by Alan Kistler
This month, we have something a little different. Instead of a review, here are Alan Kistler's annotations to the "Rock of Ages" six-issue story arc which ran in JLA a year ago. We hope you find them informative!"Rock of Ages" Annotations
JLA #10 - "Rock of Ages - Prologue: Genesis & Revelations"
Page 1 - We see the fictional Star City, California. This was once the home of the original Green Arrow. Notice how Morrison lets the scenes speak for themselves and keeps the dialogue off until Panel 5 (I loved the speech there!)
Page 2-3 - I love the JLA Revenge Squad. Morrison continues to play with pieces of DC's past; Pre-Crisis, in an old World's Finest story, Batman and Superman fought the Superman Revenge Squad (mad scientists who shaved their heads in tribute to Luthor) and the Batman Revenge Squad (small-time hoods who wanted revenge). Both teams employed outfits that were similar to their enemies. While the S-Revenge Squad had glowing green suits (an allusion to kryptonite), the B-Revenge Squad employed purple-tinted outfits with skulls superimposed over the Bat Symbol. Porter has taken more inspiration from the B-RS, although he does add a green hue to the skin of the JLA-RS members.
Page 4 - Notice the screen in front of J'onn displays a man dressed in a Star Trek uniform.
Page 6 - Nice display of Connor's technique/style as opposed to his streetsmart father.
Page 7 - Panel 3: Obviously, whoever was controlling this Aquaman doppleganger feared that Orin would recognize him. Why else would he suddenly flee? A familiar foe, perhaps?
Panel 6: Batman's lines hint towards the true villains behind-the-scenes. The "genius" turns out to be Luthor. The line about the "madman" leads us directly onto the next page.
Page 8 - Panels 1-2: That sinister laugh and the oh, so-evil smile. There's no doubt about it. It's the Joker!! It is only fitting that the Harlequin of Hate would be controlling the Batman doppleganger.
Panels 4-5: Notice the juxtaposition here. While the Joker is displayed here as wild and chaotic, randomly killing people, Batman jumps in acting very calm, methodical and focused. Beautiful writing display by Morrison. Such a nice way to show us just how opposite these enemies are.
Page 10 - Panel 1: The man in center is the one controlling the Aquaman evil twin. Notice the line "He recognized me." Obviously he knows Orin. Our suspicions are confirmed on the second panel as we see the outlines of his mask. It's the villain Ocean Master, Aquaman's half-brother. We also see several unidentifiable figures in silhouette (except for the Joker, of course).
Page 12 - Panels 5-6: Through this scene, Morrison reminds us of the classic team-ups of Hal Jordan and Oliver Queen.
Page 13 - Panel 5: Obviously, Batman is beginning to ease up on the rookie. GL really needs this compliment, as he's been terrified of Batman almost since the night they met. But the Dark Knight is somewhat use to the role of a watchful parent to the younger heroes (can we say Robin?) and so the compliment is not too surprising. Batman shows us another drop of his dark demeanor on the second panel of Page 15.
Page 16 - Green Lantern defends himself by pointing out the very trait that makes his comic so popular. He is an "everyman" and readers have an easy and enjoyable time identifying him. This same trait launched Marvel's Spider-Man into stardom. Another nice thing about this page is the ease at which Batman deduces his enemies goals. Also, note GL's comment of "We're not gods." This forshadows the coming conflict with the New God Darkseid.
Page 18 - The group of villains led by Luthor is named here for the first time: the new Injustice Gang. Like their predecessors, this Injustice Gang also works out of a satellite, and has one supervillain for each hero in the JLA. We see Ocean Master with his trademark sceptre and a villain who is so obviously Dr. Light. Notice the Joker is holding a balloon. Nice touch!
Page 19 - Panel 2: This green trail reminds me of the famous Fantastic Four signal flare.
Panel 3: Luthor holds the Philospher's Stone, a weapon of fantastic power. This weapon is one of the many reasons the saga is called "Rock of Ages." Notice how it looks like a heart.
JLA #11 - "Rock of Ages Part 2: Hostile Takeover"
Page 1 - Notice Luthor's arrogance throughout the whole monologue. He truly believes that the reason behind Superman's enlisting to the JLA is to serve as a direct challenge to him.
Page 2 - We see six of the members of the new Injustice Gang, from left to right:
Dr. Light - Who's been a long-time enemy to the Green Lanterns.
Page 3 - Panel 3-4: Wondering why Luthor has a conscience when it concerns the death of children? Simple. He was an orphan. In this way, as well as a few others, we see that he mirrors Bruce Wayne.
