|aaron_bourque (aaron_bourque) wrote in scans_daily,|
@ 2011-09-04 03:42 am UTC
|Current location:||Justice League Watchtower On The Moon|
|Current music:||Justice League Theme by Lolita Ritmanis|
|Entry tags:||char: aquaman/orin/arthur curry, char: batman/bruce wayne, char: doctor doom/victor von doom, char: green lantern/kyle rayner, char: kid flash/flash/wally west, char: martian manhunter/j'onn j'onzz, char: superman/clark kent, char: the hyperclan, char: wolverine/logan/james howlett, char: wonder woman/diana of themyscira, creator: grant morrison, creator: howard porter|
Okay, so a couple days ago I made an uncharitable comparison between Geoff John's New 52 Justice League of America vs Grant Morrison's JLA, using a secret files story to illustrate my point.
Few people agreed with that point, but hey, Star Seed was still a cool story. During the discussion of Morrison's JLA, a certain scene from very early in his JLA run came up, and drmcninja asked for scans.
No problem. I think it's been posted before, but I couldn't find it. Oh well. Here's the context.
The year was holy shit 1997? That's like 14 years ago, damn I feel old.
A-hem. Anyway, the state of the Justice League was . . . not too good. The people on the League were shall we say not quite the cream of the crop, and sales of the various spin-offs were down. Mark Waid and Fabian Nicieza wrote a mini-series that was meant to do two things.
1) Consolidate the League into one book. No more Justice League Europe, Justice League Task Force, Extreme Justice and so on. Just the one book, just the one team. JLA, the Justice League of America.
2) Put the heavy hitters on the the team. The best of the best, the cream of the crop. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Martian Manhunter, Aquaman. The dream team.
After this miniseries, Justice League: A Midsummer's Night Dream, the new title launched, with Grant Morrison providing scripts, and relative newcomer Howard Porter on pencils. Porter had never done a high profile team book before (his resumé at the time was pretty much The Ray and Underworld Unleashed), and though his work showed a lot of promise for the time, it hasn't exactly aged well.
But we're not here to rag on someone's artistic skill, today (in fact, I really like his early JLA stuff, barring a few minor examples). We're here to watch Grant Morrison work his comic book magic.
Some people have cited Morrison's JLA as the first real "widescreen" blockbuster storytelling that Ellis and Hitch would be known for in The Authority. Maybe. All I know is, with a team of Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, the Flash, Aquaman, and Batman, the threats they would have to face would have to be larger than life, and Morrison delivered. But Morrison is also in love with examining super hero comics, dealing with them on a metatextual level, and even in his first outing on JLA, he allows himself to indulge in more of it.
But enough of my ramblings. We're here for awesome.
It is a summer day in Washington, D.C., and a shadow has fallen over the White House. A literal shadow, and while the president is trying to figure out how to deal with a diplomatic situation in some South American country, he's called to the window--
Unfortunately, the Justice League isn't what it once was, and the League Satellite is currently manned only by Metamorpho (Rex Mason), Nuklon (or Atom-smasher, or whatever he calls himself these days, Albert Rothstien), and Icemaiden (Sigrid Nansen). Fire's out mysteriously sick. (Flamebird, who was supposed to be at the White House as the President's superhuman security, was also. Hmmmm . . .) They're kind of quietly panicking over the big giant spaceship--"It must be miles across," Albert says--until Superman flies down to D.C.
Supes saunters over, a couple guys in armor telling him that a couple "eggs" came out of the ship just before he showed up. There's a noise, Superman asks the men to step back until they know what they're up against, and someone steps out of an egg-thing, saying "People of Earth, greetings! Allow us to introduce ourselves..."
We cut to news footage of the Hyperclan making an impression (there's a brief digression of Linda asking Wally about picking up her jacket from the dry cleaners while he's watching the 'clan on the news, and in the next panel, the jacket's on the counter and Wally's asking if he missed anything. It's just a cute little scene). The 'clan claim that their world was destroyed by negligence, greed, and profiteering, and that they've vowed the same would never happen again, that they've journeyed through space for millennia to find "A world like this one."
Presumably one in danger of falling apart like theirs was, so they can fix the mess. Yay! Environmental superheroes! That always turns out well!
