Review by Karl Verhoven
With this volume, at least until the Justice Society come calling at the end, Gardner Fox dispenses with the formula of splitting the Justice League into smaller teams over several chapters. It’s welcome. As ever, the plots he supplies prioritise science-fiction conundrums over characterisation, but his standards are starting to slip.
Fox is strong, though, in ensuring what might be considered the lesser heroes have their turn in the spotlight. There’s an entire story centred around the non-powered heroes as those with super powers are banned by the United Nations. Yes, it’s every bit as ridiculous as it sounds, and you don’t even know about Headmaster Mind and his School of Criminal Deeds and Conduct yet. It’s the Atom who’s primarily responsible for deducing the method in which Kanjar-Ro can be defeated; whenever Aquaman appears there’s a credible sea-based menace, and Batman, then a very different character, always has one fine detective moment. With the League now numbering nine members, Fox doesn’t appear compelled to use them all in each adventure, but takes care to explain the absence of any missing members as a tale begins.
Kanjar-Ro isn’t the only returning villain here as Amazo’s also back, and so is Despero, rather over-egging his revenge by aging half the Justice League and noting “I have created three alternate Earths in each of which reptilian life, insect life and marine life have evolved into the dominant life forms.” His plan is to conquer them all. No, it doesn’t make such sense, and one assumes that even back in 1964 readers picked the holes in that plot. It does enable some wacky Mike Sekowsky art, though, with Flash riding a blue dinosaur.
The most memorable story here is the annual visit of the Justice Society of America. During their story in volume three, the villains on run posited that if there’s an Earth One and an Earth Two, there must be an Earth Three. Fox uses that as the springboard for his story, revealing an Earth on which super-powered equivalents of the JLA rule the planet as the Crime Syndicate. He conceives an intricate method of stacking the odds, and a series of individual battles of hero against villain. It’s by a long chalk the best material here, although Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely would improve on it greatly with their Earth 2 graphic novel based on this story.
Sekowsky continues to entertain with his unique style. Memorable are his versions of JLA members as pensioners, the Justice League protesting outside the United Nations, and his ability to pack very small panels with an incredible number of heroes.
There’s been a modicum of dated charm to the material in the previous three volumes, but here there’s the distinct odour of hacking it out on Fox’s part. Those not inclined to believe this and wanting to sample anyway are directed to Showcase Presents the Justice League of America volume two. It includes the same stories in black and white on pulp paper.