The Justice League of America has had its ups and downs over the years. It seems for every “Lightning Saga” or “Generation Lost,” we also have something like… the Detroit League (the less said the better). But I think everyone can agree that one of the greatest eras in the League’s recent history was Grant Morrison’s 41 issue run when the book was titled simply JLA. He brought the “Original Seven” back together and gave us a monthly widescreen adventure that starred the best and brightest of the DC Universe. One of the finest stories to come out of this period was not in the monthly comic, however. That story took place in an original graphic novel where Morrison teamed with frequent collaborator Frank Quitely called JLA: Earth 2.
JLA: Earth 2
Story by Grant Morrison
Art by Frank Quitely
Cover by Frank Quitely
In another, anti-matter universe, a planet called Earth rotates the Sun in a counterclockwise direction. There the most powerful people on the planet gather together to bring pain and destruction to the people of Earth. They are the Crime Syndicate of Amerika and nothing and no one can stop them. Until the world’s lone hero, Alexander Luthor travels to a place he calls Earth 2 to enlist the Justice League of America to help him stop the CSA once and for all.
That, in nutshell, is the idea behind JLA: Earth 2. Now remember, this was published in 2000, five years before DC would bring back the Multiverse in Infinite Crisis. The idea of an alternate Earth and the return of the Crime Syndicate was a big deal in 2000. It would be the first time anyone saw the evil version of the JLA since Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985 and the first alternate earth since the end of the Multiverse.
JLA: Earth 2 served as Morrison’s send off to the book, and he used the opportunity to pull out all the stops. This is about as widescreen as you can get without going to the movies. But somehow with all the action going on, he still manages to instill the tale with small moments that grab your attention. The scene with the alternate Luthor in Lex’s office, giving millions away to Greenpeace and Owlman’s realization of why the Crime Syndicate can never win on the JLA’s earth are just two examples. With this book, it is the little things that make JLA: Earth 2 more than just another Justice League story.
What can you say about Frank Quitely’s art? When teamed with Morrison, the two make one of the best creative teams in all of comics. The way Quitely can make the two earths look the same, yet totally different is amazing. Just compare the two versions of the Watchtower and you’ll see what I mean. Again, it is the little details that he puts into the art that make the book for me. For my money, this book and the Flex Mentallo miniseries are the best work the two have ever done together.
If you plan to go out and buy the book (which I hope you do, it deserves a place in your library), there are two thing I should tell you. First, when the book initially came out some fanboys were upset that the two teams never actually fight and harped about it online. They completely missed the whole point of the book in my opinion and you shouldn’t let that stop you from reading this incredible story. And second, if you can find it, buy the original hardcover edition. The cover for the softcover version was redone for some odd reason and the original cover is much, much better. Plus hardcovers just look better on a bookshelf.
For me, JLA: Earth 2 is the definitive story of Morrison’s JLA run and one of the all-time best League stories ever. It hits all the right notes and leaves you breathless by the time you read the last panel. I can’t imagine Geoff Johns and Jim Lee’s Justice League being better than this.