Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Toaster's Ramblings - Justice League VS JLA Edition

For Christmas I received the first two volumes of Grant Morrison's run on JLA from the late 90's. I love it. It features the biggest heroes in the DC universe in larger than life storylines against epic villains, such as defending the Earth from an invasion of White Martians guised as heroes or fighting off an invading army of angels from destroying the Earth or the epic Rock of Ages storyline. This is what I wanted when, at the birth of the New 52 reboot, I subscribed to Justice League. I just don't feel like it delivered anywhere near as well as JLA did. So sorry, this is yet another bitch session about the New 52.

I really just wanted that super team book with big names and great storylines. New 52 gave us big names, but the stories have largely sucked. The first arc where they come together to fight Darkseid felt rushed and was the first big taste of how DC was making its timeless characters more "edgy." They made them into assholes. Green Lantern and Batman snipe at each other like kids on a playground. Their new interpretation of Superman would rather beat the living hell out of someone, causing massive collateral damage in the process, than... oh, I don't know... talk to them? Reason with them? Find out what's going on? You know, those traits that made Superman one of the most revered heroes ever. No, even though he is knowingly capable of killing almost anyone and can level cities, he would rather just kick someone's ass.

From there was the lousy 'Graves' storyline, where the guy who wrote about the Justice League became a bad guy with psychic powers to mess with the heroes... you know, like Despero, The Key, Dr. Destiny, Gorilla Grodd, Dr. Psycho and the litany of other psychic villains that are part of the League's rogues gallery. Like I said, the story was boring and crappy.

Then we got the Throne of Atlantis arc. This could have been good except for two problems. The first was that the Justice League book suddenly became the launching point for readers to have to buy a bunch of other titles to know what was going on in the storyline. JLA could tell a story within that actual book, but the New 52 Justice League has to spread its story out to other books. Granted, the only other book to buy here was Aquaman, but this leads me to the second problem... I just didn't care. You see, the whole Atlantis invading the land and using tidal waves to destroy cities and Aquaman having to come to terms with being the King of the Oceans and a hero and a part-time land-dweller... it's all been done before. This is a frequent complaint I have with the New 52. So the Teen Titans have to face Trigon for the first time... again? Oh no, you mean there are evil counterparts to the Justice League from another dimension? That's news to me! (More on this later).

The Trinity War followed. What a waste of time. We were led to believe that the Justice League would be fighting the US government founded Justice League of America (and for some reason Justice League Dark). It was an interesting set-up harkening back to the Justice League Unlimited plotline of the USA being distrusting of the god-like heroes who claim they were protecting them. The inevitable conflict that would arise from their confrontation would have made for a great read... and we almost got that for one part of the seven part series. The rest was a damn wild goose chase, a red herring to the advent of Forever Evil. I honestly feel lied to. Remember that Free Comic Book Day comic about the Trinity War where we saw several heroes fighting in the streets? That never happened. What about the advertisements that showed members of all three teams in a massive free-for-all? Nope, just bullshit.

I will admit, the introduction of the Crime Syndicate was cool. But the Forever Evil event... and I say event because it is a universe-wide storyline, except for several books that I guess can't be bothered (Stormwatch, the super-team tasked with the planet's protection from outside forces apparently have better things to do)... the Forever Evil event is just dragging on and on. This is turning into a year long arc that is rapidly losing steam. I was collecting it, but now I think I will just wait for a trade paperback collection... if it ends well. And to get back to my main point, this entire long storyline has left almost all the League members indisposed, so it really isn't a great Justice League story either. In fact, the book seems to just be this weird means to re-introduce other, seemingly forgotten DC properties such as Doom Patrol and The Metal Men.

You know, I want to point out that there are a hell of a lot of DC characters that could actually fight the Crime Syndicate and probably win, but for whatever reason have been dismissed. What about Apollo, Midnighter, Power Girl, Huntress, Kyle Rayner, John Stewart, Starfire, Red Hood, Arsenal, Animal Man, Swamp Thing, Static and virtually everyone from that Justice League International book that was cancelled? They alone would be one hell of an army! Where are all the other DC heroes? Or did Johnny Quick somehow create a time vortex that they got sucked into like the Teen Titans? (Lame.)

Now to follow with another common argument I make when bitching about the New 52... how great the Marvel Now material has been by contrast! I started reading Uncanny Avengers from the first issue because it seemed interesting and it had Havok, one of my favorite Marvel characters, leading the team. Now this book is what I was looking for from Justice League! You have heavy hitter characters like Thor, Captain America and Wolverine mixed with various (and sometimes underrated) X-book names like Havok, Rogue and Sunfire. And they have awesome storylines, kept within their book so I don't have to buy a bunch of side issues to follow the action! They have fought the Red Skull who, with the super telepathic brain of Charles Xavier grafted to his own, mentally suggests to the humans of the world to kill the newly revived mutant population. Currently, there is this insane storyline about the Apocalypse Twins that I can't even to begin to explain how awesome it is. Let's just say they had their own "Four Horsemen of Death" comprised of Banshee, Grim Reaper, Daken and the Sentry! That alone is cooler than anything I've read in that Justice League book. The Uncanny Avengers is one of those comics that reminds me why I love comics!

I will probably stick with Justice League for at least a while after the Forever Evil story concludes. The new Justice League incarnation set to follow with Lex Luthor in charge seems promising. (Though I should point out that showing us advertisements for the team featuring characters currently "fighting for their lives" kind of lets a lot of the air out of the suspenseful nature of that big story arc.) I just wish that they would get back to good storytelling like from that other universe whose years of continuity were thrown away for a gimmick and some quick sales. But hey, now our heroes are edgy assholes, so that's something... right?

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