The seventh and eighth volumes of the DC Comics Graphic Novel Collection collect JLA: Year One #1-12, Justice League of America #9 and Detective Comics #225. As with the other volumes, the one-shots are every collector’s dream. In the case of Justice League of America #9, it tells us the origin of the League from the Silver Age of comics, while Detective Comics #225 looks at the first appearance of Martian Manhunter. While these characters have changed and been reborn over the years, it’s intriguing (and downright humorous) to see their creators’ initial vision for them.
The granddaddy, though, is JLA: Year One, a series that was originally released in 1998. It’s a retelling of the early days of the JLA, reimagining the founding team as Green Lantern, The Flash, Martian Manhunter, Aquaman and Black Canary. It’s quite an interesting storyline since it kept Batman and Superman out of the big picture for as long as possible, letting other Leaguers be the stars of the show. Undoubtedly, this is something that might put off fans of the Man of Steel and the Caped Crusader, but it’s good to see this collection focus on other characters as well.
The highly meticulous artwork is spectacular—and a reminder of Jim Lee’s undeniable influence on the artists of this era. The amount of attention to detail of every character and background is phenomenal, pulling you into this layered world and wondering how Barry Kitson didn’t go mad pencilling this colossal effort. There’s so much happening in each panel, yet Kitson managed to reel it all in to look like it was easy.
While the artwork is flawless, the narrative isn’t quite so memorable. The alternative origin is decent and has its wow moments, but this wouldn’t be the go-to JLA book for fans. The late 90s was a weird time for comic books and it’s reflected several times within this series, with its strange tonal shifts and questionable character values. Sometimes, it’s silly with the goofy Silver Age-styled behaviour of the characters, while other times it tries too hard to be serious. It’s a product of its time, and the story struggles to hold up as a classic today.