The 20 Best Justice League Storylines in Comics –
DC with its multiverses and multiple crises can get confusing in a hurry, especially for the Justice League. That doesn’t mean it lacks great stories though. Some of the Justice League’s greatest adventures revolve around these crises in fact, yet less metaphysical Justice League storylines also offer a lot to celebrate. At the end of the day, there are a ton of great Justice League comic books.
The best Justice League stories are the ones that really dig deep into the various characters, analyzing their fundamental values and their interpersonal relationships. Of course, there’s always great action to be had with what are essentially (and sometimes literally) the seven gods of the DC Universe. And with so many different writers to pen these tales, there’s no shortage of variety in how the heroes are represented.
So here are some of the best Justice League comics. Prepare for a whole bunch of Grant Morrison. And spoilers. There will be spoilers.
Tower Of Babel
Tower of Babel is an intriguing tale of internal strife amongst the Justice League members. Written by Mark Waid, it reveals just how cunning and calculating Batman is, almost to the point of making him less human than his super-powered colleagues. We discover that Batman has created contingency plans to eliminate each Justice League member should they somehow be compromised, but he didn’t consider what would happenif his contingency plans themselves were compromised.
Ra’s al Ghul gets his hands on them and all hell breaks loose, leading to some serious drama between the heroes, and some interesting philosophical questions.
Crisis On Infinite Earths
Even if you’ve never picked up a comic book, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Crisis on Infinite Earths. This storyline is one of the grandest in all of comics, with some of the most famous heroes dying in multiple universes, and ultimately doing away with the multiverse entirely.
Written by Marv Wolfmanand and George Pérez, Crisis on Infinite Earths served a function, but it wasn’t simply a utility – it was traumatic and expansive; a truly epic comic book story.
In Alex Ross’s upside down JLA story Justice, the Legion of Doom fear that the Justice League of America are actually insufficient defenders of the world, so they plot to destroy them in order to become the true defenders of Earth. Each Justice League member ends up facing threats tailored specifically to them, and the heroes find themselves dispersed and greatly weakened.
Ultimately, the Joker of all people ends up playing an integral role in saving the day, which in and of itself makes this a must read.
Mark Waid and Alex Ross team-up to write a tale set in the future with an aged and retired Justice League in Kingdom Come. The world is overrun by vigilantes with looser morals than traditional heroes, which are still in existence doing their own part to defend the world, and conflict arises between the two sides.
The Justice League members are forced to come out of retirement to put a stop to the escalating violence. Of course, Lex Luthor gets in the middle of things, further complicating matters, ultimately resulting in the death of a hero. The story deals with the hallmark theme of DC: the tenuous nature of superheroes’ relation to humanity, viewed as both saviors and dangerous gods.
DC: The New Frontier
Darwyn Cooke and Dave Stewart’s DC: The New Frontier is perhaps unlike any other. It is one of the most nuanced stories in terms of its relation to historical events, taking place during the Cold War and trying to assess what made governments and societies tick. It wasn’t the simple America vs the world of WWII era heroes.
What’s more, the artwork is quite unique, in many ways establishing a pop culture representation of these characters that have stuck in the minds of the general populace, even if they weren’t often depicted this way. It’s a very interesting and introspective read.
Created by DC titan Geoff Johns, Darkseid War is an event in the New-52 that elevates the heroes to an even higher level than ever before, some of which literally become gods. As two of the most powerful beings in the universe, Darkseid and Anti-Monitor, war with one another, the Justice League members must mitigate the damage of all those caught in between. It’s a big story with huge action, and a must read.
Rock Of Ages
What makes Grant Morrison a standout in Justice Leagure history is his fundamental understanding of these characters and what makes them tick. But Rock of Ages doesn’t just perform a deep character dive into these heroes, this story includes all kinds of action and adventure, with the team first facing off against Lex Luthor’s Injustice Gang, before having to take on Darkseid in a space and time-traversing showdown. It’s a huge story that never gets too big for its britches.
Geoff Johns wrote Infinite Crisis and Phil Jimenez, George Pérez, Ivan Reis, and Jerry Ordway illustrated it – basically, it was a superhero team-up of comic book creators, which was a necessity to attempt a sequel to Crisis on Infinite Earths. Superboy-Prime is the main villain in many respects, ultimately seeking to become the sole super-powered being in the universe.
However, teamed up with Superman and Lois Lane of Earth-Two, and Alexander Luthor of Earth-Three, he believes he’s taking actions to save the universe. Multiple Earths collide as all hell breaks loose, leading to many deaths. It’s a crazy story.
New World Order
In one of Grant Morrisson’s more reserved penning of JLA, New World Order actually does add quite a bit to the mythos of DC. The Justice League reunited in full for the first time in a decade to take on a group of White Martians, a seminal race of hostile aliens first introduced in this story.
These White Martians calling themselves the Hyperclan initially pose as heroes until they reveal their true identity and the Justice League must defeat them in interplanetary warfare. It’s not quite a reboot for the team, but more like a reinvigoration that introduces some important canonical elements.
