Ambidextrous 296: This is Why (Grant Morrison's JLA)

Ambidextrous: This is Why

Going to do something different with this one…

There is no question that Grant Morrison has written a number of classic runs and that his professional résumé is somewhat staggering, but many superhero fans will point to his tenure on JLA as one of his best. Starting with the “Magnificent Seven” and building outwards as the threat level escalated, it’s everything great about team books and then multiplied by ten. The biggest characters, the biggest villains, and the highest stakes skillfully weaved across a number of fantastic storylines that start and finish strong. Which presents the following problem, one I’m sure that any creator stepping onto an established book would love to have when he steps off---most of the work is stellar and worth mentioning.

The problem with that fact and this particular feature series is that we could be here for weeks going through everything. Morrison’s JLA is overloaded with cool moments, cooler lines, and that ever-present vibe of greatness we’ve come to expect from superhero team books. Name one thing about these kinds of books that you love and this one probably has it. To this day fans are still citing this work as the “model” for the JLA franchise, and it’s over ten years old already.

So what I’ve done here is attempt to break out the best moments and consolidate them by character, and even using this slightly abbreviated format, we’re still talking about a ton of stuff to cover. The reason I think this will ultimately work out lies in one of the many strengths of this particular run---balance. While there are obviously characters that should and do take precedence, all of the characters receive moments to shine and further define just why they’re in a book as unquestionably epic as this run of JLA. If this format works out, it might become an example for how to handle similar runs going forward. Let me know your thoughts on it, and if there’s anything that’s been missed. We’ll get it started with a character everyone is very familiar with and work our way down.


(Issue 3) Even while suffering from kryptonite poisoning, Superman grins to himself as Protex screams to his teammates, currently having their asses handed to them by you know who, “Batman! Batman! He’s only a man!”

(Issue 7) Uses his new powers to repel the moon away from the Earth, which it’s plummeting towards, and for an encore, wrestles an angel.

(DC One Million #4) Returns from the heart of the sun in the 853rd century, and uses the lost Green Lantern ring to crush what's left of Solaris.

(Issue #26) With most of the team downed by the Ultramarine Corps, he confronts the troops and casually absorbs every bullet they can fire, until they finally come to their senses and listen to what he has to say.

(Issue #41) Flies into Mageddon’s core and absorbs enough anti-sunlight to shut it down, then announces, “Armageddon is canceled until further notice.”


(Issue #3) Batman discovers the truth about the Hyperclan and then starts taking them down one-by-one.

(Issue #11) Tells Robin that he knows Lex Luthor has targeted the JLA, and that Lex doesn’t realize he’s facing someone else very familiar with corporate takeover techniques…Bruce Wayne.

(Issue #13) Survives eight years in Desaad’s torture chambers, beats him, and then takes his place in Darkseid’s court.

(Issue #14) Tricks Metron into becoming human, knocks him cold, and pumps him full of hypnotic drugs.

(Issue #15) Places not one, but two undercover operatives inside the Injustice Gang.

(Issue #38) Takes down Prometheus and cheats to do it.

(Issue #41) Gives Superman the pep talk of his life, while attempting to rescue the Man of Steel from absolute despair deep within the bowels of Mageddon.

Martian Manhunter-

(Issue #4) Martian Manhunter punishes seventy white martians by brainwashing them into joining the human race they attempted to conquer.

(Issue #11) Enlarges the more irrational right hemisphere of his brain to navigate himself and Superman through a hard light holographic maze powered by the Joker’s thoughts.

(Issue #15) Painfully stops Superman from destroying the Philosopher’s Stone after receiving a telepathic alarm from Green Lantern.

(Issue DC One Million #3) Takes on Vandal Savage’s blitz engines.

(Issue DC One Million #4) The Manhunter from Mars IS Mars.

(Issue #37) With the team being dismantled by the Injustice Gang, returns to active duty, reactivates the team’s telepathic link, and announces that the counter-offensive has begun.

Green Lantern-

(Issue #7) Green Lantern and Flash construct and then power a giant tuning fork that cancels out the angels’ harmonic vibrations and expels them from the earthly plane.

(Issue #22) Sandman tells Kyle that he shouldn’t feel inferior to Hal Jordan…that he’ll surpass him and that he already knows things Hal never did.

(Issue DC One Million #4) After some convincing from Batman, Kyle creates a supernova within Solaris and contains the massive explosion that results though sheer force of will.

(Issue #31) Uses color theory to convince a fifth dimensional court to intervene on behalf of the third dimension.

(Issues #40-#41) Forces his sabotaged ring to work as Mageddon approaches. “Mageddon, huh? You and me, dude.”

