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Subj: Earth 2: Issue #12 Review
Posted: Thu May 09, 2013 at 05:29:09 pm EDT (Viewed 532 times)
In his regular Podcasts over on Comicvine Earth-2 writer James Robinson often regrets "mistakes" made in his run on the Justice League of America, which ended almost a couple of years ago now. What errors he regrets in the writing of that title he never specifies but he makes clear it informs his more considered approach to structuring Earth-2.
The Justice League run he apologises for was actually a very competent effort on his part, despite the creative restrictions that come with that book he delivered a lot of fine character work and took a chance on the unloved z-list characters of Mikhaal/Starman and Congorilla. Developing an unlikely friendship between the two.
As we enter the second year of Earth-2 that structure he used on his Justice League run is very relevant to the structure he is using to set up this new world and the steadily developing characters who will go on to form a Justice Society. Substitute Congorilla and Mik for Alan Scott and Jay Garrick, Substitute Hawkgirl for Donna Troy, and replace Jade with Doctor Fate - the character mechanics between the two books are much the same.
So from that unfairly maligned JLA run Robinson had a good template already in place for the implementation of this Earth-2 project. Are there therefore any substantial structural differences between the two books? Well I would say the chief difference is that JLA was about legacy, most of the membership in Robinsons run were the protege's of the original Leaguers and came with all of the baggage that implies.
Earth-2 is more of a new slate for Robinson on the face of it as everything and everyone is starting from day 1, but in a sense the new slate claim is misleading, this is still a book based on some very key characters who's history goes back the early days of World War II, therefore tradition will still influence this book and its characters in much the same way as it did his JLA run, with Dick Grayson, Jade, Supergirl, Jesse Quick etc all being as equally prisoners of their own publishing history and the expectations of both the writer and the readers...
Issue #12 out now is the finale to the introduction of Doctor Fate, young Khalid has accepted the offer of Egyptian master sorceror Nabu to become his modernday avatar, in a desire to maintain his individuality and control Khalid christens himself 'Doctor Fate' after his own Doctorate in archaeology. And off he goes with the Flash to face down evil sorceror Wotan and free the Flash's mom in the process. It's all fairly predictable stuff, we know who's going to win this and that a now proven & tested Doctor Fate will take his place in the world as its mystical protector. In comics we've seen Sorcerors duel many many times and it's a creative struggle to make such conflicts work on the page, magic isn't an easy element to present in action sequences and as Robinson himself noted in his Podcast it often is hard to see much difference between a sorceror who throws bolts of energy and a bog standard energy projector like Captain Atom who does the same for his living. To address this Robinson tries something quite interesting this issue with Fate, rather than fire off energy bolts we gradually see that Doctor Fate's style of attack is more subtle and reliant on manipulating the elements available. Much of his power is being sourced from the egyptian gods Nabu would have been familiar with, and as a result Doctor Fate isn't so much emitting power from himself as causing an effect to happen.
Wotan thinks he has the upper hand as he is the more skilled and experienced than the novice Khalid, but with Nabu advising and the quick intuition of Khalid himself Wotan is quickly despatched. Unlike the classic Doctor Fate/Nabu relationship this one looks like it might be a more equal partnership, with Khalid resistiing Nabu's every suggestion and only gradually learning to trust his guidance and wisdom. Khalids slight arrogance here is well done by Robinson, it's not something we're hit over the head with, and that willfulness makes him a good opponent/Partner to Nabu, who's own longterm agenda may or may not be as altruistic as Khalids own. As Khald well knows Magic often demands sacrifice, and by accepting Nabu's mantle he has likely sacrificed his own chances of a normal life and a free future. His trek into the shady world of Nabu has only just begun...
Elsewhere in China the Green Lantern and Hawkgirl are tracking down leads as to who caused the explosion that derailed the train back in issue #2 and along with everyone onboard killed Alans boyfriend, Sam. As Alan began to ask questions he learned that the target of the attack was actually Sam, though the why is what now propells Alan to ask Hawkgirl to join him and use her skills to find the answers. A lead sends them to a dockyard where they find a container full of very dead Parademons left over from the Apokolips war, as they puzzle over this find though Alan is overcome with the overpowering urge to return to America. The source of his power, the earths spirit, compels him to be its guardian and servant. And as we find out it is the clash between Fate and Wotan that he's been called for. So, abruptly leaving Hawkgirl on the Chinese pier with their find of dead Parademons off he goes!
