Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Seconds To Go (DC)
JLA: Classified #3 When: March 2005
Why: Grant Morrison How: Ed McGuinness

The Story So Far...
With the Justice League trapped on a mission to the infant universe of Qwewq; it's up to the International Ultramarine Corps to respond to disaster in Africa!
Gorilla Grodd, having allied himself with the mysterious cosmic being, Neh-Buh-Loh, has begun a path of destruction intended for the entire Earth!

The Ultramarine Corps quickly find themselves overwhelmed by Grodd and his ape-army, leaving the Knight's sidekick, Squire, to make a call to her mentor's American counterpart - The Batman! The Dark Knight summons his secret arsenal of bizarre and alien technologies, as well as the resources of the League itself, in an effort to rally against Grodd and the Nebula Man.

He leaves Squire to make contact with Qwewq, leading an inhuman proxy-League to distract from the true team's absence. His automatons prove insufficient in battle with the Corps; now under the manipulation of Grodd. With Batman defeated, the Justice League are needed more than ever, but will their escaped from the infant universe come too late?...

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Nebula Man 7 (Omnipotent)
Intelligence: Gorilla Grodd 5 (Professor)
Speed: Flash 7 (Lightspeed)
Stamina: Goraiko 7 (Unstoppable)
Agility: Glob 7 (Unlimited)
Fighting Ability: Wonder Woman 6 (Warrior)
Energy Power: The Master 7 (Cosmic Power)

- The Justice League of America are: Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Flash, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Martian Manhunter.

Born of necessity; the Justice League represent a coordinated effort by the world's finest heroes to protect and serve in the many iterations of their regional representation, and on a global scale. Boasting some of the planet's most powerful humans and extra-terrestrials, the League is equipped to combat any threat that should overwhelm the individual efforts of their member, or conventional defenses of the world's nations.

The League is classically defined by the core membership of it's founding members, affectionately referred to as the big seven. Overseen by stalwarts, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, they are; Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman and Martian Manhunter. Several of these members would come to be succeeded by others baring their name, Wally West and Kyle Rayner, while many other heroes would come to be prominently listed with the group; Hawkman, Atom, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Zatanna, Elongated Man, Firestorm, Captain Marvel, Red Tornado, Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Fire, Ice, and others.

- The Ultramarine Corps are: The Knight, The Master, Goraiko, Vixen, Fleur-de-Lis, Olympian, Jack O'Lantern, Glob, Kid Impala and Tasmanian Devil; all acting under the influence of Gorilla Grodd and Neh-Buh-Loh.

Originally conceived as a government funded alternative to the Justice League of America; the original team of Warmaker One, Flow, 4-D, and Pulse 8 came to realise, during battle with the JLA, that General Wade Eiling, their superior officer, was insane. Consequently the team rebelled against the the United States. Repulsed and distrusting of government influence, the team construct a man-made city hovering over Uruguay called Superbia, where they invite similarly despondent heroes from around the world to join their cause.

The Math: JLA (Avg) Ultramarine Corps (Ttl) Ranking: Batman (#2)

What Went Down...
The Justice League return to their home Earth in the nick of time, as Gorilla Grodd sets the mind-controlled Ultramarine Corps on a world now unprotected!

Goraiko is first to make it's presence known as the Japanese giant descends on a city braced for chaos. The monster's leaping rampage demolishes massive chunks of the city, making John Stewart's return the perfect solution to architectural catastrophe!

Using the energy of his Green Lantern ring, and a little professional know-how, Stewart sets about scaffolding and repairing the structures now threatening lives in Goraiko's wake.

Below; the Flash uses his manipulation and transference of the Speed Force to protect endangered citizens at street level. "Spinning their molecules like plates," the Flash is soon forced to deviate to rescued his own teammate, who suffers a reality-warping attack from The Master, whose Quantum Keyboard allows him to momentarily reinstitute the yellow 'parallax' flaw of his power ring.
Rescued by Flash, GL promptly returns with a flying uppercut for the Master!

Wonder Woman leaves Aquaman use of her invisible jet, descending to tackle the physical onslaught of former-Leaguer, Vixen, and Fleur-de-Lis. Aquaman's objective is a more specific one: to seek-out and pacify a little Japanese girl in a sensory deprivation tank, from whom Goraiko psychically manifests.

