Just Imagine… JLA

Just Imagine JLASummary: Just Imagine… Marvel Comics pioneer Stan Lee teaming up with various DC in-house creators to “re-imagine” some of DC Comics’ most well-known, iconic characters.

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‘Just Imagine…’ is a series of graphic novels that Stan Lee wrote for DC Comics, reinterpreting many of their iconic superheroes as they would have been had he created them. Paired up with a different artist for each issue, the series completely reinvents our favourite DC heroes and heroines, giving them new looks, powers, histories and personalities.

Each graphic novel tackles a different character and is an origin story with a primary adventure to set the stage for that hero/heroine. The recurring elements are its setting, which is usually Los Angeles, its main villain, Reverend Dominic Darrk (of the Church of Eternal Empowerment) and a mysterious green element that empowers many of the series’ heroes and heroines.

“Holy $#!tballs, Batdude!”, you might say excitedly. “Stan Lee rewrote all of the DC characters?”. Woah, woah! Hold onto your superbritches, lil’ one: the series was not well received and has largely been forgotten since. But we here at TCE were very curious, and we know some of you are too, so we decided to explore each one in turn, giving them the spotlight they deserve.

This week on ‘Just Imagine…’:

JLA, by Stan Lee and Jerry Ordway 6.5

I’ve always had mixed feelings about the Justice League of America. It should be awesome, because it contains all of DC’s best and greatest heroes and heroines. And yet, much like The Avengers, the sum is lesser than its parts for some reason. I always found the group dynamics awkward at best and the adventures weren’t really to my liking. Still, it included cool characters who frequently didn’t have their own books, such as the Martian Manhunter.

Stan Lee’s JLA is a composite of the characters that he’s introduced in his ‘Just Imagine…’ series so far: Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, Green Lantern and The Flash. However, in this iteration, they are brought together by Green Lantern in order fight off the collected menace of Deathstroke, Parasite and Blockbuster, escaped death row inmates. Imbued with purple power by Rev. Darrk, they are now terrorizing L.A. as The Doom Patrol.

GL saves Adam Strange from their attack and whisks him away, but somehow The Doom Patrol track them down just as the other superheroes arrive. Their first team up is a failure, with Superman being possessed by Parasite, and the others taking a severe beating – before the villains run off to attack Rev. Darrk, even though he’s the one who freed them. Why? Who knows? And why is Adam Strange both fighting the JLA and Rev. Darrk at once?

I mean, pick your battles, kid!

The dynamic between Adam Strange and Rev. Darrk makes no sense: one moment The Doom Patrol are about to kill him, another moment, they’re suppose to bring him back alive. WTF. The worst of it is that Reverend Darrk has now very clearly made his intentions known to the world, and his Church of Eternal Empowerment has only the one location – and yet he somehow escapes the JLA’s grasp. And he’ll continue to be a problem in subsequent volumes.

Clearly, our heroes are a bit scattered or else they would just keep going back to the Church until they’ve taken him down. The authorities might even be involved. Alas, instead they are taken away by Green Lantern to their new meeting place, which is actually Yggdrasil. All they need to do is touch the symbol on his chest to be taken there – which essentially means that they can’t go there without Green Lantern’s involvement. Great HQ, guys!

The writing is incredibly poor here, lost in convolution. On the one hand Adam Strange tells Green Lantern he’ll show him how to contact the other superheroes, but when comes the time they both forget and he pleads GL to find a way to do it. What? This story is mostly about stringing together a bunch of action sequences, all the while justifying somehow why these people would work together. Contrivances, contrivances… oh, Stan.

‘Just Imagine… JLA’ should have been the best of all the books, if only because it gathers all of the series’ heroes in one place. Alas, like many previous JLA adventures, it just doesn’t add up: they don’t have a great group dynamic (in fact, this Superman is such a douche that he spoils everything!) and they’re not impressive in any way. If you like wall-to-wall action with very little thought behind it, though, this is the book for you. Ahem.

Otherwise it contributes next to nothing to the series and mythology. And what it does contribute is forgettable.

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On the street: For some reason, there isn’t an ‘On the street’ segment this time around. Could Stan and Michael have run out of mundane filler ideas? One can always dream…

Next week: Secret Files and Origins!

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