Thursday, 17 May 2012

New Beginnings - Earth 2 and Worlds' Finest

As part of the second wave of DC’s 52 we have a nice little double header this week. Released a fortnight ago we have the re-emergence of Earth 2 and also a subsequent spin off for Worlds’ Finest (more to follow in a little as to why).

Beginning with Earth 2, which is calling itself an “epic” already, we are thrust into an alternate reality where the Apokolips war is raging knee deep in the battle with Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. Still working as a team they look similar to the heroes we are familiar with but as the story expands we begin to see how they have changed and their lives are altered. Diana is the last Amazon, Robin is Batman’s daughter Helena Wayne, and Superman doesn’t have his famous human streak when he claims he is going to kill Steppenwolf. It’s a very different world indeed.

The battle progresses following both the bigger picture and the struggles that each of our main characters are enduring, all to create an opening for Batman to strike at the heart of the enemy. The fight is hard fought with untimely endings for our Trinity, and Supergirl and Robin are last seen heading into a Boom Tube. So what more could there be? The world has survived the invasion but at the cost of its superheroes.

One year later, we see other characters emerging. We find Alan Scott narrating a TV tribute to the lost legends and elsewhere a young Jay Garrick finds Mercury lying in a crater, in a way that echoes Hal Jordan and Abin Sur's fateful encounter in the prime universe. James Robinson has written a strong introductory piece which is placing down very firm groundwork for what can be a good title. What is also nice is that there is no prerequisite for the reader either. It’s a new world and so you while you may recognise the characters but don’t need to know their histories to be able to enjoy the story, simply because they aren’t going to be the same.

What it does also do is establish a foothold for other titles and name drop one or two more as well.

Worlds’ Finest is a fine (excuse the pun) example of just this. As part of the Earth 2 storyline Robin and Supergirl chase a figure, possibly Steppenwolf, into a Boom Tube and emerge in whole new world. Instantly recognising this they both establish new lives, while Supergirl has been looking for a way home. Robin has become Huntress and through the course of the story Supergirl dons the mantle of Power Girl.

A lot of the issue is spent establishing the characters, their new “beginnings” and how they have come to fit within this new society without also losing who they are too. Robin has taken her money and ploughed it into what can only be described as an innate desire to fight crime as she did as Batman’s daughter. Supergirl on the other hand has become a mysterious socialite with a penchant for acquiring real estate and businesses. Both gravitating towards helping others which is something that they will never lose.

As it is not a giant issue Paul Levitz has had to move fairly quickly but the flow keeps moving forward without breaking or losing the reader at any point. There is an air of ambiguity at the end where the big bad rears his ugly radioactive head. But this, as well as the depiction of our heroines, has been incorporated into the story.

My only regret is that although it was fun it didn’t feel like it had the same depth. There was a moment when the almost clichéd idea of Power Girl being T&A is brushed upon but it’s so out of the context that it makes for an awkward joke which only fans will get. The other thing that I didn’t totally get was the change in artists and artwork between the story and flashbacks. In principal I can understand but when you’ve worked off the back of another comic to begin with it makes no sense to change the artwork so much. I just didn’t feel the art on this title was as strong, so the contrast was obvious but not for the best of reasons.

As a pair of new titles I felt that for the casual or new reader that Earth 2 was definitely one to get on with but Worlds’ Finest didn’t quite hit the mark. Saying that though the pair do work well together and have a strong synergy for anyone who likes the characters but wants a new or refreshing twist on what they already have established or know.

Matt Puddy is ready for the return of Batman Inc. next week...

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