For close to a decade the Justice League had been Earth's last line of defence. It had weathered alien invasions, political manipulators, philosophical splits and at times almost total annihilation. However its current incarnation was at a low ebb, a number of members had left for personal reasons and those who remained were often unsuited or too inexperienced for League membership. Meanwhile a group of seven former Leaguers were called together to save the Planet from the mysterious threat of Known Man. He was defeated, but he left them with an ominous warning of a threat yet to arise. At the request of the UN the current League was disbanded and was reformed around the seven A-list heroes who had defeated Known Man.
The hand over from the old League to the new is disrupted by the arrival of the Hyperclan. They claim to be refugee superheroes from another world who have come to Earth to lend their help. They quickly eclipse Earth's own heroes with flashy displays of the their power and a proactive stance on supervillain control. They render Metamorpho inert and almost kill the new League before they are exposed as Pale Martians. They are defeated when the League realizes they are vulnerable to fire.
The wake of the Hyperclan attack the League uses their leftover technology to build a new fortress, the Watchtower, on the lunar surface. Shortly afterwards they began recruiting new members. Their first recruit is Tomorrow Woman. She eventually turns out to be an android designed to destroy the League, but sacrifices herself to save them after she subverts her programming. New members are eventually added. The novice hero Aztek passes the initiation tests and the second Green Arrow earns his commission by saving the League from the Key. The fallen angel Zauriel turns down League membership in order to peruse his heart.
The new League faces it greatest threat yet when Lex Luthor forms a new Injustice Gang. Yet at that critical moment the League is divided when Metron recruits half the League to search for an ancient and powerful artifact called the Worlogog. During the search they encounter the wonders of Wonder World, meet the third Hourman for the first time and finally end up in a hideous alternate future where Darkseid rules the Earth. It transpired that Luthor had the artefact all along and his confrontation with the other half of the League would result in its destruction allowing the alternate future to exist.
Behind the scenes...
As far as we're concerned the start of 1997 saw the event that every JLA fan had been waiting for since the death of Vibe - a relaunch of the original Justice League. For the last fifteen years the League had been through a large number of incarnations - many of them brilliantly written - yet there was a growing feeling amongst the fans (and staff at DC) that the League had strayed from its course. In 1996 DC were considering what to do with the League when Scottish writer Grant Morrison (Animal Man, the Invisibles) contacted them about the prospect of doing more super-hero work. He made several suggestions and his seventeen page proposal for the JLA was accepted by DC editor Ruben Diaz.
The first thing many of us fans knew was a post to a rec.arts.comics.dc.universe threat directed towards the writer Priest (who was writer of one of the JL franchise books at the time). He confirmed the rumours that the existing JL titles (JLA, Extreme Justice and Justice League Task Force) were being cancelled. He also confirmed that there would be a single JLA book. He ended by saying, "This time, DC means business". A bridging mini-series, JUSTICE LEAGUE: MIDSUMMER'S NIGHTMARE, by Mark Waid and Fabian Nicieza introduced the new line up in 1996. The new series was then launched with a cover date of January 1997 and a new title. Rather than the traditional Justice League of America, the series was simply titled JLA.
The new series started in full nostalgia mode as writer Grant Morrison reintroduced the Pale/White Martians in post-Crisis continuity. In the original series the Pale Martians had destroyed the JLA Satellite in an aborted invasion. That story had marked the final adventure of the original roster before the "Detroit League" of Vibe, Gypsy, et al. The symbology was clear - by associating itself with that story this new series made the claim to be the continuation of the original League rather than part of Gerard Jones scripted previous series.
The first story arc was also written using the framing devices that were laid down by Gardner Fox (the original League writer) over thirty years ago. In issues two and three the League is split into smaller groups to handle individual crises. This is a technique that Morrison would make great use of during his run on the League and it would allow him to follow multiple threads within complex storylines. Another feature of Morrison's writing is the shear scope of the plots involved. Every aspect of the plot is super-charged and given a new unique twist. One of the best examples of this is the League headquarters. The original League had their headquarters in a secret cave and later became an orbiting space station. The next logical step after orbit is the Moon so this is where Morrison places the new League headquarters.
The middle three plot lines of this year all deal with potential new members for the League. Issue 5 introduces the android Tomorrow Woman in a story that owes a lot to the origin of the second Red Tornado. Issues six and seven feature the first appearance of the angel Zauriel and Morrison's take on the Hosts of Heaven. The creative team were told that they couldn't use Hawkman because the character's continuity was so messed up. Therefore Morrison created his own version in the form of Zauriel. Issues eight and nine featured the first real addition to the roster in the form of the second Green Arrow (Conner Hawke) - this is a nod to the fact that the original Green Arrow was the first non-founding member of the original League.
The end of the first year saw the start of a prequel to the rest of Morrison's run in the form of the mammoth "Rock of Ages" storyline.
Note: We're running by cover-date here so you can subtract a few months off that date to get the actual publication date.
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