Monday, November 24, 2008

Retro Review #3 - JLA : Earth 2

JLA : Earth 2 (2000)

Story by Grant Morrison
Art by Frank Quitely

To attempt to nip any confusion in the bud, this is not a story about DC's current continuity Earth-2 where Power Girl and Kal-L were from during Infinite Crisis. The Earth 2 mentioned here is our regular pre-Infinite Crisis DC Earth, named Earth 2 from the perspective of the Crime Syndicate (which now inhabit Earth-3 post-Infinite Crisis) but is also referred to here as the Anti-Matter Universe but not where Qward is if you're familiar with Sinestro's home base and birthplace of the Anti-Monitor. Confused ?? Welcome to the wonderful world of Grant Morrison.

If you have the ability to read certain stories as out-of-continuity tales that don't have to tie in to everything else, then you will lessen your confusion with this book and heighten your enjoyment. If you think too much about it here, your brain will begin to throb.

We begin the book looking at a dark and evil version of the JLA's Watchtower moonbase (I miss the moonbase). There are some familiar sillhouettes standing around talking about how "he" escaped. The "he" they speak of is none other than Alexander Luthor, not the Alex Luthor from Earth-3 (and not my future son Alexander Luthor Manger), but a hero version of Luthor. This Lex is apparently the lone hero in a world where evil rules and good struggles daily. But, good or evil, Lex is still Lex with one of my favorite lines. As he crashes to Earth in his ship, very Superman-esque, he is discovered by some nice farmers. When one of them asks if he's human as he removes his helmet, he replies "My dear country cousin, you are human...I am Luthor."

Luthor has come to our Earth in an attempt to recruit a group of our heroes, consisting of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, and Kyle Rayner (I still can't call him Green Lantern...I'm sorry I can't) to fight the villains that run his world. The Crime Syndicate of Amerika, obviously evil due to their lack of spell-check, consisting of Ultraman, Owlman, Superwoman, Johnny Quick, and Power Ring rule over the populace with an iron fist. This is graphically demonstrated as Ultraman is on the deck of his giant floating fortress looking down at the peons when one of them decides to speak out against him. A quick shot of heat vision quells the one-man uprising with lethal efficiency.

I have always liked the Crime Syndicate characters as long as they're not overused or written as camp, and I think Morrison writes them well in this book. The main point of the story, to me, is to get our heroes to realize that they can't win all of the battles, and they have to say at one point "What have we done?" in order to realize that in some situations, interfering with the staus quo with good intentions doesn't always end well.

There are plenty of great scenes where our hero's opposites prove just how opposite they really are. Some of my personal favorites include Superwoman (Lois Lane) changing into her costume in a closet in full view of a cowering Jimmy Olsen in a definite dominatrix role compared to Superman's buddy role with Olsen, Johnny Quick's dependence on a speed-enhancing drug, and Power Ring's utter loathing of his ring which he views as a curse. Luthor steps up as well. As he enters his office on our Earth (after abducting our Luthor) he proceeds to divert weapons research funding to Greenpeace, give the Lexcorp employees a 300% raise, and sends his secretary on an $80,000 vacation.

The book is a quick read and there are some decent twists near the end that keep it interesting. The writing by Morrison keeps things moving at a good pace and the art by Quitely is up to par for the most part. My biggest issue with Quitely is that everyone in this book looks stumpy and overly bulky. Not quite Ed McGuiness proportions, but it's like watching something made for standard TVs on a widescreen TV...everything's just a little off. In one panel, Kyle Rayner appears to be about 8 feet tall when compared to some regular guys standing around. I am also not a big fan of his Wonder Woman, she looks waaaay too butch.

Lastly, I am mildly upset that there was no Anti-Universe Aquaman. I would have enjoyed seeing an Aquaman who hates sea creatures and helps whaling vessels by lifting the whales onto their decks so they don't scratch their harpoons, he would also lure dolphins into fishing nets just for laughs. Just a thought :-) This book is great for a quick read and as I said before, please don't get wrapped up too much in continuity on this one.

- Jason (Anti-Aquaman can also punch holes in oil tankers to pollute the ocean...OK I'll drop it)

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