JLA Rock Of Ages Review By Deffinition
JLA Rock Of Ages is regarded by many as the greatest Justice League Story ever told. Kevin Smith even went so far as to put it as ‘the best a comic can be.’ Something which DC have proudly printed on the front cover.
High praise indeed.
However, Times change and the classics of yesteryear often age poorly due to changing tastes and sensibilities. Here we are at 2017, almost 20 years since the book’s original release in 1998, and it will be interesting to see if the work has stood the test of time.
If you’ve read my review of JLA Vol 1 then you’ll know I found the work inconsistent. The opening chapters were phenomenal with the latter being less so. I’m very excited to see if Rock Of Ages can deliver on the potential that Morrisson has. Whilst he is my favourite writer I can admit that sometimes his work does not always hit the mark.
I am anxious to see if this can deliver under modern day scrutiny and whether I will regard the book as the triumph that many view it as.
So with my introduction out the way let’s jump in!
The Injustice League
Lex Luthor has acquired the Philosopher’s stone. Regarded as the most powerful device in the universe it is a mystical totem, able to either create beauty or cause vast destruction. Gathering super villains from around the world Lex has created a formidable team and through the use of hard light projections begins attacking Earth.
In it’s opening chapter the book feels very by the numbers but don’t let it fool you. This is a story with true depth to it. Whilst Morrisson uses theoretical physics to add a mystique to the antagonists he also bases a lot of the scenarios in real world situations.
Green Arrow and Green Lantern, discuss in a cafe that their powers are no match when it comes to the big hitters. Batman and Robin survey the streets trying to gain insight into Lex’s plans and overall there is a gravity to the absurd situations.
The work feels well balanced and switches from the mundane to supernatural without feeling jarring or unwarranted.
The Mind Of The Joker
The League trace the signal of the stone and go to investigate the demonic looking Skull satellite in which the villainous team reside. Upon entering they are immediately transported, through the Philosopher’s totem, into the Joker’s mind.
Thus far I’ve never really encountered a story which deals with the subject of insanity in such a physical way. The Clown Prince of Crime’s brain is a labyrinth that only the sick could rationalise.
Morrisson maticulously manipulates the reader into the mind of a madman and early on it stands out as a spectacular set piece.
This is quickly followed by the arrival of Metron, a watcher who has travelled time and space bearing witness to major events. He brings a message. There is a cataclysm that is coming, and it’s name is Darkseid!
Metron transports The Flash, Green Lantern and Aquaman through time to get the stone before it falls into the hands of Darkseid but all is not as it seems.
From his lair on the planet Apokolips, Darkseid has become aware of Lex’s possession of the philosophers stone. After tricking the Justice League into destroying it he is able to unleash the Anti Life Equation. A means of mind control that when applied to a planet’s populous transforms them into mindless zombies. With the majority of the world willing to sacrifice their lives to suit their new evil overload’s nefarious plans it seems all is lost.
In any other book the League would have stopped Darkseid from destroying the stone and the world would be saved. In Rock Of Ages however, that isn’t the case. Metron betrayed The Flash, Green Lantern and Aquaman. Hurtling them through time they have to battle through the centuries to get back and when they do it is too late.
They arrive 15 years after the fact to see Darkseid has taken over the planet. Like something out of an H.R Giger painting, citizens are now horrific zombie like creatures with hands covering their faces. It speaks metaphorically to what they have become, no longer able to see, hear or speak. They worryingly attack without mercy, doing the bidding of their master with complete obedience, refusing to acknowledge the horrifying deeds that they are committing.
It certainly is one of the most sinister depictions of a Darkseid invasion ever put to page and the images will stay with you long after putting the book down. Morrisson has crafted a masterpiece and it seems Kevin Smith was right (for once).
Just kidding, I like him.
The trio of Flash, Green Lantern and Aquaman quickly meet up with the last surviving heroes. A rebellion has been formed and they launch an attack on Darkseid’s headquarters.
The work wouldn’t feel out of place in a war novel. There are harrowing images of depravity and despair that really bring the book down in tone to a dark place. Never before have I seen a mainstream comic with such a bleak tone. There is clearly influence an influence from concentration camps and Darkseid is almost hommaging Hitler in his quest for complete World domination.
It’s rare to see such agony in a Justice League story….and what’s worse is, you’ll love it!
It’s only upon discovering that Batman has infiltrated Darkseid’s ranks and is planning to take down the new God that there is a glimmer of hope.
The Battle for Earth
The climax takes place in both the present and future and both scenarios deliver on the thrills and ingenuity that Morrisson is known for. Darkseid is taken down in spectacular fashion and the Joker is made sane for a few moments in order to save Star City.
It’s excellently delivered and feels like an epic conclusion to perhaps the Justice League’s biggest threat yet.
Rock Of Ages is a fantastic book. Whilst starting off slow and predictable, it soon diverts into a story that shows creative genius and innovation. There is something for everyone here and whilst there are some minor problems the Pro’s by far outweigh the Cons.
The JLA series deserves your time for this story alone. Whilst not being ‘the best a comic book can be’ by modern standards it still is darn well close.
That’s why Rock Of Ages gets a…
Leave a comment whether you agree with my ranking or not.