[This is the last of three posts talking about why Grant Morrison's JLA Classified 1-3 are my favorite three superhero comics.]
Morrison's dialogue: "Dawn arrives before dawn / in the morning of destruction"; "I love it when you bark orders at me, Diana" is met with "Hmm. I've heard that about you, Arthur."
McGuinness's panel design: a page spread of staggered, tall panels; a tiny box around a distant satellite with a line for the zoom-in on they guy we otherwise would not have noticed was standing on it; four small boxes at the bottom of the page to show feet taking off; little panels staggered down the page and getting larger showing Jonn reforming, then flying up from the bottom of the page to the top.
McGuiness even makes Aquaman look cool, as he leaps from a plane; I did not think anyone could make Aquaman cool.
The JLA have been a sub-plot for two issues. When they show up here they each are introduced, and shown in cool fight scenes, and they even get those little flags with their name on them. This is a device I have always loved. I makes you feel like this could be someone's first comic book ever, a nice thought, since this is such a good one.
The guy with the cosmic keyboard can restore Green Lantern's weakness to yellow by saying "Edit. Cut. And Paste." He is an evil DC editor who revises continuity. Hilarious.
Ne-bol-lah is revealed to be a time travelling baby universe all grown up, and Gorakio was beingcontrolled by a little girl that Aquaman saves. All fun. So this post is a list of stuff. Sue me.
One moment in particular stands out. Grodd ties Batman up and is roasting him. Batman gets out and beats him. But we do not see how Batman escapes. Unsympathetic readers would not necessarily be out of line to call that an error, or to call me a Morrison apologist. But to me this is great. You know how Batman escaped being tied up? He is Batman. He always does that. Any further explanation would just belabor the point that, to borrow Miller's fantastic and much maligned phrase, he is the God-damned Batman. One panel later Batman kicks a very sad and bateranged telepathic Gorilla in the crotch and says "There goes the dynasty." Morrison just skips the cliche and goes straight for the absurdity. A lesser writer would have offered an explanation.
Compression is often what makes Morrison great. One character is identified as "The disgraced 'schizophrenic Superman' of Greece." The quotes are doing a lot of work there -- did a newspaper call him that? Why? It suggests this whole wacky back-story in a few words -- again, a lesser writer would have felt the need to go into a whole thing about it.
Two final big picture things.
One: all of this turns out to be a prologue to a larger story, Seven Soldiers. This great story opens up something else, connects to something larger. By pointing to something bigger than itself it seems ever better, because more is on the way.
Two: Out of nowhere, this story has a moral, stated by Superman just so you know to take it seriously. Superheroes who kill are bad news. This does not make much sense in the context of the story -- does this make them more susceptible to the Sheeda? -- but it does not matter. Morrison is really dismissing books like the Authority. Why? Because, as Superman says "These 'no-nonsense' solutions of yours just don't hold water in a complex world of jet-powered apes and time travel." JLA Classifed 1-3 both shows you and tells you a moral I care about a lot -- Superhero Comics Should Be Fun. Because the real world is not enough fun, and in fact, it seems our world, or a world very much like ours (corrupt, no superpowers) grew up to be this story's bad guy. The enemy of imagination is depressing reality.
The story ends with a vision of superheroes being sent in our world. Ostensibly they are to save it from crime, but really they are going in to save it from a lack of jet-powered apes and time travel.