Earth2: True Reboot

While I enjoyed James Robinson's new Earth2 book, and I've seen a lot of support for it on the Internet, that point of view isn't unanimous. And I can understand why. Its vision is, on the surface, darker than that of the primary DCU (which I'll call Earth-1), which has controversially darkened up since the New52. And if I don't particularly enjoy the dark elements introduced (not to be confused with the DC Dark line, which I enjoy tremendously), how can I possibly enjoy Earth2? So this is my attempt at verbalizing why I do, and perhaps offer a guide for liking the book for those that don't.

First of all, I think it's cool because it features a real reboot, something the New52 does not. "It's not a reboot!" they said, so it may seem unfair to fault them for it, except that it IS and it ISN'T. Some books and characters were rebooted, and other weren't. Some reboots were re-imaginings, other were ordinary re-tellings of the same old thing. As a whole, it's confusing, isn't really a jumping-on point, and disappoints by its lack of ambition. Earth2, on the other hand, IS a complete reboot. This ISN'T the Earth-2 of the Justice Society and the All-Star Squadron. It certainly isn't a universe where he Golden Age heroes fought fifth columnists and criminals in the 1940s, and where their kids became heroes in their own right later. Better to let that go. It's just going to make you sad.
No. It's a complete reinvention of all those characters, such as wasn't done with Earth-1. And it's one that works in the context of what DC did with Earth-2 after the original Crisis. In 1986, Earth-1 and Earth-2 were merged into a single Earth. The Golden Age heroes now shared history with the modern heroes, populating a heroic age that inspired the heroes of today. Barry Allen called himself the Flash because of Jay Garrick and even an inspirational character like Superman could look back at history and say he was inspired by others (Marvel does the same thing with Captain America). Eventually the Golden Age heroes were brought forward, and though grayer around the temples, they still served as active veterans that in many cases forged lasting legacies. Earth-1 is the poorer for not having them anymore, but we're not here to talk about Earth-1.

The new Earth-2 uses the same generational theme, but turns it upside down. We're presented with a Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman who ARE legacy heroes, but the comic quickly kills them off in a "what if" mirror of the first Justice League storyline (except it doesn't take 5 whole issues). Members of their legacy, Supergirl and Batman's daughter Robin, are accidentally sent to Earth-1 to become Power Girl and the Huntress. Five years later (bringing Earth-2 in line with the New52 time line), the time has come for a new heroic age, but this time, Jay Garrick, Alan Scott, Al Pratt and others are going to be the new heroes born in the wake of a superheroic tragedy. That's perhaps shocking to fans Roy Thomas' Earth-2, but it is about as shocking as the Silver Age might have been when the Flash reappeared in 1956. And once again, it's a Flash who gets to be hero first.
Now, I don't see why DC needed to reboot itself, but since they have, I find myself wishing they'd done more with it. In for a penny, in for a pound. With Earth2, James Robinson does what he does best: Take characters from DC's long history the company doesn't care much about anymore, and give them new life, while paying tribute to what they used to be. There are a number of small touches here that give me hope that it will go in that direction - Superman thinking Wonder Woman is "sensational", the Roman gods used instead of the Greek, short Sgt. Pratt guarding an atomic bomb... Winks to the actual Golden Age will insure I get some knowing smiles in, and as a fan, that satisfies me. And besides, for Earth-2 to be contemporary, the Golden Age heroes would have had to be the grandparents or great-grandparents of the new heroes, and DC would have owed John Byrne another check.

I mentioned hope, and I think that may be the difference I'm feeling here with Earth-1. Yes, it Earth2 starts with a bloody and depressing tragedy, but it's really about rebuilding from that. Earth-1's darkness is about people (not unjustly) mistrusting superheroes, and superheroes being jerks who don't even seek redemption even if it will likely be thrust upon them one day. It's trying to be The Authority or Watchmen, none of which are particularly uplifting. In Earth2, I see the potential for positive heroic fiction, as good people are called to duty, and inspired by the sacrifice of the world's greatest heroes, don four-color uniforms for the first time.


Anonymous said...

Not sure if you knew that the Golden Age Atom is the only superhero that actually existed here on Earth-Prime:

Joseph Greenstein. Suddenly, "short guy who punches people" seems pretty awesome.

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

Siskoid, I did like the issue, though I'm still hating on the costumes. And if you look close, the Bat-emblem is inconsistent throughout the book. Even Wonder Woman's costume (and I believe Superman's emblem/cape) is wrong on the cover. Another annoyance of mine, wondering why they have bad editors?

But since you've read WF, I have to wonder why PG and Huntress wouldn't have been freaking out more about the Parademons fighting the JL, as their own father/cousins were killed by them. They showed up here with Morrison's Superman on the front page of the newspaper, so its before JL#1. They mention Darkseid and Apokalips when only Steppenwolf was mentioned in E2. The "Second Wave" is as rushed as the original nu52. No conference calls, it seems.

All that said, I am buying E2, WF, and Dial H, which doubles the amount of DC books I had been buying. And I like that Dial H throws in a Green Lantern reference to show it is in the 52 universe. And I agree with you on Earth 2. (Though it seemed Joan was a bit harsh on Jay, as we knew so little of their past.)

Siskoid said...

I agree that editing is a lost art. I had the same thought in WF when I saw the newspaper (maybe they initially tried to keep out of history's way? It's not like the Justice League battle lasted days and days.)

I've no problem with their mentioning Darkseid, because on Earth-2, the invasion had gone on a while. There were structures all over the planet etc. That, and the trinity had been heroes for a good while, so this likely wasn't the first time they'd dealt with the New Gods.

I won't defend any of the costuming in the new DC Multiverse though.

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

Good points on Darkseid and how long THAT battle had lasted. Perhaps the reason for the tragic events in E2 was that there WERE NOT six heroes fighting, which now gets me thinking that the E2 group will have six core members which opens up possibilities with the Trinity gone). I honestly hope one of them is the Rex Tyler Hourman, though I'd hate to see the "costume".

What did you think of Earth-23 in last week's Action? Same huge "S", I guess that is a new staple of the multiverse.

Jeff R. said...

I'm still going to say that the JSA characters without WWII and the HUAC is utterly pointless, and that everything that needed to be said about the Kingdom Come continuity (which this is closer to than the original Earth 2) was said the the original miniseries.

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

Seven heroes. You know that, as a writer, I suck at math. Or long-term memory, ha ha.

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

@Jeff R., I was aware of the Silver Age versions through the team-ups long before seeing a 1940s reprint. While there being a retelling of how all the characters eventually meet and create a society is inevitable, DC thinks it will fly. And so far it is holding my interest.

Perhaps the difference is that on Earth 2, there will be a difference in how heroes are perceived now that the Trinity are gone. I dunno. I gave a lot of "First Wave" #1 a chance, and that's as far as it went.


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