An implacable Wall meets an extremely determined group of villains in “War for Earth-3” #1.
Written by Robbie Thompson and Dennis Hopeless
Illustrated by Steve Pugh, Dexter Soy, and Brent Meeples
Colored by Matt Herms
Lettered by Josh Reed, Travis Lanham, and Simon Bowland
The Teen Titans, the Flash and the Suicide Squad all collide on Earth-3—home of the evil Crime Syndicate—on the hunt for former Task Force X mastermind Amanda Waller. As Waller tries to take over the alternate Earth and dethrone evil versions of Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, and other heroes that rule it, her former partner—Rick Flag—arrives on E-3 bent on making Waller pay for her crimes, while the Titans and Flash hunt for a missing academy student they believe was kidnapped by Waller to form her mysterious Justice Squad.
There have been some uses of the mirror universe of Earth-3 in the past few years. Following “Dark Night: Death Metal,” the “Crime Syndicate” miniseries has been the most prominent until the increasing involvement of Amanda “the Wall” Waller and the Suicide Squad. With “War for Earth-3,” it seems that the machinations of Waller are coming to a head in what is billed as a somewhat major event. But as a debut to this conflict, how does the writing of Robbie Thompson and Dennis Hopeless measure up to expectations?
From a narrative standpoint, “War for Earth-3” #1 is an oddity. Yes, Thompson and Hopeless set some things up, but at the same time, they do not do a lot to give the impression of this so-called “war” being a larger story than an arc for the Suicide Squad, or even the idea of it being anything more than a relatively by-the-numbers superhero comic. While there are groups beyond the Squad itself, they all either lean heavily on Waller’s group for their background or are otherwise completely disconnected from the plot itself beyond comedic purposes. For all of the talk about the Teen Titans or the Flash, we have yet to see any of that come to fruition or even be mentioned offhand in the pages of the book itself. As it is, the composition of this plot may as well have had “Suicide Squad” added to the title of the comic itself.
This discrepancy is not to say the story is inherently bad. The immaturity of the Crime Syndicate, coupled with their conflict with the invading force from other Earths, is rather amusing in its own way, with the tensions inside the group creating an interesting contrast against the Justice League of Prime Earth. The interactions between Ultraman, Superwoman, and Owlman (the equivalent to the Prime Earth trinity of Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman) are particularly interesting, giving a kind of black comedy to the entire affair, especially when Owlman is forced to do things on account of having no way to defend his position against his compatriots. This lack of deliberate teamwork works in direct opposition to the cool, collected leadership of Waller herself, even if her behavior is confusing (perhaps intentionally so for the time being). The use of two (or technically three) concurrent stories works to the debut’s advantage, creating a feeling of various roads coming to a head at a major inflection point that eventually comes up rather effectively.
The three art styles for “War for Earth-3” #1 all mesh rather well with one another, with changes in the artwork dependent upon not only the artist, but also the events of the work. At first, Steve Pugh’s lines, hard and firm, give the idea of a semblance of control for the Crime Syndicate, and Ultraman in particular. They are in charge, up against an invading force that could not hope to stand against them, and heavily embroiled in their own personal squabbles. The artwork draws attention to their faces, to the dark shadow on their expressions, to the anger and other negative emotions at work. Once the story starts to turn against them and they finally acknowledge that fact, the illustrations move to Dexter Soy, whose thinner, quicker lines seemingly indicate Ultraman’s fraying nerves, and to a degree those of Superwoman as well. Eventually, the plot comes around to a more classic superhero story of good (well, close enough) versus evil, and with this shift comes a third artist: Brent Meeples. His thick, highly animated artwork becomes either detailed or vague depending on the scene, but on the whole fits well into how the focus of his part of “War for Earth-3” #1 concentrates on the perspective of quasi-heroes, rather than villains fighting other villains for a world of inverted morality.Continued below
Despite there being three illustrators, there is only one colorist: Matt Herms. The colors brought forth by his influence helps the work of Pugh, Soy, and Meeples to all appear to be almost a single artist, the cohesion doing quite a lot to make this story work. At times, the colors are so seamless that the change of artist is all but invisible. In fact, due to his colors, readers may need to look closely and keep in mind the credits of “War for Earth-3” #1 to even recognize when the illustrator is changing.
The three letterers on “War for Earth-3” #1 also each have their own style, which comes to the fore especially prominently with the onomatopoeias scattered in each of their pages. Josh Reed’s sound effects are rather visceral and disturbing, a sound of violence drawing attention to the act of coming into contact with a living being in a fatal manner, and the effect around crushing metal is scary in its own way for similar reasons. Travis Lanham focuses instead on the sound of motion and explosive reactions, his sound effects seeing to shake with power despite being stationary on each page in which they appear, from actual explosions to contact with a surface to a general sonic boom. Simon Bowland curves his letters around points of impact in such a way that it can make even a seasoned audience wince as a rather painful homage takes place.
Final Verdict: 6.5– An interesting opening conflicts with the story’s promises in this event debut.