[Continuing my look at why JLA Classified 1-3 are my favorite superhero comics of all time. Last post had the broad points about all three issues, so this will just have details.]
More panel layout fun: 16 panel grids over three pages leading to one big splash page, Batman walking around Beryl in a circle so that we see him at several points, a page of tall panels, a pair of symmetrical trapezoid panels that are close ups on the eyes of villains, panels chaotically overlapped, panel gutters destroyed because a character is freaking out, a panel whose gutter is fire, and fire shaped white.
As for subject matter, Morrison has McGuinness drawing fun iconic close ups in those 16 panel pages: sexy lips, Clark's glasses, skull shaped smoke to show poison, the Flash emblem, Superman's famous chin, Superman's famous S-Curl, Superman's blue eye, Jonn's red eye, Black Death's purple eye, Green Lantern's emblem, Flash's ear thing, Aquaman's belt logo, Wonder Woman's tiara, everyone in black silhouette with colored emblems. Those icons tell the story, and the little boxes remind you they are trapped in a smaller universe, a universe without superpowers, our universe. In the end McGuinness does a great JLA splash page.
Plus Beryl is suspended Mission Impossible style with lines holding her ankles, knees, waist, head and FANTASTICALLY her pony tail (I have blogged on this detail before). Grodd gets a little crown and later a machine gun, Nebolah appears in a fantastic design, and we see the Sheeda for the first time. These things are just great. I do not have a more complex way of putting that. They are just fun and nothing else. And Beryl contacts another universe through a payphone. I think that is fun.
Morrison is again on point: "his thoughts are like mad dogs running through his skull"; "they told me you were educated on the streets. Were these the streets of Princeton?"; "Who's up for blowing away a few bad monkeys?"; "When their spurs dig in you have to obey"; "Gorillatropolis"; "I've always wanted to eat Batman. But now ... I don't know where to begin."
I will admit this is not much of an argument. This is more of a list of stuff I like. My point is that each 22 page issue is packed with all kinds of fun details, and that is why these comics are my favorite. Subtext is important, and has other virtues, and will get a book into my top ten, but my very favorite things are the ones like this. Things that exemplify a genre in a fresh way are the only things that can beat out books like the first 14 issues of Planetary that are very smart about more complex things like genre relationships.
I do not know if I believe what I just wrote, but I am going with it for now, and will keep thinking about it.