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Subj: Earth-2 #20 - A New Generation...
Posted: Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 10:07:54 pm EST (Viewed 624 times)
Heavy with symbolism and memes Tom Taylor's latest installment of Earth-2 includes yet more clear signals that something momentous is on the horizon for this increasingly battered world.
As yet more of its institutions and populace is obliterated by the Evil Superman and his Parademon hordes the book appears, on the surface, to be emulating Taylor's other similar indulgence in cheap shlock - Injustice:Gods among Us. Earth-2 however has some very laudable differences to that nihilistic look at Superheroes and their morality, as despite the heavy carnage and superficial thrills of Evil-Superman tearing up the sets this book still has one eye on the future, a future that is not concerned with global destruction and endless war.
Tom Taylor is joined for this issue by guest artistic team Barry Kitson & Robson Rocha, and at first I didn't notice Nicola Scott's absence, until some strange panels and page layouts beginning on page 6 by Kitson, and the shift in layouts with page 14 as Rocha takes over for the remainder of the book. The results are fine overall, but pages do jar with the other on occasion.
Opening up from last issue we follow Hawkgirl in the air carrying Batman, Major Sato and Val, the newly found Kryptonian youth they 'rescued' from Arkham Bunker. With a horde of pursuing Parademons closing in things look bleak as Hawkgirl can't gain enough speed due to her load, alarmingly Batman says he can't hold on to Sato any longer and the immediate thought is that he is preparing to sacrifice her, until you remember that he gains much of his strength from Miraclo, which has just expired obviously. They are headed for "the cave", which again is puzzling for a moment until you realise this must be the Batcave... but how does Hawkgirl even know of this cave, never mind where it is? More on this in a moment. For it is time for 'Aquawoman' to save the day by breaking free and in an extraordinarily rendered sequence she uses her water manipulation to use the moisture of the clouds to smash the pursuing Hordes to the ground in a massive controlled deluge, Batman of course deduced what she was doing before anyone else, which is something you would expect Bruce Wayne to do but not Thomas. Again we'll return to this point.
If there is one single aspect of Earth-2 which Tom Tyler is to be congratulated on it is his creation of some very interesting and appealing new characters for the group - 'Aquawoman' isn't yet her official name, she is Marella, an Atlantean monarch who has allied herself with these very cooperative strangers to escape the Bunker that imprisoned them. With a striking visual flair and uncompromising fearlessness she joins Lois Lane as the Red Tornado as a welcome addition to the book. But again it does seem odd that this bunch would gel so quickly and there barely be a single character conflict between them. The closest we get is Jimmy Olsen needling Lois a little later, but even Batman is joined with the spirit of it and acts like these are just old friends he is adventuring with. Still, on the other hand it does make a nice change to have a DC superhero team who can actually get along and act in a mature adult fashion. Tom Taylor's writing style is one that is full of terrific and ingenious ideas, his Earth-2 is one that follows the concept of a new era of Superpowered 'wonders' started by James Robinson but goes about it in a much faster and more deliberate way. You can tell he loves writing for Superheroes. He is also determined to put his stamp on the book, as he has deliberately distanced it from James Robinson's vision and set about an overhaul of the make-up and landscape of the book, but his significant flaw in his efforts to impress his own agenda is that in plotting terms his stories are increasingly full of rather large holes. But again, more on this later.
With the Parademons drowned and swept to their doom the group land and take stock, and Aquawoman abruptly announces her departure, time to return to her people. An odd decision given she indicated last issue they were all dead. But despite the situation and Batman's protestations she feels she must return to the Sea and rediscover her people. While Batman, Sato and Hawkgirl proceed to the Cave - the Batcave. Where they find Doctor Fate and Red Arrow waiting for them. Apparently Kendra pulled them out of the firezone earlier...
So let us consider this detail, as it is rather atypical of the flaws in Taylor's plotting - Before she dropped out of the sky for a pre-arranged rescue last issue we last saw Hawkgirl in issue #15, where she was chasing leads on the murder of Alan Scott's partner and was taken prisoner by Hazard & Melody while following a possible lead in Morroco. That subplot joins several others left open by James Robinson that Taylor not just abandoned but ignored, that very issue ended with the Pre-Lois Red Tornado confronting the warring Mr Miracle, Barda, and Fury in the ruins of Gotham for example. No sign at all of what happened next as like so many things Taylor apparently wants us to pretend it didn't happen and move on. But why should we?
