Thursday, October 4, 2012

LEAGUES BEYOND, VOL. 1 (OCT 3-9, 2012)

It's 'Leagues Beyond', where we take a look at the Justice League-related titles offered each week by DC Comics as part of their 'New 52'. Along with the flagship Justice League, 'Leagues Beyond' will cover titles such as The Flash, Earth 2, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman.

Earth 2 #5
(W) James Robinson
(P) Nicola Scott
(I) Trevor Scott

World's Finest #5
(W) Paul Levitz
(P) George Perez, Jerry Ordway, and Wes Craig
(I) Scott Koblish, Jerry Ordway, Serge LaPointe

It's fitting that the first entry of 'Leagues Beyond' not be about the Justice League proper at all. The two titles released this week, Earth 2 #5 and World's Finest #5, are lumped in with Justice League family titles because they really have nowhere else to go. If DC were to add more grouping categories, these two would basically have their own Earth 2 family. Of course, James Robinson's Earth 2 looks at that dimension directly, currently following the formation of the Justice Society, while Paul Levitz's World's Finest finds Power Girl (Supergirl) and Huntress (Robin) stranded on Earth 1, better known as the 'New 52' universe. This month, Earth 2 #5 starts down the dramatic road towards the conclusion of it's first arc, while World's Finest #5 starts a new arc (maybe?) that feels directionless.


Since it debuted, Earth 2 has been one of my consistently favorite titles from DC. James Robinson has really taken the time to make this parallel universe something special and different, with a whole new set of rules. It's genius because Robinson doesn't have to follow any of the DCnU continuity or current going-ons unless he wants to. Sure, there's going to be the inevitable crossover, but that's years down the road. For now, the 'new wonders' of Earth 2 band together for the first time this month to take on Grundy, the harbinger of death...literally.

There's really no other way to put it: Earth 2 is just awesome. Everyone wanted the Justice Society to come back, and James Robinson is doing so in such an astounding way. This issue introduces the "Sandmen", a covert infiltration squad used for high-level extractions and the such by the World Army, with a mention of the team leader, Wesley Dodds! It's like getting a special present each time I open up a new issue. 

The fight with Grundy takes a turn for the worse when the Atom - a.k.a. Al Pratt - gets overrun by the Grey, speeding up the death of all plant life on Earth and thereby the end of humanity (no plants = no oxygen). The entire scene is a tool to put Earth 2 in context, as well. The news reporters following the battle continue call these heroes 'wonders', a term I find fascinating considering the more mystical approach to superpowers Robinson is taking with Earth 2. Also, in last months "Issue Zero", we were introduced to Earth 2's Mister Terrific, Terry Sloan, a man who betrayed the Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman in an effort to explore the multiverse. Speed up to the present, and he's been hired by the planet's leaders to advise the World Army in the Grundy crisis. Finally, we get to see just how these new wonders work together. Even under these most stressful of conditions, Robinson finds ways to explore relationships in a way that advances the story without sacrificing quality.

The first arc of Earth 2 comes to a close next month as the Justice Society hopefully manages to take down Grundy. Otherwise, this is going to be a very short-lived series.



"Rebirth", the first arc of World's Finest, was a big letdown. The entire story revolved around Power Girl and Huntress investigating a villain called Hakkou who the girls believed came from Earth 2. In the end, Karen and Helena manage to kill the radioactive behemoth, but that's about it - no explanations as to his origin, no revelations about Earth 2, no character development to been truly perceived. Unfortunately, this trend continues with World's Finest #5, an issue that I can't discern as to whether it's a stand-alone issue or the start of a new arc. I really thought the two-story system would be finished now that "Rebirth" is over, but Levitz seems intent on making his issues as fractured as possible, meaning that the present-day story barely gets any attention, and therefore not much substance. 

This month, Karen is trying to replicate Hakkou's energy signature, but doesn't have the necessary equipment. She decides to take a trip to the CERN under Switzerland to see an experiment take place that could lead to information on different universes. And because she's there, some robot assassin thing comes after her through a wormhole...I guess. It really feels like Levitz is just phoning it in with these random villains and Power Girl's clothes repeatedly being torn to shreds.

Huntress' story is similarly lazy, as Helena attends a 'Take Back the Night' rally at which a psychopathic misogynist is trying to murder women with a sniper rifle. Huntress jumps into action and stops him before he hurts anyone. That's it. The sequence is supposed to show that, unlike Karen, Helena cares for the people of this world and has a desire to be a part of it, as there doesn't seem to be a way back to their Earth. Instead, it's just preachy and boring.

ART: C (Not a fan of George Perez's work - it always looks sloppy and dated to me)

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