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?