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Subj: Earth-2 #24 - The Resistance Grows.
Posted: Sun Jun 08, 2014 at 11:15:31 am EDT (Viewed 541 times)
We're supposed to be a team. You don't have to do it all alone." - Hawkgirl speaking to Alan Scott
Extraordinary to think that in a marketplace crowded with team-books Earth-2 and the yet to debut Justice Society remain a unique example of what traditional team-books were once all about - a team standing alone as a title Earth-2 features a group of the worlds greatest heroes forced to come together to face a threat no lone hero could ever hope to challenge. No mean spirited self-centred incompetents are these individuals, although new to their identities these "Wonders" of the still forming group are refreshingly inspirational and determined to fight the good fight. Think back on the vintage classic runs on books like The Avengers, the Teen Titans, and The X-Men in the 1970s and 80s and this is the spirit of which writer Tom Taylor has successfully captured in order to frame the essence of the legendary Justice Society. A process which is very much in sharp evidence with the latest issue just out...
With Earth being slowly devolved and subjugated by the Evil-Superman and his Apokoliptian lieutenants little remains to challenge their overwhelming numbers and momentum, a seemingly hopeless context by which the rise of the new generation of heroes is in the process of being set against. But with the resurrection of The Green Lantern the impetus to take action against the invasion moves from inertia and indecision over to proactive direct attack. With Evil-Superman taking leave of his lieutenants to take off with Lois Lane a chink in the inpenetrable defences of the invasion force is made unknowingly open, a gap which may prove the beginning of the fightback for earths forces thanks to Alan Scott and Kendra Saunders unilateral decision to make a rescue attempt on The Flash and possibly take down The Beguiler in the process.
What is immediately notable about this issue is that Nicola Scott takes a break and Eddy Barrows steps in. This offers a fine moment by which to stop and consider just how much Eddy Barrows' style of art and composition has evolved since he first made an impression on Nightwing and Superman several years ago, previously Barrows' style was all mostly clean lines and interesting angles, very exciting to look at and promising of a bright future ahead of him. Flip forward to today and Barrows is notable for being the man to go to for fill-in issues.
Whether that is indicative to a fall in status or a perceived decline in the quality of his work is difficult to make a judgment on, but while still a solid and capable artist it has been noticeable his is a style which has altered quite considerably over the years, not helped by some generally dark dull colouring finishing it off. The end result, as seen in recent Superman, is that his work lacks the polish that marked it out as something special, once a talent that looked to emulate the success of Ivan Reiss Eddy Barrows is now apparently reduced to third string and filler status, of unreached potential.
None of this is to say his work is bad, but what this issue of Earth-2 does suggest is that deadlines may have played some part in the relatively disappointing work of late. With this issue we see a rather different Eddy Barrows however. Straight away the page layouts are both imaginative and the choice of shots compelling and distinctive. As we open with a welcome appearance from a captive Jay Garrick we share some of his disorientation at his whereabouts and the sinister presence of The Beguiler. Being of Apokolips enjoys the pain and torture of others, and The Flash is proving a victim he is rather enjoying spending the time with. Despite torture and being bound helpless the optimism and fearlessness from Jay is almost absurd in context, introduced to us as a young slacker drifting through life Jay had the fortune to be gifted power by a dying god and in effect reinvent himself into a figure a world away from where life would have otherwise taken him. But courage comes from conviction, and being needed by others. So like Barry Allen Jay is both a little uncomplicated as a character and at the same time a very traditional Superhero who's worldview and philosophy come from a whole other era. A bygone age. But then as I say Earth-2 is a very traditional fable.
Whether Jay is a scientist still in this newly revised continuity is as yet unrevealed, but his questioning of Bequilers appearance and methods suggest a highly inquisitive and trained mind. What sounds like flippancy from him is actually perceptive commentary and quite possibly an astute observation on The Beguilers true nature, one that appears to hit a nerve with Beguiler before Bedlam conveniently interrupts.
Bedlam is reporting on the end events of last issue - as The Batman set off a self-destruct to destroy the Batcave and the invading Parademons. And as we cut to the scene we see a spectacularly rendered font of destructive power, as presented by Barrows and Colourist Pete Pantazis. Quite what the bomb was that Batman set off is unclear, it does not appear a nuclear effect so perhaps the original Batman installed some otherworldy contingency, as a concept this scene is problematic as it is inconceivable that Bruce Wayne would have installed something like a nuclear level bomb in the vicinity of Gotham. Although the City was ravaged in the first Apokolips War and rendered a wasteland it is still his city. Thomas Wayne might well do such a thing, but not Bruce.
Full credit to Eddy Barrows and Pete Pantazis for this sequence though, the sight of red skies and ash in the air is both awesome and awful to look on. There is a certain level of irony that in the midst of this Green lantern and Hawkgirl have survived whereas previously Alan was lost in a similar apocalyptic blast in the fall of Dherain several issues ago. This serves though to also underline just what an impossible beating Earth has sustained since the original War - entire cities across the globe have been wiped from the map. The death count is surely in the region of a billion by now. And yet there is a real sense that the worst is yet to come.
