Comics Review – Earth 2 Annual #1

Earth 2 Annual #1 – Secrets and Origins

(This review contains spoilers)

Expanding on the new 52 comics, Earth 2 should be praised for providing an action fueled story about the Atom – Captain Al Pratt. Revealed within the annual are the effects of invasion, war, and weapons on Earth 2, and a comment about post traumatic stress.

Since Earth 2 was attacked by the armies of distant Apokolips, which is detailed in the early issues of Earth 2 comic books and collected in Earth 2 volume 1, powerful, abandoned weapons have been swept up by an underground arms trade.

Men like Henry Roi – an arms dealer – are making a profit from these illicit sales.

That’s the Atom’s mission in the Earth 2 Annual – track down Henry Roi and stop him. But it’s not that simple. Al Pratt’s character receives thorough development in this large, annual Earth 2 comic book. We see his past, and it’s not bright: he lost his brothers – soldiers who fought by his side died in an atomic blast, which left him alive and alone. As a recruit for the World Army, a military law enforcement organisation protecting Earth 2,  Pratt continued to fight with his new super powers: He can grow to giant sizes, and produce explosive energy from his fists.

It’s clear he has post traumatic stress. The visual aspect of the comic conveys it. What confounds this clever character building, however, are panels cramped with long dialog as Pratt barely responds to questions from World Army psychiatrist (She’s not too good at her job, considering she fails to identify Al’s stress). These scenes cause a significant slow-down in the plot’s pace.

Sadly, Al Prat thinks of himself only as a weapon: the Atom says he is just “muscle and power”and that he does not need weapons because he is a weapon. It works for the mission, as he pursues Henry Roi over the rooftops of Phnom Pehn in Cambodia. Whether this self perception can last as he is asked to train young super heroes is another question.

Batman in the new 52 is Bruce Wayne. A new Batman has appeared on Earth 2, however, and it’s still a mystery who is behind the mask. The comic book has, right from the beginning of Earth 2 publication, has made it clear that there is no Bruce Wayne on this version of Earth. Bruce died fighting off the Apokolips armies. Considering he appears on the cover art, it’s strange that The Batman receives so little attention. This new Batman springs from the shadows, and the disappears again.

Smaller plot threads are also strengthen in the comic book. Captain Steel, referred to as “Heywood” appears, Mr. Miracle and Big Barda finally have a speaking scene together, and a new Justice Society character emerges – Brainwave is a gifted psychic and an unexpected addition to Earth 2.

The Art

After a promising beginning, with expansive jungles viewed from the air as an establishing shot, followed by flashbacks to Al Pratt’s past brought to life with solid colouring, panel arrangements become stacked too closely together. It’s claustrophobic, and not easy to read.

As mentioned, the visual aspects of the comic convey strong emotions, making good use of large panels devoted to close up shots. It is these panels that capture character facial expressions. They show Al Pratt’s trauma, The Batman’s frustration, and Captain Steel’s confidence. To make a point of the colours, the brief scene with Mr. Miracle and Big Barda is vibrant. Lettering for Al Pratt’s speech and internal dialog has good colour, font, and size.

A bit More on the Earth 2 Annual #1

The size might be intimidating, but the first Earth 2 Annual introduces more Justice Society characters, and provides some solid characters building. Fervent action scenes balance the sometimes cluttered conversations. Discovering the connection between the new Batman and the current Batman comic books would be great to read in future. This is a good set of stories which left a sense of excitement for the next issues of Earth 2.

The Earth 2 Annual #1 is published by DC comics. Writer: James Robinson. Pencillers: Cafu and Julius Gopez. Inkers: Cafu and Cam Smith. Colours: Pete Pantazis. Lettering: Carlos M. Mangual.

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