Best Shots Reviews: AMAZING X-MEN #1, FOREVER EVIL #3, Much More

Marvel Previews for November 6 2013
Credit: Marvel Comics
Credit: Marvel Comics

Amazing X-Men #1
Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Ed McGuinness, Dexter Vines and Marte Gracia
Lettering by Joe Carmagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

The X-Men have been many things in recent years: Angsty. Epic. Divided. Convoluted. But with Amazing X-Men #1, Jason Aaron and Ed McGuinness are making the X-Men something they haven't been in awhile.


With the epic return of Kurt Wagner, Amazing X-Men #1 truly lives up to its name, reminding me of all the best parts of Aaron's opening arc of Wolverine and the X-Men, supercharged by some fantastic art by Ed McGuinness. Rather than delve too deeply into the circumstances of Nightcrawler's death, Jason Aaron instead spins together a reintroduction to the X-Men's fuzzy blue swashbuckler that reminds us why we loved the character so much in the first place. Combining teleporting combat with swordplay and even the return of Chuck Austen villain Azazel, this book opens with the same sort of energy and gusto of X2: X-Men United. You can't help but cheer for Nightcrawler, as he gets back into the swing of things as if he never died to begin with. The heart, soul and wit of the X-Men is back, and you can't help but realize just how much you missed him.

And the artwork by Ed McGuinness is absolutely perfect for this newer, more optimistic take on the Children of the Atom. McGuinness's cartoony linework is full of joy and excitement, as you can't help but grin along Nightcrawler as he manages to find a fight even in Heaven itself. McGuinness's fight choreography is impressive, especially when you watch Nightcrawler bounce and teleport across the page, but he also draws some truly expressive characters. His character designs for Wolverine's school make the setting really easy on the eye, as we can see Iceman shy away at the sudden influx of female attention, or Beast's almost manic determination to liberate his coffee machine from the hands of the teleporting imps known as Bamfs.

Speaking of the Jean Grey School, Jason Aaron winds up being able to go back to his greatest hits - and somehow sells it a second time. If you didn't read the first arc of Wolverine and the X-Men, Aaron reintroduces Wolverine's school through the perspective of Angelica Jones, the microwave-emitting mutant known as Firestar. Just like Kitty Pryde before her, we get to see how weird and dysfunctional the Jean Grey School is, with great moments like Iceman explaining to Warbird why she can't break into his room in the middle of the night, or Wolverine suggesting to Storm that they blow off some steam in the shower. The Jean Grey School may be quirky, but it's also a place that charms you, thanks to Aaron and McGuinness's work.

As far as first issues go, Amazing X-Men #1 has more than its fair share of solid hooks - stellar artwork, an engaging story, and the return of a fan-favorite character. Considering the revolving door of death in the Marvel Universe, it's refreshing to see Jason Aaron actually have a logical plan for Nightcrawler's return, one that might bring the X-Men to a new frontier - not across nations or across planets, but now through metaphysical realms themselves. If this opening is any indication, Amazing X-Men is going to be the X-title to beat.

Credit: DC Comics

Forever Evil #3
Written by Goeff Johns
Art by David Finch, Richard Friend and Sonia Oback
Lettering by Rob Leigh
Published by DC Comics
Review by Richard Gray
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

After three issues and several tie-ins, Geoff Johns finally starts answering a few questions after leaving us hanging since August. With Forever Evil #3, Johns begins to bring together a number of the mini-series and satellite events, including Forever Evil: Rogues’ Rebellion, that have been setting up narrative pins without any corresponding force to knock them down.

Johns wastes no time at the start of this issue by explaining that the clash between the Firestorms of two Earths opened up the Firestorm matrix, sucking in all of the Justice League, barring Cyborg and the already dying Superman. The question remains as to where Firestorm has gone, but Batman and Catwoman are more interested in saving what is left of Cyborg and rescuing Nightwing. Meanwhile, Lex Luthor continues to train his Superman clone B-Zero, while Ultraman finds out that might and magic don’t always mix.

