(p) Cafu and Julius Gopez
(i) Cafu and Cam Smith
What should have been a knock out of the park for James Robinson turned out to be a rather wishy-washy issue with very little connecting the various elements. Earth 2 Annual #1 was advertised in a big way because it would include the first appearance from Earth 2's brand-new Batman. And that's pretty much the only element of the issue promoted. Which is unfortunate because the new Batman bit was easily the weakest part of the issue.
I like that Robinson has the freedom to do almost whatever he wants on this title (which makes his recent departure announcement all the more frustrating), and creating a whole new Batman is interesting for this world. What I don't like is how little we know. We get to see the new Bats in the field. We see him helping other wonders from the shadows. We ever get some of his thoughts. But that's it. There's nothing explaining his motives, who he is, how he became to agile and strong, where he got a Batman suit and what his expectations are for being a masked vigilante. I wouldn't have a problem with all of these unanswered questions if the new Bats wasn't plastered on the cover like it's all about him.
The World Army aspect of Earth 2 hasn't been focused on much, simply because Robinson was playing with Green Lantern, Flash, and Hawkgirl. Earth 2 Annual #1 goes more in-depth with the WA's going-ons, and even introduces a brand new wonder that's sure to be part of the Justice Society whenever that gets around to forming.
The real problem with Earth 2 Annual #1 is how disjointed it feels. Yes, it's supposed to act as an "interlude" in between arcs here, but the drastic shift of focus from the pre-JSA to the wonders employed by the World Army is too abrupt with absolutely no transition. Usually, this isn't a big problem. Here, though, since Robinson is building the entire world, he's got to make the world more cohesive. Right now, we have a lot of different elements that may or may not fit together.
I like Earth 2 Annual #1. It's a fun read. Regular readers of the series will appreciate how much James Robinson is pouring into Earth 2 from all angles. That being said, it's really only for regular readers.