You’re reading The Complete Infinite Crisis, a Comprehensive and Encyclopedic look through the universe-changing superhero event published by DC from 2005 to 2006. Shelfdust are proud to provide a complete overview of the story, and everything that happens in it. Last week we started looking at the very first issue… and got a bit sidetracked by a few things. We’ve had to call in some experts to help out with what’s actually going on.
When we last left off, we’d just found out that Martian Manhunter may or may not have been killed in the Watchtower explosion. But maybe he’s not so innocent? We need to find out more, and so today we’re turning to Shelfdust and Comics Journal contributor Clark Burscough to explain JLA: Year One!
Clark, apparently there’s a maxiseries called JLA Year One which has Martian Manhunter compiling data on all the other members of the team. Can you explain the premise of the series a little bit?
Clark Burscough: That’s right! It’s a twelve issue series from 1998, written by Mark Waid and Barry Augustyn, and with pencils by Barry Kitson. Basically, it takes the Year One idea that worked so well for Batman and applies it to the Justice League of America, as formed by (in this continuity) Green Lantern, The Flash, Martian Manhunter, Aquaman, and Black Canary, with secret financial backing from Oliver Queen aka Green Arrow.
This theme of secrets runs throughout it, and everyone seems to be keeping a few from everyone else, which ties into these heroes learning to juggle vigilante superheroics with keeping a secret identity, which would later go on to shake up the whole DC universe! After a series of team-ups to take down mysterious (and apparently very angry) alien beings that are appearing at meteor impact sites, the quintet decide to follow in the footsteps of the Bronze Age Justice Society of America and form a meta-human coalition to take on any threats too powerful for one single hero to defeat on their own, and slowly learn to respect (and become friends with) one another in the process.
And what’s Martian Manhunter up to, then?
Burscough: As well as cameos from a who’s who of the DC universe at the time, there’s a running subplot that the JLA are under surveillance by a shadowy organisation known as Locus who eventually turn out to have been taken over by the Appellaxians (who readers may know from the 60s JLA run), a powerful race of aliens with designs on terraforming earth for their own habitation, and the baddies who arrived via meteor at the start of the story.
Parallel to this, J’onn J’onnz, the Martian Manhunter, has been collecting information on every metahuman on earth, which, when they discover his secret dossiers and the fact he was infiltrating their lives in shape-shifted form, leads the JLA to believe he’s the ultimate Appellaxian threat, rather than just a creepy weirdo.
However, there’s a theme of alienation and otherness, as well as loneliness, running through the story, which is put into sharp relief with an issue involving the Doom Patrol, and it transpires that J’onnz has merely been trying to learn more about the super-powered inhabitants of his new home, in order to feel safe. It’s still pretty messed up, even with his justifications, which see him telling the team “during our first encounter I watched you exterminate and alien force you knew little about… and take pride in that.” Anyway, the JLA end up forgiving him for it, and revealing their secret identities to one another to foster a sense of togetherness, at that point truly becoming a team.
That trust they all earn comes in pretty handy, because everyone gets captured by aliens and they have to finish things in the time-honoured fashion – bringing together every superhero in the US, including Batman and Superman, under the direction of the Justice League, to have a big old fight with some nasty aliens. Forget all that stuff about learning to accept differences, just have a massive scrap. Lovely stuff.
So this meant Batman and Superman aren’t members of the team anymore?
Burscough: More that they hadn’t yet joined this early incarnation of the team in this continuity – Batman’s his usual grumpy self and vows to keep this nascent JLA out of Gotham, because he has “no interest in sharing it with a garish band of well-meaning amateurs”; Superman shows up a couple of times, initially as J’onn J’onnz playing a practical joke using his shapeshifting powers (bad move given what they discover he’s been doing later), and then for a formal team-up, before politely refusing official membership for enigmatic reasons, which he later reverse, accepting membership in the triumph of battle.
I believe Wonder Woman/Diana Prince was in space, before entering into her guise as a diplomat, at this point, as she doesn’t appear, unless she was stood behind some taller heroes during the big crowd scenes. This would all later get retconned by a Crisis, as such things do, and the trinity of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman would be re-instated as founding members. Status quo: upheld!
Ah! So that then takes us back to the first issue of Infinite Crisis, where they’re all back together. Thanks Clark! But wait, that raises even MORE questions. Hmph! I’m going to have to talk to another expert on Wednesday to clear this all up!
Clark Burscough is a writer for sites including The Comics Journal and our very own Shelfdust, where he helps out with the Giant Days Annotations. You can find Clark on Twitter here!