This week sees the release of DC Comics' new series Justice League of America #1
and JLA: Vibe #1
. In Justice League of America, the United States government creates a version of the League that answers only to them. JLA: Vibe focuses on one of the members, a reboot of a "classic" member from the early 80s Detroit incarnation of the Justice League.
One of the things that makes almost every incarnation of the Justice League interesting is that it always contains the presence of very powerful super-heroes. It also has members whose usefulness is questionable at best, but they still hold a place in our heart. In fact, some of them turn out to be our favorite members!
It inspired us to take a look back at who we consider the Most Valuable – and Least Valuable – members throughout the Justice League's history.
The Manhunter rarely if ever gets his due, but he's really the heart of the league. Alternately struggling to understand and become a part of humanity, the displaced Martian rarely if ever had his own solo series to develop his character, so any character growth usually occurred in the Justice League books. It's led to some great moments both for the character itself and in the context of his work with the team. It also helps that he has a really whacky array of powers, ranging from super strength to invisibility to shape-shifting.
The Flash, to prove how useful he is, punches his predecessor in the face. That's how you prove yourself useful, right? Comic geeks enamored with the Flash will gush about how underappreciated he is and how his super speed, and particularly how he employs it, actually makes him one of the more powerful characters in the DC Universe. They're right. On a team with characters like Superman and Green Lantern, he can still hang and is the hero of many a tale.
I know, I know. It's easy to joke about how useless the guy is because he talks to fish. But that's exactly why he is
useful. Well, not fish communication so much as being an ambassador to the 70% of the planet that isn't land. In our world it may not mean much, but in a Universe inhabited by numerous undersea civilizations, it comes in handy.
Zatanna has always been the League's conduit to the mystical corner of the DCU, which is important since a lot of its rogues gallery are magical dudes and dudettes that overwhelm Superman due to his "vulnerability to magic" (who isn't vulnerable to magic?). She's also a deeper character than her common counterpar in the DCU, Dr. Fate, while not carrying his albatross of being an obvious deus ex machina.
Why? Because he's Batman. No matter what era of comics or adaptation we're talking about, Batman always seems to be able to do anything and acquire any information you might need. He's a temperamental loner and as such may go long stretches where he's not a member, but when he is there, he's invaluable.
Eventually he became a real character unto himself, but when he was first introduced by Dan Jurgens, he was just a storyline device for the Martian Manhunter's reintroduction to the League. In fact, he was
the Martian Manhunter, part of an overly elaborate plot by some demon to infiltrate the League. I never quite figured that out since it would have been easier to use J'onn J'onzz himself, but to each his own (nefarious plan).
As a robot learning to adjust to the world, Red Tornado sometimes served a function similar to Martian Manhunter. But he was also perpetually self-loathing. Worse, he was constantly
getting blown up, to the point where in later years it became a running gag. In a way, he's the sentient version of a junker car that you keep around because you can't afford a new one, but with the time and money you dump into repairs every three to four weeks you might as well just get an upgrade.
Vibe (The Original)
Vibe was a noble but hilariously misguided attempt at social relevance. A street kid from Detroit, he joined the League when it was displaced to that city and when the members were other orphaned heroes with no purpose in any other book. He would constantly just start breakdancing, like out of nowhere, in a forced attempt to appear cool. Eventually his "attitude" evolved to the point where he became more of a nuisance than anything else, and he was killed off in a fairly undignified manner by one of Professor Ivo's androids. A far more interesting and tolerable version of the character was just reintroduced into DC's New 52 initiative.
People probably would expect Superman to be on the list of MOST Valuable Leaguers. I say thee nay! For one, that's almost too easy. But I'm not just being contrarian. It's almost as if Superman doesn't live up to his potential as part of the Justice League. This is exemplified by the Silver Age and Bronze Age stories that would dispatch him as quickly as possible (usually exposing his "vulnerability to magic," as if magic is a thing that only affects a select number of people).
Oh, Snapper Carr. The only character that comes across as more desperate than Vibe. Snapper was created as a means for teens to relate to the stories or even insert themselves into them. He was sort of a hip beatnik type, whose trademark was – you guessed it – Snapping. He was very much a character of his time, but has been brought back sporadically over the years as everything from a villain to a secret agent.
So, there you have it. The team has always has its share of interesting and diverse characters, and even if they're not always embraced at the time of their introduction, they've always added something to the legend of the Justice League.
Think we missed anyone on either list? Let us know in the comments!
Source: DC Domics