Earth 2: World's End Vol. 2 when the heroes' battle seems hopelessly lost, and when the Earth 2 heroes go so far as to plan retreat and cutting their losses, something almost unheard of in the superhero zeitgeist. It put me in mind -- pleasantly, despite the drama -- of Crisis on Infinite Earths, where it's more than just the suspense of whether the good guys could lose, but rather it seems certain that they will lose, if nothing else than for the world-destroying purposes of the story (even if that loss eventually leads to another triumph). In this way -- really showing a real disaster -- World's End succeeds, at least in scope.
But whereas the weekly series format worked for the first volume of World's End, giving the various factions lots of space for the book's set-up, there doesn't seem quite enough material to fill the book's denouement. As such, the end of World's End involves a lot of the characters flitting from pitched battle to pitched battle, or repetitively worrying over the same thing scene after scene. The writing overall is good, but with so much space, there's a number of glossed-over details -- and even some big character motivations -- that might have been addressed and aren't.
[Review contains spoilers]
Again, World's End is ultimately a story about the forces of Apokolips routing Earth 2's heroes, causing them to flee Earth with a ragtag group of survivors while Apokolips takes the planet. Even one Earth removed, that's an astounding story of "our" heroes losing and having to abandon Earth. Writers Daniel H. Wilson, Marguerite Bennett, and Mike Johnson do a fine job of showing Apokolips's noose tightening, and how the heroes have to give up more and more -- and settle for saving fewer -- until they finally have to leave. Even as I know resolution is right around the corner in Convergence, I legitimately felt for the Earth 2 characters and World's End did legitimately seem to be Earth 2's "Crisis" point.
Also, though World's End's end comes somewhat suddenly, there's good moments right in the final pages for Green Lantern and Flash. As these were the original focus characters of this book -- with Hawkgirl, who gets the book's last word -- it's nice and fitting that the writers end with them (especially since Earth 2's protagonists and writing teams have shifted since then). Wrenching as well is that nearly half the Earth 2 characters don't seem to have made it out alive, including Green Lantern and Flash; even as we suspect they'll be along shortly, that level of sacrifice is equally Crisis-like.
But that said, at times it seems World's End takes the easier route of focusing more on the action and destruction and less on the plot. After twenty-six issues, I'm not certain what it is Darkseid wants with Earth such for Apokolips to consume it, nor what that business was in the middle where Mr. Miracle had to free Darkseid from a prison. Darkseid's murky motivations take away from the full impact of the story because we don't fully know what's at stake -- is Apokolips itself endangered, or just gluttonous? Worse, Darkseid's motivations are also inconsistent, as when one writer ends an issue with Darkseid challenging Superman Val-Zod, "If you want to save the remaining souls on this planet, you'll face me -- alone," a challenge quickly forgotten and with no basis in the story since Darkseid neither plans to leave Earth alone nor has any reason to give Superman the opportunity to make him do so.
Then there's the smaller inconsistencies. Oliver Queen is for some reason Red Arrow, even as Earth 2 already has a Red Arrow (and no one seems to have heard of Oliver). The Earth 2 Dick Grayson loses track of his son one issue, quite dramatically, but then his son is in his arms later on. The book also skips over what ought be an important moment, Dick Grayson meeting Batman Thomas Wayne, cutting instead to the two in a space shuttle cockpit together (with how Dick knows how to pilot a shuttle never established).
Possibly these scenes are found in one of this book's tie-ins volumes -- Earth 2, Worlds' Finest, or Constantine -- but the story and/or trade could do a better job of indicating it. When exactly the Earth 2 Jonni Thunder joins the heroes, for instance, is most likely in Constantine. And the book probably misses an opportunity by not specifically directing the reader to Convergence next; if you didn't know this book lead into Convergence, a variety of questions would seem to go unanswered, from who is Traveler Terry Sloan to what's up with that seemingly invincible owl.
Despite, as I mentioned earlier, reading some negative reviews for Earth 2: World's End, as a whole I liked this book more than I expected, even if the conclusion didn't live up to the beginning. Certainly this makes me more hopeful for Daniel Wilson's initial arc on Earth 2: Society. The art quality of this book varies, but I believe there's more good than bad, which you can't always say for a weekly series; the book offers absolutely no guidance as to which artist draws which page, but I believe there's some nice work here from Tyler Kirkham and Eduardo Pansica, among others.
[Includes original covers, sketchbook section]