The Justice League has been around for the better part of sixty years now. They’ve survived countless different rosters, headquarters, and creative teams, but still managed to be the major super-team both in the DC Universe and the hearts of DC Comics fans everywhere.
But with so much time in the game, it’s easy to forget some of the team's best and coolest adventures. So as the current Justice League about to get into a battle against the Legion of Doom in the upcoming Justice/Doom War, we thought now would be a perfect time to look at some of the best Justice League stories most fans have long forgotten.
10 A LEAGUE DIVIDED
For anyone looking for their Bronze Age fix of Justice League comics, A League Divided is a necessary read. While most of the other stories on this list are more than one issue, A League Divided is a 90-page epic deserving of a spot all its own. The story recounts the original origin of the League and their battles with the Appellaxian aliens, then sees the current League have to fight against the original members who are being mind-controlled by remnants of the Appellaxians they’d already sent home.
The result is the classic “fight first, then team up” book, but it’s executed so well, it’s impossible to complain. Plus where else can one read a story featuring art from Brian Bolland, Carmine Infantino, and George Perez all in the same comic?
9 JUSTICE LEAGUE: GENERATION LOST
The mid-2000s had not been terribly kind to Keith Giffen’s more comedic “BWAHAHA” League. They’d been turned into a joke so big there were characters in-universe who were literally ashamed to admit ever being on the team. But a good writer doesn’t let anything hold them back, and Giffen, Judd Winick, and Aaron Lopresti took what they’d been given and turned it all on its head.
Taking key members of that League and making them aware of a global conspiracy no one else could even be aware of other than them, for 24 issues we were given a glorious revival of Justice League International’s roster, updated for a new era. It likely would have kept going as well, but it finished about five months before Flashpoint wiped all of DC’s continuity away.
8 JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE TORNADO'S PATH
The Tornado’s Path help set the stage for DC’s late 2000s storytelling. It’s a little cliché these days to have superheroes staring at photos on a table or snapshots on a computer screen, but the way Brad Meltzer and Ed Benes utilized it as an opportunity to discuss how the heroes saw each other in terms of growth expressed what the new era of DC was going to be like.
They wouldn’t just be teams, they would be families and friends working together to keep the Earth safe. Featuring some of the most prominent heroes of the era plus a few characters DC wanted to elevate, the book had a perfect roster and a perfect villain in Amazo, a Silver Age villain that served as a perfect challenge for a newly formed team.
7 CRISIS IN LIMBO
It’s a testament to his phenomenal talent that Gerry Conway could stay on the Justice League for so long yet continue to make everything seem so fresh, even stories like an annual crossover with the Justice Society. During Justice League of America Vol. 1 #195-197, both teams become the targets of their respective villains.
Thanks to the machinations of the Ultra-Humanite, five heroes from both teams are kidnapped and placed in a machine transporting them to limbo, leaving one of the Earths completely transformed and without any heroes. Neither the Justice Society or the League is able to free their comrades to save the day, and help comes from the most unexpected of places.
6 THE LIGHTNING SAGA
Though it isn’t quite the same as actually traveling to another Earth, The Lightning Saga gets about as close to that as possible. A crossover between Geoff Johns’ Justice Society of America and Brad Meltzer’s Justice League of America, the two teams are brought together because of a strange case that leads to them discovering the “original” Legion of Super-Heroes.
This story isn’t just a good Justice League story, it’s a great DC Universe story, acknowledging the canon of the Pre-Crisis universe without suffocating under the weight of its history. It also leads into a pair of the greatest Legion stories ever, so it has that going for it too.
5 CRISIS ON NEW GENESIS
One of the cooler things that’s been missing since Crisis on Infinite Earths was a long-standing tradition in Justice League comics that involved the heroes of Earth-One and those of Earth-Two meeting up once a year. Crisis on New Genesis starts with half of each team swapping places to meet the heroes of the other team on their Earths, only for both halves to find themselves transported to New Genesis.
Finding the place mysteriously empty, both the League and the Society are forced to discover where the New Gods have gone and attempt to stop the revival of Darkseid, leader of Apokolips. This is a story so large and epic in scale, it’s hard to believe it only takes three issues to tell.
4 JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL
In the aftermath of Crisis, the Justice League was in a bit of a bind. How does one go bigger than something that impacted Infinite Earths? Fortunately, Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, and Kevin Maguire had some new ideas for their era. They built a new team featuring very few A-List heroes, and recast the League as more of an action TV show.
It kept the villains but cranked up the focus on humor and character development. Readers didn’t know most of these characters were and had no reason to care about them, so Giffen and crew made us care. This take was so revolutionary Giffen would remain the driving force on the book for half a decade and multiple ongoings, and it all started here.
3 DARKSEID WAR
Geoff Johns’ Justice League got off to a rocky start, but by the end, his book was about as good of a run on the team as anyone could expect. In a longstanding tradition for Justice League writers, Johns just kept topping the scale of the threat again and again until we got to Darkseid War.
Everything about this arc is as big and bombastic as possible. It starts out with the Justice League learning Darkseid and the Anti-Monitor are at war, then graduates to the Justice League being pulled into their war by many of them transforming into gods themselves. Batman sits on Metron’s chair, Flash becomes the Black Racer, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Darkseid War exists for everyone who wants to see just how ridiculous the League can get.
2 NEW WORLD ORDER
When Grant Morrison was given the reigns to DC’s premier super-team, comics were still reeling from the overly edgy heroes of the 1990s. So it’s fitting then that New World Order sees the League go up against some edgy heroes in the Hyperclan, a group of heroes who are later revealed to be White Martians attempting to take over.
It also poses the question of what exactly is the purpose of superheroes, and why don’t they attempt to “do” more to help society? Are they in fact doing damage because they have the power to help but choose not to? By the end, we get the answer to that question and see the Big Seven finally take their rightful spots back in the League after a ten-year absence.
1 YEAR ONE
DC has a pretty great success rate with any comic with the subtitle “Year One,” and Mark Waid, Brian Augustyn, and Barry Kitson’s JLA: Year One is no exception. In the Post-Crisis era, the Justice League had an entirely different roster, with no Trinity there to work alongside Flash, Black Canary, Green Lantern, Aquaman, and Martian Manhunter.
Together the team has to fight not only to be taken seriously by the world but by the superhero community as a whole. Amid dealing with drama both within and outside of the team, there’s a massive conspiracy theory involving the original Apellaxian aliens that only the Justice League is capable of solving. Though it’s no longer canon, this is one of the best origin stories the League has ever had.