Earth-2 5


Today, Shelby and Jack are discussing Earth-2 5, originally released October 3rd, 2012.

Shelby: Reintroducing old heroes to old audiences is not easy. The whole New 52 relaunch has been about juggling continuity and fresh stories to keep both new and old readers satisfied.  I’ve seen it as a great opportunity to learn more about characters new to me. I don’t feel so attached to old continuity, and instead like to discuss the differences between the old and the new, and what they mean for the story as a whole. I don’t know how I’m supposed to have a meaningful discussion, however, when I’m distracted by poor writing and cluttered art.

Al Pratt, The Atom, has knocked out Grundy, and is currently working on getting Kendra, Jay, and Alan to “accompany” him to the World Army HQ. At HQ, Amir Kahn, head of World Army intelligence, is observing the fight with the rest of the World Council. After swatting Green Lantern halfway across town, Atom tries to reason with Hawkgirl and Flash, but is interrupted when Grundy comes back, because we all know you can’t kill something that’s already dead. Green Lantern figures out that the Grey is some sort of place, and that because of his connection to the Earth’s energy matrix, he can just go there. He sets the other three to defending his body while he’s away; once he’s in the Grey, he’s sorely tempted by the ghost of Sam, his dead boyfriend. Meanwhile, back at HQ, the council decided things weren’t progressing quickly enough, so upon the advice of Terry Sloan they proceeded to deploy nukes to D.C.

Guh, this title is such a slog. I didn’t see the grammatical and editing errors I usually find, but that doesn’t make this writing any more fun to read. James Robinson just doesn’t choose believable language for these characters. I don’t believe that a man in charge of all intelligence for the WORLD ARMY would describe anything as “super strong.” Nor do I believe that Jay, a college graduate, would see fit to call Al Pratt “a bully” as he knocks him over. The worst, though, is definitely Alan’s conversation with the Grey. It promises him his heart’s desire if he joins with them. Now, I am not a stupid reader. On top of that, this story seems to be held together by predictable cliches. I know immediately that the Grey is going to use Sam to lure Alan over to their side. Turn the page, and we see Sam and Alan calls out his name. But on top of that, Robinson includes dialogue from the Grey, “…your dead lover.”

That is just unnecessary, and somewhat inappropriate. Not only is Robinson hitting us over the head with this not so surprising reveal, he can’t even refer to Sam as Alan’s boyfriend? I mean, Alan was going to propose to him before he predictably died in that train crash, I think that makes them slightly more than lovers.

That whole sequence of Alan visiting the Grey doesn’t make a lot of sense. Alan’s been the Green Lantern for, what, 5 or 6 hours? How in the hell does he figure that a) the Grey is an energy force, b) it’s similar to the force powering his ring, c) he can visit it, and d) how to do so? I know I’m supposed to suspend some disbelief when it comes to these sorts of thing, but this is ridiculous. Jay even asks him how he can do it. Alan says “I don’t know,” and then just does it.

Nicola Scott’s pencils aren’t doing it for me in this issue either. Generally, I like her style, but this issue it feels too cluttered. The spread in the World Army HQ is probably the worst example.

I don’t even know where to begin with this. The panel layout is confusing; with one long panel across both pages and the rest divided page by page, the eye doesn’t know where to go. There are a TON of dialogue bubbles bouncing around between Kahn, the support staff, and various screens in the room. Adding to the visual confusion, each screen contains boxes which look like they could be additional dialogue boxes. Plus, in the last panel of the left page, Kahn apparently momentarily transported to a different, completely empty room. Whether this is an issue with Scott wanting to include too much, or Robinson writing too much for her to include, I couldn’t say. I can say that it’s distracting, confusing, and not a great way to tell a story.

I want this title to be good. In fact, this title NEEDS to be good; this is DC’s first foray into the multiverse, and if they’re going to sell me on that ridiculous concept, they need to tell a good story to do so. For me, this title continues to be both poor in story quality and just poorly executed. On that shining note, I’m going to turn it over to Jack, whom I believe is new to this title. What did you think, Jack? Am I being too hard on this issue, or is it as problematic as it seems?

