Comic Book Review – JLA by Grant Morrison Omnibus

JLA by Grant Morrison Omnibus (2020)
Reprints JLA #1-17, 22-31, 34, 36-41, One Million, JLA/WildCATs, JLA-Z #1-2, JLA: Classified #1-3, JLA: Earth-2, JLA: Secret Files & Origins #1 , Adventures of Superman One Million, DC One Million #1-4, DC One Million 80-Page Giant, Detective Comics One Million, Green Lantern One Million, Martian Manhunter One Million, Resurrection Man One Million, Starman One Million, Superman: The Man of Tomorrow One Million, New Year’s Evil: Prometheus
Written by Grant Morrison (with many contributions)
Art by Howard Porter, Val Semekis, Oscar Jimenez, and many more

Introduction

By 1996 it was clear that the Justice League has lost its luster among D.C. Comics books. This was a shame because it was the premier team title at the company. Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis’s run on the book transitioned to Dan Jurgens, who eventually made way for Dan Vado with Gerard Jones writing the final arc. The roster by that time was made up of interesting but definitely not marquee level superheroes. Blue Devil. Nuklon. Icemaiden. Obsidian. Wonder Woman was there, but she was about the only notable character among the bunch. Sales dwindled, and Scottish writer Grant Morrison saw it as an opportunity to put their idea of a blockbuster movie take on the Justice League out there. 

The new roster would hearken back to the original line-up. Superman. Batman. Wonder Woman. Green Lantern. The Flash. Aquaman. Martian Manhunter. Where the 1980s Justice League was about the team’s silliness and its almost working-class heroes, JLA was about gods that walk among us. The artwork by Howard Porter always seems to be looking up in awe, finding angles that emphasize these characters’ grandeur. So too did Morrison’s stories match that style, pitting the team against some of the greatest threats Earth has ever faced, sending the edges of time & reality. 

This review will be quite a bit longer than most I write due to my personal love of this particular comic book run. I bought the first two years worth of these issues as they came out. I was in high school at the time, homeschooled if you have read my Weekly Wonderings. Comic books were a big part of my escape from living in the middle of nowhere and not having much social interaction with people my age. I definitely went through growing pains in college, learning maturity, and where I fit in. Books like Morrison’s JLA were always what I would turn to if I needed to feel that the world was larger than where I was. I also don’t believe this will be the best analysis of Grant Morrison’s particular writing style. I would highly recommend their book Supergods or Grant Morrison: The Early Years by Timothy Callahan. This review will be a little bit of analysis and a little bit nostalgic.

Aliens, Androids, Angels, & Elseworlds

Morrison was significantly influenced by Gardner Fox’s work on the original Justice League of America, particularly its story structure. In those comics, a large scale problem would occur that required League members to pair up and go in different directions to confront enemies or find solutions. The way characters were paired made for exciting matchups, and you got to see a variety of personalities play off each other. Morrison understood this was a book about D.C.’s greatest heroes, and they made sure the team’s villains matched that scope. In the introductory arc, the JLA are just getting their bearings on things, having the team resources transferred over from the defunct League. But it appears they may not get a chance to protect and save the Earth when the Hyperclan suddenly appears. These are aliens who claim to come from a dead world. They have traveled across the cosmos to find a new home and have decided on Earth. They set out right away to improve the quality of this new world and transform the Sahara into a lush grassland, water flowing freely.

The Hyperclan are the sort of perfect debut villains to face off with. They don’t really have individual identities beyond names, looks, and a touch of personality. They serve as basic counterpoints to members of the JLA and resemble the kinds of knock-offs you might have found at Image Comics in the 1990s. They are all very “extreme” and “edgy.” Morrison is no slouch for meta-commentary, so this is their way of defining both what the JLA and what it is not. That doesn’t mean Morrison isn’t going to question why these Earthbound superheroes aren’t terraforming the Sahara. Hyperclan does bring material benefit to the people of Earth; it just turns out there’s an insidious agenda behind it all. 

