Last week, I was able to take a look at some comics a bit different from my usual tastes, and with a few more New 52 titles hitting the shelves, there seemed no better opportunity to branch out. Here’s my take on some of DC’s second wave:
Earth 2 #1
This review contains spoilers.
On an alternate earth, the war against Steppenwolf (not the one bearing an invitation to join him on a magic carpet ride, sadly) and his gang of demons from the planet Apokolips rages on. This world’s Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman discover a way to defeat the demons, and quickly engage them in a fight to avenge the remains of Metropolis. Though the threat is neutralized, things don’t end so well for the trinity, and their allies, Helena Wayne and this world’s Supergirl, mysteriously disappear. As the world mourns the heroes, two new replacements in the form of Alan Scott and Jay Garrick are called to adventure.
The best way I can describe Earth 2 #1 is that it’s like coming in at the tail end battle of Mark Millar’s The Ultimates – an incomplete story and little to no meaning behind the madness. Not exactly the best place to start your new series, to say the least. Writer James Robinson expects us to be shocked and saddened by the deaths of the heroes, but without proper character development, we feel nothing when, one by one, they each kick the bucket. Their deaths are merely a cheap gimmick to show that this is a new Earth with new rules. Great work Mr. Robinson, you’ve senselessly killed off three potential characters just to tell us something the title of the book already told us.
I’m also not sure I like where Robinson is taking beloved Justice Society icons Jay and Alan. The writer is quite liberal with the changes he makes to Jay and especially his relationship with Joan, something which will no doubt be a high point of contention among fans. It’s understandable that these characters aren’t the retired, grandfatherly figures of yesteryear like in the old DC continuity, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have fans who grew up with those incarnations. Their origins, their personalities…a lot seems to have been changed from Jay and Alan’s Golden Age counterparts. The real test of whether or not they’re still the same guys underneath the new coat of paint will come next issue.
I get a sense that Earth 2 merely dabbles in an alternate universe just for the sake of being alternate, not because there’s a story here worth telling. DC’s original Earth Two was comprised of the Golden Age incarnations of the company’s icons, fully-realized and developed characters that made up this alternate Earth. This new Earth 2, at least at this stage, seems more concerned with inter-dimensional gimmicks and undermining audience expectations than building legitimate characters.
The artwork by Nicola Scott is quite good at least, very vibrant and detailed, and even surpassing her work on Superman from a few months ago. It’s too bad Robinson’s poor plotting can’t make it all mean something more.
Bear in mind, this is only the first issue of the new series and could very well pick up with Jay and Alan fulfilling their destinies as Flash and Green Lantern, respectively. But it stands that this first issue should’ve focused more on how this Earth’s characters set it apart from the other Earth, rather than unnecessarily wasting three characters and bringing us into an ongoing plot thread without even allowing us to gain our footing.
I wouldn’t recommend this issue, but I’m not taking my eye off this series just yet. Right now, it’s merely a very small seed that could very well sprout into something special later on, potentially as early as next issue. For now, don’t bother.
G.I. Combat #1
G.I. Combat #1 includes two stories of militant operatives, beginning with “The War that Time Forgot” by JT Krul and Ariel Olivetti. The story follows a G.I. in a video chat with his wife and daughter back home, later joined by another G.I. friend of his. The G.I.s get the mysterious mission of infiltrating an area near North Korea, where they stumble upon something beyond their wildest dreams – a patch of living, breathing dinosaurs.
In the book’s second story by the All-Star Western team of Palmiotti/Gray and with artist Dan Panosian, “The Unknown Soldier” is told from the perspective of a soldier writing home to his wife about a man with no face serving in Afghanistan. The man, having lost his family to terrorist bombers, is compelled to enlist, but later has his face burned off and his memory lost in combat. Now a dangerous loose cannon, the man may be a great asset to the US in the ongoing war.
JT Krul isn’t exactly DC’s star writer, made obvious by his opening story. Somehow, G.I.s vs. dinosaurs just doesn’t really make for deep storytelling. Both writer and artist pass on opportunities to make the experience a bit more self-aware, or even simply give its protagonists more personality, approaching the concept far too seriously for it to be even the least bit memorable. While it’s not a particularly bad story, it’s a gaping, hollow entry in a book that could use a bit more than just a pulpy concept.
Palmiotti and Gray’s story fares much better, with a more stylized, gritty take on the horrors of war. Panosian’s artwork is perfect, looking scratchy-yet-detailed and perfectly matching the writing’s edginess. It’s the classic tale of a lone wolf, a single badass on a personal quest to avenge the deaths of his family. Coupled with their even more impressive tenure on All-Star Western, one has to wonder why Palmiotti and Gray haven’t been offered to write Batman yet, especially considering the state of Detective Comics’ writing at present.
G.I. Combat #1 isn’t the best book it can be, weighted down by Krul’s far inferior dinosaur story. Overall though, it’s nice to see a lesser-known DC title make a comeback, and I’d like to see more writers/artists take a crack at writing for what’s sure to be another underappreciated non-superhero book.
Dial H #1
In the city of Littleville, the morbidly obese Nelse and his friend return to his apartment from a jog, his friend chastising him for making a mess of his life. Nelse mocks his friend out of the room, but as he follows him out to apologize, he sees him getting beaten by a group of thugs. Nelse tries to call 911 on an old payphone nearby, but ends up transforming into a creature which scares away the goons and delivers his friend to the hospital. Nelse changes back and returns to the phone to try to make sense of its powers, but ends up transforming into another creature. What further secrets, he wonders, does the phone possess?
I strive not to use the word “weird” often in my writing, but there’s really no other way to describe this book. It’s a very dark, surreal, almost Tim Burton-esque take on a rather antiquated DC comic. For one, when Nelse transforms, there are so many dialogue boxes and speech bubbles that I have no idea who I’m supposed to be listening to anymore. Is he trapped inside the creatures? Can he control them? Are there two personalities at work?
The approach isn’t really bad or wrong, but I can’t help but feel Dial H would work as more of a throwback comic, perhaps portraying the 1950s-era New 52 Universe or something. The book still has potential, maybe with a new creative team, but right now, it’s really just too bizarre for my tastes.
Unless you like your heroes exceptionally obscure, this book probably isn’t worth your money. And it’ll probably be dead faster than OMAC, so there’s no use getting attached regardless.