Brad Meltzer did something that is very difficult to do with the gods of DC: he humanized them. Identity Crisis is essentially a murder mystery, but starring the Justice League, the members of which are forced to make some difficult decisions in order to protect their identities. It’s a very character driven story, dark and deep.
Justice League: Origin
Geoff Johns, Jim Lee, and Scott Williams teamed up to given the Justice League a new origin story for the New 52 in Justice League: Origin. It begins with the alpha-males of the team fighting one another upon their first meeting until Wonder Woman steps in to talk some sense into them.
After they meet Aquaman and Vic Stone is transformed into Cyborg, they all team up to fight Darkseid who has invaded earth with his parademons. If it sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the plot of the Justice League movie, and for that reason if no other is worth the read.
Justice For All
Written by DC legends Grant Morrison, Mark Millar, Devin Grayson and Mark Waid, Justice For All almost has to make the list out of necessity, but it should be celebrated in its own right. It actually conclude with World War III, which is such a standout that it needs to be mentioned on its own, but the rest of Justice For All is great for the bevy of villains it offers.
It introduces the Ultramarine Corps, brings back Amazo and No Man’s Land, and further develops the White Martians. A whole lot of stuff goes down, and it’s written by the best of the best. It’s a must read.
Grant Morrison always writes thinkers, and JLA: Earth 2 is no exception. In it, the Justice League must face off against their evil counterparts from Earth-2. While there’s a lot of great action, Earth 2 digs deep into the nature of alternate realities, inspecting them on a fundamental level, and concluding that some are destined to be controlled by evil forces while others will inevitably be governed by good. This arc is a perfect blend of action and substance.
JLA: World War III
There are actually two World War III story arcs, but Grant Morrison’s 2000 installment is the superior. In it, the Justice League faces a cosmic threat, an ancient being named Mageddon that influences war. Morrison’s original character Aztek takes center stage in this story, and even the people of earth are enlisted to fight the existential threat when the Justice League is able to provide humanity with super powers.
World War III offers some very interesting foreshadowing for Infinite Crisis which was still five years away at that point, which makes it a very fun read to revisit with knowledge of what is to come.
Divided We Fall
In Mark Waid’s Divided We Fall, the heroes are, well, divided. As is always the case when such things happen, this story is character driven and explores the personal relationships of the heroes, humanizing them and making for a more satisfying read. While they face off against Dr. Destiny and the Queen of Fables, the real foe in this arc is the members’ loss of faith in one another and what is required to rebuild trust.
This complex crossover by Grant Morrison is a bit controversial – fans either love Final Crisis or hate it. The story begins with Darkseid slowly spreading his evil influence across the universe. By the time the Justice League figure out what the hell is going on his evil plans have begun to corrupt Earth in its entirety.
The Justice League were faced with a brainwashed human race, almost in its entirety, which included some heroes, all while Superman was stuck across time and space fighting Monitors. It’s a giant clusterf*ck in which Batman may or may not have died. It’s really out there, and for that reason alone is worth the read.
The Brave And The Bold
Gardner Fox introduced the Justice League in 1960, and their very first outing, The Brave and the Bold, set the tone for this super team. Faced with the intergallactic threat of a giant starfish named Starro the Conqueror, the heroes of Earth must team up to defend humanity. Though it’s a bit ridiculous, it establishes the moral imperative that forces these heroes to act as a cohesive unit. And it’s the first! So it’s a must read.
A New Beginning
A New Beginning introduces the Justice League International, which was somewhat maligned, but had highlights worthy of note. Created by Keith Giffen , J.M. DeMatteis, and Kevin Maguire, A New Beginning is, unsurprisingly, a new origin story for the team. It’s a very interesting lineup of Batman, Captain Marvel, Doctor Light, Doctor Fate, Guy Gardner, Blue Beetle, Martian Manhunter, Black Canary, Mister Miracle and Oberon.
If for no other reason than to learn a bit more about lesser characters, this storyline is worth a look.
The Tornado’s Path
The Tornado’s Path by Brad Meltzer and Ed Benes is a new Justice League origin story after Infinite Crisis that highlights formerly minor characters Vixen and Black Lightning. Red Tornado has his body stolen by Solomon Grundy and all kinds of shenanigans ensue. What makes this story noteworthy, though, is what brings the heroes together again.
Through their mutual love and respect, the Justice League members team up once again, and it celebrates the deep interpersonal relationships of these legendary characters.
A Midsummer’s Nightmare
A Midsummer’s Nightmare by Mark Waid and Fabian Nicieza marks the end of the beleaguered Justice League International run. This is an interesting story with reality subverted by Dr. Destiny, taking away the Justice League members’ powers and memories, while giving powers to the rest of the world.
In some ways it’s a tragic tale, as the heroes get to live normal lives for a time until they realize something’s up and have to find each other and reunite, shouldering the responsibility of heroism once again.