Tag Archives: Earth Two

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.

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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.

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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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Earth Two VI, VII, and VIII

Time to vainly attempt to get caught up on these. The fact that I’ve let these slide is really kind of unfortunate because despite Earth Two’s frustratingly up-and-down quality the last several issues have been getting better pretty steadily. I apologize if the voice of these individual reviews is hard to follow. I wrote them separately over the last couple of months and I can’t promise a whole lot of continuity.

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This issue seems to contain the actual resolution to the current story arc that I called a little prematurely a few months ago. It’s a better turn than the former scenario would have been, but given how good the last issue was I’m a little disappointed with the follow up. We get a decent spread of the fighting, and Grundy feels surprisingly apocalyptic as a villain, but the end still feels kind of rushed (despite now being six issues in) and a little deus ex machina. Alan Scott shakes off the apparition of his dead lover without much of the conflict I was hoping it would arouse. He then has an epiphany (somehow) about the way to defeat Grundy and blasts off with the beast in tow. After he does this, the Atom almost robotically reverts to trying to capture Flash and Hawkgirl (seriously it takes like two panels) despite the threat not yet being neutralized. It’s a turn that doesn’t really make sense. Scott deposits the avatar of death on the surface of the moon (an innovative yet kind of silver age solution that I’m actually okay with) and dismisses Terry Sloane’s incoming nuclear strike through his newly mastered use of energy constructs. Being disconnected with the planet drains his energy though and he plummets back to earth before being saved by Hawkgirl (another interesting setup i thought could have used a little more tension in the execution). On the ground, Scott further pushes the boundaries of his abilities and uses his connection with the earth to revitalize the planet, undoing Grundy’s damage. This also apparently turns him into a huge douchebag, because immediately afterward he tells Hawkgirl and Flash that he doesn’t need them and flies off to go be a jerk somewhere.

The issue just feels kind of uneven. There’s things to like, but more things to criticize than I prefer. Jay Garrick’s heartfelt polemics are slightly less saccharine, but still a little too “gee golly” for me. Again, maybe I’m still too attached to the older Jay’s more salty moralizing, but I remain undecided on the current incarnation. Also, the book’s use of the term “wonder” as a shorthand for super-powers is still awkward in conversation. It just feels artificial and breaks the flow of dialog whenever it appears. If nothing else, we’re on to a new story arc now, and with it hopefully new opportunities for growth.

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This issue is more or less a breather following the climax of the first big stretch. Its all about the aftermath. The world is registering some legitimate slack-jawed surprise at the recent clash of physics-defying titans in 80’s glam. It seems like its trying to bring things back down to earth, to let the reader get their bearings. A surprisingly good scene illustrates Alan Scott’s self-destructive grief in the wake of his fiance’s death. It’s nice (in a weird way) to see them going back to this, since the character had seemingly been solely introduced to promote the book and then be immediately fridged. It also, when considered in full, may give us some insight into Scott’s irrational behavior in the previous issue and continued reluctance to join forces with the other characters, as an extension of his desire not to catch any more innocent bystanders in his collateral damage. At least I hope that’s where its going (Robinson don’t let me down).

Contrary to the image above, there is no “fight to the death.” That is a fib. There isn’t even really a fight. Just some heated words and an isolated demonstration of violent intent to prove a rhetorical point. Then again, all that is a little wordy for a cover blurb. After Green Lantern gets his angst-beard and Hawkgirl goes and Batmans all over the place, we check in on Terry Sloan and Cmdr. Khan. Politics suffuses these scenes, the two each progressively trying to outmaneuver the other. Khan’s skulduggery allows us to see more of the one-and-only Wesley Dodds, Sandman. Literally any appearance he has in anything improves it immeasurably in my estimation, but I’m fanboying.

He isn’t the only cameo in this issue though. Dodds and his (now plural) Sandmen discover the long-suffering Mister Terrific, off the radar for quite a while now. Seemingly being mind-controlled by Sloan, Terrific begins taking apart the team sent to rescue him before being dropped by Wesley Dodds (like a boss). Exactly what role Micheal Holt is to play remains to be seen, but seeing more of him is always a good thing.

This issue finally does what I’ve been asking the series to do all along. Take a breath, let things unfold organically, and give the plot some room to get its feet under it. James Robinson has been giving flashes and glimmers of why I was excited to have him on this book, and its good to see him devote basically an entire issue to the character beats that really make his stuff work. Nikola Scott continues to deliver the goods as well, illustrating a talent for low-key scenes in addition to big action set pieces. For what is essentially an intermission, this is actually a great time to grab a seat for the second act.