Morrison spends equal time on each hero through this arc, really nailing down their personalities and roles within the team. Superman is a figure of awe to other members, a mythical god-come to life. Wonder Woman is up there too, but Morrison seems more interested in how she plays off characters like Batman and Aquaman. All three are people of privilege, royalty in their own ways. Green Lantern & Flash are certainly the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern of the bunch, the comic relief, especially juxtaposed against Morrison’s cranky Batman. Martian Manhunter gets the most depth in this run until his solo ongoing penned by John Ostrander and drawn by Tom Mandrake started a few years in. J’onn J’onzz is one of those perennial Justice Leaguer, having been with the team in almost every incarnation. The Hyperclan story ends up tying directly into his own history, and he has a significant role in overcoming their evil in the final act.

There’s a brief one-off issue following the opener that presents a membership drive and a pretty moving story about a villain turned hero. By this time, Superman had been turned into an energy being in the pages of his own comics & Wonder Woman had been killed off in John Byrne’s run. Morrison does a pretty handy job of incorporating these universal changes without missing a step in the book. The JLA hosts several D.C. Universe heroes as they look to expand the roster. We see Steel, Green Arrow, Artemis, Plastic Man, and Hitman among those auditioning. The one who wins, though, is a complete newbie on the territory, Tomorrow Woman. Morrison doesn’t hide her true identity and, in the first pages of this issue, reveals she is a co-creation of longtime JLA foes Doctor T.O. Morrow and Professor Ivo. The former is responsible for the villain turned hero Red Tornado while the latter has made the perennial mimic Amazo. Their plan is for Tomorrow Woman to detonate and kill the JLA after gaining their trust. Where this story goes is still very moving and just a remarkable short story in this massive collection.

One of my favorite things about Morrison, which I think has influenced Geoff Johns, is how they would take disparate threads of D.C. Universe history and weave them together to create connections that felt like they should have always been there. We begin the next story with a mysterious figure in a coma being watched over by the Demons Three, a trio of entities the League has faced before. They are working with Neron, a new villain at the time introduced in the Underworld Unleashed crossover. Neron and his associates have timed out an attack on Earth, the arrival of a fallen angel, Zauriel. 

Zauriel has become aware of a plot to rebel by Asmodel, the leader of the Bull Host of Heaven. He’s also following the story of Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire with Zauriel having fallen in love with a human. This all leads to a Biblical level of conflict, with some players taken off the board. The teleporters in the JLA HQ are sabotaged, trapping The Flash. The Demons Three are attempting to pull the moon down and smash it into Earth, causing incalculable destruction. Morrison, having handily adapted to Superman’s new power set as an energy being during this time, gives us an epic moment of the Man of Steel literally pushing the moon back and holding it in place.

Morrison had initially intended to use Hawkman or create a new character with that name. D.C. editorial forbade them to do so. At this time, Hawkman was a complete continuity mess when writers weren’t all on the same page post-Crisis and resulted in multiple versions of the same character in the D.C. Universe. Morrison still wants you to think about that connection. When Aquaman first glimpses Zauriel, he mutters “Katar?” referencing the Silver Age Hawkman’s real name. Morrison had ideas that Zauriel (as Hawkman) would eventually battle the other name bearers in a story that would have fun with the silliness of D.C.’s scrambled continuity and possibly resolved the issue. I think Zauriel is one of the great underdeveloped characters of the D.C. Universe, pretty much dropped as soon as Morrison left the title. He shows up from time to time, but I think there is a lot a good writer could do with the angelic character.

The final storyline of this opening salvo of stories reimagines the League villain The Key. When The Key first debuted in 1965, he was an unnamed man who used special psychoactive chemicals to expand his perception to 10 senses. The villain would use key-themed weaponry and henchmen but always existed as a low tier villain. That comatose stranger from the previous arc ends up being The Key, who put himself in a drug-induced coma to awaken more of his senses. His exposure to drugs for so many years has turned him into a grey-skinned ghoul. He has learned to harness the power of imagination and puts the entire League into a sleep state using a psycho-virus. 

