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JLA Classified #1

JLA Classified, Vol. 1: Ultramarine Corps

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Grant Morrison returns to the JLA with this incredible volume collecting JLA ClASSIFIED #1-3, and JLA//WILDCATS! In it, the International Ultramarine Corps, a super-team from around the globe, is attacked by the hyperintelligent, evil Gorilla Grodd and his guerilla gorilla militia. Plus, the JLA meets the WildCats to take on the threat of the Lord of Time!

144 pages, Paperback

First published November 7, 2007

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About the author

Grant Morrison

1,435 books4,083 followers
Grant Morrison has been working with DC Comics for twenty five years, after beginning his American comics career with acclaimed runs on ANIMAL MAN and DOOM PATROL. Since then he has written such best-selling series as JLA, BATMAN and New X-Men, as well as such creator-owned works as THE INVISIBLES, SEAGUY, THE FILTH, WE3 and JOE THE BARBARIAN. In addition to expanding the DC Universe through titles ranging from the Eisner Award-winning SEVEN SOLDIERS and ALL-STAR SUPERMAN to the reality-shattering epic of FINAL CRISIS, he has also reinvented the worlds of the Dark Knight Detective in BATMAN AND ROBIN and BATMAN, INCORPORATED and the Man of Steel in The New 52 ACTION COMICS.

In his secret identity, Morrison is a "counterculture" spokesperson, a musician, an award-winning playwright and a chaos magician. He is also the author of the New York Times bestseller Supergods, a groundbreaking psycho-historic mapping of the superhero as a cultural organism. He divides his time between his homes in Los Angeles and Scotland.

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5 stars
113 (19%)
4 stars
176 (30%)
3 stars
216 (36%)
2 stars
68 (11%)
1 star
12 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 34 reviews
Profile Image for Sam Quixote.
4,453 reviews12.8k followers
November 30, 2018
Grant Morrison’s Justice League run was just ok; his JLA Classified book, Ultramarine Corps? Just terrible.

There’s two stories and they’re both worthless crap. Gorilla Grodd has weaponised a superteam nobody’s heard of - Ultramarine Corps - but oh no the Justice League (minus Batman for no reason) are trapped in another dimension battling someone else; time for Bats to mobilise his robot Justice League stand-ins (?!) and take on Grodd!

To be fair to Batman the Ultramarine Corps look like a joke so I’m sure he thought his crappy bots – and they are utterly useless, so much so that Batman would’ve been better off throwing tissues instead – would be easily up to the task, but no. Predictable, clichéd storyline – duuuuuuuuuh, heroes punch villains – awful dialogue, Saturday morning cartoon-ish art – it couldn’t have been any more boring.

And yet the other story, JLA meets the WildCATS, somehow was! An evil time traveller messes with the timestream and… zzz… they gots to punch him… duuuuurrrr… As little as there was to the Ultramarine Corps story, there’s even less here as the JLA encounter yet another garbage superteam. Val Semeiks’ crummy ‘90s-style art only makes it look cheesier and more dated than it already feels.

I usually enjoy Morrison’s comics as they tend to contain new takes on old characters, smart writing and imaginative concepts wrapped up in fun, entertaining stories; his JLA Classified though is the polar opposite of all of that. Forgettable and tedious, Ultramarine Corps is one of the best examples of the worst the superhero genre has to offer.
Profile Image for mark monday.
1,634 reviews5,007 followers
April 3, 2016
schizophrenic. this collection of two Morrison stories really highlights both the strongest and weakest attributes of this amazing yet often vilified author.

