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Retro Review: JLA: Earth Two

Written by Kyle Benning on Wednesday, September 11 2013 and posted in Reviews

Retro Review: JLA: Earth Two

Kyle Benning takes a look at the classic Crime Syndicate story JLA: Earth 2.

By now I’m sure every one of you has seen that conclusion to DC’s Trinity War event introduced the stars of their current Forever Evil gimmick, the Crime Syndicate of America (Amerika). The Crime Syndicate of has been fan favorite of DC Fans for decades, ever since their creation by Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky in Justice League of America Vol. 1 #29 all the way back in 1964.

Ever since the famous Flash #123 “Flash of Two Worlds” issue that saw Barry Allen, the Flash, crossover with the Golden Age Flash Jay Garrick of Earth Two, fans clamored for more of these Multiple Earth crossover events between the Justice League and Justice Society, so starting in 1963, DC Began what would be an annual summer crossover event that would last over 2 decades, with a couple issues chronicling a crossover plot featuring both the Justice League and their Golden Age Justice Society counterparts teaming up and working together to stop a common threat. The first such summer crossover ran through Justice League of America #21 and #22 in August and September of 1963, with the issues being appropriately titled “Crisis on Earth-One,” and “Crisis on Earth-Two.”

So how do you follow up this well received fan favorite story? How about with a story featuring issues titled “Crisis on Earth-Three,” and “The Most Dangerous Earth of All” running through JLA #29 and 30 the following year. In this two issue thriller we first meet the Crime Syndicate of America of Earth Three. The team consists of five super villains, Ultra Man, Owl Man, Superwoman, Power Ring, and Johnny Quick, all with super powers and abilities similar (with some twists) to those of their Earth One Justice League counterparts. On Earth Three, history was reversed, good was evil, Columbus instead discovered Europe (and probably committed Genocide there), Britain won their independence from America, and actor Abe Lincoln assassinated President John Wilkes Booth. Everything on Earth 3 was upside down in this twisted mirror image of the Earth One we as readers had grown accustomed to. On a world where evil ruled, the Crime Syndicate appropriately stood against everything the Justice League championed.

The Crime Syndicate was naturally a fan favorite, and would go on to appear in a few more of the Crisis on Multiple Earth issues of Justice League of America over the years, as well as have some appearances in All-Star Squadron.

Flash forward 21 years to the greatest comic event of all time, Crisis on Infinite Earths #1, where we see the Crime Syndicate once again, for the last time, as they fight for their lives and their world before it is consumed by the Anti-Matter and his wave of Anti-Matter nothingness. The Crime Syndicate was no more…that is until 15 years later when Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely weave a gem in the book that is the subject of this week’s review, JLA Earth 2.

JLA Earth 2 is a bit of an anomaly, very few books stand out in my memory having so much initial opposition when originally announced, but have such universal appeal once the story hit the shelves. I revisited it again this past week for the 3rd of 4th time, it still holds up in every way, from Morrison’s incredible attention to detail and love for these characters, to some of the best art the incredibly talented Frank Quitely has ever done. Morrison adds whole new layers of depth to the five members of the Crime Syndicate, now as the title implies, hailing from Earth Two instead of the pre-Crisis Earth Three. He and Quitely show how truly evil and sinister Ultraman is, especially in his moments of rage, the (not so) secret love affair between the unfaithful Superwoman and conniving Owlman, the drug addiction of speedster Johnny Quick, and the power hungry Power Ring, who reign through terror over the twisted world of Earth Two.

The story starts with Alexander (Lex) Luthor, who is the leader of the resistance against the Crime Syndicate, breaking through the barrier between Earth Two and Earth One, as he attempts to contact the Justice League and enlist their aid in his campaign to stop their evil Crime Syndicate Dopplegangers. So, Alexander Luthor of Earth 2 returns home with Justice Leaguers Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and Flash in tow, on a mission to bring justice to the world ruled by evil. Meanwhile, the Crime Syndicate escapes from the prison built by Green Lantern and they in turn invade Earth One. We then see both teams move like a hurricane through the worlds they’ve invaded, the Justice League spreading truth and justice in a world of corruption, and the Crime Syndicate wreaking havoc and destruction in a world of (relative) order.

The attention to detail in each panel and page that Quitely and Morrison pack in, is just astounding, from the nods to the original incarnation of the CSA to making everything on Earth Two opposite to Earth One. This may be some of the finest work either has produced, and I’d put it right up there with another of their hit collaborations, All-Star Superman.

If you haven’t ever read this graphic novel, and the Crime Syndicate interests you at all, you really need to check this one out. While you’re at it, I’d recommend giving the follow up series that featured a team-up between the JLA and CSA in 2004 in the pages of JLA #107-114, written by Kurt Busiek with gorgeous Ron Garney artwork.

You can pick up the 5th Printing of JLA Earth Two for a very affordable $14.99. The Busiek story featuring the JLA/CSA team-up is collected in JLA Vol. 15 “Syndicate Rules,” and you can pick up the original appearance of the CSA in volume 1 of the must read Crisis on Multiple Earths TPB series.


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