Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Earth 2 #0 review

DC's New 52 initiative is one year old. More than four dozen new and revamped books came and since then, a few have gone and been replaced. The overall success of the line-wide relaunch (commercial, if not always creative) is celebrated this month with a slew of 'zero issues' - stories set before we joined the New 52 timeline.

So here's somethng of what happened on Earth 2 before the recent debut issue, which saw Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman die as they forced a retreat by invaders from Apokolips. The narrator is Terry Sloan, 'the smartest man on Earth'. In comics history, Terry Sloane was the original Mr Terrific, Justice Society of America member in good standing. This chap is Mr 8, a self-styled hero working with Earth's 'wonders' to beat back the hostile aliens. He shows us just how bad things are on Earth, with entire nations enslaved by Steppenwolf's 'anti-life' process and the heroes no nearer a win after several years of fighting.

And he thinks he knows what needs to be done - cut out a cancer to save the rest of the body. It's not an easy operation: he's going to wipe Italy, Brazil, Pakistan and South Africa off the map. His reasons are twofold - ensure the World Army doesn't waste time trying to save zombified civilians who are beyond hope, and show Steppenwolf that the people of Earth are willing to do whatever it takes to win. But first, he has to betray his three most formidable colleagues ...

Talk about blasts from the past. Since he appeared briefly in the Earth 2 series, I've been dying to know more about Sloan, and James Robinson gives us a good look here. Incredibly intelligent and more arrogant still, his words are persuasive - of course some countries are beyond saving, of course their people should be sacrificed. And of course, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman -  on Earth 2, the Ternion, rather than the Trinity - would never go along with the notion ... they believe that where there's life, there's hope.

One thing that guides Sloan's decisions is an accidental look at parallel Earths (including, perhaps, the world of Kingdom Come), and conclusion that bad as the forces of Apokolips are, something worse is coming. That tallies with what new Green Lantern Alan Scott has been told in the regular series, feeding my anticipation for coming storylnes. A further mystery, one just introduced here, is the identity of a hero Sloan won't name, for some terrible thing they did - what could be worse than his own acts?

A nice touch from Robinson is Sloan's list of Superman's weaknesses (click on image to enlarge).
The in-story reason for the name Mr 8, rather than Mr Terrific, is a bit random. I love the Mr Terrific monicker - it's so big-headed, perfect for a man like Sloan. As for Mr 8's costume, it's forgettable, like something a D-list Spider-Man villain would wear.

I doubt artist Tomas Giorello designed it, given DC Editorial's hands-on attitude to such things. I am waving a finger at Giorello for Wonder Woman's chest zeppelins, and at least one utterly grauitous knickers shot (that panel above is both good and bad). Otherwise, I like the artwork; Giorello's storytelling is fine, his characters have grandeur and the big moments are suitably bombastic. There's excellent work, too, from colourist Nathan Eyring, who makes the blockbuster sequences even bigger.

The cover by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Rod Reis is, I think you'll agree, stunning.

If you were hoping DC's zero month would be a chance to save money by skipping inessential bits of backstory, you won't like this - it's a compelling chapter in the history of Earth 2 and an essential lead-in to upcoming events. 

I can stand it.

19 comments:

  1. I'm torn between getting this or not. I've decided no more Earth 2, but this has WW. Worth a peek at the costume? If not, I'll pass.

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  2. It's the same as we saw in issue #1, and on the cover here - I reckon you can pass.

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  3. I liked this a bunch -- though I agree about the WW panty shot. I only wish Robinson had mentioned the location the final scene occurred in, because that location was destroyed too, and all we have is the map at the end to figure out where it is. (Unless I'm missing a location tag; I read it pretty quickly.)

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    1. I've just been through the issue again Rob, and cant find a location mentioned; I suppose it's one of the four, unless there's an explosion on the side of the globe we can't see at the end.

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  4. Terry Sloane doing what was necessary and the fact that in story he succeeded tells me Earth 2 is a book that has no limits. I had a feeling Robinson was heading that way. Killing off Alan's lover even though it was not a PC story choice suggested this but Mister Eight's story confirmed it. Somewhere down the line I hope we get a story where Sloane is put on trial for what he did and acquitted...

    (and have the makers of those bizarre new twists on security checks when posting ever met anybody with less than perfect eyesight? It always takes me three tries!)

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  5. Just three, Steve? You're a winner, at least the world's fourth-smartest man. And I think I'd acquit Terry too - if those people were basically dead, get them out of the way. Shame about the ancient monuments, mind.

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  6. Dr fate where are you, the world needs you

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  7. I think I read this week that he's coming in #9, but it may be sooner, my memory is shot.

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  8. Is it just me, or does Terry Sloan come off as second-rate Ozymandias (Watchmen), in terms of sacrificing some for the survival of the many?

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    1. I see the parallel, Rob, but unlike with Watchmen, we'll get to see what happens next.

      (I wonder if Terry could carry off a loincloth ...)

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  9. I was just trying to logic out who the mysterious 7th wonder will turn out to be and came up with 'Johnny Quick.' My logic (as it is) is based almost entirely on the fact that Johnny was a Golden-Age hero much-used in various iterations of the 'original' Earth-2 whose powers duplicate those of one of this new title's heroes (the Flash), making him expendable. I'm assuming that Robinson won't be duplicating powers when he doesn't have to.

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    1. Hmm, possibly, Jonathan, but I'd expect James Robinson to go for one of the first wave of JSA-era rather than a Roy Thomas addition. I'll guess at Sandman, with no supporting evidence whatsoever.

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    2. Yeah, Mr. Terrific throws a monkey-wrench into my thinking because he appeared so little in the Golden-Age JSA that it seems odd to have him part of the '8.' I'm also not sure Sandman has enough power or brains to be much of a threat through betrayal. Someone similar to the Golden-Age Starman, on the other hand...

      Or Johnny Thunder and his lightning bolt.

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    3. Though come to think of it, Starman and not Superman could be the "solar god" mentioned but not specifically named by The Green (it was GL who voiced the idea that the Green referred to Superman).

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    4. Very interesting ideas, Jonathan. I hope we find out soon.

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  10. Wow. Robinson is an abysmal writer. His grammar is atrocious. Here's a thought, DC: how about hiring writers who have at least a passing familiarity with the language we've all agreed upon, ok? I mean, language is supposed to be the tool of his trade...

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    1. Some of the dialogue is certainly clunky, though I tend to not be too fussed about non-naturalistic dialogue. Editors do seem pretty lax with writers, though.

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  11. I feel like this series is the run-away hit of the "New 52." I really loved this issue. One thought, though: I got the sense that Robinson was laying the groundwork that Sloan might not have, um, the tightest grip on reality. Maybe it was the endless war or the glimpse into the other dimensions, but I feel like Robinson wants us to question the future that Mr. 8 thinks is best. Maybe he's trying to bring about a future where he runs the world, because he obviously thinks he'd be great at it? Just a thought. I love how Robinson keeps building up the anticipation for this future threat. Great stuff.

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    1. Hi, JW, I hadn't assumed that James Robinson might be wanting us to believe Mr 8 is right about everything. You're dead right, what's he's seen is almost certain to addle the brain a tad.

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