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I’ve mentioned before how I like that Earth Two is separated from the main DC continuity. It allows it to play in its own sandbox however it really wants. It gets to make its own rules and its own history, without worrying about fitting neatly into the claustrophobic world of the mainstream universe. We’re beginning to see the payoff to that premise in this issue.

Its a side story, still simmering in the causatum of the first arc, and seemingly setting up for the second. The action follows the Apokoliptian warrior Steppenwolf, who had a brief appearance in the inaugural issue, taking refuge in Dherain, apparently the Earth Two stand-in for Markovia, itself a moderately obscure central European stand-in that ducks in and out of DC geo-politics. Steppenwolf, now stranded on earth after the defeat of his extraterrestrial invasion, appears to be building himself up as the main antagonist of the next arc. This is an interesting choice. Steppenwolf, though a visible character, has never really been a starring player in either the front line DCU or Jack Kirby’s New Gods mythos where he originated. He’s a bit of an unknown quantity, with more space for development than recycling one of the usual suspects. Also of interest is the introduction of new(ish) character Fury. The costumed identity of Fury is not unknown in prior iterations of Earth Two and its entourage, but here as with much else it has been reimagined somewhat. This version of Fury is actually the daughter of Wonder Woman (an angle that hasn’t really been explored in some time), an Amazon stolen by Steppenwolf to be raised on Apokalips (also a potentially interesting hook). Given, its pretty much foregone that Fury will eventually undergo a tormented and dramatic heel-face-turn, but with the set up in place I think it’ll be a lot of fun getting there.

There really isn’t a whole lot that happens in this issue besides Steppenwolf and Fury taking over Dherain in a two person coup de tat. That’s honestly less interesting than it sounds though, and it really only serves as a device to acquaint the reader with the two characters. It works, though. Robinson is taking time to case the stage before the next act starts, kicking the dust and checking sight lines. Yildiray Cinar subs in for Nicola Scott on pencils and brings us some interesting fare, juxtaposing the distinctive Kirby-inspired designs for Steppenwolf and Fury with the power-armor and mecha designs of the Dherain. The next installment teases the introduction of another new-old character and I have to say I’m looking forward to it.

Now, to maybe not wait two months between updates…

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Earth Two #5

Confession time. To this point I’ve been kind of ambivalent about whether I wanted to continue reviewing Earth Two. As much as I wanted to enjoy it, I just didn’t have much to say about it. Well, I’m pleased to say that this issue seems to be turning that around. I’ve had this written out long-hand for a while and I’m planning on taking this last full week of October to get caught up.

Things get started on a high note by giving us the first onscreen appearance of Wesley Dodds! That excites me more than it should, but everyone plays favorites. On that subject, is it weird that I’m way more argumentative about them making Wesley Dodds a Canadian than I am about them making Alan Scott gay? We also get to see more of the “World Army” that seems to be the foremost multinational actor in the wake of this earth’s alien invasion (also it’s counterpart to Marvel’s S.H.I.E.L.D.). Moreover as the situation worsens we see the reintroduction of the nefarious Terry Sloan to events, because bringing in one supervillain to stop another always totally works…

On the ground it seems that The Atom’s unceremonious flattening of Solomon Grundy did not in fact finish the undead menace. This new version of Grundy is honestly pretty terrifying, both in what he can seemingly do and in the awful sickening detail with which Nikola Scott renders him. It is legitimately hard to look at a couple of these panels.

In an interesting turn it becomes apparent that defeating Grundy simply won’t be possible by fisticuffs alone. Rather, Alan Scott must explore the limits of his uncertain new powers to commune with the forces of Green and Grey alluded to by Grundy and the mysterious flame which granted him his abilities. Of course, since he will be defenseless while doing this there’s still plenty of zombie-bashing to be had while the others protect him. Once Scott enters the Grey discovers it to be less malevolent than had been supposed. The Grey simply views itself as performing a primordial function, the purging of a dying race so that planet earth may begin life anew. The simplicity of this goal is matched only by its implacability, and its about as easy trying to reason with a sentient embodiment of death as you’d imagine. The Grey is another area where Nikola Scott really pops this issue, weaving designs that are just unsettling to stare at for too long. Matters are given a final pair of wrinkles as Terry Sloan orders a nuclear strike on the battlefield (he’s fond of those it seems), and the Grey presents Alan Scott with a final temptation: the ghost of his dead fiance…

Unfortunately I keep finding myself pulled out of the story by Jay Garrick’s atrocious Flash outfit. I’m sorry but its just bad. I’ve not warmed to it the way I have the others, and it direly needs a redesign. I’m also not sold on the characterization. I realize that this isn’t the hard-headed elder Jay I’m used to, but he just seems saccharinely sincere in this issue. Maybe the teams needs to have that niche filled, I don’t know, but right now its not doing it for me. That all being the case it doesn’t really disrupt the action or the tension, which there is plenty of and which I feel has been the central missing ingredient of the series so far. I’ve been waiting patiently for Robinson to hit his writing groove, but I feel that I can tentatively say we’ve arrived. We’ve at last got some good momentum building here, and I’m probably the most psyched I’ve yet been about this book.

