefront of industry attention, making as many new fans as it recaptured old ones. The 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. Moreover, their example – at least initially – was mirrored by all other creators brought in to craft the hero-team’s later adventures…

This fourth Deluxe Edition (available in hardback, paperback and eBook formats) gathers issues #32-46 of the resurgent series, spanning August 1999 to October 2000: re-presenting astounding epics of cosmic wonder and universal upheaval which still pack a punch nearly two decades later…

The action opens with ‘Inside Job’ (Waid and Devin Grayson script with art by Mark Pajarillo & Walden Wong): a tale deeply embedded in company continuity and set during the spectacular and prophetic Batman: No Man’s Land publishing event. The gripping tale of mutation, bio-warfare and government indifference references one of the League’s first cases (for which see JLA: Year One) as outlaw genetic supremacists Locus return to make quake-devastated Gotham City their private Petri-dish.

After releasing a mutagenic terror-virus that not even the JLA can combat, the genome-maniacs’ opportunistic attempts at conquest result in devastation and despair until the heroes formulate a new and evolving strategy…

Waid, Pajarillo & Wong’s then examine ‘Altered Egos’ as Batman leads a plainclothes mission to discover who – or what – is masquerading as Bruce Wayne: an unexpectedly violent mission which sees the return of the team’s most dangerous modern opponents…

As envisaged by re-originators Grant Morrison & Howard Porter, the World’s Greatest Superheroes had always been meant to tackle a progression of gargantuan epics and mind-boggling conceptual endeavours. This long-awaited cosmic spectacle had been patiently unfolding for years and culminated in a “Big Finish” saga that proved well worth the wait.

Beginning with the thematic prelude ‘The Ant and the Avalanche’ (Morrison, Porter & John Dell), the JLA faces increased super-villain violence, natural disasters and general global madness after New God Orion determines that a threat from the time of the Primal Gods is closing in on Earth. With the entire planet in bellicose turmoil, Lex Luthor and his malevolent allies – Queen Bee, Prometheus and defrocked General Wade Eiling inside the gigantic, indestructible body of the erstwhile Shaggy Man – prepare to destroy all Earth’s heroes once and for all…

‘The Guilty’ by J.M. DeMatteis, Pajarillo & Wong takes a timely sidestep to focus on debased angel Zauriel and the Hal Jordan-bonded Spectre who invades the heroes’ home to judge the past sins of the assembled Leaguers…

Cleansed and refreshed the team then embark on the six-part epic ‘World War Three’ (Morrison, Porter and Dell), starting by learning the origins of Mageddon, a semi-sentient doomsday weapon which creates hatred and violence in all living things. Now it is nearing Earth…

Responding to its presence, former Leaguer Aztek (see JLA Presents Aztek, the Ultimate Man) comes out of retirement as Luthor’s team ambushes the team in their lunar citadel with devastating success…

Meanwhile on Earth, the inexorably approaching God-Weapon is driving the populace – human and not – into manic blood-frenzy whilst the hard-pressed superhero community finds that even they are not immune to Mageddon’s malign influence…

When even Heaven refuses to act in Earth’s defence, all hope seems lost until the long-missing Flash returns with crucial assistance from the end of time and space and Zauriel recruits aid from a most unexpected source, but even this is not enough until one hero makes the ultimate sacrifice…

Given a fighting chance, humanity takes its fate into its own disparate and temporarily super-powered hands for a spectacular and cathartic cosmic climax to delight fans of every persuasion and preference.

After battling every combination of ancient, contemporary and futuristic foes, the World’s Greatest Superheroes next found themselves pitted against a miniscule and most poignant threat in ‘Half a Mind to Save a World’, an intriguing take on Asimov’s Fantastic Voyage from Dan Curtis Johnson, Pajarillo & Wong, wherein The Atom leads a JLA team on a mission to forcibly evacuate an advanced civilisation of bacteria that have taken up residence in a small boy’s brain and begun strip-mining his dendrites. Of course, the bacteria aren’t that keen on moving…

Often cited as one of the best Batman stories ever created, multi-part paean to paranoia Tower of Babel concludes this collection. The saga begins with immortal eco-terrorist Ra’s Al Ghul’s latest plan to winnow Earth’s human population to manageable levels well underway…

In ‘Survival of the Fittest’ (Waid, Porter & Drew Geraci), a series of perfectly planned pre-emptive strikes cripple Martian Manhunter, Flash, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Plastic Man and Green Lantern whilst Batman is taken out of the game by the simple expedient of stealing his parents’ remains from their graves.