Alan Scott has a plan. One that involves scaring captive surviving Parademons into returning to base with a message. In a nice moment Tom Taylor borrows a famous line from Alan Moore's Watchmen and in the process uses it to show off Alan's passion and will. His concern at the moment is the whereabouts of the Flash, although as we will see his current mindset may be more to do with having a death wish than tactical thinking. While Alan's friendship with Jay is marginal at the moment it does him credit that he would seek to find his new friends and ensure their well being. The seeds were planted in the run-up to the invasion of Dherain, but it does appear that Alan Scott's vision is one of creating and protecting a fairer society by ensuring the vanguard of a new era of heroes is formed. Certainly he acts like a leader of men, but as we shall see he most certainly needs people around him to curb his single mindedness and the resultant lack of consideration his passion brings with it. Roles which Jay and Hawkgirl are ideal to fill.
Having evacuated the Batcave Batman, Jimmy Olsen, Doctor Fate and Val-Zod arrive on Amazonia, hidden from the world by the Olympian Gods this is the remaining safehouse of the World Army. With a dead Red Arrow recrimination can now begin as to who is responsible, and here Tom Taylor delivers some strong moments of character that dismiss any idea that Earth-2 is now nothing but a reworking of his Injustice:Gods Among Us. Ever consistent in his view of the world Batman blames Val for his pacifist indoctrination, here is a man with near Superman levels of power and he failed to act. It is an effective accusation to make and one that any version of Batman would make in this situation, and yet there would still be a cruelty about it, a failure in compassion. A watching Jimmy chooses to side with the victimised Val and confronts Thomas Wayne about his bluntness... it makes for a moment that on the surface is entirely admirable. And yet consider the context and it becomes rather ridiculous, a 13 year old boy is arguing simplistic morality with a grizzled 65 year old who has a skewed view of the world and human nature, while outside the world is perhaps days away from effectively ending, the World Army is gone, hope is fast fading, and yet here we have Jimmy Olsen lambasting Batman for giving the one man who might be key to giving them back an edge a hard time.
Lecture Thomas Wayne by all means, but please do lecture Val-Zod on the small matter of personal responsibility as well...
Back in Issue #19 we watched on as Evil-Superman launched the Washington Monument into the Whitehouse, the significance of this act was obstensibly a show of power to the world but as we catch up to Green Lantern and Hawkgirl following the escaping Parademons back to base we find them arriving outside the ruined Whitehouse. The skies are dark with thunderstorms, the area crowded with Parademons, the area palpably thick with death and decay, this then is the heart of darkness, and Alan senses it. It is a theme by which these New Gods have been subtly presented in the new DC Universe, we saw a similar inhuman motif used for Dessaad over in Worlds Finest, and of course what has been done to Superman reeks of blackness and pure evil. So contrasted against Alan's role as Champion of Life this takes on another dimension, something almost metaphysical is occurring, a literal battle between good and the blackest evil from beyond.
At this moment of decision the always professional Hawkgirl has objections to Alan's 'plan' - his is the direct approach of confrontating head on while Kendra goes inside amidst the distraction. Not a bad plan on the face of it but as she points out these Parademon hordes are no pushovers. No mere cannon fodder are these.
The approach to Alan Scott's character by Tom Taylor is both faithful to what came before but now layered with the melancholy and anger of his most recent resurrection, killed by Evil-Superman and Steppenwolf the realisation that he is now all but unkillable is a slave to his power as Earth's champion had a profound effect on him, one might almost think his despair at being barred from any chance of reuniting with his dead partner in the afterlife has left him with a death wish. Certainly recent events do appear to have left a marked impression on how he reacts to events unfolding and how he as Green Lantern should respond.
Still, the plan works, and Hawkgirl finds a bound Flash in the Oval Office! Why Beguiler chose here for his base we cannot know. But Green Lantern is having it all to do outside, as the Beguiler shows up he is overpowered by the Lantern and a returning Hawkgirl and Flash see that his mental state may indeed not be entirely rational in its thinking. He wants them to leave him here to finish the job, which is where Kendra fills the role of a brake on his ego and talks sense to him.
Hawkgirl's argument is noteworthy, the first admission in the book that this IS a team being formed, and a hint that Kendra is a firm believer in Karma, which is interesting given the implied connotations to her origins in Nabu's Egyptian tomb. But this is her turn to play general and lay out the more sensible plan to Alan, the three leave, but with the hordes of Apokolips in pursuit...
The rescue of The Flash is a welcome moment for longtime readers, and a sure sign that Tom Taylor is a capable plotter. Having introduced and establish an array of impressive new characters in his debut issues he is now able to return to the originals, showing an immediate understanding of the core that James Robinson devised while moving it onwards and outwards. Quite who the leader of this team will end up being is an open question as yet, so far Green Lantern is soundly in the running, Batman may be a candidate pending events, but Hawkgirl with her more rational thinking and greater awareness of all angles in a situation is the one who should end up with the role if anyone. While she lacks Alan Scott's forcefulness for the role she is liked by all and even Thomas Wayne respects her totally. She broadly has the casts trust.
