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

The Story: Our heroes get the faintest inkling that they may be wandering into a trap.

The Review: It’s axiomatic that publishers may feign a lot of pride in their critical darlings, but in reality, reviews come a long second to receipts.  Why else would a truly creative and well-crafted series like Dial H fall prematurely to the axe while Earth Two continues to survive?  It’s also obvious that quality has little to do with popularity, otherwise Earth Two would never beat the likes of Hawkeye, Daredevil, Swamp Thing, The Wake, and so many other reputable titles.

What really baffles me is how Earth Two manages to consistently rank higher than series with more overt popular appeal like, say, Wolverine and the X-Men.  Actually, scratch that; I know exactly how.  I know because it’s the same thing that keeps me attached to Earth Two despite being disappointedly monthly by its awkward, heavy, almost embarrassingly simple-minded scripts.  What keeps the Earth Two engine going is the combustion produced by constant new additions to the parallel world and by the revival of fan-favorite characters.

I may not particularly like Robinson’s interpretations of the Flash, Green Lantern, Dr. Fate, Hawkgirl, etc., but what other choice do I have?  With Earth Two generally inaccessible to primary DCU continuity by way of the Multiverse, there’s nowhere else to look if you want to see these characters regularly.  And I have to admit at least Robinson cares enough to continually bring back formerly overshadowed figures back to the public consciousness: Mr. Terrific, Big Barda, Mr. Miracle, and now Red Tornado.

But no amount of superhero appearances can make up for the series’ greater failings, and can in fact compound them.  The cast has become so inflated and unwieldy by this point that we barely spend more than a few pages at a time with one or two of them before moving on.  With not enough time for anyone to act out an actual scene, Robinson must make liberal use of omniscient narration to fill in the cracks: the latest lead on Hawkgirl’s investigation into the death of Alan’s fiancé, Barda and Miracle’s background, their relationship with Fury, etc.

This is too much straight exposition for a title that suffers enough from too much talking already.  I can never understand why writers like Robinson don’t seem to appreciate the extent to which visuals can speak for themselves.  Do we really need Jay to mention that Brutaal’s “mask fired some kind of Apokolips death-beam,” or that he “got Dodds clear—saved his life,” when it’s obvious just from looking at the page alone that’s what happens?  Must we check in with Khan even when he offers only the most useless observations (“…[T]here has to be a reason,” he perceives as to Steppenwolf’s sudden reemergence*)?

When the writing isn’t paradoxically heavy yet empty at the same time, it reeks of cliché.  Robinson isn’t the most creative penman of dialogue at the best of times, but nearly all the battle patter in this issue sounds like he ordered it in from a second-rate factory.  Listen to the Hounds remark upon their easy victory with absolutely no individual personality whatsoever:

“And that’s that…”

“I expected better than this. More of a fight, certainly.”

“If this is the best and boldest, how did they hope to beat us?”

At least Robinson won’t be too much longer for this title.  You can only hope upcoming writer Tom Taylor delivers better material—it not for us, then for Scott’s sake.  At the very least, you hope that Taylor will respect Scott enough to let her art do most of the talking, instead of writing over her luscious visuals when they are capable enough of standing on their own.  Had a lesser artist than Scott been assigned to this series—heck, had a lesser inker or colorist than Trevor Scott or Pantazis been put to work here—I probably wouldn’t stick it out as long as I have.

Conclusion: At this point, I’m just white-knuckling it until Robinson departs, in the faint hope that the next writer will be some kind of improvement.  At least the art remains the only reliable source of strength for the title.

Grade: C

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * Yes.  And the reason is he wants to destroy you all in one fell swoop, now that he’s totally prepared for you in his own home base—duh.  Clearly, Khan did not earn his rank by insightfulness alone.

– You have to appreciate that Fury is even more ridiculously scantily clad for a warrior woman than her mother.