Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Review: Earth 2 #1

Last week was a heavy review week and I am still catching up with 2 more books to go after today's review of Earth 2 #1.

I don't think that Earth 2 will remain a consistently reviewed book here and to be honest, I am still a bit up in the air as to whether or not I will be collecting the book long term. But as this issue significantly impacts the Superman and Supergirl of Earth 2 as well as the DCU as a whole, I thought I would give my thoughts.

All along, writer James Robinson has said that Earth 2 as a book is about world building, about creating something new and different from the classic E-2 heroes. The publicity pieces and pre-release interviews all made this world sound like an extremely dark place. 'Lois is dead ... what will make Superman cross the line and kill ...' etc., etc. It seems as though all of comics is in a dark place now. I don't know if DC needed a new world for dark stories when the E-1 world seems pretty dark enough. The question really is do I want to read a radically new version of Earth 2, and that is the million dollar question.

As usually, I wonder if those publicity pieces did the world a disservice. Sure, Earth 2 starts in a very dark place as played out here. But what is going to grow from that despair could be bright. I will admit all this 'Superman driven to kill' stuff almost made me shy away from buying the book. I was only lured in to see the set-up to Worlds' Finest. I have seen Dark Robinson in Cry for Justice. I have seen not dark, almost Silver Age reverence stuff in his later JLA books. So who knows which direction E2 is headed.

One thing I will say, Nicola Scott is wonderful on art, bring a clean sensibility to the pages even at their most action packed and war-like. She really does wonderful stuff here.

So what would drive Superman to kill? How about a full blown invasion from Apokalips.

The issue starts with the world at war, with parademons flooding the skies and Earth's military forces and heroes desperately trying to stay at a stalemate.

The problem here is that Earth 2 only has a handful of super-heroes: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Supergirl, and Robin. It is pretty amazing that there was a world with only 5 heroes and Supergirl was one of them. But things have not gone well for them.

All of Themyscira has been slaughtered sending Wonder Woman into a 'kill first, ask questions later' battle frenzy. I really don't like when the warrior aspect of Wonder Woman's persona is the only one we see.

Superman has lost Lois to the war and is wondering just how far this battle is going to push his ethics.

In fact, the only one of the Trinity who seems least emotionally distraught is Batman. He has figured out a way to reverse the effects of all the large Boom Tube generating towers on the planet, saving the day. He just needs to get inside. So Superman and Wonder Woman and Robin flying the batplane are all running interference. Robinson does a nice job in quickly showing how close Bruce and Helena are. I like that the proud papa says 'good girl' as she guns down parademons trying to get to him.

But this is a dark world, it's terrain damaged and looking more like trench warfare fields than a paradise.

As for the other hero on the table, Supergirl is overseeing plan B. If Batman's computer virus doesn't shut down the towers, the armies of the world are getting into position to nuke them all. And Kara is riding shotgun over many of them to make sure the bombs are not destroyed.

We have only met this Kara a little bit but I have to say I like her. And Scott draws her beautifully.

Robinson does a good job of setting the table with familiar names of classic Earth 2 characters that I am sure will ended up being a new hero comprising a new JSA at some point.

For example, guarding one of the nukes Sergeant Al Pratt, a brusque mission leader who is teased for being short. I guess he will reprise his role as the E2 Atom.

And the world isn't completely without super-beings. For one, we knew there were Amazons who have been killed. Here we see Mercury arrive saying the gods are also fighting the Apokaliptian forces but will most likely fall. Mercury has arrived to say that Diana's efforts have impressed the god enough to have him have faith in us as a race. Interesting ... and a foreshadow.

If Robinson is going to build a new world, he has to deal with the old world first. And it looks like it is going to be a tabula rasa for him to scrawl on.

Wonder Woman dies, impaled on the sword of Steppenwolf.

This is what seems to drive Superman 'to kill' as he screams 'I'll kill you'. Luckily (??) we don't know if he would cross that line because he also dies, immolated by some Apokalips tech.

In two panels, two of the Trinity are killed.

