As the Magnificent Seven version of the JLA took off, DC felt that it made sense to completely glut the market with an endless series of one-shots, OGNs, and mini-series. Some of these (Christopher Moeller’s under-appreciated League Of One, and Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s still-excellent Earth 2) were worthy of being part of the canon, but many of these were not.
As my last post showed, there are some good Justice League stories. As this post will show, there are a LOT of really bad JLA stories as well. Team books are hard to write, and I think it’s difficult for some writers to resist the urge to delve into each character’s psyche. You only have 25 pages, and you have 7-10 characters to cram in, PLUS villains, PLUS back story, PLUS plots. If you’re not careful, it can get all get away from you. These are some of the ones that got away.
Justice League –Odds & Ends Part Two: The Elseworlds Stories ( The Nail, Another Nail, Created Equal, Destiny, Act Of God)
Elseworlds is a tag that DC used to use to tell their “What would happen if?” stories, without disturbing their already much-disturbed continuity. At Marvel these are called “What If” stories. Usually this involved some goofy concept that may have been interesting enough to share a beer and a couple of laughs over (So get this…ok, are you sitting down? Dude, I’m SERIOUS. This a great idea. Ok, Ok. So you’ve got Batman right? Yeah, Batman. You know how usually Batman is really angry? Yeah, what a dick, right? Well, what if instead of his parents being killed, it was only his puppy. I know, right? His PUPPY for chrissakes. No, the puppy doesn’t have superpowers. That would be ridiculous. Dude, I’m trying to tell you something. Ok, maybe it’s not his puppy. What about nobody dies, but he’s gay. Yeah, gay. Who’s his first what? I dunno. Alfred I guess? I haven’t really thought it out. I’m big picture, you’re details. Dude, grab a pen!), but usually ended up not being interesting enough to actually publish a comic book about (Batman as King Of The Vampires? Sure. Superman as Amish Farmer? Not so much).
The premises here are flimsy (What if Superman hadn’t been raised by Ma and Pa Kent/ What if everyone lost their powers,/What if Superman and Batman never existed at all/ What if all men on Earth died except for Superman/What if Batman was promised a talk-show at 11:35 but Superman plotted behind his back to actually take the show BACK after Batman only had 7 months as host, etc. ), which is fine IF you have a noteworthy tale to tell, or interesting questions to ask. But most of these only delve into unnecessary surface issues (i.e. What kind of costume would the Flash wear if Superman was actually a Chilean miner), rather than anything of real consequence. Only Destiny can claim to having any weight whatsoever, which is interesting because it’s the story that deviates the most from the regular DCU. I hate to say it, but most of these are utter garbage. Other than Destiny, the only stories here even worth a first look are The Nail and it’s follow-up Another Nail by the usually wonderful Alan Davis, and although his artwork is brilliant as always, the story is so utterly nonsensical (See: Superman as Amish Farmer) that it’s beyond saving. And that’s just The Nail. It’s sequel is even worse.
JLA – Odds & Ends Part Three: Welcome To The Working Week, Gods & Monsters, JLA/Witchblade, Primeval, Foreign Bodies, 80 Page Giant, Seven Caskets, Gatekeeper, New Maps of Hell, Justice League Elite)
Although these happen in “regular” DC continuity, you may wish they didn’t, due to the rampant mediocrity that seems to be a point of pride for many of these books. Although these technically aren’t “What If” books, they still use the same premise, and most of them rest on the artificial conceit of putting our heroes in somewhat silly situations (Justice League as Cavemen! Justice League on a Dungeons & Dragons Quest! Justice League as Justice League, but they switch bodies! Justice League as Gods! Justice League as Demons! Justice League as socially moderate fiscal conservatives!), rather than actually crafting an entertaining story for them. Many of these are dreadful, and not worth owning, reading, or even reading about.
It’s not all doom and gloom. There are some decent stories here. Warren Ellis’ New Maps of Hell is a rare mis-step for him, but I could see Ellis completists enjoying it. And while Joe Kelly’s Justice League Elite did say a few interesting things about what a superhero’s role in contemporary society would be, I can’t say it had enough to keep me from putting it into the cull pile.
JLA- Odds & Ends Part 4: I Can’t Believe It’s Not The Justice League, Justice League International Vol. 1, JLA Animated Vol.1)
In my previous post, I gave a shout out to Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMattheis’ much loved JLI. I have to confess that I’ve always liked the idea of the JLI more than the actual comics themselves.
I have NO problem with humour being inserted into mainstream comics, and in fact I wish it happened more. But this book quickly devolved into a sophomoric “I can’t believe that they’re actually letting us put this out” quip-fest that completely steered away from it’s prime job: Being a super-hero comic. To make things worse, a series of ill-planned sequels came out a few years ago, the worst of these being I Can’t Believe It’s Not The Justice League, a non-stop joke fest that has almost no emotional impact at all. That would be fine for a comedy title, except that it’s not really funny either.
JLI Volume 1: Keep. I Can’t Believe It’s Not The Justice League and Justice League Adventures: CULL
Whew. I hope it’s a very loooong time before I have to read another DC team book.
Next up: More Justice League!