Monday, August 15, 2011

NEW TO ME: JLA American Dreams - part 1

JLA American Dreams - "Woman of Tomorrow"

By Grant Morrison, Howard Porter, John Dell, et al.

This second volume of Morrison’s JLA run, New World Order, starts out with far more promise than was left for me after finishing the first volume. It begins – after a quick introduction of the “Woman of Tomorrow” created by Professors Ivo and T.O. Morrow – at the funeral for Rex Mason, Metamorpho. I did feel a bit confused about this (did Metamorpho die in the first collection?) since I wasn’t sure when Rex died. But I went with it because the commentary between Superman (now Superman Blue):

“…it just seems a little sad. There were so many people at my funeral,”

and the minister:

“… normal people aren’t very interested in metahuman funerals anymore, Superman. Everyone knows you people come back all the time. Heaven knows how many times I’ve buried the Immortal Man! I’m sure Metamorpho won’t stay down for long …”

was so engaging. It’s only a quick scene, but Morrison gets to have fun at the expense of this superhero trope. And it whet my appetite for more.

In the next few pages, Morrison offers up some nice bits of characterization for the members of this incarnation of the Justice League. We have Batman putting Gotham first (“I promised the league I’d be prepared to function in an advisory capacity…”), which would not have come off as such a parody if Porter hadn’t chosen to give us the “gritted teeth” Batman saying this to Superman. It’s a simple freakin’ statement, Batman doesn’t need to look as if he’s constipated when he says it. But, being Batman, he is still able to take on another case to help the League:

Wonder Woman: I realize you have another case, but …

Batman: I’ll work on both.

We see Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner) and Flash (Wally West), the youngest members of the league, playing a boxing game as created by Kyle’s ring, while Kyle makes an off-handed remark about preferring “him with the short hair.” We can assume he means Superman, who was in his mullet stage as Morrison began his run on JLA. And this is confirmed when Superman comes through the transporter and tells Kyle “So, you thought I needed a haircut, Kyle?” which is a brilliant reminder of Superman’s powers, in this case, his super hearing.

We then get to the reason the League has assembled in their watchtower atop the moon. They are having a recruitment drive. We get a nice scene of J’onn sitting patiently, listening to the likes of Damage and Hitman – his only response: “Next.”

Once they finish interviewing, the five members present – minus Batman and Aquaman – are discussing the candidates’ merits, when the ceiling explodes and falls in on them, only to be suspended in midair before any more damage can be done. The cause of this incident is Tomorrow Woman, the construct created by Ivo and Morrow, as seen on page 2 of this collection’s initial chapter (and this is only page 10).

From here, we watch as Tomorrow Woman integrates herself into the league, taking center stage in their pursuit of an entity known as “IF.” IF pops from one city to the next, leaving destruction in its wake and the Justice League as little more than a clean-up crew working to keep the carnage to a minimum as IF blinks out of existence again.

Meanwhile, Ivo and Morrow watch as their automaton gets closer to the League in preparation for her ultimate assignment – to destroy the League with an electromagnetic pulse weapon in her artificial heart that will trigger a telekinetic wave front, causing all electrical activity in the brains of the JLA to cease. And, as they watch on, these two evil scientists debate which of them is the genius- Professor Ivo claiming he is the more ingenious inventor since he created such a perfect simulation of a physical being with Tomorrow Woman, while T.O. Morrow claims it is he by dint of his creation of her artificial brain with all its false memories and dreams.

As the League unlocks the secret to the creature IF – standing for Implicate Field, a weapon derived of 32nd century advanced quantum technology confiscated by the U.S. military from the Lord of Time’s arsenal. They discover the only way to stop IF is to detonate an electromagnetic pulse.

We, the readers, can see the culmination of Ivo’s and Morrow’s plan driving toward us as Tomorrow Woman volunteers that she can create such an EMP. But, she also realizes what such an act would cause – the decimation of the Justice League, the heroes who took her in and gave her a purpose – and she tells them, “…but I can’t.”

Though an automaton, Tomorrow Woman has spontaneously generated a rudimentary ethical code. Tomorrow Woman overrides her programming, shuts down her telepathic broadcast facilities, and destroys IF without harming her new friends, the Justice League. And in the end, Morrow stands triumphant, because he created an artificial brain that was able to think for itself.

Seconds later, J’onn shows up to take these villains away.

This was a great story from Grant Morrison, and done all in one issue. I enjoyed the interaction of the members here, the recruitment drive and the understated humor of J’onn stoically asking for the “next” interviewee, and the twist ending with Ivo and Morrow, along with the little bits he included within the narrative. This single issue felt very condensed, with a lot going on in twenty-two pages, and it helped wipe away the disappointment of the first trade. Porter’s art is still subpar and keeps this issue from, overall, being great. But the story was so superior that I was able to overlook the artistic shortcomings and am looking forward to the next chapter of this collection.


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