With the Dark Knight distracted and his fellow superheroes utterly disabled, the full scheme begins as humanity suddenly loses the ability to read. Books, newspapers, complicated machinery instructions, labels on medicine bottles – all are now gibberish. The death toll starts to mount…

In ‘Seven Little Indians’ as the League attempt to regroup and fight back, Batman realises that the tactics and tools used to take out his allies – now including Superman – were his own secret contingency measures, designed in case he ever had to fight his super-powered best friends…

In ‘Protected by the Cold’ Batman leads a counter-attack despite the shock and fury of his betrayed comrades, and as the final phase kicks in with humans losing the power of speech too, the disunited team mounts a last-ditch assault on Al Ghul in ‘Harsh Words’ (illustrated by Steve Scott & Mark Propst). The same team handled the epilogue where the recovered heroes angrily seek to understand how their trusted friend could have countenanced such treachery…

Compelling, challenging and genuinely uplifting, this tale is a high-mark in modern superhero comics and one no fan can afford to miss. Morrison & Porter’s JLA was never afraid of looking back fondly or laughing at itself: an all-out effort to be Thrilling, Smart and Fun.

This is the kind of joyous fare nobody should ever outgrow and these are stories to be read and re-read forever…
© 1999, 2000, 2010 DC Comics.  All Rights Reserved.

JLA Deluxe volume 3


By Grant Morrison, Mark Waid, Mark Millar, Howard Porter, Mark Pajarillo, Arne Jorgensen John Dell & various (DC Comics) ISBN: 978-1-4012-3832-2

Infinitely rewarding 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. Moreover their example – at least initially – was mirrored by all other creators brought in to craft the hero-team’s later adventures…

This third Deluxe Edition (available in hardback, paperback and eBook formats) gathers issues #18-31 of the resurgent series, spanning May 1998 to July 1999: re-presenting astounding epics of cosmic wonder and universal upheaval which still pack a punch nearly two decades later…

With a team that consists of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, Hourman, Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Connor Hawke (a second generation Green Arrow), Plastic Man, Huntress, Steel, fallen angel Zauriel, covert information resource Oracle and New Gods Orion and Big Barda you’d imagine there would be little the JLA had to worry about, but you’d be wrong…

Scripter Mark Waid steps in for ‘The Strange Case of Dr. Julian September’: a scary, surreal and utterly enthralling two-part thriller that begins with ‘Synchronicity’ (illustrated by Porter & Dell) which finds the World’s Greatest Heroes hard-pressed to combat the rewriting of Reality by a luck-bending scientist. Walden Wong then joins the art team to conclude the spectacular last-chance battles against a world riotously remaking itself in the ‘Seven Soldiers of Probability’ – featuring a particularly impressive guest-shot by lapsed former JLA-er the Atom

Adam Strange then makes one of his far too infrequent appearances to combat a splendid ‘Mystery in Space’ (Waid, Jorgensen & Meikis) as the League travels to distant planet Rann only to be betrayed and enslaved by one of their oldest allies; an epic encounter resoundingly resolved in the Doug Hazlewood-inked ‘Strange New World’, after which Morrison, Porter & Dell return for a multi-layered extravaganza as the team’s most uncanny old foe resurfaces…

‘It’ finds the world under the mental sway of insidious space invader Starro, where only a little boy, aided by the (post Neil Gaiman) Morpheus/Lord of Dreams/Sandman can turn the tide in the breathtaking finale ‘Conquerors’

Issues #24 begins with Morrison, Porter & Dell introducing a brand-new super-team in ‘Executive Action’ as the American military, in the form of General Wade Eiling, announces its own metahuman unit “The Ultramarine Corps”.

The four-person squad is officially tasked with pre-emptively defending America from paranormal threats, but as the JLA (and long-term DC fans) are well aware, Eiling has a long history of covert, “black-bag” and just plain illegal operations compelling the JLA to remain duly suspicious…

When the Corps steal the artificial body of League bête noir Shaggy Man everyone concerned knows it bodes badly, but even they are unprepared for ‘Scorched Earth’ wherein Eiling pits his Ultramarines and the US army against the heroes…

Meanwhile the New God JLA-ers are preparing for the imminent cosmic threat they had enlisted to confront whilst Batman, Huntress and Plastic Man infiltrate the General’s base to discover his real motives…

The spectacular, revelatory conclusion comes in ‘Our Army At War’ (with art by Mark Pajarillo & Wong) as Eiling’s plans are exposed and the truth about the Ultramarines uncovered. The net result is the disillusioned, lied-to super-soldiers setting up their own operation independent of any national influence and beginning to gather like-minded costumed champions for a First-Strike force. They would soon return…

Time-travelling future-robot Hourman replaced the Martian Manhunter for a while at this juncture as Mark Millar, Pajarillo, Wong & Marlo Alquiza craft ‘The Bigger They Come…’ a delightfully retrospective yarn which sees size-changing physicist Ray Palmer return to active duty as the Atom after power-stealing super-android Amazo is accidentally reactivated.

