Sunday, July 16, 2006

JLA Classified #1-3

Going through Seven Soldiers, I came across a bunch of references to Grant's JLA Classified arc, which served as a prelude to the series. So, having read all the Seven Soldiers stuff, I figured it was time to go back and see where it all began. Plus, I'll read anything Morrison does, so it was worth a look.

However, the one Morrison extended run I never got into was JLA. I'm not familiar enough with the DC Universe to follow a lot of what's going on. I'm going to go back and read the entire run through soon, but Classified has both what worked and what didn't in his previous JLA run.

The big issue with Morrison's work on JLA, and the JLA in general, is that these aren't so much characters as icons. As Superman Returns showed, it's very difficult to have narrative tension in a story about a guy who's got virtually no flaws, throw in six more similarly powered people and it's impossible to do a traditional narrative. Also, these aren't characters who develop and go through arcs, they just exist as what they are. This is a major difference from Morrison's work on X-Men, and the Marvel Universe in general, the X-Men are characters who can change, Superman is an icon who remains the same.

So, in building this story, Morrison uses the Ultramarines to create some actual tension. I don't know who these people are, but because they're not the iconic JLA, there is the chance that some bad stuff could happen to them. So, you can have a fairly normal narrative structure with them, they're battling Gorilla Grodd, a rather ridiculous foe, but a threatening one nonetheless.

The reason that Seven Soldiers worked so well is that all those characters are expendable, and also subject to change. The beauty of each Seven Soldiers miniseries is watching the character go through a trial and either claim the role of hero or reject it. There is change and growth for all involved. A JLA story can't do this, so once the main crew shows up the joy of the story is in watching these ridiculously powerful people in action.

I enjoyed the read, I don't think it's one of Morrison's stronger pieces, but I feel like I better understand how to approach the series than I did back when I read snippets of his previous JLA run. It's all about getting lost in the over the top craziness of events and just accepting everything that happens. The main villain is a giant gorilla, and that's one of the saner parts of this story.

The coolest concept in this series is the idea of the JLA being stranded in a world without superheroes. This ties into Flex Mentallo's idea that to escape danger, superheroes hid themselves in our fiction. QWEWQ is likely an analogue for our own reality, I love the idea that the JLA would just bounce through our world, it's just one piece of this massive cosmic reality that they exist in. This ties back into Morrison's idea of hypertime, that time flows like a river and certain universes branch off. So, our reality is just a branch on the river that they move through as well.

This would be interesting enough on its own, but the infant universe is also where the series ties in with the meta-plot of Seven Soldiers. Reading this arc reinforces the coolness of a shared fictional universe. Most stories are self contained, they happen and end. In the DCU you can read the whole Seven Soldiers series then branch out and see how these characters connect to others. It makes it feel like witnessing events from a parallel universe, something Morrison has talked about with his claim that he wants to make the DC Universe sentient. I'm not sure what he meant by that exactly, but I feel like it's commenting on the fact that this universe just moves forward, individual people can contribute ideas, but the universe as a whole is more than just the sum of its individual parts, the sheer weight of stories combines to create a universe that operates by its own rules.

This series gives us our first glimpse of the Sheeda mosquito soldiers. Looking at this in the overall scheme of things, the Sheeda used this moment to test the capabilities of the Earth heroes before beginning their invasion. Ironically, this test may be the thing that ultimately brings about their destruction.

Qwewq is an infant universe, its adult form is Neh-Buh-Loh, beloved Seven Soldiers villain. He's here as an observer and leaves when the test is done. Presumably what happens is Qwewq matures over time and finally becomes an adult sometime in the distant future, at which point the Sheeda have outlasted humans and rule the world. So, he is put to work for Gloriana and sent back in time to observe the JLA in preparation for the upcoming razing of this world.

However, as we see in Frankenstein #4, Neh-Buh-Loh is flawed. In his infant form, he's inhabited by the Black Death, the seed that would lead Neh-Buh-Loh to evil. However, to counteract that, the JLA places the Ultramarines into this world. Their influence is presumably what leads him to spare Misty and send her back in time to Zatanna, and they are also what ultimately weakens Neh-Buh-Loh so that Frankenstein can kill him.

If Misty does play a major role in defeating Gloriana, as I'm guessing/hoping she will, then the Ultramarines will have played a critical role in defeating the Sheeda. It's totally crazy stuff and even though this arc has some issues, you have to admire the sheer torrent of ideas Morrison puts forth in here. I can think of no one in film or TV doing the kind of crazy cosmic stuff that Morrison pulls off here. It works on its own, but it's particularly interesting to me because of the Seven Soldiers connection. The October solicitations are out tomorrow and I'm really hoping that Seven Soldiers #1 is on there, I need to get the conclusion of this story.

In the shorter term, I'll be readiing the whole Morrison JLA run pretty soon, and I'll blog that. And reading this and Seven Soldiers made me want to read 52, so once that comes out in trade, I'll pick it up. I hear it features appearances by Zatanna, Animal Man and some other Morrison characters, the chance to check in and see what's up with them makes it worth reading.

Related Posts
Seven Soldiers: Post Index (6/28/2006)

1 comment:

tablet pc android said...

The guy is definitely just, and there's no doubt.