Meanwhile; Batman remains at the mercy of Gorilla Grodd, who takes great pleasure in taunting him with the promise of a world left in ashes by he and his ape world order. With Batman literally on a spit, Grodd roasts the dark knight, while recounting his prophecized fall and disgrace in ape culture. Grodd turns his back for just a moment, but it proves all the time Batman needs to free himself.

The dark knight turns the tables on his captors, knocking several of Grodd's soldiers out, before throwing a kick to Grodd's mid-section that both man and monkey can appreciate equally. "There goes the dynasty."

Above the Earth the Martian Manhunter uses telepathy to scan for Goraiko, but soon finds he is not alone. From atop an orbitting satellite Olympian tosses a discus with superhuman strength, knocking the Manhunter from Mars into a descent toward Earth. The reentry process plays upon his fears and weaknesses, heating his body to burning temperatures!

Olympian follows the fallen Manhunter to Earth, where he lays the finishing blows in the very crater of his landing place. There, he leaves the Martian to die alone, a fact he gloats when coming face-to-face with Aquaman, who takes leave of Wonder Woman's jet to deal with the water-monster, Glob.

Amidst a downpour, Wonder Woman finds combat of her own.
The Amazon's speed and strength gives her the edge as she fights back the Corps' mounting forces. A well timed jump leaves the super-speeding Kid Impala to spear tackle Vixen, while the Amazon's brute strength takes care of the sword wielding French heroine, Fleur-de-Lis, with a knock-out blow!

Wonder Woman puts her golden lasso of truth to good work, using it against the animalistic brute, Tasmanian Devil. It's magic ability to force the truth from anyone ensnared reveals the Devil's true nobility, seeing an end to Vixen and Impala with a deft blow from his fist.

Aquaman continues the confrontation with Olympian, meeting his spear with a weapon of his own! His trident fails to pierce the flesh of the godly powered Corpsman, but provides sufficient lead-in for an uppercut that leaves the Greek out cold! "You hurt J'onn? That was stupid."

Elsewhere; having captured Grodd, Batman reveals the assistance given to him by the disembodied spirit of the previously destroyed Warmaker One. The energy-based human is able to warn the detective of incoming intereference from his British counterpart, the Knight, and the Irish, Jack O'Lantern.

The Batman proves a match for the two man assault, but the arrival of Knight's sidekick Squire proves the turning point in their struggle. The youngster, piloting a Bat-spacecraft, lifts the veil of manipulation from Knight's mind, giving him will enough to wrench the controlling Sheeda imp from his neck, and squash it!

Meanwhile, the Man of Steel does battle with Neh-Buh-Loh, who reveals himself to be the adult incarnation of the sentient universe of Qwewq! Though his powers are incomaprable, the Nebula Man suffers Superman's powerful blows.
Claiming his alliance with Grodd as a successful test of the League's powers, Nebula Man makes an exit, with an ominous prophecy of chaos to come.

Across the Earth, having recovered from Olympian's attack, the Martian Manhunter reconstitutes and descends on Goraiko, who continues to march through populated cities. J'onn arrives in time to bare witness to the fruits of Aquaman's efforts, which make good use of the worldly monarch's linguistic skills!

With Grodd's army rounded up, and all threats to the Earth brought to an end, the League are able to liberate the remaining members of the Ultramarine Corps.
All in a day's work!

The Hammer...
Damn you to hades, Ed McGuinness! More on that later, but first, there you have it folks! The Justice League triumphant!
Hopefully that helps balance an otherwise minimized presence of the JLA in the Wars.

So, if you've been with us the past couple of weeks, there have been two seemingly contradictory lines of discussion converging on the Infinite Wars. With our focus on super-teams now at an end, I feel the challenge has been set to somehow reconcile these points regarding modern stories and traditional values. Fortunately, I have Grant Morrison to help me do exactly that!

Amongst many readers, typically Americans with fairly singular reference points, Morrison has a reputation for being a confusing shamanic nutjob. I tend to attribute that mostly to the ignorance of a readership I can feel very negatively toward, but at the same time, maybe it's unfair to expect Morrison's subversity to be readily recognised in an industry that does still seem to be debating the either, or the or.

I tend to write these discussions as they come, so it was quite by accident that I found myself at this juncture. Through the past few entries [New Invaders #1, JSA #64, Defenders #43] I've talked about the traditionalist positives of investment in characters and their history, and to that end, I think I've been very consistent. At the same time, I've also made disparaging remarks about the modern state of comics, and glamorized modern interpretations.

