JLA: Earth 2 (the Deluxe Edition)(2013; originally (c) 2000)
Grant Morrison-Frank Quitely
No, I'm talking about going into one of the super-nice LCS and being able to check out or even rent their wares. I'd have done so with the book we'll be discussing this day. I've had my eye on it since, well -- it's release 15 years ago (and that is mind blowing, etc.). I first encountered the Crime Syndicate as an 8-year old, reading a reprinted tale lurking within the pages of Justice League of America #114 (Nov/Dec 1974), and liked them from the start. Last month I was able to score a copy of the edition I've pictured above on the Black Friday sale at cheapgraphicnovels.com. I paid only $6 for a paperback copy and I'm glad I now own it, but thankful that I didn't pay full price. I really do think it's the sort of book I'd read more than once; the pictures are pretty and the story was thought-provoking. It's not the best Justice League story I've ever read (the Paul Dini-Alex Ross big book might be...), but it was pretty good -- particularly for its publication date.
Doug: I guess DC has gone through 2-3 reboots since this story originally saw the light of day. I'm not really up on all that, but was struck by author Grant Morrison's theories on the then-forbidden fruit of the multiverse. Here Morrison gives a different take on the Marvel concepts of Counter-Earth, or the Earth of the Squadron Supreme, and the DC notion of Earths that vibrate at different frequencies. In Morrison's tale, the Crime Syndicate of Amerika inhabits what they call "Earth", which is part of an anti-matter universe. There everything is wrong -- Benedict Arnold is on currency, there are monuments built to Adolf Hitler, and crime is normal and even upheld. Ultraman rules the planet like a god with the assistance of his partners: Owlman, Superwoman, Power Ring, and Johnny Quick. Each of them uses their powerset to bring havoc to the citizens of the planet. For those scoring at home, these characters used to inhabit Earth-3, with the Justice Society of America hailing from Earth-2 and of course "our" world being Earth-1. Here, the hero of Earth is one Alexander Luthor, complete with that awesome green and purple battlesuit.
Doug: Luthor "escapes" the confinement meted out by Ultraman and makes his way to our Earth, a place that Ultraman will later call "Earth 2". The basics of the plot, without any exhaustive recollection here, is that Luthor has been wanting for quite some time to overthrow the Crime Syndicate. He's come to our planet to enlist the aid of the Justice League. Superman and his six pals are of course skeptical, but this Lex wins them over. After Luthor explains his plans, the JLA meets to decide if they should go through with this jump to the anti-matter Earth. Conveniently, it is decided that J'onn and Aquaman should stay behind on our Earth -- you see how that sets up a one-to-one fight with the Crime Syndicate. But, you'd be wrong, as that never materializes! And I think that's where Grant Morrison scores with this story. There are quite a few things that you might think are going to happen, but then it doesn't come off that way. Conversely, there are some lines of dialogue and/or plot details that give the reader pause.
Doug: Ultimately the JLA is faced with defeat; not at the hands of the Crime Syndicate, but a philosophical resignation to Morrison's posit that good cannot exist against abject evil (the contrary notion also true). And here I found myself putting the book down for a few seconds to ponder that. Although by now almost 15 years old, I wondered if Morrison had any idea how much more negative our world would become and the pessimism that sometimes seems to permeate our feelings, our perceptions. Morrison wrote pre-9/11, pre-War on Terror, pre-Great Recession... but his extreme position of pure good cannot triumph over pure evil (simply put, there's no reference point for an inroad) sure seems a topic for discussion in 2015, almost 2016. This wasn't the sort of book I'd expected when I cracked open the cover.
Doug: Frank Quitely's art is some sort of cross for me between that of Ed McGinnis and later Frank Miller. I draw those comparisons due in large part to McGinnis's affinity for chunky (read: thick) forms and Miller's faces. I find Quitely's art pleasing, and certainly fitting for the story. The coloring, for being "modern" is OK. I think from some of the scans I've provided you can see that it's not muddy, but does have some brightness here and there. Everyone's costumes seem to look "right".
Doug: My edition of the book comes with over 20 pages of goodies, notably Morrison's pitch for the project. What's cool about that is the fact that at some point Quitely doodled the heck out of the script, so there are some really cool thumbnails. There are also character designs.and Quitely's "storyboards" for much of the graphic novel. I always enjoy those "DVD extras" in the back of a trade or hardcover. Nice bonus. So if like the JLA, if you yearn for those multiverse days of yore, then I'd urge you to check this out. And who knows -- you might even be able to borrow a copy.