The Day the Multiverse Actually Came Back (Move Over, 52...)

So between Crisis on Infinite Earths and 52, there weren't any more "numbered Earths", right? Then what's this?

JLA: EARTH 2, DC Comics, 2000
JLA: Earth 2 is the Grant Morrison/Frank Quitely graphic novel about the anti-Justice League known as the Crime Syndicate. These aren't new creations: They were spawned in the Silver Age when there were many Earths always in Crisis. The Syndicate was from Earth-3, actually, where everything is the reverse of our own Earth. An American Columbus discovered Europe, good is evil, and so on.

So, you say, after Crisis on Infinite Earths, there wasn't an Earth-3, was there? To which I answer, that's not gonna stop Grant Morrison.

In the new scheme of things, the parallel dimension formerly known as Earth-3 is an anti-matter Earth where you don't want to be on the receiving end of a matter cannon, people's hearts are on the right side, and Gotham City is run by Boss Gordon. When the good Alexander Luthor escapes to our Earth (which he's dubbed Earth 2) to enlist the help of the JLA to fix his world, it's just a matter of time before the Crime Syndicate comes here. And everyone learns a good lesson about staying on your side of the fence!

The Crime Syndicate includes Ultraman (who must stay close to anti-kryptonite to stay powerful), Superwoman (who is actually Lois Lane), Owlman (what if Bruce Wayne blamed his father - now commissioner - for his mother's death?), Johnny Quick (who shoots up to get speedy) and Power Ring (not really opposite... just as much as twit as Green Lantern is).
I haven't always been a huge fan of Frank Quitely's superhero art - the characters tend to look chunky and all have the same square face, even Wonder Woman - but I love the detail he puts into his work. Check out Ultraman's fortress for some extra Mirror Universe jokes:
Doctor Noon... Dr. Mid-Nite? White Cat... Black Canary. Space Man...? Please tell me! I need to know. Love the Statue of Liberty with a bullet through its head too. Really not sure who's in the coffin... Where's an annotation website when I need one?

Anyway, the story is half "Mirror, Mirror" (evil opposites + you can't change a person's nature), half Crisis (planets colliding + Flash racing until his lungs burn), with just a soupçon of Vertigo-ish behavior (Jimmy Olsen with a choking fetish + drug-fueled powers + a classic Morrison urinal scene). It really works as a homage to all those stories. From Star Trek to Watchmen, what with all that superhero sex à la Nite Owl between Superwoman and Owlman (those scenes are a hoot!*)

And throughout, our heroes are POWERFUL. That's one of the thing I dig most about Morrison's JLA stuff: He doesn't cut corners. Green Lantern envelops the moon with giant hands, Flash becomes the world's greatest detective by thinking at 70,000 miles an hour, and the Martian Manhunter is friggin' unbeatable (so how can he be anything but fine in Final Crisis?). JLA: Earth 2 is worth it if only to see J'Onn talk some smack to Ultraman:
"This is not combat; you were already beaten the moment you chose to engage me." Yow! That's what I'M talking about!

In the end, the JLA can't win on the opposite Earth because good never triumphs there, just as evil never triumphs here, and only by doing the wrong thing can they hope to win. But don't worry, Morrison's on the side of hope... at least for Gotham City. Which actually IS opposite! (I think I'd pay to read Owlman's continuing adventures, by the way. Send a line to DC.)
*Only while rereading myself did I realize I deserve to die for that pun, intended or not.

5 comments:

De said...

If I recall the Crisis Index (from the Absolute COIE) correctly, I want to say that Alexander Luthor was already active at this point and setting his plan into motion. So yes, JLA: Earth 2 would certainly be a mark that the multiverse was in the process of returning.

billjac said...

Actually, I think Owlman is Batman's brother Thomas Wayne Jr. who was created by Bob Haney for a typically demented story in World's Finest #223. See this link for details.

I liked Morrison's use of the opposed moral inevitabilities of the two worlds for this story, but having the characters explicitly aware that good will always prevail over evil is not something most DC writers can handle well. I think Busiek did the right thing when he eliminated it for both worlds in the Crime Syndicate's next appearance.

Siskoid said...

I know that story, but I hadn't made the connection.

As for the good and evil thing, I consider it an opinion based on empirical observation. Doesn't mean it's true.

mwb said...

The MM panel is just amazing. Sometimes you get into a rut of accepting how characters are written normally and forget how could they actually should be.

Runs like this remind you this is the JUSTICE LEAGUE, not the Little Rascals playing dress up.

The Fortress Keeper said...

I just like how Aquaman and J'onn were able to beat the entire Crime Syndicate on their own ... now those are super-heroes!

 

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