First Impressions – EARTH 2 #1

Old books have fallen by the wayside, only to have their places filled by new books. And what better way to start off the new books than by looking at a new version of an old concept in DC comics lore. It’s the New 52 “Second Wave”, and the first issue of EARTH 2.

Way back in the Golden Age of comics, what would eventually become DC comics created the first superhero team book in the pages of All-Star Comics. This was the Justice Society of America, and they would defend the US from domestic threats during the wartime and post-war periods. Up until the fifties, when superhero comics fell out of favor, and only the Big Three (Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman) remained in publication for a number of years. The JSA and its members seemed set to fade into obscurity.

But then the Silver Age started, and superhero books regained viability in the market. DC comics, interested in reviving old franchises, created new versions of several characters to fight alongside their new heroes. However, as any frugal person knows, it’s a waste to just throw away resources that could be used for profit. The JSA was revived, and would make frequent crossovers with its successor, the Justice League of America.

Except there was a snag. The Big Three operated with both groups, and in fact the Golden Age Flash (Jay Garrick) inspired Barry Allan’s persona by way of a comic, implying the former’s fictitious nature from the start. How to consolidate the two? By using that old SF chestnut called parallel worlds. It was explained that while the (then actively published) JLA existed on “Earth 1”, while the older JSA existed on “Earth 2”, where events occurred differently to give it the status quo it had in relation to Earth 1. And thus DC’s multiverse was born.

This was a brilliant move on DC’s part, since it not only meant there was a framework for heroes acquired from other companies to cross over with existing DC properties, but it also meant that with limitless possibilities for alternate universes, any potential error in continuity or characterization could be blamed on it being in a tangent universe. It was the ultimate writer’s out, and a versatile narrative tool. So much so that DC continuity over the years became so convoluted, the company decided to reboot everything in Crisis on Infinite Earths. In the end of that, only one universe remained, and everything DC decided was worth keeping got “folded” into the history of the one universe. Some characters had an easier time adjusting to the change than others (more on that during WORLD’S FINEST), but as for the JSA they just became the guys who ran around during the 40s, as the grandaddies of all superheroes in the world.

Eventually the multiverse got restored (in more manageable 52 universe size), but while the Earth 2 that replaced the old one roughly resembled the old one, “New Earth” or “Earth 0” remained mostly unaffected as the main DC Earth. This included all the old folding together business, and things were basically golden.

Until, of course, DC decided to reboot everything again with the more recent Flashpoint event and the New 52. This new New Earth (Earth A for alternate?) has a lot of new status quo changes going on that we fans are still hammering out, but one of the biggest changes is the almost complete absence of the JSA, minus Mister Terrific. My personal assumption was that the JSA still existed, just back on Earth 2. And lo and behold, we now have a new ongoing series called Earth 2.

Does it have a JSA? No. Or at least not yet.

EARTH 2 #1 sets things up as more of an offshoot of the main Earth (let’s just call it Earth A), where a more established yet still modern Big Three fight off this universe’s version of the invasion from Apokolips. This obviously aims to tie into the Justice League ongoing by having the events from the first issues of that series be mirrored in this series, but with more disastrous results.

This isn’t much of a spoiler, but the Big Three of this universe all die bringing an end to the invasion. At least they died saving the Earth, so there’s that. The only other two superheroes, Supergirl and Robin (Kara and Helena) get sucked into a vortex and appear in WORLD’S FINEST. And so after worldwide destruction, Earth 2 is at peace but without any superheroes to protect it. It’s here we’re introduced to Alan Scott and Jay Garrick.

I’m torn. Maybe it’s just the old comic fan in me (relatively speaking), but these changes get to me. But as a professional critic I mustn’t allow my preconceived notions cloud my judgement. Every comic deserves a chance, and lashing out against this book because of my bias in favor of the classic forms of Flash Jay Garrick and Green Lantern Alan Scott just wouldn’t be fair. Maybe starting these characters and this world over from scratch will do a great deal to get new readers familiar with the JSA.

