Today, Patrick and Mark are discussing Earth 2 Society 2, originally released July 8th, 2015.
Patrick: For the vast majority of DC’s line, Convergence didn’t really effect that much. And honestly, how could we possibly expect that convoluted mythology pile-up to effect anything even remotely grounded in reality? I don’t think this is a bad thing: I love having stories I can take seriously and follow ravenously from week-to-week and month-to-month, but I also enjoyed the two-month goof-off session that Convergence afforded us. Because the wackiness of that event was always going to be self contained, we got crazy major character deaths and radical shifts in status quo and all kinds of world-ending stuff you’d never be able to get away with “in continuity.” Of course, that story was part of DC’s continuity: specifically the Earth-2 part. Earth 2 Society 2 deals with those insanely elevated stakes gleefully, hilariously putting the FATE OF THE PLANET in danger. Again.
Can we — just right off the bat — address the fact that Terry Sloan is a villain that I simply do not understand? He’s the smartest man on the planet (err… smartest man on the original Earth-2, anyway), so he’s got that cold, detached practical thing going on. But for the life of me, I can not determine why he has to / why he would want to crash the generation ships into the surface of this Earth-clone. If I can parse out the logic: someone in the fleet starts to attack the Sloan’s ship’s mainframe, and Sloan’s solution is to crash all the ships into the planet, simultaneously colonizing the planet (with whomever survives) and distracting the attacker. This means that Sloan has the power to override all systems on all the generation ships, but apparently has no idea how to stop someone on one of those ships from jacking into his shit. Smartest man on the planet indeed.
Anyway, this leads to a world full of resentful colonists, orbited by Sloan’s ship. What’s Sloan doing in space? “Keeping the peace,” evidently. I was reminded of the third season of Battlestar Gallactica, when they colonize a planet, but leave one Battlestar in orbit, only — that made sense because there was the ever-looming threat of killer-robots-from-space. Plus, it gave us Fat Lee Adama, and there’s really nothing funnier than that. But Sloan’s “Overwatch 1” seems like it’s only there to be a kind of Bizarro (not-actually-Bizarro) Watchtower, orbiting the planet and making people not trust him.
Whatever action he’s actually taken during the year since planetfall is left totally unexplored. So whether all the heroes’ malice towards him is simply the result of him slamming the ships into the planet 12 months ago, or whether he’s been constantly tormenting them is left up to our imaginations. Not that I would have had much faith in the storytelling to convey this information clearly: writer Daniel H. Wilson has a strange sense of conversational cause-and-effect. Frequently, he’ll write characters responding to things that haven’t been said or clarifying something that hasn’t been stated yet. Here’s a good example of a page that seems to be firing off character dialogue at random.
With the exception of “who else knows…?” and “everyone knows,” there are no two consecutive speech balloons that organically flow from one to the next. Helena offers information apropos of nothing, Flash offers unsolicited opinion on a subject no one is talking about, Flash (again) responds to Jimmy Olsen interrupting before he speaks, and then Jimmy apologizes for something no one is upset about. It’s very strange dialogue, but it’s sort of emblematic of a storytelling style which at times feels more impressionistic than literal.
Which isn’t to say that Wilson doesn’t achieve some exciting or fun moments. When the Sandman’s men (sandmen, obvi) are seeking out the Source Vault, Huntress advises Red Arrow to find a gun to fight them off. You sort of have to ignore the fact that a) that’s weird advice for Batman’s daughter to give someone and b) that’s weird advice for anyone to give to Red Arrow, but his cocksure “Find. A. Gun? Helena, that’s truly unbelievable” put a big dumb smile on my face. Artist Jorge Jiminez also churches up the moment with some stylized panels of Arrow’s victims.
Far and away the weirdest part of this issue is its ending, and Sloan’s plan all along. He sets off the Source Vault which has the power to either destroy the world or make it (by destroying it first). It took all of two issue to put Earth-2 2 in danger of being destroyed. And when world-destruction is on the line, how could any storyteller be expected to slow down for interpersonal stories? It’s a bummer: after following these celestial orphans from one planet to the next, it’d be interesting to see how they play off of each other, instead of just how they plan to save or destroy the planet going forward.
Mark, did you find more to latch on to here than I did? The flashback structure is bothersome to me, partially because it feels like there’s no way a year should have passed without us being there to see some stories on this new world. But maybe we’re just blowing past those stories because there was no point where the world was going to end.
Mark: Yeah, the flashbacks are puzzling to me as well since I spent most of the issue wondering why we’re skipping over the events of that first year to tell this particular story. It feels like there’s a lot of rich story opportunities that were glossed over (I mean, Dick Grayson becoming Batman just to name one obvious example) just to bring Earth-2 back to the brink of destruction. We have so little context for what normal life on new Earth-2 is like that it feels premature to be zooming right back to TOTAL DESTRUCTION.
The other weird thing about the flashback structure is that although one year has supposedly passed, everyone feels like they’re picking up right back where they left off. Like they spent the year in stasis. Was the leap only introduced because otherwise they would have to fully play out Sloan crashing the generation ships and the aftermath, and that wasn’t a story DC wanted to tell? If so, it’s a waste. How much more interesting would this issue be if our characters had changed a lot in one year (surely building a civilization could do that to you), and the flashbacks were used as a way to show why they changed?
But enough about how I would do it. I’m a big Earth-2 fan, and there are still things I enjoyed about the issue. Jiminez’s style works well for shadowy figures like Batman, and I really like his design here— weird trench coat cape and all.
And Patrick, you already mentioned the standout spread of the issue with Red Arrow admonishing Helena for suggesting he use a gun while taking out multiple baddies.
Story-wise? Well, I’m honestly just kind of reading on autopilot at this point because I like the Earth-2 heroes. Threatening to change the face of Earth-2 2 is surprisingly boring despite all the bluster because I have no real idea what Earth-2 2 is like right now. Unless it’s literally the same as before, which would be so frustratingly pointless. It’s weird that unlike some of the larger titles after Convergence, smaller DC titles such as this one haven’t felt the need to be welcoming to new readers at all. Maybe some smaller character stories set during the early colonization of Earth-2 2 would have helped this book find its feet. As is, there’s not much here to keep anyone pushing forward.
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