It might be the nature of the event style of series, but Johns packs this incredibly dense issue with a mountain of exposition. Indeed, the opening page envelops the panels with dialogue and narrative bubbles. While the issue is perfectly accessible to people who haven’t been following the satellite books, Johns makes doubly sure that everybody is up to speed by having characters repeat what has occurred elsewhere. Evil Firestorm reminds the Rogues of what they failed to do in their own title, a fact Captain Cold repeats when he encounters Luthor later in the issue. Yet the characterisation of the Crime Syndicate is fascinating, and worth further exploration. Power Ring, an analogue for Green Lantern, is weak-willed and cowardly. After a freak-out, his ring reminds him “Power levels 15%, you idiot” in a nice twist on the familiar voice that accompanies the Lanterns.

David Finch reminds us why he is one of the go-to people for blockbuster-style art. The vision of Firestorm sucking the remaining members of the Justice Leagues into his head is a powerful one, but he still has the delicate touch to show B-Zero holding out a daisy to Luthor. The tightly framed fight between Ultraman and Black Adam is brutal, making us feel every blow and teeth are lost and blood is let. The coming together of Luthor’s team of villainous irregulars is one of the more iconic shots in the series so far, and that alone promises some fun over the next few issues.

With about a dozen tie-ins or related issues to Forever Evil over the next month, the event occasionally feels that it is spread a little too thin. Staging an event with the complete absence of any major heroes is a risky move, but for the most part the characters present are compelling and likeable. As the threads slowly come together, we just hope this leads to a satisfying conclusion and not more questions.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Iron Man #18
Written by Kieron Gillen
Art by Joe Bennett, Scott Hanna and Guru eFX
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

The future is a scary place. And it might all be Tony Stark's fault.

It's taken awhile to get to this place, but suddenly - unexpectedly - Kieron Gillen has found his sweet spot with Iron Man. Forget the destructive capabilities of his billion-dollar suit of armor - Tony Stark's far more dangerous weapons are his intelligence and his unbridled ambition. Moving beyond video game fight sequences or space opera, Kieron Gillen is finally blowing up Iron Man's world in a bigger, more meaningful way - with an arms race of ideas.

Hot off the heels of his latest gamechanger - namely, the revelation that Tony Stark was adopted, a public decoy to hide his long-lost brother, Arno Stark - Kieron Gillen has escalated the Stark boys' story dramatically here. Opening with a jump to the future, Gillen delivers probably the most ominous, creepy sequence of his career, as he shows the technological utopia that might be the Starks' legacy. Without giving too much away, Gillen not only balances intiguing ideas about technology and urban planning, but he also quickly changes up the tone as he shows how quickly - and how catastrophically - things can go off the rails, even under the eyes of two billionaire genius playboy philanthropists.

With such a strong introduction, the second half of Gillen's script, while not as visceral, is still a great way to set up the story to come. Sure, there are references to the Iron Man suit, and even the rogue AI known as 451 makes an appearance, but ultimately Gillen's game plan is something much more ambitious and elegant - if Tony Stark is such a smart guy, why hasn't he left his mark? What will the Stark name truly mean? It's a slippery slope, but one that Gillen seems to grasp even more than Matt Fraction and Warren Ellis before him. Iron Man is about progress, but progress can also mean escalation, aggression, even catastrophic reactions. And judging by the very, very smart twist Gillen puts on an old Iron Man foe, I can't wait to see where it goes next.

Artist Joe Bennett also deserves a tip of the hat for this comic - this is easily some of the best work I've seen from him in recent memory, as his team-up with inker Scott Hanna produces some clean, expressive artwork. Seeing an older version of Tony and Arno has just the right amount of grit without seeming oppressive, while Bennett's take on a self-harming robot is one of the creepiest things I've seen in a Big Two comic in some time, as the AI is literally crying tears of synthetic blood. While the second half of the book occasionally gets a little talking head-heavy with Tony and Arno's dialogue, Bennett punctuates this comic with some really evocative action beats, whether it's a fleet of Iron Man drones trying to save the world or the final splash page introducing a new villain for Tony to face.