Anyway, others are watching the Hyperclan's impromptu news conference, including Diana and the Sandsmarks ("He looks like Jim Morrison, Diana! He's gorgeous!" Cassie says), Kyle Rayner at a drawing desk, and J'onn Jonzz sitting alone at his TV set, a pile of VHS cassettes (remember them, anyone?) nearby, of Alien Autopsy, Aliens, Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind, E.T., etc. Protex continues on about how they're here to help, and that they welcome any other super heroes who'll aid them. His speech ends, but news coverage continues, as the Hyperclan "fix" the Sahara desert, turning it into arable land. Superman is shown in a soundbite expressing concern that such widespread ecological change can't be easily sustained, but the reporters criticize his criticism ("Sounds like sour grapes to me," one remarks). Protex is shown responding with what sounds like fairness at first, but then turns into condescension. "I understand his reservations and I'd be glad to discuss them. If he wants to know where to find me, I'll be out 'fixing' the world." The anchor sums it up as "The reactive vs the proactive," and wonders what's next for the Hyperclan after their first stunning day.
What's next is executions.
Granted, they're supervillains (and Wolverine? What? And is that Dr. Doom, next?) but Superman is quoted as saying "It won't happen again." On board the League Satellite, Metamorpho, Kyle and Diana are not pleased, either, but they pick up lifeform traces in nearby space, and coming closer.
The Satellite is under attack.
Anyway, Nuklon--apparently he's there too--immediately assumes it's the Hyperclan, but Kyle is all "but we're on the same side..." and suddenly there's a hull breach. They retreat, Kyle holding the invaders off with a pseudo-Grimlock construct, and--
While Diana is kicking space ass, the former Leaguers--including Obsidian (Todd Rice); I guess he's there too?--try to abandon ship, but the power to the escape pods are down, too, so Rex engulfs them in an ersatz pod, but Albert wonders aloud "What happens when you hit atmosphere? What happens when you hit ground?" Rex just tells him to shut up and launches himself.
Meanwhile, the first page a lot of people at the time really liked Kyle in.
Now, to understand why that was, you've kinda got to understand how things were for Kyle at this time. We had Emerald Twilight where Hal Jordan became a mass murdering psycho and Zero Hour where he apparently died trying and failing to reboot the universe, and while a lot of people at this time were apathetic to Hal at best, having his character be assassinated just so some new guy--who, frankly, wasn't really very interesting at first, either--take over the role (especially in contrast to how Wally took over Barry's position) caused a lot of people to dislike Kyle on principle. Plenty were willing to give him a chance, but the way a bunch of guest stars kept saying he was a worthy successors after only one adventure with him didn't do much to endear him to the audience, either.
The point isn't that Kyle was a bad character, quite the contrary--I believe that there are no bad characters--it's just that he was kind of mishandled at first, and it sort of wasn't until around this time, particularly when Grant Morrison wrote him in JLA, that people really started getting excited about him and thinking "This guy's got potential!" Good writing tends to do that (a similar thing happened with Cassie Sandsmark in Young Justice. Before she appeared in the title, not too many people cared about the girl. She was okay, maybe a little bit of a brat. Suddenly, He Who Shall Not Be Named started writing her, and she became the character so many comic book fans grew to love . . . and who no longer appears in comics . . . oh well. Them's the breaks).
Where was I? Oh, yeah. Awesomeness.
We cut to The Hyperclan, excavating . . . a futuristic city out of Antarctica? Protex narrates that they apparently have been to Earth before . . . and name drops "brass gongs," and "warmills." Well, that's not ominous. Then he refers to the city as "Z'onn Z'orr." Hmm. Where have we seen that punctuation and name style before???
We cut back to the ex-Leaguers, barreling to Earth at sub-orbital speed. Rex starts filling the air pocket his teammates are in with some kind of shock absorbing fluid, to protect his occupants from the impact.
And then they smash into the ground, Metamorpho having sacrificed himself to save the others.
Ain't got time to grieve, though, the pace is too fast!
The Flash and Superman are too fast, too. Supes is flying and Flash is doing that thing where he can run on water. Apparently, Superman has just finished telling Wally about these events, which occurred "last night." Wally's confused about Rex's status. Supes says the doctors called him "inert," and that the others are badly injured. There's a nice bit where Clark says "... counting on you to keep everyone together, Wally. You've worn a costume longer than most of us. And your speed allows you the time to check in with everyone." Wally says he's got a "serious problem with this guy who's Green Lantern all of a sudden..." which is a cute little bit of backwards reference. Hal and Barry were fast friends almost immediately, but Wally and Kyle were at best antagonistic towards each other, and at worst hated each other . . . at first. Later on, they were great pals, but it took some time.