Page 5 - The "Ares's threat" and "Genesis Wave" Superman mentions was shown in the pages of the Genesis mini-series (not the greatest crossover storyline).
Page 7 - Panel 3: It is only logical that J'onn would defend GL. He has always grown a fondness towards the care-free rookies of the various Leagues.
Page 8 - Panel 4: What can I say? I loooove this panel! How inventive is that! Go Kyle!
Page 10 - The figure is Metron, master scientist of New Genesis and Apokolips and the New God of knowledge. However, his famous Mobius Chair is different than the one we're use to. We soon discover that this is Metron from the future and he apparently needs the JLA's help. But all is not as it seems.
Page 11 - Just as Batman is the frightening one of the JLA, the Joker assumes the same role among his own teamates (notice Mirror Master's expressed discomfort). Also, notice Mirror Master's reference to the heroes as "big yins." For those of who not in the know, yin and yang were the korean symbols of light and dark. Thus, we see again a theme of opposites.
Page 13 - Again, I love the creativity in this series. To have the Joker's mind take physical form is great. And then J'onn's trick of warping his own mind so that he can make sense of it. Excellent!
Page 14 - Green Arrow asks what good he could do against Darkseid. This question foreshadows the coming battle with Darkseid and how his death will largely involve Green Arrow.
Page 15 - Circe uses the classic hostile takeover ploy of turning your more naive, inexperienced enemies into your allies. With her powers of persuasion and her careful argument, she begins to sway young Connor to her side.
Page 16 - We see the true form of the Philosopher's Stone. Very creative.
Page 17 - All right, you may know that "Eel" O'Brien is Plastic Man. But are you aware of the true identity of "Matches" Malone? The truth is, he wasn't sent by Batman he IS Batman. "Matches" Malone is a cover identity that the Batman uses to infiltrate the underworld without arousing suspicion. Also, notice how Porter plays with Plastic Man's sunglasses by adding such things as exclamation marks. He'll continue to do this as the series progresses.
Page 18 - The mysterious seventh member of the Injustice Gang is revealed as being Jemm, Son of Saturn. Jemm first appeared in his own DC mini-series in 1984. He's an alien with telepathic abilities and a vulnerability to fire. An obvious opponent for J'onn when you think about it (especially considering their matching brows). Although Jemm has always been a hero, Luthor has used the Philosopher's Stone to cause a sedated effect on the alien and thus make him more suspectible to orders.
Page 19 - As J'onn reverts his brain to normal, Superman finally sees through the illusion. His comment about the Joker's madness of seeing one invisible path through a maze of chaos is an interesting metaphor on the criminal's insanity. Also, note how the badguys have changed their tactics to adjust to Superman's new powers. Very nice. In Morrison's stories, you always have a sense that the villains might win.
Page 22 - Morrison again points out the similarities between Lex Luthor and Batman. We see a great portrayal of Batman in his role as team tactictian and strategist. And I love the last panel! However, notice that Batman's pose here is nearly identical to Luthor's on Page 18 of the last issue. Again, a disturbing note of similarity. Although we also see subtle differences. Luthor has a nasty grin and Batman sports his usual grim demeanor.
JLA # 12 - "Rock of Ages Part 3: Wonderworld"
Page 3 - The villain's stylized "A" and use of a Philosopher's Stone remind me of the classic Flash villain Dr. Alchemy (who used a less powerful "Philosopher's Stone" of his own). I like how Kyle's developing the strategy of creating his own foot soldiers.
Page 6 - Morrison introduces us to Wonderworld, a planet whose residents are super-heroes from hundreds of worlds. Notice that a couple of the characters are obvious homages to Marvel's Mr. Fantastic and the Human Torch.
Page 8 - A truly inventive way of rescuing our heroes. It is very refreshing in that it doesn't add a "five seconds before the explosion" scene, as many cliffhangers have done. It also speaks well of Superman's cunning to lure his enemies into believing he's dead by letting the light remain.
Page 9 - Superman and Martian Manhunter apparently have a plan. And this plan involves a large boulder (another allusion to the title "Rock of Ages").
Page 11-12 - Beautiful potrayal of Lex Luthor as a manipulation villain. Grant Morrison shows us his genius once more. Not only is he perfect in his potrayal of the heroes, he has hit the nail on the head with his take on the villains. Kudos!
Page 13 - Panel 1: "An evil imp from the fifth dimension." An obvious allusion to Mr. Mxyzptlk, one of Superman's foes.
Panel 3: Mote mentions the heroes Nightmare and Nemo who would "enter the subcounscious minds of criminal." This is an obvious allusion to the classic storybook Little Nemo in Dreamland, in which a boy named Nemo has adventures in the subcounsious universe that exists in our dreams.