If you had asked me 17 issues ago if I thought Iron Man would be this good, I probably would have been skeptical. This comic has made some weird detours since its relaunch, and whether it's Thor trapped in Siege or Tony stuck in space in Guardians of the Galaxy, Kieron Gillen, good soldier that he is, has often been put in the position of having to write marquee characters under very strict editorial constraints. Here - finally - Gillen is free, and it's clear that his potential has been largely untapped.

At least, until now. The future may be a scary place, especially with Tony Stark in it. But I wouldn't want to see anyone but Kieron Gillen take us there.

Credit: DC Comics' November 2013 solicitations

Green Lantern #25
Written by Robert Venditti
Art by Billy Tan, Rob Hunter, Alex Sinclair and Tony Avina
Lettering by Dave Sharpe
Published by DC Comics
Review by Richard Gray
'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

In last week’s Green Lantern Annual #2, Robert Venditti concluded his first arc on the book since taking over from Geoff Johns earlier this year. “Lights Out” was one of the most understated and effective arcs in the current DC continuity, firmly establishing Venditti’s presence as the new voice of the Green Lantern universe. While he has left himself with a new status quo following the conclusion of that first story, the immediate aftereffect feels a little anti-climactic, even if it changes the nature of how we view the Lanterns.

With the reservoir of light restored thanks to the heroic (almost) sacrifice of White Lantern Kyle Rayner, the Lanterns of all colors and emotional orientations are free to pursue unfettered spectral construction across the universe. Yet not all of the Green Lanterns agree with this, some choosing to abandon using their rings, while Hal Jordan believes that the Green Lantern Corps should control the unauthorized use of the emotional spectrum. Worried that he wants to turn the universe into a police state, a bigger rift is created between Hal and Carol Ferris, his erstwhile lover and wielder of the Star Sapphire ring.

Venditti’s new direction raises some interesting questions about the responsible use of Lantern energy, but also the eternal musings of great power and its ability to corrupt. While the “Lights Out” arc saw Hal embrace his new role as leader, this second storyline under Venditti ponders how far he could go with that power. This is, after all, a character that has run the gamut of heroic and non-heroic roles, from enraged villain, rewriter of time and even the god-like Spectre. For now, this manifests as a talk-fest on the hypocrisy of using their power rings to stop others from doing so. From the moment Venditti sits the remaining Corpsmen around campfire, it becomes a western, with Kilowog and Hal the bounty hunters intent on brining in the outlaw Star Sapphire Prixiam Nol-Anj, and at least this promises a "new frontier" for the book.

After depicting some amazing shots of space and universe-spanning showdowns, artist Billy Tan gets to change things up a little by having an exclusively planet-bound set of panels. It’s a chance to explore the new central precinct of the Corps, the sentient planet Mogo. There are three distinctive looks to the issue, from the bright and floral opening to the dusty final pages on the planet Dekann. The most effective pages are those around the campfire, where the use of shadow and light play off the three familiar silhouettes.

It’s an inauspicious start to the second chapter of Venditti’s Lantern tales, neither bringing the same impact or promise of a major shift ahead of it. Instead, it feels very much like an epilogue that didn’t fit into a single issue.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Mighty Avengers #3
Written by Al Ewing
Art by Greg Land, Jay Leisten, and Frank D’Armata
Lettering by Cory Petit
Review by Justin Partridge, III
‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

Al Ewing is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers. Its not because of his sense of spectacle. Its not because of his highly re-readable dialogue. Its not because of his willingness to go places that explore some of the weirder, more arcane aspects of the Marvel Universe. It’s because, above all things, he’s a fan and it’s this level of admiration for the characters that he’s writing that he is able to tell fast paced, deeply moving stories about some of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. But this alone isn't why he's quickly established a distinct voice among a bevy of talent. It's his willingness to present characters that we've never really had any contact with and show us why they matter in the larger scheme of things. He's taken what some people have called the “Minority Avengers" and presented us with a perfect example of why these characters matter in the larger scale AND made us, as readers, more receptive to lesser known heroes by jumbling them together in a thrilling, entertaining way.

