Posted earlier on Population GO.
Writer: Grant Morrison, Mark Waid
Penciller: Howard Porter, Arnie Jorgenson
Inkers: John Dell III, David Meikis, Mark Pennington, Doug Hazlewood
Volume 4 of JLA sees no overall storyline but four two parter stories, and Mark Waid takes over writing duties for four issues. In light of the team’s disbandment last volume, we see the newly reformed and expanded JLA take on an array of threats, ranging from an attack from Prometheus to the unravelling rules of probability.
The main question however is does this volume suffer due to the split writing duties?
Morrison pens the first couple of issues which introduce the new members to the JLA’s expanded roster. The reformed JLA is basically the same team as before with some more members and a new structure in place, so don’t expect a bold new JLA in these pages. As part of their reformation, Superman is conducting a tour on the Watchtower which is attended by the media and the winner of a competition to join the JLA for a day – a man calling himself Retro. He is Prometheus of course, and has a cleverly crafted plan and measures in place to take down the JLA. In true super villain style he effectively cuts through the JLA until he meets Superman, who he has no real measure for. Being the master strategist he is though, Prometheus has made this all an elaborate plan as Superman’s counter-measure with the hope of trapping him in an unwinnable situation, where the only solution is to kill himself and let the civilians free. With all the build-up the resolution is actually quite disappointing, and feels a bit of a cop out. Despite this however, this is a pretty solid two parter story which effectively sets Prometheus up as a real threat for the JLA.
It’s here that Mark Waid takes over, and he does a great job. His first storyline sees the introduction of a quantum physicist named Julian September, who discovers how to alter to building blocks for manipulating the rules of probability. As you would expect, such abuse causes things to unravel and the JLA need to battle on to fix reality, as September unleashes a probability cancer. This alone is bad enough, but it is expanding backwards and retroactively changing the past before the JLA’s very eyes in a world where million-to-one coincidences occur on a regular basis. This is an excellent story and probably my favourite of the bunch. It’s full of weird pseudo-science and an amazingly bizarre plot, making this hard not to love. It really is a story that if nobody had told you it was by Waid, you would have expected it to be a Morrison story.
Waid’s follow up is a lot more of a standard fare, with the JLA being kidnapped by Adam Strange and forced into labour to restore Rann to a paradise for his presumed dead wife Alanna. J’onn betrays the team to Adam upon their escape attempt but things aren’t as they seem of course, with it all being part of a plot by Adam to try and save Rann from a telepathic slave master race, the En’tarans. The ending is perfect for the story, and ever so depressing. It’s a fairly predictable story once J’onn betrays the team, but still one that is satisfying.
The final couple of issues are written once more by Morrison, and sees almost all of North America with people stuck in their dreams, under the spell of ‘It’. Enter Daniel Hall, who introduces himself as the Sandman, and approaches the awake members of the JLA with a child’s petition. The main appeal of this story is Superman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern’s quest into the child’s dream in order to save him, creating a story which explores the complexities of breaking someone’s faith since the three JLAers are powered by the child’s faith and belief, which ‘It’ is desperately trying to break. Alongside this there is of course the efforts of the JLA to discover more about the entity who is causing the problem, but it really is secondary to the three’s mission. Once again Kyle gets developed further, with Sandman informing Kyle that he will surpass Hal Jordan as he knows the one thing he didn’t – fear.
As with the previous volume, Diana is dead so Hippolyta has taken over the Wonder Woman mantle. For readers not familiar with her, or for those who don’t even know that Diana was dead during this period, you wouldn’t spot the difference. She’s not drawn differently or given any real defining character feature, other than her talking Orion out of his rage in the Adam Strange story – which is a great moment. The new members all get their little moments, but other than Oracle, none really add anything truly notable to the team during this volume other than more bodies.
The artwork once again is pretty decent. Jorgenson fills in for the second half of the volume, and actually has a similar style to Porter so there’s no real jarring change in the art. The problem of the earlier volumes does pop up again though, with there being some questionable facial expressions. The action sequences all look superb however.
Overall this is a strong volume, keeping things at a good tempo following Rock Of Ages. Whilst it doesn’t really change or develop the JLA too much, it’s a collection of four very enjoyable little stories. Don’t let the smaller scale fool you though – fans of Morrison’s previous work will be able to spot some interesting ideas put out in this volume.
Note 1: The Morrison issues have been collected in JLA Deluxe Edition Volume 2 and Volume 3.
Note 2: The cover may vary depending on what printing of this you get.