Rock of Ages

JLA Deluxe Edition Volume 2, written by Grant Morrison, illustrated by Howard Porter, Val Semeiks, John Dell and others (1997-98; collected 2010): DC’s repackaging of previously reprinted works can sometimes seem almost comic (the repackaging of Alan Moore material is a whole side industry).

Here, though, it makes sense. Grant Morrison’s late-1990’s run on DC flagship super-group title JLA (for Justice League of America) was first reprinted in arc-specific books, leading to trade paperbacks which were in some cases barely 100 pages long. The deluxe editions pop the page count close to 300 pages, present the stories in a slightly oversized format, and include material that hadn’t been reprinted before (in this volume, a JLA/WildCATS crossover). So it’s a good deal.

Morrison’s JLA first took the Justice League back to its early 1960’s roots by reuniting as close an approximation of the original seven members as could be reunited in the mid-1990’s when the original Green Lantern and Flash were dead, their legacies carried on by another Flash and another GL. And Morrison ramped up the cosmic, time-bending action with world-wide and even galaxy-wide threats. Penciller Howard Porter, who could be weak with the wrong scripter, delivered the best art of his career. The result was a JLA that sold well and got critical raves.

In this second collected volume, the JLA finds itself in the twisty labyrinth of the “Rock of Ages” storyline, which begins with a new Legion of Doom before veering off into a future dystopia in which evil has conquered almost everything. The JLA has to save the universe. Or maybe destroy it.

The second arc features new villain Prometheus, who’s planned for years how to kill the entire Justice League and invades their lunar Watchtower to fulfill the plan. New members begin to fill out the roster, most notably Plastic Man (whom Morrison makes an incredibly useful addition), Steel and Zauriel, the last an actual angel of the Hawk Host of Heaven.

The collection ends with the aforementioned JLA/WildCATS crossover between DC’s and Wildstorm’s super-groups as they face upgraded Silver Age JLA villain the Lord of Time. Morrison’s love of twisty plots and comic-book minutiae isn’t for everyone — a lot of readers will probably need to Google J’emm, Son of Saturn prior to giving themselves a refresher course on what the Philosopher’s Stone actually is in the “Rock of Ages” arc and where this particular version comes from (Jack Kirby’s New Gods comics of the 1970’s, btw). But I love it. Highly recommended.

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