Jack: No, Shelby, unfortunately, I think you’re spot-on. Mom said that if I don’t have anything nice to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all, and that’s making this review pretty tricky to write. I’m trying to stay positive, but this is the most I have ever checked my watch while reading a comic book. Admittedly, I am not well schooled in this genre, so I’m sure there’s a lot of inter-textual dialog and literary allusions that I am missing. For the most part, all I can see is clunky dialog, weak-sauce tokenism, and people I don’t care about – oh, and fun, epic-struggle art.

Let’s focus on the fun, epic-struggle art for a moment. I was not particularly moved by Grundy as a villain when he was first introduced a few issues back, but he’s been growing on me, because of images like this one:

The bulging veins, the patches of purple, the full set of evil pearly whites, and the gleam of almost ecstatic crazy in his yellow eyes? That’s a good old-fashioned monster if ever there was one, close to my heart.

Or we could take a moment to admire our heroes’ stunning physiques…

…or the charming innocence of Jay Garrick’s dopey, dopey confusion. Come on, who could say no to those eyes?

Okay, I ran out of nice things to say. As Patrick and Drew have addressed in the past, the writing leaves a lot to be desired. Sometimes there’s a syntactical or grammatical incoherence that makes it hard to follow:

Sometimes the triteness is not to be believed:

But mostly, it’s just unnecessary. In the same way that  removing Garfield transforms Garfield into an incisive, distressing portrait of a lonely single man named Jon Arbuckle, I think we’d get a more relatable picture of our heroes if they just didn’t talk so much.

The net result of all this ungraceful chatter is that I don’t much care about anybody I meet in this series, and I increasingly resent the comic’s attempts to trick me into thinking I do. We meet a reporter for two frames. Is she going to matter later? I hope not, because the four seconds I spent with her was not enough time to ascertain anything more interesting about her than her profession. How about those three frames we spend with the president (a woman, no less, gee whiz, wasn’t that a brave choice)? I don’t learn enough to give her a second thought either.

And then, as Shelby observed, there’s the matter of Alan Scott and Sam. Their relationship only occupies two frames in this issue, but it still manages to be profoundly annoying in that short space. I would write it off as careless and insensitive tokenism, but I don’t actually find it any more careless or insensitive than the rest of the issue. Take these stomach-churning words: “Your dead lover.” You know who uses that word unironcally? Nobody. I could run up the PFLAG and ask, “Have you ever even met a gay couple before?” but honestly I think the more pertinent question would be, “Have you ever even met any couple before?” (Full disclosure, gentle reader:  I have recently ended a relationship, so I am in that embarrassing stage where you identify with the cheesiest romantic sentiments in the most cliché movies and the lamest pop music. Even in my current state, Alan and Sam make me gag, because no humans of any gender or orientation act this way with one another.)

The worst part – the part that elevates this ham-handedness to the level of true tokenism – is that the comic seems to think that this flowery, unconvincing romance constitutes developing Alan’s character. It doesn’t. As Drew observed back in August, we know nothing about this man. In fairness, that’s pretty much par for the course in this series, however, since we know next to nothing about the values, motivations, aspirations, and vulnerabilities of our other protagonists, too. The very most I feel comfortable projecting onto any of them is that The Flash is a sweet, bumbling, insecure young man, and that Hawk-Girl is a scathing, insecure young woman, so they will probably end up making out behind the bleachers before algebra class.

In sum, I don’t care about Alan Scott. I don’t care about Jay Garrick. I don’t care about Hawk-Girl, the Atom, the intrepid young reporter, or the president of the United States (world? not clear). That really makes me feel like an asshole, and I don’t like feeling like an asshole. But I do care about scary-looking monsters, so I guess it’s not a total wash.

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page.  Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore.  If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there.  There’s no need to pirate, right?

34 comments on “Earth-2 5

  1. Weird. Over at another website they were gushing about this. I tried picking it up (I still want a Mr. Terrific book) at the store and got stuck on the page you showed with all the dialogue and couldn’t get past it.

    On the other hand, Garfield minus Garfield is one of the most brilliant things I’ve ever seen. I want to get lost in it for days, watching Jon cope with his day to day existence.

    • Yeah, that spread is DENSE. Really, you know you’re in trouble when one of the nicest things we can say about your book is, “at least the dialogue was only kind of awkward instead of grammatically incorrect.”