Now, to see just how many posts I can crank out before the end of the month…

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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.

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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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Earth Two #3

It’s that time again…

Previamente en la Tierra Dos!!!!!

The cliffhanger of the last issue concluded with an explosion aboard the train carrying Alan Scott just as he was proposing marriage to his significant other. This is where the story picks up and deals with Scott’s transformation into the Green Lantern of the Earth Two. The scene is pretty grisly. The train is wreckage and Scott is more the worse for wear. While searching for his lover Sam he confronted by vast green flame which speaks to him and heals his grievous wounds. The precise nature of this energy being is unclear, referring to itself vaguely as a “spirit of the earth.” While a more concrete exposition on its nature and purpose might have been preferable Alan Scott’s abilities have always required a fairly long-winded explanation, being a distinct animal from the other Green Lanterns of continuity and often prone to retcons. As such, the green flame cuts right to the chase. A great evil lurks on the horizon and Alan must take up the mantle of Earth’s defender to thwart its ambiguously nefarious ends. Also Sam is dead.

Yep, barely a whole issue in and Alan Scott’s brand new groundbreaking gay romance has already been put in the fridge. To say it seems like a cop out would be an understatement. There was so much more potential in that relationship than just cashing in one half of it for artificial pathos points. That being the case, I’ve always said that this kind of thing can avoid being gratuitous if it at least manages to carry meaning later on when its full arc is resolved. This remains to be seen, but I have confidence in the creative team on this one. The cover image above, morbid though it is on close examination, conveys a great deal of emotion that we haven’t yet seen out of Alan Scott but that at the right moment in the story could be leveraged to great narrative effect.

Meanwhile, Jay Garrick the Flash is still getting a handle on his new abilities when he runs into a familiar face. Or not so familiar in this case. First time superhero meeting antics ensue: they talk, they quarrel, they have a dust up, and they shake hands. They also name drop another potential member of the new Earth Two Justice Society, bringing the total roster of characters to appear or to be referenced to seven (I’m honestly still waiting for my personal favorite to show up). Finally, the plot at last moves forward as we are introduced to a terrifying new vision of classic villain Solomon Grundy.

No, he didn’t get any pants.

Writing wise, this issue has… problems. I love James Robinson, but he badly needed an editor on this one. There’s a glaring number of dialogue exchanges that just don’t… work. Mostly it’s just clunky and in need of a coherent voice, but in at least one panel I am certain there is a line missing somewhere because as written what is said literally does not make sense. I understand that writers are under a lot of time constraints on these scripts, but if Robinson has as much love for this project as he says I wish he’s take a little more time to check his work.

Nikola Scott’s artwork remains stellar and a big draw. The conceptual redesigns of Grundy and Hawkgirl are amazing in my opinion. Easily recognizable while still being unique creations.  I’m less enthused with the new look of Flash and Green Lantern. The task of updating Jay Garrick’s intentionally anachronistic helmet is difficult, but the space age look they’ve gone with makes it difficult for me to take him seriously. Green Lantern by contrast feels a little too similar to the look of the mainstream Lanterns. One of the things that always drew me to Alan Scott was the way he stood out from the lineup, and I was hoping an update to his costume would look similar to either his Kingdom Come or Sentinel portrayals. That said, Nikola Scott may not have had much say in the characters’ new looks. As such, I’m willing to give her credit for the ones I like and brush off the ones I don’t.

I think it is actually this very reimagining, which I was rather wary of at the outset, that is keeping me continually engaged in this exercise. I’m beginning to think of the series as something similar to the Ultimate comics, the new Star Trek continuity, or even the new take on the Star Wars universe that this kid is very excited for. The process of adaptation has always been of great interest to me, and I feel it is this same preoccupation with distilled myth-making that pulls me through page after page of Earth Two.

