Wednesday, August 8, 2012

DC Does A “Mirror, Mirror” Exploration With JLA: Earth 2 And The Result Is Hardly Fresh.

The Good: Moments of concept
The Bad: Most of the artwork, Odd characterizations, No real development, Poor use of the full team.
The Basics: JLA: Earth 2 is a mildly intriguing concept for a graphic novel, but is exceptionally poorly executed.

Back in the day, there was a little science fiction television show called Star Trek. One of the most popular episodes of Star Trek was “Mirror, Mirror” (reviewed here!) and it was a pretty clever concept that put four members of the Enterprise crew in an alternate universe. Popularizing the concept of mirror universes, Star Trek set a trend that most subsequent science fiction works have followed, which is to create alternate universes in their own mythos. For the DC Universe, there were many multiple universes, until the publishing company tried to consolidate them all with Crisis On Infinite Earths (reviewed here!). As a step to moving back toward the multiverse concept, DC had Grant Morrison write JLA: Earth 2.

JLA: Earth 2 is a limited arc that has Alexander Luthor from the antimatter universe (it is entirely unclear if this is the same antimatter universe where Sinestro was imprisoned and began building his fear-based ring corps on Qward or not) contacting the Justice League Of America to try to save his entire galaxy. In this incarnation of the Justice League, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and the Martian Manhunter are joined by Kyle Rayner’s Green Lantern, Wally West’s Flash and Aquaman, who is currently in his one-armed scruffy-looking phase.

In the Mirror Universe, Ultraman realizes that Alexander Luthor has escaped and he, the sadistic Superwoman, and the cruel Owlman use his absence to rain chaos down upon the Earth there (which our people dub Earth 2). Alexander Luthor, in the meantime, has made the leap to our universe. While the Justice League of America tries to piece together what happened with a plane that fell apart in the sky and carried humans whose hearts were on the right sides of the bodies, they realize that all is not right with the plane. Luthor reveals himself to the Justice League and makes an impassioned appeal to them to get them to come into his universe to overthrow the Crime Syndicate of America.

After a limited debate, all but Aquaman and the J’onn Jonnz accompany Luthor to Earth 2. There, they work to confine the villains to their moon-based observatory and free the citizens of the planet from the despotic control of the Crime Syndicate. But even as Ultraman and his forces resist, it becomes apparent that they are not calling all the shots and soon both Earths are held in the balance by a malevolent entity that is seeking an evolution that might kill every human in two universes!

Grant Morrison gives the whole alternate universe thing a pretty fair shake with JLA: Earth 2, but the execution of the book is hardly exciting or worthwhile. The initial novelty of Ultraman and Owlman, who is obsessed with exacting vengeance upon Thomas Wayne, wears out very quickly. Moreover, Lois Lane is Superwoman, who is an S&M dominatrix who torments Jimmy Olsen and jerks Owlman around. That reads as universally unpleasant in JLA: Earth 2. While the speedster Johnny Quick in JLA: Earth 2 is given a drug habit for character, Power Ring does not even have that. Morrison did not even make a pass at establishing doppelgangers for Aquaman or J’onn.

What JLA: Earth 2 lacks that “Mirror, Mirror” had is a real sense of impact upon the characters we know and love. While Owlman comes to the conclusion that our Earth would be untenable for him to live in, outside Bruce Wayne’s obsession with Earth 2’s Gotham City, none of the characters have any real depth exposed from the experience. Morrison, who continues to be unable to write Wonder Woman, has her witlessly wondering if intervening in the lives of humans is actually worthwhile. Aquaman, similarly, sits this adventure out for the most part arguably because Morrison has no clue what he wants to do with him.

The novelty of JLA: Earth 2, however, wears off exceptionally quickly. Ultraman is possessive, Superwoman is cruel and Owlman is the enforcer for the corrupt Gordon in Gotham City. Morrison is not given enough time to actually do anything with that in JLA: Earth 2, so it seems more like an academic exercise than an actually compelling storyline. It is so unimpressive, it actually surprised me that an action figure set was made of the alternate universe characters from JLA: Earth 2.

In addition to a disappointing lack of compelling commentary, JLA: Earth 2 is poorly rendered on the page. The artwork looks rushed, with many of the characters looking far less refined than they usually do. So, for example, Princess Diana’s face is often drawn as round and cherubic as opposed to angular and imposing. More often than not, Owlman looks like Nite Owl from Watchmen (and a poor representation of him, too). The alternate universe storyline in JLA: Earth 2 just seems sloppy as a result. In fact, even the panel I liked the most – Aquaman launching his harpoon arm at Power Ring – is rendered in a way that is somewhat confusing; the lines of force are colored to look like Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth! I suspect that at the point JLA: Earth 2 was written, Grant Morrison either was being allowed to write whatever he wanted or that DC gave him assignments without providing him with the first-rate artists to make his stories truly come alive on the page.

In the end, JLA: Earth 2 is a lackluster commentary on the DC multiverse without enough zest or character to the story to make it worth bothering with.

For other works by Grant Morrison, be sure to check out my reviews of:
The Flash: Emergency Stop
The Flash: The Human Race
JLA: New World Order
Batman R.I.P.
Final Crisis


For other book reviews, be sure to check out my Book Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the books I have reviewed!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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