4 stars for "JLA: Ultramarine Corps": a perfect distillation of how crazy Morrison can get. he can get pretty crazy when given free reign to do what he likes with some of DC's most beloved heroes - and I haven't always appreciated the results. but in this story he barely touches the JLA and is instead focused on their amusingly dumbed-down counterparts, the Ultramarine Corps. once the villains of the Morrison JLA arc JLA, Vol. 5: Justice for All (where they functioned as Fantastic Four analogues), the UC have now gone global and have expanded their ranks by taking in various Global Guardians. the basic difference between JLA and UC is emphasized: the UC have no problem killing their foes. but Morrison doesn't seem too interested in that difference; he mainly wants to play. and play he does, with a berserk and bloodthirsty Gorilla Grodd, evil faeries (who function as a hint to who is driving the narrative of his brilliant Seven Soldiers miniseries), a baby universe, and an android Justice League. his story is a study in chaos but it is also carefully calibrated chaos, with the author in full control of his effects. the result is a lot of weird, anarchic, berserk fun. the art is by Ed McGuinness, in the modern vein. McGuinness effectively channels both Frank Quitely (in the iconic presentation of the characters) and J.H. Williams (in the creative use and explosion of panel and frame); he's a perfect fit for Morrison, at least in this story.

2 stars for "JLA/WILDC.A.T.S.": and then sometimes Morrison just seems to be phoning it in. well maybe that's the wrong phrase. he's phoning it in in the sense that it feels like he wrote this one while doing other activities like watching tv or getting drunk with other comic nerds. but the problem runs deeper than just disengagement with the material... this story highlights two of Morrison's more unfortunate tendencies: abysmally stupid villains and what feels like an uncontrollable need to just throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. the story itself is an at-times amusing mash-up of Morrison's typical meta psychedelia with a comparison of JLA integrity versus WILDC.A.T. cynicism, so there is some minor amusement to be had at witnessing the spectacle. unfortunately the art by Val Semeiks is entirely uninteresting.
Profile Image for Martin.
793 reviews48 followers
May 26, 2016
'You apes were led astray by a cunning manipulator. A bunch of slogans, a few bananas and you belong to anybody, it seems.'
- Superman

If you'd consider only the JLA Classified story, with the Ultramarine Corps, Knight & Squire, Batman's secret Pluto base, the Robot JLA (and more), coupled with Ed McGuinness' eye-popping art, this would be a solid 5-star book. We even get to see Batman punch Grodd in the balls! (There goes the dynasty. - Batman to Grodd) It's fun, colourful, and ties in (as a prequel, of sorts) to Morrison's DC meta-arc & his re-imagining of the Seven Soldiers Of Victory (see Seven Soldiers of Victory Book One & Seven Soldiers of Victory Book Two). It's amazing what Morrison can do in only 3 issues; he packs more stuff in there than most other writers would in even six issues! DC has been republishing Morrison's stuff in hardcovers for years. If they ever give this story the Deluxe hardcover treatment, I'll be getting one for sure.

Unfortunately, this book also contains a reprint of the 1997 JLA/WildC.A.T.s crossover, which was a monumental waste of paper & ink and barely earning 2 stars. This I could've done without. A typical 90's comic (story- & art-wise), with a bunch of characters (the WildC.A.T.S.) I know nothing about (nor do I want to!), and featuring 'Electric' Blue Superman (remember, from Morrison' JLA run?) Groan!

What was DC thinking when they decided to include in the same book! such polar opposites in terms of story & art? It boggles the mind.
Profile Image for Laura.
392 reviews13 followers
October 6, 2014
A lot of stuff happens in this volume and very little is explained to the reader. The first half isn't bad, but it is a bit confusing. I felt like I was being drug along for the ride, where the dragging involves a rope and the ride being the author on a horse. I was rather reluctantly following along. I found myself thinking the stories in this collection would have made a decent JLA movie.

The second story about WildC.A.T.S was distracting due to the horrid art. The story was less awful, but I needed more background about that villian. Is he a one-time deal or does he have more of a backstory? I doubt I'll ever run into him ever again, so I guess it doesn't matter.
Profile Image for Scott.
1,711 reviews117 followers
September 1, 2017
Two sort-of forgettable stories - the first had an interesting premise (an up-start superhero team - I think - gets in over their heads and are brainwashed to work for the villain) but the reader is thrown into it without a lot of explanation. The second (in which the JLA meet their counterparts from another dimension - I think) was okay but I'm fairly certain I already read it in another edition.
Profile Image for Aidan.
99 reviews1 follower
May 31, 2022
What a breath of fresh air. This book is bananas. Its peak Morrison super-hero shenanigans, and having read his other stuff feels like training to be able to understand this. Within these three issues Morrison doesn’t waste a centimeter of the page. They’re working at a level where every image, ever panel layout, every word, is important and contains meaning, and it’s the readers jon to piece it all together. Ed McGuinness’s action figure style art is crucial in keeping characters and actions clear in such a densely constructed book, and letting the readers know that the more cerebral literary mechanics go hand in hand with the batshit crazy fun this book is having. The layouts that him and Morrison concoct are a treat. By the time Knight shoots Grodd with his microwave gun and we got like 8 panels overlapping across Grodd’s face showing the effects on different parts of his head I knew I’d like this book. By the time Squire calls Batman and we see glimpses of him in bat-shaped panels I knew I’d love it.

