Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

A New 52 Review: Earth 2 #1

Posted by Don MacPherson on May 2nd, 2012

Earth 2 #1
“The Price of Victory”
Writer: James Robinson
Pencils: Nicola Scott
Inks: Trevor Scott
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Dezi Sienty
Cover artists: Ivan Reis & Joe Prado (regular)/Bryan Hitch (variant)
Editor: Pat McCallum
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US

When DC announced Earth 2 would be a part of its second wave of New 52 titles, I was thrilled. There were rumors of the book long before the official announcement, so I was already a bit keyed up for it. I’m a huge fan of DC’s Golden Age characters and the Silver Age notion of World War II super-heroes’ adventures taking place on “Earth 2.” Hell, one of the purchases I made at the same time as picking up the first issue of Earth 2 was Showcase Presents: All-Star Squadron Vol. 1. In any case, as the weeks passed and we neared the release date of this new project, the promotional images made it increasingly clearer writer James Robinson wasn’t restoring the icons of DC’s Golden Age to their former glory. Earth 2 isn’t a bad comic book. It’s actually quite a bit of fun, the kind of thing that made comics released under DC’s Elseworlds imprint years ago such a success. The problem with the book is the title and the creators’ decision not to fulfill the promise that title makes. Those hopeful for the return of the Justice Society of America and other related characters will be somewhat disappointed with what they find here as a result.

Five years ago, Earth’s first super-heroes joined forces to repel an invasion from the other-dimensional hell-world known as Apokalips, leading to the formation of the Justice League as they stood triumphant on a ravaged battlefield. But on another world, the first super-heroes, though successful in their efforts as well, were forced to make the ultimate sacrifice to ensure their victory. In the aftermath, it was time for new heroes arise to take their places — men such as Alan Scott, Jay Garrick and Sgt. Al Pratt. A destiny awaits them they couldn’t possible imagine for themselves.

Earth 2 is an important comic book, specifically for the career of penciller Nicola Scott. She’s quietly been carving out a career for herself at DC Comics on second-tier titles such as the pre-New 52 Birds of Prey, Secret Six and Teen Titans. With Earth 2, she should be joining the ranks of those seen as the top super-hero artists in the industry at the moment. She definitely seems up to the task, as most of the visuals she offers throughout this issue are stunning. She brings an impressive level of detail to bear here, and it’s most apparent in the chaos of the opening scene. She does a superb job of presenting the conflict as a war, not a super-hero fight with a bunch of generic monsters. She’s always boasts a soft, smooth style, and it’s still apparent here. Nevertheless, she manages to convey the harshness of that pivotal opening scene. There are a couple of visuals here and there that seem a bit rougher around the edges, and I found her portrayal of the diminutive Al Pratt to be a bit awkward. But overall, she does some great work here. At times, she delivers meticulously detailed work that might earn her comparisons to George Perez and Phil Jimenez.

Nevertheless, there are elements in the art that didn’t work well for me, but many of them stemmed from designs. The Batman design is rather plain, which is unfortunate for the character that should boast the coolest look in the book. The alternate Superman design looks a bit like a dancer’s leotard with a cape. Fortunately, there are some sharp looks as well, such as Wonder Woman’s or the new look develop for the female Robin. The cover art, both for the regular edition and the variant, reflect the tone and developments of the opening scene pretty well, but honestly, I think I would have preferred it if Nicola Scott had contributed a cover, if only for consistency’s sake. This comic strives to earn the extra buck DC is charging for it by offering 28 pages of story and art, but several pages are made up of needless spreads that pad things out, notably the double-page image of the aftermath of the Apokalips invasion toward the end of the issue.

