Saturday, September 8, 2012

Bullet Review: Earth 2 #0

I suppose that DC's Zero Month accomplished one of its goals when I picked up Earth 2 #0 this week. The purpose of the month is to provide a jumping on point for readers, an origin story of sorts to drum up some sales. I don't plan on grabbing as many zero issues as I did first issues of the DCnU but I was intrigued enough by Earth 2 and the idea of seeing that world's Superman again to pick this issue up.

Did it interest me enough to get me to go back and grab the issues I missed? To add the book to my pull list?

Written by James Robinson with art by Tomas Giorello, the issue tells the origin of "Mr. 8", the eighth Wonder (or super-hero) on the planet. Templated from another famous Earth 2 hero, Mr. 8 turns out to be the perfect representative of the DCnU, a dark persona who thinks himself a hero, who is willing to kill if he must.

This won't be my typical long review, just some bullets on the key parts of the book.

So this book takes place before the events of Earth 2 #1, so Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are still fighting off Darkseid and his troops.

But this Trinity (or Ternion as Wonder Woman named them) aren't the only heroes on this world. Robin and Supergirl we knew about. (Nice fierce Supergirl by Giorello here.) Catwoman we kind of knew about.

And then there is Mr. 8, Terry Sloan, a government operative.

And a mystery hero ... someone unnamed. I don't know if I should know who this is, if it is something revealed in the issues I missed or if it is a mystery. But things like that grab my attention as a fan. Who is missing from a classic Earth 2 model that doesn't include the 'new heroes' of Green Lanter, Flash, Atom, and Hawkgirl?

Could it be Dr. Fate? The Spectre? The Crimson Avenger? Ma Hunkle??

Now Sloan is of course a riff on the classic take of Mr. Terrific. Of course, the original Sloan believed in Fair Play to the point of putting on fighting togs to right wrongs. What is this Sloan like?

Well, it turns out he is sick of this war mostly because it is a stalemate. He can't deal with simply stemming the tide of Darkseid's siege. He wants to win the war.

And in trying to find a way to boom tube the fight to Apokalips, he instead uncovers the existence of the multiverse. These visions either give him great clarity or make him mad. It is hard to tell.

But there is some interesting stuff in those visions. We see what looks to be the Michael Holt Mr. Terrific holding a gun over a dead body. One looks like Magog swinging an axe. The other looks like three shadows - Magog, Darkseid, Pandora?

So those shapshots also grabbed my interest. I love comic mysteries, or trying to figure out hints of things to come.

A large number of humans on Earth 2 have become basically zombies, mesmerized by the Anti-Life equation into slaves for Darkseid.

Mr. 8 realized the heroes can never win the war if these innocents are on the battlefield. The heroes won't want to hurt them. The heroes' plans will be hindered by these enthralled troops. Seeing those other realities, Sloan knows he has to eliminate them from the scenario. And so he develops 'opal Kryptonite' which temporarily enrages Superman. And while the others try to hold Superman at bay, Sloan detonates a device which razes the enslaved cities from the planet. It was great to see this world's heroes working together, seamless in their victories.

So first off, could Opal Kryptonite have some vague connection to Opal City, where Robinson's Starman was set?

But more importantly, when we saw these flaming pits on the scarred Earth in the first issue, I assumed they were Fire Pits set up by Darkseid. So having them be self-inflicted cautery by one the Earth heroes was a nice twist.Very nice.

We know that Mr. 8 was right. The heroes won the war albeit it at a great cost. But as he broods ... like Ozymandias ... he wonders if he is the hero or the villain.

So three nice plot hooks to grab me ... the eighth hero, the glimpses of futures, and the Fire Pit twist. I suppose that is what a zero issue should do. Grab me.

But Mr. 8 is a mockery of the memory of the Terry Sloan 'Fair Play' Mr. Terrific. He is yet another hero willing to kill ... here mass murder. It was that complete reimagining of beloved characters like Alan Scott and Jay Garrick that made me not pick up Earth 2 past the first issue.That's not what Earth 2 classically means to me.

