Sunday, 25 July 2010

JLA - Grant Morrison's Tenure (an era of big superheroics)

I love that Grant Morrison works in comics. I consider myself a fan of his, not a completest, but a fan nonetheless. In saying that, I don't agree with all of his storytelling choices, or that everything he does is great or even 'just' good, but instead that when he hits a note that resonates with me, it is in a way that I think is brilliant. I'd include work of his like Zenith and currently Batman & Robin. And especially a book like JLA that he tackled in the late 90's.

Morrison oversaw the relaunch of DC's premier super-team - the Justice League of America - when re-launched in 1997. The concept had been altered and watered down in the preceding decade and a half, first jettisoning the 'big guns' - Superman, Batman (for a while), Green Lantern, Flash, Wonder Woman etc. - then seeing a whole new direction with comedic overtones during the mid to late 80's. Morrison chose to reinvigorate the concept by returning to a 'big 7' line-up based on the original incarnation from 35 or so years earlier: Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Flash, Wonder Woman, J'Onn J'Onzz - the Martian Manhunter, and Aquaman. Not precisely the same characters, or the same as they had been characterised during the inception of the JLA, they represented the modern representation of that original incarnation. Primarily aided by Howard Porter and John Dell amongst others, Morrison made a decision to go back to basics and use that as a building block for big ideas. And it worked.

This JLA series covered the spectrum of big ideas, while trying to faithfully represent the core characters. The ideas covered everything from Earth-shattering threats, alien invasions, renegade angels, all manner of metaphysics, time travel, to multi-dimensional perceptions, military-political machinations, an enraged Earth, silver age-inspired silliness, as well as the more perfunctory alliance of villains plot. The great thing is that Grant Morrison tackled these concepts with verve and aplomb, and would do so over, 1 to 2 or 3 or however many issues he needed, making a dense read. Compared to many overly decompressed comics of the past decade, JLA today reads like the biggest comic book blockbuster brimming with ideas and a sense of purpose. It leaves many other modern books in its wake. Porter is not my favourite artist by any stretch, yet his style suited this era of big superheroics. The overall package they delivered creatively was and remains a great one in my view - a high watermark in mainstream superhero comics.

I have recently re-read much of the run through the JLA Deluxe collections (see pictures right for volumes 1 to 3), and highly recommend them to any superhero fan.

Characters and images are © 2010 DC Comics.

1 comment:

  1. When I was getting back into comics, someone clued me in to the fact that Morrison made the JLA worth reading. Loved the entire run, but the 'Rock of Ages' still sticks out as a winner.


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