I don’t think that anybody would argue that Grant Morrison produced the quintessential Justice League in the first series titled just with the initials JLA.
With enormous concepts and world-shaking threats nearly every storyline, this is what we expected from DC’s big seven. Character development of the major players was reserved to the pages of their own titles, although constant attention was always paid to what was happening elsewhere; while the JLA focused on developing some of the more minor characters, such as Big Barda, Steel, Aztec, Manitou Raven and of course, Plastic Man who suddenly became the force to be reckoned with that he was always meant to be.
Yet for character development, I am surprised to find myself saying that the Giffen bwah-ha-ha period of the League comes out on top, from its very first issue all the way to Breakdowns in the pages of Justice League International and Justice League Europe. Critically, it was frequently panned, but a run of over 150 issues between them rather flew in the face of that.
Another highlight in characterisation of the League was the pre-Crisis departure to the replacement Detroit team: Steel, Vibe, Gypsy, Aquaman, Zatanna and Vixen. This was a team tragically cut short in the lead up to the Legends crossover in 1986, but their legacy has been felt time and time again, As the years have passed, their sacrifice gained greater and greater noble status.
One team that was equally cut short in its prime, but will never receive such accolade is James Robinson’s League that occupied the Watchtower just prior to the Flashpoint. Dick Grayson as Batman, Mikaal Tomas as Starman, Donna Troi, Jade, Jesse Quick and Supergirl; the title was continuity heavy and action-packed. Recently re-reading this, I was surprised to find it stood the test of time, and was even more enjoyable the second time around.
Continuity is not always a bad thing, and that is something that the current incarnation is lacking. The presence of the Big Seven is not enough to carry it for me, and the best character to come out of its pages has to be the new incarnation of Steve Trevor, the most hard-assed iteration yet. Otherwise, the new League has seemed like the early days of an original Image title, characters with big promises but little substance. These characters each have several decades of history to them, not that you could tell.
Which brings me to the new Justice League OF America, with the new Vibe from the Detroit team, Steve Trevor, Amanda Waller (playing on the same dynamic as she had with the League in the Giffen Era, but come on now, when is she going to put on some WEIGHT?) and the Martian Manhunter, finally back where he belongs.
If like me, a second-rate League has disappointed you, then the new JL Of A is the perfect panacea. History, plots, counter plots, continuity and Amanda Waller!