Saturday, August 4, 2012

A Somewhat Blasé Invasion Story, JLA: New World Order Chronicles A Fallow Point In The Justice League’s History.

The Good: Decent overall idea, Good use of the team
The Bad: Fails to capitalize on the strengths of various Justice League members, Crowded character field, Inconsistent artwork.
The Basics: When a new team of heroes arrives on Earth and begins to expose the Justice League of America as ineffectual, the members of the League suspect something more is going on in JLA: New World Order.

The more graphic novels I read, the fewer gaps there are in my understanding of the broader history of the DC Universe. Despite having seen the image of Aquaman with only one arm (and a hook), it was not until I read JLA: New World Order that I realized that I had not read any of the books that actually had the shaggy, wounded aquatic super hero in them. With JLA: New World Order, I seem to have found that somewhat awkward period in the history of the DC Universe and Aquaman is certainly not the highlight of this book. Ironically, I read the follow-up (which comes many years later) to JLA: New World Order some time ago and, truth be told, neither book is better for having read JLA: New World Order.

JLA: New World Order starts as the story of how the Justice League Of America is usurped by a new team of heroes and while this might seem like an initially engaging premise, it does not take long at all before it is revealed to be a stiflingly weak idea. I am all for stories that have the Justice League Of America getting some form of comeuppance; indeed, my favorite graphic novel of all time, Justice (reviewed here!) does that exceptionally well. But JLA: New World Order is no Justice. From the artwork to the unfortunately uncomplicated storyline, JLA: New World Order simply does not measure up.

The United States is thrown into chaos when a giant egg appears over Washington, DC. Before Superman can fully respond, eight beings emerge from the egg. Led by Protex, the disparate group that calls itself the Hyperclan arrives with the stated goal of saving the world. Shortly thereafter, though, the new Green Lantern Kyle Rayner, Diana and Metamorpho are attacked on the Justice League satellite, which is destroyed by an unknown group of hostiles. Then, the Hyperclan raises the heretofore unknown tower city of Z’onn Z’orr.

With the exposure of Z’onn Z’orr, the Hyperclan’s promise to watch over humanit quickly turns into a battle royale where they take out the Flash, Green Lantern, the Martian Manhunter, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and destroy Batman’s Batwing. Knocking Superman out with kryptonite, it looks like the end is near for the Justice League. When the heroes are placed in an alien torture device, it falls to the least powerful among them to save the heroes and the world!

JLA: New World Order uses a somewhat awkward mix of heroes for its rendition of the Justice League Of America. Traditionally, Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman and the Martian Manhunter have been Justice League members. JLA: New World Order was written by Grant Morrison shortly after the establishment of Kyle Rayner as the Green Lantern and he struggles to incorporate Rayner, Wally West’s the Flash and Aquaman into the new team. In fact, Aquaman, especially, seems both underutilized and like an afterthought. Morrison has no clear direction or purpose for the character, which is probably why his one chance to shine is undone by a painfully clunky line that the book breaks the fourth wall to address.

More than that, JLA: New World Order is surprisingly unsmart in the revelation. In fact, I felt pretty stupid by not getting the identities of the Hyperclan the moment they exposed Z’onn Z’orr. The name alone pretty much telegraphs who is behind the entire plot and that is disappointing, to say the least.

Even worse than the villains, the heroes seem surprisingly fractured and oddly underpowered. Kyle Rayner’s Green Lantern clearly has not had much interaction with the heroes at the time JLA: New World Order occurred. This makes little sense, though, as Hal Jordan had pretty much decimated the Justice League on his way out and Rayner and Superman, for example, had already fought Mongul together. Even without knowledge of such inconsistencies, the fact that all of the members of the Justice League are pretty much taken out by the Hyperclan shows a real lack of understanding of the character base. The reason the Justice League comes together is because the heroes have different skill sets and, most importantly, different vulnerabilities. All JLA: New World Order does is expose this incarnation of the Justice League as exceptionally weak against telepathic attacks.

Grant Morrison seems more concerned with wit and one-liners in JLA: New World Order than he is with telling a sensible story. The easy incapacitation of Wonder Woman, the fact that readers have to make the leap that the Flash’s entire adventure is solely telepathic manipulation, as opposed to an actual race with an adversary and the distracting amount of self-referential comments (largely from Kyle Rayner) make JLA: New World Order more chaotic than clever.

The artwork in JLA: New World Order is inconsistent at best. Penciller Howard Porter manages to make Wonder Woman look unnaturally butch in many scenes and Superman too often is given a vacuous expression. Aquaman and Kyle Rayner frequently appear as sketched versions of themselves and from the artwork, there is little made clear as to what the powers and limitations of each of the members of the Hyperclan are. The coloring is fair and while the pages are glossy, there is no real depth and shading to this book.

Ultimately, JLA: New World Order is a pretty anemic invasion story and one has to wonder how the author expected the readers to suspend their disbelief long enough to finish it.

For other Justice League books, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
Identity Crisis
Justice League: Secret Origins
I Can’t Believe It’s Not The Justice League!
New Maps Of Hell
The Tornado's Path
The Lightning Saga
Justice League Of America: The Injustice League
Second Coming
Justice League Of America: Dark Things
JLA: Terror Incognita
Justice League: Generation Lost – Volume 1
Justice League: Generation Lost – Volume 2
Volume 1: Origins (The New 52)


For other book reviews, please check out my Book Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the books I have reviewed!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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