I didn't care for this development as it was too forced and unnecessary, we see that Doctor Fate has Wotan well in hand and Alan's presence is utterly superflous to this events outcome. We must therefore assume either the Earth spirit is incredibly sensitive and that Alan will be called for every little thing, or It happens purely because Robinson wants Alan back in America for his next Storyline... but this isn't the only hurdle to credibility. As Fate despatched Wotan Alan, Fate and the Flash withdraw to his penthouse and plan their future. Is this then the official first step towards creating the Justice Society perhaps?
For the regular reader, like me, the difficulty with these pages is that it completely ignores just what Alan's character had been set up as by the end of the Grundy Arc in issue #5. He tells the Flash and Hawkgirl he has absolutely no interest in joining in with anything. He's a self made man who doesn't need anyone else getting under his feet. An arrogant attitude for sure, though we can possibly lay some of his abruptness on his still grieving over Sam's death. For me the problem with this character has always been that Robinson is trying to set him up as the replacement to Superman and be the traditional all-american ideal of the handsome hero, and on the other hand mining the idea that his inner drive is so great he is often grossly self absorbed to the point of high handed abruptness. Nontheless Alan is exactly the sort of man the nascent JSA here needs, a strong man who's force of will and organisational ability can direct these people and make them legitimate in the publics eyes. But his flaws jeapordise this role as as we have seen he can also be extremely difficult to work with. By contrast Hawkgirl suits the leadership role better as as we have seen she is smart, capable and popular with others. Unlike Alan she can handle people.
As they discuss their next move in Alans penthouse he is already planning on using his broadcasting company to spin the right image for them and sell these new 'wonders' to a world hungry for heroes, but this whole sequence runs in direct contrast to what he had been saying since the end of the Grundy attack. It isn't organic storytelling. Where is the scene showing us why Alan changed his mind on the whole buisiness of joining with these other costumed strangers...?
Despite that criticism I did enjoy this issue a great deal, the art is again from the superbly sharp Nicola & Trevor Scott, it's gorgeous to look at and the color Pete Pantazis & Barbara Ciardo is finely suited to it. Much credit to them for the impressive job in realising Doctor Fate's highly elaborate look, lighting the metallic elements with the correct shadings must have been a job in itself, never mind the pyrotechnics as he clashes with Wotan!
Fate's costume is reminiscent of Barry Allens, in that it is far too 'busy' for my liking. I like the addition of other gold metallic elements to his suit as it complements and rationalises the helmet, the downside to it is that on one of the first few pages there is a splash shot where he bears an unfortunate resemblance to Iron Man, repulsor gauntlets primed and ready! The starfield bodysuit is perhaps the wrong choice to go with the more armoured elements as the result visually is of a look fighting with itself for the viewers attention. Does our eye fix on the starfield suit or the Gold trimmings? It's very distracting.
Despite his high ambitions Wotan as it turns out doesn't measure up to even this novice Sorceror, on paper he has vastly more exeriance and skill than Khalid does with his five minutes in the Helmet of Nabu, so either this speaks of Nabu's sheer overhwleming power or Khalid is a mystical prodigy. Born to be Fate perhaps? Yes, Quite possibly.
The trivia bits: The opening pages show reportes Lee Travis, Lee Travis was the originaal Crimson Avenger and we saw a new one created under the pen of Geoff Johns, a supernatural executioner.
The first page this issue shows a shot of a magnificent townhouse which may or may not be a nod to the original jsa Brownstone(!)
Doctor Fate's look includes some very unsubtle egyptian style eye-markings, near identical to the ones on Hawkgirls helmet in fact. We saw a couple of issues ago their origins are somehow tied together, but the strength of the egyptian motifs on the two is very interesting to consider... Fate draws much of his power from the Egyptian Gods, is Hawkgirl similarly connected?
Lee Travis makes a passing mention to "The Living Thunderbolt", within the same sentence that includes the Apokolips invasion and its consequences. This seems to imply that the Thunderbolt was mixed up in these events, and we can surely guess who and what this living Thunderbolt might be yes...?
So, we leave the issue with the sight of what are effectively a bunch of near strangers who have decided to band together, and for little given reason I have to say. It's a poor lapse from Robinson but despite this the story works and events are quickening in pace all the time, various plotlines are beginning to come to life and Next issue looks to be picking up the Steppenwolf/Fury subplot as the New God declares War once more. Mixed in with this will be the debut of a new Batman... Things are definitly not going to quieten down one Earth-2 therefore!
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