And Batman doesn't fare much better. He is successful in loading the virus into the tower but it triggered a self-destruction protocol. The virus will spread and shut down the towers but it will cost Batman his life.

It is a short but powerful scene with Batman telling Helena how proud he is and how she needs to live on for him. And Helena cries crying out 'daddy'. This is a different Helena than the tough one we have seen in the Huntress mini-series and over in Worlds' Finest so this must have toughened her up and made her bury these feelings. This is her Crime Alley, seeing her parents die. I wonder just how Batman-like she will end up. I thought these were the best panels of the book.

Hearing Superman's death cry got Kara's attention and so Supergirl sped to the scene. Here we see a reverse angle take on her and Helena flying into the exploding boom tube tower which ends up taking them to E1.

The war might be over, the Apokalips forces might have been teleported away with no way back, but the victory is a bittersweet one. This Earth has lost all its heroes. All of them. And this issue takes place 5 years ago!

Well we met Al Pratt already.

Now we learn the narrator much of this issue is Alan Scott putting together a broadcast commerating the event. It is hard to get a great feel for Alan Scott in this brief scene but he comes across as a bit smarmy and cocky, almost a Tony Stark sort of personality. I read the DC Archives of the classic GL stories a while ago. I don't think this is an homage to his origins.

And Mercury appears again. This time he tells a slacker Jay Garrick, a kid fresh from college with no direction, a guy just dumped by his girlfriend for not growing up, that the world needs a hero.

Jay as a directionless slacker trying to find his way? Hey, don't get me wrong, I love 'the hero's journey' as a character path. But Jay Garrick?

I know ... I know. I am an older guy who has read comics for over 3 decades. Maybe my time is up and the world is ready for a new Jay Garrick. And it was getting tougher and tougher to explain how that generation fought the Nazis and were still active.

But I don't know if this is a rebirth for these characters? Or an undermining of what they have been for so long? As I say, good stories trump everything so I guess we'll see. If I could accept a holy angel protoplasm/toubled youth as Supergirl, surely I can accept a young Jay Garrick ... assuming the quality is there.

And for a first issue, this wasn't bad, doing what it needed to do. It set the table. This is a world without heroes still recovering from the horrors of this interdimensional war. The world is a pock-mocked mess. What is coming that will spur the birth of a new generation of heroes? But as I said above, the million dollar question is are readers interested in a young and untested JSA nouveau. I wonder ...

I suppose that I will get the next issue to see just where this is all going. Certainly, Nicola Scott's art is engaging enough to warrant another issue.

Overall grade: B


Martin Gray said...

Terrific review. I loved this one, beginning to end. There's a load of excellent insight from James Robinson on the latest Comics Vine podcast, with news of at least one legacy heroine coming.

While not a direct homage, didn't the meteor which formed Alan Scott's green lantern land in China, where he's heading in this issue?

valerie21601 said...

It looks to me Robinson in order to make Earth-2 his own he felt he had to get rid of the Trinity so he could have the Green Lantern, the Atom and the Flash be the center focus of this universe.

So Supergirl and Robin had to be removed from it. So they were sent the DCnU Earth

Dave Mullen said...

Nice review, I share some of your doubts as to whether this is *the* JSA but I'm flexible and can appreciate why they've done it.
I do think this has great potential overall and as a fan of his JLA run I'm sure Robinson will at the very least make this a very readable book every month if nothing else.
The maain problem I can see with this revamp is that it changes the original contrast the JSA had with Earth-1 considerably, basically this new earth 2 is a direct mirror image of Justice League and the modernday heroes and as such I do feel it has lost something of it's identity. It is bitterly ironic the JSA get shifted to their own universe whilst the Wildstorm universe is merged with the DC earth... I think that will end up being deeply regretted by DC.

Martin Gray said...

@Valerie On the Comics Vine podcast, James mentions that offing the Trinity was an instruction he was given - Earth 2 is to be devoid of direct alternates.

But I doubt this made him sad ...

Anj said...

Thanks for the comments!

Dave, great point about Wildstorm 'trumping' the JSA for inclusion in the DCnU proper.

And Mart, thanks for the podcast info. No direct alternates ... interesting.