This week, DC begins to rollout the next wave of New 52 titles and Mania has you covered with reviews of the new titles.
Earth 2 #1
Written by: James Robinson
Art By: Nicola Scott & Trevor Scott
Ok, grab your favorite drink and grab a seat ‘round the campfire while your uncle Tim tells you a little story…in the 1930s and 1940s, i.e., the Golden Age of Comics, DC Comics created many of the most popular characters. However, by the time the late 1940s rolled around, superhero comics were falling out of favor with readers of the day and most of the heroes, with the exceptions of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, disappeared for a number of years. In the mid-1950s, DC decided to revive the superheroes but instead of bringing back the same characters, they created new, modern versions of Green Lantern, The Flash, Hawkman, The Atom, and many others. But then a few years later they brought back the Golden Age versions of these heroes. Gardner Fox, the writer of Flash at the time, came up with the idea of a parallel Earth, named Earth-2, where the Golden Age heroes lived while their modern counterparts lived on Earth-1.
DC decided if two Earths were great, many more would be even better. So they created an Earth-3 that was controlled by an evil version of the Justice League; Earth-4 where the characters that DC acquired from Charlton Comics lived like Blue Beetle and The Question; Earth-S where the former Fawcett Comics characters like Captain Marvel and Bulletman lived. DC created dozens of alternate Earths and realizing how much their universe had spiraled out of control, they came out with the landmark, 12 issue mini-series, Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985 as a means to clean up their universe and mold all of the alternate Earths into one. Great idea…except it never quite worked out. DC has been swatting away at Crisis like an annoying mosquito for over 25 years. They’ve devised numerous sequel stories that only served to confuse matters and then came the “52” maxi-series which, at its end, created a new multiverse of 52 alternate Earths and effectively black-jacked poor Marv Wolfman, the writer of Crisis on Infinite Earths.
And so, because comic book readers today apparently have the attention span of fleas or are just too damn lazy to learn the history of DC on their own, DC now has felt the need to once again completely re-boot their universe with the New 52, including an all new version of Earth-2 that isn’t the Golden Age version, and isn’t the version that came about because of 52. Confused yet? The need to somehow have a continuous, logical continuity has caused both DC and Marvel to spin their wheels helplessly. When I started reading comics in the 1970s, I really didn’t care about what happened in 1940 but apparently today there is an overwhelming need to be able to trace a straight line from point A to point B. And with that we get Earth 2 #1.
This Earth has slightly different versions of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman fighting a hopeless battle against the invading Parademons, led by Steppenwolf. The Earth lies in ruins and even many of the Roman Gods that Wonder Woman and the Amazons worship have been killed. Batman comes up with a plan to infect the a Parademon control tower with a virus that will then be transferred to all of the other towers, effectively neutralizing them. And if the first thought that popped into your head was that was exactly what they did in the film Independence Day, then give yourself a point.
But Batman’s gambit comes with a dire price as his daughter Helena, who in this story is his female Robin but becomes the Huntress (sigh). The story wraps by introducing to very young and very different versions of Jay Garrick and Alan Scott, who of course are the identities of the Golden Age Flash and Green Lantern and by now I’ve developed a headache trying to explain it all. Frankly I enjoyed the last 8 pages where we meet Garrick and Scott more than the first three-fourths of the book which was basically one long fight sequence. But chalk this up to my fondness for the Golden Age heroes. I want to see what Robinson has in store for them. One positive is that Robinson is one of the better comic writers around and gave us the fantastic revamp of Starman in the 1990s. Artistically…no complaints. The Scott and Scott team does a fantastic job with a lot of action and figures appearing throughout.
I suppose in the end it all depends from what angle you tackle Earth 2 #1. If you’re a relative newcomer or not old enough to remember Crisis and why it was done then you may love this book and the chance to get in on the ground floor of the reboot. But I have to admit to having a bit of sadness by seeing decades of history tossed aside.
Worlds’ Finest #1
Written by Paul Levitz
Art by: George Perez, Kevin Maguire and Scott Koblish
Sogo figure the title that I was interested in the least turns out to be really good. Start with a pair of awesome talents, Paul Levitz and George Perez, and give us a story that uses the reboot to its best advantage and this is the makings of a winner. World’s Finest was one of DC’s earliest titles of the Golden Age and ran from 1941 to 1986, primarily featuring the team of Batman and Superman. Here we have a female version of that iconic team, The Huntress and Power Girl but here comes the reboot twist. These two characters were on Earth-2 during the attack of the Parademons but were known as Robin and Super Girl. When Batman used the virus to destroy the parademon control towers, an exploding boom tube tossed the pair out of their world, and into Earth-1…so I guess, just like Gardner Fox did way back in 1961, this would be the first modern Earth-1 and Earth-2 crossover.
