Grant Morrison Trade Post: JLA One Million & JLA Earth 2

jla one millionI’ve been slowly making my way through Grant Morrison’s mainstream DC Comics work starting with Animal Man and working up through The Flash and JLA. I’ve reabsorbed the first two JLA Deluxe volumes, but already reviewed those here and here, so it seemed like a good time to jump over and do JLA: One Million and JLA Earth 2.

DC One Million was an event that took place in November of 1998. The idea was that these characters from the far future — the 853rd century to be exact — would be around when the one millionth issue of Action Comics was published in “real time.” The heroes from the future came to the past to tell the originators that they were celebrating Superman Prime coming out of the sun after a long time. So, many of the JLA members went to the future where they were accused of being imposters while a plague ran through the present day. It was all pretty crazy and a tip off of the kind of event Morrison would create when he did Final Crisis a decade or so later.

I was a huge fan of this crossover drawn by Val Semeiks when it happened and have collected even more of the tie-ins in the ensuing years, though there is an omnibus that looks pretty rad. Anyway, I read the late 90s/early 00s trade that’s part of the JLA line and it’s a pretty weird reading experience thanks to the lack of covers between issues, slap dash creative credits and bouncing around between the main series and the tie-ins. The story itself is basically perfect for an event because much of the future stuff takes place in the tie-ins while the main series deals with the future heroes trying to save the present. The downside of that is that it feels like you’re reading about half a story when going through this particular trade.

As far as signature Morrison moments and ideas go, this book is jam-packed with them. You’ve got the idea that the superheroes we know and love essentially turn into gods who can not be forgotten, no matter how hard some try. That legacy idea is huge throughout his DC work. There’s also a quick appearance by General Eiling and his Ultra Marines who appear in JLA Deluxe Volume 3, but more than that Morrison takes equal time to shine the spotlight on the big guns as well as a ragtag group that includes Steel, Huntress, Plastic Man, Barda and Zauriel who are trying to save humanity. But more than anything — and the moment that stuck with me for decades after the fact — is the idea that he gives Superman a happy ending in regards to Lois. As a die-hard and longtime Superman fan, this meant — and continues to mean — a lot to me.

JLA_Earth_2I was less enthusiastic about JLA: Earth 2 by Morrison and Frank Quitely, the team that worked on New X-Men and All-Star Superman together later on down the line. This 2000 graphic novel came out towards the end of Morrison’s run on JLA which ended that same year and reintroduced the idea of the Crime Syndicate — evil versions of the Justice Leaguers — to the post-Crisis continuity.

See, back in the day when there were multiple Earths, the Crime Syndicate came from Earth 3 where good and evil were backwards. Instead of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman being heroes, Ultraman, Owl Man and Superwoman were big time baddies. In Morrison’s version, instead of coming from Earth 3, this gang was part of the Anti-Matter Universe. They referred to the regular DCU as Earth 2, hence the title.

The story itself follows Anti-Matter Lex Luthor (a hero) as he travels to the regular DCU reality to recruit the JLA into going back home with him to help out. They do so, but in an act of cosmic balance, the Crime Syndicate — which also includes Johnny Quick and Power Ring — gets transported to the regular DCU where they cause havoc. However, both soon realize that good and evil naturally triumph in each reality and return home.

Of all of the Morrison DC comics I’ve read so far, this one feels the most straightforward and “normal.” There aren’t any huge twists or mind-bending elements aside from the fact that certain universes only allow for certain elements to win out. It’s well-told and brisk, but not exactly what you’d expect from the man who had Superman fight an angel to a standstill. It also looks perfectly Quitely. It’s big and bold and mean at times (he draws the best sneers in the game). His is a style I wasn’t big on at first, but once I started seeing the incredible detail included, I completely switched around to uber-fandom.

I think part of the reason I didn’t really latch onto this story is that I just can’t get into stories where characters are just super, duper, completely and totally evil. And that’s exactly what the CSA members are. They murder and oppress citizens with impunity for no other reason than they can. In other words, they’re as far from a sympathetic villain as you can get. I’m guessing this was done as a way to shine a light on how good and amazing our heroes are, but I just wasn’t feeling it at the time. Still, it’s a fun, quick and oh-so-pretty adventure.

