Later this week a little movie called Justice League opens, and I was curious what might be waiting at the comic shop should anyone wander in after seeing the movie. I hate to say, there’s not much new, and what there is might be confusing. So here’s where this special Road to Justice League edition of Heroes and Villains comes into play. Meet me after the jump so I can let you know what is out right now, and what you should be reading when it comes to Justice League.
This week sees the release of Justice League #33, which features the conclusion to a Metal tie-in story that might as well be as dense as 1990s X-Men for comic readers, let alone newbies looking for some after movie entertainment. The less said about Metal at this point, the better. This is DC Comics’ latest event, and while they haven’t been as bad with this kind of massive crossover stuff as Marvel has been in recent years, Metal seems to be their chance to catch up.
The story seems to spin on two wheels, the first one is story-centric in trying to return Hawkman to the DC Universe proper by integrating Nth metal, the mystical element that among other things allows the winged wonder to fly, as a plot device throughout the multiverse. We learn that Doctor Fate’s magical helm is made from Nth metal, as is Deathstroke’s armor, and presumably Valorium, the metal in Legion of Super-Heroes Flight Rings as well. Nth metal is everywhere it seems. The second spindle of Metal is that ka-ching sound you hear. What if the Justice League had to fight evil super-powered Batmen from alternate universes all following an all-powerful bat-god? Why? Because Batman sells. That is one thing DC has learned from Marvel, how to oversaturate a market. I used to like Batman, until everything became Batman.
I have sung the praises of this title before, but one of the places you can find the Justice League is in the pages of New Super-Man #17. Also the middle of a storyline like Metal, but easy to pick up on, the issue pits New Super-Man and the Justice League of China against America’s better known Justice League. It’s only momentary, and quickly the two teams join forces against Lex Luthor and All-Yang. This series has a fun Silver Age vibe to it, and more often than not, I’d rather read about this Super-Man and this Justice League than the standard one sometimes. Again, I can’t recommend this book enough, creator and writer Gene Luen Yang, the genius behind the Green Turtle, is one of the best in the field today.
Justice League of America
Albeit with a couple Green Lanterns in tow (and not the ones that most of us know) the Justice League is recognizable to readers old and new in New Super-Man, but in the title that is actually most famous for this group, Justice League of America, the line-up is less familiar, and seemingly tied to TV’s Arrowverse of all things, at least at first glance. The team includes, among others, the Black Canary, Killer Frost, the Atom, Vixen, and the Ray – all major and minor players in the DCTV family of shows on the CW – throw in Lobo and a missing Batman, and you’ve got quite the interesting party. Prometheus, a version of which fought the Green Arrow throughout the last season of his show, has come to the JLA’s headquarters for revenge, and this is the real deal, the Grant Morrison version, and he’s taking no prisoners.
This is an intriguing new dynamic, and one that will be more familiar to small screen viewers than big screen ones, but well worth a look. And special bonus, we get an appearance from an obscure and cool 1970s multiverse character from old Superboy comics, the evil Doctor Fate… Dr. Chaos! Sold. Originally this character was just a gimmick, a play on the design fun of the Reverse-Flash or Zazzo-Plus, just switching the colors of Doctor Fate’s costume, and rather than being a Lord of Order, Dr. Chaos was a Lord of Chaos. Just a fun one-shot character that has returned, introducing a new generation of readers to his madness, and making more than a few of us old-timers smile. I have to say I will be looking into this new League more myself.
Yes, I’m old, so when I think of the Justice League, it is usually the pre-Crisis satellite League I am thinking of, or the original Gardner Fox/Mike Sekowsky version before it. Grant Morrison’s pantheon was great, the animated series was awesome, I even liked Justice League Detroit, but I never found the Bwa-ha-ha version all that funny, so it’s the classics for me. Most of these stories, roughly the first volume of Justice League of America #1-250 or so can be found in DC Archives editions, and the classic annual JLA/JSA team-ups are all available in trades, these are highly recommended.
Among those stories I would definitely say that all the Fox and Sekowsky stuff is legend, the Len Wein run is near perfect, the Steve Englehart run brings some wonderful Marvel style to the equation, any of the George Perez issues are stunning, and artist Dick Dillin’s underrated run on the title is one of the most phenomenal in comics. Among the highlights I would list the Starbreaker saga, issues #100-102 and #200 as possibly the best anniversary issues I’ve ever read, and the Justice League and Justice Society’s battles against the Crime Syndicate and the Secret Society of Super-Villains.
Outside of those runs, I would also list several books by Alex Ross in some role, including the Justice series, Kingdom Come, JLA: Secret Origins, and JLA: Liberty and Justice. I would also recommend Justice League: The Ultimate Guide from DK discussed earlier today at Biff Bam Pop! here. The movie opens this week, be sure to let us know what you folks think!