The result is Morrison getting to play in the space of classic Silver Age “imaginary stories.” These were “what if?” tales that explored alternate realities or possibilities. Each Leaguer experience a fantasy world in this vein. Superman is a scientist living on Krypton. Batman is a mentor to Dick Grayson, now Batman, and his son who is Robin. Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor are tomb raider types exploring ancient temples. These are also Morrison’s way of letting the Multiverse exist in a time when D.C. made the whole thing verboten. The Multiverse has officially come back since this time, and that should be contributed to Morrison as one of those chief architects.

This story also serves as a fantastic introduction to the team’s newest recruit, Green Arrow. This is not Oliver Queen, as most people might anticipate. During this time, Oliver Queen was dead, and his estranged son Connor Hawke had assumed the Green Arrow’s mantle. Connor ends up being the only conscious team member when he teleports in, and The Key has already gone to work. There are some fantastic moments here, my favorite being when Connor comes across his dad’s old trick arrows in the JLA trophy room. He uses things like the boxing glove arrow and the boomerang arrow, commenting on how embarrassing this is but ultimately finding they help him overcome the Key and foil his plans.

Rock of Ages

A common element of the original Justice League series was the teaming-up of the members’ arch-villains. They would often go by a name like the Secret Society of Super-Villains, The Legion of Doom, the Anti-Justice League, or the Injustice Gang. This was one of many things on Morrison’s To-Do List during their tenure on the book. But in pure Morrison style, it was done with a sense of epic scale and playing around with meta-fiction elements & commentary. 

Instead of jumping right into the supervillain team, we are teased with the Justice League Revenge Squad. These are a team of hard light copies of the members controlled via specialized helmets by the real Injustice League. Their color schemes are off to visually signal they are evil. Aquaman has bright red hair and a beard. Batman’s cape and cowl are a sickly purple. Additionally, each of them has a skull insignia in place of their original heroic symbol. The name is derived from the Superman Revenge Squad, a silver age creation where aliens that felt they were wronged by the Man of Steel joined together to strike back. It’s revealed near the end of this opening prelude that Lex Luthor is in charge of the Injustice League, stationed in a skull-shaped satellite base orbiting the Earth. Morrison tries to hide the other members in silhouette, but any savvy DC Comics reader would be able to figure out who they are.

One of the significant elements introduced in this storyline, which the title refers to, is the Philosopher’s Stone. Luthor has acquired it somehow and uses its power to hide the Injustice League’s base and even themselves from detection, going as far as to block Martian Manhunter’s telepathic abilities. Luthor clearly doesn’t understand the object’s scope, which leads to the larger, cosmic avenues explored in the story. Luthor’s hubris is a character trait key to this narrative & resurfaces later when he does in the World War III finale. 

Morrison furthers the shadow parallel between the JLA and the Injustice League by having the villains always engaged in bickering. Like with the heroes, they have a strong sense of the personalities of these figures. Luthor acts like he is the intellectual superior to everyone, Mirror Master is mercenary for hire, Ocean Master is singularly focused on hurting his half-brother Aquaman. This is one of the rare occasions where the Joker was included in these team-ups, and his wholly broken sanity ends up being a weapon used by the Injustice League when they finally allow the heroes within their base. Circe, the sorceress villain from the Wonder Woman books, uses her abilities to seduce Green Arrow and turn him against the League, playing on his status as a young rookie, but even that is flipped on its head by the end.

Morrison also has a deep interest in incorporating Jack Kirby’s New Gods mythos into his series. Metron, a wizened explorer from that corner of the universe, pops up, warning Aquaman, The Flash, and Green Lantern that Superman’s attempt to destroy the Philosopher’s Stone will cause massive repercussions far into the future. This sends that trio of heroes on a fantastic odyssey, first to Wonderworld, a planet of literal giant superbeings. This also allows for the introduction of one of my all-time favorite Morrison creations, the android Hourman. He’s the third character to bear that name, a robot built in the 853rd century and loaded with the template consciousness of the original Hourman, Rex Tyler. His design is spooky, and he exists in the 4th & 3rd dimensions simultaneously. There are some fantastic moments later where his ability to see moments into the future leads to wonderfully trippy scenes.

