Take a good, close look at the first image above. It tells you all you need to know about why current incarnations of the Justice League of America just haven't worked out. This is the kind of JLA issue I regularly saw when I was a kid - circa 1979 or so. Notice the heroes who made up the league back then? Sure, there are some B-Listers and C-Listers up there, but the big five are fully represented - Flash, Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman (Aquaman didn't even get any love in the 70s. Can the man EVER catch a break?). Without all of these five - ALL OF THEM - there really isn't a reason for the League.
Every time some writer tries to experiment with the tried-and-true formula of the classic JLA, it ends in dismal failure. Case in point - the grotesque aberration that was the Detroit-based JLA.
Justice League Detroit? A terrible, terrible, TERRIBLE idea! Note that NONE of the big five were present. No wonder this was a doomed effort from the get-go.
I have fond memories of the Giffen-Dematteis-Maguire JLA years, but their efforts were also in vain as they did not follow the cardinal rule of five. Even Batman, who was a league stalwart at the beginning of this run, was later ditched in favor of - I can't believe I'm saying this - the likes of G'nort. And let's not even begin discussing Justice League Europe. What hope does a team have when its anchors are Captain Atom and Metamorpho?
I highly recommend the recently-collected deluxe editions of Morrison's tenure on the JLA. They are not as narratively complex or challenging as, say, his more recent work on Batman or Final Crisis, but they capture the essence of the team far better than anything in recent memory.
Once Meltzer departed, the League was once again on editorially shaky ground, with writers and artists hamstrung by what DC said could and could not be done with the characters. Perhaps the current creative team of James Robinson and Mark Bagley can do something to bring back the magic of the JLA, but I'll believe it when I see it.
Is there any hope for the League? Can anyone write for the Big 5, or is it simply too creatively (and/or editorially) challenging? Is there any way to revive the current incarnation of the League? If so, how?
Cross-posted at PastePotPete