Saturday, February 14, 2009

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 International branch. Since; 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 universes!

I would love to proliferate the potential grand significance of Final Crisis, but that seems destined to be a discussion for a much later date.

Grant Morrison's apocalyptic epic gave readers a taste of the chaos, disorienting with a structure described as "channel surfing" through the DCU in it's moment(s) of peril. In casting such a wide net over the evolving DC landscape, Morrison was able to suggest a multitude of ideas and interpretations, some more subtle than others. Of particular interest to us, the way in which the segmented heroes are able to unite in resistance against Darkseid and his viral Anti-Life Equation.

The untainted become acquainted in the Watchtower in FINAL CRISIS #4!These divisions of heroes are what inspired this series of articles, which began last week with our brand new big seven; Justice League America.

Seperated by the implicit purposes served during Final Crisis, we posit the theory that these four Leagues can emerge from great darkness, their relationships galvanized by the ordeal of their experience. They represent concise facets of the DC Universe, adding functionality to the sentimental origins of their listing. There is nothing to say there won't be development in these teams -- they are not ready-made -- but the prospect of looking broader than the simple formula of the American team was one of the things that made Final Crisis so fantastic!

Today's team shares much in common with recent incarnations of the League, but is built from the unlikely group of survivors who banded together to combat the spread of the Anti-Life Equation. Their efforts were among the vital components in a complex uniting of efforts to defeat Darkseid and his hope of creating the fifth world on an Earth on the brink of destruction. Ironic, given their make-up.

In many ways, this team fulfils the "America" brand far more practically than last week's candidates for the super-seven. This is a team closer to the streets, less equipped to deal with grandious cosmic threats, than they are more familiar dangers of a superhuman, criminal, or subversive design. They are the heroes capable of rising above themselves, utilizing subversive means, and fisticuffs, to stand firmly as the final resistance against overwhelming evil.

Black Canary (Dinah Lance)
Alt. Affiliation: [Birds of Prey]
First Appearance: [Justice League of America #219]
Year One: [1983] JLA Year: [1969]
Cumulative Rank: [#41] Win Percentage: [60%]
2006: [#69] 2007: [DNR] 2008: [#13] 2009: [#17]

Understanding exactly where Black Canary stands in Justice League history is a little tricky. Sharing a chopped up history with her pre Golden Age counterpart; the Canary's youthful persona probably made it particularly difficult to accept her when she recently ascended to a position of leadership over Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman. As awkward as the fast-promotion might've been, it's metatextual struggle found a place on the page, allowing her credentials to blossom just as anyone might grow into a role, in life!

During the spread of the Anti-Life Equation, the Canary was front-and-centre as a select few heroes and loved ones escaped to the Justice League Watchtower. There, they formed part of a last stand, doing what they could to repel the growing forces of Darkseid's Purifiers! Canary showed exactly how capable she was of tackling the quandary of leadership, a fighter to the end, even when forced to make terrible personal sacrifices.

Green Arrow (Oliver Queen)
Alt. Affiliation: [Outsiders]
First Appearance: [More Fun Comics #73]
Year One: [1941] JLA Year: [1961]
Cumulative Rank: [#22] Win Percentage: [55.56%]
2006: [#11] 2007: [#47] 2008: [#145] 2009: [DNR]

Always ready to stand for the downtrodden and innocent, Green Arrow has always been a hero ready to go to great lengths for the greater good. Uncompromising in his pursuit for justice, he is a hero who walks in two worlds, possessing only the powers money can buy, and those of training and dedication.

Where there's Black Canary, there's usually Green Arrow, sooner or later.
During the onset of Darkseid's Purifiers, it was Green Arrow who volunteered to be left behind, fighting to the end to allow his fellows to escape. It's dedication like that, and the experience of he and Canary's working relationship, that make them a valuable senior duo in any collective of heroes!

Black Lightning (Jefferson Pierce)
Alt. Affiliation: [Outsiders]
First Appearance: [Black Lightning #1]
Year One: [1977] JLA Year: [2007]
Cumulative Rank: [#81] Win Percentage: [100%]
2006: [DNR] 2007: [DNR] 2008: [#32] 2009: [DNR]

Only a fairly recent inductee into the 'Meltzer League'; Black Lightning could be accused of being a minority vote. I almost find it hard to believe that wasn't discussed at the table when it came to drafting time, but like a John Stewart or a Steel, this is a character who has far surpassed a charitable vote into the biggest superhero team in comics! Lightning's looked right at home hanging with the big boys for the best part of the decade, among his exploits, joining Green Arrow during Dr. Light's vengeful reawakening with the Society.