The main event of this volume is JLA/JSA team-up ‘Crisis Times Five’ by Morrison, Porter & Dell. The Thunderbolt Genie of Johnny Thunder returns with a new master and reality is grievously assaulted by unnatural disasters and magical monsters. Somehow, Triumph, an old friend and foe of the League is at the heart of it all, but promptly finds himself trapped in a true Devil’s Bargain…

With reason on the run in ‘World Turned Upside Down…’ the assembled champions of League and Society battle rampant magical chaos, all the while revealing and retrofitting a little more secret history. The assorted sprites, Djinn and pixies of the Silver Age DC Universe are revealed to be something far more sinister, and ‘Worlds Beyond’ finds those wishing wonders reduced to civil war; concluding with ‘Gods & Monsters’ as a vast army of united heroes save reality in the nick of time and space…

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…
© 1998, 1999, 2012 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Crisis on Multiple Earths volume 6


By Gerry Conway, Roy Thomas, George Pérez, Don Heck, Adrian Gonzalez, Jerry Ordway & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-3822-3

In my most instinctual moments I am at heart a child of the Silver Age. The material I read as a kid shaped me and I cannot honestly declare myself a completely impartial critic on comics of the time. The same probably applies to the brave and bold continuances that stretched all the way to the 1980s reinventions of Marvel, DC and the rest of America’s costumed champions.

That’s especially true of the Julie Schwartz-edited Justice League of America and its annual summer tradition of teaming up with its progenitor organisation, the Justice Society of America. If that sounds a tad confusing there are many places to look for clarifying details – including, of course, past posts of this blog. If you’re interested in superheroes and their histories you’ll even enjoy the search. But this is not the place for that.

Ultra-Editor Schwartz ushered in the Silver Age of American Comics with his landmark Showcase successes Flash, Adam Strange and Green Lantern, directly leading to the invention of the JLA – which in turn inspired the Fantastic Four and Marvel’s entire empire – changing forever the way comics were made and read…

Whereas the 1940s were about magic and macho, the Silver Age polished everything with a thick veneer of SCIENCE and a wave of implausibly rationalistic concepts which quickly filtered into the dawning mass-consciousness of the baby-boomer generation.

The most intriguing and rewarding was, of course, the notion of parallel worlds…

Once DC’s Silver Age heroes began meeting their Golden Age predecessors from “Earth-2”, that aforementioned annual tradition commenced: every summer the JLA would team-up with the JSA to combat a trans-dimensional Crisis…

This volume reprints a magnificent mass-gathering from issues #195-197 (October-December 1981, and edited by Len Wein), plus a sprawling team-up and chronal crossover encompassing Justice League of America #207-209 and the WWII set All-Star Squadron #14-15 (October-December 1982): epics which set new standards even while proving that the escalating efforts of constantly topping the previous year’s Big Thing was starting to tax the creators’ imaginative resources…

The action and intrigue opens in ‘Targets on Two Worlds’ by scripter Gerry Conway and artists George Pérez & John Beatty, wherein Earth-2 mad scientist and serial body-snatcher the Ultra-Humanite gathers a coterie of villains from his own world and Earth-1 into a new incarnation of the Secret Society of Super-Villains.

The wily super-genius has divined that by removing five specific Leaguers and JSA-ers from their worlds he can achieve an alteration of the Cosmic Alignment and create a world utterly devoid of all superheroes. Selling the plan to his suspicious pawns Monocle, Psycho Pirate, Brain Wave, Rag Doll, the Mist, Cheetah, Signalman, Killer Frost and Floronic Man is relatively easy. They can see the advantages and have no idea that the duplicitous savant is playing them all for his own ultimate advantage…

Inked by Romeo Tanghal, the plan seems to successfully conclude in ‘Countdown to Crisis!’ as Earth-1’s Batman, Black Canary, Wonder Woman, Firestorm and Atom are individually ambushed with their other-world guests Flash, Hourman, Hawkman, Superman and Johnny Thunder and despatched to an inter-dimensional void, but after the longed-for Realignment results in a hero-free planet the miscreants fall out. Similarly banished, Earth-1’s villains spitefully retaliate by freeing the lost champions from a ‘Crisis in Limbo!’ (art by Keith Pollard, Pérez & Tanghal) and join them in crushing the Ultra-Humanite to restore the previous status quo…

One year later, the annual scenario expanded into a multi-title extravaganza.

