Earth 2 Annual #1 review

The big selling point for this issue is the debut of an all-new Batman, the original Earth 2 fellow having died at the start of the regular series. As a JSA traditionalist, I don't really think the team needs a Superman, Batman or Wonder Woman, but it seems DC begs to differ. And given that the heroes who have been banding together over the last year and a half's worth of issues don't yet call themselves the Justice Society, I lose on a technicality.

So how is he? So far, so un-Batman. Sure, he has Bruce Wayne's square jaw, and a costume similar to the classic, but he swings around shooting people. OK, it's not with a gun gun, he brandishes a wrist-mounted device firing explosive pellets (each with a bat insignia, obviously), but the visual still makes me a tad uncomfortable - where are the batarangs, as seen on the cover? We do learn what drives him, and it's something that puts him firmly in the JSA-to-be's wheelhouse. And he fights a bad guy who's a mix of one of Bronze Age Batman's enemies, and an old JSA foe or two, which works for me.

There isn't actually that much Batman inside - he appears on something like 8 out of 38 pages - with the rest of the book focussing mainly on the Atom's origin, and his latest World Army mission. He's hunting a criminal named Henri Roy in  in Phnom Penh, a city teeming with thugs enhanced by prosthetics left over from the Apokolips war. On the way to the area, Al Pratt recalls the aftermath of the nuclear explosion that killed his fellow soldiers and left him unharmed. Since then he's been growing to giant size, and manifesting explosive fists, but the psychiatrist assigned him in the months after the incident is fixated on one question - why do his clothes grow with him?

If the shrink were a comic book reader, she'd be thinking 'localised energy field', but she obviously isn't; I wonder if she suspects Al had his abilities prior to the explosion, and simply didn't display them, that he's had super powers long enough to gain control over even his clothing ..

Elsewhere this issue we meet Captain Steel as he's given a mission to the freakish firepits that pok the world. He's a Heywood, as in the old continuity, but Filipino, and his super-power seems to be the ability to smoulder. We see the WA crank up efforts to put together a team of tame heroes as more and more 'Wonders' appear around the globe. And after their cameo in the regular title a month or two back, we're properly introduced to Big Barda and Mr Miracle, Apokolips refugees turned Earth heroes, and learn just what they're doing in dinosaur-infested Gotham.

Writer James Robinson turns in one of his most satisfying scripts, with plenty of world and character building, and a marked upswing in the quality of his dialogue. He puts some meat on the bones of the Atom's previously one-note character, and freshens up the traditional Barda/Mr Miracle coupling. All of which is rather bittersweet now we know he's leaving the Earth 2 series soon. I do worry that without Robinson's vision, this terrific series will very soon descend into the mediocre. Prove me wrong, DC!

A question that's not answered here is, who is the superhero? As the new Batman uses the very un-Batman like contraction 'gotta', I'm betting someone younger than traditional Bruce Wayne, someone more street - wouldn't it be something if the new Earth 2 Ted Grant isn't Wildcat, but Batman II?

Several artists bring Robinson's scripts to life, Cafu (pencilling and inking) and Julius Gopez (inked by Cam Smith). Their clean, dynamic styles meld so well - aided by the colours of the bloomin' marvellous Pete Pantazis - that I couldn't tell you who did what, but there isn't a duff page in the pack. While the new Batman certainly has impact, my favourite bit of visual business sees the Atom follow Henri Roy from panel to panel across a double page spread (sadly, I can only reprint it with a gap ... I need a bigger scanner!). You see the Atom straining to catch Roy, pounding buildings and straddling panel borders - it's a fine piece of composition. I think it's the work of Cafu/Gopez, but it could easily be the work of Gopez/Cafu. I can tell you the letters are by Carlos M Mangual, if that helps.


And I love the dramatic posturing of Batman on the cover, the work of Andy Kubert. And the chiaroscuro colours of Brad Anderson.

While some comic book annuals are standalone issues, this is basically two issues of the regular Earth 2 series squished together. But it's excellent stuff, and I can't see any fan of the book regretting a purchase.

Comments

  1. Great review! Like you, I really enjoyed this issue... and am especially interested in seeing how Scott & Barda get along, pre-marriage.

    There's another character introduced in this issue that I think will make an impact as time goes by. Henri Roy, Jr., who betrayed his arms-dealer father, seems destined to become the heroic Brainwave Jr. After all, Henri Roy is just a Gallic Hank King, ne c'est pas?

    And not that you'd necessarily know from this issue, but Robinson has said that the new Captain Steel is Filipino.

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    1. Ah, I have a terrible memory, I misremembered James on the Comics Vine podcast as saying Hispanic rather than Filipino. I shall tweak.

