Sunday, November 09, 2014

Review: Earth 2 Vol. 4: The Dark Age

Probably without even intending to do so, DC Comics pulled something of a bait and switch with their Earth 2 title. It originally launched, under its original writer James Robinson, as a sort of rebooted version of the original Earth 2 concept. This Earth would apparently be where all the Golden Age heroes lived, but rather than their stories starting in the 1940s, they would begin in the present. After an issue spent killing off Earth 2's Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman, the focus for much of Robinson's run was on new versions of other Golden Agers with no analogues on Earth-New 52: Green Lantern Alan Scott, Flash Jay Garrick, The Atom Al Pratt, Hawkgirl, Dr. Fate and so on.

Near the end of Robinson's run, which comprised the first three collections, and with the start of new writer Tom Taylor's run, collected herein, there doesn't seem to be any real logical, organizing principle anymore.

A Red Tornado is introduced, and while she's a she as the original Golden Age Red Tornado was, she's also an android, like the Earth-1 Red Tornado*...and she has Lois Lane's consciousness in her. Jimmy Olsen is introduced, and he's a metahuman on this Earth. Red Arrow Roy Harper (a character from Earth-1/New Earth) is introduced, as is an Aquawoman. Finally—in this issue at least—the dead Earth-2 Superman returns, now a slave of Apokolips (shades of John Francis Moore and Kieron Dwyer's 1998 Superman: The Dark Side), Earth-2 Batman gets a rather unlikely successor (unless you've previously read Flashpoint) and Superman's successor appears but isn't yet properly introduced.

It's basically an Elseworlds series that crisscrosses in and out of New 52 continuity—Power Girl, Huntress and Mr. Terrific have all traveled between the two Earths—but one with no unifying theme...which sort of defeats the purpose of Elseworlds-like stories.

This fourth volume collects four issues of the monthly and the second annual, which accounts for two stories, both by Taylor. The monthly issues chronicle the Evil Superman and his army of Parademons' attack on Earth, with Superman just wrecking the heroes and the forces of the World Army. Meanwhile, in the bowels of of a World Army facility, a mysterious—and mysteriously powerful—new Batman is gathering allies for a showdown with Superman, including the new characters (well, new versions of old characters that are new to this series) mentioned above.

As for the story of the annual, that's the secret origin of Earth 2's Batman II**, presented as a story he's telling his new allies during a momentary lull in the battle against the Apokolyptian Superman.

The artwork is something of a mess, reflecting the disintegrating focus of the series. The original art team of Nicola Scott and Trevor Scott handle the first two issues by themselves. With the third, a second art team joins them. With the fourth, a third art team joins the second art team, and the Scotts are no-shows. The annual is penciled by by Robson Rocha, who was half of the just-mentioned second art team. None of the artists are particularly bad, but they don't mesh together too well, as in it's quite obvious when an art team changes, and it gives the book a rushed, confused visual look. I suppose it doesn't help that the book consists mainly of very unpleasant, alternate versions of the already fairly unpleasant New 52 characters doing extremely unpleasant things to one another.

*I know, I know. But it's so complicated, I'm just going to stick with the fact that in post-Crisis continuity, the android Red Tornado is a native of DC's only Earth, which was Earth 1 with some grafts from a handful of other Earths. Red Tornado spent most of his time on Earth 1, back when there was an Earth 1, anyway. For more on stupid Red Tornado and his dumb origin and stupid continuity, I'll refer you to Wikipedia.

**Of possible interest to some is the fact that, when the annual was originally printed, Batman II tells his new allies that he gets his enhanced strength from a drug called Miralco that lasts about an hour, which he stole from Rex Mason. Rex Mason is the secret identity of Metamorpho, not the Golden Age Hourman, who is Rex Tyler. In the collection, the mistake has been fixed, so that now Batman II says he stole the drug from Rex Tyler. It was apparently a typo all along then, and not an intentional decision to change the inventor of the Miralco drug on New 52 Earth 2.

1 comment:

SallyP said...

You know...I'm sure getting sick of evil heroes and evil futures, and evil evil evil.