Friday, May 11, 2012

DC's Unveils Earth-2

Anyone familiar with DC Comics knows how much the publisher loves its multiverse. It has permeated DC's continuity for over 25 years. The concept is such an important piece of DC lore it's almost impossible to understand and discuss their stories without making reference to it. The multiverse exists to afford writers and artists the freedom to take characters in new and exciting directions without having to worry about "continuity" (not that publishers worry about it much anyway.)

The Flash #123 (1961)
First introduced in 1961 in The Flash #123, DC told readers that there were two parallel earths, referred to as Earth-1 and Earth-2. Pretty clever, huh? Earth-1 was populated by the current roster of Silver Age heroes whereas Earth-2 was where you'd find their Golden Age predecessors. When the Silver Age began, new versions of old character, like the Flash and Green Lantern, were introduced. But fans of the Golden Age characters need not worry. Those old heroes and their adventures still existed, but they really happened on another earth. Get it? Characters were able to jump between universes, leading to some well-known and much beloved crossovers. But two earths wasn't good enough, and in time the multiverse blossomed out of control, leading to dozens of alternate realities.

Utilized heavily for over 40 years, it appeared as though DC was ready to officially shelve the multiverse when they launched their "New 52" initiative. The relaunch was designed to simplify DC's history once and for all, making the books more accessible to the elusive "new reader." Then a few months ago DC cancelled a handful of their relaunched titles and announced a second wave of six new releases in their place. One title in particular really caught my eye. It was Earth-2 written by James Robinson and drawn by Nicola Scott.

As with any comic book announcement, reaction was mixed. At least it was in my local shop. Half welcomed new books but thought it was too soon to reintroduce the multiverse. The New 52 is barely a year old and we hardly have a firm grasp on how Earth-1 operates, now we have to "worry" about alternate worlds? The other half was happy to see Robinson and Scott on a book together and hoped that Robinson would return to writing stories about the JSA, as his late 90's series was so beloved. But even this half was a little hesitant because the cover art for the first issue showed alternate versions of the Trinity (Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman), not the Golden Age heroes everyone expected.Well, I've finally read the issue and I'm here to tell everyone not to worry. I think readers will be pleasantly surprised. The book is not what I expected it to be and it's awesome!!

Helena Wayne as Robin.
If you are reading the current Justice League series, the opening to this issue may feel a bit familiar. We begin five years in the past and find the world in the midst of a brutal war. Parademons from Apokolips have invaded Earth via Boom Tubes and Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Supergirl and Robin (Batman's daughter, Helena) are the only heroes left to stop them. Things are not working out so well for our heroes until Batman comes up with a last minute plan to stop the parademons once and for all, but it will come at a great cost. At this point I started to think, "OK. This this pretty standard Justice League fare. Batman will save the day for now until a larger threat is revealed." Boy was I wrong.

*Spoiler Warning*

In order to defeat the soldiers from Apokolips, Superman and Wonder Woman attack the parademons head on while Batman uploads a virus into one of their control towers. Thankfully the virus works, however Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are all killed in the process!!! Uh, spit take! To make matters worse, Supergirl and Robin enter a portal that unknowingly leads them to Earth-1. You can follow their adventures in World's Finest by Paul Levitz and George Perez.

The book then shifts back to the present and even after five year, the world is still trying to pick up the pieces and rebuild. The parademons are gone but so too are their heroes. But the citizens of Earth-2 have nothing to fear for a new crop of heroes are looming on the horizon. We are briefly introduced to Al Pratt, Alan Scott and Jay Garrick. Do those names sound familiar? It looks like Robinson was putting together a JSA book after all. But this is the New 52, so the heroes are younger and will have updated origins and costumes. And I'll be along for the ride.

Jay Garrick is in for a big surprise!

This was a great first issue. Robinson teases you at first. You think you're reading a run of the mill Justice League story, albeit with modified costumes. It all feels familiar. Then he hits you with a major curveball and it becomes painfully obvious that this is not the Earth we're used to. The first half of the book moves at a breakneck pace, focusing exclusively on the final push against the parademons. Once the Trinity falls, things slow down a bit as we're introduced to the books main protagonists. Although they have yet to obtain their powers, Pratt, Scott and Garrick are still intriguing each in their own way, and the final splash page left me hungry for more.

Earth-2 Supergirl. Soon to be known as Earth-1's Power Girl

*End of Spoliers*
I can't end this review without talking about the art. I don't have much experience with Nicola Scott, but after reading this issue I plan on picking up as many back issues of her work as I can. Scott had a lot to tackle in just one issue and she delivered across the board. There were epic battle sequences, she had to draw new costumes for DC's most iconic heroes, and she had to draw significantly younger versions of Al Pratt, Alan Scott and Jay Garrick. And on top of all that she delivered an exceptional two-page spread of the devastated landscape the parademons left in their wake.

I was a little hesitant about picking up Earth-2 #1 but I'm glad that I did. My expectations for this one are high and if Robinson's prior work on JSA and Starman are any indicator I have no reason to be worried. I expect Earth-2 to be around for quite some time.


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