Earth Two #9-10

I think we ought to be just about caught up by now. Certainly took me long enough. Not much preamble to be had here. You know the drill. Let’s hit it.

earth two 9

Frankly there isn’t a whole lot that happens in this issue. We are introduced at last to Khalid, this universe’s Doctor Fate. Khalid is reluctant in this role as his relationship with the sorcerer Nabu appears to be strained, and taking on the persona a physically and mentally draining act for a mortal to perform. Nevertheless he uses a portion of his powers to save Jay Garrick and his mother from the encircling forces of the World Army still intent on taking errant metahumans into custody, bringing them to the distant astral plane of his mystical patron only to be confronted by a new and… flamboyant adversary in the form of Wotan.

I think I might be, finally, starting to like the new Jay Garrick. It’s hard to say what did it, but there’s an element of his character that seems to at last be clicking. What I mistook originally for a lack of depth may ultimately just be an uncomplicated sort of heroism. The central conflict surrounding him is expressing that heroism in an environment where most of his peers are either compromised by gray philosophical choices or consumed by their own existential crises. In a way it’s a commentary on the values shift in superhero comics that was so oblique I didn’t really “get” it until I stepped outside my own somewhat jaded perspective. The costume that I so revile kind of reflects this, though whether that’s intentional or not I have yet to determine. It’s doofy, even by the standards of tights with the underwear on top. Yet it almost seems to  invite that criticism, as in doing so it calls to attention the fact that we’ve spent so much energy trying to convince ourselves that the other costumes aren’t inherently silly. It even uses the red/yellow/blue color template that used to define the superhero look because that’s what printers had to work with. I think it helps that I’ve been listening to a lot of Bruce Springsteen lately, if I can be permitted a small digression. Hear me out. The music of “The Boss” drags along with it a feeling of frustrated energy that I think particularly resonates for this incarnation of Jay Garrick, who is constantly fighting the urge to just break away at top speed and is constantly seeing his purest ambitions thwarted. Moreover the apocalyptic quality of many Springsteen ballads, tapping the pulse of the Reagan era, seems oddly at home on Earth Two with its emphasis on broken legends and riding the edge of oblivion.

Honestly, I could be reading too much into it. Even if I am though I’m content to imagine that this is the way it was supposed to be.

earth two 10

This is a weird issue in that it’s dense on words but strangely light on narrative. After reminding us with that their version of Hawkgirl is Lara Croft with wings in a very literal sense  we catch up with Khalid, Jay Garrick, and Jay’s mom (who doesn’t have an actual name as far as I can determine). They’ve been kidnapped and accosted by Wotan, channeling equal parts Bishonen and Bowie, who launches into a long-winded explanation of magic that is not only unnecessary but also kind of fails to actually explain anything. Jay’s mom expresses what can only be described as implausible disbelief, somehow still being dismissive of the idea despite having been in close proximity to no fewer than five active superbeings in the preceding sixty seconds and living on a planet that has endured both a large scale extraterrestrial invasion and an infestation by a primordial-swamp-zombie-doom-god. More large speech balloons follow as Wotan and Khalid take turns wearing the exposition hat. The rule of “show don’t tell” is broken so hard you half expect Bane to show up and join the lecture.

We’re mercifully spared too much of it by joining Alan Scott in China as he seeks closure and answers for his fiance’s death. Not to keep drawing attention to it, but I’m still glad that they aren’t just leaving this thread dangling. If they had to put Sam in the fridge, the least they can do is give us some sense of continued meaning. Scott roughs up some Triad-types wielding katana, which makes no sense because they’re in China. Yes, the thing that takes me out of this scene is not the man in green armor breaking the laws of physics but the culturally inaccurate weaponry of the random mooks. Deal with it.

He realizes he’s better at throwing doom-zombies at the moon than he is at finding things, so he sucks it up and goes to Hawkgirl for help. Meanwhile Jay and Khalid must ascend the Tower of Fate to retrieve the Helm of Nabu while Wotan holds Jay’s mom hostage (short version). The artwork inside the tower actually makes up for the rather chewy verbals on the early pages. Nicola Scott rolls out the omni-dimensional Escher traps and gives us some interesting non-linear panel work that more or less salvages this chapter.

Earth Two is rolling the dice a bit, trying to keep two plots running simultaneously in a fairly limited format. It’s a different sort of take on a team book though and so far it hasn’t managed to run off the rails. If you want some diverse but self-contained storytelling that doesn’t require you to buy three tie-in series to understand what’s happening (that’s you, Death of the Family) then Earth Two may be what you’re looking for.

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