You know what? I felt like doing another theme week of comic reviews, so welcome to Day One of Justice League Week.
Let’s start off with the second big volume of Grant Morrison’s JLA from the 1990s.
Volume 2 covers one big storyline, the six part “Rock of Ages,” a two-parter that introduced a new League line-up, and then a few random issues that actually weren’t part of the main solo series. Those random issues were a Secret Files and Origins story written by Christopher Priest that showed how exactly the new members were recruited, a special issue giving the origin story for then-new League villain Prometheus, and a JLA/WildC.A.T.S. crossover special that could have perhaps predicted the future of DC and Wildstorm’s respective creations merging into a single universe.
I was really glad to revisit these issues for a very simple reason: Grant Morrison more than any other writer whose comic work I routinely read is one writer whose work truly improves when read in trade form instead of as individual issues. Now, make no mistake, I really enjoy Morrison work in single issues and read every one of his JLA issues in monthly installments, but the combination of reading all the issues more or less at once and remembering a bit about how these stories turned out showed me instances of Morrison planting clues in his narrative and actually helped me make sense of “Rock of Ages,” a weird quest of a story that started off with a new Lex Luthor-led Injustce Gang attacking the League in the manner of a corporate buy-out, went off to a dystopian future where Darkseid has finally conquered creation in part due to actions Superman and the Justice League performed while beating Luthor’s team of villains. Before, I enjoyed the story but the Darkseid thing didn’t quite connect in my mind. This time around I recognized more of Darkseid’s plot for what it was.
Still, seeing as how much of this book was devoted to side stories, and how Priest didn’t even get a cover credit, well, that did bug me a little bit. Not enough to cause me to dislike the book, but I was surprised at least by the WildC.A.T.S. team-up’s inclusion.
As it is, we do get to see a bit of Morrison’s character work, showcasing Superman as the noble leader, Batman as the sneaky planner, Flash and Green Lantern as the young guys learning the ropes, Martian Manhunter as the team glue, and Aquaman as a formal grump who gets to sit in on the big meetings that some of the others don’t. Wonder Woman was sort of dead at the time and sits most of the book out, and the newer Leaguers of Green Arrow, Aztek, Steel, Plastic Man, Zauriel, Huntress, Orion, Big Barda, and Oracle all make either a first or last appearance depending on the story. Morrison’s greatest talent for these things is recreating the classic old stories in a new context, finding the core of these old stories and retelling them with his own weird sensibilities. If I had any issue, it’s that Plastic Man, intended as comic relief, isn’t really funny.
As such, let’s say 9 out of 10 unexpected New God arrivals.