Wednesday, October 09, 2013

A few quick thoughts on JLA: Earth 2: The Deluxe Edition

DC Comics is re-releasing Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's 2000 original graphic novel JLA: Earth 2 in a special "deluxe edition." Given the plot of the book—The DCU's heroic Justice League vs. the villainous Crime Syndicate, from an alternate Earth where everything is opposite—it's easy to see why DC might want to sell the book now. That's the same conflict driving their big, seven-month, line-wide crossover story Forever Evil, and while Geoff Johns and David Finch have re-re-created the CSA characters, theirs are closer to Morrison and Quitely's version than the Silver Age originals.

At the same time, if I were someone at DC closely involved in Forever Evil, I'd be reluctant to have too many readers read JLA: Earth 2, as it's so good it's likely to make the current comics look fairly awful in comparison. Visually, it's already clear the newer incarnations are greatly inferior. Even making allowances for variances in taste, I think it's fairly universally agreed upon that Quitely is a superior artist to Finch, and he and Morrison's designs for their evil JLA certainly eclipse those of Finch's.

Additionally, Morrison's story was a rather brilliant riff on an old standard comic book plot, one of those Morrisonian stories that seems very clever and, as soon as you've digested it, extremely obvious. It seems right, it seems true, and one wonders why another writer hadn't already written such a story (To spoil the 13-year-old story, the League tries to save the Syndicate's world, where evil always triumphs, and the Syndicate tries to conquer the League's world, where good always triumphs; both fail, because of the rules of those respective universes are as immutable as laws of physics).

Johns seems to be leaning in a different direction with his story, but as for his hopes of besting Morrison, it doesn't look good: Earth 2 was only about 90 pages long, while Forever Evil is already over 60 pages (and follows a 120-page prologue story), and hasn't hit upon anything particularly new or novel yet. (Earth 2 also had probably the most badass moment in Martian Manhunter's career, in which he destroys The Evil Superman in a matter of panels, and a nice example of how to make Aquaman seem powerful and badass without him having to whine and shout or have other characters express shock at how awesome he is; Morrison and Quitely just show Aquaman quietly and calmly defeating Evil Green Lantern in a couple of panels).

What's new in the Deluxe Edition? Well, there is apparently a new cover, but it's similar enough to the original, which I don't have in front of me, that I can't remember in what way exactly it's different; it still has that nice image of the characters casting reflections of their opposites, with Aquaman and Manhunter, who did not have CSA opposites, framed just so. There's one version, with the CSA on top, on the dustjacket (Note Wonder Woman's off-model blue boots; they were correctly colored red on the original collection covers), and a second version on the cover beneath it, with the JLA on top.

There's also an awful lot of backmatter, an additional 42 pages, most of it in the form of script pages or rough thumbnails and breakdowns. My favorite part is probably Morrison's own character designs, which demonstrate something people tend to forget or not realize about Morrison: The guy can actualluy draw pretty well, too.

He also puts a great deal of thought into the look of things like costumes and symbols (I believe this came out around the time he was mentioning sigil magic a lot in interviews, too), something that might not always be apparent, given the way DC has assigned him artists almost willy-nilly over the course of the last six or seven years now.

His designs for the CSA characters were apparently little changed, with a more Kyle Rayner version of Power Ring getting the most tinkering from sketch to final version.

Here's his Power Ring design:
I like the parenthetical "I don't know what it is either" regarding Power Ring's insignia,  the same one that his creator Mike Sekowsky and Gardner Fox gave him.

And here's his Owlman:
Aside from some minor tinkering with the cape and the helmet's "ears," Morrison's Owlman is pretty much finished. Brilliant summary of the character's design though: "Batman as an owl basically."

There are a few pages of cover sketches in here as well, and here are a few neat ones:
In the upper left, you can see apparently earlier versions of some of the CSA members (Superwoman's got a mask, Power Ring has a different mask), and apparently at one point Anti-Matter Universe versions of Martian Manhunter and Aquaman were to be included.

The Aquaman appears to have scaly skin, not unlike his ancestor Kordax, or the One Million version of the character that showed up in the DC One Million crossover spearheaded by Morrison.

In the upper right, you can see how Quitely defines the super-abstracted figures: Superman and Ultraman and The Flash by their symbols, Owlman and Batman by their ears, the aliens by their collars, and Superwoman and Wonder Woman by their huge boobs.


Akilles said...

I`m not paying a few euros more for just 42 pages of stuff that I`ll read pretty quickly (no matter how cool). said...

Power Ring's insignia is so very, very dumb, and it's disappointing that Morrison just sketched a vaguely X-looking thing before deciding "Yep, this is it."

From what I've seen from the Forever Evil pages, Power Ring looks more like Green Butterfly Man than anything else.

O. Douglas Jennings said...

I've pretty much given up on getting any enjoyment (and therefore I am not bothering to purchase) any new material from DC these days. Morrison's and Quitely's JLA: Earth 2 saga exemplifies the kind of quality work that I miss.

Marc said...

I had to pull my trade paperback off the shelf to notice, but the difference between the original cover and the Deluxe Edition is that in the original, it's the DCU characters right-side-up and their opposites reflected below. The characters are all in different poses on this new cover as well.