Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Classics - Justice League of America #42

In these days when the line-up of any given team tends to change from month to month, it's hard to remember a time when a change was a rare event.

In its first 42 issues, the only additions to the original lineup of the Justice League of America - Superman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, J'onn J'onzz and Wonder Woman (I know, Batman and Superman weren't in the first appearance, but they were in the later origin story) - were (and I'm going from memory here, so let me know if I forget anyone) Green Arrow, Hawkman and the Atom. (Not counting team mascot Snapper Carr.)

So it was a treat, in 1966, to see this issue featuring the next recruit to the team - Metamorpho the Element Man.

The big twist was his refusal to join! I found that terribly disappointing - I was a big fan of the offbeat hero, and given his brash style and unique powers, he would have made a great addition to the team.

Of course, he wouldn't have fit in with the style of the comic. At the time, everyone on the team was the usual, straight-laced, Boy Scout-type good guy. It would have bucked the status quo to add a bad boy to the mix.

But it could have been fun. Every team needs a joker to keep things light (when needed) or shake things up (when necessary).

The story (I assume by Gardner Fox) is actually pretty weak. When Metamorpho is offered membership, it enrages a powerful alien creature called the Unimaginable. He (it?) attacks Metamorpho in anger, and then tries to force its way into the membership of the JLA.

The team reacts abrasively (they seem very petty with this creature - you'd think they'd want to be a bit kinder to a visitor from the stars).

At any rate, battle ensues and the ending leaves much to be desired.

The art is by Mike Sekowsky, and it's common practice to deride his art as being stocky or stiff - but you'll get no such remarks from me, because I love his work. Sekowsky is first and foremost a storyteller. He manages the constant crowd scenes with ease, keeps the story flowing briskly and directs the reader effortlessly though the strange events that fill the issue.

I know, it's not for everyone - but for the first six years (or so) of the Justice League's existence, he set the standard for team books, and he deserves a lot of respect for his labors.

So, not a great issue of JLA - but it was a real delight for me when I picked it up 46 years ago - and it's still a fun comic today.

Grade: B-



Anonymous said...

It would have been cool to let Metamorpho writer Bob Haney handle this issue of JLA since his character was guest-starring therein.
But the end result would have been weird because, let's face it, JLA is a Schwartz-edited, Fox written comic with a certain staid quality to it, while Metamorpho is a Boltinoff edited, Haney written comic with a certain offbeat wackiness to it. That's the REAL reason why Metamorpho would never have fit into the JLA!

Sam Kujava

Chuck said...

Sam, good point - certainly Metamorpho doesn't speak his usual odd slang (Daddy-o) in this appearance. It would have been an odd fit, but I still think it would have injected some fun into the series.