Anyway, Wally, after asking Superman if this is a race, speeds up to where Diana, J'onn, and Kyle are watching more news coverage of the Hyperclan. Two whole panels later, Superman shows up, saying that he talked to Protex about what happened to the Satellite, and that he denied Hyperclan involvement. Supes thinks he's lying.
The others are essentially prepping to confront the 'clan. Wally asks "Is everyone in?" J'onn replies that Aquaman hasn't replied, and they're still waiting on Batman--
--Who has "been here" for an hour, up in the workings near the ceiling, behind them. He hops down.
"hh! Gadget worked!" I love that bit. It's the first time Batman's even appeared in the issue, and he steals the whole show.
The above scene does not appear in the issue.
We open to a gathering of press at Z'onn Z'orr, and one reporter tells . . . the reader . . . that this is just one of three places on Earth that the Hyperclan will "work their magic." We cut to both of the other places, in the middle of the Pacific, and the Gobi desert, and a giant dome-like building pops out of the sand, and a globe suspended in a futuristic oil rig surfaces out of the ocean. Back at Antarctica, Protex, Primaid, and A-Mortal arrive, and while the other two brush off questions from the press, Protex explains that these three buildings, Watchtowers, will help the 'clan "fix" the Earth. "The Hyperclan is here to stay. You can print that."
We cut to--
So Diana flies to the Pacific Watchtower at the speed of Hermes, currently Mach 3, the narration informs us. When she arrives, she's thinking of the Coriolis effect, which causes water in the northern hemisphere to trend to drain in a clockwise direction, but she's looking at a whirlpool that spins counterclockwise . . . and then she's clocked by Fluxus (the big stone-like looking Hyperclanner, whose power is apparently shapeshifting). Diana gives him a chance to explain himself before they have to start fighting, and Fluxus replies there is nothing to explain. "We're going to kill you, all of you, and then we're going to enslave this lush little world of yours. What do you think of that? Hmm--"
To which Diana responds with a left jab, sending Fluxus cartwheeling across the sea, skipping on the surface twice before he starts sinking.
"I think you underestimate us."
So, there. A humpback begins surfacing, and Diana gets ready. "All right. Come on, then. Take whatever shape you want. I am ready for . . . Hera!"
It's Aquaman! Using his mental control to ride the humpback! Or maybe it's a sperm whale! Get your mind out of the gutter!
Arthur is confused about what's happening, and Diana asks him if he even heard the Justice League Alert. "I heard it. I ignored it." He then pontificates on how he's busy as king of the undersea realm and that he has no interest in League business or the surface world anymore. He gestures at her with his hook. "I don't need you here. I don't want you here. If there's a problem, I'll deal with it. Understand?"
She does, but tells him not to point that thing at her, she's known him too long. That this might not seem like his problem right now, but if the Hyperclan succeed at seizing control of the planet, that'll probably include whatever is under the sea, as well. Arthur's not buying it. "I'll decide what my problems are, Diana, and the sea is my responsibility, not yours."
"Oh, stop posturing, Arthur," Diana replies. "'The sea is my responsibility,' what a ridiculous thing to say."
"Posturing? Who's posturing? I have a legitimate claim to..."
At this point, Tronix, the partially armored woman with facial piercings shows up, claiming that's what she likes about Earth heroes: no discipline.
So Arthur tries sending schools of fish against the Watchtower, but gets k.o.'ed--presumably by Fluxus--off panel. Diana gets k.o.'ed on panel when Tronix zappifies her.
They croon about their victory, claiming that "killing that Daxamite priest out by the Krypton gulf was harder than this, and he was a pacifist!"
We cut to Wally and Kyle in the Gobi desert, waiting for J'onn. Wally chide's Kyle for taking "ages" to catch up ("ages" being 3 minutes), and Kyle lost track of J'onn over the Bering Strait. Kyle wonders if the Gobi desert has a toilet, and Wally thinks it's all toilet. They notice a dust cloud in the distance, and think it must be J'onn, but it turns out to be Züm of the Hyperclan. Wally says he'll handle this, and zips off at superspeed, while Kyle gets lassoed by Zenturion, the Hyperclan guy with a shield, and commands Armek, the hyperclanner in Hulkbuster armor, to "Smash his face to bloody paste!"
Armek says to "Forget the face, I'm going for his hands!"
And we cut to . . . where J'onn has mysteriously disappeared to.
There are several clues in what Protex says to J'onn as to the Hyperclan's real identity. I'll give you a hint: almost the title of a Heinlein novel.
