The Justice League is the most elite and storied superhero team in the DC Comics universe. Renowned for having some of the most legendary heroes of all time among its members, the League set the standard for heroics and is meant to represent the best of the DC Universe.
But even with DC’s trinity of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman at the head of its table, the Justice League isn’t perfect. In its quest to keep humanity safe from all manner of superhuman threats, the Justice League has made decisions and taken actions that were morally questionable at best and downright criminal at worst.
10 Kingdom Come Saw The League Overstep Its Bounds
Kingdom Come — the legendary Elseworlds story by writer Mark Waid and artist Alex Ross — is widely regarded as one of the greatest Justice League stories of all time. The story of the League’s place in a dystopian future is both a cautionary tale for the DCU of the present and a symbol of the JLA’s ability to persevere and adapt.
But under the direction of Superman and Wonder Woman, the League’s reach exceeds its grasp. With a new generation of superhumans causing havoc worldwide, the Justice League all but declares itself the arbiter of superhuman law, supplanting the world’s governments and actually declaring its autonomy on the steps of the United Nations.
9 The League’s Elitism Put Earth & Its Heroes At Risk
The launch of JLA in 1996 by writer Grant Morrison and artist Howard Porter signaled the return of the League’s elite membership to the comics. After years of following lower-tier heroes among the JLA’s membership, JLA heralded the return of the “Big Seven”: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, the Flash, Aquaman and Martian Manhunter.
However, in the story itself, the B-team Justice League finds itself under attack, resulting in a fatal injury to Metamorpho. The aforementioned man of the elements actually makes reference to “making room for the A-team.” Had the League been more inclusive of heavy hitters from the start, the attack might not have been quite so devastating.
8 White Martians Had Their Minds Altered
In the same story that saw the JLA’s elite membership return (“New World Order” by Morrison and Porter), Earth found itself under attack by the White Martians, who were definitely not among the Justice League’s lesser threats. Militant members of the Martian Manhunter’s home race, the White Martians passed themselves off as superior heroes in an effort to sway the public and supplant the JLA.
After the day was won, the League was uncertain as to how to deal with the remaining White Martians. The ultimate conclusion was for J’onn to wipe their minds. However, all the White Martians still had lingering memories of their past lives, leading many to suffer emotional trauma as a result.
7 Captain Atom Dispensed Extreme Justice
The 1990s were a time of aesthetic and storytelling changes for the entirety of the comics industry. As a result, even the venerated Justice League found itself reimagined into one of its more “Extreme” incarnations. Led by Captain Atom, Extreme Justice was a harsher, more action-packed version of the Justice League.
The team certainly lived up to its name when it invaded the nation of Bialya. A supervillain faction known as the Extremists were manufacturing cyborg soldiers. Extreme Justice dealt with the situation by invading the nation and wiping out the factories creating the soldiers, apparently oblivious to the fact that living Bialyan soldiers were being transformed against their will.
6 Superman & The Justice League Conquer Earth In Injustice
The concept of a Justice League with unchecked power isn’t a new one. DC has examined the possibilities of the League growing too powerful on more than one occasion. But it’s never been depicted quite so horrifically as within the confines of the Injustice universe.
Spurred by having been tricked into murdering Lois Lane and allowing the nuclear destruction of Metropolis, Superman and some loyal Justice League members effectively conquer Earth and install Superman as supreme dictator. Betraying their core mission statement is easily one of the Justice League’s greatest sins.
5 Expelling Batman Ignored Larger Problems
Mark Waid’s “Tower of Babel” storyline that ran from JLA #43-46 is widely touted as a story about one of Batman’s greatest blunders. The Dark Knight’s contingency plans to defeat the Justice League in the event the team went rogue brought his now-trademark paranoia to the forefront.
However, by voting Batman off the team at the end of the story, the Justice League dealt with a symptom without curing the disease. The League showed a blatant disregard for root cause analysis, which bit them years later in the landmark Infinite Crisis series.
4 The Justice Lords Are A Corrupted Future League
The world of Batman Beyond is one of the most fondly-regarded aspects of Batman’s place in the DC Animated Universe. Terry McGinnis taking on the mantle of Batman as directed by an elderly Bruce Wayne has captured fans’ imaginations for years.
However, there’s a reason the world of Beyond is considered a dystopia. Crime has risen to the point that the Justice League no longer stands as an organization to lift humanity when it falls. Instead, the concept was perverted to become the Justice Lords who, led by Lord Superman, enforce their own violent brand of justice.
3 The Justice League Collapsed Following Final Crisis
Final Crisis by writer Grant Morrison once again shook up the status quo of the Justice League and the DC Universe in general. Martian Manhunter and Batman were presumed dead following the League’s ultimate battle with Darkseid. While the Justice League could be forgiven for reeling under such circumstances, it revealed a severe lack of infrastructure.
Whereas Marvel’s Avengers are typically able to rally in the aftermath of catastrophe, the Justice League was positively despondent without two of its pillars. Green Arrow and Green Lantern cobbled together a relief team which ultimately led to their morally-compromised clash with Prometheus.
2 Infinite Crisis’s Aftermath Sees The Trinity Abandon The League
The events of writer Geoff Johns’s Infinite Crisis led to massive ramifications for the DC Universe. It saw the reorganization of the Multiverse, Bart Allen becoming the Flash and the rise of Superboy Prime as a significant threat. Perhaps the greatest impact, though, is the year-long absence of DC’s trinity: Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman.
Wonder Woman was forced to lie low in the wake of having killed Maxwell Lord, Batman needed to reclaim the trust of his family following the corruption of Brother Eye and Superman looked to reconnect with his humanity. With many of DC’s heroes decimated — including Connor Kent, who was killed fighting Superboy Prime — this was not the time for the League’s pillars to take time off.
1 The Justice League Wiped Batman’s Mind
A lot has been made of Batman’s distrust toward his fellow Justice Leaguers. And much of it has its roots in the events of Identity Crisis, a DC event that continues to be divisive among fans. When Batman discovers that the Justice League has been using Zatanna’s mind-wiping powers to erase Dr. Light’s knowledge of the team’s secret identities, the League goes to extreme measures.
They wipe Batman’s memories of the event. Batman eventually regained his knowledge of what the League had done, leading to his compulsive need to monitor his teammates and develop contingency plans to defeat them. Dr. Light himself became aware as well, putting the Justice League and their loved ones in considerable danger.
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