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Subj: Earth-2:Society #17 - Into The Valley...
Posted: Sat Oct 15, 2016 at 08:44:38 pm EDT (Viewed 618 times)
In the course of its short life Earth-2 as a series has never been a settled affair. Sacrificing its initial mandate for imaginitive world-building for a less arduous and more desirable pursuit of purely commercial concerns the books initial emphasis on rebuilding comics' first superhero team, and their unique position in the DC Universe and beyond, seems not to have been of any great priority to the publisher who madated the rebooting of the concept in the first place.
Shallow and one-dimensional spectacle and succesive set-pieces took the place of any thoughts of crafting characters of any convincing depth and background. Cast a net backwards and trawl the last four years worth of Earth-2 publication and you would find no end of conflict and visual drama, but actual character building? Indeed building of any sort? No. What came to pass in the ongoing narrative wasn't any brave attempt to reinvigorate and sell the Justice Society for new and future generations, instead the direction became one of weary and perpetually cycling vistas of death and mass destruction. And with the arrival of Dan Abnett as writer that cycle that culminated in the end of planet earth and a shift to a new world somewhere out in the void of space now takes an opportunity not to alter this depressing trend, but rather continues the cycle by destroying the new world the survivors found themselves as refugees on, and proposes that this ending too will begat some new shift to another new homeworld. Fate pending.
Is there any incentive to carry on with this series given that, at this point, no one involved in its production seems to be able or motivated to break it free of its own destructive empty format and instead re-establish the word-building spirit of that first debut year as masterminded by James Robinson? Is ther anything left in terms of credibility or interest in Earth-2 by this point in time...?
Yes, on the face of it the series does seem not long for this world, and understandably so. For a new writer on the series Dan Abnett shows a dissapointing lack of originality and ambition. And yet for all of the familiarity of the events unfolding in this new storyline let us spare too much criticism on the new writer, as much like the similarly dissapointing and grim/dark Masters of the Universe title he inherited before this series Dan Abnett is merely the chimp with the typewriter, a freelancer called in to man the ship and steer it to its inevitable destination. But for all of the heavy restrictions placed upon him, and the undeniable fetid quagmire of a set-up he has inherited for the series, there still appears to be some small grain of genuine effort on his part to try, try, to turn this damaged and exhausted format around and inject back into it some sense of returning hope and a recognisable backdrop in which his under-developed cast of heroes might yet find new life.
Whether Dan Abnett read, or is otherwise familiar with, Warren Ellis & Tula Lotay's opaquely metaphysical 2014/15 Supreme:Blue Rose from Image Comics is unclear. But the basic premise and broad strokes of issue #17 of Earth-2:Society are so similar in nature to Ellis' approach to that unusual series and its own story that if I were a betting man I would say he had indeed seen it when published over a year ago. Blue Rose opens and proceeds with similar language and notions of a revisionism of everyday reality that, if you read the two books back to back, would show that both take the same idea and premise and use it for much the same purposes. What differs is the competence of the writer involved and the environment of a theoretically mass marketed DC Comic over the more niched target range of an Image Comic and its ability to attempt bold experiments with the narrative and its presentation.
But upon viewing just the first opening page of Earth-2:Society #17 it is immediately clear that something quite ambitious (by the titles standards) is in progress within this issue. We open on an a visually arrsting all-white page which is inbedded with what appears to be the faint silhoutte of what seems to be an overhead shot of a great cityscape and its typical gridlike street layout. Through this white hazed surrealism we see a red line appear and race through this maze of faint layouts, and a voice begin to manifest enquiring, enquiring... Is anyone out there?
The design and ambition of these opening three pages of the bright red clad Flash racing through a ghostlike white cityscape is by far the most impressive and inventive and striking event seen in Earth-2 for some considerable time. Not just in terms of its visual flair, but in the sense of anticipation it strikes within the reader. Jay's search brings him to the figure of a hunched despairing Fury, it was she who opened the Box which triggered the prophesised end of the old world and the dawn of the new one, but clearly something is amiss as of the old world and its people there is no sign, nothing else exists but this unsettling ghostly place and its barely outlined sketched outlines of a city.
If the visual design impresses then series regular Bruno Redondo's abilities to present characters with believable emotion and depth is merely perfunctory at best. We are told that Fury is devastated by the outcome of her actions in opening the Box, we even see that she is distressed by it, and yet none of it moves the reader in the slightest. Redondo's work carries some of the blame for this, but the more fundamental truth is that he is illustrating a cast of characters who are all largely one-dimensional to begin with, after the never ending trauma's and unimaginable strife which these characters have endured in their short existence emotion of a believable kind has never been much in evidence. But looking at the presentation of this issue from a more favourable position we can take some comfort that Bruno Redondo is at least competent and the issue does not outright offend.
As we switch to elsewhere in this unearthly it is Power Girl and Red Tornado who are met by Hawkgirl next and some illumanation into what is occuring begins to present itself as Lois/Tornado hears a voice that is inaudible to her flesh and blood friends. Hope may yet exist.
But in the meantime recriminations begin and a tedious and wholly unfair turn against Fury serves to underline the significant problems Earth-2 has always had in regards to thin characterisation and even thinner logic. That Power Girl rails against the obviously distressed Fury might well be expected given their shared history as seen in Paul Levitz Worlds Finest series, and yes it would be in line with her character as we have seen it presented in World's End and the war against Apokolips that saw her beloved cousin die, among so many others, and yet does it follow that the more sensible mother hen figure of Lois Lane-Kent would agree wholly and join in, given that mere minutes/hours before the question and crisis at hand was in stopping the ruthless evil of The Ultra-Humanite claiming control over the Pandora Box and thereby recreating the world in his own image?
Such odd reactionary moments are part and parcel of superhero comics however. Amidst Bruno Rednodo's peculiar figurework (why is Lois Lane apparently hailing the heavens as she castigates Fury then hears the strange voice once again?) the design and concept of this limbo strikes out from the page once again as the gathered heroes are faced with the rather unsettling visual of menacing dark clad gas masked figures above them in the outlines of the 'buildings'. Earlier we had seen Power Girl assaulted by one such figure, and the clear implication is that this projection is based on Wes Dodds and his classic motif as Mystery-man Sandman. Intentionally eerie this apparition also hints perhaps at Dan Abnett's intentions for the series, for as Lois informs her friends this bareboned sketch of a place they are in has strong echoes of Metropolis as she remembers it. And in this revelation there is too the hint and hope that even if Earth-2 were to come to a close in the immediate future that Dan Abnett might at least leave the series in a position where it can be said to have the real potential to return and a setting that is a recognisable one by which these much abused and underdeveloped characters could once again prosper and begin to finally grow.
This may or may not happen. And perhaps it doesn't matter either way if it does come to pass that the Earth is restored and thereby genuine hope for the future. Yet for all of the severe problems and shortcomings of this series I have to commend Dan Abnett for his efforts, against considerable odds and with a wretched hopeless format he has managed to at least make the effort to try and regain some of the original appeal that this book had when it debuted four years ago. We aren't there yet, we may not get there, but I must credit his for his efforts and a brave plan to at least try and make the effort on what are otherwise some potentially wonderful characters who have barely had the surface of their potential scratched...
Here's wishing Dan Abnett success in the endeavor. As despite the considerable odds flowing against him the effort is both greatly admirable and warmly appreciated.
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