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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 96: JLA #4

Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. This month I will be doing theme weeks (more or less), with each week devoted to a single writer. This week: Grant “Crazy superheroics is what I do best!” Morrison. Today’s page is from JLA #4, which was published by DC and is cover dated April 1997. Enjoy!

Oh, you stupid bad guys - I almost feel sorry for you!

The final issue of Morrison’s first JLA arc begins with this page, as Superman realizes that something is not right about the superpeople who’ve taken him captive. Morrison packs the page with information, both recapping what we’ve read already (in case we forgot or we missed it) and pointing the way forward. “Alarm bells are ringing all over the world” begins and ends the page, and it’s interesting how it has a slightly different tone in each instance. In the first example, it signals something horrible occurring, as the Hyperclan is invading the world. It still means that in the second instance, but Superman has puzzled it all out, and the repetition implies that the alarm is now sounding for the Hyperclan, because they’re, you know, fucked. Morrison does the competing narrator thing pretty well, as the omniscient narrator tells us what Superman is feeling as he’s trying to muddle through the mystery of why the Kryptonite hasn’t killed him and why superheroes with fire powers got sick. The two threads dovetail in the fifth panel, as he realizes who the Hyperclan is and why the Kryptonite hasn’t killed him. It’s an urgent page, but Morrison manages to write quite a bit yet keep things moving quickly along. He does this a lot on JLA, and it’s why it’s such a good comic – it doesn’t get slogged down in exposition, but Morrison gives us plenty nevertheless.

This is not an example of Howard Porter’s best work on the title, but it’s still solid. Protex looks oddly maniacal in the first panel, and his posing with Primaid in both Panels 1 and 2 is reminiscent of the classic Frazetta painting (I don’t know if it’s deliberate or not). Porter and inker John Dell make Superman sufficiently cowed in panels 2 and 3, but throughout the run of this title, Porter’s biggest weakness was faces, so his Superman in panels 4 and 5 looks rather silly, especially in panel 4. It’s still a pretty dramatic page, and Pat Garrahy’s bright coloring helps make this a truly pop superhero epic. Either Porter or letterer Ken Lopez added the “Zee Zee” sound effect in between the panels, which helps keep the panels separate and also adds a nice level of anxiety to the scene – Superman needs to figure this shit out NOW!

This is a great, great series, and the first arc establishes the team and Morrison’s method very well. This is a page that gets you right into the story but also gives you some crucial information about the series so far. See? It’s not that hard to do!

Next: The God of All Comics goes to Marvel and, well, freaks them out for a while. Go take a look at the archives if you’re in the mood!

10 Comments

Characters who have convincingly pulled off the mullet; Solid Snake, Brock Samson, Nightwing in 90′s Batman cartoon, Longshot, several of The Lost Boys, Seto Kaiba.

Characters who have not; the list starts with Superman and goes all the way around the block.

The other thing I got from “Alarm bells are ringing all over the world” is that Superman shouldn’t be able to hear them if that were real kryptonite. Real green K saps all his powers, not just his strength, right? After I read this page I went back to see if Morrison dropped any other clues like that. I don’t remember if I found anything specific.

This opening arc of JLA was a great thrill ride. The first arc seemed like non-stop action and the following arcs had some great moments of mayhem. I think Porter did a good job overall but some panels were definitely better than others.

This is MY favorite Morrison run on any book, and this is a good example of why – he was able to make credible threats for guys like Superman, and then find a way for him to get out that were pretty creative. He could just make things work (hell, I would have kept picking up the book had Blue superman stuck around for more issues than he did), and Porter is still one of my favorite pencillers, although he really needs John Dell to help make his pencils POP! off the page, like they do on this page. Without him (as he’s been lately), there is a certain lack of energy to his pages, and overall he’s changed his style a bit to something a lot less cartoony than I would like.

This is probably one of my Favorite Morrison runs I have read, and I haven’t’ even finished it all yet.

Next page: “He can hear them.” speaking of the alarms that Supes can hear. That’s the payoff from this page & it’s a good one. i loved the JLA under Morrison, then Waid, and then Kelly.

After that, blarg. Still a really good ~90 issues of superheroes!

I just hate that Morrison got stuck with Electra Glide in Blue Superman for so much of his run on JLA. It ruined what could have been all time classic moments.

@ The Mutt

I don’t think so; I had no idea what the hell Blue superman was when I read the issues back in like 2006, and Morrison sold it well enough that I went with it. I actually liked when they made his powers important to the story, like in the issues Waid wrote with him, Rock of ages and especially Fire from Heaven. Hell, my favorite scene from Morrison’s run is Superman on the moon and keeps it from falling to earth, and then confronting Asmodel. But I think it also really helped that he had a guy like Porter who could make the Blue costume look amazing. It’s sort of like Chris Bachalo and the Sugar Man – if he wasn’t drawing it, it didn’t look anywhere near as cool. Although I have to give Immonen props on Action Comics – he came really close to making it work too.

JLA is definitely my least favorite major Morrison run, but that’s far from an insult. Great comics.

I just recently completed (or nearly so) my Morrison JLA run, so I will be having lots of fun rereading what I have read and digging into what I haven’t. iirc, the Martian thing was pretty surprising when I first read it.

Of course that was the start of Morrison’s on the page love affair with Bruce Wayne Bat God. The big 7, and every damn thing was figured out by Batman (aw, it just felt like it sometimes).

Porter is ok, but not my favorite artist. However, he did a decent job on a pretty regular schedule, which is more than a lot of artists can say.

And I think the people behind the Frazetta link don’t want you using their stuff. Just click on it, you’ll see.

Travis: Ha, that’s pretty funny. I thought I had linked directly to their site, but I guess not. Oh well – I removed the link. Let them jealously guard their images that (probably) don’t belong to them, either!

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