While it has nothing to do with the qualities of this particular comic book, I feel compelled to take a moment to take issue with DC’s publishing schedule. Fact 1: Earth Two is one of six new entries in DC’s New 52 lineup debuting this month following the cancellation of six of the 52 titles it launched in September. Fact 2: There are five shipping dates for new comics in May. Logic would tend to dictate DC would premiere one of the six new titles in four different weeks, with two launching in another. Instead, we’ve got DC pumping four of the six new series this week, with Batman Incorporated v.2 being launched May 23 and the first issue of The Ravagers hitting stands May 30. Why not give retailers a New 52 push each week? Another element one can’t rest at the feet of the creators on this issue is an intrusive ad for American Ninja Warrior in the opening pages that features the same three central characters (or versions thereof) in the main story. It’s designed to look like a page from a comic book, so the sponsorship unfortunately interferes with the storytelling.

I noted with interest in the opening scene, set five years in the past, there are more female heroes in this world than there are male. It’s only a temporary situation, but since the latter part of the issue turns our attention only to men, I hope the ratio earlier on is a signal the cast of characters won’t be too male dominated as the series progresses. The conflict with the Parademons in the opening scene mirrors the action of the first story arc of the relaunched Justice League series. It’s probably intended that way, as Robinson offers an alternate path of the same cosmic event. Nevertheless, it feels a bit repetitive despite the differences in the action and characters.

Stories such as Kingdom Come and other alternate visions of familiar super-hero icons are fun because of the tweaks and deviations. Seeing how changes, small and significant, alter archetypes and imaginary histories is a staple of the super-hero genre because it’s an awful lot of fun and brings a freshness of characters that have been around for decades. On that level, Earth 2 works quite well, and I look forward to seeing how Jay Garrick, Alan Scott, Al Pratt and others are retooled for the 21st century.

Robinson and DC made a major misstep, though, when they called this Earth 2. Clearly, this is a parallel world that’s like and unlike the universe in which the rest of the New 52 is set, but the term “Earth 2″ carries a lot more baggage. Packed in that baggage are readers’ expectations, and this comic book doesn’t live up to them. “Earth 2″ inherently points to classic takes on characters and to traditions. Robinson’s goal here is clearly to buck tradition and presumably to bring a cooler and apparently grittier tone to old concepts. The title DC has chosen would seem to tell a different story, and that story’s not to be found here. I’m still intrigued and entertained enough to follow what comes next, but the creators and the publisher need to cast off the chains of what’s come before so the audience’s attention is focused on what’s new. 6/10

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6 Responses to “A New 52 Review: Earth 2 #1”

  1. Terry Webster Says:

    Now I understand the story that the new 52 was leading up to — somewhere out in the Multiverse, the position once filled by the JSA Earth 2 has now been taken over by the New 52 Earth 2, possibly shunting into another position or sharing the same space as Phantom Girl’s Home World does. While this catastrophic phenomenon was happening, a horrific disease spread throughout the universe infecting the Grand Costume Designer of the Universe, the “Couturier Cosmic,” it began affecting all good costume designs across the multitude of worlds.

    Darkseid, who had only recently taken an online fashion design course, saw it was centred around this new Earth 2 and was deeply offended. He dispatched Steppenwolf to put an end to this affront with his Parademons destroying all but a few (what horrors must he have endured). Luckily, only the Supers and Robin remained probably because they had not been too severely infected with bad taste. Robin and Supergirl fled Earth 2 hoping to start afresh on Earth 1, little realizing they had brought the disease with them.

    It slowly spread through the super-hero community on Earth 1, but it was poor Supergirl who had been the worst infected. She tried making it as Power Girl, but it was too late — alas she created the hideous outfit she wears on Earth 1.

    Otherwise, I liked it.

  2. Robert Bazylak Says:

    Personally, I loved this issue. Out of everything that’s come out of the New 52, this title has been far and away my immediate favorite. I agree with your point about “Earth 2″ bringing expectations with it, but — to be fair — the same could be said of many of the relaunched titles, which went in very different directions than many were anticipating.

    While I was a *huge* JSA fan, I’m fully on board for wherever this title is headed. There’s a foundation of familiarity combined with a sense of urgency and importance to the events that already happened, as well as the ones that are currently unfolding, with enough twists and changes to make it all seem very, very new — a hard trick to pull off in comics these days. And the stellar artwork makes it that much better.