Batman and Superman fly to the Antarctic in a two page spread, talking about the group dynamics and how Batman doesn't like working with superpeople. Batman reminds the audience he doesn't have any powers, and that he can't trust "Poorly trained people who do." Present company excluded. He picks up something on radar, and Supes identifies it at Primaid, closing fast.
Batman fires a couple of missiles at A-Mortal, who grabs them and chucks them back at the Batplane, and Superman backhands Primaid, who tried to sneak up on him . . . invisibly.
Hmm. Mind control, shapechanging, invisibility, superspeed and superstrength, familiarity with J'onn J'onzz's true form, the name of their city . . . almost all the clues are there.
Anyway, Supes sees the Batplane engulfed in flame, on a crash course with the ground, but before he can do anything about it, Protex shows up with a chunk of Kryptonite.
And that should be all of the clues. Can you figure out the mystery of the mega men from mouter space?
So Protex and Primaid gloat over Superman as he's bound and held helpless with Kryptonite poisoning, and that they're going to broadcast the execution of the entire Justice League live to the world.
But Batman is doing his thing, once again lurking on the workings in the ceiling.
Meanwhile, Wally and Züm are racing around the world, multiple times in only a few seconds. Wally is narrating, the way he did in his own series. "I'm Wally West. I'm the Flash. I was the fastest man alive." As they circle the globe, the wake of their running jostles a few people, including an I think Arab man in a bazaar who drops a pot as they pass. Züm is doing all sorts of tricks to thwart Wally, tossing loose bricks from a construction site at him. At the speeds they're going, if they connected it would be like multiple brick-size airplanes, but Wally manages to vibrate through them. Züm tries modulating his frequency as he's running, creating a strobe effect that messes with his head. But Wally doesn't give up. He recalls his mentorship by Barry Allen, and how Barry would spout off little bits of science trivia during their crime fighting, usually how it related to applications of their powers, and that he'd call them Flash Facts. So Wally remembers a bit about relativistic effects, and how the faster something goes, the more mass it has. He accelerates past Züm, takes a swing, and--
I love this sequence so much. I wish I could show more, but page limits.
Kyle, meanwhile, is still in the Gobi desert, facing off with Zenturion and Armek, while Zenturion is strangling Kyle with his lasso. Kyle manages to use his ring to catch Zenturion's head in a vice, so he orders Armek to use his camouflage mode to turn himself yellow. Heh. Their intelligence is outdated, it would seem. Of course, even if it weren't, a GL could handle a yellow guy in this circumstance easy. But Kyle creates a mech suit construct of his own, saying "I'm your worst nightmare, pal."
Wally shows up in the nick of time to catch Zenturion's discus/shield and throw it back at him with a speed force assist. I like how the two youngest guys manage to take out three of the Hyperclan while Aquaman, Wonder Woman, and Superman are, at least at first, beaten by them. But the story's not over.
And Batman hasn't yet taken his turn.
However, before he does, Wally and Kyle rush to the Gobi Watchtower and manage to get inside . . . where they hear a transmission about how the Hyperclan are going to execute the Leaguers they have in their custody. Wally finds a handheld device and they learn there's an invasion force orbiting Earth that they couldn't detect because it's in hyperspace or something. Kyle asks Wally how he got it to work on the first try, and Wally says "I didn't. I just tried a thousand different combinations at superspeed." That's awesome, though you'd think such an advanced group would have a simple countermeasure against such brute force attempts on their security. Oh well. They start piecing it together, that the Hyperclan must be an advance group for the invasion force, to soften Earth up, and that the guys who attacked the Satellite must be part of the invasion. So Nuklon's immediate gut reaction that the Hyperclan was attacking was half-right, half-wrong. Anyway, Wally figures they're in trouble, which Zenturion agrees to. He and Armek are back in action.
Uh-oh. Looks like the two youngest guys get overpowered by the Hyperclan goons, too. Off panel. Again.
Anyway, Wally, Kyle, Arthur, and Diana are put in something called the Flower of Wrath, a multiple occupancy sci-fi Iron Maiden type thing that closes on a countdown. They're all unconscious, but Superman isn't, and the 'clan gloats about J'onn J'onzz betraying the league and joining up with them.
And then just as they're about to start the broadcast, A-Mortal says they've lost 5 security drones on the upper levels. "We should have made sure Batman was dead. What if it's him?"
Well, then you're screwed, Hyperclan. You're screwed.
