JLA: Rock of Ages (collecting issues 10-15 of JLA) by Grant Morrison, Howard Porter, et al.
JLA: Rock of Ages feels like a true Grant Morrison comic – the first time in his tenure on the book that he appears to have let loose with his narrative creativity (though his wild ideas have been evident from a very early stage). “Rock of Ages” is a time-hopping story in which members of the League fall into a dystopian future that “could occur” if they don’t return and stop their colleagues from defeating Lex Luthor and his Injustice League, who are attempting a corporate takeover of the Justice League. The narrative wraps in on itself, twisting and turning until it’s difficult to discern which way is up, with the Worlogog (or Philosophers’ Stone) at the heart of the narrative – its design a visual metaphor for the mind-warping narrative Morrison creates with these six issues.
It is also fitting that, although a retread of the theme utilized in the two-issue story involving the Key, the heroes who fall into the future – Green Lantern, Aquaman, and Flash – must make their way back to stop their friends from defeating Luthor so that the dystopian future in which Darkseid has created a new Apokolips on Earth does not come to pass. This inversion of the typical superhero story mirrors the narrative framework Morrison uses for “Rock of Ages.”
Not to belabor the point, but the story does suffer – again – from the cluttered and sometimes confusing artwork of Howard Porter and John Dell. It really is a travesty, in my opinion, that Morrison’s inventive stories are hampered by such muddled, hackneyed art. There are panels and pages where it is difficult to tell what is going on, but thankfully, the words and the ideas peppered throughout the narrative kept me involved and enthusiastic.
And, once again, Morrison shines with the inventiveness of his ideas, which he always injects into the narrative in an understated fashion, adding to the wonder I take away from it. They are found in bits of dialogue or off-handed scenes that always come across as obvious once stated, but are ideas that feel brand new. These moments, more than anything else for me, are the moments that elevate this book and make it so enjoyable. Some of those moments of brilliance are:
- J’onn J’onnz shrinking “the rational, analytical left hemisphere of [his] brain and enlarg[ing] the irrational right hemisphere” in order to “see the world as the joker sees it…” when he and Superman are stuck in a holographic maze created by the Joker’s consciousness.
- Batman realizing Luthor is attempting a hostile takeover of the JLA and noting that Lex doesn’t understand he’s going up against someone with as much experience in the boardroom as he who plays the game of “corporate takeovers” better than Luthor – Bruce Wayne.
- The Atom realizing (because Ray Palmer is a scientist) that, if Darkseid can see through his forceshield, that means light is getting through, and then shrinking himself down small enough to follow the light inside. Simple, elegant, and it makes one think.
- Orion, in this alternate future, affirming his heritage as a warrior born of Darkseid and destroying the universe with the Genesis box in order to save it – thus, exhibiting the heritage of his upbringing by Highfather. Only Orion, a product of these two diametrically opposed fathers, could achieve such a feat.
- Luthor using Jemm, Son of Saturn to try and block the telepathic abilities of J’onn J’onnz. (Man, I loved the lush artwork of Gene Colan on that series)
And of course, there are many more hidden gems within this volume of JLA. Very few writers are able to achieve this level of intelligence in “mainstream” comics, particularly within the superhero medium. I look forward to what Morrison does next.