This issue we are shown that Hawkgirl is safe and well and has been working with Batman, she knows about the Cave, but how? Why? Why should Batman show her one of his greatest secrets?
Earlier I talked out the impossibility of Superman and his two accomplices being here on earth, how could they be when Steppenwolf makes repeatedly clear he has had no contact with Apokolips since the original Batman destroyed the tower transport network back in issue #1 five years ago? But the lapses in logic continue in Taylor's plotting with Evil-Superman and his accomplices opening gates (to Apokolips?) which were hidden(?) in the firepits dotting earths surface, and unleashing the Parademon armies.
Where did these gates come from? How? Who built them? Are they connecting direct to Apokolips? What about Captain Steel's discovery of 'The Red Lantern' inside the Rio firepit in Issue #13? Are we meant to not question such trivialities...? The book is only a mere 20 issues old after all.
At the moment, as a Reader, this is an enjoyable book under Taylor's reign. But so far it has also been rather superficial in a sense, as unlike James Robinson the plot and direction doesn't feel as if it has been thought out. Robinson plotted longterm, planting seeds for future events constantly, while Taylor seems much like Scott Lobdell in many ways, a writer who writes at great speed and with only his instinct guiding him. Not much thought or planning goes into a particular issue. For the most part it works, but as I note with continual dismay the results in Taylor's case don't manage to cover over the lapses of basic logic within his plots. Batman is another example of this unevenness, admittedly there is a missing gap in his past five year history we know nothing about, so perhaps he did undertake some training, and obviously he did find the Cave beneath Wayne Manor and all of its secret and no doubt extensive files left by Bruce Wayne, but when you read this new Batman the impression being given isn't of an ex-thug and lowlife ekeing an existence in the poverty of Crime Alley as Thomas Wayne was, this instead is a highly professional hero and gifted with a brilliant mind in the same way Bruce Wayne had. And this logic doesn't quite square with what we know of Thomas Wayne.
Nontheless, back in the Batcave Lois is waiting for them too, the young Kryptonian Val immediately take Batman's attention as he crouches in terror. Not ill as some suggest but as he realises the lad is Agoraphobic. Terrified of the outdoors Lois carried him through on their way here. He is used to tight spaces, and as Lois' humanity belies her android shell she shows her understanding and compassion well as she comforts the paniced Val.
In this new and still fluid line-up for Earth-2 Lois Lane's role is becoming clear, despite her extraordinary circumstances and the fact that her 'death' is a subject she seems oddly disconnected from, she is still in essence thinking herself a human being. She talks rationally and calmly, she has her full personality and knowledge to call on, and perhaps it was life as Superman's wife that made all of this easier for her to accept. She is in many way the most experienced person in the Cave, having lived her life with the worlds greatest Superhero there is little that surprises her and of which she is unprepared for. So with an unusual problem like Val she is, as she proves, the best person to help the lad deal with his fear and the fact he is not what he appears to be. Without a doubt her reporters empathy and instincts are a part of this strength she has, as she calms Val she is able to coax some details of how he came to earth, he hasn't been here long as it happens and he believes he was one of four to escape the end of Krypton.
What might seem odd is that he claims he grew up in the capsule that sent him to earth, but if you recall this is the same way Supergirl travelled too. An agoraphobic Kryptonian youth... with the world outside facing Armageddon. Batman is not pleased.
Elsewhere over a smoldering city Evil-Superman addresses his Parademons and orders the destruction of all temples of worship - Mosques, Churches, all of them. The only true God is Darkseid.
In the four pages this soulless Cadaver once more rants and tears at the scenery one might ask for some explanation as to why this is happening, What motivates all of this carnage?
Back in the Batcave we gain a somewhat reassuring opinion from Lois as she chats with Val, Tom Taylor's understanding of Lois is spot on as we get to hear what keeps her going and where she draws strength from. She is clearly building Val's confidence yes, but also recognises much of the same traits within him that Superman himself had. Quite how much Val knows about Superman is questionable given his sheltered existence and short time on earth, but while he questions his actions outside Lois sets him straight, she knows that isn't her husband. Even if tortured he would never break, certainly not like this.
So as she leads Val to the open door to the cave and helps to confront his fear we come to an acceptance of two things - that 'Superman' is not the one attacking earth, and that this new 'Superman' called Val is now the responsibility and protÃ©gÃ© of Mrs. Lois Lane-Kent.
A neat example of the way legacies are being used to great effect on Earth-2. Along with The Huntress and Power Girl the legends live on.
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