  2. It’s weird that he does that because he’s so not good at writing dialogue. I like some of what he’s done (The Shade was fantastic), but his dialogue and corniness have kept me from buying this book. I’m not going to start, either, even though I planned on it because I WANT MR. TERRIFIC!!!

    • I feel like he’s trying too hard to make his dialogue sound natural – the over-use of contractions and weird, meandering syntax really grates against my desire for a smooth read.

  3. Guys, I tell you what, I am just so happy to see my dead lover that I’m going to let the Earth die. I mean, that was a scary couple of hours (those hours without my dead lover) but now that I can lay down with a pale facsimile of my dead lover, I don’t really care about anything anymore.

    • I’m sure that the people I barely know but have trusted with my life will find a way to convince me I’m making the wrong choice.

  4. I was a pretty staunch defender of the Earth-2 concept – to the point where I was willing to forgive the clumsy writing to embrace the “anything could happen” narrative. But Robinson has demonstrated plenty that he’s not to be trusted with that kind of freedom. These characters are all totally flat and featureless and they won’t SHUT THE FUCK UP.

    Also, three-issue long boss-fight? Nope. Literally half of this series has been tied up in the PHYSICAL FIGHT against one baddie.

  5. This issue was terrible, and I have loved this book to date (and generally loved Robinson on JSA and Starman beforehand.) I felt it was so bad that I re-read 1 through 4 just to make sure it hadn’t been this bad all along and I’d been fooling myself, but no, I still love those first 4 issues and the zero. I feel like the script here was so awful that even Nicola Scott turned in less than her usual stellar artwork because, well, what’s the point. It really made me consider if Robinson had turned in a bad script on purpose: he wasn’t given *any* books after the reboot, he gets this title, then they finally give him a second title and it’s Masters Of The Universe; while I love that franchise because I’m an idiot it is generally a bad sign to be releaged to toy franchise minis – it usually means you’re on your way out. *THEN* they *KICKED HIM OFF* the toy mini-series after the first issue and replaced him! I really think he may have been doing bad work on purpose here – I know how awful that is but I generally love his stuff and there was *nothing* here to like

    • Yeah, but there’s enough of an editorial safety net in place that it seems like writing of this quality should never see print. If if he was tanking it (yes, I watched 30 Rock last week – what of it?) there should be enough failsafes in place to stop this turd from festering so much. What’s the point of all this editorial oversight if it can’t edit anything?

      • If Green Arrow #0 saw the light of day I would suggest that whatever editorial manhandling may be occuring that not much of it seems to have anything to do with quality control

        • LOL! In reality though, I have always gotten the feeling that with the tight script-to-production timeframe that if an issue in the comics world is bad then it gets published anyway and is dealt with later either by cancellation or a creative-team switch-up. I think with artists having so much trouble meeting deadlines that a script re-write ends up taking a back seat to just getting the thing published on time

        • Oh, and not to pretend to know exactly how this all works, but I’ve heard of such things in interviews as artists getting scripts one or two pages at a time (possibly directly from the artists?) – I’m not sure at what stage editorial takes a hard look at the book, it might not even be until it is about to be lettered

  6. Just checked the industry sales figures for the first time in a few months… Earth 2 #0 was the 9th best-selling comic in the whole industry in September? That’s pretty amazing that it outsold Superman, Aquaman, Avengers, X-Men (but not Avengers VS X-Men of course), Fantastic Four and any number of other iconic titles. I wonder what demographic is accounting for the success on this book – and I wonder after this dud of a #5 if they’ll drop back off the top 10 suddenly. If Earth-2 is selling in the top 10 then Multiversity is going to go over like gangbusters

    • We weren’t big fans of this series in general, but this issue kind of sealed the deal for it — we really didn’t like it. Five issues of ho-hum is more than enough to make us drop a series (honestly, who has the time and money to put into something they aren’t enjoying?), but a single issue that we all unanimously despise makes sticking with it pretty unlikely.

      That said, I know Spencer has been reading this series more recently, and really likes it. Unfortunately, it’s looking like it’s going to be so tied into Worlds End that he may have to drop it, too (it’s hard to make the jump from one issue a month to five).

