JUSTICE LEAGUE PART 1: FRANCHISE AMERICA!
Since their 1960 inception the Justice League have been the premiere organized crime-fighting unit. Offering selections of some of the DC Universe's finest heroes, the JL's recruitment philosophy has varied to include; regional concern, covert operations, villain-centric obstacles, and the goal to assemble the cream of the crop. The latter arguably makes up the most famous incarnation of the League, constructed to represent versions of the leading corner posts of the DCU, and colloquially known as "the big seven."
Despite their eclectic origins, the Justice League remains popularly associated with it's foundations in the United States. Last year we paused to consider what might truly be possible for the team if they were to reinstate the now defunct branch of Justice League International. While considering this, the Infinite Wars constructed a draft of potential members for our own international team.
Since then; Final Crisis has plunged the entire DC multiverse into chaos, forcing the many factions of heroes and villains to unite their powers as a single force, not just for good in their world, but all fifty-two key worlds!
Overwhelming odds were thwarted as the heroes marched against a Darkseid victorious, and reversed their fates! Though the harrowing events of the Final Crisis were smoothed over by the Miracle Machine's ability to grant a single wish (to Superman), the DCU remains a changed world. Among the apparent casualties of Final Crisis; Martian Manhunter, Hawkman, Hawkgirl, and Batman. Joining them soon in their absence will be Superman, who opts to take a little time off-world to foster a new Kryptonian society in the post-New Krypton Super-titles.
With all of this new information at hand - including the stakes and relationships raised in Final Crisis - we take opportunity to revise our previous thoughts about a possible Justice League reinvention. In fact, in this universe that has overcome the endless armies of great evil, we now see the need to amass great good as well. Thus, throughout February, we reveal to you just one possible plan for a Justice League suited to every occasion, as inspired by Final Crisis!
This week we begin with the obvious: the Justice League of America.
Despite being geographically restricted to the most populated hub of superhero activity, we have to recognise that the JLA are the best known version of the team, regardless of locale. I rather like to think of this team as being as internationally accessible as DC's comics, even if their membership and promotion is bloated with reference to their most immediate sanction.
In keeping with the tradition of "the big seven"; our JLA does it's best to build on the forces assembled during Final Crisis, while also representing the traditional cornerstones of the DCU. Everyone on this team should carry a certain weight, which was something worth considering while balancing the various factors, including attempts to account for the skills lost with Batman and Superman.
Wonder Woman (Diana)
Alt. Affiliation: [Amazons]
First Appearance: [All-Star Comics #8]
Year One:  JLA Year: 
Cumulative Rank: [#15] Win Percentage: [54.55%]
2006: [#115] 2007: [#43] 2008: [#7] 2009: [DNR]
With her Trinity teammates out of the picture, it stands to reason that now would be the time to allow Wonder Woman a bigger piece of the spotlight. We've discussed in the past that, despite her apparent qualifications, the situation never quite arises for WW to emerge as a leading force for good.
In a situation of finality that acknowledges the absence of her fellows, (including emotional favourite and unofficial 'heart of the league,' Martian Manhunter), I can think of few others with enough weight to rally the spirits of a new group.
While she might've been the least redeemed casualty of the Anti-Life Equation, Wonder Woman cannot be underestimated! An asset for both her physical and mental prowess, the all-star line-up of the League should provide an arena where Wonder Woman can be free to shine in both respects, without being marginalized to occasional scenes of punching and/or mothering.
Green Lantern (John Stewart)
Alt. Affiliation: [Green Lantern Corps]
First Appearance: [Green Lantern #87]
Year One:  JLA Year: 
Cumulative Rank: [#31] Win Percentage: [100%]
2006: [DNR] 2007: [#139] 2008: [#16] 2009: [DNR]
The Alpha Lanterns were created to be an incorruptable force beyond the measure of an average Green Lantern, but during their investigation into the murder of Orion, weaknesses were exposed as the New Gods sought new form.
Any extra-terrestrial arrogancies must surely have been lost after Darkseid's interest in Earth turned the Corps themselves into an instrument of destruction that very nearly created catastrophe on a universal scale!
With a renewed respect for terran threat; I'd like to think the Guardians might initiate John Stewart into the League as an official liaison between the Corps and Earth's superheroes. This not only gives the League a much-needed cosmic awareness, but also a uniquely versatile power in the field. We all know the Lantern ring is the most powerful weapon in the universe, but that power is only as good as the will of the wearer, and as we saw in Final Crisis, John Stewart's will is iron clad!
Flash (Barry Allen)
Alt. Affiliation: [The Speed Force]
First Appearance: [Showcase #4]
Year One:  JLA Year: 
Cumulative Rank: [#29] Win Percentage: [100%]
2006: [DNR] 2007: [#38] 2008: [#63] 2009: [#2]
Barry Allen might've spent the last twenty-three years on the bench, but somehow during his return in Final Crisis, it felt like he'd never been away.
That isn't a glowing review of the decision to bring the character back from death, but rather an acknowledgment of the unique insight the character provides.
