Friday, 30 October 2015

JLA: Earth 2 Review (Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely)

The DC Universe is largely responsible for superhero comics’ reputation as a baffling and utterly inscrutable place. Case in point: JLA: Earth 2. In Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s late ‘90s book, Earth 2 is actually our Earth - Earth-Prime - dubbed so by Alexander Luthor (from the mirror world). However to the “real” Justice League of America and the audience, our Earth is Earth-Prime and Earth 2 is the home of the Crime Syndicate, the “evil” Justice League headed up by Ultraman, Owlman, and Superwoman. 

BUT to more recent comics readers who joined DC when they rolled out their infamous New 52 line and who read the event books Trinity War and Forever Evil, the Crime Syndicate is from Earth 3. Also, looking at Morrison’s latest DC book, The Multiversity, the Guidebook confirms Earth 3 as home to the Crime Syndicate. 

So what are we to make of JLA: Earth 2? Here’s my advice to new readers of superhero comics and anyone else for that matter: ignore all the extraneous crap and focus on the story and characters instead. Don’t try to understand the continuity and all the trivial nonsense, you’ll never get it; it’s way too convoluted and pointless, especially as DC reboot their universe(s) whenever their sales hit lower than usual points and they get desperate - “Quick, slap a CRISIS on that book or we’re all going to the poorhouse!”. Just enjoy the books themselves without looking too hard at the context. 

That said, a large amount of DC books (and Marvel for that matter) are total shit so it’s a real pleasure when something superb like JLA: Earth 2 comes around - but then it’s Morrison and Quitely so it was never going to suck! 

Earth 2 Alexander Luthor travels to Earth-Prime where he discovers the Justice League are good. He tells them about the Crime Syndicate and they return to Earth 2 to help make Lex’s world a better place. But, like what goes up must come down, the Multiverse must be balanced (or something) and as the heroes of our Earth head to Earth 2, their villainous counterparts are sent to our Earth - oh noooo! 

This might be my favourite Justice League book which isn’t saying much as I’ve pretty much disliked every one I’ve read! I love how Morrison doesn’t feel like he has to use every member of the League every time (take note Geoff Johns!). The opening scene sees Superman, Martian Manhunter, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and Flash saving a falling plane full of dead people (they were pre-dead - the game is afoot!) without Aquaman or Batman in sight - and it’s awesome (even if it’s kinda undermined by a better scene years later in Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns where Superman saves a downed plane full of living humans all by himself)! 

Something similar happens once the League head to Earth 2 without all its members feeling the need to go and a couple stay behind to protect the Earth if things go awry (as they are wont to do). That’s great! Use the ones who’ll be most effective - think tactically, not in terms of numbers. 

Besides the action, it’s just interesting seeing how strangely Earth 2 looks with corruption and evil everywhere, familiar characters turned upside down, etc. Also because it’s a relatively short book at under 100 pages, Morrison gets right into it: we’re at Earth 2 in no time, the League get stuck in, the Crime Syndicate are pushed with their backs to the wall, and things barrel along quickly with some twists and turns thrown in. Brilliant, gripping stuff! 

It helps that Frank Quitely - in my mind the greatest superhero comics artist working today - draws the hell out of this book. Some of my favourite scenes: Owlman operating in his Gotham City, the Crime Syndicate’s Watchtower hovering over the city, the opening plane sequence, and Green Lantern’s prison for the Crime Syndicate. There’s not a page in this book that’s not perfect. Frank Quitely’s art is just awesomeness personified and makes me very, very happy to see it! 

To readers who are familiar with Morrison’s writing style and might be a little gunshy: Earth 2 is one of his “sober” comics. It’s not weird and zany and it doesn’t go all round the insane asylum - it’s straightforward superhero storytelling at its finest. Totally accessible. 

JLA: Earth 2 is arguably the best adventure the Justice League have ever had and is yet another masterpiece from one of the medium’s greatest creative teams, Morrison and Quitely. It’s enough to forgive DC’s bullshit tinkerings with their universe!

JLA: Earth 2

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