Now, to devise a cocktail called the “Parallel Universe…”

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Earth Two #2

Diamond Distributors, pretty much the only name in delivering comic books to retailers, is fumbling things pretty bad right now as far as my friendly local is concerned. As such, my expected ongoing reviews of Earth Two and The Shadow are coming ‘much’ later than anticipated. For that I apologize, and continue without further delay.

Previously, on Earth Twooooooo…

In the parallel storytelling-universe that is the setting of this series, the central familiar characters of DC continuity (Superman, Batman, etc.) were all slain in a climactic battle with invading extraterrestrial forces, leaving a vacuum which is now being filled by a new generation of heroes (which are actually re-imagined versions of  characters that are truthfully much older, dating back to the 1940’s “Golden Age” of comics). As can be inferred from the cover, this particular issue focuses on the introduction of The Flash. No, not this Flash, that Flash. Except its not, really. Sort of.

It’s a bold offing, no doubt about it. The original characters they’re re-engineering, while not as popular as their contemporary descendants, were iconic in their own right and possessed a vocal cult fandom. I haven’t really fallen on one side or the other of the issue yet, but as a rule I like to reward risky ambition in the comics medium, so for the moment it has a subsidy of approval. In any case, onward!

The issues actually starts with the crash landing of Michael Holt, aka Mister Terrific, on Earth Two after falling through a convenient plothole wormhole at the conclusion of his headline solo series. I wanted to like the series, but it never really delivered the goods, so all in all I’m glad to see Holt getting back to his roots with his old team (or a version of it, anyway). Immediately he is confronted by a man named Terry Sloane, the self proclaimed “Smartest Man In The World” who predicted Holt’s arrival in this universe. Canny observers will note that Terry Sloane was also the name of the 1940’s version of Mister Terrific. Right off the bat, boom! Terry Sloane is revealed to be a villain, replete with mad science and a nefarious master plan. Controversial? Possibly, but it’s kept me interested. Also controversial? This.

I think. Maybe.

Full disclosure, the hubbub surrounding this hasn’t been nearly as intense as I thought it would be. The general consensus seems to have been “huh, how about that?” No great fanfare from either side. I was at ‘least’ expecting Fox News to try fomenting a misplaced moral panic. Frankly I shouldn’t be surprised. Alan Scott, while iconic and a solid B-lister in the DC lineup, isn’t any sort of immediate reference point for people outside the comics readership. It’s put me in a slightly awkward position, honestly. Innumerable times since the announcement I’ve seen people post that “Green Lantern is gay” believing it to be Hal Jordan, the mainstream version of the costume. Correcting them creates a set of inherent problems. While it’s on the surface simply a point of information, it’s difficult not to come off as somehow defensive of Hal Jordan, as if this somehow casts aspersions on his character. What’s more difficult is that there are an unfortunate number of fans who will take that very tack without irony. Honestly, I’m tempted to say that it ‘should’ have been Hal Jordan to be revealed as gay. To me it seems more like a proper “coming out,” in addition to being a more recognizable bannerman and more currently relevant given his military background. However, to argue this also can carry the implication that Alan Scott ‘shouldn’t’ be gay, which is problematic and not my intention. It’s possible that I may be getting over encumbered by P.C. rhetoric, but given the graceless hand that many fans seem to treat minority issues with I feel that at least one person ought to acknowledge these questions for what they are.

Give all the focus that Alan Scott’s minor role in this issue has received, it’s easy to forget that the main character of this particular story was ‘supposed’ to be Jay Garrick, the Flash. You know, the dude on the cover in the less than dapper space helmet. It’s not to say that his story is an overlooked epic hiding between the pages of this periodical. He talks to Mercury (yes that Mercury), gets his powers, fights some rats (yes the rats on the cover), aaaand yeah… While the process of re-imagining these characters has the benefit of making them fresh and accessible for a new audience, it also causes a medium with limited narrative space to become bogged down in successive origin stories before really cutting its teeth. I like what I’ve seen so far, but the pacing has undeniably suffered. I’m still on board, I just wish it would reach the next station a little sooner.

Now if only everyone in this book had goatees…

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Earth Two #1

What a title right? Confused yet? Good, I’m so glad. What it refers to in this case is the comic book being published as part of the “second wave” of DC’s New 52 continuity. This will no doubt come as a disappointment to those of you whom I am sure were hoping I would discuss the quirky but underrated mid-90’s sci-fi series of the same name. Can’t win ’em all I suppose.