Wonder Woman-

(Issue #7) Wonder Woman trashes an angelic chariot and then catches it before it falls onto the city below, even though just touching it sets her skin on fire.

(Issue #14) Takes on both Darkseid and the monstrous Grandmother Boxx, giving the resistance enough time to complete their impossible mission.

(Issue #41) Leads the armies of man against Mageddon.

The Flash-

(Issue #3) In a race/fight around the world, Wally beats the Martian speedster Zum using a “Flash Fact”.

(Issue #7) Green Lantern and Flash construct and then power a giant tuning fork that cancels out the angels’ harmonic vibrations and expels them from the earthly plane.

(Issue DC One Million #4) Using a strategy engine from the 853rd century, Flash thinks faster than the universe's ultimate computer.

(Issue #25) Hobbled by shrapnel in his calf, he lends Aquaman a bit of the Speed Force so they can outrun the building falling down on their heads.

(Issue #40) Returns with the last survivor of Wonderworld who escaped Mageddon by running perpendicular to time.


(Issue #13) One of the last members of the JLA still alive in a word conquered by Darkseid, Aquaman leads the last-ditch superhero assault on Desaad’s Vegas stronghold.

(Issue #17) Manually diverts the water from his personal tanks into the Watchtower after Prometheus sets a fire that burns away the station’s air supply.

(Issue #23) Routes a telepathic signal from Martian Manhunter through the alien conqueror that convinces It the Earth is too toxic to be conquered and that It should run before it’s too late.

(Issue #41) Emerges from the ocean with the armies of Atlantis and declares that he’s the “sworn protectorate of over fifteen thousand submarine states.”


(Issue #5) Hitman shows up to the JLA recruitment drive for the sole purpose of checking out Wonder Woman with his x-ray vision, does it, and then immediately leaves.

(Issue #9) Green Arrow Connor Hawke saves the JLA and probably the entire world using his late father’s trick arrows.

(Issue #14) The Atom breaks into Darkseid’s brain and then destroys it.

(Issue #15) Aztec deactivates twelve nuclear warheads teleported onto the Watchtower in less than four minutes.

(Issue JLA 1000000) Steel leads the Justice League into battle against their highly advanced counterparts in the Justice Legion A. Later considers unleashing the secure security systems on them, but chooses instead to trust their intentions. Even later, his time engine is used to activate Solaris’ quantum softdrive.

(Issue DC One Million #3) The Atom figures out how to beat the Hourman Virus while broadcasting live from Oracle’s lymphatic system.

(Issue DC One Million #3) Huntress thinks of a way to save the future---by burying the weapons they’ll need to win in the past.

(Issue DC One Million #4) The Superman of the future punches his way through the time barrier to make it back to the 853rd century.

(Issue #31) Stripped of his armor by Triumph, Steel crawls through the maintenance ducts until he reaches his laboratory and is able to step into a new suit of armor…the entire JLA Watchtower.

(Issue #39) Oracle is given a Mother Boxx from Metron, which upgrades all of her equipment and gives her digital telepathy to better coordinate the worldwide offensive against Mageddon.

(Issue #41) Zauriel dies on the Watchtower for the express purpose of returning to Heaven and rallying angelic support to defend Earth from Mageddon.

(Issue #41) Animal Man has the idea that saves the world.

(Issue #41) Aztek unleashes four-dimensional energy inside Mageddon, hurting the primordial annihilator but killing himself.

The series is collected in the following trades:

JLA: New World Order

JLA: American Dreams

JLA: Rock of Ages

JLA: Strength in Numbers

JLA: One Million

JLA: Justice For All

JLA: World War III

JLA, by Grant Morrison, Howard Porter and others---this is why I love comics.

As always, feel free to leave your own thoughts about the series, including personal highlights, favorite lines, etc. on the board below. Thanks, and we’ll conclude this week with “Priced to Move.”

Priced to Move-

Amazing Spider-Man Family #5 (Marvel Comics)

64 pgs for 4.99

Dark Reign: Cabal #1 (Marvel Comics)

38 pgs for 3.99

Resurrection, Vol. 1: The Insurgent Edition (Oni Press)

184 pgs for 6.00

Rising Stars Compendium SC (Top Cow)

1,008 pgs for 59.99

The Resurrection trade is the absolute steal of the week here, but Marvel’s got a couple nice offerings for all the Dark Reign and/or Spider-Man fans out there. I have the hardcover version of the Rising Stars Compendium and can personally vouch for its quality, if you’re sitting on a little more cash and want a complete series in one fell swoop. Nice package and JMS’s story more than makes up for any artistic inconsistency.

Big chunk of next week will likely be devoted to some of the Free Comic Book Day offerings. Really no better price than free, is it? Thanks, and take care.

The Fiction House

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