Thursday, August 24, 2006

JLA: Executive Action (#24-26)

This JLA arc introduces the Ultramarines, and this seemingly unimportant story will have wide ranging consequences for the future of GM's corner of the DC Universe. Just thinking about the arc of these characters in mindblowing. They start out here as Authority style superheroes, then eventually get used as living weapons then injected in the micro-universe Qwewq. From there, they battle a virus of evil that was injected in the universe, which grows into Neh-Buh-Loh billions of years into the future. There, they succeed in making Neh-Buh-Loh spare Misty, and eventually return to the present and help Frankenstein defeat Neh-Buh-Loh. That's a journey.

I'm assuming that Morrison didn't have these wide ranging plans in place when he wrote these issues. When he went to do Seven Soldiers, he probably looked through his JLA run, saw some cool concepts and decided to bring them into his new series. In the case of the Ultramarines, it's certainly left open for them to return, and they may even return later in this JLA run. But, I would not have been expecting to see the infant universe of Qwewq again.

Anyway, this arc itself isn't particularly noteworthy. It's a lot more grounded and conventional than the outre, mindblowing journey of something like One Million. I find it impressive how Morrison turns the Shaggy Man into a major threat, while simultaneously noting the goofiness of the character. I prefer Morrison's approach to Silver Age concepts like this to Alan Moore's. Moore would do a pastische of the character, a la the untold tales of Supreme, creating something that feels like a 60s comic. What Morrison does it make a comic that gives the same emotional reaction to present readers that those 60s comics did to 60s readers.

The character introductions here are great, all using the superhero's logo to announce their presence. Superman's is particularly cool with its depiction of what time looks like to Clark. We also get some more time with the New Gods. I read the TPB of Kirby's New Gods to study up for a reread of Seven Soldiers, but I'm really glad I did because it's critical to a lot of Morrison's JLA. Metron is a perfect character for Morrison to work with and I'm glad that he got a chance to write for him.

The main story has some issues, namely the fact that the US would choose to try to build their own superhero army and alienate the JLA. In the DCU it should be apparent that the JLA is the ultimate force and you can't build someone to match them. I suppose the point of the arc is that this General is so egotistical he thinks that he's the one who can defeat the JLA, but then we end up with a story just like Prometheus or the Keymaker where we see someone who's found "the perfect solution" to defeat the JLA, a solution that we inevitably know will not work.

I do like the way that Morrison splits the team, by making the ordinary, less powered characters fight the General it builds up narrative tension. Huntress is the most expendable member of the team, so it's smart to put her in danger. So, over with the main team we see a lot of creative uses of powers to battle the Ultramarines. I like the Flash turning the water guy into steam and particularly Superman using his gravitas to stand down an entire battalion of military troops. He commands such respect in the DCU, and that scene pretty much sums it up with the soldier who says "I can't shoot fucking Superman."

However, the more entertaining piece is with Batman and Huntress battling Eiling. This is a really well done fight, with a lot more bruises and nastiness than the typical JLA battle. I love the dynamic Morrison has created between those two characters, with Huntress constantly wondering why she's on the team and Batman as the sage who seemingly knows everything, but won't tell her the answers.

The finale of the storyline sets up another division between an Authority style super team and the traditional JLA. Superman is all about trying to help ordinary people realize their potential while the Ultramarines are more about protecting their own, hence the creation of Superbia. It's good territory to go to because it works on both a meta level and in the story, however I think it was fresher back then than it is today. I do love the final page through, where Hourman appears and says "I expected to arrive in the midst of Earth's war with the fifth dimension." Only in Morrison's JLA.

Related Posts
JLA: Prometheus Unbound (#16-17) (8/6/2006)
JLA: Return of the Conqueror (#22-23) (8/10/2006)
JLA: One Million (8/19/2006)

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