Earth 2 #7

Earth 2 has been one of the most interesting titles to come out of the New 52 initiative since before it even hit shelves. The idea that this one title was serving to replace the classic Earth-2 of the pre-crisis DCU was more than enough to get it on my radar; I mean Earth Prime gets 51 books, National Comics, and a handful of miniseries at a time to flesh it out. Add to that the fact that James Robinson is somewhat legendary after his run on Starman and that his first reboot project, The Shade, was one of my favorite comics of the year, and you have quite a set up. While some were quick to judge the first issue, issues 3 and 4 made it clear to me that I was right to keep an eye on this book.

After a solid first arc, Earth 2 has a moment to breathe in issue 7. Having ended the Grey Man’s assault on the capital, Hawkgirl continues to try to put together a new team of Wonders. As the cover will make clear, she has mixed results. Meanwhile, Commander Khan and Terry Sloan struggle to assert dominance within the World Army hierarchy after the latter’s power play.

As I said, it’s clearly a breather issue, but it’s hardly filler. While you could likely skip this issue and piece together what you missed, you’d be missing some really nice character work. Robinson answers one of the internet’s major concerns while giving Alan Scott and the Hawkgirl some solid believable development as well. Fans of DC history will also be pleased to see the introduction and first major contribution, respectively, of two classic golden age characters, both complete with clever call outs to their original incarnations.

But the strength of the issue is clearly Commander Khan’s story. While you won’t find much evidence to refute Robinson’s wordy reputation in this issue, he at least crams tension and character into his dialogue. The second half of the book plays out with a sort of ‘Game of Thrones’ quality as Khan plays the role of the last sane man in the World Army. The intrigue is well structured and the players have an air of believability to them that could have ruined the book by its absence. Though Sloan is clearly Robinson’s take on Ozymandias (especially after that ’38 minutes ago’ moment from two issues back), he’s not omniscient and he acts like a man who is weighing many options rather than one 20 steps ahead of everyone. Similarly the choice to have the two take calculated risks with one another seems to be a good one, though it could become tiresome or start to seem like a mechanism for exposition if Robinson isn’t careful.

The art is attractive, if not necessarily extraordinary, and does a fine job of hiding how much of the issue is two people talking calmly to each other. The layouts are varied and manage to feel internally consistent without becoming too repetitive. That said, I did find the clear splits between action pages and dialogue pages distracting at times. That, though, is probably not guest penciller Yildiray Cinar’s doing. One thing I truly appreciate about Cinar’s work here is how clear the action is through most of the book. Though they’re not frequent, Cinar draws fights that flow easily from panel to panel without having to spell every little thing out for you. Fight scenes in comics sometimes seem like a series of unrelated blows. For a genre that makes such frequent use of the debate by combat style of storytelling, superhero comics don’t always show the thought and planning that fight scenes require, at least not clearly enough.

Cinar is supported by a squad of colorists who I would feel remiss if I didn’t mention. The Green Lantern’s ring and Hawkgirl’s helmet look vibrant and each scene has a distinct color pallette This is clearest near the end of the book in a couple of scenes I wish I could mention but can only say occur in Tokyo for fear of spoiling the issue. Seriously though, it’s very pretty. Still for all this fine work, it would be nice if the colorists could try to have a little more synergy. If I hadn’t had to check for this review I probably would have assumed that it was a different artist in the last few pages rather than a change in colorists.

One other thing that surprises me is how much I feel happened in this book. On one hand it’s hard to argue that this isn’t a very decompressed read (for those unfamiliar with the term here are two articles – one for and one against – that do a good job of explaining. Don’t feel forced to read both, either one will likely do, but if you have time and interest it is a fascinating debate within comics at the moment.) Two page panels, splashes, and pages representing a matter of seconds are all present. I actually stopped on one page to wonder how Robinson felt he could afford such wasted time. If you want to see what I mean, look no further than the first page. Like many of the scenes I praised above, the first page of this issue might lend a sense of scale and tone, but it accomplishes very little. Yet it seems that Robinson managed to fit everything he needed into this issue. So is it a bad thing for a comic like this to be so decompressed? I honestly don’t know. Usually I like a slightly more balanced approach, but I don’t feel robbed of pages. If, like me, you don’t like decompressed comics because of the lack of advancement from issue to issue, I don’t think this one will bother you too much, but if the style just grates you might have trouble here.

In the end, Earth 2’s seventh issue does its job in my opinion. It left me satisfied with the amount of story I got and got me excited for next month. That said, I really enjoyed those sequences with Commander Khan and, if they don’t do it for you, I’d understand if you felt like this was dull month. Earth 2 remains a smart interesting title that’s happy to lead DC’s standard offerings but rightfully remains a tier below the heavy hitters like Batman or Wonder Woman.