Hourman rushes Aquaman, The Flash, and Green Lantern onto their next stop, a few decades into Earth’s future where Darkseid has terraformed the planet into a mock version of his homeworld Apokalips. Morrison chooses to have their consciousnesses travel through time, so they end up inhabiting their old, and in some cases, broken bodies in this period. The Flash is powerless and now a Lowlie, just grinding away in the name of almighty Darkseid. Green Lantern has been partially transformed through cybernetics into a Parademon. The Justice League of this era is a cobbled-together team of whoever isn’t dead or hasn’t been turned by Anti-Life. Wonder Woman. Azteca. Amazo. Green Arrow. The Atom. Argent of the Teen Titans at this time.  They are not exactly the team you would want, and their suicide mission to help the heroes of the past go back and change this world is doomed from the start.

There are many twists and turns by the time we reach the finale of this five part storyline. I remember thinking how decompressed the arc was, but in comparison to some contemporary comic storylines, this is nothing. Morrison packs so much into these five issues delivering a complete story about the Injustice League but planting seeds for future issues and arcs in the rest of their run. They bring in Aztek, a co-creation with Mark Millar, destined to play a significant role in the coming doomsday. Plastic Man makes his debut on the team in spectacular fashion as well, with Morrison completely reigniting the love that character had lost since the 1970s. There’s even a one-panel tease for the coming DC One Million storyline. But the writer ends the arc with a shocking declaration from Superman. The JLA is being disbanded.

Expanding the Ranks, Prometheus, and an Old Enemy Returns

In the old days of the Justice League, they faced off when the android Amazo. He was a construct of the villainous Doctor Ivo. Amazo had the unique ability to mimic the powers of the Leaguers. Morrison sought to reimagine that with a villain with more intelligence, though not too much as we would see. This was done in the form of Prometheus. Prometheus is an anti-Batman, with his origin rooted in the deaths of his parents. Unlike Bruce Wayne, Prometheus’s mom and dad were criminals, bank robbers & murderers. They die in a hail of bullets, and vengeance against authority is solidified in the young boy. He’s spent his life constructing a unique armor and helmet that can load up small discs containing superheroes’ abilities. In this way, he can counter them by anticipating what they will do based on their past performances. Conceptually, Prometheus is a pretty perfect villain, one that will take some cleverness to defeat.

Prometheus strikes during a press conference where civilians have been invited to the Watchtower as the JLA announces their new members. Plastic Man gets an official spot along with Huntress and Steel. That’s capped off a few issues later with the New Gods Orion & Big Barda joining. Prometheus sneaks on board disguised as Retro, the winner of a Justice Leaguer for a Day contest. Once on the moon base, he takes out the most significant threats before tackling the members he sees as less threatening. Steel’s armor goes haywire, Green Lantern’s brain is overloaded, so he can’t focus, Zauriel is shunted to a limbo named the Ghost Zone, etc. 

All of this leads to a showdown with Batman and a finale that many fans have labeled as very disappointing. After the build-up made for Prometheus to see him taken down in such a silly manner, it was sort of surprising. I look back at this now and think it was intentional on the part of Morrison. Prometheus represents the sort of fan character that would be invented to stop a Batman or Superman. He’s a complete Mary Sue, and Morrison rightful makes fun of that type of character. They just aren’t interesting if they are an invincible badass. Seeing them taken out so comically humanizes them. Since then, Prometheus has been portrayed by other creators as a petulant manchild, holding a grudge for that initial defeat.

In the pages of JLA Secret Files and Origins, Morrison tells this team’s lost origin story. It’s essentially a retelling of the Justice League’s first appearance in The Brave and The Bold #28 (March 1960). The League faces off against The Star Conqueror. This starfish-shaped alien being is notorious in the DC Universe for being a brain parasite that would attach itself to the face of its host. In this short story, The Spectre blocks the JLA from going toe to toe with the alien by showing them a vision of what a direct confrontation would lead to. 

