ART: Tomas Giorello
"Zero Month" is the DC's design to give readers a bit more history to the characters this company revamped just one year ago. The idea is to bring us stories from before issue number one; a simple premise that already doesn't hold true to some titles (like Green Lantern, Green Lantern: New Guardians, etc.) Of course, there are titles that are taking full advantage of this chance and going all-out origin (like The Phantom Stranger and Stormwatch). Then there are titles like Earth 2, which are simply telling select tales - not really making (apparent) connections to the present day, but also not giving a full history lesson.
In James Robinson's Earth 2 #0, we're introduced to Terry Sloan, a.k.a. "Mr. 8", the eighth 'wonder' who protects Earth after Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Robin, Catwoman, and an unnamed seventh (who actually becomes my most persistent question throughout the new mysteries this issue brings up). It's not exactly clear what Sloan's abilities are, exactly. Does he have powers, or is he just a high-tech badass? I read the issue as the latter, assuming he was just a government-sanctioned ally of the 'Trinity'.
I was a bit disappointed with Earth 2 #0. I was expecting a bit more insight into Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, while instead I got a mission that doesn't really give any insight into any of them except that there are multiple ways Kryptonite can be manipulated to have varied effects on Superman. Other than that, this issue is solely about Sloan's still-shrouded-in-mystery endgame.
Of course, that process starts in E2 #0 - set six years in the past - as the Trinity and Sloan infiltrate an Apokoliptan mind-control broadcasting machine. In a nod to Darkseid's pre-'New 52' inclinations, the mind-control is based on a psychological implosion achieved through the ant-life equation. After arriving at the core of the machine, Sloan deceives the Trinity, uses synthesized opal Kryptonite to drive Superman insane, and starts rambling about those under the anti-life equation's control are "...beyond salvation. So I will destroy them." Even after a bomb blast care of Batman, Sloan gets up - albeit with hundreds of shards of glass sticking out of him - and activates a chain reaction that detonates the four anti-life machines around the globe. In a stunning panel by Tomas Giorello, the massive explosions shoot out from the Earth's surface as our planet begins to resemble Apokolips - a chilling notion if there ever was one.
A few more tidbits are revealed about Earth 2 in general, as well this issue. As I mentioned earlier, Kryptonite is much more maleable in this dimension, perhaps due to Robinson's claim that Earth 2 is rooted more in the mystical and supernatural than it's New Earth counterpart. We also learn that the war with Apokolips has been raging for a long, long time, and that the 'wonders' of Earth 2 are more like a task force than a god-like collective entity. Granted, they're up against an army that would put the range of heroes in the main DC continuity to shame, as well.
A big revelation in Earth 2 #0 is the existence of an extensive multiverse! It's interesting that DC would green light this idea, as the pre-'New 52' continuity was marred by decades of multi-dimensional history and crossover, and one of the major points of the relaunch was to consolidate these infinite universes. It's hard to get excited for a multiverse again. Really, it is. Introducing Earth 2 was a fantastic idea because it would not only bring back the Justice Society, but also provide an easy and straightforward approach to multiple dimensions, while mirroring ideas pioneered in the 1960s and 70s that culminated in Crisis on Infinite Earths in the mid-80s. While it was implied that the former level of chaotic transdimensional shuffling wouldn't be a problem this time around, Terry Sloan escapes to the "Ninth Dimension", meaning that there are a possible nine different universes now open to writers, technically. It's frustrating and unnecessary.
The 'New 52' is still young, and this new continuity needs time to come into it's own as an established universe with diverse, interesting, developed characters in a rich, vibrant world. Robinson's venture in Earth 2 is fantastic, but the introduction of a new multiverse is really, really annoying.