By: James Robinson (story), Nicola Scott (pencils), Trevor Scott (inks), Pete Pantazis (colors)
The Story: Investing in disaster insurance on Earth 2 must be a very lucrative career.
The Review: I don’t mean to rub it in, but I’m pretty relieved to know that Robinson will be off this title soon. There have been a lot of creative shake-ups in DC lately, many either undeserved or controversial, but a few have been warranted. The funny thing about this one is that Earth 2 is actually quite a popular book, generally landing somewhere in the top 50 comics each month. It makes me wonder if I’m just an idiot who’s not seeing what everyone else sees.
It’s never been lost on me that Robinson has made a lot of effort to really make Earth Two its own place, not just Earth Prime with a little bit of interior decorating. When you look at this world’s culture, history, its physical rules—heck, even right down to its very geography, you can see the work Robinson has put into this universe over the last two years. If anything, the end of this issue drives the wedge between the two Earths even deeper, leaving Two a scar that will set it apart from its sister planet forever.
So yes, I certainly appreciate the results Robinson has achieved. I just haven’t cared much for the execution, which has been inconsistent at the best of times. In issues like this one, the efforts can charitably be called thoughtless. Honestly, how long could it possibly have taken for Robinson to come up with the idea of Steppenwolf completely decimating the entire World Army?* The entire battle is basically reduced to a Before and After scene, with the Army launching a massive, absolutely massive attack only to, one page later, be reduced a bloody, smoking heap of dead bodies. Talk about your senseless deaths.
Robinson spares us the tiresome task of having to watch Steppenwolf do his gruesome work, but then lays one of his infamous rambling monologues upon us instead, and this one is even more inert than usual. First, Robinson saves himself the trouble of having to provide any actual insight into Steppenwolf by minimizing the villain’s memory (“If I have any other names, talents or traits, I have long forgotten them.”). Second, he then narrows Steppenwolf’s purpose so that he can’t function as anything except a mindless drone of war (“…I fought for the domination and glory of Apokolips. But now my fiery world is lost to me…so I fight for myself.”). Third, he makes any detail we can glean from Steppenwolf useless anyway by disposing of him in the most sudden and lamest way possible, then replacing him with an evil Super-clone—as if we don’t have enough of those causing trouble for the DCU lately.
In times like these, you naturally turn to the heroes for salvation, fictional or otherwise, but they prove both actually and narratively unavailing. Of the World Army’s entire opening salvo, only Mr. Terrific and Khan survive, and they do pretty much nothing (except for a completely self-serving jetpack trick) before getting their butts hauled from the warzone by Wesley Dodds. As for the other Wonders, well, they sure know how to make an impressive appearance as a group, but prove quite as hopeless against two of the enemy as they did against three. All in all, this has been a most disappointing first outing for the ersatz Justice Society.
Scott is a strong, talented artist who probably doesn’t need pity from anyone, but she gets it anyway. If we were to judge this issue solely by appearance, it would get top marks. Those double-splashes of Steppenwolf tearing into the World Army are totally epic, utterly deserving of a New God of war, no matter how lame in terms of substance. And how can you not take a step back in awe at the sight of the planet getting spliced apart by an enormous streak of red-hot energy, deep, painful cracks webbing across the earth from the blast—even when you think, a second later, how incredibly over-the-top it is?
Conclusion: No matter how well illustrated, a mindless action issue is a mindless action issue. Even worse, the action doesn’t seem to lead anywhere nor provide any plot development in between.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: * Which I totally called back in #15, by the way. So I think I have some support when I say that this has all been a bit predictable.