This also ties into Morrison’s themes of the characters and heroes we create affecting our own world, and us affecting their’s. The universe of Qwewq growing up to be Neh-Buh-Loh is our world growing up and trying to destroy the DC Universe. It’s a loaded, high brow metaphor presented through low brow superhero action, and ties into Morrison’s larger meta-storyline that runs through JLA and into Seven Soldiers and Final Crisis, as continues his practice of dissecting the deeper beliefs, morals, and imaginations that power our superhero stories within the framework of a superhero action tale.
956 reviews6 followers
August 15, 2018
Two Grant Morrison JLA stories in this collection. The first part consists of his three issues of JLA Classified, which are... OK. The story has the feel of his main JLA run, but amped up, and the result is just a little too much. (Not a fan of man-eating Gorilla Grodd, for example.) However, it also quietly lays the groundwork for later DCU Morrison works; within that context, the story works better now than it did when it was first published, but that doesn't up the rating a lot. The second part is JLA/WildC.A.T.S., which is fun, mainly for the crazy time travel stuff. The obligatory hero vs. hero fight is especially pointless here, even if the fight itself is entertaining... but that's my only real complaint. The second part makes up for the issues with the first. (B)
Profile Image for Tony Laplume.
Author 41 books34 followers
April 23, 2022
This volume isn’t particularly essential except you can find little previews for Grant Morrison’s later work. This incarnation of the Ultramarine Corps features Knight and Squire, who would later resurface as key members of Batman Incorporated. There’s also the Sheeda, who would become far more prominent in Seven Soldiers of Victory. Finally, and this one took much longer to surface, but he also has Wonder Woman crying “Hola!” as she does later in the Wonder Woman: Earth One graphic novels.
Profile Image for Kafka.
67 reviews2 followers
June 23, 2018
Now this...this, ladies and gentlemen, is why I love superhero comic books. The JLA take on an universe in this story. Yes, an universe. There is a telepathic gorilla who loves the taste of human flesh. A haiku mouthing cybernetic sumo wrestler who is also a mental projection (I think). Just too much fun.
Profile Image for Grant.
225 reviews
May 26, 2021
Pretty solid Morrisonian weirdness. Not his best, but still head and shoulders above most other comic writers. What he grasps and takes full advantage of is that comic books can and should do things that movies and books can't, by playing with time and space visually and embracing a stew of sci-fi weirdness that would be bank-breakingly expensive to see on screen.
Profile Image for Matt Reid.
92 reviews1 follower
July 19, 2020
Ok so I’ve only read JLA classified 1-3 but I really enjoyed this. Nice little arc with some interesting characters and I really liked the art too. Some classic Morrison DC stuff, just makes me want to read more.
Profile Image for Andrew Shaffer.
Author 41 books1,338 followers
February 7, 2021
Morrison comics either blow my mind or just confuse the hell out of me. This one was the latter.
Profile Image for Stephen Theaker.
Author 78 books58 followers
April 25, 2008
It seems to me that the pace of many mainstream comics has dropped to the extent where an 8pp Jimmy Olsen story from 1958 will often have as much going on as an entire issue of a modern comic or even a trade paperback.

An exception to that rule is the work of Grant Morrison. He writes modern day comics that have as much packed into each page as those 8pp stories did. The effect is exponential, moment piling upon moment to spin the reader up in a whirlwind: in his superhero comics that creates action adventures with as many beats as the RZA, while in his more leftfield adventures it can come as a dizzying flurry of blows to the mind.

