Comic Book Review: Earth-2

 

So today DC Comics launched its “Second Wave.” Long story short, in September the company relaunched its entire line of comics with 52 new titles. After six months or so, they evaluated their lineup, and saw what was and was not working. What wasn’t working was canceled, given time to wrap up (more or less), and replaced. Hence the “Second Wave” of the relaunch. Today saw the release of the pseudo-flagship title of the new line: “Earth-2.”

When DC Comics was just starting out, its universe wasn’t always that coherent or connected. Superman was Kal-L instead of Kal-El. The Green Lantern was a magical lamp, powered by a magic meteor. The Flash had a weird hat. Those kinds of things. Over time, the company took things in a different direction, and basically ignored all that stuff. We got a new Flash, a new Green Lantern, and tweaked origins for Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman. But fans weren’t content to just ignore the past; they needed an explanation.

And so was born the idea of a Multiverse – at least I think this is where it came from in comics. The basic idea is that there is Earth-1 (“our” Earth/the “main” Earth), and then there are other Earths in other universes. All the old (the official term is “Golden Age”) super hero stories happened in Earth-2, while the new stuff was happening in Earth-1.

Over the years, these comics crossed over annually. The Justice League of Earth-1 periodically met with the Justice Society of Earth-2 – either to just hang out or to combat some villain or crisis. Eventually however, it got to be too complicated and convoluted. Newcomers to comics were confused as to why there were multiple Supermen and Wonder Women running around, and didn’t know which to care about. So the universes were collapsed together. Some elements were retained, while others were retconned out of existence. But that’s another, very very long story.

Anyway, since the re-launch, we’ve only seen Earth-1. Fans of Alan Scott (the “magical” Green Lantern) or Power Girl (the buxom, alternate, grown-up Supergirl) were just out of luck.

Until now.

“Earth-2” throws us into the middle of a global war for existence. Mankind is being killed off by a demonic/alien horde. Lois Lane has been killed, as has all of Amazon Island (real name: Themyscira, but who wants to type that??). Superman is distracted and dejected. Wonder Woman is rage incarnate. Humanity is out of options, until Batman works out a virus that will eliminate the horde. So Superman and Wonder Woman – with help from Robin (aka Helena Wayne, Bruce’s daughter in this universe, aka eventually The Huntress) and Supergirl (aka Karen Starr aka eventually Power Girl) – buy Bruce time to infiltrate the enemy base and plant the virus.

Spoiler Alert but not really because it says it in the first panel: the Big Three (Supes, Wondy, Batz) all die. Helena and Karen are catapulted into another universe, where they will – I’m assuming – take up their new mantles. So Earth (2) is saved, but at a huge cost. Luckily, there are new heroes on the horizon! Jay Garrick is visited by Hermes with an offer he (obviously) won’t refuse, and I’m sure Alan Scott’s origin story is coming soon.

Overall, I was a big fan of the issue. It moved pretty quickly, and the stakes seemed genuinely high. I mean, the heroes all died, so… yeah. The villains were pretty standard, but they did their job so I’m willing to forgive that. There was also a lot of reliance on captions/inner monologues (which is kind of but not totally a taboo these days), but that’s really the best way to get the story moving while also letting us get to know the characters in as short a time as possible. So again: forgivable.

A big critique I’ve heard is that a lot of cool stuff (destruction of the Amazon Island, Lois’ death, etc.) is glossed over, or that we connect with characters only to immediately have them taken away. And I get that. But I think it’s more acceptable if this issue is really viewed as an Issue 0, an origin story, not just for this book, but for the other Earth-2 books. This gets us up to speed on the world, and primes us for what’s next. It gets us where we need to be for the real start of the books – namely the foundation of the Justice Society, and the journeys of Huntress and Power Girl.

So, I liked it. I feel like James Robinson has a solid handle on the world he’s building, and on the characters we’ve seen so far. I’m confident that he knows the story he wants to tell, and that he’ll tell it pretty well. And honestly, I just like the idea of the Justice Society. True – I’ve never read a book about it. But I like the idea of a team of “second stringers.” A team that isn’t all A-Listers and Heavy Hitters. A team that maybe doesn’t get all the glory, but does a great job, and picks up the slack when the A-Team falls.

After all, it worked for X-Factor.

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