Review: Earth 2 Vol. 5: The Kryptonian hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, February 29, 2016

Tom Taylor's Earth 2 Vol. 5: The Kryptonian improves on the previous volume, which itself held up better after the second reading. This is due in large part to Taylor's renewed use of the original Earth 2 characters from James Robinson's run previous, who were mostly absent in Taylor's first book (the fourth of the series). But giving credit where it's due, Taylor's new Earth 2 heroes coalesce better here, and many of them are quite strong and make for good additions to this title. The influence of Taylor's Injustice is clear, which is not exactly what I read Earth 2 for, but this is an enjoyable-enough penultimate volume of the series.

[Review contains spoilers]

Taylor's Kryptonian follows a couple different paths -- that of Kryptonian Val-Zod, Red Tornado Lois Lane, and the Superman seemingly turned evil, all together and separate; the Earth 2 Batman and his band of freedom fighters; and the original Earth 2 "wonders" Green Lantern, Flash, and Hawkgirl. With a couple of one-note, one-character mainstream DC Universe titles on the brain, like Sinestro, a book like Earth 2 with an expansive cast going in different directions is something of a relief. And even in six issues, Taylor doesn't have room to do a lot with everyone -- his Batman fades to the back a bit here, which is fine considering his prominence last time -- but the slow ebb and flow of the storylines reminded me positively of James Robinson doing the same kind of thing before. (A greater swath of original series artist Nicola Scott's work helps, too.)

Given Earth 2's original set-up as the New 52's Justice Society/Golden Age-type book, it's easy to overlook what it is in the want for what it was. Taylor's apocalyptic alt-reality take isn't a satisfactory substitute, but then again, the book has Lois Lane's consciousness in a Red Tornado body in the lead. Earth 2 is, essentially, a Lois Lane title, something the DC line (and/or "DC Rebirth") sorely needs, and that alone says a lot at least for this volume.

Kryptonian has a bunch of strong moments, including Red Tornado Lois Lane teaching the new Superman Val-Zod to fly (with Taylor and Scott calling out to Superman: The Movie) and Lois's subsequent, tragic stand-off with the evil Superman at the Kent farm. Jimmy "Don't call him 'Anonymous'" Olsen isn't my favorite of Taylor's new creations (surely Brainwave or someone better connected to the Justice Society could have filled this role), but he has some fun scenes telling off Batman and encouraging Val-Zod. And I did appreciate that Kryptonian brings some of the disparate elements of Taylor's Earth 2 Vol. 4: The Dark Age together, such as tying back in Marella -- "Don't call her 'Aquawoman'"-- queen of Atlantis.

What's made Taylor's Injustice interesting, despite my expectations to the contrary, is how well he writes the post-apocalypse, and the engaging motivations he gives to characters behaving badly. There's an early scene in Kryptonian in which Taylor shows the death of Earth 2's "one percent" in an ill-advised escape from the planet, which serves no real purpose in the story other than dark world-building, and it's very effective. Atom's dismemberment and Pa Kent's death are both gruesome but also effective moments in the story, though indeed they hearken stronger to Injustice than Earth 2.

The Futures End tie-in story collected here is confusing like many of the Futures End tie-in stories have been. (Many of them could charitably be called Elseworlds, having little or no tie to Futures End proper). This particular story is ostensibly set during Futures End, but the Michael Holt on the run in this issue doesn't at all jibe with the tech mogul in the opening of Futures End, so I'm not sure how we're supposed to understand this. Daniel H. Wilson, the issue's writer, is one of the authors of the Earth 2: Worlds End spin-off series, and so possibly this issue is supposed to tie to that, but that's no less confusing since the issue has Futures End branding.

I'd still have loved to read the Earth 2 that James Robinson planned to write, but at the end of Tom Taylor's two-volume run (with the next gaining some writers and tying in to Earth 2: Worlds End), I begin to see a book that was almost coming together. Though not in major roles, Earth 2 Vol. 5: The Kryptonian offers a last hurrah for Green Lantern, Flash, and Hawkgirl, and brings them together in the end with Taylor's original characters growing rapidly more interesting like Val-Zod and Red Tornado Lois Lane. I sense all of this becoming moot very soon, but when whatever is said and done about the post-Flashpoint universe, I'll remember Earth 2 as a title with a lot of potential, if not fully realized.

[Includes original and variant covers]
Collected Editions 2016 Comic Book Gift Guide
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6 comments:

  1. "Earth 2 as a title with a lot of potential, if not fully realized" hits the nail squarely on the head for this series as far as I am concerned. I loved it at first and was very much looking forward to the world-building that I foresaw Robinson doing. Then he left and Tom Taylor took over and I still enjoyed it, but for different reasons - not much world-building and a LOT of world-destroying and yet it was still very well-written and entertaining. After he left, it felt like DC didn't know what to do with the title anymore. What a waste. But I can at least re-read the first 5 volumes over and over again.

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    1. "After he left, it felt like DC didn't know what to do with the title anymore."

      Well, mind you I'm not very far past Vol. 5, but what they did with it after Taylor left was cancel and relaunch it, right? I've started World's End and I'm enjoying it more than I thought; it seems to me after Taylor left was when DC definitely had a plan, to run World's End then to tie into Convergence and then to relaunch the series. Yeah?

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  2. Yeah, that's true that DC may have planned all of that for the Earth 2 characters after Taylor left, so my statement that you quoted may not have been the best way to phrase how frustrated I felt with what they did with the series and characters after Robinson and then Taylor left. I read the rest of the Earth 2 series, World's End, and Convergence and then started reading the Earth 2: Society series that spun out of all of that, and to my mind all of that was just so unenjoyable and the characters so mismanaged from what I perceived Robinson had in mind for them that I felt like DC didn't know what to do with them anymore, so that's why I said what I said.

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    1. Definitely; to each their own. I felt that way after Earth 2 Vol. 4. Vol. 5 redeemed it for me, but I totally see where you're coming from.

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  3. Yes World's End and most of Earth 2. Vol. 6 was certainly turning over a new leaf for Earth 2. It became better, not James Robinson standards but more enjoyable than Vol. 4 and 5. I haven't read anything Earth 2 related after Convergence, so I can't say anything about that.

    What Taylor did to Earth 2 was not for me. The moment Robinson left, it all changed. The characters seem to lose their dynamic together. It started as a really good elseworlds story and changed into a generic big destruction with big fights story. I might have enjoyed it more, if it had been done to something else than the 3 amazing first trades.

    On a separate note, collectededitions, if you're reading World's End, it overlaps with Earth 2 Vol. 6. I wrote the order down but since it's been a while I'm not 100% sure if this is correct, because some stories overlap and I figured it out myself while reading. This is what I got: WE #1, E2 #27, WE #2-5, E2 #28, WE #6-9, E2 #29, WE #10-14, E2 #30, WE #15-18, E2 #31, WE #19-22, E2 #32, WE #23-26.

    And since I didn't see any reviews about them according to my notes Worlds' Finest Vol. 5 takes place just before before World's End and Worlds' Finest Vol. 6 is an Earth 2 Prequel.

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    1. I appreciate the reading order. Since I'm reading them in full trades, I'll go through all of World's End first, then the last Earth 2 trade, then on to Convergence.

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