This is followed up in a two-part story in the pages of JLA, where a sleep epidemic sweeps over North America. The JLA and the town of Blue Valley (Wally West’s hometown) are immune to the sickness. In trying to figure out how to cure these people, the team is visited by Sandman. This is the Neil Gaiman creation made famous in his own Vertigo series. At the time, this was a pretty big deal as the Vertigo characters were kept far removed from the DCU proper due to their “adult” nature. Sandman helps a group of heroes enter the dream world to confront the Starro parasite in a more even playing field. Meanwhile, Batman and Martian Manhunter discover why Blue Valley is immune that could save the planet. This is probably the most straightforward JLA story Morrison delivers in their tenure. No big surprises outside of Sandman’s inclusion.

DC One Million

One of the original Justice League’s great traditions were annual crossovers with other worlds in the DC Multiverse. These began with the teaming of the JLA with their Earth-2 counterparts in the Justice Society. Over the years, other realities were brought in, like the Crime Syndicate of Earth-3 or Captain Marvel & the Marvel Family (think Shazam!) of Earth-5. They even featured a crossover with the New Gods of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World and the futuristic Legion of Super-Heroes. Having the JLA work side by side against another superteam gave an opportunity to have even larger scale adventures than usual. Morrison certainly had these stories in mind when he penned the crossover event DC One Million.

The JLA are visited by the Justice Legion A, their descendants, and counterparts living in the 853rd century. The Justice Legion wants the heroes of the 20th century to journey into the future for a special event, the return of Superman. It turns out after centuries of battle, Superman went into a self-imposed exile within Earth’s sun. He’s now set to return, and it seems appropriate that the legendary heroes of his era are there to greet him. As soon as the JLA leaves for the future, the Justice Legion, who are staying behind to protect the world of the past, encounters a techno virus in the body of their teammate Hourman. The virus infects all living beings causes them to rage out the longer the disease is in their system. 

Some Justice Leaguers have stayed behind in the Watchtower, including Plastic Man, Steel, Huntress, and Steel. They try to manage the crisis without descending to the planet below while the Justice Legion fights on the surface. Meanwhile, immortal villain Vandal Savage gets ahold of some decommissioned Rocket Red suits and repurposes them into nuclear missiles. A group of former Teen Titans try to stop him but are too late when he commits a horrific atrocity. It becomes clear there is another villain in the shadows operating from the 853rd, and as the story unfolds, we learn how it ties into the legacy of Superman and the JLA.

DC One Million is one of the best DC crossovers ever made. Morrison isn’t afraid to be silly, and their love of these Silver Age style tales seems to be infectious. While the entire DC line of books was renumbered as Issue One Million for the month, the crossover took place, only eight of those monthlies are reprinted here, along with the four-issue core mini-series. The scale of the story is appropriately epic and spans the entire galaxy. You might be a little confused with some of the moments surrounding the legacy hero Starman or the oft-forgotten Resurrection Man, they both play critical roles in the story, but I don’t think that would harm your enjoyment of this event. 

Morrison is very clear about the stakes and manages their multiple fronts incredibly well. Vandal Savage feels like the most legitimate threat he has been in a long time. The future villain Solaris is obviously a creation of Morrison’s that they had ideas for long before this JLA run. It’s a shame more hasn’t been done with Solaris since its introduction in DC One Million, but here’s hoping. In the current Future State thematic event running through DC Comics right now, I have noticed quite a few elements from Morrison’s run, including the 835rd Century Justice Legion, so this could mean some of these younger writers and artists are going to fold these elements back into the mainstream stories.

DC One Million is a satisfyingly complex story and doesn’t lean into heroes punching the bad guys to win. The JLA gets completely conned and has to think their way out of the problem. They are dealing with a conspiracy across millions of years and villains whose power is beyond the physical. The finale is a beautiful moment, especially when the future Superman emerges from the sun and is reunited with his long-lost love Lois Lane who has been preserved into this distant point in time.