Page 15 - This meeting of Wonderworld heroes incorporate a facsimile of the JLA roundtable. We see that Adam One's chair has the scales of justice draped over it. Interesting symbol considering that he's an alien but we'll let it slide. The fire-man with the cape has before him what looks like the legendary Mjolnir (the hammer of Thor). Also, notice the mention of the "anti-sun." Could this have anything to do with the "Shadow God" Aztek was trained to thwart? Or is this another threat?
Page 16 - We are introduced to the new Hourman. A highly advanced android from the 850th century, Hourman III was programmed with "Tyler Miraclo DNA." As any DC Comics fan can tell you, Rex Tyler and his son were the first and second Hourmen and both used Miraclo pills which gave them superhuman strength and endurance for an hour at a time. This new guy styles himself as "the master of time." Obviously, his power is more advanced than the Hourmen of the past. He is brought into this story to warn our heroes of the true threat at hand. Notice that in Panel 4 he shows us the true form of the Philosopher's Stone, exactly as we saw it last issue.
Page 17 - Panel 2: Interesting concept, eh? By beating their foes, the JLA signed their own death warrant. Very nice. Again, creativity rules in this book.
Panel 3: "A threat older and more terrible than Darkseid." This comment of coming doom mirrors that of the Know Man's prophecy from Mid-Summer's Nightmare. When Morrison was questioned on whether there was truly a connection, he answered, "Good deduction."
Page 19 - The Glimmer's "Hyperwheel" is an allusion to Barry (Flash II) Allen's "Cosmic Treadmill." The Cosmic Treadmill could allow a speedster to travel through time. The Hyperwheel can allow a speedster to transverse through time and space. Notice the very unique control panel used. Have I yet mentioned how creative this book is? :)
Page 20 - Batman once again reveals that, like Luthor, he is a master of manipulation (God, those two must be lethal at chess!). Again, Morrison seems to concentrate much on Batman and Luthor as each other's anti-thesis. Notice also that these three heroes (Batman, Superman, Martian Manhunter) are the League's most experienced and most cunning. A true dream team here.
JLA #13 - "Rock of Ages Part 4: Wasteland"
Page 4 - This vision of Metropolis is especially meant to be disturbing. After all, Superman's town is a shining city of hope.
Page 5 - By this time, Darkseid has learned the Anti-Life Equation and that info is being constantly fed to his Swarmtroopers, mindless cyborgs created from the bodies of those conquered. Notice the poster "Darkseid Is." This is meant to symbolize Darkseid's teaching to his people. It essentially conveys the message, "You don't need choice, question or reason. All you need to know is Darkseid is whom you always serve. Darkseid is the end-all and be-all of your reality. All you need to know is that Darkseid is."
Page 6 - Panel 2: This "rogue swarmtrooper" will come up again on Page 8.
Panel 3: The reason Aquaman's surprised to see Diana is because, by the time he and the others made Metron's time-jump, Wonder Woman had just been pronounced dead. Also, notice that Diana has taken to wearing clawed gloves and spiked boots. She has given up her role as diplomatic teacher of peace is and now merely a warrior.
Page 9 - Notice that even Wally's coffee mug shows Darkseid.
Page 10-11 - The JLA Detroit Bunker is an old base that hasn't been used since before the LEGENDS Saga. We see here from left to right:
Wonder Woman - looking more like an Olympian warrior, which is fitting.
Notice that most of the heroes have blood stains on their costumes. We also see an altar to various dead heroes. Superman's emblem is draped overtop. From left to right we see the blood-stained and damaged paraphenalia of:
Steel II - The (slightly bent) hammer of John Henry Irons.
Note the telling of Superman's death. There have been many versions and renditions for Superman's death in alternate futures and realities, but the tragedy of this one truly touches me.
Page 12 - Panel 1: The years have not been kind to New Genesis.
Panel 5: Desaad? Apparently the sadist has taken on a more somber, darker and introspective twist to his personality. And yet, the moment I saw this panel and read his question on Panel 4, I immediately felt that there was more to this than meets the eye.
Page 13 - Not only has Metron converted to Darkseid's force, but Granny Goodness has downright changed! Remember her kids? She's the one who runs the "orphanage" on Apokolips. Now she has transfered her mind into the amalgamated form of the New Genesis Mother Boxes to become the new Grandmother Box. Her prophecy here will soon be fulfilled.
Page 14 - Panel 4: Notice Green Arrow's hood and robe make him look like he's wearing his father's hooded costume. And Aquaman now looks even more like Capt. Hook.
