JLA: Vol. 2

I’m happy to report I’m getting into Grant Morrison’s JLA comics more with this second volume.  After having read Volume 1, I was a little underwhelmed with the second half of the trade, and felt that while it was good, it didn’t quite meet my expectations of what a Morrison comic should entail.  Thankfully, that’s not the case with this volume.

JLA: Vol. 2 features a number of storylines, each more intriguing than the last.  We see Earth’s mightiest heroes squaring off against a number of formidable enemies, each time as Earth’s future hangs in the balance.

The longest (and in my opinion, most compelling) storyline is the “Rock of Ages” arc.  In this, Lex Luthor has obtained a mind-controlling rock known as the Philosopher’s stone, and along with a series of other villains, is using it in his attempts to destroy the Justice League.

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(Side note: this comic was released in 1997, the same year as the first Harry Potter book, who’s British (and therefore real) title is Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.  I’m choosing to believe this is not a coincidence.)

Superman gets his hands on this rock and, to stop Luthor, destroys it.  Unfortunately, a few of our heroes (including Flash and Green Lantern) have been thrown into the future and learn that because Superman destroyed the philosopher’s stone, Darkseid was able to completely take over the world and turn the planet into a desolate hell.

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Only by sending a message through time and warning Superman of the impending disaster are our heroes able to prevent this tragedy and save the future.

Truth be told, my summation is severely lacking in detail or clarity.  Quite honestly, I seem to have a problem summing up Morrison’s comics, likely because there are so many subtle lines or side stories to cover if I want to give a complete overview.  I don’t want to spoil the stories themselves, and so I choose not to go into too much detail.  As a result, something suffers in the translation.  Morrison’s comics are brilliant because of these nuances that are so difficult to condense down into a brief summary, making writing about such comics difficult at times.

Not only are Morrison’s stories well thought-out on their own, but they’re also placed in proper context within the DC universe as a whole.  Character development that was started years prior is continued here, with subtle references that speak volumes to the story.

My favorite moment is one in which Guy Gardner, now calling himself Warrior, has arrived at JLA headquarters and is, as usual, getting into arguments with everyone around him.  He refuses to listen to anyone, and won’t back down no matter what’s said to him.

Then, Batman walks in.  Without a word he walks up to Gardner and just stares him down.

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And this is enough.  Gardner caves, stalking off without another argumentative word.

This open animosity between Batman and Gardner has been going on since the JLA comics of the 80’s, and this panel reminded me of that earlier moment in which Batman punches Gardner in the face for his obnoxious comments.  Without having to spell it out for the reader, Morrison harkens back to this earlier storyline and draws upon it to explain Gardner’s response.  He shows little to no respect for anyone, and yet he defers to Batman without a word.  It’s a powerful connection between these two men, and one that is developed quite well with Morrison’s skilled writing.

Morrison brings plenty of characters into the fray, including Steel, Oracle, and Huntress, giving each their own motives for wanting to be a part of the JLA.  These inclusions help round out the story and give readers new angles to consider.  I’m especially excited to see how much attention Oracle is given.  I’m already fascinated by her character and I can only hope that Morrison will give her the credit she deserves.  Given his penchant for well-developed characters, I don’t think I have much to worry about.

The issues collected here continue Morrison’s trend of bringing truly dangerous villains into the fray, giving them plausible and deadly motives.  This, coupled with his truly engaging heroes and life-threatening scenarios creates an all-around great comic.  The story progression feels natural and realistic, while still remaining fantastical and exciting.  While the action isn’t non-stop, there is never a lull in the story.  Instead, the moments of quiet are used to further develop individual characters.  In my opinion it’s these moments, far more than the action sequences, which truly separate Morrison’s comics from others, creating stories that one can’t help but be drawn into.

-Jess

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