On A-List team books

I’m a big fan of team books. I really like the aspect of having an ensemble cast of characters coming together to fight for the good cause. If done well, you can have a group of heroes that normally wouldn’t shine on their own (ever wonder why Rogue and Gambit series keep getting cancelled?) become a big thing as a group.

Of course, the more popular thing to do is to take your already established characters and shoehorn them together. That’s cool – people love seeing their favorite heroes working together. But if you throw too many in, you run into a problem of telling consistent stories without having to stretch the limits of your threat. There’s only so much that can challenge a group made up of several near-invulnerable heroes, after all.

In the Justice League, you have the big three – Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman – two Green Lanterns and the Flash. Never mind the rest of the team (Black Canary, Black Lightning, Vixen, Red Arrow, Hawkgirl and Red Tornado) – with just those six characters, you have the entire power core of the DC heroes. Who is going to stop them?

Once this realization came to me, I quit complaining about the constant villain team-ups. What else can you do against them?

Avengers has had this problem several times. The original line-up featured three of Marvel’s biggest solo stars (Iron Man, Hulk, Thor) and added Captain America three issues later. Once the series got going, however, the three originals were gone – replaced by side-characters Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. From this point on, Avengers dug its own character niche in the Marvel Universe – certain characters were Avengers – and that was that.

JSA is like that now. JLA seems to be on the fence about it. On the one hand, the book heavily pushes the more unknown characters: Black Canary is the leader, Black Lightning has a substantial role, Vixen has a long-running subplot, Hawkgirl and Red Arrow are bumping uglies. On the other, the book still seems to long for the Grant Morrison days of jam all big characters into the book. Morrison made it work, though, and soon added lesser names like Plastic Man and Steel. JLA has seen two big villain team-ups thus far.

Perhaps it’s because I fondly remember a League featuring two major characters – Batman and Martian Manhunter – and a load of second-stringers and nobodies. Even when the book was changed from comedy back to action by Dan Jurgens just before Doomsday, the League was made up of the same cast of lower talents. Over those 70+ issues, though, certain characters became core Leaguers – even if the DCU proper didn’t think too highly of them. I think that’s what the League could use now. Dip into the vast pool of DC heroes (if any survive the usual Crisis cullings) and get yourself a base of heroes that can come in and out of the scene. Rotate your leader and have them put out a call, with who knows showing up. I would like to see something like that, with the lesser heroes actually having a challenge, rather than seeing what’s going on now.

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