Mighty Avengers #3 hits the ground at a dead sprint finding our ragtag team dealing with the fallout of a sudden Suma-Gorath incursion onto our plane of reality. Ewing forgoes the usual page one, panel one punchfest and gives us an update on two of the wayward members of our team, White Tiger and Power Man. This is just the first of many emotional exchanges in this issue. You get the sense from the very start that Ewing cares greatly about the characters that he’s thrown into the mix and wants them not only to succeed, but to grow and change and become better heroes under the banner of The Avengers. This issue also finally throws Blue Marvel into the fray, a character that I haven’t had really any exposer to ever, but who gelled completely as the voice of reason among the bickering and inexperience. Ewing covered a lot of story ground in the first two issues of this series so now he can (and does to great effect) show the team as a fully-fledged unit, using each of their distinct power sets to tackle the problem at had. Yes, the team still has it’s share of differences to work out, but this first short arc has guaranteed the book’s place on my pull list just to see how these get dealt with.

As I said above, most of these characters I had never really had much experience with prior to Mighty Avengers, the new Power Man being the only real exception, mainly because I read Fred Van Lente's Power Man and Iron Fist mini and while managing to power through Shadowland. Ewing seems to understand this and through the course of the two previous issues, culminating with #3, has told you everything you need to know about these characters and why they are the perfect team for the moment. Each of these heroes have baggage of some sort; White Tiger is still struggling with the memories of her fallen brother, Power Man is still trying to sort his anger from his sense of justice, Luke Cage is still trying to find is place in the world and juggle his work with his family. ALL of these heroes bring their issues to the table, but in the end, none of that matters, only their deeds matter. This is a perfect example of people needing each other to find themselves. This is what The Avengers stands for; to stand against what no one hero can withstand alone.

I may be in the tiniest boat imaginable, but I think Greg Land is doing some of the better work of his career on this book. His clean lines along with D’Armata’s vibrant colors really pop along to Ewing’s banter heavy script. I know that his work tends to repeat itself time and time again, but the familiarity of his work tends to sell books and adds a bit of odd continuity for those of us who don’t mind seeing his name on a book. They also lend a very otherworldly, kinda creepy feeling to the Suma-Gorath scenes, particularly the possession of the various New Yorkers, which is genius on Ewing’s part for throwing him completely out of his comfort zone with some of the mystical goings on of the script. Land usually fills his niche of beautiful women, fast cars, and sleek looking robots serviceably, but it’s nice to see a degree of flexibility amid the smiles and glamour shot poses. We see a lot of the same stuff here as per usual when it comes to Land, I will admit, but he seems to be shining in this book a bit more than he did earlier this year in Gillen’s Iron Man. I think maybe its because he really hasn’t done anything this screwy since maybe Uncanny X-Men and it seems to have done him a world of good. I honestly never thought I would see Greg Land of all people tackle a straight up Cuthuloid looking entity spilling out of the mouths of citizens or a giant astral tiger devouring one of my favorite random Marvel villains all the while making it look both pleasing to the eye and unsettling as all hell, but that’s comics for you. The way he draws teeth still bugs me though.

As I said before, Al Ewing is clearly a huge fan of his rough and tumble team and nowhere is that more apparent than in the final pages of the book, where Luke Cage, triumphant and ready to lead his team in the larger battle of holding back Thanos’ forces, rallies the public with a speech that, I’m not ashamed to admit, moved me to tears. It’s works like Mighty Avengers #3 that elevate the medium of superhero comics to something much more than just pure escapist yarns. These are our modern mythology. These are gods and unlikely heroes walking among us, bringing justice and a helping hand to those who need it to our mundane world. It’s something that is so rare to see within a major tentpole title, and so refreshing as a comic fan to read something that hits every possible button in you as a reader. It’s funny, emotional, fast paced, and a shining example of what comics can mean to you and to other people around you. This is what comics are capable of; this is a book that can make you believe in heroes, specifically heroes that look nothing like the standard comic book fare.