    Honestly, it reminded me of Robinson’s The Golden Age in many ways, but with the breathing room of an ongoing series to (re-)introduce, develop and explore this “other” Earth.

    Combined with the one-two punch of Worlds’ Finest #1, I’m suddenly really excited about comics again. But that’s just me. :)

  3. Doug Says:

    Let me say upfront that I have NOT been collecting and/or reading the New 52. The absence of the JSA was a BIG part of that decision.

    I, like Robert, am a long-time JSA — since the early ’60s to be exact. I knew the Justice League before I knew the Justice Society via the Justice League “Crisis” issues, but I immediately loved the historical significance of the JSA, and it made me find out more about them.

    I guess that’s kind of how I feel about this new version. I kinda suspected that the Big Three on Earth 2 would not last long if this story was to have ANY connection to the original JSA and the way it was formed — basically to give those characters with no books of their own more exposure.

    One thing I do like is that there is no formal JLA-like super-team on Earth 2… yet. Again, if proper homage is to be paid to our beloved Earth 2 characters, that honor belongs to them, and it will (hopefully) be a thrill to watch the JSA born on this new Earth 2.

    I’m also reading the new Worlds’ Finest, which I consider a key tie-in to Earth 2. So far, both books are keeping my attention. Whether they gain my loyalty will depend on how well they honor the memories of those first heroes and comics first super-team.

  4. James Says:

    First, I want to make it very clear that I am not a homophobe or a gay hater, but it just seems that as of late, DC seems to be very preoccupied with the sexuality of their heroes. I mean, couldn’t their writers be satisfied to just mention that a particular character is gay, instead of forcing it down our throats??!!! No pun intended. I guess I am just an old-fashioned guy, who appreciates a good story without needing to know if a particular character is gay or not.

    Personally, I enjoy DC’s Earth 2, and I would enjoy it even more if the sexuality in it wasn’t so “in your face.” I know that DC is desparately trying to attract a wider audience, but really now! I am sure that I will quickly lose interest if this becomes the new normal for DC comics. And I have been a DC Comics fan since, my dear God, 1969, I was six years old. Like Bob Dylan sang, “The times sure are a changin.'”

  5. Don MacPherson Says:

    James wrote:
    First, I want to make it very clear that I am not a homophobe or a gay hater, but it just seems that as of late, DC seems to be very preoccupied with the sexuality of their heroes. I mean, couldn’t their writers be satisfied to just mention that a particular character is gay, instead of forcing it down our throats??!!!

    So it’s OK if the character is deemed to be gay, as long as there’s no overt evidence of it?

    I hate to tell you this, James, but your discomfort with gay characters clearly shows you are, indeed, a homophobe. If seeing two men — or even two fictional representations of men in a comic book — hold hands or kiss makes you squirm, wishing it wasn’t so “in your face,” that’s homophobic.

    Is that element of the new interpretation of the Alan Scott character a sales stunt? Possibly. But it’s also part of an evolution of social values and culture. Remember, there was a time when interracial relationships made people incomfortable as well. And sure, there are people who still wish displays of affection between people of different races weren’t so “in their faces.” But their unevolved attitudes are leading to their social extinction, so to speak.

  6. James Says:

    Well, Don, your point is well taken. I appreciate your well articulated, and intelligent response. Are you a psychiatrist, Don? If you are not, you missed your calling. If I am a homophobe, I can’t help it. Let me assure you, I am a most benign homophobe. Live and let live. It is probably the displays of affection between the gay characters in DC’s Earth 2, that I found most disturbing. But I still thought it was a well written comic, beautifully illustrated by Nicola Scott, one of my favorite artists.

    Batwoman — this homophobe really loves this comic. J.H. Williams is doing some of the best work of his career on this book. Batwoman is a lesbian, but who cares. I find two female characters displaying mutual displays of affection to be more my cup of Joe. Not disturbing.

    Again, I am just an old-fashioned guy putting in my two cents of opinion of the “New DC.”