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JLA: New World Order. Written by Grant Morrison. Pencilled by Howard Porter. Inked by John Dell. New York: DC Comics, 1997. $5.95. ISBN 1-56389-369-X.

JLA: New World Order


Adults, teens, kids; superhero violence

NOTE: This book collects issues #1-4 of JLA [Justice League of America].

An alien spaceship disgorges a handful of super-beings who call themselves the Hyperclan. Their leader, Protex, announces to the world that they've come from a world that polluted itself to death, and the Hyperclan is here to prevent Earth from going down the same path. Only the Justice League of America distrusts the Hyperclan's motives, with Superman pointing out that humans need to create their own paradise, not be given one. But his words fall on deaf ears. With a combination of good works (turning the Sahara Desert into a garden spot) and mind control, the Hyperclan turn the people of Earth against the JLA. Things heat up when members of the Hyperclan destroy the JLA satellite, then attack individual members, who are often too busy squabbling amongst themselves to mount an effective defense. Things look their blackest when Batman's plane is blown up and Superman is brought down by kryptonite. Most of the other JLAers are strapped to the "Flower of Wrath," an elaborate torture device, and Protex has the helpless Superman strapped in a chair so he can watch the painful execution of his friends. And more of the Hyperclan's race are ready to beam down and take over Earth.

Yet another rebirth of an ancient hero team and regurgitation of a plot used god knows how many times. The heroes are the usual two-dimensional squabbling posers, and the villains are the usual one-dimensional gloaters who trot out, among other things, the tired old wheeze about the JLA being "too good" for the puny Earth people. In another amazingly unimaginative twist, the plot hinges on the baddies' complete dismissal of Batman as a credible foe, so of course you know he's going to be the most effective of the lot. Also, like so many other useless baddies, the Hyperclan insists on an elaborate execution of the captured heroes, not a quick-and-dirty one that would serve their purposes much more efficiently but that would not, of course, give us such a picturesque death machine or time for the uncaptured heroes to make mischief. (I swear to god, you could build a city out of all the dumbass bad-guy multiple hero-torture or hero-draining machines that have appeared in comics. And why do the baddies need to televise the execution of the JLA when they already have the humans of Earth under their sway? Give me a friggin' break!) The art is strictly standard superhero stuff, with an emphasis on "heroic" poses, angled panels, and anatomically incorrect close-ups and action shots. In fact, this book is almost an encyclopedia of superhero plot cliches. And do the outrageous amounts of power being tossed around mean that this book is supposed to be considered mythic?

Funny, I remember Grant Morrison as being a lot more creative than this. I guess "The Coyote Gospel" was a long, long time ago. He crosses the line into pretention at times, as when the Flash thinks, "The speed field beginning to form around me: a flowing world of mystery silver, morphing hyperdimensional gels. Speed heaven, the source of my power." That would've sounded bad as narration; as internal dialogue, it's truly laughable.

There are interesting things to be done with superheroes. Morrison helped prove that a decade ago. But this book is about as far from interesting as that lost era. As kiddie lit, New World Order is passable; it'll entertain kids and teens with little or no background in superheroes, or who don't care that they've seen this story a thousand times before. As myth, or whatever Morrison was trying to accomplish, it dies.


Copyright 2000, D. Aviva Rothschild


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