Lord knows these characters were better fleshed out and likable than the characters in Justice League. The Big Three actually get some time, before their deaths anyway, so prove they have solid motivations. It’s not a lot, but it’s something. Superman is dealing with the loss of Metropolis and Lois Lane, which hinders his ability to fight the army of flying demons attacking them. Wonder Woman lost her home island, all of the Amazons, and even a good portion of her pantheon of gods.

Yeah, Hermes shows up briefly to tell her the Greek gods are fighting the Apokolips gods, and the fight isn’t going well. This fight actually feels freaking immense and foreboding.

As for Batman, he has a daughter, and he has to let her watch as his plan goes off, but with him dying with it as a sacrifice he knows needs be paid. There’s actual emotion and tragedy here, especially for Helena Wayne, then Earth 2’s Robin. And then of course there’s Alan Scott and Jay Garrick, one a CEO that isn’t a moneygrubbing Captain Planet villain, and the other a well-meaning high school (or college) graduate with no aspirations and a girlfriend that left him. In a single issue, I’ve learned more about these five characters (three who won’t even appear again in this book) than I have of the seven or more in all the issue of Justice League so far. Or if I’ve learned about any of those characters, it’s enough to make me not like them.

We haven’t seen either Alan or Jay gain their powers yet (they show up seperately in the latter third of the issue), but it’s clear Jay’s speed will have something to do with Hermes. This makes perfect sense given the character’s original costume and theme. But we’re still a ways off from Alan getting his ring, and what concerns me is whether they’ll give him a magic ring powered by the Starheart, like his traditional version, or if they’ll just give him a Green Lantern Corps ring. Maybe I’m just a fanboy who hates change, but Alan’s ring always gave him a sense of otherness. Like he’s a Green Lantern, but of a different variety (almost said color). Plus, making him a part of a lantern corps also makes him beholden to a corps, which wouldn’t exactly work for Earth 2 in my opinion.

While we don’t get much information on the two’s powers, we have gotten some preliminary images pertaining to their costumes. The results are…less than thrilling:

 

I’m none too enthralled by either of these costumes, but for different reasons. Jay’s costume just looks weird. What’s with the helmet? Most of the redesigned costumes in the New 52 have been fairly off, but not too out of the question. They mostly still resembled their original costumes and intents. But this one weirds me out badly, especially the goggles. And why does this costume even need to be a track suit? I can’t say for sure, but where would a young man who barely graduated get the materials, equipment, and knowledge to make a personalized tracksuit like that? At least when Spiderman made his as a college student, he was also a science major.

As for Alan Scott’s costume, it’s a perfectly decent one. There’s nothing objectively wrong with it. But I still don’t like it, because it looks like a green lantern corps uniform. I fully agree Alan’s costume could use an update after roughly seventy years, but assuming he isn’t going to be a part of his universe’s lantern corps, couldn’t it at least have some red in there? His whole conception was built on railroad lines having green and red signal lanterns to direct the trains to go or stop, respectively. So as gaudy as the red was, it both contrasted the green and thematically worked with the concept.

And a cape couldn’t hurt either. But then again I just like capes, and if Jay isn’t going to have one then shouldn’t Alan?

Okay I said I wasn’t going to let my biases get to me, but for better or worse I’m going to be living with these designs over the course of the book’s run, so I reserve the right to complain about them at least.

Another thing of note is that James Robinson will be writing Earth 2. Yes, that James Robinson, the same guy behind the previous calamitous run on JLA, and the current Shade miniseries. But at least Robinson has experience and an apparent love of the old JSA characters. His old Starman series basically brought them to a new generation, and he’s done what he can to bring them back at every opportunity. Or at least every opportunity he isn’t using to throw the Shade back in people’s faces.

So do I recommend this book? Well I’ll be reading it from here on out, so there’s a clue. For those not familiar with the characters, there are other introductions to them. Whether those are better than this remains to be seen. It is, after all, only issue one. As of now, though, if given the choice I’d choose this series over Justice League. And I just might have to.

But this series is only half the story. Sort of. What about Earth 2 Supergirl and Robin? Well, their adventures are just beginning as they assume the mantles of Power Girl and the Huntress in the pages of WORLD’S FINEST #1.

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