Comics Review – Earth 2 #14

Earth 2 #14: Battle Cry

(Some minor poilers for Earth 2 #14 follow)

The heroes from Earth 2 are taking the fight to Steppenwolf – the villain behind the catastrophic, worldwide attack that saw the death of Earth 2 Batman, Earth 2 Superman, and Earth 2 Wonder Woman. The comic book steps up it’s pace, and has remarkable and high-profile artwork

The comic book characters found on Earth 2 were created under the shade of World War two. Comics writer Gardner Fox conceived of the Justice Society in the winter of 1940, after the war in Europe began. In that year, the war in Europe began, and comic books mirrored the changes in society around them.

Art

Two full page artworks feature some of the best artwork on Earth 2 so far, and point out just how different the World Army is from Alan Scott’s fledgeling society.

The Society – The Green Lantern, Doctor Fate, and The Flash – fly across a field of long, green grass. They are on their way to fight against Steppenwolf. Energy and air displaced by The Flash’s high speed running creates a blur effect, and a negative space in the artwork as the grass is brushed aside, which draws the reader’s eye around the page. Colours here are ecstatic and varied: midnight blue, viridian, crimson, gold, sky blue. Combined with the penciling, it’s a startling image.

The World Army group – The Sandmen, Red Arrow, and the Atom – decimate the field. Steppenwolf’s army and the grass they stand on, burn down to brown kindling, ash and charcoal. Thunderclouds fill the sky, and the Atom’s giant-sized fists glow orange. Red, Orange, and Yellow are traditionally warning colours, and they are on display here. Since many of these character designs were drafted over a year ago, seeing them matched together now indicates good long term planning. The abundance of black further underscores the stealth of the characters, and their dark prowess.

Panels two and three of the second last page are significant. The comic art follows the actions to the second, as we see Wesley Dodds – The Sandman – with his gun raised. The following panel has the gun lowered, removed from the panel. As the eye moves across the page, the effect of time passing, of seconds ticking by, conveys the power of the moment: Dodds is not going to attack Allan and his allies.

Cast

Wesley Dodds leads a group of spies known as the Sandmen. This is based on the 1940’s character “The Sandman”, who’s signature crime fighting style was anaesthetic gas, which he used to render criminals unconscious – the sandman sending miscreants to the land of dreams.

Earth 2 sees Dodds reinterpreted as more stand-offish, and with a desire to lead.

Alan Scott – Green Lantern – notices that Dodds has established himself as the leader of a group that dresses like him, and looks up to him for orders and direction. Indeed, the other heroes of the world army – Red Arrow and The Atom – ask Dodds for approval before acting.

Scott chooses to defer to Dodd’s leadership. This diplomatic move serves well, as Dodds lowers his weapon, and seems to  accept that Doctor Fate, The Flash, and The Green Lantern are on the side of the World Army.

What this says about Alan Scott’s character is he has an ability to appraise a situation, and his pick up on others desires and wants. The outcome of the war could conclude with the return of the Justice Society to DC Comics. Alan Scott would make an ideal leader.

Themes, Ethics, Values.

Issue #14 of earth 2 marks the beginning of the war that defines the Justice Society of Earth 2 – The fight against Steppenwolf. There are themes of propaganda, and of the costs of war, in addition to some ideas on cooperation.

Commander Amar Khan of the World Army, who makes a brief appearance, states that he was reluctant to take the war to Steppenwolf. Doctor Fate comments on the costs of war, but seems eager to head directly to Steppenwolf to start the fight.

Green Lantern and his allies started the comic on the run from the world army – he comments that if they fight Steppenwolf, his broadcasting corporation – a worldwide media force – can spin and publisise their war effort positively.

Propaganda and war costs are touched on, briefly but no elaborated. It’s the comic’s artwork that holds more meaning: the contrast in tone between the Justice Society and the World army is a comment about the values of acting openly and with transparency, versus stealthy and secretive tactics.

Transparency is a positive and empowering. Secrecy is negative, dark, and subversive: standing in the way of cooperation.

 A Bit more on Earth 2 #14

Where is Hawkgirl? While the diversity of the cast has gone through re-drafting and overhaul after a bout of long term planning from DC comics, the heroes on the battlefield are white, male characters. Granted their age, sexuality, and psychology has diversified, but there are still no women here. It’s like the message is that female heroes can’t fight wars.