Page 18 - I loooove this!! Batman once again proves himself to the the ultimate human! The fact that he was able to survive eight years in Desaad's chamber (four of which were in the Psychofuge) is a seemingly superhuman task, but to defeat Desaad and escape puts the perfect icing on that tasty cake! However, we see on the next page that Batman did not endure this torment unscathed. Also notice how he hesitates sometimes in his speech. Obviously a side effect that the torture's had on his body. Not only that, but observant eyes will notice that on his left hand two finger have been cut off. However, despite his injuries and Wonder Woman's protests, the Dark Knight continues, refusing to surrender to defeat.
Page 20 - Panel 2: Green Arrow is right to be frightened. After all, only the most evil of horrors can make the Batman shudder. Note that the new costume is very much like the one from Michael Keaton's run on the Batman movies.
Page 21 - Panel 3: We see Orion, stripped of his godhood.
Panel 5: That announcer is Glorious Godfrey, the Apokolipsian who started the anti-hero campaigns during the LEGENDS Saga.
JLA # 14 - "Rock of Ages Part 5: Twilight of the Gods"
Page 1 - Again, narration time. Although this time it has a twist. This time the narration is by Black Racer, the New God of death. Nice touch!
I find it ironic that the JLA Watchtower, once the world's first line of defense, has been perverted into the Darkseid's Swarmtrooper station.
Page 4 - Creativity strikes again as Argent gives a nod to the Green Lantern. Notice right next to her on Panel 1 there is a nod to the classic Superman costume. And on Panel 2 we see the electro Superman underneath her and Martian Manhunter flying behind Azteka.
Page 6 - Notice Metron's red eyes. Obviously Darkseid has somehow corrupted the scientist.
Page 7 - Granny's reference to unruly children harkens back to her days as head of the Apokolips orphanage, where Darkseid's soldiers were trained.
Page 9 - Panel 2: A classic entrance. Batman obviously has a plan. Notice the barrage of smoke bombs launched from the Boom Tube. Also, take a look at Granny. Just as the Mother Boxes reacted by going "Ping!" Granny goes "Poom!"
Page 10 - Panel 1: Batman seems to easily readjust to his former role as leader of the JLA.
Panel 2: Ah, so Bruce designed this smoke specifically for Metron. God, he's good. And notice to the right we see his silhouette in the smoke.
Panel 3: Classic line. "Boo." Notice that Metron, who usually doesn't display any emotion aside from anger or scientific curiousity, is actually scared in this panel as well as the last one. Just goes to show you even gods are afraid of the Dark Knight. :)
Pages 12-13 - Very nice. Not only do we see a great examply of Wonder Woman's unyielding will, we see The Batman once again use his brains to win the battle. His manipulations are carefully worded and planned. Does he ever not know what he's doing?
Page 15 - Very touching. This is a fitting death for Wonder Woman. She fights till the last breath, takes her enemy with her, and saves Batman's life in the process. A true heroe's end.
Page 16 - I like Batman's reactions on Panels 1 and 4. His concern for Diana and his farewell nicely display that, despite popular misconception, Batman truly cares for his teamates.
Panel 5: I loove this panel! We got Batman litterally smiling in the face of certain death and saying some of the best lines I have ever read! And the naration from Black Racer just added so much more to the impact. After all, Batman and death are old friends. :)
Page 17 - Like many heroes before her, Azteka sacrifices herself so that others may live. And her lines here are priceless. Bravo, Grant!
Page 18 - Perfect! Batman says "look up" and then Darkseid sees the moon explode. I love it!
Also, note Orion obviously has a plan in the works. It's always forboding when an avatar of death tells you "the end is here."
Page 19 - Again, a fitting death. Even as the Omega Beams encircle him, Batman verbally spits in Darkseid's face.
Page 20 - Perfect. Once again, it ain't raw power, it's your skill and your brains.
Page 22 - Imagine that. The two "weaker" heroes killed Darkseid. Kudos to Morrison!
Page 23 -So at last we see the truth behind Granny's prophecy of "Orion all is in ruin."
Page 24 - Obviously Batman, J'onn and Superman didn't have too much trouble beating the Injustice Gang. We see remnants of the battle here in forms of debris, an arrow in the wall, and (for reasons soon to be revealed) a spare Joker suit on the floor. Notice the weeping figure of Dr. Light on the far right. Is he really such a wuss?
JLA #15 - "Rock of Ages Part 6 - Stone Of Destiny"
Cover - Another nod to the Silver Age. Back then, nearly every cover had the characters saying something that warned the readers of the emergency taking place within the comic. Such covers stayed in the seventies and were used only about half-as-much during the eighties. By the nineties, they just about died out.
