The cover to this issue promises us “The Rise of a Superman” and has our new Kryptonian, Val Zod, kneeling in front of the Earth on the cover.
This would have been an apt time to recreate an earlier Superman cover, but we’ll go with that. I like Val Zod as a character a good deal – but how much I like that character is going to inevitably be up to how he’s handled. Superman leaves big shoes to fill, especially with EARTH 2’s Superman having seemingly been like our own pre New-52 Superman was before he became an upset teenager.
Where Earth 2 is going to lay in the saga of DC comics is going to eventually come down to Val Zod and Thomas Wayne, our Superman and Batman – as every universe in DC eventually does.
It doesn’t matter if it’s an Elseworlds story or an alternate timeline. Every DC crossover comes down to the dynamic between these two characters. Even JSA: THE LIBERTY FILES which re-imagined Batman and Hourman as WWII era mystery men eventually came down to confrontation between a Superman and a normal one.
When BATMAN: EARTH ONE was released, one of the criticisms I’d read about it shortly before reading the comic myself was that every different take on a superhero is manipulative. Instead of introducing “new” elements, it depends entirely on us being curious of how “this” Joker is going to be, or how “this” Robin is going to become a sidekick. Since we’re so familiar with the metanarrative of these characters, all we really build up to is a different way to assemble all of the actors on the stage. All of the lines of Waiting for Godot are changed, but he still never shows up at the end.
If you doubted the depths that Darkseid has driven Earth 2’s Superman to, you won’t after this issue. EARTH 2 #25 is a good example of the kinds of things that someone can get into Superhero stories for, managing to pull off a one-issue turn around from the middling quality of last month’s release. Right out of the gate, EARTH 2 feels exciting. There’s just enough going around that every change in viewpoint doesn’t feel abrupt, but necessary and natural. There are some things that happen here – like Jay Garrick getting his first taste of fully tapping into the Speed Force, that I’ve been left wondering during the long duration of EARTH 2 when exactly our storytellers were going to get to. Delivering on them now was a good choice.
In effort of ‘assembling all of our actors’ EARTH 2 has been particularly good at introducing heroes in ways we might not be used to, such as the way Alan Scott got his Green Lantern ring or Jay Garrick got his superpowers. Those decisions to change things might be small – but it has been that constant desire of the storytellers to keep those new directions in characters that have kept EARTH 2 from being a “I wonder when x character will show up!” story. EARTH 2 has struggled to find a truly unique place, and if that direction is truly examined than it might find it.
Even though the backgrounds and landscapes in this issue are gorgeously realized, I find it funny that the sequences that ‘read’ the best are situated in a place where, artistically, the least amount of things is happening.
EARTH 22 #25 is a crowded issue. Not in terms of events happening, but in terms of the sheer amount of small panels and in between shots meant to tie things together. Sometimes all of them – especially when multiple characters in different locations are remarking on what’s happening, work against the story being told.
Green Lantern, Flash and Hawgirl are saved from an army of Parademons and one of Darkseid’s servants by what amounts entirely to a dues ex machina though, and that’s my biggest problem with the issue. Especially because before that point, a legitimate sense of urgency was being crafted. Once our trio of heroes is saved from their pursuers by the Atlanteans, and then those Atlanteans are never mentioned again makes me question the legitimacy of any further situations that might be similar in EARTH 2. Was it preplanned, or a result of the writers putting themselves in a corner last issue? I can see the folks that have been with EARTH 2 since issue one being a little nervous about the upcoming fight between Val-Zod and Superman.
Sometimes when I’m reading EARTH 2 I can feel the earth jostle slightly in the direction of the graves of some of the PRE-CRISIS DC writers, but this isn’t one of those issues.
I’m really looking forward to seeing the showdown between two Superman be realized, since it’ll be the first large scale battle between two super-powerful characters that EARTH 2 has really had, and it’s definitely “that kind” of comic. What I’m nervous about though is what comes after. Just like WORLDS’ FINEST is getting a new direction, when the dust settles on EARTH 2, will it continue to feel like the better new parts of the New 52, or are all of our new actors going to take their bows in the same place as the old ones?