      • Yeah, like, Earth-2 over the last year or so hasn’t been a perfect book, but there’s a lot about it I like and have been enjoying, and the dialogue got much better after Taylor replaced Robinson even if I didn’t like that his entire run was basically spent on one uninterrupted storyline that lasted for like over a year I think.

        I’d been considering dropping it, not because I dislike it, but because I was afraid it was going to be so involved in Earth-2: Worlds End that I’d have to buy both series to read it, and Drew’s right, that’s a huge commitment. I can’t afford another weekly (I can barely afford the one I’m already reading).

        As if to confirm my fears, my LCS automatically added Worlds End to my Pull List because I was getting the regular Earth-2 title, so that seals it for me that I’m gonna have to drop both. Bummer.

      • Hi Drew,

        Thanks for responding. I have all the same issues with this book as you do, but I was very surprised about the amount comments on each issue compared to other books on this site.

        • Interesting. You know, when deciding what titles to pick up/drop, I don’t think we’ve ever considered the number of comments our discussions usually stimulate. I will say that I think negative reviews tend to prompt more comments, but are not so much fun to write (especially if it means following a series we aren’t digging), so we certainly couldn’t go based only on number of comments. Just as an example, here’s a list of our top commented articles:

          Red Hood and the Outlaws 19
          Forever Evil 1
          Red Hood and the Outlaws Annual 1
          Green Lantern 20
          Harley Quinn 1
          Justice League of America 4

          With the exception of Green Lantern 20 (which was Johns’ last issue) all of these are negative (or at least mixed) reviews, and we’ve since stopped covering all of these series. Negative reviews are fun to read, and I think tend to stimulate stronger reactions from our readers, but man, I’d much rather write about comics I actually enjoy.

  7. I’ve been searching all over the web for good comic “commentary” sites. I say that instead of review, because I am interested in discussion around books I’ve read, not finding out if I should read it (or getting a summary of the book). I find your site one of the best for this aspect.

    That said, If a book is amazing I will read it and then not really need to run to a website to find out what someone else thinks. Yet, when its bad, or even just confusing – then I do run online to see what I missed. (ie. Earlier in Earth 2, The flash says some crazy things as if they never put the other characters speech bubbles in and so I came here to see if you guys noticed and of course you did!!!)

    So its not just fun to read, but its helpful!

    • Thanks so much for your kind words — we work really hard to do something different, and it’s always great to hear when someone likes what we’re doing. I get what you’re saying about not feeling like you need to read an essay on a book that you loved (and I’ll admit, it can sometimes be hard to come up with new things to say for something that is consistently good), but I definitely think that’s where our most enlightening conversations happen. It’s not just about whether we like something, but why. I know that the flipside of that (why we didn’t like something) can be just as interesting, but I think it would be demoralizing to spend time and energy thinking about bad comics.

      We’ll definitely take it under advisement (seriously), but I think it will be a hard sell to convince our writers to read/discuss things they think (or maybe know) they won’t like.

      • That’s the real rub – right? We end up putting a lot of time into writing these things, and it’s marginally easier (and quicker) if we have a thematic hook or something we can really sink our teeth into. A bad issue (and this one was very, very bad) lends itself to piling on, which is fun to contribute to in small pieces, but crafting a whole piece about it is disheartening. And we all need heart!

        Might be kinda fun to have a dumping ground for our least favorite comics of the week…

        • Do you feel like you’re reading at least one comic a week that you’d want to dump on, though? We read a lot of bad stuff early on out of some weird sense of obligation, but I think I’ve cut almost all of that out of my pull. I’ll occasionally get something disappointing, or even frustrating, but nothing that it’d be fun to eviscerate (or, as consultincat suggests, necessary to parse). Like, I’m trying to think of a comic I read in the last couple months that I actively didn’t like, and I’m coming up blank. The Deadpool Original Sin tie-ins come the closest, but that series has always been a little inconsistent — I’m reading it for when it’s good, not for when it’s mediocre. It could be that any bad comics I’ve read have just been that forgettable, but I doubt I could come up with a bad comic I actually read every single week.

        • Well, with marvel unlimited, I’m really behind but I can read as many bad comics as I want. I absolutely loved reading the HORRIBLE clone saga and then reading the in depth commentary on it.

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