Eight issues in and whereas last issue was a dense tale of intrigue and counter-espionage focused largely on the test of wills between Commander Khan and the mercurial Terry Sloan this months issue moves to a spotlight exclusively on just two characters, the otherworldly warlord called Steppenwolf and his disciple Fury.
Steppenwolf is the mastermind behind Apokolips' invasion of Earth 2 and was defeated by the sacrifice of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman - indeed Steppenwolf himself murdered Wonder Woman in person.
With the collapse and demise of his forces and the victory of Earth Steppenwolf dissapeared into hiding those five years ago, much like Terry Sloan, further mirroring Sloan Steppenwolf now steps out from his seclusion to begin a campaign for power. Under the pretense of taking refuge there he intends to take control over the small nation of Dherain, a remarkably futuristic place that perhaps gained it's advanced technology from their aiding the Apokoliptians during the War. Now a pariah state Dherain nontheless is protected by international law thanks to some clever chessmoves from its ruler King Marov.
Bereft of Boom Tube technology Steppenwolf is stranded on this world and the most wanted man alive. Steppenwolf has apparently arrived to take advantage of the Kings sympathetic views of Apokolips' inhabitants and the diplomatic immunity Dherain affords. But as we see outside the Kings Palace he hasn't come alone after all...
Steppenwolf is (rightly) under no illusions that Marov's intentions are to rob him of whatever technology and secrets he has left and to turn him over to the World Council, a fact he calmly states to the King, he has brought with him his protege - a girl he has trained and who hails from the finest warrior race on earth. And she is none other than Wonder Woman's daughter!!
The King admires the Poetry of it all while Steppenwolf rejects such romantic adeas, "there is no poetry in war" as he puts it... with the pretense now over and the Amazon calles Fury outside dealing with his guerd Marov steps forward to play the Warlords hand. A battlesuit forms around him and we learn that this and his troops weapons & suits are derived from Apokolips technology, particularly the Parademons personal gear. But as Steppenwolf and Fury quickly make short work of Marov and his troops the point is made clear that these are tools only impressive to mortal man, not the superman that is Steppenwolf.
With victory his Steppenwolf sits on the King throne and plots. The world will be coming for him. He must prepare...
So. Summing it up Issue #8 is a interval issue, reintroducing Steppenwolf and his ruthless disciple Fury. It's clearly a story that exists to fuel upcoming plotlines, another brick in the wall of Robinson's so far succesful worldbuilding excercise. So in that sense it's worthwhile.
But did it entertain?
No. Not really. The fundamental problem is that the plot is slight and the characters by their nature are just not very interesting. This is the sort of 'story' usually told as an issues subplot and in cutaways while the main plot of an issue unfolds. And if this had been the route taken, say have five pages scattered through last issue, then it would have had real impact, the parallels between Steppenwolf and Terry Sloan are so acute it's amazing James Robinson lets them go unremarked... so it would have made a nice split story if this issue was told simultaneously with last issues, as there really is only four or five pages of actual plot to be read here.
Steppenwolf has had good service so far in Earth-2 and is a worthy choice for a major villain revival as despite being an uncle to Darkseid he was a New God rarely ever seen. It's probobly fair to say even Doctor Bedlam made more appearances than Steppenwolf over the years so despite his still being a one-dimensional comicbook warlord he's ironically the most interesting character here, relatively speaking. As Robinson himself put it - a one man army with the tactical genius of an Erwin Rommel.
The other character of note is of course Fury, introduced as Wonder Woman's hitherto unknown daughter. This is familiar ground to those with a knowledge of the history of the original Earth 2 and it's Wonder Woman, but even if unfamiliar with that old history and Lyta Trevor's place within it I think this reveal will still feel a little unimpressive and anti-climatic. Apart from the reveal of her parentage Fury doesn't get to do or say much aside from inflicting carnage on Dherainian troops, in fact she doesn't have any character really, she's just Steppenwolf's attack dog. Killing with wild abandon and being rather dull to look at. In term of looks the design of her is unmemorable and rather bland, physically she is the spitting image of her mother. Clad in a vaguely fetishistic get-up and sporting an electrowhip she is reminiscent of Lashina - one of the Female Fury's used by Darkseid. It's a very unambitious take for Wonder Woman's daughter and I would have liked to see a more distinctive and traditional look for her rather than a xerox of Diana or Donna Troy. A different appearance and a costume more based on recognisable Amazon armour seen over the years, but it may be she isn't even aware she's an Amazon, whatever Steppenwolf has taught her and for how long she has no hesitation whatsoever in following his every order and killing whatever objective is set in front of her. The liklihood is that she will eventually be turned from his influence but she is unlikely to ever be what her mother was. And yet as a 'badgirl' she's utterly generic and cliche, It's a trend that has been done to death by now and holds little attraction.
Obviously how Steppenwolf got ahold of her and how long he's had her are the interesting questions, as is her precise parentage, being raven haired I wonder if Steve Trevor as father is now out of the question, perhaps James Robinson will go in an unexpected direction and tout Batman as her actual father... hmm.
All in all a very average read at best, low on substance and while not at all a terrible read it's not a patch on the quality of last issue. I am growing concerned at the highly variable quality of this title, I would speculate my dissatisfaction may be rooted in Robinson trying to set up too much at once in the wider world of Earth-2 when what he should be doing is focusing on the still raw core character of the Flash, Green Lantern and Hawkgirl and letting this world unfold to us through their eyes and experiences, they are our anchor and reference points in this familiar but strange world. The art this issue is again by guest Ylindaray Cinar and while servicable it does shift a bit in quality, some pages are too heavy on shading (notable with Fury) and the layout is not as engaging as it should be given this is an action issue. I'm rather thankful he IS just passing through and that next issue Nicola Scott returns.
Ah well, next issue: Doctor Fate!
"Believe me Fury, shaping peoples minds is a skill I've long mastered." - Steppenwolf
You can listen to James Robinson discuss this Issue on the Comicvine Podcast!
Reading your review makes me wonder if Fury may actually be Wonder Woman (or maybe a clone)brought back in whatever manner Darkseid used to return dead servants and foes in the old days.Yeah I know about the no duplication rule but I think the big three WILL show up again.