This may sound like wool-gathering on my part, but I, as a comic book fan, am always looking for a new book that refreshes me on why comics can matter and I believe with every inch of my being that Mighty Avengers is that book. Its a story about misfits coming together, belonging, becoming a family and contributing to the larger good. Isn’t that something that we all want? To belong? To never be alone? Mighty Avengers shows us that with comics, you are never alone. You will always have a place amid the ranks of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. We are all Avengers. All we have to do is speak the word and they are by our side, no matter what.


Credit: DC Comics' November 2013 solicitations

Green Arrow #25
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Andrea Sorrentino, Marcelo Maiolo, Denys Cowan Bill Sienkiewicz, Matt Hollingsworth
Lettering by Rob Leigh
Published by DC Comics
Review by Richard Gray
'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

When Jeff Lemire took over Green Arrow with issue #17, he treated the series as a blank slate. Neither indebted to the 70-odd years of history for the Emerald Archer, nor the sixteen misguided issues that had gone before, Lemire took Oliver Queen on a journey that abandoned his baggage and set him up for another fresh start. Yet it seems that other forces are at play, and with the introduction of the character of John Diggle, Lemire brings the book a few steps closer to some synchronicity with the CW television series inspired by the character.

Lemire has used the “Zero Year” tie-in issue, an event that seems to link almost everyone to the origin of Batman, to introduce more elements of Ollie’s New 52 origin. As such, this issue sits largely in the no man’s land between one major arc and the next, serving mostly as an introduction to “The Outsiders War” arc that commences next month. In the main story, set “six years ago”, a bearded Queen arrives home in Seattle amidst the Gotham blackout. Discovering his mother is in trouble, he takes on the guise of the Green Arrow to rescue her from the villain Mothman, only to find that the increasingly present Batman is already there. After the inevitable standoffishness, Oliver finds a new partner in Diggle during the back-up story “New Tricks”, in which the wounded Arrow finds comfort, trust and some field bandages in the Diggle’s apartment.

The paper-thin connection to “Zero Year” doesn’t do much for either story, but this brief interlude on Ollie’s origin does greatly flesh out his early days back in the city. While it mostly teases the forthcoming flashback story, and awkwardly squeezes in Diggle, there are also some really touching moments, including mother Moira’s realisation that the hooded vigilante is her son. In this sense, the villain “The Moth” (or Mothman or “something with moths”) is purely perfunctory, a means of putting the Arrow, the Bat and the Diggle all in one room to play semi-nice with each other.

Sorrentino continues to provide innovative layouts and colors using his bold and distinctive style, relying just as much on the absence of color as the saturation of it. An especially effective use of this is a sequence of panels where Green Arrow and Batman alternatively punch the “Moth” from different directions.The figures and limbs remain white, and only the background shifts from green to blue. His vision of Batman is nightmarish, introducing him in purple gloves, with glowing white eyes and more disturbingly, teeth. In the secondary story, the amazing team of legends in Denys Cowan and Bill Sienkiewicz summon a style reminiscent of their collaboration on Question during the late 1980s, with Matt Hollingsworth giving it the same gritty colour treatment that makes Hawkeye such a lived-in world. In both versions, it is incredibly pleasing to see Green Arrow with a beard.

This issue of Green Arrow demonstrates the dangers of trying to link stories with arcs beginning in other books, and how corporate synergy has a role to play in mainstream comics. To the credit of Lemire, he mostly overcomes this in a straightforward issue, promising a much bigger story to emerge from “The Outsiders War.”

Credit: Marvel Comics

Marvel Knights Spider-Man #2
Written by Matt Kindt
Art by Marco Rudy and Val Staples
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

I'll be honest - there have been a ton of great comics from the Big Two this week. There was the ambition of Iron Man. There was the big moments of Forever Evil. There was the sheer joy of Amazing X-Men.

But for my money, nothing this week beats Marvel Knights Spider-Man #2. What could come off as self-indulgence and pandering to fight-crazy audiences winds up being a showcase for a visual virtuoso - Marvel has found their answer to DC's J.H. Williams III with this book, and it's truly amazing to see.

