Earth 2: The Tower Of Fate by James Robinson and Nicola Scott – A Book Review

There are two things I love in my graphic novels: world building and a true sense of danger.  Earth 2 has both in droves.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of Earth 2, it is an earth much like our own, but it’s just a little bit different.  In the “silver” age of comic books, Earth 2 remained in a perpetual World War 2 where the original versions of characters like The Flash and Green Lantern were still active.  That Earth 2 eventually merged with our “modern” earth in the mid-eighties and those characters aged appropriately (sort of), and so they were very old, active super heroes who referred to themselves by their original name predating Justice League of America, which was Justice Society of America.

DC Comics (sort of) rebooted their universe a few years ago, now calling itself The New 52.  The idea is that there are 52 worlds in the DC Universe, each with different versions of our well-known heroes. Of course, this provided the perfect opportunity for the Justice Society of America to go back to their original, young ages, but DC took it even a step further.

On this Earth 2, the world is set in modern times.  However, it has been widely defeated by Darkseid and his minions of Apokolips.  Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman kept it from being completely overrun by Darkseid, but they died doing so.  Now new heroes have emerged: Hawkgirl, The Flash, and Green Lantern, but they are not the “golden age” versions of the characters, or really any version of the characters for which you’re familiar.  And while that’s initially jolting, it’s ultimately refreshing.

I say that because this is a dangerous world. Our three supreme heroes have already died.  No one is safe, danger lurks evermore from Apokolips, and because it’s not the “main” version of these characters, anything can happen.

And this is a true world.  James Robinson, the author, takes us to several locales throughout the planet and builds plot points at each.  This is not a Justice Society of America story, for there is no Justice Society of America yet and there may never be in this title. This is an Earth 2 story.

The Tower of Fate is really about introducing Dr. Fate.  The volume gives glimpses into Terry Sloan, Mr. Terrific, Hawkgirl’s origin, Steppenwolf’s recruitment of Fury, but those are just glimpses, morsels to be played out later.  Dr. Fate’s origin is the only plot that really reaches a conclusion within the book.

James Robinson, the author, earned my undying loyalty with his seminal run on Starman.  With that being said, his plots are strong. He’s taking this title in very interesting, unique places. However, that is not to say he is without fault.  At times his dialogue is flat-out corny and obviously serving to progress the story, not the characters.  But, let’s keep in mind this is only the second volume and the story’s groundwork is still being laid.

The art by Nicola Scott is astounding.  It’s beautiful.  It’s pure.  It’s amazing.  If you love this medium, you will love Nicola Scott – there’s no other way to put it.

Furthermore, I don’t know who designed Dr. Fate’s updated look, but it’s the coolest Dr. Fate yet.  He truly looks like an otherworldly figure, but a figure with roots in ancient Egypt nonetheless.  And though we got only but a brief look, I adore Mr. Miracle’s revamped uniform.  Like Dr. Fate, he’s always had a cool costume, but now it’s just a little more modern, a little more dangerous, a little more awesome.

Earth 2 is not perfect, but it’s a really enjoyable read.  It’s a blast to see familiar characters with fresh updates, the artwork is wonderful, and there is always a sense of urgency and peril.  This is a book about an entire world of characters, and I can’t wait to see where it goes.  You should pay Earth 2 a visit.

 

Starman: A Comic Book for People Who Don’t Like Comic Books

Though the series concluded several years ago, Starman will forever burn bright as one of the industry’s great accomplishments.

Set firmly within the DC Universe alongside Superman and Batman, Jack Knight is the son of Ted Knight, otherwise known as the retired superhero Starman.  Ted has grown far too old to wear the red and green tights any longer, so his oldest son, David, is more than willing to carry on the family legacy.  Jack openly mocks his brother and finds the capes and tights crowd too ridiculous to stomach.  However, after David is killed soon after his unveiling, Jack finds himself in a race to save his father’s life.  Though he refuses to wear the gaudy costume, Jack masters the Cosmic Rod, his father’s invention that grants them their powers.  Their home, Opal City, dubs Jack the new Starman and he begrudgingly becomes the city’s plainclothes protector and even comes to relish the title.

The series ran for almost one hundred issues and was entirely written by James Robinson.  In Jack Knight, Robinson created one of the best-rounded characters you’ll find in not just comic books, but any form of literature.  Jack has as many nuances as do we all, and Robinson isn’t afraid to explore even those that don’t make him the most heroic of protagonists.  However, while a master of characterization, Robinson also knew how to bring the adventure.  Jack finds himself from the alleys of Opal City to the furthest reaches of time and space. 

Consequently, the title isn’t Jack’s alone.  Robinson made a point to include any and all who bore the name “Starman” over the years, and he developed a cast of characters so interesting that they almost stole the spotlight from Jack.  In reality, Ted Knight had been Starman in the comic books since World War II, and Robinson made ample use of such a rich and diverse history.  He even took a laughable Flash villain called The Shade and turned him into one of the most charismatic accomplices you’ll ever have the pleasure to meet.

Robinson specifically delivers wonderful interactions between father and son-Ted and Jack.  Initially the two could not be more different, but in the end, they both realize they had far more in common than they could have possibly imagined.  Jack must also balance a complicated love life as well as a rather unconventional role as a father himself.  And all the while, he’s trying to run an antique store.  As you can see, this is not your normal comic book. 

The primary artist for the series was the incredibly talented Tony Harris who can currently be found working on Ex Machina.  Harris worked his tail off at giving us a setting unlike any other, and so Opal City became an instant classic, far more visually recognizable than Metropolis or Gotham.  And like Jack, Harris seems to have little interest in conventional appearances.  His renderings are truly artistic, and he pays special attention to anatomy, lighting, and architecture.  The mere shapes and styles he uses to border and embellish his drawings are astoundingly detailed and aesthetically alluring.

Starman is a comic book for all connoisseurs of literature.  It tells a complete story from the first issue to the last with such panache, such style, and such uniformity that it will boggle your mind.  And best of all, it avoids all the comic book clichés and offers authentically identifiable and appealing characters that will remain in your heart long after you’ve read their adventures.

Best of all-it’s just flat-out cool.  When all is said and done, it’s just a cool piece of art that everyone will benefit from having experienced.

Now is the perfect time to get acquainted with Starman as DC has given it a terrific honor and released it as an omnibus collection.  You can find the first installment here:

http://www.amazon.com/Starman-Omnibus-Vol-1/dp/1401216994/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1212018565&sr=1-1