Every month, Brian Salvatore will take a glimpse at “Earth 2” from James Robinson and Nicola Scott, and address one aspect of the book in an in-depth column we’re called “Greetings From Earth 2.”
The fantastic image above is by Tim Daniel. Check out more of his work here.
In this edition, we will be covering issues #3 and 4, and dealing with an aspect of each in detail, as well as put out some guesses as for what is to come.
Note: I know this column has only appeared twice for four issues – that will be remedied next month.
The infamous final line of the Lost pilot is a perfect title for our discussion of issue #3, which, although ostensibly about Alan Scott becoming the Green Lantern, is really about establishing some of the parameters of the world our heroes inhabit.
While over on New Earth (or the New 52 Earth, the totally clunky and weird name DC execs keep using during panels), ‘Rotworld’ is spreading across the land, with the avatars of the Red (Maxine Baker) and the Green (Alec Holland) fighting the avatar of the Rot (William Arcane), on Earth 2, the Rot goes by the name of the Grey. The Grey has a champion, a “Man of Grey,” Solomon Grundy, as does the Green, the “Man of Green,” Alan Scott, aka the Green Lantern. Now, these aren’t exact parallels, as it seems that the green energy that embues Scott with his power is the power of the entire Earth, not divided up to a plant-kingdom and an animal-kingdom, as we’ve been seeing in “Animal Man” and “Swamp Thing.” But the concept is still basically the same – those who value life are trying to save it, while those who value death are trying to destroy all life.
This suggests that both Earths have some sort of fundamentally similar undercurrent that is connecting the two planets together. Whether or not this extends to the entire Multiverse or not is still up for debate, but this is not the first instance of seeing parallels dimensions away:
– Through the various Grant Morrison properties, as well as in this book, we have seen Supermans across Earths, as well as people calling themselves Batman, Wonder Woman, Robin, Supergirl, the Flash and Green Lantern.
– The same Darkseid attacked both Earths, perhaps with different soldiers heading his charge (Steppenwolf is mentioned in “Earth 2” #1, but never in “Justice League”).
– This one may seem obvious, but both Earths have the need for, and access to, super-powered protectors, and not only that, but at least a few accidental superheroes. The Flash, Green Lantern, and the Atom (see #4) were all “created” without much effort on their part, just like Hal Jordan and Barry Allen on New Earth.
– The aforementioned battle between life and death, in forms of representative battlers.
So even though this is a new planet to explore, not only do we have old favorites reinterpreted to relate to, but we also get a planet quite similar to ours, at least initially.
The Green entity (to borrow a phrase from New Earth’s Green Lantern mythos) tells Scott that there used to be a “sun god” protecting his planet, to which Scott presumes he means Superman, who used the Earth’s yellow sun to gain power. So, since Scott is new to this job, there have clearly been “champions” of the Earth before. So, was Superman inhabiting this same set of powers, just viewed through the prism of his own life and therefore appearing differently, or was the entity lying in the weeds waiting for the time when Earth needed another hero, and then bestowed his gifts upon him? If that is the case, was there someone else holding the power for the five years between Superman’s (apparent) death and Scott’s ascension to protector-hood? If not, was the world just not in need of a protector, and therefore the entity took a breather for some time and worked on its tan?Continued below
This also begs a question about the Flash: was Mercury, and the other gods worshipped on Paradise Island, working in tandem with this entity, or was their presence enough to, again, quiet the need for a protector for the planet?
Issue #4 introduces us to a post-explosion Al Pratt (who we first met in issue #1), and shows us a little bit about who the Atom is on Earth 2.
For those of you who only know the Atom as Ryan Choi or Ray Palmer, Al Pratt was the original Atom from the Golden Age, named so because of his small stature. Initially powerless, he eventually gained powers after fighting Cyclotron and being exposed to his nuclear energy. Pratt was the godfather of Albert Rothstein, the hero once known as Nuklon, and later as Atom Smasher, as well as the father of Grant Emerson, the hero known as Damage. Pratt was not one of the heroes who was de-aged when the Golden Age Justice Society returned, and so modern readers didn’t get to experience him like they did Alan Scott, Jay Garrick or Ted Grant.
The costume and power set seem to be a real amalgamation of Pratt, Emerson, and Rothstein, all of whom have history with the Justice Society. The costume that Pratt wears in “Earth 2” is most similar to the costume that his son, Damage, used to wear, featuring a variation of the biohazard symbol.