Helena (the Huntress) hacks Wayne Industries and makes off with a considerable amount of Money which Karen Starr (Powergirl) uses to build her own technology empire, hoping to build a machine called a Quantum Tunneler to take them back to their own world. Meanwhile they give up their former costumed identities and take on the new guises of The Huntress and Power Girl. They learn all they can about their new home and the younger versions of Batman and Superman.
I love the idea of the pair changing identities on Earth-1 as Power Girl and The Huntress were, in the original continuity, from Earth-2. It’s a nice nod to that history I mentioned earlier. Perez and Koblish handle the art for the bulk of the story while Maguire handles the flashback sequences which show hwo the pair arrived on Earth-1. The only knock here is that Koblish’s inks seem to dull a little bit of the usual Perez sharpness. Levitz is an old pro who knows how to tell a story and gets this title off to a strong start.
Dial H for Hero
Written By: China Mieville
Art by: Mateus Santolouco
Out of all of the titles in the first batch of the next wave of New 52, Dial H for Hero is the one I was looking forward to the most for two reasons. First, it’s just a very unique concept…a mysterious phone, that when the word “HERO” is dialed, turns the person into a costumed, super-powered hero for a short time. The second reason is that it is written by China Mieville, a brilliant fantasy novelist who has won about every major fantasy and sci-fi writing award including the Hugo, Locus, World Fantasy Award, and British Fantasy award. What would this master of weird fiction do with a comic book story?
The Story concerns Darren and his down on his luck buddy Nelson. Nelson’s life is going down the tubes in the rundown ghetto where they live. He’s lost his job, is grossly overweight, and suffered a mild heart-attack yet Darren can’t get his friend motivated and angrily leaves his friend to wallow in his self-pity. Realizing Darren was trying to help, Darren rushes out to help his friend only to find him being assaulted by a group of thugs. Nelson stumbles to a phone to call for help and ends up dialing those magic numbers…but here is where Mieville gives the story his dark twist. Nelson isn’t transformed into your usual costumed hero but into a creature named “Boy Chimney”, a gangly, twisted creature who looks sort of like a dark version of Jim Carrey from the film, “The Mask” with a smokestack for a hat who is able to spew out noxious smoke at Darren’s attackers. Nelson learns that the attackers were henchmen of a local gangster who plans to kill Darren. Nelson has to save his buddy…but can he remember the correct number to call?
What was a simplistic and cheesy concept when originally introduced back in the 1960’s, in Mieville’s hands Dial H for Hero becomes a dark, modern day urban fantasy whose protagonists promise to be as terrifying as any of the villains they may face. Along with Mieville’s brilliant writing, the art of Mateus Santolouco sets the mood with a dark and gritty tone and two very different character designs. I’m not sure how long a title like this that hinges on a bit of a gimmick can last but I’m going to enjoy it for as long as it runs.
G.I. Combat #1
Written by: J.T. Krul, Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti
Art By: Ariel Olivetti and Dan Panosian
DC’s long running weird war anthology story returns in G.I. Combat and features re-boots of two features, “The War that Time Forgot” which originally premiered in Star Spangled War Stories in 1960, and “The Unknown Soldier” who debuted in Our Army at War in 1966 and had his own title during the 1970s and 1980s. Both features have been re-booted to be set during modern times.
In The War that Time Forgot, a squad of U.S. Soldiers is sent into North Korea to investigate a strange area that is under a total blackout. When their helicopters crash in the dense jungle, they find themselves in a world where dinosaurs still roam.
The Unknown Soldier is revamped from his World War II origins to present day Afghanistan. The Unknown Soldier is a man whose family is killed in a terrorist bombing in England. Vowing revenge, he attempts to enlist in the military but is turned down. He undertakes grueling private training and heads to the Middle East to exact his revenge on any he perceives responsible for his family’s death. His head and face are so severely disfigured in battle that he typically has it completely wrapped in heavy bandages. Despite his single-handed successes in Afghanistan, the Government wants him back home for another purpose.
I enjoyed both stories but especially The War that Time Forgot. Inspired by Edgar Rice Burrough’s “The Land that Time Forgot”, the story benefits greatly from the lush, painted work of Ariel Olivetti. He produces some stunning dinosaurs and there’s a great sequence as the helicopters are attacked by pterosaurs. Great stuff!
The Unknown Soldier story was less interesting, despite the fact that Palmiotti and Gray gave the character more background than he had in the past. But it looks like it might just be shaping up as a Punisher-type character.