It's in the context of the either and the or that these seem to be polar opposities. Exposing myself recently to the Phantom fanbase, I got a very stark reminder of how exclusively fans can interpret qualities and elements from historic storytelling, and completely disengage them from modern filters.
The irony, perhaps, is that like a lot of the less admirable fans, I too feel the Phantom should change very little, although, the divergence comes from the interpretation of exactly what that means.

Morrison is not dissimilar to Geoff Johns in his ability to dust-off vintage comics and spin them in a contemporary context. In isolation, this is the simple point that's being made here, but unlike Johns, Morrison tends to be more apt at marrying the traditionalist tendencies of American superhero comics with more vibrant and contemporary influences.

This issue goes so far as to almost describe Morrison's desire for balance.
In chastizing the shamed characters of the story, Morrison directs what is almost certainly his own philosophy, through the voice of Superman. He describes the irrelevance of day-to-day procedure in fantastical fiction, reflecting the often single-minded thought processes of modern comics readers, who all too often observe their stories with the trendy contextually naive hi-brow of CSI-style procedural interpretation. I mean the silly TV show, too. Not the real-life organizations it's often confused with.

"These "no-nonsense" solutions of yours just don't hold water in a complex world of jet-powered apes and time travel," says Superman.

Again, I don't want to appear to be contradicting myself with a similarly single-minded notion that all fiction should be elastic.
Morrison himself, despite bucking against the trends of a post-80's stoicism, writes a short-spoken Batman who's deliciously gritty and internalized, to a degree that puts All-Star Batman & Robin's Miller to shame! Then again, to better describe the point, he does so fully acknowledging the absurdity of the character whose cabinet includes a Dr. Who Dalek, the Lost in Space robot's claw, and an Apokalips designed boom tube gauntlet.

"I'm opening the sci-fi closet, Alfred. Don't tell my friends in the G.C.P.D. about this. Robin and the others can watch Gotham for me tonight. I have a feeling things are about to get strange." - Batman prepares.

With McGuinness on pencils, Morrison's League are mostly distilled to what you'd expect of them, albeit, in a very sexy and modern package. They are exactly as they should be, yet, Morrison, who feels so much like a genuine fan of the fiction and characters, milks more out of them than you often see.
Amidst discussions about Aquaman [like; A League of their Own!] I get a little thrill out of Aquaman speaking Japanese; or Wonder Woman using her lasso to circumvent mind-control. These themselves do well to explain the way Morrison brings the traditional and contemporary schools of thought together, but it's even more poignantly described in the League's relationship with the Corps; a group of heroes who number quantum manipulating reality sculpter, and the haiku/algebra spouting psycho-manifestation of a child in a sensory deprivation chamber.

Morrison brings the old and the new together beautifully, and that's really where the Infinite Wars lies. History has it's place and it's firm importance on the way in which we interpret our stories today, but those rules of the fiction don't necessarily have to be as binding as they're so often interpreted.

Also, to bring it back to the beginning, damn Ed McGuinness for his part in the matter. The superstar artist crossed back to Marvel not too long ago, to sign an exclusive contract that will no doubt keep him at the House of Ideas for a couple of years. Which means there's almost certainly no chance of seeing his bold, but simple pencils gracing any of Morrison's scripts any time soon.

In a way I think McGuinness also does well to punctuate the notion of the old and the new together. Though his art evokes similarly Japanese underpinnings to elements in Morrison's writing, there's an undeniable presence of traditional American comics, and the strength of simplicity in the form.
The guy might have been born to draw the Hulk, but damned if I'm not going to miss the prospect of more in his catalogue of significant DC work. Especially with Morrison rising to the helm to police creative direction with Final Crisis.

Speaking of DC events, it's worth noting, for you avid Googlers out there, that this issue of JLA: Classified ties quite directly into Morrison's last major event; Seven Soldiers of Victory. That series details not only the continued menace of Neh-Buh-Loh (Nebula Man), but also the incursion of the Sheeda, and the results of the Ultramarine Corps inhabitance of the infant universe, Qwewq, that grows up to be Neh-Buh-Loh. (Here's a hint; their role as the hero-less universe's new protectors doesn't go so well...)

The Fight: 6 The Issue: 6.5

This is comics! Morrison is at his absolute finest with this Justice League, and you can get the full story, as well as the collected JLA/Wildcats, all in the one JLtrade from Amazon! Amazon not only feature some insane pricing, but by using purchase links provided on the site, you help fund future entries into the infant universe of Infinite Wars!

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