Ultramarines & Crisis Times Five

Morrison isn’t done with juxtaposing the JLA against other super teams and spends their next two arcs showcasing two very different stories with two very different groups. The first team starts out as antagonists to the League. They are the Ultramarine Corps, led by General Wade Eiling. Eiling was introduced in Captain Atom’s pages in the 1980s and served as an adversarial character to that lead hero. Eiling presents the Ultramarines as an American answer to the JLA’s global perspective. He posits that the JLA won’t defend America in other countries’ interest; therefore, the United States needs their own military controlled heroes.

There’s an entire front story given about four brave soldiers crossing through a stargate into a cosmic reality that imbued them with unique abilities. The members are codenamed Warmaker One, 4-D, Flow, and Pulse 8. Eiling decides to point the Ultramarines at the JLA to showcase his soldiers’ powers and take down the team. This ends up being a veil for Eiling’s real plans that involve locating and recovering the synthetic humanoid The Shaggy Man, an old JLA villain from the 1960s. Eiling has been diagnosed with a brain tumor and uses The Shaggy Man’s body to house his consciousness, turning him into a near-indestructible force to be reckoned with. The Ultramarines see how they are manipulated and turn on Eiling. By the end of the story, the Ultramarines have become a sort of 21st-century Global Guardians.

The next story arc is one of my all-time favorites from Morrison because it hearkens back to those classic Justice league crossovers. It’s also an example of a highly complex narrative blending elements from different DC Comics eras and connects all these disparate threads to a fantastic story. Captain Marvel (now known as Shazam) is made aware of chaos unfolding in the Middle Eastern nation of Bahdnisia. This country is known as the birthplace of Thunderbolt, a magical pink genie that helped out Golden Age hero Johnny Thunder. The JLA teams up with the Justice Society members to explore these mysteries as the fabric of reality appears to be at the breaking point. 

Meanwhile, we check in on Triumph. His real name is William MacIntyre, and he was introduced in the old Justice League America series. Triumph turned out to be one of the greatest heroes on Earth, debuting at the same time as Superman and Wonder Woman. He brought together the original roster of the JLA but sacrificed himself to save the world from an alien invasion. His powers combined with the alien technology caused Triumph to be erased from the timeline until he was restored during the Zero Hour event. Well, Morrison finds Triumph at the lowest point in his life, selling trophies he swiped from the League and selling them to supervillains. Triumph is met by a blue genie, resembling Thunderbolt, who offers him the chance to get revenge on the heroes that forgot and abandoned him. 

Morrison tells a story that resolves Triumph’s arc in tragic fashion, connects the 5th Dimension where Mr. Myxzptlk lives, reforms the Justice Society, and introduces Jakeem Thunder, the new heir to the Thunderbolt. It is incredibly satisfying how Morrison ties up so many plot threads that in the middle of the story feel unrelated. It’s another moment of reassurance that when you are reading a Morrison book and you feel like you are in the woods, rest assured they know what they are doing and have an end in mind. As a fan of the DC Universe’s deep history, this was such a delight to re-read, and I expect I’ll re-read it again a few years later.

World War III

This is the story arc Morrison had been building to throughout their entire JLA run, and it marks the conclusion of their tenure on the book. When Orion and Big Barda joined the team, they had specified it was about preparing Earth for the coming of a deadly cosmic force. During the Rock of Ages story, there were hints of a greater evil at the bounds of space & reality waiting to reveal itself and wreak havoc. The first presentation of this force is felt in a prelude issue with Green Lantern and Aquaman dealing with a prison break at Belle Reve. Belle Reve is most well-known as the proving grounds of Suicide Squad’s members, but this time it has erupted in chaos. Morrison chooses to tell the narrative from the point of view of a nameless prisoner who has been tasked with swiping Green Lantern’s ring and delivering it to a figure waiting in the facility’s basement.

By the time World War III kicks off in full, we have an alliance of JLA villains from across Morrison’s run. Prometheus returns, working alongside Lex Luthor and using his Ghost Zone to move quickly through space. Queen Bee, an old JLA rogue, rescues General Eiling from his exile in space on her way to bringing her hivemind army to Earth. Zauriel even rallies the hosts of Heaven for the final battle. Orion and Big Barda explain the threat of Mageddon to the JLA, a living weapon responsible for the destruction of the old reality and who is intent on consuming this universe. The cadre of villains strikes across the globe, including at Oracle (Barbara Gordon), the voice in the heads of many JLAers to help get them the logistical information they need. 