What am I talking about though? Earth-who? Maybe I should digress for a moment. DC Comics  began publishing in 1934 as what was then called National Comics (they later renamed themselves “Detective Comics” or “DC” and then still later tacked another redundant “Comics” onto their company title, because reasons…) In 1938 National created an unexpected hit with the character of Superman, a distinct animal from the pulp heroes and mystery men that predated him and which spawned an entire sub-genre of “superhero” books that would ultimately dominate the industry to this day. There was a massive rush to put out new caped characters in an attempt to replicate the breakout success of Superman. Some of these, like Batman the next year and Wonder Woman in ’41, formed dedicated fanbases of their own and generated significant sales. Others, like Green Lantern, the Flash, Sandman and Dr. Fate, were well-received but failed to move books as readily as their counterparts. The solution? Collect those characters into a single book and consolidate their fans behind a title that ‘would’ sell. Enter the Justice Society of America, comics’ first proper team book and two decade antecedent of the better known Justice League.

This still doesn’t explain what all this Earth Two business is about though. Well, in addition to simply having a great personal love for the Justice Society it’s important to have them in mind as pretty much all iterations of the “Earth Two” concept would end up revolving around this group of characters. Now, after the end of the Second World War comic book sales, in particular the sales of superhero titles, began to decline. Most of their original readership had outgrown them and new buyers weren’t lining up like they had hoped. This coupled with growing scrutiny from conservative censors and led to the cancellation of most cape books, with the notable exceptions of Superman and Batman who endured this nadir relatively unscathed, albeit not without a degree of adaptation (this was the era in which Batman initially shed many of his darker trappings and became the campier portrayal familiar to viewers of the 60’s television series). However, as the baby-boom grew into demographic age and the aforementioned censorship in the form of the Comics Code Authority cut into otherwise lucrative horror and thriller lines, DC was convinced to try the superhero experiment once again. Rather than simply relaunch many of their older characters though DC opted to reinvent them in new forms, starting with the Flash and Green Lantern. This created a slight snarl for attentive  readers though, namely how both versions of these characters could coexist and have both teamed up with established characters like Superman and Batman. Well, in short (too late) those characters from the 1940’s that didn’t quite make the leap to the revival of the 60’s had still existed, just on a parallel world that came to be known as Earth Two (ohhhhhh!)

Now, the complete history of both the Justice Society and Earth Two is even lengthier and more convoluted than what I have already expounded. Point is, skip ahead a few decades, crossovers, and retcons to 2012 and we are basically back in the same square. The New 52 has ostensibly rebooted DC’s continuity once again and Earth 2 is looking to reintroduce us to the characters who are perennially left behind. Not all is business as usual, however. Until now a central conceit of the Earth Two concept and the Justice Society has always been a rooting in the 1940’s. The characters represented therein have always either been aged versions of the original “Golden Age” heroes or younger successors appropriating their iconography as a sort of “legacy hero.” It seems as though with this most recent iteration that this is being more or less scrapped. Instead, the more traditional heroes such as Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman have been active for perhaps a pair of decades prior to the present day and the characters native to Earth Two such as The Atom and Hourman are modern reinterpretations. Hmmmmm…

The cover of Earth 2 is perhaps rather misleading. On the surface it would appear to prominently feature DC’s “big three,” but reading the issue itself will reveal this to be a bit of a misnomer. I might dance around this fact for spoilers sake, but in the grand scheme it’s hard to talk about otherwise: Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are all dead by the issue’s end, paving the way for the emergence of the re-imagined denizens of Earth Two. How do I feel about all of this? Well… it’s complicated.

As you may have intuited from my previous review of The Shadow, the grounding in the 1940’s has always been a big part of what has sold me on the enterprise with regards to Earth Two and the Justice Society. The doing away with it seems a little arbitrary and I’m not one-hundred percent sure how my feelings on it will ultimately pan out. That said, I have developed an appreciation for the characters themselves independent of their Golden Age heritage, and as such am at least willing to see what the series has got to show me before passing a definitive judgement. Moreover, the book does have some points in its favor right out of the gate. Nicola Scott’s artwork really pops, and especially in the splash pages the care and detail of her craft is apparent. As far as writing is concerned, it’s hard to go wrong in this area with James Robinson, who’s 1993 The Golden Age (in addition to being a favorite of mine) has informed the portrayal of the Justice Society in one way or another for most of the last twenty years. As for the content of the issue itself? Well, like with The Shadow its suffers from being the first entry in an ongoing series in that not a whole heck of a lot happens. Well, that isn’t strictly true. Plenty happens. Shit blows up, people die. The overall story is not significantly advanced though, it’s pretty much all setup. My investment in the property and the pedigree of the players involved has enough of my interest to keep me on the book until it can hit its stride though.

Until next time, true believers!

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