After years of waiting, and many ups and downs, the Justice League is finally making it to the big screen. Seeing the movie exploits Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and the rest of DC Comics’ #1 team might put you in the mood for more League adventures in the comics, but with sixty years of history, where should you start?
Here are our picks for the 11 greatest Justice League comic book storylines, spanning the last several decades and many incarnations of the team. Oh, and just so there is no confusion, this list is for comics with the words “Justice League” actually in the title — hence, no Kingdom Come or New Frontier, which are sort of/kind of Justice League stories, but not actually labelled as such.
Justice League of America #183-85 (1980)
“Crisis on New Genesis,” “Crisis Between 2 Earths,” and “Crisis on Apokolips”Writer: Gerry Conway / Artists: Dick Dillin, George Perez
Ten years after Jack Kirby created him, Darkseid finally made his presence known to the Justice League. And it took the combined forces of the Justice League of America along with the Justice Society and the New Gods of New Genesis to stop him. In this three part story, Darkseid attempts to destroy the JSA’s home of Earth-2 and replace it with Apokolips. Issue #183 was the last issue of the series drawn by Dick Dillin, who had drawn 115 issues of JLA since 1968, due to his untimely death. The storyline was finished by new series artist George Perez.
Justice League of America #200 (1982)
“A League Divided”
Writer: Gerry Conway / Artists: George Perez, various others
The super-sized JLA #200 honored two decades plus of stories by pitting the team up against the aliens from their 1960 origin story, and features a showdown between the original seven Leaguers and their teammates who joined later. The all star artist line-up featured chapters drawn by several comics legends, with the rest of the issue illustrated by George Pérez, who provided the amazing wrap around cover. This is as good as Bronze Age era JLA gets.
Justice League International
Writers: Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis / Artist: Kevin Maguire
Justice League #1-7, Justice League International #8-24, Justice League America #25-30, Justice League Europe #1-6 (1987-89)
By focusing on comedy and hilarious and heartfelt team interactions, the Justice League under this creative team of writers Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis and artist Kevin Maguire became a huge hit, and spawned a spin-off book Justice League Europe. No other creative team has really been able to make a line up of the League mostly populated with C-list heroes ever really work, with this notable exception. I can’t think of one story arc here that encapsulates it all, so I suggest getting the recently released Justice League International Omnibus.
JLA: New World Order
originally run in JLA #1-4 (1997)
Writer: Grant Morrison / Artist: Howard Porter
After years of various spin off titles like Extreme Justice with C and D list heroes, DC hired writer Grant Morrison and artist Howard Porter to bring back the original “Big 7” of the League once again, for the first time in over a decade. In the first arc, alien heroes called the Hyperclan come to Earth offering to solve all of its problems, making the JLA seem like ineffective heroes. But these aliens have a secret, a secret tied to one of the JLA’s members, and which only Batman knows. A true return to glory for the team, this arc started the greatest run in the League’s nearly 60 year history.
JLA: Rock of Ages
Originally run in JLA #10-15 (1997-98)
Writer: Grant Morrison / Artist: Howard Porter
Look, Grant Morrison’s entire run on JLA is worth reading, but if you ask me, this story was the highlight, and encapsulates everything great about his Justice League. “Rock of Ages” has Lex Luthor come into possession of the the Worlogog, an incarnation of all space/time. These six issues feature the JLA fighting hard light versions of themselves, the Injustice Gang (including the Joker), the super-gods of Wonderworld, and the Leaguers time traveling to a future where Darkseid has uncovered the secrets of the anti-life equation, and rules the world from his throne in Las Vegas.
JLA Year One
Originally run as JLA: Year One #1-12, (1998-99)
Writer: Mark Waid / Artist: Barry Kitson
This 12 issue series was a modern re-telling of the early years of the League, by the creative team of Mark Waid and Barry Kitson. Focusing on the heroes who were not the Trinity of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, this series sees GL Hal Jordan, Flash/Barry Allen, Aquaman, Black Canary, and J’onn J’onzz form the world’s greatest super team while still learning to be heroes.
Justice League of America: The Nail
Originally run as JLA: The Nail #1-3 (1999)
Writer/Artist: Alan Davis, with Mark Farmer
Imagine a world where a random nail on the road gave Ma and Pa Kent’s truck a flat tire on that fateful day when a Kryptonian ship landed in Kansas, preventing them from finding baby Kal-El and raising him to be Superman. What is the League on an Earth with no Man of Steel to inspire it? We find out in this excellent Elseworlds tale from writer/artist Alan Davis about a JLA in a world where there never was a Superman.
JLA: Tower of Babel
Originally run as JLA #42-45 (2000)
Writer: Mark Waid / Artist: Howard Porter
Grant Morrison was a tough act to follow on JLA, but Mark Waid came out of the gate swinging with this storyline, which found Ra’s al Ghul using Batman’s own emergency protocols to disable the League one by one. How will the team react when they find out the tools of their downfall came from one of their own? This was the inspiration for the animated film Justice League: Doom, but thw original comic is still better.
JLA: A League of One (2000)
Written and Illustrated by Christopher Moeller
Want to know why Wonder Woman is the greatest Leaguer ever? In this graphic novel, the Amazon princess finds out an ancient prophecy foretells that the League will fall at the hands of a powerful dragon. So instead of sacrificing her friends, she defeats and incapacitates each of them, and makes sure she is the only Justice League member left standing to fulfill the prophecy. This would make for a great Wonder Woman movie sequel.
JLA/Avengers #1-4 (2003-04)
Writer: Kurt Busiek / Artist: George Perez
The plot for this one is all over the place, but you won’t care. Writer Kurt Busiek knows the DC and Marvel Comics Universes intimately, and managed to create a story that is fun as hell to read for longtime fans. This series has spectacular art from George Perez, who was born to draw this comic (and actually started drawing it 20 years earlier, before it was paused.) Featuring every character who was ever a Leaguer and an Avenger, this books is amazing fanboy/fangirl fare. Sadly, the collection is out of print, but if you can find a copy on Ebay, get it.
Justice #1-12 (2005-07)
Writer: Alex Ross / Artists: Alex Ross and Dougie Braithwaite
If you were a kid who grew up on Saturday morning cartoons in the ’70s and ’80s, then your introduction to the team was actually the delightfully cheesy animated Super Friends cartoon. As an homage to the show, creator Alex Ross plotted, inked and provided covers for the 12-issue series, which had a Bronze Age JLA against the Legion of Doom. This is so Super Friends you may want to read it with a bowl of cereal.
What is your favorite JLA story? Let us know down below in the comments!
Images: DC Comics
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