Books Of Justice: JLA Deluxe Volume 2

JLA DELUXE EDITION VOLUME 2 (DC)
Written by Grant Morrison, drawn by Howard Porter with Val Semeiks, Arnie Jorgensen, Gary Frank & Greg Land
Collects JLA #10-17, Faces of Evil: Prometheus #1, JLA/WildC.A.T.S. #1
As with the previous volume, I was once again surprised with how much Morrison packed into so few issues. I remembered the Injustice Gang story, the one where GL, Aquaman and Flash travel to Wonderworld and then to a possible future where Darkseid has taken over, but did not realize they were all happening at the same time. This is one helluva yarn to unravel and that’s before we even get to the Prometheus story. Wow, so much going on here. All other comic book writers–especially ones who want to write big time superhero team comics–should take notes for reference instead of throwing out yet another boring retread of old villains without much new thought or spark.

While a group of super villains coming together to put an end to the heroes might not have been the most original idea of all time–and seems even less so after the past few years of that being the go-to plot for villains–Morrison twisted it just enough by putting Lex Luthor in charge and having him use hostile takeover (read: business) tactics to destroy the JLA. He also, thankfully, didn’t just go with whatever Super Powers lame-os that seemingly everyone else who does this story. I fully expected to see Cheetah instead of Circe, but Circe makes so much more sense. As it turns out, the Injustice Gang series acts as a kind of book end for the other stories I mentioned. Kyle Rayner really gets to shine in an issue before Morrison moves the spotlight over to Aquaman. He does such a good job of giving everyone their due diligence.

But, my favorite aspect of this story is the Darkseid Is possible future. I am a sucker for these kinds of stories because they really get to play with our heroes in ways that just can’t be done in modern comics. Superman’s dead, Batman has been forced to kill, Flash is a fat guy, GL’s a zombie, but more interestingly, Argent has become a hero! Most of you might not remember Argent, but she was one of the characters in Dan Jurgens’ relaunch of the team in the late 90s. Seeing a guy like Morrison show her in such a cool light made me really re-think that character and reinforced the idea in me that there are no bad characters just bad takes on them. Apparently, no one else was paying attention because she hasn’t done much since Devin Grayson’s Titans book (I think).

And then the JLA disbands…but not really. It was a hokey trick that didn’t need to be there. Besides, it wound up just being a restructuring that brought in new members. And you know what? Morrison didn’t put the team together by having our heroes looking at pictures and weighing their options or all meeting up by happenstance and deciding to join forces, THEY WERE JUST THERE! I’d like those potential super hero team writers to take note of this too. We don’t need to see how the team is put together. It’s boring. Just put them together and if questions arise (or better yet, if mysteries abound) answer them as you go. I don’t want to see how next season’s Steelers come together, I want to see them play football! Wow, I’m punchy today, but I think it’s because this stuff all seems to basic and obvious and yet we’re inundated by boring and bad team books all the time.

Anyway, we’re introduced to a brand new villain named Prometheus thanks to his one-shot that then carries right into the next issue that introduces the new team. Prometheus might be one of the greatest villains of the 90s with his ability to download everything from building schematics to marital arts moves into his brain, but I do have one question, how did he get their moves on camera, especially Batman? Ah well, maybe he used his Cosmic Key. Like Zauriel, Prometheus has been mostly mishandled, but I think he could use an upgrade and come out swinging. He had the one-shot not too long ago, has he appeared since? The whole “he doesn’t have VILLAINS programmed in his brain” conclusion is a little Silver Agey, but wound up being fun anyway. I’m still not clear if Catwoman being there was her own idea or Batman’s but that sure was good luck if not planned.

The book ends with a comic I’ve never read before, but enjoyed: JLA/WildC.A.T.S.. I’ve gone on record several times as being a fan of the Wildstorm Universe, so seeing the ‘Cats interact with the Big Seven and written by one of my favorite comic writers is a treat. However, this book won’t blow you away. It’s kind of your standard inter-company crossover, but with Morrison’s crazy brain working on the reasons why they’re crossing over. Even so, I’m glad it’s included in the book to make sure everything he did with the team is collected.

Reading this book not only made me want to get the other two volumes of the JLA Deluxe series, but also get all of the DC 1 Million issues and read the whole thing as one big epic. It would be nice if DC put something together with all the one-shots in the correct chronological order with the main miniseries, but since I haven’t heard anything about that, maybe I’ll just put my own together and bind that shiz up. I’m going to keep my eye out for them as the con season heats up and will maybe get to them after getting my Justice League collection bound.