It’s finally time for another really old comic. This is from the good ole Silver Age…as you probably gathered from the title. This was a great age for comics and DC in particular as the Justice League had a superb roster and Superman was still nigh invincible. Of course, every villain and even the D listers had Kryptonite back in the day so it balanced out. It’s certainly a great comic collection and while it can get a little formulaic at times, it’s great to see these classic stories. It’s also interesting to see that Superman is the strong member as well as the smart one this time.
There are definitely a large variety of stories to be found here. They are all fairly formulaic so it is good that the writing is on point as it could get a little old otherwise. For example, one comic has a villain pit the Justice League against a group of other villains who were getting in his way. He sends them off in pairs to fight and each team goes up against a tricky situation where they end up coming out on top after each member is able to do something to help. There’s never a change to the formula with a character actually losing. It stays completely true to this and then in the end the team gets together and saves the day. It is very predictable, but it’s not something that actually ends up hurting the issue. I would enjoy seeing the issues stray from the format a little, but this works well enough.
Before talking about the issues a little more, lets talk about the art and the characters a little more. The art is consistent and all of the characters are in their iconic designs. This was definitely the classic era of DC and it’s cool to see all of the characters together. I can imagine that fans were incredibly hyped to see the team together. While this is volume one, the characters already know each other and the team is formed so I’m assuming that they came together in a different title. One comic has them all go into their secret identities which was also cool since they got to bring supporting characters along for the ride. The fight scenes all look solid and this art style will always be a lot of fun. It’s clear and easy to read.
Due to the writing being so sharp for this collection, all of the characters are fairly likable. Even someone like Martian Manhunter, who I am certainly not a fan of, is acceptable here. I still find him rather bland next to the other characters and his weakness against fire is so easily exploited, but he’s not super arrogant here and is a decent team member. Flash is solid as always and his speed is more consistent than the strengths of the other heroes. There are less excuses for villains to exploit it which really works in his favor. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Green Lantern since literally anything that is yellow ends up messing with him. It happens quite a lot and he is the only hero who had to watch from the sidelines during the climax of the final adventure. He even mentions how he is sad that he couldn’t help out, but the other heroes cheer him up.
Wonder Woman’s only real weakness is that she loses her powers when she is tied up, but that never actually happens here so she does fairly well. She may still not be as strong as Superman, but she’s certainly a heavy hitter on the team. Naturally, the big two really steal the show here. Superman is great as always even if he gets less screentime than the other members. He is always very confident and isn’t afraid to call the other team members out if something appears to be off. He seems quite upset when he returns from a wild goose chase until he learns that it was all part of the plan. Superman is also shown to be super smart as he always knows what is going on even when Batman is forced to ask questions.
Of course, Batman looks great as well. He may not have super powers, but his gadgets always come in handy and he is still shown to be one of the smart members. He always has something up his sleeve and the team wouldn’t be the same without him. Finally we have Aquaman. His weakness is the most exploitable so the issues always have very forced moments where the villains sprinkle him with water so the hero won’t die. After all, Aquaman must make contact with water once every hour or he will perish so for the issues where he is knocked out for a few hours…..things happen. In one issue, we find out that his chair has an automatic sprinkler which blasts Aquaman with water every hour so even if he is tied up for a while, he ends up being okay. The other heroes find water for him as well once in a while, but you’ll really expect him to die on a mission one of these days. There are so many situations where water just isn’t around for a little while. It’s hard to get past that. Luckily, I believe that a lot of the modern comics got rid of this weakness or at least lessened it.
There are also some rare guest stars here like Green Arrow and Adam Strange. It was nostalgic to see Strange return since I read a lot of his adventures back in the day. He handled the situation well even if the ending was rather tragic for him as per usual. You’ll feel bad for Green Arrow when he shows up since he gets framed quite a bit (Although he could have defended himself a little better) and the whole team is eager to jump on him. They don’t doubt that something may be off for a second and are pretty harsh with the guy. It’s easy to see why he is rarely on the team. I certainly wouldn’t be eager to join after this issue.
One of the stories has a guy hypnotize the Justice League. He did a pretty good job of it as he simply tricked all of the Leaguers into running right to where he was and they all fell instantly. He then sold the JL members to local gangsters so that the League could steal things for them. The gangsters then decided to compete with each other so they had pairs of League members (formula) head to each artifact, where they then got to fight with each other. I’m always up for some good JL fights, but unfortunately, they all essentially ended as ties. The heroes then realized that what they were going to steal was already gone, which is why they had no reason to battle. The only match that was almost definitive was probably Martian Manhunter vs Wonder Woman, where the former certainly had the edge before it was interrupted. It was a fun story although the Justice League certainly didn’t look great that time. They tend to greatly underestimate their foes.
Of course, this collection also has some very iconic stories like the Starro Invasion as well as that time where Despero infiltrated JL headquarters and telepathically defeated all of its members. Flash then had to play the ultimate chess game with his friends hanging in the balance. Flash wasn’t pleased, but he is a good Chess player so he was prepared for this. Another story had Snapper find out about an alien plot to take over the world so he phones the Justice League in. Unfortunately, they were defeated rather easily and lost their confidence and physical abilities after being distorted by a magical trick mirror. (Close enough) Good thing Aquaman was at the ready!
The only character here who could be a little annoying at times was Snapper. It’s cool to see him as a hero since he is typically just a TV reporter who likes to insult the heroes. It was quite the switch, but his “hip” dialogue could be a little over the top at times. He also uses his snapping gimmick too often and just about all of his screen time is used up on this. I believe that just about all of the other human sidekicks have been more fun, but at least Snapper always takes the subtle burns fairly well. Nothing that the JL tells him ever manages to get the kid down.
Overall, Most of the other stories are fairly similar to the ones that I listed above. The JL is constantly kidnapped and forced to go to various places or they decide to split up and gather artifacts. Whatever the narrative reason, the team uses this excuse to split into pairs and then solve the mission. Perhaps every issue was treated as a special team up and this formula made it easier for the writers to think of new ideas. One idea would become 5 whole plots after all. It could have been more unique, but having the world’s greatest heroes teaming up will never get old. I highly recommend checking out these Silver Age comics and remembering how it started DC on such a great path.