By: Tom Taylor (story), Nicola Scott (pencils), Trevor Scott (inks), Pete Pantazis (colors)
The Story: If you’re going to break your father’s heart, you might as well kill him.
The Review: As I read through this issue, it suddenly occurred to me that for a big, gushy superhero series that’s been around for over two years, we’ve had surprisingly few displays of superheroic power. A couple come to mind—Alan’s duel with Solomon Grundy, Marella’s airborne whirlpool—but for the most part, it’s the enemy that’s done most of the showboating. No wonder morale has been so low; it’s hard to hold out hope when all the major moves come from the other side.
And no wonder that as our heroes get bolder, more aggressive with their powers, the more you think Earth Two may stand a fighting chance after all. I’m not just talking about the war against Apokolips; I’m talking about the chances of these characters rising to the same level as their peers on Prime Earth. It’s easy to think of Earth-2’s Wonders as cheap riffs and knock-offs of more famous characters, and thus inferior product. The only way to break out of that perception is to stand tall and proud on their own laurels, and they weren’t going to do it by constantly fleeing Darkseid’s forces.
So it’s encouraging to see all our Wonders up their game, especially the unusual suspects. Alan and Marella have spectacular moments in the issue, of course, but we’re used to that. Seeing Jay push his limits, and then break them, is a much more impressive thing. I’m glad it’s he who winds up defeating Beguiler, and gladder still that he does it in such a quintessentially Flashy way: by driving her past light speed and into infinity, trapping her there. Even Barry Allen hasn’t done that yet.*
Even the ones who don’t do anything terribly noteworthy are still hyping themselves up for just that. If the full-body reveal of Val’s costume isn’t enough to get you excited, then maybe his decision to confront Clark will. “I won’t kill Kal-El,” he declares, “but I need to fix what he has broken.” That’s a pretty tall order for our Kryptonian greenhorn, but if he pulls it off, you may just be willing to accept him as a bona fide Superman.
Heaven knows Clark won’t cut it anymore. The massacre of thousands was probably enough to ensure that whether he came back to normal or not, he could never have the same standing on Earth-2 again, but—spoiler alert—murdering his own father seals his fate. The best he can hope for now is to come to his senses and sacrifice himself for the greater good, because there’s no way he can live with himself (nor can we endure him) after doing the unthinkable.
Above all else, I’m happy to see that Taylor is finally coming to the conclusion of this very long arc, which will hopefully dispose of Earth-2’s Apokolips problem for a while. While it’s been interesting to experience a world of superheroes in a truly serious global disaster—and I mean global; the whole planet’s about to be dragged to hell, literally—it’s also stifled Earth-2’s growth in a lot of ways. As in any war, these characters can’t prosper until they can move on.
The only reason they’ve grown in stature as they have is largely due to Scott, whose vision is so grand that the characters seem marvelous even when fighting the long defeat. As you can expect, their greatness is magnified once Scott’s allowed to show them at their best. There’s a heartstopping double-splash in this issue where Marella springs out of the ocean, drawing a massive, surging wave behind her, to submerge the flock of Parademons chasing after Kendra, Jay, and Alan. Sharks leap from the water to gnaw on the enemy while Atlantean soldiers wrestle with them beneath the foam. It’s magnificent, enough to put most of Prime Earth’s big moments to shame.
Conclusion: You can actually feel the tension beginning to coil as the story teeters toward its climax. We’re about to see whether all the agony is worth what comes out of it.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: * Or has he? I’m not up to speed on the Flash’s adventures, so to speak.
– Val says his parents, like Jor-El and Lara, “tried to speak the truth to power,” but unlike Clark’s parents, Val’s “were punished for it.” Even on Krypton, it seems, people of color get the rawer deal.