This story’s conclusion is key to the core themes Morrison is most introduced in exploring, mainly the superheroic nature within all human beings. The writer has long believed that fictional realities are real; they are mass imagined universes, fed by the dreams and thoughts of generations of authors and readers. They keep this in a more digestible presentation than other works that are a lot more esoteric, but it’s one of those things I love about Morrison’s work. They genuinely believe in Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and the rest. These are real people to them. Morrison sees them as totems of what dwells within, universal aspects of being human expressed through mythologies of all cultures for time immemorial. Superman is the current expression of an idea, and millions of years from now, should humanity still exist, that aspect will present itself in a new form.

JLA: Earth-2 & JLA Classified

Morrison ended their run on JLA with issue 41 dated May 2000. However, a few months earlier, in January 2000, DC released JLA: Earth-2, a one-shot 80-page prestige graphic novel. Morrison has wanted to play with the Crime Syndicate of Amerika. These were the JLA counterparts of Earth-3, where everything good on Earth-1 was evil and vice versa for evil on Earth-1. Because of the Crisis in 1985, the Crime Syndicate was wiped from the table with a few failed attempts during the Giffen/DeMatteis run. Not one to be daunted by editorial edicts and coasting off the mass success of the JLA series, Morrison recreated a parallel Earth populated by these evil figures who terrorized the masses rather than protected them. This is very much in the vein of things like Star Trek’s Mirror Universe. It’s always fun to see the heroes you love behave as delightfully evil villains.

The story begins with a plane crash in the ocean. The JLA helps uncover and examine the bodies discovering a bizarre fact, all the hearts are on the wrong side of the body. They are quickly introduced to Alexander Luthor, the other Earth’s Lex, but who wants to do good. Alexander has ironically named the world he is visiting Earth-2 and asks the JLA to stop the Crime Syndicate in his world. The JLA travels across reality and explores this dark new world. 

Batman learns Bruce Wayne was murdered as a child, and his father, Thomas Wayne, is the Commissioner of Police. Here Owlman terrorizes Gotham City and his Thomas Wayne Jr., the other son of the Commissioner. Superwoman is really Lois Lane and involved with Ultraman, a human astronaut turned superpowered by alien genetic engineers. Superwoman is engaged in a BDSM relationship with this world’s Jimmy Olsen and also cheating with Owlman. Johnny Quick, the analog to The Flash, needs a unique drug to keep his speed up while Power Ring (a dark version of Green Lantern) is controlled by his sentient ring Volthoom. Morrison goes to much darker and more violent places than in the regular JLA book, which is why this was sold as a prestige one-shot outside the main run.

Finally, the omnibus caps things off with the opening arc of JLA Classified. The purpose of this series was to offer stories about the League from rotating creative teams. Creators would put out three to four issue stories, and Morrison suitably sets the standard with a return to some of his more esoteric ideas. The Ultramarines live in a floating city called Superbia and help out nations around the world. They are attacked by terrorists led by the Flash rogue Gorilla Grodd. Batman is only the League member left in the universe and uses robot copies of his teammates to help out the Ultramarines. But where is the JLA? They are exploring the Infant Universe of Qwewq. I told you this got weird.

This is a fun story that delivers the same wild, over the top adventures you would expect from Morrison and one where they unleash a taste of just how weird they would like to, with these stories. If you have never read Morrison’s JLA run, then you should get this omnibus and prepare to go on a fantastic blockbuster movie-style journey. I would love to hear from someone reading through this collection for the first time, wowed by the brilliant writing and art. If you are a fan of Morrison’s JLA run, this is pretty much the perfect comprehensive collection that puts their stories in one place. The JLA hasn’t had this luster since, but I hope some writer can bring back what Morrison did to make this book shine.

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