By: James Robinson (story), Tomás Giorello (art), Nathan Eyring (colors)

The Story: Does it really take the smartest guy on the planet to suggest blowing everything up as a solution?

The Review: Of all the titles that could really use a mandated origin issue, Earth Two probably needed it the most.  True, the current arc is an ongoing origin story of a kind, but obviously, the history of this parallel Earth predates Alan Scott, Jay Garrick, and Al Pratt.  We know the Age of Wonders began on this world as a response to the Apokoliptian invasion, but we don’t know much of the details.

Unfortunately, Terry Sloan, originally the prototype for Mr. Terrific and now known as “‘Mr. 8’—the eighth and final wonder,” seems more interested in the sound of his own voice than actually enlightening us on much of anything.  No one denies that Robinson has a gift for words, and writes some pretty phrases from time to time, but at his worst, he just rambles with dry commentary and exposition.  No other writer churns out language that sounds like it comes from a clinical dissertation: “And since then, my partners in resistance (in this instance Wonder Woman, Superman, and Batman) and myself have been, I think by now, to every country in the world carrying out counterattacks and assaults to keep the invaders at bay.”  Sheesh.

I suppose the style fits with Sloan’s character as the most intelligent man on Earth Two, but if you step back, you can’t help noticing that his manner and speech fits right into the mold of Robinson protagonists: articulate, erudite, and hopelessly detached.  If you look at the Shade or the Outsider (from Robinson’s Flashpoint contribution), they could just as easily be the speakers in this issue rather than Sloan.  It’s an old rut Robinson has to break out of at some point.

Having Sloan as the narrator for this issue makes sense.  Since he’s the only one of the original Wonders to survive the invasion (except perhaps the unseen seventh Wonder whom Sloan refuses to mention for an undisclosed reason), and he’s now set to play a major role once the Justice Society forms, he bridges the two heroic generations.  Am I impressed that Robinson basically poached Ozymandias (of Watchmen fame) as the model for Sloan’s purpose in this whole conflict?  No.  He doesn’t make himself any more likable or sympathetic than Oz either.

By the end of the issue, the only mystery that gets cleared up is where those giant fire-pits on Earth Two came from.  You might’ve assumed they were the results of Apokoliptian attacks, or tragic side-effects of Batman’s sacrifice in #1, but the truth is a little more complicated.  You might be more interested, but Robinson doesn’t pace the tension well, so much of the impact falls by the wayside.  Meanwhile, he spends no time whatsoever exploring the relationships among the Wonders beyond basic intel, which goes against what we actually want to know.

Giorello is an acceptable artist, but he has a generic imagination that practically flashes neon lights declaring his work as a fill-in job.  With Robinson so focused on prattling facts, Giorello had the responsibility to liven up the script with splashy, dynamic images, but he leans more toward formula.  If you look at Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman, they spend the entire issue switching back and forth between two or three poses with little variation.

Conclusion: Of all titles, this one needed an origin issue and Robinson almost squanders it completely with a dull narrator and even duller exposition.  The truly mediocre art doesn’t help.

Grade: C-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – I appreciate that Giorello draws Batman actually swinging toward the open, fanged mouth of a gian Apokolips hound.

– The more I look at Giorello’s art, the more thoughtless images I find to mock.  For example, I’m amused that Earth Two’s atmosphere can withstand massive plumes of inner-planet heat and radiation bursting into space.