This is the start of a war that will define Earth 2 – more characters are on the way to lend their support. It promises to be a story worth reading again in a trade paper back format.

Earth 2 #14 is published by DC Comics ($2.99). James Robinson (w). Nicola Scott (p). Trevor Scott (i). Pete Pantazis (c).

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.

Comics Review – Earth 2 #11

Earth 2 #11

A common science fiction question is asking what if? What if alternate and parallel universes could exist, which spiraled out of decisions we could have made differently?

  In one of these parallel places is an Earth different to our own. That’s the premise of Earth 2 A world where the superheroes of the DC universe are different people with familiar code names. The audience is reminded again that we are reading a story about multiple Earths by the villain Steppenwolf. He’s looking for an escaped prisoner on Earth 2. But more on that later.

Last issue, another villain named Wotan talked too much. This time, he talks less, but Wotan’s origin story blockades the start of the issue, which slows the narrative pace to halt. Fortunately, Nicola Scott’s art is impressive for these scenes

James Robinson shows us that that Wotan is driven by a desire for power – he wants to be everyone’s boss, and take orders from no one.

Two heroes, The Flash and Khalid, were on a quest inside the Tower of Fate in the previous issue.

Inside the tower, The Flash looks impressive as he holds back a giant red demon, which allows his new friend Khalid to find the legendary Helmet of Nabu. After donning the helmet, he transforms into Dr.Fate, who arrives, in a spectacular light show, with gold and blue runes made of sparking magic floating around him as he levitates in mid air.

Khalid was scared to wear the helmet.

He feared the incredible power he would gain by becoming Dr. Fate. The Flash inspires him to face his fear with a show of bravery. I re-read these scenes carefully, and the decisions made by the characters make sense, and a little inspiring to read.

The Art of Earth 2 #11

Nicola Scott’s monsters look fearsome. She draws several of them here: a giant stone Sphinx – the Sphinx in fact, back when it was newly constructed – springs to life and attacks Wotan in ancient Egypt (the origin story). A giant red demon fights The Flash, and the page is skilfully painted with scarlet blurs of the hero and the beast fighting at high speed. Trevor Scott’s inking efforts are effective. He gives the beast weight and size with heavy black ink.

Colourists Alex Sinclair and Pete Pantazis deliver shining gold, since Dr.Fate is fond of wearing gold armor. As the hero makes his appearance, his armor shines, and the black of his costume is the same shade of blue as the night sky. It’s even peppered with specks of starlight.

Setting and physical places are becoming essential to the Earth 2 comic.

The Heroes are dwarfed by giant, stone chess pieces as they walk across black and white tiles the width of houses.

We also see Gotham city on Earth 2. It is a ruin, and the city streets are chaos as a giant blue ape fights a giant, red lobster. A thunderstorm rages behind them.

The makes a point of communicating character development. As Khalid faces his fear and becomes Dr.Fate, he shines a bright light on the red Demon. it becomes indistinct, blurred, and faded. The sharp inks and pencils that define it are washed out. The bright red colour fades. By accepting his role as Dr. Fate, Khalid has literally overcome his demons.

A bit more on Earth 2 #11.

If it wasn’t for Jay Garrick showing him support, and leading by example, Dr.Fate would not have appeared.

This comic is about a super hero team called the Justice Society. They are a team with a strong set of values. For example, leading by example, and doing your best to support people who need a hand. It’s not just about attacking criminals. The Flash definitely embodies these values in this comic.

About that escaped prisoner – This is a *Spoiler Alert*

Steppenwolf arrogantly declares he will capture the greatest escape artist in the DC universe, both old and new. He want’s fury to catch Scott Free: Mister Miracle. This character makes his first appearance in the new DC universe. He and Big Barda don’t have any dialog, but it’s great to see them back.

Earth 2 #11 is published by DC Comics

Comics Review – Earth 2 #10.

If not for some solid art, and the scenes of Alan Scott picking through awkward social hoops – meeting Mr. Zhao, the father of his deceased and sadly missed boyfriend Sam Zhao – and waging an emotion fueled assault on what resembles a Yakuza casino, James Robinson’s and Nicola Scott’s Earth 2 would have been a dialog-heavy let down and a drudge to read. This comic is thankfully bringing the world of Earth #2 back to a high standard of storytelling.

