Wednesday, July 26, 2006

JLA: New World Order (#1-4)

After last week's read of JLA Classified, I decided it was time to read Morrison's entire JLA run through. I'd read bits and pieces before, but never went through all the issues in order. After reading this, Zenith will be the only longform Morrison work that I haven't read.

The bits of JLA that I did read were a bit frustrating, I don't think I learned to understand Morrison's approach to the character until I read Seven Soldiers. In reading about the DCU, you usually approach it from the perspective of the most powerful people in the entire universe. I'd read interviews where Grant talks about the way that he saw the seven JLA members as a pantheon, he's essentially telling stories about gods, and as a result, every conflict has to be amped up to a ridiculous level in order to be any sort of threat. Reading a book like JLA is the equivalent of looking at the life of someone like George Bush or Brad Pitt, this isn't an average life and you can't expect average problems.

For the characters in Seven Soldiers, the JLA are gods and even one meeting with them can put you on the convention circuit for years. I think it's more interesting to read about the struggles of ordinary people to become great than reading about great people being great, so I was more drawn to Seven Soldiers. However, once you understand what Morrison's doing with the book, it's a lot easier to enjoy it. Reading this book is all about just enjoying the over the top action, ridiculous concepts and imagery that Grant puts forth.

Grant worked on JLA concurrently with The Invisibles and the book itself feels a lot like Invisibles volume two. The texture of the pages and the quality of the art has a lot in common with Jiminez era Invisibles. Grant has talked about how similar ideas wound up in both works, filtered through their different lenses, particularly in the upcoming Rock of Ages. But, it's just notable to return to the era of that work and get a glimpse of where Grant's mind was at.

The best moments of the series are the really pop moments where we get to see the ridiculous cool of our main heroes. Page 1.3 is a great example of this, a bunch of b-list heroes are scrambling, but on the bottom of the page, calmly moving in we see Superman and are informed that "The big guy's on the case." I think it's misguided to try to write Superman as a regular guy, the whole marketing pitch behind Superman Returns was he may be super, but he still hurts. This book acknowledges that Superman is on a totally different level from other superheroes, let alone normal humans, and lets him revel in that greatness. One of the best moments is where he says "This is Superman" and Superman is written in the title font.

Superman is a great character, but the star of the series is undeniably Batman. This incarnation of Batman is basically the ultimate ninja special ops guy, Jack Bauer on crack. The character is so nasty, he manages to be mofre effective at fighting people than any of the superpowered people on the team.

The thing that Morrison manages to do really well is give each member of the team an iconic moment that makes you understand how far above ordinary people they are. There's the great scene where the Flash opens a lock instantly, Green Lantern asks him how he knew the combination and Flash says I just tried a thousand different combinations until I got to the one that worked. This guy thinks in a totally different way than ordinary people and I imagine Morrison thinking all the time about unique uses for these peoples' powers.

The major issue I have with the arc is the fact that I think it'd be more exciting to have the Hyperclan come in and actually show up the JLA and be proactive in changing the world, rather than turn out to be rather stock villains. The design on the Hyperclan hasn't aged well and it's odd to see a duplicate of The Invisibles' Boy, only with much larger breasts. The story is rather prescient in presenting an Authority-esque superhero team to challenge the old JLA. I'm guessing that the story is meant to be a meta narrative designed to justify the JLA's place in the world. These new Image style heroes can come in and kill people, but ultimately their heroism is a shallow ineffecient one against the real power and moral authority of the JLA. Their solutions are ineffective in the long term, just like no matter how many new comic books come out, the characters in the JLA will almost always outlast the new trendy characters.

But, at the same time it's a bit odd for Morrison to be promoting the conservative, institutional heroes at the JLA over these proactive guys with new ideas. The Hyperclan have more in common with The Invisibles than the JLA does. But, he does always return to the breaking down of dualism. So, this story shows that reckless shows of surface change aren't lasting, as Superman says, you can't force people to become better, they have to do it on themselves, the JLA are just a security measure there to protect people when they fall. So, this is Morrison creating a vision of a utopian policeforce, one that is there to help people grow, not hold them back.

JLA feels less distinctly Morrison than the vast majority of his works. When Morrison started New X-Men there was the sense of a vast change in the universe to date. I haven't read much other JLA, but this feels much more like an amping up of what was already there than a reinvention. He's not out to reinvent the wheel here, rather he's hoping to tell the craziest, poppest superhero stories possible and I think he succeeds.

The read will continue and I'll be blogging it all. So, look for thoughts on American Dreams soon.

Related Posts
Seaguy (4/9/2005)
Seven Soldiers: Wrap Up (6/28/2006)
JLA: Classified #1-3 (7/16/2006)

1 comment:

The Reviewer said...

Nice review Pat my man. When you have the time, check out my mumbled JLA musings -