So will I pick up this title moving forward?

I don't know. I don't think so ... but I never can tell these things until the next issue is in front of me.

Still, James Robinson wrote a compelling issue which has me contemplating buying this title, something I didn't think I would want to do. Kudos to him!

Overall grade: B+


Wayne Allen Sallee said...

Anj, Earth 2 is a decent book. 'm reading more of the "second wave" than the first. No, we haven't seen the mystery 7th hero--and that whole panel of dialogue was terribly written-but my interpretation is that the character has some meaning towards however Steppenwolf (or Darkseid, if you read WF), ended up here.

The visions of the multiverse certainly explain why Sloane knew M Holt as M. Terrific, but Sloane's costume was...weird. I get the 8th Wonder of the World, but the 8 and the 0, I dunno. Regardless, I like him. I like a lot of E2, and am looking forward to his introducing each Golden Age character more or less in order, so soon after Hourman (there is a Tyler Chemical on E2) and Sandman, I believe Starman would be next.

Dave Mullen said...

But Mr. 8 is a mockery of the memory of the Terry Sloan 'Fair Play' Mr. Terrific. He is yet another hero willing to kill ... here mass murder.

I'm a fan of Mr Terrific but while this treatment of Terry dissapoints me it doesn't enrage me either, right in his first appearaance in the Golden-Age he was shown as someone on the edge, he could quite easily have become a monster but fate showed him an alternate path and he chose Mr Terrific instead.
So I don't think Robinson is necessarily channeling Ozymandias, so much as going back to Sloans original appearance.

The whole Earth 2/Apokolips was fascinates, they had such a hard time of it as opposed to the Justice League's quick victory. I'm still trying to decide why that should be. Was Vic Stone the deciding factor or was Steppenwolf's direct stationing on Earth-2 a crucial element? Additionally perhaps more force was directed at Earth 2 that at the League's earth?
I wish they'd clarify on this....

Martin Gray said...

What Dave said - back in June Siskoid's Blog of Geekery took a look at the early appearances of Terry Sloane, and it's surprising stuff:

Great review.

Anj said...

Thanks for all the great comments and the link Martin.

I think part of my problem is that the Earth 2 in my youth always seemed to be a 'nicer' place. I know that things need to change in comics and maybe I just need to adapt.

Both issues of E2 (first issue and this one) were pretty good reads and certainly better than a lot of stuff out there. Maybe I need to open up about a 'new' Jay Garrick,etc and give this a second shot.

Dave Mullen said...

I think part of my problem is that the Earth 2 in my youth always seemed to be a 'nicer' place.
I think in all honesty that Robinson has been very clear to show that Earth 2 IS a more positive place than the main DC earth.
There's a bit of a smokescreen in operation here as the backdrop of the great War makes it seem grimmer than it actually is. The War with Apokolips is just a very clever way to replicate the WWII origins of these heroes, it's a brilliant move and I applaud its symmetry.
But if you read and reflect on the series you see very clearly this earth revere's its heroes, it's hungry for the new generation too - 'Wonders' they call them. The first issue is all about this reverence and optimism, seeing Alan Scott narrate a documentary on the war and then in #2 when Michael Holt arrives and sees this day of remembereance and celebration makes the tonal differences between Earths 1 & 2 very clear.
The heroes we've been introduced to so far are also as sunny and heroic as it gets! You won't find many more positive personalities in comics that Alan, Jay and to a lesser extent Hawkgirl.

It's just that a role reversal like Terry Sloan's does take you aback a bit. But that's just one fairly minor element in the overal picture I feel.

Anj said...

But if you read and reflect on the series you see very clearly this earth revere's its heroes, it's hungry for the new generation too - 'Wonders' they call them.

All right. You've convinced me!

Looks like I'll try to pick up 2-4 next visit to the LCS to fill in the gaps.

Thanks for the info!