Page 1 - We learn the truth of the Philosopher's Stone (very creative concept) and we see an obvious future-version of Metron educating the new Hourman, his successor-to-be. And I must say I like the whole concept of a time-ship sailing through the sands of space/time. Metron's analogies are also a very nice treat.
Page 2 - From the evidence on this page I assume this takes place before Hourman's meeting with GL in Part 3. Also, notice Metron's reference to "this era's Superman." Is Kal merely the first of a long-line of champions? This concept mirrors the legacies of Flash and GL.
Page 4 - Ironic twist. By providing Aztek with his technology, Luthor ensured that the hero would be able to defeat his schemes.
Page 5 - Again, Batman seems to retake his former role as leader of the Justice League. We see his has built a new teleporter (nice design) that hacks into the Injustice Gang's teleport booth. We also learn that Plastic Man is apparently already on the Gang's sattelite. But where?
And notice that Batman warns about Luthor rather the Joker. Obviously he doesn't percieve the Joker as a current threat. But why? :)
Page 6 - Panel 2: For some time, Joker has seemed intent on getting some kind of response from Jemm (remember the exploding cigar in Part 3?). And in Part 3 he was also interested in whether or not Luthor had a back-up plan in case Jemm woke up. And apparently this little acts are having there effects because back in Part 3 Luthor noticed that his alien slave seemed abnormally uneasy. We are soon to learn that there is a reason for the Joker's strange behavior.
Page 7 - Panel 5: Ooh! An very neat effect that is reminiscent of the T-1000.
Page 8 - Panel 1: The afore-mentioned spare Joker costume. And now we learn why the Joker was bothering Jemm. It was really Plastic Man acting on Batman's orders (mentioned on Page 5). I'm guessing that somehow Mirror Master snuck him into the sattelite. Batman obviously knew what he was doing. After all, he needed a guy who could play the part and at the same time be able to take care of himself if things went bad (case in point). Plas fits the role perfectly. His wild humor makes it easy for him to impersonate the Joker and his powers make him very hard to kill.
Page 9 - Panel 1: In case you have no idea what Joker's talking about, he's reffering to the Underworld Unleashed saga. Mirror Master later makes a reference to it on Page 12.
Page 10 - Batman's third spy is revealed. If any of you thought Connor was a true traitor, feel free to turn in your JLA Fan Club cards!
Page 16 - Very nice. With the Philosopher Stone's aid, Dr. Light attains god-like powers.
Page 18 - Panel 2: I found this hysterical. And it makes sense! Oh, and in case you don't realize why Ocean Master is screaming in agony on the next panel, it ain't because of the kick. Just take a look. GA ripped his sceptre away and Orm mentioned earlier what happened when this occurs.
Panel 4: Batman's puting his fingers to his cowl in order to activate his own nightvision lenses.
Page 19 - Panel 3: Such arrogance and greed. As if one Stone isn't enough!
Page 20 - Panel 5: We see the afore-mentioned Batman/Luthor angle take a literal turn as they finally confront each other.
Page 23 - Panel 4: Don't tell me you don't recognize the classic Star Trek line "Damn it Jim! I'm a doctor, not a (fill-in-the-blank)!"
Page 24 - Panel 2: A subtle illustration of why Luthor hates Superman. He sees him as the most powerful man on Earth and he can't stand it.
Page 26 - I saw this one coming and it still scared the hell outta me! A madman like the Joker in possession of the Stone. This event was foreshadowed in Part 2 by his telepathic manipulation of the faux Injustice Gang sattelite. I must admit, I like the idea of a giant grin on the world. Silly, yet still menacing. Nice job, Grant!
Page 29 - Panel 5: Luthor once again proves that he is prepared for any contingency. Like Mirror Master he teleports away through one of those wacky trick-mirrors. Argh!!! And yet again we see the connection between him and Batman by his closing statement. Could he be planning a revenge plot against the Dark Knight? The concept intrigues me.
Page 31 - Again, we get the feeling that our heroes are merely the first of a new breed.
Page 37 - And so we come back to the chapter's beginning. 833 centuries have past since Metron gained the Philosopher's Stone and in that time he's gained a new Mobius chair and became "master of time and space," a role we now see him passing on. The figure on Panel 4 is, I believe, on of Superman's future successors (if you use your imagination you can see an S-shield). And notice the reference "Justice Legion A." It puts into my mind the image of various armies and legions of super-heroes (pardon the pun) fighting for justice all over the span of space and time.
Page 39 - This is not the first time one of the Leagues has disbanded but I am still somewhat surprised by this. I felt that this particular group was a kick-ass roster myself.
All characters are DC Comics
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