Creating analogs of iconic heroes would seem to be easy, but is actually rather difficult. Grant Morrison happens to be very good at it and the value of his skill is on full display in his ONE MILLION crossover event from 1998, which is a prequel (of sorts) to his impressive efforts in 2014s MULTIVERSITY!
Between his JLA #23 and #24, Grant Morrison delivered his ONE MILLION event, which featured future versions of Starman, Hourman, Aquaman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman and Flash. At the end of his 2006-2007 ALL STAR SUPERMAN, Grant had Superman fly to the heart of a star to save the galaxy. Even though ONE MILLION was published much earlier, many plot points make far greater sense after having read ALL STAR SUPERMAN, as well as Grant's FINAL CRISIS, along with the balance of his JLA run ending at #40.
This is an indication of the way that Grant Morrison will tell his core story come hell or high water, no matter how many years pass between chapters, no matter how many changes a character may go through in the interim!
However, that being said, comics are periodicals and stories should be comprehensible from issue-to-issue, which, actually, ONE MILLION is. In light of Grant's MULTIVERSITY, though, how ONE MILLION fits into larger DC continuity is all the more astonishing and, as a DC reader moving forward, revisiting this story reaps new benefits.
Grant Morrison's JLA run is him following through on his every superhero storytelling impulse in the context of 1990s DC publishing continuity. In this, then, ONE MILLION is his "Last JLA Story"; even though it was presented in the middle of his run; which was disorienting to me as a reader when it first came out. Frankly, I thought it was gibberish: couldn't see where it fit into the larger scheme of things and considered it an anomaly. Having since gone through a dozen DC crossover events of considerably less integrity than ONE MILLION, (which out of respect for the dollar bins at your local comic book store will remain nameless) I now appreciate how straightforward ONE MILLION truly is and how relevant it remains.
First, Grant Morrison anchored all of his JLA stories with Superman, which seems an obvious choice, but hardly any other writer ever does this. Second, he honors the then-current versions of Green Lantern (Kyle Raynor) and Flash (Wally West), creating a "Teen Titans"-type vibe between these younger men. The more majestic characters share a natural tension even as they fight shoulder-to-shoulder, so Aquaman, Wonder Woman and Big Barda all find themselves deferring to Superman as needed. Batman enlists Huntress and Oracle to the team, so he does a lot of superhero mentoring on the run. Steel and Huntress have a moment where she clues him in on what the stakes are and how Steel needs to step up to the plate, and this ends up being the only admirable scene which Huntress enjoys during her entire JLA tenure, but it's worth it. Plastic Man is too creepy to actually bond with anyone, really, but his perversity never interferes with his bravery when the going gets rubbery. Even Zauriel has a quality moment with the analog Batman. Martian Manhunter works best as a field commander, but also is vulnerable to ignoring the greater good unless pointedly reminded of it by Superman or Batman. The dynamics of this JLA team ring true! The analog versions in Justice League A also have group dynamics that make sense which, again, is difficult to pull off on the fly but which Morrison manages with admirable ease.
My antipathy to Vandal Savage as the bad guy cooled me to his use as the primary villain in this piece, but earlier Grant Morrison was the first writer to recognize that Lex Luthor and Batman were natural enemies during his JLA run, and he uses Savage's immortality to great effect as Vandal's venality causes his downfall by, of all people, Resurrection Man. (Yes, you read that right.) While the actual battle plan is more improvisation than inspiration, Morrison manages to slow down the narrative sufficiently so that we can see what the stakes are and how the solution is arrived at. For the amount of the characters introduced and the complexity of the situation presented, the efficiency of this resolution is surprisingly satisfying.
ONE MILLION has an Artificial Intelligence hero in Hourman and an A.I. villain in Solaris, who explains himself in this fashion, "I am Solaris. Perfect engine of stellar annihilation. My strategies have been calculated across centuries. I have come to destroy the sun and end the Superman dynasty. I am perfect in my hatred. I am unstoppable in my perfection." Now, I am no fan of A.I. as fuel for super-villainy, but Grant Morrison delivers the perfect argument for this in ONE MILLION and I stand corrected!
ONE MILLION has been collected in TPB, so it is easy enough to obtain and well worth the effort! With more announced projects for DC from Grant Morrison in the pipeline, I am looking forward to the future: up, up and away!