The end-all-be-all of Justice League stories … literally … will be on sale on April 27 when Justice League #75 arrives.
Sorry for the spoilers (heh), but it’s titled ‘Death of the Justice League’ and it’s about … you guessed it, the death of most of the current Justice League team, including but not limited to Wonder Woman, Superman, Batman, and Aquaman.
It also puts an end to the team in the DC Universe and an end to the current … or any Justice League series for the foreseeable future.
See? ‘End-all-be-all.’ DC ain’t messin’ around.
Now whether it will be regarded as one of the best Justice League stories ever … well, that’s a whole other superball of wax. But at least it’ll probably receive enough attention to be part of a conversation.
But until then and after enough time passes for the creative merit of ‘Death of the Justice League’ to be thoughtfully considered, here’s what Newsarama rates right now as the best Justice League stories ever.
10. Origin – Justice League (2011)
In the wake of Flashpoint (opens in new tab), the subsequent ‘New 52’ reboot era had a lot to live up to. So what better way to kick off a new era than with Geoff Johns and Jim Lee setting the standard for things to come in Justice League (opens in new tab)?
In their first six issues, Johns and Lee established a new dynamic for the team, adding Cyborg to the squad and having them face off against Parademons from the jump.
While some might argue that DC’s recent revisionist approach to the era might undermine the work here, the story serves as a foundation for everything that’s come after it, and for parts of DC’s cinematic universe as well.
9. No Man Escapes The Manhunters – Justice League of America (1977)
Steve Englehart only wrote Justice League for a year, but he evolved the way the team’s stories were being told – especially in ‘No Man Escapes the Manhunters,’ which is collected in Justice League of America: A Celebration of 60 Years (opens in new tab).
Green Lantern is framed for killing a planet inhabited by billions by the Manhunters and the League – sure of his innocence – sets out to prove it.
Englehart and artist Dick Dillin throw everything at the League as they face off against the Manhunters and a series of death traps. Englehart gives his characters unique opportunities to thrive while peppering in bits of past continuity and also setting up future stories at a time when continuity wasn’t quite as considered as it is now.
But the story’s impact has echoed for decades in stories as well as the League’s animated endeavors.
8. ‘Justice League of America,’ The Brave and the Bold (1960)
This is the one that started it all – and I mean, all. If not for the Justice League, we might not have the Marvel Universe either!
Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky give us the formula for superhero team books to come and while many readers might find the storytelling of the Silver Age hard to parse, it’s extremely telling that little has changed on a more macro level.
The Justice League was born out of Silver Age weirdness and the best creators have made sure that remains a part of the team’s legacy. You can read these early Justice League adventures in Justice League of America: The Silver Age Vol. 1 (opens in new tab).
7. ‘Tower of Babel’ – JLA (2000)
The bigger they are, the harder they fall – and the Justice League is no exception.
Grant Morrison, Mark Waid, and Howard Porter’s ‘ (opens in new tab)Tower of Babel (opens in new tab)‘ stands as a great examination of Batman’s role within the league, the larger DC superhero community and just how prepared the World’s Greatest Detective really is.
Of course, Batman isn’t the villain here, but Ra’s Al Ghul’s systematic takedown of the League using Batman’s methods is telling (and honestly, a lot of fun).
Detractors frequently wonder why Bruce is so revered throughout the DCU, and Waid perfectly shows why.
6. ‘The Tornado’s Path’ – Justice League of America (2007)
Justice League: The Tornado’s Path (opens in new tab) serves as a solid origin story for the post-Infinite Crisis iteration of the League.
Brad Meltzer and Ed Benes bring some necessary diversity to the cast, adding Vixen and Black Lightning while also catching readers up on the characters’ whereabouts as part of the ‘One Year Later’ event during which DC continuity jumped forward one year in time.
Meltzer doesn’t reinvent the wheel here but rebuilds the foundation of the League on mutual respect, friendship, and heroism around a deeper look at Red Tornado and his newfound humanity.
5. Justice League: A Midsummer’s Nightmare (1996)
Many of Mark Waid’s Justice League stories involve depowering the League in some way, and A Midsummer’s Nightmare (opens in new tab), with artists Jeff Johnson and Darick Robertson, is no different.
Dr. Destiny strips the heroes of their powers and gives them to the rest of the population so the League is allowed to live normal lives for once.
But the strength of putting the World’s Greatest Heroes in this situation is that it allows Waid and the characters to come to terms with what it means to be a hero and how they can overcome their situation despite the odds stacked against them.
‘A Midsummer’s Nightmare’ reminds us that the Justice League is more than a set of costumes or powers – it’s its willingness and need to see good and do good in the world.
4. Justice (2005-2007)
Justice (opens in new tab) is undeniably one of the best Justice League stories of all time in part because it serves as an update to the classic Super Friends cartoon. It’s the Justice League versus the Legion of Doom, trying to stop the end of the world.
While that’s a pretty basic premise, the concept is elevated by Alex Ross’s iconic art. Ross’s own Kingdom Come (opens in new tab) has served as a highwater mark for DC stories, but even he grew tired of its influence, wanting to instead focus on feats of great heroism rather than superhuman warfare.
By taking the campiness of the Super Friends and playing it straight – with incredible art to boot – Ross, co-writer Jim Krueger, and co-artist Doug Braithwaite embrace the potential of the DCU and remind readers that even the most madcap stories can have stakes and pathos.
3. ‘Divided We Fall’ – JLA (2001)
Mark Waid gets some help from Bryan Hitch as the League is separated from their alter-egos, and only Plastic Man can put them back together again!
While the premise might not seem to have the stakes or drama of other stories on the list, it provides a great canvas to explore what makes these characters heroes but also what makes them relatable.
Waid has always had a knack for understanding the cores of the characters he writes when he’s at his best and ‘Divided We Fall’ puts that skill at the forefront.
2. Justice League: A New Beginning (1989)
Maybe one of the strangest Justice League line-ups but undeniably one of the best. JM Dematteis, Keith Giffen, and Kevin Maguire’s Justice League International brought together a who’s who of benchwarmer characters like Mister Miracle, Blue Beetle, Guy Gardner, Fire, Ice, and more in the story collected as Justice League: A New Beginning (opens in new tab).
With a lack of the somewhat stodgy icons of Leagues’ past, the creative team was able to bring a lot of levity to the proceedings and still balance them out with big action beats.
For many readers, this was the moment that they fell in love with characters they had only a passing interest in before. And of course, testing Batman’s limits with a new cast of characters is always fun – as evidenced by him punching out Guy Gardner in the first arc.
1. ‘Rock of Ages’ – JLA (1998)
Grant Morrison might have started their run with Howard Porter with a somewhat ‘back to basics’ approach, but by the time he got around to ‘Rock of Ages,’ (opens in new tab) all the weirdness and fun that the Justice League could embody was on full display.
Darkseid is the League’s tireless antagonist, and that’s no different here – except the Big Bad has beaten them, and the heroes must utilize every single weapon in their arsenal to win the day.
Morrison’s reverence for comic book history and willingness to dive back into the tricks and tropes of previous eras gives readers a taste of alternate realities, time travel, and the Fourth World. It’s equal parts history lesson and a celebration of the DCU.