For comparison, try boiling each issue of, say, the Revenge of the Green Lanterns book down to 8pp - it's pretty easy. Try doing it with this book and you'd be left with an incoherent jumble. Morrison tells his stories with incredible economy, often skating absolutely on the line of the minimum information that the reader needs to be told, and flattering the reader with faith in his or her intelligence. Remarkably, too, for such a writerly writer, and one who reportedly has very little direct contact with his artists, he always gives his collaborators plenty of space to shine - or to fall on their face, as has happened from time to time, though not here. Ed McGuiness's art is a bit inconsistent (the Flash always looks a bit weird), but has many spectacular moments.

Morrison writes the members of the JLA with a surefootedness that must be the envy of every other writer working in comics right now. For example, his Batman has all the moodiness you would expect of the Dark Knight, and yet Morrison gives him hilarious dialogue without it seeming at all out of character. What's more, this is a Batman who clearly lives in and could survive in the DC universe. He has access to DC super-science, and uses it when necessary to meet the threats that the JLA faces. He just doesn't choose to use this stuff in his day to day work - doubtlessly because criminals are more afraid of bats than they are of boom tubes.

It's a shame that we're back here with a cleanshaven Aquaman - with what appears to be a hand made of water (crazy - the harpoon on his wrist was both practical and unbelievably cool) - and that Kyle Raynor, Green Lantern during Morrison's classic JLA run, is AWOL, but as always Morrison makes the best of what he has.

What's remarkable about Morrison's JLA is that he has clearly put a lot of thought into the role each character plays in the team. When he was on the main title (this collects issues from the JLA: Classified spinoff series), he talked about (in Wizard's JLA Special, for example) building a pantheon similar to that of the Greek gods, something that could be seen more clearly in his brilliant recasting (sorry...) of Steel as Hephaestus. He thought very carefully about how each hero slots into the whole to create a unit, whether that's the Martian Manhunter as a telepathic switchboard, or the Flash on crowd control, as that thought shows through in every JLA story he writes.

Finally getting onto this story in particular, although I enjoyed it very much, my feelings were mixed. It deals with the fate of Superbia, a city founded by the Ultramarines in the story beginning in Morrison's JLA #24. Now, I'm not as widely read in the DC universe as I used to be, but I can't help having the feeling that Morrison, having created this cool super-city, and then seen no one use it, felt a bit embarrassed about it hanging around in the air over Montevideo and decided to clear it up. For all I know that could be a totally erroneous conclusion, but either way it seems a shame to have created this place and then... well, no spoilers in this review.

This book also includes the JLA/WildCATs crossover, which was okay, but not as much fun as I remembered it being at the time. It is of interest for one thing, though, and that's the way Morrison said at the time of its publication that in his mind he had had to work out a way for the two teams to meet, despite their living in different universes, and that in theory his idea could be used to link the DC universe with other worlds of superheroes - presumably he was talking about what came to be called Hypertime. So in a way, this title could be seen as the "Flash of Two Worlds" of the modern age.
Profile Image for Lloyd.
505 reviews16 followers
July 24, 2011
So I think I've reached the end of my reading of Grant Morrison's JLA work. I think I've read everything he's penned involving the team now and this one was a great one to end on. It exemplifies the two types of JLA stories that Morrison told, both very entertaining.

The first story was actually the first three issues of the title "JLA: Classified" and I think Morrison left the book after getting it off the ground. This story brings back the Ultramarine Corps that he created in his run on the actual "JLA" title. (See "JLA, Vol. 5: Justice for All".)

That story was just fun. It involved (as I said above) the Ultramarine Corps, Gorilla Grodd, and an infant universe, and of course, everyone's favorite league of superheroes. It was great fun to read, had amazing artwork by Ed McGuinness and Dexter Vines, and was just an expertly conceived and executed superhero story.

The second story was a JLA/WildC.A.T.s crossover from 1997.

