JLA: New World Order
Written by Grant Morrison, Artwork by Howard Porter
So the world has been taken over by a wily group of superhumans, they’ve imposed their own ideas of justice and punishment, the old world order has been overthrown, and the whole bunch of them turn out to be members of the scheming Martian High Command… what are you going to do? In the case of JLA: New World Order, you’d better break out the big guns, namely the Justice League of America. And what a lineup we’ve got here: Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Aquaman, Batman, the Green Lantern, and that old standby, the Martian Manhunter. Now stand back and get ready for a battle royale.
Five years ago, I would have laughed out loud at the mere thought of DC Comic agreeing to let maverick writer Grant Morrison take a shot at scripting JLA, which is undoubtedly one of their canon that possesses the most mainstream appeal. Morrison gained notoriety in the early nineties due to stints on Animal Man and Doom Patrol, both of which were greatly revamped to accommodate his surrealistic writing style. Morrison is often given to strange flights of fancy, not the least of which included storylines in which comic book characters met their creators and reality was only a state of mind. He’s one of the most experimental guys in the business today.
Which is why it is all the more surprising that he’s able to do so well in the straightforward superhero genre. Rather than bending the Justice League to serve as plot functionaries, Morrison’s storyline allows the characters to flow naturally in response to plot. The characters evolve while always retaining that quality which makes them, well, super in the first place. Witness his characterization of Batman, always cloaked in shadows, crouching in a feral position — and this is even when he chatting it up with his buddies! Or Superman, whose regal sense of justice is apparent in every word, glance and gesture. There’s even a terrifically funny interplay between the Flash and Green Lantern, both of whom are fairly young by hero standards, and it’s fun to watch them bickering over petty jealousies while simultaneously discussing Simpsons reruns. They’re not just superheroes here, people — they’re human beings.
I haven’t read a mainstream comic this entertaining since early-era Chris Claremont X-Men, and Morrison’s approach is much fresher than that. Not only are the team dynamics given importance, but the plot developments and storyline are rich and textured. The Justice League is given a suitable enemy in the form of the evil Hyperclan, which is really a group of Martians out to take over the world — sure, it’s an old story, but the way in which it unfolds is anything but normal. And Morrison actually imbues the proceedings with a sense of peril — we’re actually concerned when Supes gets firsthand exposure to Kryptonite, we’re biting our nails when the Flash squares off against someone who’s as fast as himself, and we’re cheering when Batman, who has been disregarded and left for dead, proves why he is, indeed, the most dangerous man on Earth.
Howard Porter’s art is crisp here, and it’s Manga influence is apparent but never cloying. The characters stand and move with the power they should rightfully possess, most notably Batman, who is drawn as something just a bit more than the average human being — he looks as if he’s about to lash out with claws at any moment. The line work is steady and sure, and there’s a sense of fluid movement to the proceedings.
I’d say that this is, hands down, the best representation of the Justice League to come along since its inception. More than just an average superhero book, this is an exceptional treat for fans and new readers alike. And hey, I mean, how many times do you get to see Batman fighting off Martians, really?
JLA: New World Order, published by DC Comics, is currently available through comic retailers.
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