Friday, 29 October 2010

Review - JLA: Deluxe Edition Vol.1 HC

This ‘deluxe’ hardcover collects JLA issues 1-9 and JLA Secret Files #1, written by Grant Morrison (JLA Secret Files #1 was co-written with Mark Millar) and drawn by Howard Porter and Oscar Jimenez. I had read most of these comics before – a friend lent me most of Morrison’s JLA run around the time it ended – but it was a long time ago now and I remembered very little about them, so when I went on a Grant Morrison spending spree recently (don’t tell my wife!), after discovering that he was actually rather good, and not incomprehensible, as I had always insisted, I made sure I picked up the three available volumes in this series, too. And this one was okay, I suppose.

Really, any problems I have with this book are not due to Morrison’s writing. The stories here are all perfectly good. I didn’t really read any superhero comics in the ‘90s, which is when the comics collected in this volume were originally released, but I imagine that these stories were much better than anything else coming out at the time and they are probably better than most modern superhero comics, too. The first two story arcs are reasonable – the first is about a Martian invasion and the second about fallen angels (I can’t help thinking that the certain knowledge that angels – and therefore God and an afterlife – really do exist would have a profound effect on the Earth’s populace, but such matters are not addressed here) – but the third story arc, in which most of the JLA are bested by a villain called ‘the Key’ and trapped in imaginary worlds, leaving only Green Arrow to save the day, is really good.

Of course, being comics from the late 1990s, the real Green Arrow, Oliver Queen, is dead, and the Green Arrow here is Connor Hawke. Also, Superman has a mullet in the first half of the book and in the second half of the book he is wearing a blue and silver uniform and has electricity crackling around his head (I am pleased to announce that I have never read any of the Death of Superman comics so I have no idea what this is all about), Green Lantern is some bloke called Kyle Rayner, and Aquaman has long hair, a beard, and a hook / harpoon instead of a left hand (which must be really awkward in the toilet). Under the circumstances, Morrison does an admirable job, and shows early signs of his talent for writing Batman. The character does not feature that prominently in this book, but when he does show up he proves himself more resourceful and more driven than any of the other members of the JLA, making them look like the muscle-bound idiots they are, despite his lack of powers (unless having billions of dollars counts as a power, which it probably should).

When I first read these comics, I remember finding them quite hard to read but that was not the case at all this time. Over the last nine or ten years, I have become more used to reading modern superhero comics (which is not necessarily a good thing) and more used to Morrison’s style of writing, and compared to something like the Invisibles, which I recently struggled my way through, reading this was child’s play.

Unfortunately, the art here is really bad. Not in JLA issues 8 and 9, drawn by Oscar Jimenez. The art in those issues is great, and no doubt enhanced my enjoyment of the story. Howard Porter’s art in the rest of the book, though, is U.G.L.Y. – just not the sort of thing I am into at all. I tend not to be a big fan of the art in most modern DC comics, but the art here is worse. There are good panels, and even good pages, but mostly this looks amateurish and the distorted characters – particularly Green Lantern – look like they are straining for a poo, rather than preparing for battle or even having a simple conversation, most of the time. I can only imagine that Porter got the job because he was fast, not because he was good, but I suppose someone must have liked this sort of thing at the time.

Overall, I am not sure that I needed to own this book. I would have been perfectly happy just to read these comics again and I certainly didn’t need to own them in an oversized hardcover (I am actually quite embarrassed to own something this ugly at all, never mind in a hardcover format). I may sell this on eBay, but I guess that depends on how much I enjoy the next two volumes. On the plus side, this wasn’t that expensive. It has a recommended retail price of £19.99 / $29.99, which does seem expensive, but I got my copy for £12.23 on Amazon (currently £12.29), which I thought was quite reasonable for a hardcover book collecting ten comics.


  1. When you sell it, can I have first refusal?

  2. I want to read the next two books before I decide to sell them, but if I do I'll offer them to you first.