In this story, Morrison employs some of his oft used themes to craft a superhero story like only he can. The time-traveling villain Epoch is bent on ascendance to god-like status. He's destroying lots of worlds in a lot of different times and in a lot of different dimensions. Unless the Justice League and WildC.A.T.s can combine their strengths, Epoch will remake the universe (and perhaps many others) in his image.

Again, a great story, but one that uses themes a bit more "Morrisonian".

This book again proves that Morrison is a master of the medium, able to wow with a fairly straight-forward superhero story or bend the mind with cosmic concepts applied to pop culture icons.

Highly recommended...
Profile Image for Bryson Kopf.
128 reviews6 followers
September 12, 2011
This is closer to 3.5 stars, but this is a ton of fun, like all of Morrison's JLA stuff. The first part of this book deals with the League facing two threats: most of the League is fighting the Black Death in the pocket dimension Qwewq, Gorilla Grodd takes out the Ultramarine Corp and their flying nation/island. With the help of Ultramarine Squire, Batman deploys the robotic doubles of the Justice League to fight Grodd ( I am also leaving out Batman's use of a flying saucer, his sci-fi closet, and taking a quick side trip to Pluto!). The emphasis on this whole story is fun, Morrison is riffing on the more 1950s iteration of Batman, and is relishing writing the most over the top super villain dialogue of all time ("ROLL LIKE THUNDER!") for Grodd which is hugely enjoyable. The second tale was also really fun, a team up with Image's Wildcats property (who I know nothing about) fighting the Lord of Time. There is some fun alternate dimensions and super heroes getting into needless fights, but this sucker loses a star for the painful 1990s 'extreme' style art...so painful. Don't expect a lot of brilliant character pieces or Earth-shattering changes, but just enjoyable superhero goodness.
Profile Image for Michael.
423 reviews49 followers
October 8, 2010
I'm really not in tune with DC's love of evil super-evolved gorillas. I find most stories featuring Grodd a big yawn. Lastly I'm usually underwhelmed by super team v mind controlled super team clashes. The bad news is all three of these pet hates of mine usually travel together. Morrison seemed well off form here too. Fortunately the Grodd arc is short enough for the inclusion of a bonus story by Morrison featuring a classic coming together of the JLA and Wildstorm's favourite bunch of renegades the WILDC.A.T.S, which is a heck of a lot more coherent and more importantly - fun, than the book's headline story.
Author 26 books28 followers
March 7, 2010
This first arc of the new JLA series, has the JLA spending a good chunk of the story off stage and lets the Ultra-marines, the international government funded super hero team see some action.
They are a fun team of heroes, and they end up fighting a bunch of super smart gorillas, so I don't mind the JLA being out of the spotlight.

The whole story is larger than life and a nice mix of old DC comics history and wild ideas. Hope somebody does more with the Ultra marines, as they are a fun bunch of characters.

Profile Image for Dean.
422 reviews7 followers
June 12, 2013
Not a bad book, but not great either. Grant Morrison is always worth a read, and the first story here is a good rollicking read, with Morrison at his best. He writes great over the top action and great dialogue, and always catches the JLA dynamic perfectly. Gorilla Grodd is actually menacing!
The second story is the let down, a very muddled and lacklustre team up between the JLA and Wildcats with, groan, blue Superman. It showcases Morrison at his scattershot worst. Overall worth a read...just.
101 reviews31 followers
August 24, 2011
I really liked Ed McGuinness' art in the first story, more than I'd expected to since I haven't always been impressed with dude before. But the story itself is meh, Morrison's trying his hardest to make it interesting, but I didn't really care about what was going on. It was ok. The JLA/Wildcats crossover gets one *shrug* and some bus fare.
Profile Image for C.
282 reviews9 followers
September 8, 2014
Great superhero action with that wonderful Morrison weirdness: infant universes, Sheeda, time lords, and a robot sumo Mr. Quimper who speaks in haiku.
Profile Image for David Palazzolo.
239 reviews2 followers
January 9, 2015
Ultramarine Corps serves as a prologue to Grant Morrison's larger story of the Seven Soldiers of Victory. A fun read, but a little weak on its own.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 34 reviews

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