The premise for this book is a simple one - a drugged Spider-Man has to fight through a gauntlet of 99 villains in order to stop a bomb from going off. Simple plot, but elegant execution: writer Matt Kindt uses this concept to not just play with the timing of the fight sequences, but to put a unique spin on Spidey's omnipresent Spider-Sense, using it not just as a means of getting him out of this impossible situation, but to also give the necessary exposition of Peter Parker as a character. Small beats like Peter reminiscing about the beach on Coney Island, or just thinking about Uncle Ben teaching him how to swim, or even explaining the rhythm of how his Spider-Sense works, they're all great details that really enrich what could have been a paper-thin read.

But what you're probably wondering is about the fights. And this is a fight comic, for sure. With Spidey taking on Mysterio, Sandman, Hydro-Man and the Shocker aboard a mysterious airplane, Marco Rudy outdoes himself yet again, with easily the best-looking Marvel book of the week. Rudy's panel layouts and compositions are stunning, particularly a double-page splash of Peter waking up, only to discover that he's falling out of a shredded airliner. Playing up the drugged-out, psychedlic nature of the plot, watching Rudy's style switch up from realistic to distended to downright sketchy is a wonder to watch. It's ambitious, it's stylish, it's sometimes even a bit playful - if you haven't been checking this book out, you're missing out on an artist's superstar turn.

And that's really what Marvel Knights Spider-Man is about here - we've seen Spider-Man fight people before. We've seen him overcome impossible odds. But what we haven't seen is him looking so damn good while doing it. This is a more daring, more artsy, more experimental take on the Webslinger than we've seen in quite some time, and Matt Kindt and Marco Rudy pull their story off magnificently. Spider-Man may have 99 problems, but his creative team sure ain't one.

Credit: DC Comics

Superman Unchained #4
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Jim Lee, Scott Williams, Dustin Nguyen, John Kalisz, and Alex Sinclair
Lettering by Sal Cipriano
Review by Justin Partridge, III
‘Rama Rating: 3 out of 10

Superman Unchained, in theory, is the perfect Superman comic. It’s written by the astoundingly capable hand of Scott Snyder, who has conquered Gotham City and ran roughshod over some truly entertaining Vertigo books. The pencils are handled by the dynamite team of Jim Lee and Scott Williams, who after a longish break from the world of monthly comics seem to haven’t missed any real steps in their kinetic and explosive work. So, with all of these things in its favor, why then has it yet to pull itself up from the standard, boring Supes fare to become the explosive hit that we were promised? I don’t have any real answers and, frankly, that really bums me out.

Superman Unchained #4 plods along at what seems to be the standard pace that was set by #1 - lots of pontificating, while miles away Superman punches some stuff. Superman and Wraith are off fighting robots while on the other side of the globe interesting things are happening that aren’t in any way dependent on Superman being there. Lois Lane comes in contact with her Ascension source, who saved her with a magic crystal that seems to have the power to control machinery. This is really where the only real forward momentum comes from the issue. Snyder has always been great at juggling multiple plots and here, with the main cast spread out over the globe, he gives the already overstuffed plot room to breathe, but it is a huge disappointment that the star of the book is involved in a plot that was so forgettable that I had to read the first three issues just to refresh myself on what had happened because I couldn’t recall it from memory.

Though he nails the characterization of Clark, Snyder hasn’t really given him anything to do save for be lied to and attacked by dozens of robots. They should really change the title to Lois Lane Unchained. There is also some stuff about Lex Luthor kidnapping Jimmy Olsen, but I couldn’t really tell you anything about it, but I can now bore people at parties with a bunch of random facts about paper folding. Scott Snyder has a very distinct voice, but here, it comes across as wooden and painfully tedious. This is one of, if not THE major failing of Superman Unchained. The sprawling, fact stuffed dialogue may work for Batman, but it just bogs down a title like Superman, which was sold to us as a fast paced, thrill a minute action movie.

