Saturday, May 26, 2012

Earth-2 #1 Reviewed

I was going to start off this post with the old cliche "This isn't your father's Earth-2", but then, while reading other reviews of this comic trying to find one that I wanted to link to later on, I noticed that Martin Gray at Too Dangerous For A Girl, whom I mistakenly remembered as the source of the quote I was looking for, had already used that line, or at least a version of it, and I wouldn't want to be accused of plagiarizing a fellow comics blogger, especially one who occassionally reads this blog.  (At least he is listed among the "members" of this site down there near the bottom of the page, so its somewhat safe to assume that  he checks in here from time to time.) It occurs to me though, that, being old enough to remember the pre-Crisis On Infinite Earths multiverse, what I really meant to say is that this isn't MY Earth-2, or at least not the Earth-2 that I once knew and that Roy Thomas spent a good chunk of his career mapping out.
Back then, Earth-2 was the place where the characters and stories from DC's Golden Age lived and where their adventures continued.  This Earth-2 is a new world whose past, along with its future, remains largely unwritten. The spirit of the old Earth-2 is preserved, however, in that this is a world that is just slightly different from the one we know and where the heroes may have familiar names and powers but almost everything else about them is different. It is also once again a world that had super-heroes well before ours, though not quite as early as World War II.
Speaking of which, it seems to me that the old Earth-2/Justice Society of America characters were overdue for a reboot.  Even in comic book terms, it was beginning to stretch credibility to have a bunch of characters who must have been in their mid-20s in 1940 still running around and fighting crime as if they were in the prime of their youth.  This had been something of issue since about the mid-80's, but all previous "solutions" to the conundrum, including sending them off to limbo to fight in a neverending cyclical Ragnorok, magically de-aging them, or flat out killing several of them off in Zero Hour, somehow failed to take hold permanently.  But that's neither truly here nor there, and ultimately irrelevant to the topic of this post, so screw that blather and let's get back to the review at hand.
The first issue of Earth-2, the series, begins with an ending.  Earth is in the midst of what has come to be called the Apokolips War, besieged by hordes of Darkseid's parademons under the command of his uncle (at least he was Darkseid's uncle in the old continuity, in the new 52 multiverse I'm not sure of his familial status) Steppenwolf.  The world's greatest, and, it appears, only, heroes, Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman, prepare  a desperate bid to turn the tide in humanity's favor. It is a gambit that succeeds, but at a terrible cost.  The "trinity" of heroes give up their lives for the cause, while their young proteges, Supergirl and Robin, are whisked off in a stray Boom Tube to a strange new world and their own adventures as Power Girl and the Huntress in the companion title Worlds' Finest.
Five years later, media mogul Alan Scott puts the finishing touches on a web documentary commemorating the anniversary of the heroes' sacrifice as he sits aboard his private plane enroute to China.  Meanwhile, recent college graduate Jay Garrick has himself quite an eventful day.  First his girlfriend dumps him and heads off to take a new job on the West Coast, then he is confronted by Mercury, the last survivor of the gods, who carries a dire warning of a new threat arising.  Mercury says that the Earth now needs a hero, and it seems pretty obvious that Jay is going to be that hero.
Along the way we are introduced to diminutive Army sergeant Al Pratt, and Jay's erstwhile girlfriend Joan mentions that her new job is with an outfit called Tyler-Chem, providing hints of possible future developments to those with even a passing knowledge of the old continuity.  
Now, if I read fewer blogs maybe I'd be able to keep them straight.  The review of this issue at The Back Issue Bin, in a sentiment that I, as I stated above, mistakenly attributed in my mind to TDFAG (hmm...perhaps I'd best not use that initialism anymore, lest I be accused of hate speech), states that the comic " felt more like a 'zero' issue" than a number one.  If by that the writer meant to imply that the story is more of prologue than the true beginning of an "epic", despite what the cover blurb decries, then I agree with him one hundred percent.  But it is a prologue that accomplishes beautifully what it sets out to do, which is what a prologue is meant to do.  It establishes the world of the story and draws the reader into the world, filling him with anticipation for the beginning of the tale proper.
This is not, by any means, a startlingly original story.  Tales where the old guardians have long since disappeared and new heroes must rise up to meet a new or reborn menace litter the annals of super-hero comics and all of fantasy literature in general.  That's not a criticism.  After all, I heard it said that all storytelling is simply a series of endless variations on a mere seven basic plots.  The merit of any story, then, is judged on how well the tale is told, and writer James Robinson and artists Nicola Scott and Trevor Scott (coincidence? or kinship?) tell this particular tale exceedingly well.
I began this review with the comment that this wasn't my Earth-2, but ,truth to tell, I was never all that invested in the stories of that long gone alternate world, although the annual epics wherein the veteran heroes of the JSA would cross dimensional space to team up with their younger counterparts in the Justice League of America and perhaps some other team of long forgotten Golden Age heroes who'd been set up on their own alternate Earth remain some of my favorites of the Silver and Bronze Ages.  (By the way, I don't see much potential for a new series of JLA/JSA team-ups, at least not as long as the basic premise of Worlds' Finest depends on the near impossibility of bridging the gulf between dimensions, leaving that books protaganists stranded on Earth-1 or whatever its official New 52 designation is these days.  Still, the fact that the old guard of heroes on Earth-2 died while fighting off the hordes of Darkseid while their counterparts on another Earth were coming together as a team in the first arc of the relaunched Justice League of America to face the lord of Apokolips and his parademons on their own world does seem to me to be fodder for a future crossover somewhere down the line.)  However, I did thoroughly enjoy this comic and as long as Robinson can keep up this level of quality, this is, in fact, MY Earth-2.

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