Earth 2 #17 review

Last month it was revealed that Steppenwolf's murderous henchman Brutaal was in fact Earth 2's Superman, not dead after all, but transformed into a killing machine by Darkseid. This issue he cuts a swathe through the World Army, forcing the superheroes to retreat to its Arkham base. There, General Sam Lane awakens a new hero, the Red Tornado - a robotic body housing the mind of his dead daughter, Lois.
(I suspect this is meant to be a tender moment, but I find it a terrible combination of creepy and tragic.)

With Superman now outside the facility and rending his guards limb from limb, Lane sends top soldier Sonia Sato to the lower levels where the dead Batman's enemies are kept in stasis. If Superman nears them, Sato is to turn off life support, denying him an army of criminals and madmen.

Criminals and madmen, though, are just what the situation needs, according to the new Batman, who has broken into the base and brutalised the good men and women he met on his way to the holding chambers. Elsewhere, Sam Lane dies in his daughter's arms when Superman's trouncing of Dr Fate causes Arkham to fall down around them. Fate survives only because the Flash whisks him out of the way before Superman's jackboot can come down a second time.
Maiming, slaughter, hopelessness ... Earth 2 manages to be a world even darker than the regular DC Earth which, for all its grimness, still finds room for the occasional 20 minutes of peace. Here, though, it's all war, all the time. For a book supposedly centred on new versions of the shining stars of the Golden Age - Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkgirl and so on - it's a dark, dark series. It began with Earth 2's Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman dying heroic deaths, clearing the way for the heroes more identified with the Justice Society to grab the spotlight. Since then, though, we've had Wonder Woman's daughter show up as a murdering harpy, another Darkseid corruption job. Then a new Batman turned up. Followed by a hideous Superman. And now, Lois, a horribly lonely figure, denied eternal rest for the privilege of seeing her husband made over into a monster and her father killed by him.

When writer James Robinson began this series I recognised the darkness, but expected things to get better month by month, as new 'wonders' emerged and reclaimed their world for the light. Instead it's been one horror after another, with no sign of the Apokolips storyline ending. Robinson left the book last month but his successor, Tom Taylor, is gleefully telling USA Today of how much crappier things will get:

'I actually feel kind of guilty about all the damage we're going to do to [Earth 2].'

'This is a much darker, much stronger, much more violent Batman driven by something else entirely. He is willing to do things Earth 1 Batman would never consider'

'This is the beginning of the end of an Earth, and our characters will be dragged through hell'

Lovely.

Taylor's debut is skilfully written, with pithy dialogue and an interesting puzzle introduced as Dr Fate babbles post-pummelling. What little we see of the Flash is great, he's heroic and just the right side of cocky. The hawkish Sam Lane is nuanced to an extent rarely seen on the other Earth. And the art by penciller Nicola Scott and inker Trevor Scott is superb even when I can hardly bear to look at what it's depicting - the people look spectacular, the storytelling is excellent, the action is well-choreographed. But all the craftsmanship on display (and that includes the work of colourist Pete Pantazis and letterer Dezi Sienty) is at the service of an ultra-violent, singularly depressing storyline.

I actually liked the idea that if Superman 'had' to be murdered by Steppenwolf to set up the series, he was at least joining his beloved Lois in the hereafter. But no, Superman is back and murdering the people he defended for so long, his S-symbol dripping blood. And Lois has to watch his legacy being sullied as she prepares to confront the love of her life in her new inhuman frame. 

That's Superman and Lois Lane, the foundational couple of the DC Universe, reduced to reanimated corpses set at one another's throats. 

Batman and Wonder Woman remain dead, so far as we know, but don't be surprised if they turn up as baby-eating Hunger Dogs or senior citizen-mangling Parademons any day now. In the meantime, readers can watch their successors cripple and slaughter their way across the populace.

Me, I'm out. If I were less stupid I'd have packed this series in when Wonder Woman's daughter, Fury, turned up but my optimistic nature had me thinking - or at least hoping - that things would improve. But they've gotten worse, and worse still is promised. This issue's title, 'The Dark Age Begins', is a bit of a hint.

So I'm out. I want to support a JSA book, but this isn't it. Call me when the lights come back on.

Comments

  1. I know I'm going to get a lot of flack for this but I'd rather take a brainwashed superman over a willingly evil superman anyday plus the dcau did better versions like legacy the last 2 superman episodes or the justice lords in a better world from justice league

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  2. I don't want Superman to be portrayed as ripping people apart under any circumstances.

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  3. I wish I could agree with you, I usually do, but when it comes to this series, I am all in. Yes, it seems to be going darker and darker, but I think we are being set up for the great cross over between earth 2 and new 52 earth (what is it, officially, 1 or prime?) and I think once this happens, this series will brighten again.

    I like the depictions of The Flash, Green Lantern, Doctor Fate, and Hawkgirl, though I really miss the notion of an older generation of heroes, and am all in. Considering how many DC titles I have given up on, this is saying something from my perspective.

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    1. Hello Hector, different opinions are always good, it's good to hear another perspective. And who knows, it could be that Tom Taylor is dealing with stuff Robinson planned, but will clear it all away as soon as he can and go in a new direction. If that means smaller stories that find ways to make me care in ways more imaginative than More deaths! More maiming! that's excellent, but I suspect DC are locked into a mindset right now that will sideline the 'proper' JSA types for more Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman-centred stories.

