Earth Two #’s 4 + 0

Wow that numbering thing really isn’t working out is it? For this installment of Masterpiece Theater Roll For Relevance you will be treated to a rare double feature. “Treated” being somewhat relative in this case being as I’m mostly making up for lost ground, buuuut let’s not dicker.

Last time on the place with the people doing the things!

When, way back in the summer, we previously left the not-JSA they were just setting up to rumble with the new incarnation of Solomon Grundy, coming to us courtesy of Clive Barker’s musty hope chest. Grundy does some monologing (to no one in particular, definitely not to the reading audience) about the battle between the Green and the Grey. These seem to represent the primordial manifestations of life and death, growth and decay. I’m told that this may have some connection to the classic and current Swamp Thing books, but I can’t really comment with any authority on the link.

Grundy is well and ruining everyone’s day, even above and beyond his mainstream counterpart’s capacity for mayhem. The serial’s first proper superhuman wrestlemania is broken up somewhat though by another diversion into background exposition. I understand this is necessary for the series, but I feel like it might be starting to hurt the book’s pacing. Al Pratt’s cameo in the inaugural issue is expanded upon to demonstrate his inexplicable survival of a nuclear detonation and subsequent transformation into The Atom. This new version seems to be amalgamation of the golden age original with the later characters Atom Smasher and Damage. As far as the redesign is concerned, I wasn’t really into it at first. It’s managed to grow on me though in a way the Flash and Lantern costumes still haven’t quite bridged, so it earns back some points. Al Pratt gets in on the action around the same time the rest of the gang, finally making good on the team premise. Unfortunately, the action never quite manages to get its feet under it. Grundy’s steadily escalating threat is undermined somewhat by the Atoms, ahem, method of entry.

In spite of this inconvenience resurrection is part and parcel to Solomon Grundy, so I will be the last one surprised when he makes his eventual comeback tour. This particular storyline being brought to a slightly abrupt resolution, the next arc would seem to be looking towards establishing the identity of this new supergroup and its relationship with the rest of the world, as The Atom takes Hawkgirl, Flash, and Green Lantern into government custody. Oh noes!

Before we can see their beleaguered blackbagged fate however we are taken on a trip back in time for issue number zero.

Rather than the somewhat wandering narrative we’ve had over the past several volumes, this story is told to us almost entirely by Terry Sloan, who was first introduced to us as a mad scientist in issue two kidnapping Micheal Holt, aka Mister Terrific. At one point Sloan was apparently a hero of this universe and a close ally of The Ternion, this world’s Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. Going by the name Mr. 08 ( not, as you might expect, Mister Terrific) Sloan fought on the front lines against the Apokoliptian invasion of earth we witnessed in the first issue. This alien incursion seems to have combined elements from the New 52’s Justice League series and the events of Final Crisis, with the Anti-Life Equation playing a prominent role. Sloan’s Face-Heel Turn comes about from his belief that those areas of the globe under alien occupation/mind control must be sacrificed so that their populations cannot be used as hostages or soldiers. Since not everyone else is as casual about genocide as Sloan seems to be he goes rogue in order to do what, in his twisted view, is necessary. Even being told from his perspective, Sloan doesn’t come off terribly sympathetic. It makes him a better villain though and coupled with references to a multilateral military force called the World Army, which the Atom seems to be affiliated with, would appear to be setting up the next arc of the series.

Earth Two isn’t going to blow your mind, but it’s an interesting cape book that isn’t encumbered by the red tape of crossover continuity. This additional creative freedom should hopefully let James Robinson and Nikola Scott start finding their groove now that the necessary introductions have at last been done away with.

__________

Post script: Despite the fact that Hawkgirl is the the character who is given the cover, she really doesn’t feature in this issue much. She’s there certainly, but we know almost nothing more about her than when she first appeared nearly two issues ago. It’s a small thing, but its been bugging me.

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