Thursday, January 2, 2014

Deconstruction of the Fables

Earth-2 (Issues 0-16, Annual 1): written by James Robinson; illustrated by Nicola and Trevor Scott and others (2012-2013): James Robinson's revisionist take on DC's 50-year-old 'Earth-2' concept started strong but bogged down over the last few months of his writing tenure in what I assume was the editorially mandated direction for the title -- a set-up for a company-wide crossover in 2014 or 2015. DC forced Robinson off the comic (and out of the company, actually), giving writing duties to a scripter previously best-known for the comic-book spin-off of the DC-universe computer fighting game.

It was a great ride early, in which a world devastated by an alien invasion and the heroic death of Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman repelling that invasion started to experience the dawn of a new age of heroes five years after those deaths. Altered versions of DC's Golden-Age, 1940's super-heroes The Flash, Green Lantern, the Atom, Hawkgirl, and others started to appear, just in time to fend off an invasion from within the Earth rather than without.

James Robinson's best work for DC over the years has come when he's had something resembling his own playground, whether as an alternate-universe take on classic heroes (The Golden Age) or on a self-created 'legacy' version of a classic hero (Starman). However, he also had an under-rated run on the Justice League, a run undercut again and again by DC's removal of The Big Three (Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman) from the Justice League roster. Robinson made do with Supergirl, Donna Troy, a 1970's version of Starman, and Congorilla (!) among others, and the result was a lot of fun.

On Earth-2, Robinson and artist Nicola Scott really hummed along as they re-imagined 70-year-old heroes with new costumes, slightly different powers, and slightly altered personalities. Oh, and Green Lantern was now gay. Oh, the buzz in fandom over that one! But this was original Golden-Age Green Lantern Alan Scott, a character most of the people complaining about retroactive gayness probably had never read before. Less buzzy was the creation of a Middle-Eastern Doctor Fate and a Canadian Sandman, both with slightly reimagined powers.

And then things started to gradually slide off-course. What began as a book about hope sprung phoenix-like from the death of the world's greatest heroes moved more and more into despair, death, and devastation. Robinson's last three issues featured defeat after defeat for the heroes, and for Earth's armies, concluding with a resurrection about as coldly, calculatedly shocking as an Apple ad. Then Robinson was gone, hopefully somewhere with at least a bit less editorial interference.

And so ends my interest in Earth-2. It was the best mainstream superhero comic-book from DC for about 12 issues, with solid, old-school art from Nicola Scott. Now, though, abandon hope. Once a new Batman showed up, the book pretty much tanked. Thanks, Batman! Recommended until the last three or so issues, at which point you need to be a masochist to really enjoy things.

 

Judge Anderson: Death's Dark Dimension: written by Alan Wagner and John Grant; illustrated by Robin Smith, Brett Ewins, and Cliff Robinson (Collected 2002): Fun 1980's battle with the Dark Judges and then some obnoxious demons, featuring Judge Dredd's psychic colleague Judge Anderson in the post-apocalyptic world of Mega-City One. Satire takes a bit of a back-seat to action-adventure, but there's still a lot of that patented British weirdness.

Dredd only shows up for a few panels, as Anderson must pretty much figure out on her own how to thwart yet another invasion by the Dark Judges, who have outlawed life itself. The four-page chapters of the original British comic format really ensure things move along at a rapid clip, by which I mean a climax every 4 pages. Nice Brian Bolland cover, too. Recommended.

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