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Subj: Earth-2 #0 Review - Terry Sloan: Hero or Villain?
Posted: Thu Sep 06, 2012 at 06:46:09 pm CDT (Viewed 714 times)
Out now the 'Zero' issue of James Robinsons Earth-2 book flashes back to the days of the The Ternion (that's 'Trinity' to me and you) of Wonder Woman, Batman & Superman. Oh, and Terry Sloan too.
Terry is one of the original eight heroes that included the Ternion above as well as Catwoman, Supergirl and Robin, clad in crimson nondescript battlegear he takes the (bizzare) codename of 'Mr 8' as he is the eighth and final of the heroes. Well, okay whatever.
So despite what the cover suggests this issue is actually "the story of Terry Sloan" - the smartest man on earth.
We know him historically as an obscure hero, created in the 1940s and coming to a renaissance in the mid to late 1990s with the creation of a new Mister Terrific who honored Terry's legacy and was instantly embraced by readers. Confession: Terry Sloane (now renamed as Sloan, no 'e') has always been a personal favorite of mine since I read a Wonder Woman story that had him and the JSA in it, I don't think he had that much to do in it but something about this masked acrobat left an impression on me. The 1999 revival of the JSA brought Terry an all new audience and, thanks to excellent writing, an additional layer of credibility due to the strong emphasis on his tactical genius and ability to analyse any situation for the solution.
Other reviewers will note the near identical comparisons to Ozymandias in 'Watchmen' but In fact for this modern reinvention of his story I would soundly argue Robinson appears instead to take his inspiration from the 1942 origin of the Mister Terrific character where he is presented as not only knowingly intellectually superior to everyone around him but very near to becoming evil due to his innate feeling of superiority and dispassion for the world around him. This was a man tired of life. Instead of becoming Mister Terrific he might well have become Doctor Doom, he was that close to the moral edge.
Robinson sets his tale in the days of the Apokolips war, where the heroes are fighting against an unstoppable invasion and Sloans technology, tactics and strategies are perhaps the only reason they are able to even stand their ground against the invaders. But right from the start of the tale we see that due to the growing pressures of the war Sloan has come to a dispassionate realisation that their approach to problems has been far too limited and humanitarian. In his quest to find a way to get access to Apokolips he has somehow gained a limited access to the Multiverse and what he glimpses convinces him he has now seen earths future. With Steppenwolf having several countries under complete control thanks to use of an Anti-life equation he has a near limitless slave labor at his disposal as well as their lives as hostage and protection against the allies.
Considering all of this Sloan has therefore decided the expedient and logical thing to do is to remove these countries from the equation, these populaces cannot be saved so destroy them and shift the balance of power back into Earths hands. It's a monstrous decision but he has to do it. As written Sloans rationalisation makes some sense, in a war extreme measures are often necessary, World War II has a number of morally questionable actions from the Allies for example - particularly the firebombing of Dresden, shift this to a War against an unstoppable alien agressor like Apokolips and the scales of such decisions are going to be that much higher. However in real terms what Sloan sets about actioning is a full scale international genocide of probobly billions of helpless people. This then is the story of how Terry Sloan in following his convictions and doing 'the right thing' became the worlds greatest villain. It is a role he accepts by the stories end under the conviction he did what had to be done.
All in all it was a good issue. It's unfortunate this months Zero issues interrupted the flow of Robinson's ongoing arc at this critical moment but he uses it well to add more to the War and what Sloans terrible contribution to it was. I think the moral questions driving it were well set up, leaving it to the reader to interperet the rights and wrongs and ensuring Terry Sloan is definitly going to prove a dangerous major player in the book going forward. What his relationship to the forming JSA will be is something I'm keenly looking forward to finding out as while appalling in his logic and justifications he isn't an out and out villain. James Robinson is weaving an ever richer world together and we learn the the firepits seen in what was once Italy in issue #1 are not some Apokoliptian travesty but are a result of Sloan's actions this issue. He destroys Italy along with South Africa, Pakistan and Brazil. The effect leaves an image reminiscent of Apokolips' four firepits. It's an emotive parallel.
Sloan betrays the respect and trust of his allies in doing this but his genius is so acute they are powerless to either stop or apprehend him. Despite this he does not consider them enemies, having rationalised his actions to such a degree he accepts his role as perceived villain without ever being able to realise that's actually what he is. It's proving to be an effective and ambiguous angle to approach this character from - he considers himself earths protector, and hang the rest.
While he fits their role on Earth 2 he's not quite Luthor and neither is he Doctor Doom, his logic is too cold, dispassionate and clinical to be equated with those two and it makes him seem more dangerous than either. Always the man with an answer. The rationalist. We're left with a hauntingly evocative final page (below) which sums up Sloan's utter self conviction and the fierce self justification that goes into supporting his actions.
There's also now an unmentioned but interesting parallel to him as while Steppenwolf was probobly his archrival and opposite in the war both are now major war criminals and in hiding from the authorities. While there is little question of them ever teaming up it does raise a question as to whether the two will clash, is Sloan even looking for Steppenwolf I wonder...?
Like the other Zero issues I've read this month Earth-2 fills in some important backstory, I can see a trend developing for the 'Ternion' to appear on a semi-regular basis like this, clearly there are a lot of stories left to be told about them and it would benefit the JSA greatly if the inspiration they left behind was expanded on more. Hopefully we'll see more of a sense of legacy evolving from this.
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