And then there was seven.
And yes, this Justice League of America, going out under that full title for the first time since before Crisis on Infinite Earths, was the seventh incarnation, even if when it debuted it was half a year before the 52 version would come and go in a week.
There wasn’t even a pretence that DC were going to do without a Justice League: a new series started with the by now commmon Zero Issue, as part of One Year Later, immediately after Infinite Crisis had reached its transformative ending. Indeed, New York Times best selling Thriller writer Brad Meltzer, writer of the controversial 2004 crossover series, Identity Crisis, was signed up to write the first thirteen issues.
That Zero issue was an intriguing introduction. It was part Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman getting together, after their year of absence that had/would be/been told in 52, to agree on a line-up for the new Justice League, and half flashforwards to future points: future points that have not been seen and never will be seen, dealing as they do with such things as Diana’s marriage to a man Clark and Bruce think is beneath her and Clark’s funeral. In doing so, Meltzer was laying trails that other writers, now or in the future of the DC Universe, could pick up on should they choose (though really that ought to be should editorial allow them) and partly weaving the idea of the DC Universe as a continuum with a past and a present and a future, no matter whether the same is revealed.
For the actual series itself, Meltzer was paired with the excellent Ed Benes, and did a good job of a first year that included transforming the Red Tornado, albeit temporarily, into human flesh for the first time, not to mention a crossover with the latest incarnation of the Justice Society and some time-wandering members of the Legion of Superheroes. It was fun, it was fast-paced and it was well-drawn.
What it was not was particularly distinguished. Unlike his Green Arrow story, ‘The Archer’s Quest’, or Identity Crisis, Meltzer brought no new ideas to the series, no novelist’s perceptions that might have broadened the scope of the series, given the Justice League something new to work upon. It was just comics, just a superhero team. Nor did the series offer any sense of enjoyment, of the rush a good superhero comic can offer.
Nor did things improve when Meltzer moved on and the writing reins were handed to a full-time comics writer in Dwayne McDuffie. If anything, things got worse, not that I would know as I was not reading the series anymore. Indeed, by the time Final Crisis appeared I was reading virtually no DC titles at all, and after Final Crisis that became none.
Perhaps it was just that I had gotten too old, had finally grown out of superheroes nearly four decades after I would normally have expected to do so. A more nuanced take on that might be that I could see, unconsciously at first, that DC Comics were on their way to a place I didn’t want to go.
The company that, in the Eighties, had accepted its minority-share of the market with Marvel and had instead concentrated upon quality, upon creators as opposed to characters, were rapidly slipping back to the old days of editorial control.
What’s worse is that, where that editorial control in the Fifties and Sixties was spread among a number of editorial stables, now DC’s reins of power were increasingly being gathered into the hands of Managing Editor, later Publisher, Dan DiDio and DC’s first ever Chief Creative Officer, Geoff Johns, narrowing the company’s output to the range that appealed to these two people only.
Though I didn’t read the new Justice League of America series, I continued to follow the comics news. So I was aware of one writer being abruptly removed from the series after complaining publisly about the number of times already approved storylines had to be junked or radically re-written to accommodate later editorial directives.
And of the spin-off series featuring a splinter JLA that – the same old chestnut – intended to take a more proactive line in getting supervillains before they committed crimes. That was supposed to be ongoing, ended up a limited series thanks – again – to editorial direction.
And the constant problems that led, all those years back, to Gerry Conway arguing to create Justice League Detroit, just to be able to write stories that didn’t have to be twisted into pretzels to adapt to whatever was happening in someone’s sole series.
And McDuffie would lose his job as writer after publicly commenting on the level of editorial interference.
The last Incarnation came to an end when Flashpoint occurred in 2011. The last Justice League of America was disbanded by Batman on the same grounds that Aquanan disbanded the first. Then everything was swept away. History did not so much change as dissolve.
Now there is not and never has been any incarnations of the Justice League – America, Unlimited, Europe, Antarctica, Task Force, Elite – in the New 52 Universe. Now there’s only a Justice League that formed only five years ago, and which operates under suspicion and has no sanction from anyone within the New 52 except their own. And, as you know, I do not go there.
So that’s the end of the Justice League of America as far as I am concerned. If anyone gets the level of fun out of the New 52 League or any of its offshoots as I did over these seven Incarnations, I wish them joy of it. Can’t see it myself, mind, but these things are no longer being written or drawn with me in mind.
And then there was seven.