There is a growing philosophical question in progress concerning Val-Zod - chiefly the question as to whether it is possible to contribute meaningfully to a crisis without resorting to any violence as a resolution?
Pacifism is a personal belief, often misconstrued as cowardice but often a product of upbringing. So far we know only fragments of Val-Zod's background but his parents were scientists who rebelled against using force to solve problems, he shares Kal-el's origin so the implication presented may be that this version of Krypton diverges from others with Jor & Lara-el cast in a more militaristic role while the Zod's played scientists. That would be an appropriate inversion for the Earth-2 concept to play with and perhaps explain why Kal-el proved susceptible to the call of Darkseid, but for now the orphaned Val finds himself thrown into a difficult situation that involves a crucial and fundamental examination of his role in this world and the debt he owes those around him. Surrounded by good people, inspirational people, Val now has the death of Red Arrow on his mind and has the awareness to know that he could conceivably have prevented that loss from occuring. A realisation Jimmy Olsen now finds him wrestling with in another fine example of Eddy Barrows ability to both lay out a page and show the characters internal emotional struggle playing out over it.
Jimmy Olsen's role in this book is as annoying kid and I.T. know-all, with a photographic memory and a near genius level capacity to glean information from online and local sources he is the Wesley Crusher of the new DC Universe. A 13 year old Brainiac with a deeply unpleasant-to-watch high opinion of himself. And now he is playing counsel to the considerable weight on Val-Zod's mind... no doubt as with Batman he means well by this attempt at intercession and support, but coming from someone who is but 13 years old the effect is something altogether unintended - what advice really can any 13 year old give to something he has almost no experience or capacity to fully judge in the first place?!
Jimmy wants to know what Val is actually wearing beneath his torn pullover, badly beaten by Evil-Superman Val was saved from a further beating by Lois' arrival, but his clothes torn Jimmy is now insatiably curious about the suit underneath. And eventually coaxes Val to reveal his secret - He wears the Superman crest. (To Be Continued...)
Seriously, I was thinking about being your Robin, but for that to happen you and I are going to have to have a serious talk about your attitude." - Jimmy Olsen
Is Jimmy Olsen destined to be the new Robin of Earth-2? It's a strangely logical proposition if one considers Jimmy Olsen's history. Back in the Silver-age he was Superman's Pal, the Flamebird to his Nightwing, and Earth-2 is all about exploring alternate paths and challenging assumptions. There is no evidence that this Jimmy Olsen was ever Superman's Pal, nor that they even met. So if fate had played a different hand is it so hard to imagine a sequence of events where instead of the Daily Planet Jimmy Olsen ends up in the orbit of Gotham City and a chance encounter that brings him to the attention of Batman?
This is the area which DC's famous 'Imaginary stories' used to play with back in the Silver-age, but with Earth-2 throwaway notions can be treated as serious possibilities and explored in a meaningful way. On the face of it Thomas Wayne is a dangerously unstable man, having spent much of his adult life in one drug induced stupor or another, being thought dead, colluding with the underworld, he rightly ends up at the terminus of absolute abandonment by those around him, left to loneliness. An unfit father he is left with nothing but regret now that Bruce is gone... but could he have done better than he did? Would he if he was given the chance?
Jimmy Olsen presents a potentially intriguing personal challenge for him, if he chose to develop a relationship with the precocious Olsen and give him a much needed authoritorial father figure the experience might lead to some sense of atonement over his disastrous care of Bruce Wayne, some sense of personal peace at last and a much more stable course charted in his dedication to carry on the name of the Batman.
The essence of Earth-2 and its heroes has always been markedly different to its Earth-1 counterpart as here the tone is more optimistic and traditional. Where Heroes are heroes. It may be a combination of this old fashioned approach to a team book and the fact it is a stand-alone book that has made this revival an instant success. Tom Taylor's love of this very genre shines through in his approach to the dire situation the team are finding themselves plunged into, and even when all sense indicates there should be friction between the cast he instead downplays the personal differences to instead show a positive air of mutual understanding and respect. This as a result is the markings of a very professional team of individuals, and as I noted at the beginning of this write-up Earth-2 is a book that is very reminiscent of how team books and their characterisation used to be done... and done extremely well.
Eddy Barrows' contribution this issue was excellent. The moon on Amazonia island is used to eerie effect, with Batman played against it, while Val-Zod stands with out with the Sun - some parallels in the DCU never change. Elsewhere the darkness surrounding the White House is both symbolic and physical, that Green Lantern Quite unusually I found Nicola Scott's absence did not detract at all from my pleasure with the book, which is fine testament to Eddy Barrow's capable work. If Nicola never comes back then Eddy >is the man for the job.
Overall, a terrific issue. It puts most other team books on the market to shame.
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