Monday, July 31, 2006

JLA: American Dreams (#5-9)

After the high octane, pop opening that was New World Order, Morrison scales things back a bit for some more tightly focused, short arcs. New World Order functions as a mission statement, showing the new JLA, composed of the world's greatest heroes, fighting huge cosmic threats. In his two longform revisionist mainstream superhero runs, this and X-Men, Morrison used the opening arc as a way of reinvigorating a property that had gotten stale. But where is there left go from there?

The first story in this collection is a nice, if unremarkable storyline about a robot who overcomes her programming to save the world with the JLA. There's a funny bit where the JLA is interviewing new members, but this is one of those stories where the shortness of the piece means that there's just not enough invested to get a really profound emotional impact. But, like a lot of early Transmetropolitan issues, it's satisfying in the way it tells a complete story with some interesting themes in a short time.

The next story is a two parter about a horde of angels invading Earth. My biggest issue with Morrison's JLA is that most of the stories have the same basic structure, some unbelievably massive foe turns up, some of the League are put out of commision, but the rest really to defeat the foe in the end. The most interesting thematic material here is Superman struggling to live up to his own mythology. The whole agenda behind the run was to approach the league as a modern pantheon, so it's logical that Superman would have issues with.

When we reach the end of the story and Superman uses his powers to defeat an Angel and all kinds of huge foes, we see Superman proving his own myth correct. The human part of him may have doubts, but he is able to overcome those human doubts and succeed. One thing that hurts this story is Superman talking about his myth while wearing the stupid electric blue outfit, the classic uniform is intrinsic to the mythology and this goofy outfit undermines some of that.

Next up is 'Elseworlds,' a two plane story in which the JLA is menaced by the Key in the real world, and live through a variety of alternate universes in their mind. I usually enjoy an alternate universe story, but there's always something a bit cheap about them. It's cool to see Batman and Catwoman married, but the fact that it's an 'imaginary story' makes it difficult to engage in the drama of those moments. We're aware it's not happening, so the only interest is in seeing DCU mythology reconfigured. It's interesting, but not particularly illuminating.

I do like Green Arrow's quest to save the JLA, using only goofy arrows. And, the Key's rants, particularly the moment where he says his newfound powers are making him talk to himself, are great. This series is some of Morrison's funniest work, he's simultaneously engaging with the material on a totally straight level and also poking fun at the absurd conventions of the superhero genre. It's like the characters have to play these roles, they subconsciously fall into patterns of behavior dictated by the genre.

This is definitely Morrison's lightest take on the superhero genre, throwing things back to Silver Age style over the top craziness and simple character arcs. Nearly every other superhero has had serious underlying issues, whether it be the acid burnout and petulant adolescence of Flex Mentallo or dark sexual undercurrent of Seven Soldiers, this is the one superhero work that is simple, straight ahead superheroics. Because it's so thematically uncomplicated, I think it's one of Morrison's less satisfying works. It's certainly enjoyable, but with most of Morrison's work, you're not only entertained, you're enlightened.

Of course, a lot of the fun of this is seeing Morrison play with the DC icons. I loved Morrison's X-Men because it took everything great about Claremont's work and hauled it into the present. So, being a huge fan of the X-Men in general, I was able to better appreciate the way Morrison played off character histories. I'm not that familiar with DC, so there's not that inherent sense of excitement that X-Men had.

Still, this was a generally satisfying volume and I'm excited for Rock of Ages next.

Related Posts
Seven Soldiers Wrap Up (6/28/2006)
JLA Classified: 1-3 (7/16/2006)
JLA: New World Order (#1-4) (7/26/2006)

1 comment:

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