Report Card | ‘Lazarus,’ ‘Earth 2′ and more
Earth 2 #16
Writer: James Robinson
Penciller: Nicola Scott
Inker: Trevor Scott
Colorist: Pete Pantazis
Letterer: Dezi Sienty
Published by DC Comics
I ended up not having much use for “Villains Month,” mostly because after a while it turned into a series of downbeat stories about largely unsympathetic characters. Therefore, it’s somewhat ironic that my pick for this week was a downbeat story about a decisive battle between the “Wonders” of Earth-2 and the forces of Apokolips. In the end — and I mean that, because the issue ends on a devastating cliffhanger — the issue stuck with me largely because of the creative team’s efforts.
Earth 2‘s parallel-world setup gives it a certain amount of narrative freedom that even the original Earth-Two didn’t have. The latter purported to continue the adventures of DC’s Golden Age characters, many of which had been revamped (if not superseded) on the “main” Earth-One. Accordingly, while the older characters could marry, have kids, and even die, there was at least a nominal sense that they were “safe,” because of their particular places in history. Not so with the current Earth-2, whose characters and situations are total reboots, not continuations of any kind. Theoretically, anything can happen to these characters or their world; and so far Earth 2 has used its first war with Apokolips to kill off its major superheroes and install a new world order. Indeed, this issue opens with the World Army attacking Steppenwolf’s forces, followed by the last stand of the proto-Justice Society.
The issue unfolds methodically, opening with a splash page, two double-page spreads, and then two double-page layouts for its first nine pages, and closing with another double-page layout. Nicola Scott uses a lot of large panels on the single-page layouts, with at most six panels on the most crowded pages. This makes the issue a somewhat quick read, but Scott’s work draws the reader in, both conveying the action efficiently and encouraging a slower pace to catch all the nuances. For example, one panel shows the heroes’ faces responding in closeup, with Fate’s helmet reflecting the speaker’s face. She then frames the next panel (showing the superheroes headed for the action) so that the giant Atom’s feet are outside its borders, with his back foot in the top-left corner and his front in the bottom center, while the Flash runs from top-left to bottom-center and Green Lantern and Doctor Fate fly alongside. Patanzis’ colors set the mood well, with lots of dark clouds lit by energy effects, and garish oranges for the Apokoliptians’ death rays.
Robinson starts with a couple of dueling narrators, an omniscient one and Steppenwolf, but then switches to the news-story perspective of embedded journalist Lee Travis. At times this is overkill, since (especially at the end) the reader can see just how bad things have gotten, but for the most part it helps drive home the fact that this is, in fact, the last battle of the last war.
DC gets a lot of flak for visiting horrible circumstances upon its nominally-happy set of characters. Thanks to Justice League: Cry For Justice, Robinson has been part of that in recent years. The developments in this issue may not be surprising, especially if you’ve been following the book from the beginning. In fact, they may be another infuriating example of DC’s indifference towards the characters it controls. However, as a single issue of a series where such things are permissible, if not exactly ideal, I thought Earth 2 #16 was executed well, and I’m very eager to see where the series goes next. –Tom Bondurant
Written by Greg Rucka
Art and Letters by Michael Lark with Brian Level
Color by Santi Arcas
Published by Image Comics
Rucka and Lark’s examination of technology mixed with family political battles continues to fascinate me. As this issue opens, a great deal of the attack on Forever is played out in scenes showing Dr. James Mann and Dr. Bethany Carlyle monitoring machines that track Forever’s vitals.Not completely mind you, there are also cutaways to Jonah Carlyle and those monitoring/orchestrating the attack on Forever and the Morray Lazarus, Joacquim, as well as scenes of the action itself. As much as I appreciate Lark’s art on this series, I feel I have done a disservice to Arcus for not commenting on the value the colorist has brought to the series as well. There is a vibrancy to Arcus’ color choices that make this series a must read. –Tim O’Shea