So, yeah. I read Justice League each and every month.
I do this for many reasons, one of which is the fact that I truly enjoy pain. Mind-numbing, to-the-brink-of-passing-out pain.
But in reading this latest volume from Geoff Johns, Jim Lee, Ivan Reis, etc. -- and reading an interesting post from Fieldy Snuts earlier -- something that I had always felt was pretty much true is, actually, totally true:
Justice League stories are being held hostage by ridiculous tropes that not only lessen the characters who are involved, but also negatively impact the kinds of stories we could be seeing.
That's not to say that these tropes weren't useful in the past -- they were fine. Storytelling in the 1960s, 70s, 80s, 90s...they were appropriate for the era, and stories from different eras shouldn't be judged harshly as if those stories were produced in a vacuum and every other story produced during those times were great.
But my latest mind-blowing "this is just ridiculous storytelling for this era, the modern era" for the Justice League came in the latest issue, where Despero comes to the JLA satellite...only to be challenged by the obligatory "new kids on the block who miraculously earn their stripes when, actually, they probably should have been killed."
Suffice to say, that trope in the modern era needs to be...retired.
Preparedness, training -- I couldn't be the only one who found X-Men to be the most believable of an entirely fictional set of worlds because, every few issues, you actually saw them training in the Danger Room. You actually saw them learning to use their powers in team settings, if only for a few panels.
Those weren't throwaway panels. At least, they never were for me. It was through those lenses that, for instance, I believed that Angel -- who, in the simplest terms, could just fly -- could actually survive pitched combat with individuals with far deadlier powers.
It was through the Danger Room training pages that I believed that Bobby Drake could have learned how to control his temperature powers so that instead of being covered by snow/slush, he would encase himself in ice. And that instead of throwing snowballs, he would learn to freeze things to the degree that they could shatter with a punch.
I saw the teamwork developing. I would believe that five kids, only a few of whom had truly offensive powers, could defeat Sentinels and other, older, more experienced adversaries.
That made sense to me. It's why I have no doubt that Scott Summers is hell to deal with. It's not that he is simply powerful. It's that Cyclops has MASTERED those powers. He's mastered being a leader. Tactics. Scenarios. Cyclops is like...Tom Brady. Michael Jordan. He's simply the best.
Then in the Justice League...there's Element Woman.
See what I'm getting at?
I have read Justice League for decades, and while there have been interesting interpretations and good runs, as a whole, I feel comfortable saying this: That franchise has grossly underachieved. It doesn't have nearly enough great runs. It doesn't have nearly enough memorable storylines, defining storylines.
And I feel that is because the franchise is held hostage by these tropes, in no particular order:
1. "Good storytelling requires at least two teammates to dislike each other enough that it impacts their performance and weighs down the rest of the team, including arguing during missions or rushing headlong against a powerful villain, on their own, to prove their point."
2. "The rookies who have not mastered their powers or never seen training as part of a team scenario are always lucky enough to survive. So we'll always have more fresh-faced rookies. Despite the fact that failure by the Justice League means that Darkseid conquers the Earth."
3. "Batman's not so smart. Or he has 25 lives. Because Element Woman's clearly mentally unstable and needs help, yet The World's Greatest Tactician is willing to risk not only his life, but the lives of his teammates and of others, so she can say cute things as a member of the team."
4. "Superman's not so tough. I mean, seriously. Superspeed, superstrength, heat vision, and enhanced senses are easily negated because he only uses his super-brain every 100 issues or so."
5. "Surveillance and security are just random letters put together. They don't really mean anything. I mean, seriously. It's not like having defined security protocols would actually be useful. I mean, in just 21 issues, the Watchtower's been breached by David Graves and Despero, while their case files have been downloaded and stolen."
6. "Leadership and tactics are completely overrated. That's why Aquaman, who is a king with an army at his disposal, and Batman, who, again, is the World's Greatest Tactician and the nominal head of a global company, as well as an Amazon warrior bred for combat, never show any, including the necessary ability to know that you have to have...leaders and tactics."
7. "Batman keeps coming up with ways to kill us behind our backs."
8. "Batman trusts little kids with his life but doesn't trust us at all, even though we keep Darkseid from conquering the Earth. Repeatedly."
So on, and so forth.
One of the reasons I'm really liking the current era of Avengers, as well as some previous versions, is that they are truly functioning as a team. While Bendis certainly liked dialogue more than most, you always got the feel that the team functioned as a unit -- even when they had Sentry on the team, which wasn't ideal, but Bendis was clearly trying to find a place for the character.
But under Jonathan Hickman, the proper Avengers book...it's exactly what I would believe a global/galactic force to be. They just...they just feel like a unit. A team. A coherent, functioning, effective team.
In Justice League? You get Element Woman and Firestorm. The first needs mental help, the second are two teenagers who, at this point of the DCnU, are not very experienced at all.
I truly believe the Justice League's slavish devotion to these tropes is why the franchise has underachieved for years. Truthfully? The only reason why this franchise is even still relevant is because Bruce Timm and DC Animated made it so, after Grant Morrison's run ended.
It's been a long, long time since then, folks. A long, long time.
*Sniff, sniff* "Damn it, Diana...If I'd known they would trade us in for a JT Krul-written Captain Atom and "The Savage Hawkman," I'd have let Superboy-Prime destroy all reality.""Superman flies and is really strong...what the fuck else do you need to know?!"
-- Hitler, expressing his displeasure about DC rebooting and complaints about continuity