      Oh lord! I just had a vision on Evil Superman having a fling with Evil Wonder Offspring - oh, the angst as Red TornadLo must watch helplessly (choke).

      Your second paragraph - I'm with you completely. And I love your optimism - certainly Robinson and Levitz were planning a crossover, I guess that's still on the cards. Maybe that will lead to a bigger event and the new dawn you posit. Hope so.

      And I've heard it called both Earth Prime (which it ain't!) and Earth 1 (ditto) but not in the actual comics, which makes sense as only Karen and Helena, of the heroes - oh, and Mr Terrific - know about the doubling up. How about Earth None?

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    2. Has it been stated if the DC universe is limited to 52 alternate universes? Frankly, I think that would be stupidly limiting (and why does DC fetishize the number 52, anyway?)

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    3. I don't think the 52 Universes bit has carried over to the New 52 revamp, but we know there's at least three - hopefully there's a welcoming DCU somewhere out there.

      I'm not sure why the 52 obsession, they just seem to have fixated on it after the weekly series.

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  4. Oh my God! Lois is an Airbender!

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    1. Thanks! The Last Airbender is one of the best shows of all time. Even if I did read this comic, I would never be able to look at Lois and think anything different.

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  5. Looks like I made the right decision staying away.

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    1. Now apply that thinking to. H'el on Krypton! or whatever it's called,

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  6. I stayed to the bitter end of the Robinson run. I'd love to know how much of the increasing grimness was mandated by DC editorial. Certainly the first two arcs suggested rebuilding and returning hope, not a plunge into the old ultraviolence. And Tom Taylor (really? The protagonist of THE UNWRITTEN writes for DC?) and his comments suggest to me that the destruction of Earth-2 is part of the set-up for DC's next company-wide crossover, this time involving Darkseid and Friends.

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  7. Tommy Taylor is real - and he thought us both up ...

    I expect you're right on all counts, Jonathan.

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  8. Im still gonna stick with it - for now, at least. I like the overall premise of the series and its been my favourite of the Nu52 iterations so far. And apparently Wonder Woman herself turns up in the next couple of issues according to Previews, so that's worth waiting for.
    I do agree with you though about this grimness; bit depressing and that's saying something. It could do with a bit of light relief, and yes this Darkseid/Steppenwolf/Desaad thing has gone on way way way too long!

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    1. Wonder Woman turns up? Quel, and indeed, surprise!

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  9. Well done for a particularly Herculean bit of masochism in sticking it out this far, Martin. I think the grimness and the limb-ripping is the entire point of E2 - that this version of the DC universe deliberately misses the point entirely of what broader culture might be expected to assume of the characters - but like yourself, it's not for me, which is odd as this book has been recycling Erik Larsen's Savage Dragon plots and trappings since day one and I like SD just fine and dandy.
    While considering the comparisons to this book and Savage Dragon, I was thinking that since Marvel have become such an industry powerhouse of late, DC aren't really in competition with them anymore, and are at best in competition with Image - which given a lot of the criticisms aimed at the NU52 relaunch is quite ironic, in my opinion. Still, I think I might have got along with this better if it felt like there was an endgame.

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    1. Hi Brigonos, figures apart, I think DC see Marvel as the competition. You know what, I've never read a Savage Dragon, it never seems to show up in my local comic shop. Hasn't it passed #300 or something? That's very impressive.

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  10. This seems to be a nod to the zombie craze, turn the Earth-2 Superman into a Darkseid-controlled zombie and have him face-off against Lois Lane, whose consciousness now runs a robot. The whole thing turns their love story inside out and probably sickens Silver Age-devotees.

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    1. Oh, I never made the zombie connection! Good call. But I don't think it's just Silver Age fans who are upset.

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  11. Well, DC may actually be self-referencing itself here. In the Legion of Superheroes vs. Darkseid 'Great Darkness' saga, Darkseid creates twisted, rock-like clones of great heroes to work as his servants. These evil clones include an ancestor of Shadow Lass, a Guardian of the Universe, his own son Orion...and Superman. So Brutal could be a clone. Though given DC's love for debasing its own characters, I'm not holding my breath.

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    1. Ah, the Servants of Darkness, they were fun and yes, it could be a callback to that. Probably not though, as you say!

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  12. Didn't mind the growing darkness and going to war. Will mind if this becomes Batman and Superman plus cameos of other more interesting characters. That will get this right off my pull list...

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    1. I'm with you. I see there may be an Aquawoman or new Tsunami coming.

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  13. hey mart james robinson will be writing ff and he has some interesting plans you should read his interview on usatoday

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  14. Thanks, that interview makes me a lot cheerier than the earlier details about the fragmentation of the team. Wyatt Wingfoot Alicia Masters, yeah! And if anyone missed the piece, it's at http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/2013/11/12/james-robinson-fantastic-four-comic-book-series/3503373/

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    1. Ah don't wprry mart as he said it about the fall and rise of the fantastic four and how the first family faces adversity plus dragon man will be a major character if he survives his death sentence

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    2. hey mart I got some preview art of the fantastic four's new costumes check it out at http://i.newsarama.com/images/i/000/117/939/original/ffkirk2.jpg

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  15. Mart, ,may I just apologise and say that I meant WW was to appear in the Worlds Finest comic, the Annual specifically, and not Earth 2 as I previously said, my bad
    It'll still be good seeing her fighting Power Girl and Huntress all the same, but I also wish she was in Earth 2, hey ho.

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