Earth 2 is one of my favorite things to come out of the New 52 wreckage. Sure, last issue seemed a bit iffy, but Earth 2 #4 comes out swinging. I love how Earth 2 has no precedent to follow, that it’s completely on its own in the DC Universe. This is one of the few books that is really taking full advantage of a clean slate. Outside of a few names being similar, Earth 2 is slowly and completely reinventing some of our most beloved heroes.
A violent explosion levels most of Papua, New Guinea. Teams of soldiers are dispatched with special weapons to see if it’s Apokolips technology that can be used to reverse the damage caused by the Apokolips attack, which resulted in the deaths of Batman, Robin, Supergirl, Superman and Wonder Woman in this reality. All the soldiers find is a man, but what an incredible man he is. Jump ahead five years, and this same man is working for the government. He’s about to leap from a plane to try and discover what is causing the Earth to rot.
This is where our newly formed batch of heroes comes in. Jay Garrick, now a young adult bestowed with the powers of the Flash by the god Hermes, has met up with the mysterious Hawkgirl, and the two are racing against the rotting earth to try and find the source. The end of their search bring them to Solomon Grundy who, in Earth 2, is like a negative Swamp Thing. His body is made of the dark parts of the Earth, which allows him to regenerate whenever wounded.
A confluence of circumstances brings the new Green Lantern, Flash and Hawkgirl together to fight Grundy as the world watches. Just as it seems they may turn the tide, our mystery man from the beginning lands and demolishes everything in sight. Turns out this is the Atom and his first order of business is to arrest the new heroes. Nothing happening in Earth 2 connects with the standard DC Universe, and that’s why it works. Writer James Robinson is like a kid in a candy store. He’s creating new attitudes, histories, enemies, and story arcs and executing them perfectly.
Robinson knows exactly how much of the new world to tether to the old one so we stay familiar enough to keep reading, but off-center enough to be challenged. Granted, some of the challenges work better than others. I’m still not sure how I feel about Green Lantern of Earth 2 being powered by the protective spirit of the Earth itself. Part of me thinks it works, but part of me finds it a little too close to Swamp Thing. I am enjoying Jay Garrick as a smart aleck teenager and the mystery behind Hawkgirl.
No amount of perfect pacing and great storytelling would be complete without great artwork to back it up. Nicola Scott and Eduardo Panisca dropkick this issue right out of the arena. I’m not sure who does what, but whichever artist was in charge of creating Flash’s movement when he runs or Green Lantern’s in flight speed is right on point. The panels are put together in such a way that your mind fills in the blanks, turning the two dimensional picture into a moving image.
The Solomon Grundy created for Earth 2 is my favorite version the character, save for the Arkham City video game version. Grundy is evil here, twisted and rotten. Again, I’m not sure who had more input with Grundy but the result is amazing. Both artists seem to enjoy high action, but more standard panel placement. Even the faces, which I can be brutally honest about, are wonderful here. Scott and Panisca take the already solid work of James Robinson and elevate it up another level.
Earth 2 is not only one of the best things about the New 52; it’s one of the most exciting titles out right now.
(4.5 Story, 4.5 Art)