Earth 2: The Gathering – 2015 Weekly Writer Challenge: James Robinson (Week 1)
52 weeks. 52 different writers. 2 trade paperbacks or hardcovers a week. Each week I’ll take a look at a different writer and read two different collected editions from within that person’s repertoire to help in the examination of their work.
Longtime DC writer James Robinson is perhaps best known for his work on the series Starman. I admit that I feel like a complete idiot for not reviewing his time with the character for this week as it really does feel like a missed opportunity. Maybe I’ll do a special post on it down the road at some point because it is excellent stuff. Anyways, Robinson is well known for his work with Golden Age DC characters, whether they be characters like Starman or even the Justice Society Of America. When the New 52 relaunch happened over at DC Comics back in 2011, James Robinson was given the reigns for the Earth 2 reboot which saw the modernizing of several of the Golden Age DC superheroes for this new take on Earth 2.
Earth 2 Volume 1: The Gathering
As the evil hordes of Apokolips assault Earth, the “Trinity” of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman fight valiantly to protect their world. Steppenwolf seeks to use the forces of Apokolips to conquer the Earth as several of its mightiest heroes come together to protect it. The “Trinity” falls during the battle but manages to defeat the forces, leaving Earth devastated but still intact. Five years later, a new breed of these “wonders” begin to pop up all over the world as new threats begin to emerge and threaten the safety of Earth once again.
James Robinson gives us a whole new take on Earth 2 with his New 52 reboot that refreshes plenty of well loved Golden Age characters. From the opening moments of the series, Robinson establishes this sense of futility and hopelessness that is all too common in comics, only to play around with those themes using the character updates he introduces. We’ll get to the characters in a few moments (which are what truly make this such a fun read) but first lets really focus in on what Robinson is doing beyond the hopeless feeling he tries to hammer home during the opening salvo of issue one. During the opening moments, and for much of the first issue, Earth 2 is ravaged by the Apokolips army, killing countless innocent civilians and heroes alike. Everything feels futile as you watch it all fall apart from the word go. Even though Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman find a solution to the problem they still don’t necessarily win. The whole theme of the first issue is about sacrifice, which is exactly what these characters do to wipe the slate clean and introduce the new breed of characters. After making a large portion of the first issue feel gloomy, Robinson wisely shifts gears to display a five year jump into the future. He shows the readers that the world has moved on and begun to rebuild, even if those old wounds from the invasion still haven’t entirely healed, whether those wounds be physical or emotional. From there, Robinson begins to slowly instill hope and mischief into the story as he throws plenty of rebooted characters into the mix with many of them just beginning to get a handle on their powers.
As I said above, it’s certainly the updated takes on beloved characters that makes this Earth 2 reboot both entertaining as well as interesting. Characters like Alan Scott, Jay Garrick, and Al Pratt are all reintroduced to a new audience who might not realize that they were the first characters to ever respectively don the identities of Green Lantern, The Flash, and The Atom. These are characters who have decades of history but aren’t attached to that continuity because of the New 52 relaunch. As such, they’re all freshened up for the modern era with relevant but progressive changes being made to the characters. For example, Alan Scott is now a gay, successful businessman on the cusp of potentially relocating with his lover Sam. Al Pratt is a commando badass who is part of a secret government project and Jay Garrick is a far departure from the usual golden oldie speedster he’s known for being, instead becoming a hip youngster who is grappling with the ever changing landscape of young adulthood. These small and large fundamental changes to the characters help to serve as the catalyst for some important storytelling decisions, all still tying back to be key characteristics associated with who the character is or what they’re going to become.
I’d like to take a second to highlight how important of a decision it was on behalf of Robinson to roll with characters like Scott, Garrick and Pratt instead of more prominently known characters. The entire idea of the New 52 was to try to hook in new readers and in using these sort of characters James Robinson provides people with minimal comic knowledge a chance to grow with characters who don’t necessarily have too large of a cult following. When someone says the name Green Lantern or The Flash or The Atom and begins talking about their civilian identities, people automatically think of the most prominent people to undertake those identities. The most popular Green Lantern is hands down Hal Jordan but he isn’t the first character to ever be a Green Lantern, likewise with Barry Allen as The Flash or Ray Palmer as The Atom. Instead these characters like Hal, Barry, and Ray are just the versions of those characters who the already established audience has connected with. In using characters that would be lesser known to a newer fan base, Robinson not only gives a new layer of reading to past readers but he also is provided an opportunity to make fundamental changes to these characters that are less likely to illicit unpopular opinions.
The first volume of Earth 2 is far more interested in building up its new heroes than it is for creating villains. The world building that Robinson does allows room for villains to be easily established in the large scope of things but still allows for breathing room to create smaller scale villains. These lower tier villains serve as a sizable threat for the new, unorganized heroes and give them a solid launching pad for gained experience instead of just being thrown into the deep end against a seemingly insurmountable task. Doing things this way is simple character development as Robinson gives the characters a villain who would be easily defeated if the heroes had a better handling on their powers and worked as a more cohesive unit. Robinson introduces a fairly standard Solomon Grundy as the main threat through the first arc to test the characters and bring them together but never really challenge them. Nonetheless, the threat still does feel real as Grundy is set up with a strong power set that threatens life on Earth 2. But still make no mistake that Grundy is technically a pushover here as Robinson still crafts an intelligent and different way of dealing with the character.
Collects: Earth 2 #1-6
Best Character: Jay Garrick
Best Line Of Dialogue/Caption: “…I was just checking I came off as sincere…and not a raving ego maniac in love with the sound of his own voice.” – Alan Scott
Best Scene/Moment: Jay Garrick becomes The Flash – Issue 2.
Best Issue: Issue 4. The fourth issue of this collection introduces us to The Atom and is an action packed tour-de-force. Here you see all the new “wonders” uniting for the first time against their common foe, Solomon Grundy. This issue establishes Solomon Grundy as a threat to the Earth and begins to seed in some future plotlines as well, all while being just a kick-ass issue.
Why You Should Read It: What makes Earth 2 an important book to read is the fact that it still keeps the great Golden Age heroes of DC’s years gone bye relevant. That’s not to say characters like Alan Scott or Jay Garrick were irrelevant in the modern DC Universe because they were and played important roles in stories from several years ago. The more important fact is that updating these prestigious characters for the modern era of comics exposes them to all new readers. It’s incredibly important for new readers to show interest in these older characters and it’s even better when they show interest in these older characters in a modernized style as that’s what keeps comics published and fun. These new takes on old characters by James Robinson are vital for new and older generations of readers.