Zack Snyder’s long-awaited directors cut of Justice League will be available to stream on Binge from March 18. Regardless of how you feel about Zack Snyder, new superhero movies are always a great excuse dig into the back catalogue of comics the film is based on or inspired by. These are the best Justice League stories to start with if you’ve never read a Justice League comic before and are curious to learn more.
Written by Grant Morrison and mostly drawn by Howard Porter, this Justice League storyline starts with Lex Luthor forming the Injustice Gang, before jumping forward into an apocalyptic future where Darkseid has conquered Earth (think the “Knightmare” scene from Batman v Superman).
The remaining League members band together for one last final assault to finally stop Darkseid and send a message to the past so they can change the future. Oh, and Superman is dead, Wonder Woman has become unhinged and Batman is MIA. Welcome to the Darkest Timeline.
Morrison and Porter’s time on JLA is still the best Justice League run of the last 30 years, and Rock of Ages might be its highpoint. If you’re a fan of the Flash, Aquaman or Green Lantern, this comic really lets them shine.
*This arc is collected in the second JLA Deluxe Edition.
To keep the theme of “Depressing Superhero Futures” running, here’s Kingdom Come. Set in the near future, the Justice League has disbanded, with a group of amoral, young heroes filling the void.
Released in the mid-1990s, Kingdom Come works as a commentary on how edgy, contemporary heroes playing by their own rules can do more harm than good, severely blurring the line between “hero” and “villain” (see: all of Image’s superhero comics from the period). These newer heroes cause as much bad as good, and are pushing the world closer to a superhuman apocalypse. It’s up to older heroes to save the world, one last time.
Mark Waid is one of those superhero writers who has forgotten more about DC characters than most people will ever learn. Despite the comic’s dark story, Waid is still able to write a great love-letter to all of these DC characters. And then there’s Alex Ross, whose stunningly painted artwork exists in a league of its own. Ross’ art is like Norman Rockwell, if Norman Rockwell was obsessed with capes and superpowered fist fights.
A lot of comics on this list are older titles or take place in alternate universes. So where can you start if you want to read a recent, main-universe Justice League comic?
No Justice features a huge roster of DC’s heroes and villains teaming up to stop the Omega Titans, which are giant cosmic gods that intend on devouring Earth and potentially destroy the entire universe. This mish-mash of characters are sorted into four teams, each with their own mission to stop this intergalactic extinction-level threat.
Co-written by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV and Joshua Williamson, with art by Francis Manapul, who is one of the best contemporary superhero artists, No Justice sets up both the main Justice League title, the galaxy-hopping Justice League Odyssey and the supernatural Justice League Dark, giving you three routes to explore once you finish this story.
Batman has a plan for every scenario and eventuality – including strategies to take down all of his fellow Justice League comrades if they ever go rogue. Despite all of this intense planning, it turns out Batman doesn’t know much about password protecting his files. They’re stolen by Ra’s al Ghul, who uses the League’s weaknesses to incapacitate them while attempting to wipe out a portion of the world’s population.
Tower of Babel was written by Mark Waid, with art by Howard Porter and Steve Scott, and is a great look at the double-edged sword of Batman’s extreme paranoia and obsession. Whenever you hear someone talking about how Batman can take down the entire Justice League (especially Superman), they’re usually talking about this book.
*This arc is collected in the fourth JLA Deluxe Edition.
In 2011 DC Comics rebooted their entire universe, pretty much bringing every character back to square one, which makes this first volume of Justice League a great jumping on point. Geoff Johns knows how to write big, blockbuster events and if you dig Zack Snyder’s visuals you’ll dig Jim Lee’s art too.
This is the run that the 2017 version of Justice League seemed to take the most inspiration from, with Parademon hordes invading Earth, forcing the world’s heroes to unite for the first time. The only major differences are that in the comics Superman is alive and the invasion is led by Darkseid (he’s the nephew of the Justice League‘s big bad, Steppenwolf).
I’m not going to lie, when I first heard about Injustice, I couldn’t have been less interested. A tie-in comic for a fighting game where Superman turns evil and starts killing people? Pass. However, I’m willing to admit I was wrong, because Injustice is one of the best justice League comics of the last decade.
While the story starts a bit stiff and some inconsistent art aside, the further Injustice progresses the more writer Tom Taylor starts to make the whole concept his own, and it just gets better and better. Team books are hard to write because there are so many different character voices in the mix, so it’s easy for certain characters to be underwritten or just written totally out of character. But Taylor does a fantastic job of keeping them balanced and true to their histories.
A few heroes take Superman’s side, while others join the Batman-led Insurgency, and the way Taylor writes their individual reasons for joining either team don’t feel out of character. You also get some great character arcs for B-list Justice League members like Green Arrow and Black Canary, along with Harley Quinn.