By: James Robinson (story), Nicola Scott (pencils), Trevor Scott (inks), Alex Sinclair (colors)
The Story: Khalid and Jay find their world turned upside down and inside out—literally.
The Review: Robinson may have bitten off more than he can chew. Earth Two doesn’t simply purport to establish a new super-team, which is already daunting in itself. This title establishes an entire world, which includes not only the superheroes, but their respective villains, supporting casts, bases of operation, and back stories. And we haven’t even touched upon Earth Two’s unique qualities that have nothing to do with superheroes.
No wonder, then, that the series has been so uneven and scattered. Sometime after that first arc, perhaps around the zero issue, we’ve lost quite a bit of focus from the plot. With every character doing his or her own thing and not in concert with each other, Robinson is forced to jump from one scene to another, often with little transition, either tonally or substantively. This results in a fairly muddled read overall, but worse still, each plot thread gets cut a little short to make room for the others, leaving you dissatisfied with all of them.
Robinson could help himself simply by being a little more efficient in his storytelling. The opening scene to this issue embodies a lot of what’s wrong with his general style: text for the sake of text, what Professor Ron Carlson (from my creative writing days) would call “fat.” For those of you who have the issue handy, read those first two pages and tell me, what exactly did they tell you that you didn’t know before? We already knew Kendra and Khalid were together when they got their respective powers, and this scene tells us nothing more than that.
This same kind of redundant, pointless writing infects the bulk of the whole Wotan encounter. Despite the fact that he starts off by saying “[L]et’s not prolong this,” he immediately disregards his own mandate and goes into a very long, very dry streak of exposition, punctuated by the similarly inert remarks of Khalid, Jay, and Jay’s mom.* This may not have been a total waste of time had Robinson managed to give Wotan some actual presence, but while the green wizard certainly has the power to be an imposing villain, he comes across more jerky than threatening: “I am not a nice person. Or, in words of one syllable that even an idiot might understand… Do. Not. Mess. With. Me!”
Instead of spending so much time on such forgettable chatter, Robinson would have better spent his efforts embellishing Jay and Khalid’s sojourn into the Tower of Fate, instead of allowing it to devolve into a lot of dull wandering around. Or maybe Robinson could have added some crucial details to this conspiracy Alan’s investigating regarding his late boyfriend’s death. Sam’s dad reveals that he’s heard a rumor that it was his son, not Alan, who was targeted in the train explosion, but he leaves out how he gained even this bit of information and also what kind of lead he got for Alan. That leaves us confused and baffled as to whom Alan’s fighting when we see him tussling with a bunch of men in suits—with katanas—in China. Certainly this is no way to get us invested in a whole new plot thread.
Once again, the only saving grace of this title is Scott’s art. Yildiray Cinar is a fine artist, but only Scott manages to deliver visuals so fully formed and impressive that it almost fools you into thinking that the script is the same way. She does her best to give punch and liveliness wherever she can (as does Sinclar, who makes characters practically glow with color at times), but with so much talk getting in her way, it’s hard for her to find space to show off. But take one look at all the hieroglyphics and detailing she puts onto an Egyptian tomb wall in that opening panel, or the twisted labyrinth that defies the rules of space within the Tower of Fate, and you know this lady deserves bigger, better things than Robinson’s heavy scripts.
Conclusion: It may be that curiosity and brilliant art alone are not enough to keep me invested in this second Earth. I desperately want to like this, but Robinson makes it harder and harder with each uninspired issue.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: * Speaking of which, kudos to Robinson for making Ms. Garrick more than just a silent hostage, but dang, she comes across shrill and annoying after a while, especially since she just makes the situation worse with everything she says.