Lightning served as a vital cog in the resistance against Darkseid, risking his life to carry intelligence that provided the heroes a much needed defense against the powers of the fallen New Gods. Though he fell to become a slavish Purifier, his legacy was carried on by those he stopped to save. His message is vital to bridging the gap between the traditional Justice League, and those stepping up to any version of the League. He understands both perspectives, and is more than hero enough to embue any new member with inspiring values.

Tattooed Man (Mark Richards)
Alt. Affiliation: [The Society]
First Appearance: [Green Lantern #9]
Year One: [2006] JLA Year: [2008]
Cumulative Rank: [DNR] Win Percentage: [NA]
2006: [DNR] 2007: [DNR] 2008: [DNR] 2009: [DNR]

The man who carried the New Gods' circuit after Black Lightning fell?
That would be Tattooed Man; the Society's resident superhuman street thug from the Metropolis 'hood of Suicide Slum. A former marine; Richards possesses the ability to manipulate the animated Modora tattoos that adorn his body. His unique ability was vital in unlocking the secrets of the New God miracle circuit, that, when painted across his body, granted him (and others to bare it) immunity from the influences of the Anti-Life Equation.

When Black Lightning rescued Richards and his family from the onset of Darkseid's Purifiers, the villain was forced to grapple with his blind hatred for all things hero. In a world where society had buckled beneath the destructive evils of Darkseid and his minions, Richards is able to partially resolve his misgivings, finding the common ground between he and his fellow (super-) human beings.

It was Black Canary who granted Tattooed Man honrary status with the team, granting him brief membership with the establishment once his idealistic opposite. No tenure with the League would be smooth sailing, but for a conflicted individual enlightened by crisis, it might be the best place for him!

Supergirl (Kara Zor-El)
Alt. Affiliation: [Teen Titans]
First Appearance: [Action Comics #252]
Year One: [1959] JLA Year: [NA]
Cumulative Rank: [#233] Win Percentage: [100%]
2006: [DNR] 2007: [DNR] 2008: [#136] 2009: [DNR]

With Superman taking leave of his earthly duties to observe the progress of a New Krypton (inhabited by the freed citizens of Kandor); Supergirl provides this version of the League some much needed yellow-sun powered muscle, as well as the symbol of the S! While Metropolis benefits from the shared protection of Flamebird, the Guardian, Mon-El, Steel, and others, Supergirl is more than free to lend her might to this multi-facetted team.

Supergirl was one of the most resilient forces to withstand the onslaught of Darkseid and his Anti-Life Purifiers. She popularly clashed with a corrupted Mary Marvel, but also played a vital role in liberating the possessed quintent that made-up Darkseid's new Female Furies, which included Wonder Woman.
Despite her youth, this is a Supergirl who has been rapidly matured in the fires of terrible conflict! A worthy inclusion who has seen crisis, and lived to tell the tale.

The Ray (Ray Terrill)
Alt. Affiliation: [Freedom Fighters]
First Appearance: [The Ray #1]
Year One: [1992] JLA Year: [1993]
Cumulative Rank: [#519] Win Percentage: [0%]
2006: [DNR] 2007: [#272] 2008: [DNR] 2009: [DNR]

The Ray's light-based powers were another vital component in the network of skills assembled by the League's resistance aboard their satellite headquarters. Able to penetrate the blackout induced by the Anti-Life Equation by transforming himself into various beams of the vast spectrum of lights accessible to him, he was able to ferry information and people through the JLA teleporter.

Another of the younger heroes in the DCU, Ray has benefitted not only from his status a legacy hero to the previous Ray, but also the company kept by his father, who provided invaluable mentoring as the Freedom Fighters.
Experienced and versatile, he provides unique skills well suited to this team compromised of subversive street warriors, and big-time superheroes.

Bulleteer (Alix Harrower)
Alt. Affiliation: [Seven Soldiers]
First Appearance: [Seven Soldiers: The Bulleteer #1]
Year One: [2005] JLA Year: [2006]
Cumulative Rank: [#236] Win Percentage: [100%]
2006: [DNR] 2007: [DNR] 2008: [#139] 2009: [DNR]

Despite only recently being thrown into the realm of superheroes, Alix Harrower has seen plenty of action! Her origins lie in the humble research of her husband who aspired to use his metallic "smartskin" to model himself after the Golden Age heroes, Bulletman and Bulletgirl, in the pursuit of hero celebrity. While the process killed her husband, Alix was protected from the suffocating side effects of her new metallic skin, allowing her to become her own hero.

A long series of curious cameos in times of conflict [ie; Green Lantern #25] has made Bulleteer a seasoned oddity in the landscape of the DCU. After joining the League briefly during the post-Infinite Crisis [52] one year absence of Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman, later fighting alongside the valiant heroes of Earth's last stand against Darkseid! It seems reasonable that she should finally be officially inducted into the team, having been there before under similar circumstances, and after aiding them in their battle for existance!

NEXT WEEK: The Justice League franchise forms a Task Force!

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