      And great spot on Henri Roy Jr ... I was just seeing the Roy and wondering if we were getting a new Red Arrow. Smart man!

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    2. I just hope he continues doing those podcasts -- I love those conversations!

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  2. Nice catch on Henri Roy = Hank King!

    There was also a one-panel mention of a soldier called "Terrill" ... as in Ray/"Happy" Terrill aka the Ray?

    I am so going to miss Robinson on this title.

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    1. Yeah, I spotted the Terrill thing, but left that - and the arrival of Roy the Boy - out so there'd be things to discover.I'm lovely, me ...

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    2. I am a horrible person. I should wear a T-shirt that says "HERE THERE BE SPOILERS." :(

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    3. Heck no, it's not as if I'm consistent with the amount of spoilerage.

      And there is a warning at the top. All manner of things are well.

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  3. Thanks, Gary!

    I was thinking of the Ray too, with that soldier. Robinson has mentioned (months ago) that he wasn't able to play with Freedom Fighter characters, as they were all in the Palmiotti/Gray purview on the main earth, but plans change.

    And yeah, I'm going to miss Robinson and his Easter eggs something fierce. My dream replacement for him is John Ostrander, who I think would do a bang-up job on the world-building aspects, while still providing us with thrills. I'd also welcome Matt Kindt (likely too busy) or Sholly Fisch at the helm. (I haven't seen Fisch's byline on a comic for a while, and fear he's gotten scooped up by animation -- I notice he's written at least one segment of Teen Titans Go.)

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    1. Oh, John Ostrander would be a terrific fit. I'm off to bed now, but feel free to start a campaign up.

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  4. Nice review I enjoyed this issue as well, for me this has been the most entertaining new 52 title hands down. So cool seeing the whole reality being built from scratch, sad about JR leaving though...they Better bring someone good!!

    I really like Steel's costume design, the Judomaster (Sonia Sato) cameo was pretty cool too. It seems the characters are pretty divided between the World army heroes and the new Trinity (plus Fate) characters, it'll be interesting to see if the Steppenwolf war will be the key that brings them together...although its hard for me to imagine that happening as long as Mr 8 is involved 0_0

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    1. Thanks for the kind words. I like Sonia too, I hope she gets a bigger part, and I'd love to see her cut loose with her martial arts skills.

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  5. does captain steel give anyone a 6 million dollar man vibe also does this mean earth villains like the wizard are running around and the biggest question is who has the unenviable job of taking over this title i hope DnA do it other than that i have no idea and i have the terrible idea that dc feels the same way

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  6. Hi Anon, I suppose a Steve Austin (the real one) vibe is inevitable, given he was created at the height of Six Million Dollar Man-mania, debuting the year the series ended, 1978.

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    1. um i'm not sure what you are talking about could you clarify please

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  7. But you brought up the Six Million Dollar Man!

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    1. but then you mention vibe the real one apparently and also i have minimal knowledge of the six million dollar man, also who do you think is the poor bastard that is going to take over this title maybe kurt busiek would be a choice since he is well again going to do astro city

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    2. See, if you accepted that capital letters are A Good Thing, you'd have noticed I wrote 'vibe' and not Vibe - word, not character. That's 'vibe' as in feel.

      I swear you're playing with me ...

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    3. I've just noticed, you used 'vibe' in your original comment. You're definitely kidding me!

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    4. i'm sorry i'm kinda stupid so i didn't realize, again sorry but i haven't heard ypur thought on who would take over this title and since james is leaving i'm thinking of replacing this with savage dragon by erik larsen it's a really good book, the kind of book marvel used to publish but with blood and some cussing but also good old fashion heroics drama crazyass villains and lovely kirby inspired plot and long and non headache inducing continuity, this book is evening going to it 200th issue making it one of image's longest published creator owned title also amazing is that larsen does the art writing and coloring and has been doing for 20 years, check this book out at it's 193rd issue it's a jumping point also check some the cover like 124 it's way old school marvel

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  8. I suppose the Terrill in question could be Neon (still Quality, but not as connected to the Freedom Fighters).

    But back to the central question: Who's the new Earth-2 Batman? I hope it isn't Wildcat, because I'd rather have, well, Wildcat. Could he be an Earth-2 Dick Grayson?

    I'm as intrigued by the question as anyone, but at the same time, annoyed DC feels the need to make every book a part of the Batman Family.

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    1. So very ditto on that last point. I'd be happy for the new Batman to be someone we've never heard of, mayve a kid who was helped by the Wayne Foundation (Earth 2 chaptrer).

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  9. maybe it's dr midnight you on account of the capsules

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    1. Or Hourman, for similar reasons.

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    2. can't be cause i saw preview of the next issue and when batman warned hawkgirl of kanto he appeared and disappeared in a black fog

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