I managed to get my hands on a pile of DC reprints of 90s era stories that I enjoyed to one degree or another back when they were new, largely to see how well they did or did not hold up.
As it is, Grant Morrison’s JLA held up really well.
Morrison’s talent when it comes to superheroes is to, generally, take in the entire history of the character and boil the work down to the basics for a modern-day retelling, retaining whatever spirit the original stories held. Unlike a number of other writers who came to work for American superhero publishers from England, Scotland, or Ireland, Morrison actually has expressed an interest in American superheroes. Neil Gaiman seemed largely indifferent. Warren Ellis and Garth Ennis both expressed derision. Peter Milligan does better on horror stories. And Mark Millar (who co-wrote a few short stories in the back of this book) can’t help but turn recognizable American heroes into assholes. Morrison actually likes the older stuff and it shows in his work particularly in his Batman and Flash runs, as well as his epic All-Star Superman. His JLA run does something similar by telling stories like the Justice League used to deal with at the height of the Silver Age. This volume, containing the first nine issues plus a “Secret Files” special issue, brings in White Martians, a membership drive, an artificial member sent to destroy the League but who rebels against its creators, the remaining two members of the Demon Three, the Key, and something a lot like Starro.
Morrison’s characterization hasn’t always worked as well for me, but there is something here to the Big Seven League he brought in. Superman is the moral voice of authority. Batman is the prepped guy who always has a plan and would prefer not to be bothered. The Wally West Flash is an old veteran. Green Lantern Kyle Rayner is the rookie who is loving what he does. Aquaman is a posturing grump. Wonder Woman sees through the ridiculous. And J’onn J’onzz is the heroic glue that holds the rest together. Before this book is finished, we get Connor Hawke’s Green Arrow and the first appearance of the angel Zauriel. Howard Porter’s artwork is an acquired taste, one I generally like, but it’s easy to see why others don’t care for it. Besides, of the various books I’ve picked up for this check into the 90s, Porter is one of the few artists who seems to still get regular work, so he has nothing to complain about.
On a side note, this came from the era where Superman first had a mullet following his return to life, and then his energy powers manifested. Morrison actually did a good job with those powers, one of the few writers to actually do so, moreso than Superman’s own writers from that time. And Mark Millar did have a nice short story explaining what the Martian Manhunter, the only member at the time without a solo title of his own, did with his spare time (he was the main hero of the entire southern hemisphere).
I really dug this, and will probably go for the next one at some point in the near future. Heck, I used to comment on the old DC message boards and my comments got into the letter page for the last issue of Morrison’s run, a fact I was unaware of until people who knew my online user name told me before I could get to the issue myself. That was a pleasant surprise. And as it was, this volume worked out quite well. This JLA still kicks ass. 9.5 out of 10 Neron appearances that don’t seem to go anywhere.