Earth 2 (Vol. 1): The Gathering by James Robinson (writer) and Nicola Scott (artist)
I’ve been re-reading some of DCs New 52 titles now that four years have gone by and many of the initial titles have been cancelled, rebooted, reimagined, or wrapped up after a full run. To me, the three best titles that stayed consistently great — in the 4- to 5-star range — for at least five volumes of trade collections were Batman and Robin, Wonder Woman, and Batwoman. Snyder’s Batman went down almost an entire star per trade collection, with the first volume starting at a solid five stars. But there were other great runs that stayed consistent, if not always earth-shattering: Justice League, Aquaman, Swamp Thing, and several others. I also have no complaints about All-Star Western, and I know other people had their favorites that would be placed in the above lists, including some interesting, but odd, runs on Voodoo and Grifter. However, some series, like Justice League Dark, didn’t live up to their great promise and cast of characters, and others, like Constantine, were just inevitably disappointing. Constantine, for example, could never live up to its greatest heights in its 300+ issue run as the mature Vertigo title Hellblazer.
Overall, though, for all the complaints about New 52 during its first year, it was not as bad as predicted, and much good work was done. I’m even going back and reading some of the comics I never picked up but was interested in: I just finished reading the full run of the weekly comic Future’s End, and it was a fun tale that I highly recommend. And before I move on to reading the weekly comic Batman Eternal, I decided to read Earth 2, since I heard positive comments about this run.
Though this paragraph describing the series will sound like a spoiler, it merely describes the premise of the series, a premise I was told about before I started reading it: Earth 2 tells the story of an alternate Earth that eventually will fall to the forces of Darkseid. In the very first issue of Earth 2, Darkseid’s Parademons attack Earth 2, and we watch the Big Three — The Trinity —get taken down: In a quick sequence, Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman are killed, but at least the Earth survives, and their sacrifice is not in vain. Also during this attack, Supergirl and Robin (Helena Wayne, Bruce’s daughter) get transported to the main Earth of the New 52 Universe. The comic World’s Finest tells of their adventures. The rest of this trade collection — Issues two through six — tells what happens on Earth 2, a world without superpowers, a world without hope of protection from “Wonders.”
I have not read too many Earth 2 storylines from the history of DC’s comics, so I cannot offer either a positive or negative response to the fact that the New 52 Earth 2 offers a new approach and complete rewriting of the Earth 2 characters (from what I’ve been told). All I can say is that I am enjoying the story so far and the characters as created. We get to watch the origin story of Green Lantern and the Flash, and we meet Hawkgirl and the Atom as all four accidentally join forces to fight Solomon Grundy, the main villain in this first story arc. We also see glimpses of a few other variations of familiar superheroes, my favorite of which so far is the pre-Neil Gaiman Sandman, a government operative on Earth 2. I’m sure we’ll learn more of him later. At least, I hope so.
I have only two disappointments with this trade collection. First, this trade collection does not include issue #0, even though the series originally included a flashback #0 issue between issues four and five. And that flashback introduces a major villain (one who, unlike Grundy, uses his intellect), gives us another story with the Trinity as characters, makes the first issue seem less abrupt in retrospect, and adds some extra suspense, increasing my interest in the series and my desire to keep reading past the initial arc after Grundy is defeated (which is a better and more interesting defeat than many superhero battles). This zero issue is included in the second volume. If you decide to read the series, I recommend getting both volumes at once and reading the flashback between issues four and five in volume one. If you read the series one issue at a time on Comixology (as I did), you will be guided to read the series in the correct order.
My other complaint is some of the dialogue. I love James Robinson as a writer, particularly on Starman, one of my all-time favorite DC series. However, though the writing in this book is good in terms of plot, every few pages I ran into some stiff dialogue that harkens back to an earlier period in comics: Sometimes I feel as if Robinson is trying to tell us a little too much of the obvious via the characters’ dialogue. Some of the information is not needed, some of it could be introduced more subtly, and some of it should be given visually. In other words, at times, I feel as if Robinson doesn’t trust the artist to be able to communicate clearly enough what is going on (or trust the reader to be visually literate, which is a poor assumption these days).
Overall, Earth 2: The Gathering is a fun story that has mostly good writing and more than good art by Nicola Scott. I really thought Scott conveyed a good sense of action through his visual storytelling, and there were more than a few panels that made me stop reading, because I just wanted to stare at the art for a little longer than necessary. Earth 2 won’t go down in comic book history as a great comic, but I certainly am glad I read it, and I will read the next story arc right after finishing this review. I’m hooked; there’s no doubt about that. So, if you want a four- to five-star comic, you can check out one of my usual reviews, but if you are in the mood for some fun superhero action, Earth 2 will more than satisfy. I think getting a glimpse of a different Earth in the DC Multiverse makes this series stick out as more interesting than many other mainstream superhero comics put out by DC and Marvel. And I like the premise that they will eventually lose Earth 2 to Darkseid. Frankly, I’m ready to see Darkseid win for once.