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READ MY LIBRARY ENTRY 65: The Comics You Love as an Adult

Secret Origins featuring the JLA!

Secret Origins featuring the JLA is a notable book in that it sets the stage for Grant Morrison’s run on JLA

Having covered a run of things here at the RMLB, including comics he liked as a kid, Max now turns to some comics that are the foundation for his entire collection; comics he’s loved and re-read over the years multiple times since getting them.  Namely, Grant Morrison’s run on JLA starting with the two books Secret Origins featuring the JLA and Justice League: Midsummer’s Nightmare the latter of which was written by Mark Waid and Fabian Nicieza prepping for Morrison’s epic JLA run.  Check out coverage of these two books here as Max goes over comics he’s loved as an adult!

Super-Fly Comics & Games’ plucky sidekick Max Lake has embarked on a journey to read his collection of comics! Join Max every Thursday as he takes on his Library! Titles reviewed by this blog do not necessarily reflect what the store has in stock, but you can always email the store to special order something that you’ve seen here at superflycomics@gmail.com. You can also call Super-Fly at (937) 767-1445 or just ask someone at the store next time you’re there for special orders. You can read past entries of the blog here. Any questions or comments for Max should be sent to maxdlake@gmail.com. Comments are currently closed, though we’re looking into a new way to do comments so stay tuned. Check out @maxdlake to follow Max on Twitter. Most entries deal with Max re-capping what he’s read in detail, so be aware that there is a SPOILER WARNING for this and all entries, though Max usually leaves out the big spoilers/shockers/moments and leaves those for the reader to discover. The things Max writes do not necessarily reflect the views of Super-Fly Comics & Games, and Super-Fly Comics & Games is not responsible for what Max says—especially anything that bugs you.

Hey hey all you Fly-Hards and Super-Flyers, it’s Read My Library time once again!  I recently had an epiphany about this blog, and it all started with a desire to get this week’s entry started early on.  After covering Stray Bullets, Superior Foes of Spider-Man and the original Magnus Robot Fighter with a little old school Aquaman thrown in too (natch!) plus last week’s look at Justice League: Origin of the New 52, I had no idea what to cover next—something that happens more than you’d think. Then I started scanning the Library shelf by shelf, looking for my next reading adventure.  I looked up to Aztek by Grant Morrison and Mark Millar back when they chummed around.  Had I continued my short-sighted original Guidelines for the RMLB including going alphabetically, I’m sure I would have gotten to Aztek before too long.  However, Aztek could still be really cool, as it featured Morrison/Millar on a reportedly great series that by all reports ended far too soon.  Still, I knew the character from Morrison’s epic run on JLA, and maybe shouldn’t I cover some Morrison for the RMLB because his new series for DC Multiversity was coming up in a couple months? And then it hit me: I’ve been going about this blog all wrong from the beginning.  Instead of doing a reading list based on the alphabet, or specific company, or format, or other weird design, why wasn’t I simply writing about the comics I love?  The comics that have pulled me through the dark times; ones I have read again and again and again and loved them all just a little bit more after having gone through them again.  Yes dammit, why wasn’t I writing about those comics?!?

And it all came together.

It was time to cover what I believe are some of the finest super hero comics ever produced by DC or anyone, and that, for me at least, is definitely Grant Morrison’s run on the Justice League of America comic of the mid to late 1990s: JLA!  While I was probably a bigger fan of James Robinson’s (for the beginning)/David Goyer’s and Geoff Johns’ run on JSA (due to my affinity for Golden Age characters), JLA is probably the one I’ve read the most, and no Justice League book since the Justice League International had me wrapped up like Morrison’s JLA stuff.  Like I explained in my introduction to the RMLB, these two series were the beginnings of my collection and I reread each series over from the beginning any time I got a new volume.  This is an easy thing to do when you only have a few comics.  But it made me intimate with the Justice League Morrison wove together, and I think it is easily the best run on the characters I have ever read—despite things like it not being the Barry Allen Flash or the Hal Jordan Green Lantern.  In fact, Morrison made that aspect of his Justice League not a weakness but instead made it strength.  So I’ve decided for at least the foreseeable future (with perhaps a few breaks) I will be covering Morrison’s run on JLA with perhaps going into Mark Waid’s run as well, which took the ball from Morrison and ran wild with it, also producing some of the best Justice League stories ever written.  Although Waid did play a role in launching Morrison’s JLA, it was Morrison and Millar who wrote what I consider the “start” of the JLA series, so I’m starting with that.

The book is Secret Origins featuring the JLA by Morrison & Millar, who wrote the main story, Star Seed: The Secret Origin of the New JLA” and various other creators did stories starring the various League members (I’ll break down specific creators by story). The main story has also been reprinted in the JLA Deluxe Edition Vol. 1.  The story opens with the Flash (Wally West) coming to his old hometown of Blue Valley, and finding it overrun with Starro alien drones, the one eyed starfish-like creatures that take over people’s minds by attaching to their faces.  Doing his best to fight the Starro, Flash is nonetheless overcome and is taken over by mental control.  In response to this, Superman, Aquaman, Batman, J’onn J’onnz the Martian Manhunter, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern Kyle Rayner (then the only GL) gather together to try to save the Flash, Blue Valley, and the world—taking the world saving duties away from the current Justice League so they can form a new temporary League.