In representing the tradition of the League and the useful representation of a speedster, it stands to reason that this group would take the A-lister. I'm a little reluctant to write Wally West off all together, but since Infinite Crisis, it's been a rough ride for the legacy hero, both on and off the page!
Getting back up to speed with the world he left behind should be a breeze for the fastest man alive. His experience with bizarre circumstances and seniority is also an attractive prospect for a team balancing the old with the new. Like GL, he fullfils a staple requirement of the big seven formula, and brings a uniquely powerful ability to a team sure to butt heads with top-tier terror.
Captain Marvel (Freddy Freeman)
Alt. Affiliation: [Marvel Family]
First Appearance: [Whiz Comics #25]
Year One:  JLA Year: [NA]
Cumulative Rank: [#290] Win Percentage: [50%]
2006: [DNR] 2007: [#336] 2008: [#134] 2009: [DNR]
Those out of the loop should know that Freddy Freeman ain't no junior, anymore! When the Wizard Shazam was destroyed by the Spectre, the power and responsibility he shouldered was passed on to a successor handpicked as his champion of Earth -- Billy Batson! Captain Marvel's resulting absence had to be accounted for, leading to a competition trial that eventually allowed Freddy Freeman to step into a role he had been groomed for, for years!
As Jr, Freddy racked up plenty of miles of experience, but as the new big red on the block, there's bound to be an air of uncertainty about the character. It stands to reason that the Marvel Family, worthy of spotlight in Final Crisis, should be spoken for in this assembly of DC powerhouses. After playing an important role in the Anti-Life resistance, Freeman seems more than ready to step up accordingly!
Among other skills; Captain Marvel's strength of Hercules provides valuable back-up in the brute force stakes, filling in for Superman.
Mr. Miracle (Shilo Norman)
Alt. Affiliation: [New Gods]
First Appearance: [Mister Miracle #15]
Year One:  JLA Year: [NA]
Cumulative Rank: [DNR] Win Percentage: [DNR]
2006: [DNR] 2007: [DNR] 2008: [DNR] 2009: [DNR]
Having previously served as a stand-in replacement for Scott Free; Shilo Norman is much more qualified for full admission into the League than some might think.
With motherboxxx and a unique array of gadgets in tow; Miracle provides an interesting substitution for the absent Batman. Interestingly enough, one of Norman's great claims to fame can be that of escaping from the predicament that currently positions Bruce Wayne somewhere outside of time and space as we know it. Darkseid's Omega Sanction, the "death that is life," seemingly took Batman's life, but as Shilo Norman can attest, there's much more to it than that!
After playing a vital role in Earth's survival during Final Crisis; I think it's fair to recognise the unique role Mister Miracle can play. As a hero walking between the worlds of men and gods, his insights become far more than the simple pageantry of an escape artist, entering into the true realm of impossibility.
Zatanna (Zatanna Zatara)
Alt. Affiliation: [Sentinels of Magic]
First Appearance: [Hawkman #4]
Year One:  JLA Year: 
Cumulative Rank: [#63] Win Percentage: [66.67%]
2006: [#12] 2007: [DNR] 2008: [DNR] 2009: [DNR]
When her role in altering the memories and mental capacity of villains was exposed, Zatanna's relationship with the Justice League deteriorated. Weighed down by the burden of her near limitless skills, Zatanna embarked on a journey of self-discovery, finding her way into the life of Batman shortly before his apparent death in Final Crisis.
The culmination of Darkseid's global domination, Batman's death, and maybe even a Shilo Norman delivered glimmer of hope, would surely be enough to inspire Zatanna to return as a vital component within the League.
Her vast mystic capabilities and connections to the realm of magic and occult provide the League with important knowledge, and defense, against threats with the potential to defy the very logics that empower the other heroes.
Zatanna would return to the League as a matured hero, ready to face her past, and move into the future freed of it's burden. In a team with only two heroes who experienced her secret past, Z has plenty of space to reconcile in her own time.
Atom (Ray Palmer)
Alt. Affiliation: [Challengers]
First Appearance: [Showcase #34]
Year One:  JLA Year: 
Cumulative Rank: [#102] Win Percentage: [50%]
2006: [#68] 2007: [#86] 2008: [DNR] 2009: [DNR]
After aiding Jimmy Olsen (and Orion) in their final battle against Darkseid [Countdown #2], Ray Palmer was unwittingly a catalyst for everything that came about as a result of Darkseid's fall from New Godhood. I don't know if he necessarily has anything to atone for, but I just thought I'd get that in.
As a seasoned member, Atom returns to this big picture League with a recent tour through the multiverse under his belt. As Final Crisis showed us, it isn't just his matter-altering white dwarf technology that makes him a superhuman asset, either. The scientific knowledge that unlocked those powers has been called upon by the League many times previous, even by Batman, whose intelligence would be well accounted for by the reinitiation of Ray Palmer!
Unique perspectives seem to be the throughline of this particular grouping, and while Atom represents another senior hero whose stature within the superhuman community is worthy of note, he also observes that not seen by others -- threats that might emerge on a subatomic level! It's handier than you'd think!
NEXT WEEK: The Justice League franchise branches out to resist!