Random Retrospective #31 – Justice League Task Force #34

JUSTICE LEAGUE TASK FORCE was a spin-off from JUSTICE LEAGUE AMERICA when the latter title was riding high in terms of popularity and sales. Got something good? Milk the hell out of it seems to be the way companies work, so alongside the original title, we also had this one and JUSTICE LEAGUE EXTREME. TASK FORCE originally started out as something of an anthology title with different writers and artists doing three or four issue adventures with the hook being that the membership of the team would be fluid and chosen by the United Nations (who were running the team) for the task at hand. After a year or so of that take, things shifted and it became a book led by Martian Manhunter who was training some rookie heroes, among them Gypsy from JL Detroit.

By the time we find the team here, lost in Skataris and trying to find their way home, we’re almost at the end of the run and things are looking to get wrapped up. Needless to say, there’s the obligatory disagreement with the locals.

The team’s ship is blown up, partly caused by the Ray and Triumph fooling around, but Gypsy was still on board. Thankfully she was able to get out in time and school both Ray and Triumph in why they should have warned her about the impending explosion.

The rest of the issue is them trying to find some way home out of Skataris while explaining to the now friendly locals how they arrived in Skataris in the first place, before the inevitable guest appearance by

Because he’s everywhere in Skataris.

I know Priest (the writer on this run) has been lauded for his work on more recent titles but here he seems a bit bored and doing things by the numbers; his apathy toward the series seems to come through, at least to me, and it was a relief once the thing came to an end.

Random Retrospective #29 – JLA #2

Credit where it’s due, Grant Morrison’s revamp of the Justice League brand was a mighty breath of fresh air. The titles had been flagging for some time, JUSTICE LEAGUE AMERICA chief among them, where the stories had been tired and lacklustre for a year or two. Once that title was put to bed, there was a brief hiatus before the Mark Waid penned JUSTICE LEAGUE: A MIDSUMMER’S NIGHTMARE miniseries while Grant Morrison got their ducks in a row to relaunch the title with the “big 7” heroes as simply JLA.

And what a relaunch. I’ve said in the past I have some troubles with Morrison’s writing – they tend to be big on ideas but the execution tends to drift as the stories go along – but this first four issue storyline worked a treat. White Martians invade the Earth appearing as superheroes and using mind control to convinced everyone they’re here to help, with only the nascent JLA to resist them. It’s a classic story of the League splitting into smaller teams to fight the bad guys, something that Martian Manhunter acknowledges.

There’s a nice subtle shift of command there – Green Lantern asks Batman what’s next and he defers to Martian Manhunter.

Re-reading this for the first time in years, I was surprised at just how much of a dick Aquaman is at this point. This was the 90’s, though, and he was going through that harpoon for a hand, grim and gritty phase which, thankfully, Wonder Woman was having no part of.

The JLA get their collective behinds kicked, though, with the Hyperclan taking most of them out relatively easily, including even Superman:

This is issue #2, remember, so the JLA has to fall so that they can rise up in the next couple of issues.

JLA was a damn fine series and most of Morrison’s work still stands the test of time; I don’t know if it was the editors keeping them in check, but I remember each of the story arcs working nicely in tight, contained stories. And they were damn good stories, too – the JLA banded together to defeat the problems that no other group of heroes could, justifying their existence and showing why they were the best.