So Zenturion, Fluxus, and Tronix go looking for Batman, and in a darkened hallway, they find A-Mortal's last position. There's a strange smell, but no A-Mortal . . . at least at first. But then they find him unconscious, trussed up, hanging from the ceiling, with a hastily scrawled note pinned to his chest. "I know your secret," it boasts.
"I thought you said," Fluxus says, "the Batman had no superpowers.
Tronix snaps back, "I thought you said!" And then whispers "This isn't possible."
Zenturion orders someone to call Protex, to tell him they have a problem, but then they find Batman as he's spreading something around on the floor, and encircle him.
It ignites, and the 'clanners start panicking. Batman just squeezes his fist in one hand, popping his knuckles, and says, "Ready when you are."
And the issue ends on a cliffhanger, with the warships descending to Earth, and Protex claiming, "We win! WE WIN!"
So Batman's figured out what the League is up against.
And now Superman has, too. Since the Kryptonite isn't real, he heat visions Protex, who realizes in a breathless whisper, "He knows!"
"You're MARTIANS!" Superman yells as he busts out of his restraints. He says he thought J'onn was the last one, or he might have seen it before. Protex sneers that the knowledge wouldn't have saved him, then or now, and it won't save Earth, and unleashes a burst of Martian laser vision.
Primaid alerts . . . Armek, the only one left, to watch out for Superman's laser vision, but Armek's not here right now. It's actually J'onn in disguise. Primaid shrieks at him, calls him betrayer. Superman offers to fight fair, without his heat vision, but Protex sneers he'll stick to his own rules. Also, Armek and Züm are coming back. Primaid and J'onn fight, J'onn trying to reason with her, Martian to Martian. Primaid just tackles him, but he has the presence of mind to stop the Flower of Wrath thing, before it closes.
Kyle and Wally double team Armek, Wally zipping off and back with a bunch of candles to surround him with. Kyle goes for the direct approach, and smushes him with a 16 ton construct, like from a cartoon.
Züm taunts Arthur. "What can you do? You can't fly or run fast, can you? Your skin may be tough but no so tough I cann't just . . . cut through." He whips his arm against a nearby boulder at superspeed, demonstrating his cutting though.
"What can you do, apart from talk to fish?"
Oh, silly Züm. You've been watching too much Filmation. Arthur doesn't talk to the creatures of the sea.
He commands them, and they obey.
"Let me think," he replies, calm as a sea cucumber. "I can locate your brain's basal ganglia, the part inherited from your marine ancestors . . ."
So much awesome on just one page. "For starters, I can give you a seizure." Quipping failure. "Wonder Woman happened to Primaid." Kyle's telescope. "She went up there." So. Much. Win.
Meanwhile, Superman and Protex are attempting to cause an Earthquake, but Supes has actually been digging and digging to the Earth's mantle. You know, where all the magma is? The hot, firey magma. Protex tries the old "You could rule the world!" spiel on him, but he ain't buying.
"You know in your heart they're inferior!"
Nope, says Superman's one punch. "They believe in me. And in my heart I believe in them."
There were eight of the Hyperclan. Batman, alone, accounted for half of 'em.
That's why he's the Goddamn Batman!
But there's still an invasion fleet on the way. Then again, the Hyperclan watchtower was all set to broadcast across the globe. All they gotta do is warn the world properly and they should be able to drive off the Martians, right? But they've only got seconds, how do they properly warn and arm the human populace in just seconds?
Superman gets on the horn, and--
So the invasion force lands on the Earth only to surrender.
There's just the question of what to do with them, now. J'onn, being the only other living Martian, has the responsibility to pass judgement and declare sentence on the White Martians. From one of their ships in what's here called the "Still Zone," he says "Martians are shapechangers, Superman. We're familiar with a wide range of mind control techniques. There are . . . methods. Punishments. You might not approve but I must be the final arbiter. You were not there."
At the end, in an epilogue, we learn the White Martians are shapechanged into humans and given false memories of being humans. That won't come back to bite the League, nope nope.
Anyway, we end with the philosophical definition of the League, and the purpose of superheroes in the DCU:
And the League build a Watchtower on the moon, their new headquarters to replace the destroyed League satellite. From a viewport overlooking the Earth, Kyle claims it has a "Nice view."
And so there you have it. Morrison's "widescreen" Justice League. The dream team. The big 7. The most powerful men and woman, and the most dangerous man. Hope you enjoy, drmcninja!
Aaron "The Mad Whitaker" Bourque; this was a lot longer than I was expecting! . . . could someone give me a hand with the tags?