"These Beings Are Incredible. They Are Taking On Everything We Have And Demolishing Us..."
ith only one more issue left to it it might appear to be a moot point discussing the progress Earth-2, come the next issue the story ends, and no one will mourn a series that has endured so much appalling mismanagement to deliver a good deal of mediocrity and bare faced profiteering at the expense of integrity.
But against this background I will defend the series, and once more commend Dan Abnett for making a fine effort with what he inherited, it should have been impossible to do, and yet his was a deft plotting strategy and a surprise chess-move or two that deserved better than this abrupt cancellation on the eve of his successful reposititioning of the Earth-2 universe to a state of recovering health - not since the first year of its introduction have we had an Earth-2 as fresh, open, and hopeful as the one now seen here.
Earth-2:Society #20 features the art of Vicente Cifuentes, and while it does the job of servicing the story and meeting the deadline I have to take this moment to praise his work on the opening page, a terrific point-of-view-shot taken from streetlevel and showing the startled reactions of the people going about their everyday business when the remarkable happens. With its army of Black-clad Sandmen swooping down the streets above them Vincente Cifuetes puts us right there in the moment, walking the sidewalk of a bright robust city that has one foot in the art-deco style of the nineteen-Thirties, and one foot in the modernday with its neon signage and overhead monorails. As a page it stands up to repeat viewing in and of itself, with a fine use of perspective allowing us to gaze down the street itself to background details such as floating airships and distant side-streets we could almost reach for. The following pages are pedestrian by contrast. Filled with meaningless spectacle of the Sandmen descending on their prey and several pages of punch-me-hit-you as the heroes fight in the streets against these endless waves of shadowmen...
It feels thuddingly mundane this 12-plus pages of fighting in the streets. Padding that should have been rethought given the short time Dan Abnett now has left to him to close up his curtailed storyline and end the series on a fitting note. And yet things do begin to rally as the issue reaches past its halfway mark, The Batman and Huntress observe events and Dick Grayson rallies his resources to take advantage of the chaos on the streets above to aim for the heart of the hidden evil that has begun to manifest itself on this new Earth, while above to prove his faith in their capabilities the long suffering heroes are not only battling on against these overwhelming and specially armed odds but through sheer grit and ferocity begin to make such an enormous push back that even the watching facist autocracy of the Ultra-Humanite begin to falter in their iron-willed resolve and conviction. And in this moment that is otherwise a defacto comicbook staple Dan Abnett shows something of the simple joy of Superheroes, here is a situation that is really revealing itself as being black and white, the heroes threaten the stability and iron grip of the Ultra-Humanite's autocratic rule, but what they actually represent is not so much a wild-card and uncontrollable element in his idealised world order, but the threat of democracy. Of differing views and the will to exert those beliefs. On some basic level Val-Zod was voicing this belief in the previous issue, one might wonder if he intuitively senses the fundamental wrongness of this new earth they found themselves on and so stepped forth to direct the heroes on further investigating this new society. Certainly though the brutality of the Sandmen as they swamp the city street in force is evidence enough that a taint exists in this otherwise pristine paradise of an earth, and Fury is reassuringly forceful about her views on where this new paradise will stand at the end of the day.
This book is not one with a future. For all of Dan Abnett's hard work and deserved praise in reinvigorating the book after what seemed like a burnt out exhausted prospect the damage done to Earth-2 was always extensive and ranged well beyond the confines of ts own fiction, the series is seen today as peripheral and played out, by both publisher and audience alike. Against that level of indifference and understandable antipathy there is nothing to be done that can reverse preconceptions enough to get back the 40'000 sales that this book was still of regularly attracting even after its first year of existence. Despite the bittersweet nature of it though I will still support this series and champion Dan Abnett's efforts, this is no quiet ignoble end the series draws closer to, instead Abnett will leave the tale on a suitable and deserved optimistic note and with the heroes-who-are-not-to=be-named-The-Justice-Society left fully deserving of that name no matter what the thoughts of DC Comics management might say on the matter...
A Superb opening page Courtesy of Vincente Cifuetes... the finest page of work I have seen this month!