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JLA #14
posted April 28, 2006

Creators: Grant Morrison, Howard Porter
Publishing Information: DC Comics $1.95
Ordering Numbers:

I don't have a whole lot to say about what's probably still the "hottest" book in mainstream comics right now, but I have to ask: does anyone else think it's weird that the #1 writer in the American mainstream is Grant Morrison? That has to mean something dire for the future of comics in America, doesn't it?

Maybe and maybe not. What I remember most about his interview with this site's print magazine (still on sale from the home company) was his admirable refusal to put down his own work on the critically unsuccessful Arkham Asylum. I don't think his willingness to stand by that work was a rhetorical trick: in interviews about JLA and like material, Morrison seems genuinely sincere when he says that he considers that work every bit as important as his work on comics like The Invisibles or St. Swithin's Day. In some ways, Morrison in these interviews is reminiscent of Alan Moore's writing in the Twilight proposal, where he goes on and on about the creative impact of working with the actual iconic superhero characters in their actual accepted storylines.

Having said that, however, I'm not sure that Morrison has anything new to add to the mix. Reading an issue of JLA -- like the current Rock of Ages part 5 -- I come away with two notions. The first is that Morrison gains some effectiveness by increasing the energy level of the comic and maybe all DC comics via forcing through any number of plot leaps and changes into single stories. The current storyline started out as a basic good guys vs. bad guys chess-style battle royale and zig-zagged sharply into a apocalyptic future storyline reminiscent of the Claremont/Byrne X-Men story (Days of Future Past?). It's an exhausting combination, but it allows Morrison to give the illusion of high energy even when it doesn't exist -- not unlike George Lucas was able to do with the dull space opera formula in Star Wars.

The other notion, and perhaps that which will limit Morrison's audience to the remaining superhero fans (but maybe all of those fans) is that much of his story also relies on allowing the characters their "moments" in the same way that fan-friendly movies and TV shows will -- like the Star Trek movies where even the dull supporting characters are given one or two scenes to do something notable and in-character that will delight their specific character's fans. It's savvy writing, dependent on the identification that superhero comic fans find with the characters, but I would imagine it depends too much on feelings one has for those characters -- which wouldn't be replicated in a general audience much behind Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman -- and over the long run it's going to start to seem silly. Batman's unstoppable "badassness" is near-parody.

Grant Morrison is an able, talented writer who seems to enjoy this kind of material and Howard Porter is a functional, reasonably slick artist of this kind of material. Fanboys and fangirls everywhere are getting a stylish helping of exactly what they desire -- but I'm afraid its success may be more an indication of the workmanlike nature of the title's competitors than of any serious, even pop, art going on.

(JLA is DC's #1 selling monthly full-color comic book. It cost $1.95 a copy, and should be available

This review was written in the late 1990s as part of a then-ongoing freelance gig; I apologize if it reads oddly or seems incomplete.