By: James Robinson (story), Nicola Scott (pencils), Trevor Scott (inks), Pete Pantazis & Alex Sinclair (colors)

The Story: Just because you’re a rambling lunatic doesn’t mean you can’t be a hero.

The Review: Despite my threats last month to Drop this series in a couple issues, if I’m to be perfectly honest with myself (and you), I’ll probably end up sticking with it in the long run just to see how the characters turn out.  Perverse curiosity, not genuine interest, motivates my investment in Earth Two.  If I want to see the Justice Society live again in some form or other, this is the only place I can turn to.

I do recognize of course that there’s little resemblance between the Justice Society of yore and that of the new 52, but I’m actually not sure if all the changes have been for the worse.  Let’s face it: the pre-relaunch JSA was truly a basket of white-bread characters, a reflection of its Golden Age roots.  I’m not really a purist; I don’t mind seeing superheroes reimagined as from different cultures and backgrounds if I didn’t much care for person under the costume anyway.

With Earth Two, Robinson has a great excuse to reimagine to his heart’s content, which is obviously most of the fun of a parallel universe.  Putting the Helmet of Fate upon Khalid Ben-Hassin does feel a bit like a politically correct move, but given the origins of the Helmet, it also feels entirely appropriate to the character.  In the words of the caustic Ellie Torres from Cougar Town,* “Change approved!”

The only problem is Khalid gets so distracted with resisting the mental advances of Nabu that he doesn’t get to show much personality of his own.  His fretting about how his powers threaten his sanity are understandable, but repeated ad nauseum (as Robinson has a habit of doing), it does begin to grate on your nerves as much as it does Hawkgirl’s.  Besides an admirable moment where he tries to be assertive without relying on Nabu, Khalid is more useful as a foil to Kendra, showing her balance of firmness and compassion.

The remainder of the issue gets devoted to Jay trying to figure out how to manage his life now that he’s a Wonder on the run.  In an era where giving every superhero a grim family history is de riguer, I appreciate Robinson letting Jay have a worried mother at home.  On the other hand, he goes a bit overboard in her June Cleaver-ness (“All I know is, my home’s destroyed, and magic doesn’t feel nice.”), which makes you less fond of her than you might otherwise be.

All in all, Robinson continues to display a frustrating tendency to overwrite.  Long strings of dialogue work on TV and films because you have actors invigorating their delivery; just reading them can be pretty tiring, especially in a comic book setting, and especially where the characters aren’t communicating much anyway.  That long open between Khalid and Kendra just seemed to drag, and other points in the issue also felt slow from excess scripting.  What Robinson really needs is a good editor who’s not afraid to gently tell the writer to cut it down, some.

Such is the extent of Scott’s artistic talent that she can make the heaviest script seem a bit livelier than it really is.  With Trevor Scott’s inks and glossy colors from Pantazis and Sinclair, everything just looks slick and beautiful—“shiny” being the descriptor that comes to mind most.  I’m pretty sure that Earth Two is not an A-class title, but Scott makes it look like one.  This is a lady who easily ranks among DC’s top mainstream artists, and it’s a bit of a shame she hasn’t got a much bigger title to hang her name on.

Conclusion: With Scott’s superb art, the title regains a little of its former luster, but there’s no denying the sluggish, uneven pace and tone of the series.

Grade: B-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * Yes, I watch Cougar Town.  Despite its ridiculous name (which the show’s producers were unable to change), it really is a grown-up version of Scrubs, so I can recommend it.

– Wow, Atom really does not want people to like him.  After bringing up some phony charges against Jay’s mom, he taunts, “Whatever she did or didn’t do will take time to prove in court, and all the while we’ll have her, kid.”

– Once again, I have no idea if I like or hate the redesign of Wotan.  “Metrosexual” doesn’t quite capture it, I don’t think.