Jim Lee is still doing his Jim Lee thing, which, while pretty to look at, never really adds the momentum you need for a title like this. Part of this could be the bloated script from Snyder, but panel after panel just feels like we’ve seen all this before, mainly because we have in Lee’s work during For Tomorrow and Batman: Hush. Part of the charm of Morrison’s Action Comics was the whiz bang speed of Rags Morales’ pencils, but here, Lee just gives us the standard “Superman Looking Cool” fare and it never feels anything but tired and overdone. You would think that Lee and his art team would really pull out all the stops for such a top tier title such as this, but it all seems to be downhill from the pull out poster/splash page from #1. The lines are the same, the panel layouts are the same, and the faces aren’t much different from each other. Jim Lee is better than this by a long shot.

This is a title that I very much wanted to love. One of my favorite writers was tackling a character that I had always wanted to experience again in a monthly format with an artist known for his bombast and bullet train momentum. I forgave a weak start, but month after month, I was never hooked enough to justify my spending $3.99. It’s never been that Snyder is a bad writer, or Lee a terrible artist, quite the contrary actually. Its just that they don’t ever seem to be interested in delivering anything new or noteworthy with the series. Its a generic story from two immensely powerful creative. This could have been so much more, but instead its just more of the same and that’s what makes this series’ failings all the more painful.

Oh well, at least we still have Batman/Superman.

Credit: DC Comics

Earth 2 #17
Written by Tom Taylor
Art by Nicola Scott, Trevor Scott, Peter Pantazis
Lettering by Dezi Sienty
Published by DC Comics
Review by Richard Gray
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

It may not be apparent to readers outside of Australia at first, but the pairing of Tom Taylor and Nicola Scott is a pretty big deal. While both have been writing and illustrating comics in the US for a number of years, not least of which is Scott’s already lengthy run on this title, their pairing on Earth 2 marks the first all Australian team on a major DC Comics ongoing publication. If this first issue of a new arc from this creative team is any indication, US comics publishers will be turning their eyes south more often.

Taylor has already cut loose in his own sandbox, with the Injustice: Gods Among Us tie-in giving him an alternate DCU to match and dispatch characters as he sees fit. Doing some very bad things to Superman, in many ways it served as a training ground for Earth 2, which sits on the middle ground between Injustice and the main DCU. Previous series writer James Robinson had set up all the pieces on the board, pulling together the team of Earth 2 “Wonders” and building up to a major big bad - before literally blowing it apart and leaving Taylor to deal with the consequences. With that villain usurped by none other than a Darkseid-supporting Superman in the previous issue, the new team immediately falls into disarray. Yet out of the shadows, a new hero is emerging, and this new Dark(ish) Knight might just reshape the face of Earth 2.

Taylor’s opening gambit is a strong one, immediately putting to use several lingering plot threads from the series and setting up an interesting dichotomy for future issues. After immediately killing her and her unborn child off in Injustice, Taylor places the consciousness of Lois Lane inside what appears to be female Red Tornado. With a returned Superman, albeit one gone to the Darkseid of the forces, her father General Lane puts it best when he remarks that she “may be Earth’s only hope”. It’s a welcome change to some of the more typical portrayals of Lois, and perhaps one of the best uses of the often underused character in the last few decades. The emergence of a new Batman offers an alternative, suggesting that “criminals and madmen” are the ones that could save the planet, almost referencing the recent fracturing of Doctor Fate’s mind. This new Batman is rougher around the edges, and potentially more complex than the Caped Crusader we’ve come to known on Earth Prime.

Scott has crafted the look of Earth 2 since the inception of the New 52. Bathed in the recurring motif of red by colorist Peter Pantazis, her bold and clean style takes on a darker tone, as we watch the world crumble around the main characters. Scott’s design of the new Batman is reminiscent of Batman Beyond, complete with glowing red eyes and insignia. His first major reveal, emerging from a cloud of red gas to take out a squadron of soldiers, is an outstanding piece of art and indicative of the type of character this new Batman is. Similarly, Scott overcomes the limitations of Superman’s traditional design, using a mirrored colour scheme of red and black to subtly transform the boy scout into something much darker.

Earth 2 is a title that in many ways has sat on the fringes of the New 52, with its continuity barely touching any of the other stories. As this new creative team takes over, it has proven to be the title’s greatest strength, opening up a world of possibilities for the ultimate DC sandbox. It’s time to take second look at Earth 2.

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