By: Tom Taylor (story), Barry Kitson (art), Robson Rocha (pencils), Oclair Albert (inks), Pete Pantazis (colors)

The Story: Can you really blame anyone for not wanting to outside on Earth Two right now?

The Review: Do you realize that it’s been half a year since this most recent disaster struck Earth Two?  Most Big Events have usually concluded within that timeframe, yet this arc looks as if it’s going to stretch on beyond that for another few issues.  You might be able to endure this if there was enough happening in each issue to make it worth the month’s wait, but with what Taylor and Robinson have given us so far, it just feels like time you’re never getting back.

For my hard-won money, any page that doesn’t add something new to the story is a page you shouldn’t have paid for.  There are many such pages in this issue, from Jimmy Olsen pointlessly geeking out over Lois Lane’s robotic body to Khalid’s traumatized ramblings to the corrupted Superman directing a host of Parademons to tear down every religious structure in the world.  It’s not so much that these scenes are badly written or anything; they just do little more than repeat information we’re already well-acquainted with, and we’ve had too much of that already.

In fact, I can easily give you the only developments in the issue that might be considered new, and only by suggestion.  When Marella states that she will be “returning to my people,” it’s confirmation that some remnant of Atlantis does still exist, and when Val claims that he “was one of four sent away” from Krypton before it exploded, it leaves you wondering who the fourth Kryptonian could be.  But these are important tidbits for a later plotline, foreshadowing in an issue that has almost nothing else to offer.

The one exception may be the revelation of Val’s agoraphobia.  I mean, the very idea of someone with that kind of power who’s also crippled by anxiety should be the basis of an ongoing storyline, just like Tony Stark’s panic attacks in Iron Man 3.  But just like Tony’s panic attacks, Val’s psychological shortcomings are pretty much done away with by one (admittedly) good pep talk, which makes you wonder why Taylor bothered to write it in at all.  Maybe he’ll pick up on this character trait again, once this latest crisis is taken care of, but now that Val’s already exposed to the outside, it’s something of a moot point, isn’t it?

What’s truly frustrating is you can tell Taylor knows how to write these characters and he can do a lot with them, but he’s shackled by the plot James Robinson left behind.  It’s no simple matter to move on from a world newly stricken by the forces of Apokolips, and Taylor has had to build up the second wave of Wonders while trying to resolve the nasty predicament Earth Two has been left in.  Many times, you wish he could just focus on developing these characters, new and old, as he so clearly wants to do, only to be interrupted by the latest disaster outside.

Kitson has a dignified, lovely style of art that fills in very well for Nicola Scott, though I have to say, the visuals aren’t quite as striking as I remember when Kitson was drawing Mark Waid’s Three-boot Legion of Super-Heroes.  Perhaps the difference is in Pantazis’ coloring, which goes for a more commonplace gloss instead of that soft, satiny finish which usually makes Kitson’s figures stand out.  Rocha does fine on his few pages of sheer destruction, depicted mostly as vague explosions, but he has yet to develop a personal style we can recognize.

Conclusion: I really, really, really want to like this series, and I’m even ready and willing to like Taylor’s scripting, but the plot proves to be too obstructive for even goodwill to overcome.

Grade: C

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – “It could be prophecy.  It could be dubstep.”  In two sentences, Red Arrow very astutely observes the fine line between the profound and the inert.  Either that or he’s just being a douche to Dr. Fate.