Spanning alternate universes and divergent histories, the drama commenced in Justice League #207 as ‘Crisis Times Three!’ (Conway, Don Heck & Tanghal) finds members of the JSA diverted from a trans-dimensional exchange and rendezvous with the JLA.

They are deposited on a terrifying post-apocalyptic alternate Earth where the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 had resulted in atomic war, whilst the JLA are smashed by the unexpected arrival of their evil counterparts the Crime Syndicate of Earth-3…

As the lost JSAers explore the nuclear nightmare the story unfolds and an old enemy is exposed. This Earth was devastated due to the intervention of malign time meddler Per Degaton

Having barely survived the attack of the Syndicators, a team of Justice Leaguers – Superman, Zatanna, Firestorm, Hawkman and Aquaman – crosses dimensions to Earth-2 and discovers a fascistic society which has been ruled by Degaton since the 1940s. Barely escaping, they then plunge back down that timeline to January 1942 to solve the mystery and stumble upon the JSA’s wartime branch: the All-Star Squadron

After the creation of Superman and the very concept of Super-Heroes, arguably the next most groundbreaking idea for comicbooks was to stick a whole bunch of individual stars into a team. Thus when anthology title All Star Comics #3 revealed its previously solo line-up interacting as a comradely group, the very nature of the genre took a huge leap in evolution.

The Justice Society of America inspired innumerable similar iterations over the decades but for many of us tragically nostalgia-paralysed fans, the original and genuine pioneers have always been Simply the Best.

Possibly their greatest living fan, advocate and perpetuator is writer, editor and historian Roy Thomas who has long championed – when not actually steering – their revivals and continued crusades against crime, tyranny and injustice.

When he moved from Marvel to DC in the early 1980s, Thomas created Arak, Son of Thunder and Captain Carrot, wrote Batman and Wonder Woman and inevitably revived the world’s original Super-Team. Moreover, he somehow convinced DC’s powers-that-be to put them back where they truly belonged – battling for freedom and democracy in the white-hot crucible of World War II.

The All-Star Squadron was comprised of minor characters owed by DC/National and All American Comics, retroactively devised as an adjunct to the main team and indulging in “untold tales” of the War period…

The action resumes in All-Star Squadron #14, courtesy of writer Thomas and illustrators Adrian Gonzales & Jerry Ordway. In ‘The Mystery Men of October!’ they are an unknown quantity to the recently arrived Leaguers who have come in search of Degaton. Their arrival coincides with the rogue recovering his erased memories, stealing his boss’s time machine (long story: buy the book for more details) and heading into the time stream where he encounters and liberates Ultraman, Owlman, Superwoman, Johnny Quick and Power Ring from the energy-prison the JLA and JSA had created for the defeated Crime Syndicate…

Joining forces, the murderous monsters then foray forward and across the realities until they arrive in a 1962 and steal all the nuclear missiles Russia had stockpiled in Cuba, precipitating a clash of wills between President John F. Kennedy, Fidel Castro and Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev that ended in atomic Armageddon…

Sadly, none of this is known to the JLA or All-Stars in 1942 who see costumed strangers and instantly attack…

That battle ends in JLA #208 after Degaton makes his ultimatum known: America and the world’s total surrender or the successive detonation of dozens of atomic super explosives in many nations…

Happily the heroes of two eras are ready to stifle ‘The Bomb-Blast Heard ‘Round the World’ (Conway, Heck & Sal Trapani) and deploy accordingly. They are soon joined by their JSA comrades from 1982 who have escaped their dystopian prison dimension and headed back forty years for the beginning of the end in A-SS #15’s all-action clash of titans ‘Masters of Worlds and Time!’ (Thomas, Gonzales & Ordway).

The senses-shattering conclusion comes in JLA #209 with Conway & Heck detailing the cautious restoration of all consensus realities in ‘Should Old Acquaintances Be Forgot…’

This a blistering wave of nostalgic delight for those who love costumed heroes, crave carefully constructed modern mythologies and crave an indulgent dose of fantastic adventure, great causes and momentous victories.

These are instantly accessible yarns: captivating Costumed Dramas no lover of Fights ‘n’ Tights fun and frolics could possibly resist. And besides, surely everyone fancies finding their Inner Kid again?
© 1981, 1982, 2013 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

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…
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