Starro vs Flash

Even Wally West, the fastest man alive as the Flash can’t outrun the mind warping power of Starro!

However, just as they’re getting together to fight the alien menace, the Spectre comes to warn them that the six of the heroes forming a new Justice League and trying to save Flash will lead to certain suicide, and will allow Starro to gain a crucial foothold on Earth, and with the super powered heroes of the new Justice League under its control, take over the world before embarking on galactic domination.  Seeing no other alternative, Batman decides to go in alone, as he doesn’t have any superhuman powers Starro can turn against them.  However, Superman refuses to let Batman go alone, and asks Spectre to strip them of their powers so they too cannot be used as overpowered pawns by Starro.  Spectre obliges and warps the League together to the invasion point in Blue Valley.  At first, none of the Starro possessed citizens notice the League, and let them into the building where the main Starro is without incident.  However, one drone possessing a cop gets wind that there is something different here, and opens fire on the League members, with bullet wounds hurting the now-vulnerable Superman.  Seeing no other option, they do their best to occupy Flash and the other citizens under control of the Starro drones while Batman works to complete the mission and overcome the Starros.  Batman being Batman, he succeeds (but I won’t spoil how here), and puts an end to the Starro invasion.

In the aftermath, the new League talks to Spectre again, who says that now they are no longer a threat to the universe and have defeated Starro, they can have their powers back, and he bestows the heroes with their appropriate superhuman abilities.  Spectre then leaves once more, saying the world is now under the new Justice League’s protection.

The TPB of Secret Origins featuring the JLA also includes stories for all seven characters of the JLA.  First there’s a Batman story called “Gazing Back” written by Devin K. Grayson with layouts done by Staz Johnson and finishes done by James A. Hodgkins.  This story deals with Batman saving a foreign couple in an alley from a crime similar to the one that befell the Waynes when Bruce Wayne was a boy—save for Batman intervening before any lives can be lost.  While this is going on, Batman’s origins from his youth as Bruce Wayne and all the training he did are recalled, helping motivate Batman even further to try to save one of the victim’s life.

The next story is called “Guy Talk” and was written by Ron Marz, co-creator of Kyle Rayner, penciled by Lee Moder and inked by Dan Davis.  This story takes place inside then-former GL, Guy Gardner’s hero themed bar/restaurant, Warriors.  Guy holds a conversation with the readers as if they were customers who stayed too late, and tells them all about the Green Lantern legacy, starting with original Green Lantern Alan Scott, moving on to Hal Jordan and John Stewart then himself, and finally to Kyle Rayner and how and why Kyle ended up with the then-last GL ring ever.  This story is pretty entertaining, though I find it hard to believe even a lunkhead like Guy Gardner would just blab out super hero secrets to straggling customers after hours.

The fourth story in the book is “Run of Luck” which was written by Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn and drawn by Kenny Martinez and inked by Anibal Rodriguez.  This tells an overview of the Flash legacy as if it were a history lesson or something, starting with the life and times of Jay Garrick, the original Flash.  The story then covers the life of Barry Allen, and then Wally West and how they worked together as Flash and Kid Flash, until Wally took over the Flash mantle after Barry was killed.  The story ends with the introduction of Impulse, Barry Allen’s grandson from the future.

Next up is “Vulnerability” which is written by Joanna Sandsmark and penciled by the now late Dick Giordano (what a treat!) and inked by Sal Buscema.  This story deals with Artemis training Cassandra Sandsmark, who will go on to become Wonder Girl and her difficulties in realizing her powers and abilities and not understanding the seriousness of training.  Wonder Woman comes along and does her best to talk about her past to Cassie, so that she will better understand what it means to train to be a hero.

Following Wonder Woman is Aquaman, in “Left for Dead,” which is written by Erik Larsen and drawn by Mike S. Miller and inked by Saleem Crawford.  This story reads like an entry from the “Atlantean Chronicles” or some other such tome of knowledge about the history of Atlantis and its rulers.  It talks about the life and times of Arthur Curry, the boy who grew up to be Aquaman.  The Aquaman origin told here closely mimics the one told in Aquaman Time & Tide, with elements retold such as being raised by Dolphins and taking refuge with an Inupiat tribe in his teens.

Rounding out the book is the secret origin of Superman of sorts in a story called “Who is…Superman?” written by Dan Jurgens with layouts done by Jurgens as well.  Finishes are done by Jerry Ordway.  The story deals with Clark Kent’s old college roommate seemingly dropping in at the Kent Farm to talk about Clark’s upbringing and life.  The hook of the story though is that it’s not Clark’s college roommate at all, but someone closer who wanted to know what effect the Kents had on the upbringing of Superman.  The reveal is a nice one, so I won’t spoil it, but I’m sure many of you could guess who is masquerading to investigate Clark/Superman.