Earth 2 #10

Wotan is a new villain, who establishes a sense of villainy by threatening the mother of super fast super hero The FlashJay Garrick. Jay does not ordinarily fight crime with his mother. Mrs. Garrick was abducted by Wotan. She is a hostage. Wotan’s goal is to coerce Jay and occult researcher, Khalid Ben-Hussin, into retrieving a powerful magic artefact called the Helmet of Nabu from the eldritch Tower of Fate.

Wotan has an interesting appearance: a villain seemingly created through the amalgamation of The Avengers villain Loki (played by Tom Hiddleston), and the Wicked Witch of the West from the Wizard of Oz. Wotan talks far too much. Panels are cluttered with Wotan’s monologue , and no character may interrupt Wotan for long.

The most frustrating part of this comic is that the heroes are either too emotional to deal with Wotan, or too inexperienced: this means that there is no one capable of making Wotan stop talking, and that’s the real problem.

I mentioned an artefact called the Helmet of Nabu. This is a gold helmet worn by golden age hero Doctor Fate. It seems Khalid has been selected to become the new Doctor Fate.

I thought that having access to this power, Khalid would choose to stop Wotan from pushing around young super heroes and their mothers. Unfortunately, the character drags his feet as he fears his immense powers, and the pace of the first half of the comic suffers as a result.

Khalid’s anxiety and fear has dropped him into a depression. Considering he is an expert in occult studies and ancient Lore, the question to ask is why would he shirk the power of a wizard? He is thrown into the tower of fate with Jay, eventually, and the art in the following pages makes up for the excessive emotions.

Panel arrangement rules change as Nicola Scott plays with time and space across the page. Scott has captured the meaninglessness of time and space inside the tower, as it spirals and tricks the eye like the M.C. Esher painting Relativity. Playing with unusual spaces and warped time works well, and is wonderful art.

The Green Lantern returns, and makes ammends with a character he wronged in the past – he admits he was wrong and apologies, showing key character development. Finally, we are shown that Khalid has some personal demons to overcome. Earth 2 #10 is a step back in the right direction.

Earth 2 #10 is published by DC Comics

Comics Review – Earth 2 #8

The Justice Society has not officially arrived yet, however James Robinson sets the scene for a showdown with the villain Steppenwolf, who is playing a game of thrones in a retro-futuristic city.

Earth 2 #8.

Steppenwolf has been living comfortably since he was defeated. Back in issue #1 of this series, the Earth 2 versions of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman sacrificed themselves to stop Steppenwolf. It’s frustrating to see he escaped unharmed.

As the issue begins, he enjoys champagne – there are no wines, or celebrations of any kind on his homeworld – while toasting “a pleasant Sunday”. Steppenwolf has a new plan. He retreated to the closed country of Dehrain, and then used his advanced scientific experience to build an army over five years.

The capital city is now a retro-futuristic metropolis. His army is ready to mobilise. And his new protege – Fury – has already started his insurrection against the king of Dehrain. She is the last Amazon of Earth 2, and Wonder Woman’s daughter.

How Fury can even stand to be near Steppenwolf considering he fought and killed her mother is mentioned, but not explained. Villains from Apokolips are known for their supreme manipulation skills, however. Fury could be compared to Supergirl in Superman/Batman: Apocalypse – captured, and turned into a weapon to be used against her family.

Fury might still join the Justice Society. (Earth 2 #8 Variant Cover by Nicola Scott.)

There are some standard action scenes of Fury flipping tanks over, and Steppenwolf throwing his axe around. It’s great to see the kirby-dots effect used for Steppenwolf (created by Jack Kirby in 1972) even though it is not used consistently.

The real strength of the art are the quiet moments – Fury announces “long live the king” in a stunning splash page – I think the best art in the issue by guest art team Yildiray Cinar, Ryan Winn, and Ruy Jose. Dezi Sienty’s lettering on this page is powerful.

There was no connection with the Justice Society other than Fury, unless I have missed a hint or nod toward the golden age history and characters. The issue seems to simply set a scene for upcoming stories, but the world building at work here is effective. At the end of the issue, a giant, horned robot constructs a new building in the Retro-future city. It would be great to see the Justice Society fighting one of these titans.

Earth 2 #8 is published by DC entertainment. Cover art by