Earth 2, the new Earth 2, is a world cobbled together from a lot of odds and ends. Now, that isn’t to say it’s necessarily poorly constructed. I have known thrown-together arrangements to last for years. Nations that have endured for centuries started as arbitrary groupings of disparate territory lumped together by the exigencies of war and deal making. Still, this particular exercise in world building seems more akin to sewing a quilt than painting a landscape.
The planet itself used to be Telos, the experimental base where Braniac kept the domed cities he took from doomed timelines. At the end of the Convergence weekly most of those cities were returned to their timelines, and Telos was given to the Earth 2 refugees. It is very convenient, then, that the planet turns out to be an exact geographic copy of Earth. Was that always the case, or did something about the transition reshape the world? Mark that mystery down as the first bright square that makes up our quilt.
The second square, also a link with Convergence, is the continued presence of Dick Grayson as the viewpoint character, at least of this issue. To the surprise of no one who followed his character arc through Earth 2: World’s End and Convergence, Grayson is now Batman, a plot development that calls back to one of the more popular storylines of DC’s pre-Flashpoint continuity. Nor is the continued presence of Terry Sloan as a main villain a great shock. Call that the third square of the quilt. What is interesting in this issue, a square of an unexpected color, is the use of Johnny Sorrow, one of the pre-Flashpoint Justice Society’s more original nemeses, as a secondary threat. Wilson is trying hard to maintain the continuity of the Earth 2 universe while reaching out for rich and suggestive story elements from other continuities. Overall, he is reasonably successful.
One last aspect of this story that Wilson borrows from other comics is the narrative device of bouncing the time point of the action back and forth between the moments just after the end of Convergence and one year later. In this he echoes the relationship of the One Year Later stories to the 52 weekly, albeit within a s single title rather than across the entire DCU. This gives him an automatic frame in which to allow much of the action to unfold, as well as allowing him to set up mysteries and puzzles in a very natural way. What is the nature of the various settlements that have arisen in the wreckage of the Earth 2 refugee fleet? What is the nature of Terry Sloan’s relationship to this new system? How did Grayson overcome his paralysis (itself a salute to traditional bat family storylines), and why has he not yet located his son?
Jorge Jimenez and John Rauch create a visual world that well complements Wilson’s themes. Jimenez draws his figures as slightly elongated and distorted, as if the denizens of a dream that may rapidly mutate into night terrors. The twisted wreckage out of which the cities spring seems the most solid part of the world, a new realm built on ruin. Rauch chooses colors that glare luridly forth from Jimenez’ deep, threatening shadows. Light in this world is the glow of sickness or the harsh blade of threat. This is a raw, crude, dangerous place, with no safety or comfort to be had.
The new Earth is a place that needs heroes even more than the old one did. Wilson, it appears, wishes to see if this world has the protectors it needs. These heroes failed their last home. Will they save this one? The sheer alien nature of this world is its fascination. But Wilson treads a bit too heavily on tropes such as Grayson's son that can easily devolve into tiresome gimmicks almost before you know it. Still, it is a new world such as we have not seen before. And it isn't often you can say that in comics, especially one featuring a man dressed like a bat.