While the individual parts of this book vary in quality, to me this book and its main story featuring the formation of the Justice League of America is the ultimate beginning point in what would be Grant Morrison’s seminal run on JLA.  However, there are still other tales that deal with how this League came to be. In fact, while as much as I’ve talked about Grant Morrison, I almost feel foolish admitting that where I’m going next won’t be with Morrison at all, but with Mark Waid.  I’ve had many awesome run ins with Mark Waid, the first being at Gem City Comic Con 2012, and he’s one of my wife Maureen and I’s favorite writers.  Waid, along with longtime Marvel writer Fabian Nicieza, wrote some Justice League stuff called Justice League: A Midsummer’s Nightmare , drawn by Jeff Johnson and Darick Robertson, which is what we’re concentrating on next because it was a preview mini-series that Morrison had collaborated with Waid and Nicieza on idea wise, and it set the stage for Morrison’s subsequent run—and in a big way.

<I>Justice League: MIdsummer's Nightmare</I>

Justice League: Midsummer’s Nightmare is by Mark Waid and Fabian Nicieza, though is an excellent read that establishes things that Grant Morrison would use in his JLA series.

A Midsummer’s Nightmare starts out with Kyle Rayner trying to come up with some comic book ideas for the Green Lantern comic book he’s drawing.  Everything seems normal, until it is revealed that there is a “genetic spark” in the world developing, causing everyday people to manifest super powers.  Everyone except Kyle Rayner—and any other previous member of the Justice League formed in Secret Origins featuring the JLA.  All the various members are powerless in their current incarnations for unknown reasons.  J’onn J’onnz believes he is on Mars, reunited with his long-lost family; Clark Kent struggles as a reporter to find an angle on the “genetic spark” phenomenon; Wally West is a high school teacher who is always late; Aquaman serves as an environmental safety adviser for a tuna company; Batman lives as Bruce Wayne fighting for the various orphans of Gotham City while no longer remembering his Batman role; and Wonder Woman is a headmistress at a school for young girls who has also forgotten the super hero life.

This all seems very mysterious, until Wally West goes out to visit Kyle Rayner after encountering the Green Lantern comic book Kyle is working on from one of his students, and the familiarity of it all causes Wally to seek Kyle out.  This leads to a hilarious confrontation between Kyle and Wally, some of the first interactions that the pair have in this version of the Justice League—but by far not the last.  The duo soon come face to face with Batman and Superman, who have also snapped out of their dream states, and are working to get the other League members all on the same page.  Some of the ways used to “wake up” other Leaguers who were in the spell of the dream state are pretty cool.  Once all of the League are “awake” they realize there’s only one enemy who could have put them in this situation: Doctor Destiny.  Yet somehow, it seems like he’s not in control of the situation either.

Wally West argues with Kyle Rayner that there must be some connection to the comics Kyle's drawing and the dreams Wally is having...

Wally West argues with Kyle Rayner that there must be some connection to the comics Kyle’s drawing and the dreams Wally is having…

...And it turns out Wally is right in this great reveal.

…And it turns out Wally is right in this great reveal.

 

What the League learns is that there is someone else behind it, someone with pure motives but poor execution.  A character previously unheard of, called Know Man is behind all of the strange happenings.  Know Man is in the know about something drastic happening to Earth, and by using Doctor Destiny’s dream powers, he attempted to re-create reality with ordinary people getting super heroic powers to face a threat coming for Earth.  While Know Man doesn’t know what this threat will be, he knows it will be drastic and dangerous for the Earth, and the Justice League was better off standing aside to let him complete his plan.  The only reason I’m spoiling this part of the story is that it will play a huge role in what follows in Morrison’s run on JLA—as this threat Know Man senses is the final obstacle the JLA will face during Morrison’s tenure on the series.  In the meantime however, the then-new Justice League of America is now formed, a temporary team no longer, but a fully functioning unit ready to dole out Justice and protect the Earth at any cost.

These two TPBs for me were the beginning of something great: a reading adventure with some of the best comics I’ve ever read—an adventure that I’ve taken time and time again over the years.  It will be interesting to see if I can re-complete this journey, maybe covering a couple books at a time to do so, here in the RMLB.  Of course, I’m still sticking to my freewheeling style where I’m not committed to anything too wholeheartedly, but it would be cool to continue to cover these JLA books.  While the run is getting on in years, it’s still some of the greatest comics around.  In fact, I can’t recommend the JLA Deluxe Editions highly enough, even though I don’t own them, just the individual TPBs that made up the run.  Morrison’s JLA run is fantastic stuff, and is comprised of some of the most interesting comics featuring the Justice League around in my humble opinion. And what I’ve covered just today is only the start of it all!

Again, whether you get the JLA Deluxe Editions (which do not reprint Midsummer’s Nightmare) or go for the individual trade paperbacks, JLA is a series you don’t want to miss out on.  I’ll have more from this run in the near future.  In the meantime, I think I’m going to kick back and enjoy some of this summer weather we’ve been having!  Might be a great day to go read some comics outside!  So until next week gang, stay awesome out there and I’ll see you at Super-Fly!

 

Past entries of the Read My Library Blog

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