The costume seems to be both practical and decorative; it has wristbands that seem to keep the nuclear energy focused in his hands, as well as having a quasi-flight helmet and gloves that presumably keep the nuclear energy focused on his hands.
He also appears to have some of the powers of Atom Smasher, and can alter his size to gigantic proportions, as well the later-era Pratt power of being able to create an energy field around his hands and focus the energy to his hands (to create an “atomic” punch). It isn’t clear yet if Pratt has any powers from Damage, such as his energy discharges or his ability to leap great distances/heights (like an early Superman).
The World Army is an interesting plot point that keeps popping up throughout the series. The World Army appears to have been created after the Apokolyptian invasion we see in issue #1, and appears to be the world’s answer to how they hope to deal with future threats. Unlike New Earth, which has a Justice League, Earth 2 needed to create an army to defend them.
This actually, in a subtle way, reflects the plan Ozymandias has at the end of “Watchmen” – when the world struggles with disaster, it will come together. So, even though there may not be peace on Earth, there is an understanding that the good of the world is more important than the good of any single country. Because of this, the eventual Justice Society may not be as well received as the Justice League was on its sister planet, because the World Army is an easier to understand concept, without the vigilante streak that superheroes tend to exhibit.
There has also, apparently, been some contact between Hawkgirl, Kendra Saunders, and Al Pratt, as she says that she’s “not going back” with him. Was the original idea for the World Army to gather up Metahumans and use them as soldiers? Is it more nefarious than that?
Two of Ms. Scott’s best work from these past two issues:
There are a bunch of nods to various pieces of comics lore here, but the clearest is found in #3, where we see Alan Scott lose an eye. This is a wink (pun intended) to when Scott lost an eye in a Zeta beam accident around the time of DC’s “52.” This is classic James Robinson – taking a small event that features so many wonderfully DC concepts (the Golden Age Green Lantern in the modern age, traveling across galaxies in a Zeta beam with Adam Strange that was damaged by Alexander Luthor, Jr.) and making it relevant, if only for a few pages.Continued below
First Round: The Parallels of the various Earths will extend to their entire universes
The cover to #4 proclaims that Hawkgirl comes “from the ashes of a dying world,” despite her origin never being mentioned in the slightest. But that suggests that Hawkworld/Thangar is a place in this universe, as was Krypton, presumably. So is there an Oa? A Rann?
Robinson mentioned a desire to do something similar to the Legion of Super-Heroes on “Earth 2,” as well. So, even though these are different planets in different universes, are they essentially on the same trajectory?
I think that is the case – and I’m sure Grant Morrison’s “Multiversity” series next year will shed some light on this. The universes appear to be essentially alternate versions of the same place, and therefore, on alternate versions of the same path. This isn’t to say that every action is essentially predetermined, but just as there are multiple Supermen, perhaps there will also be multiple bands of teenagers in the future who are inspired by the heroics of the past.
That said, I don’t see a real need for multiple universes if they aren’t going to be distinguished from each other in real ways, and I’m sure others feel the same way, so Robinson must surely have some big plans for the book, beyond just mirroring the world we already know.
Second Round: Character compression
The Atom is a perfect example of Robinson compressing multiple characters into one easier to digest person. This is almost the exact opposite approach he took on “Starman,” when he used every possible iteration of Starman in his run, from the three Knights, to future and past versions, and combined to make a tale that was a tapestry of histories, all woven together to tell one epic story.
He appears to be doing the opposite, and taking what he likes from each of the atomic characters from DC’s past and creating the Voltron of Atoms. While I would prefer the former, the later has value, too; why fuss with imperfect characters when you can just take the best parts and make a great character?
If this is the case, then I expect a much more streamlined origin from Hawkgirl, as the Hawks have some of the more convoluted origins in all of comics. But what if the idea is taken to an even further extreme?
What if each character we’re going to meet isn’t just the streamlined version of themselves, but of an entire archetype of hero? So far, the four heroes we’ve met all fit a pretty distinct type of origin:
Scott – the good man challenged to be great
Garrick – the man without a plan being given a road map
Saunders – the mysterious alien
Pratt – the man transformed by science and luck
We’re waiting around for the rich man using his wealth to fight crime (perhaps Rex Tyler?), the simpleton with great powers (Johnny Thunder), the scientist, the vigilante seeking revenge, who else am I missing? Will the Justice Society not just be a team of superheroes, but the team of archetypes? We’ll have to wait and see.
If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for this column, leave a comment below or email email@example.com
See you next month, and thanks for reading!