Double-Play Review: Earth 2 and World’s Finest 2

As some people have commented, the New 52 universe feels scarcely populated.  DC’s strategy has been to focus on their handful of iconic characters from which they plan to spin-out stories that brush in the details of the universe. This strategy, while successful in many ways, has come to the detriment of many beloved Golden-age and legacy characters. James Robinson begins to rectify this with a new Earth 2. This universe, one of the new 52 universes, which is to be the home of Power Girl and Huntress (though, as their popularity would dictate, they were quickly jettisoned to the main DC Universes and their own series, World’s Finest, in the first issue of the Eponymous Earth 2 series) as well a new JSA. Or at least something that bears a semblance to what we have known as the JSA.

Traditionally the JSA were the first crop of super-heroes to appear, mostly around WWII, in the DC-verse. Publisher’s have always had an uneasy relationship with character origins that were historical situated, specifically the ageing issues that they inevitably lead to.  Previously DC had utilized the Earth 2 concept as a way to explain away the discrepancies of such historical situated origins. As a result, Earth 2 stories have a pretty lengthy and developed publishing history. Those who were expecting a modern update of these stories will be severely disappointed. Earth 2 is as different from Pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths, or even Post-Infinite Crisis Earth 2 (which, although editors went out-of-the-way to make clear was not the same earth, was in fact a very clear homage) as imaginable. Whereas the JSA had been treated as the forbearer of the JLA for a while now, Earth 2 is re-imagining them as a group heroes who fill the vacuum left after the catastrophic destruction of the JLA.

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Review: The Shade #4

The Shade #4, cover by Tony Harris

One staple of James Robinson’s legendary Starman was “Times Past,” a set of stand-alone stories diving into the history of the Starman legacy and Opal City.  It was a way to tell a fun adventure story, introduce some fascinating character traits, or deepen the mythology he was patiently building without using too much tedious exposition.  So imagine my surprise and delight when I opened this month’s The Shade #4 and found myself enthralled by the Shade’s fantastic adventures in 1944, an excellent stand-alone adventure that deepens our understanding of the main plot while telling its own story and welcoming new readers.

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Review: The Shade #1

The Shade #1, cover by Tony Harris

Starman.  Even after everything else Robinson has done, even after the flat-out embarrassment of Cry for Justice, Starman has endured as a shining example of many of the best things serialized superhero comics can offer.  Jack Knight remains a memorable creation, and the book Robinson built around him stands up well, even to this day.  But, for whatever reason, it’s a feat Robinson has never been able to repeat.  With The Shade, a 12-issue mini-series  launching today, Robinson returns to Opal City and to the morally ambiguous former villain he popularized.

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Review: Free Comic Book Day 2010

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Well, I could pretty much copy my intro from last year’s FCBD coverage. I did pretty much the same thing. I didn’t go to the comic book store, instead spending my time with boxing, beer, and babes. I got my free comics early, so I can still review these things.

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Review: Superman: World of New Krypton #12

Superman: World of New Krypton was always doomed to have a disappointing conclusion.  The best issues of the series has little ongoing plot other than to explore New Krypton, to familiarize us with the unique problems of this alien world.  While there was always, in the background, a metaplot going on, the most exciting moments often came when Superman and Zod clashed: neither wrong, but both with a fundamentally different understanding of what the planet needed.  With Superman: World of New Krypton #12, we once again have to abandon a great deal of the exploratory aspect of the book to plot, though it’s handled much more deftly than it was in previous issues.  A traitor is revealed, and it all finally ties back to earth.  War is imminent, but not before a final page reveal that leaves the fate of the the Kryptonians in some jeopardy.

Pete Woods and Ron Randall, provide some excellent concluding visuals, like the surprise one-panel visit to a Starro-ruled planet or a glimpse of Krypton’s Jewel Mountains, overflowing with lava.  While the mini concludes on a cliffhanger that does little save set up the next event prelude – Superman: Last Stand of New Krypton – the final issue is at least largely a satisfying read in its own right.  That an event is coming so inexorably is a sad thing.  Superman: World of New Krypton could have been so much more than a competent, enjoyable prologue.

Grade: B+

– Cal Cleary

Superman: World of New Krypton #11

Superman: World of New Krypton #10

Review: Superman: World of New Krypton #11

Superman: World of New Krypton continues its renewed creative upswing with this issue.  After floundering a bit in the middle, #11, the penultimate issue of the series if I recall correctly, suggests a fine return to form as it has a little bit of everything that made the title so very fundamentally enjoyable.  Nothing gets wrapped up in these 22 pages, but an awful lot gets set-up for what will hopefully be a stellar finale.  Adam Strange and Superman team-up to find out who attempted to assassinate Alura.  Though evidence suggests the leader of the Labor Guild, neither Superman nor Strange believe it.  The Council is divided on what the attacks mean and how he should proceed, and Zod seems to be on the way to a speedy recovery.  And just what is that mysterious, lead-lined military structure that they ‘forgot’ to mention to Kal-El when he took over?

It’s a lot to cram in here, but Rucka and Robinson make it work.  Pete Woods continues to turn in excellent work, delivering exciting action sequences and a bizarre panache of sci-fi scenery to give Krypton an alien feel.  Rucka and Robinson have escaped the formula that so made the middle of the series drag, and have instead returned to the book’s strongest elements: the collapsing politics of an alien planet.  Anyone who claims to be a Superman fan should be reading this book, but it’s reach is beyond that: despite a few slip-ups, Superman: World of New Krypton often delivers a fun, engaging pulp sci-fi adventure that digs into Superman’s character without hinging upon it to drive the book.

Grade: B+

– Cal Cleary

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Superman: World of New Krypton #10

Superman: World of New Krypton #9