It’s sad to see a beloved author go, especially one whose work on a title was so revered because it was essentially tailor-made for his style of writing. These feelings of faux-sadness (over a comic book, no less) have been coming and going for the past six to seven months or so. Scott Snyder on Swamp Thing; Geoff Johns on Green Lantern (and most recently Aquaman), and last but not least, James Robinson on Earth 2, a book that fits the criteria above more so than usual. It’s got golden age characters (many of them) and Robinson’s knack for revamping them into something bigger and better for the modern age whilst still keeping their core values intact (if you don’t believe me, go read his Starman run. Good look getting a hold of it). And while most of the previously listed books have gotten very good replacements following those writers, Tom Taylor’s work is something I have mixed feelings on (I will give it a chance though). So in essence, it’s sad to see Robinson leave Earth-2, but he goes out with a mostly perfect bang.
We pick up last issue with the world army and the Wonders fighting Steppenwolf, his army, and his furies. The furies are an elite group of 3 soldiers, each with specific talents that make them an unmatched force. One of those furies is actually the Superman of Earth 2, captured by Darkseid and turned into a soldier of evil known as Brutaal. What this sets up is an action-packed, bombastic and highly energetic fight scene with a dark, defeatist tone. First we see Steppenwolf taking down the world army like it’s nothing, then Green Lantern comes in and attacks Steppenwolf. This seems like a glimmer of hope, with Alan quickly gaining the upper hand in the battle. This tricks us readers into believing there’s a glimmer of hope for the battle that the heroes (they are not the JSA yet) may actually win. But Robinson throws us a very cruel curveball, where Brutaal takes out both Steppenwolf and Green Lantern, and splits the freaking earth near in half. It’s completely and utterly ridiculous but it creates a sense of dread and dark atmosphere that all hope is lost. It’s a weird way to end a run by giving it such a defeatist tone.
Nicola Scott’s art actually serves in contrast to this. Her detailed style is far brighter and happier than the tone of the book itself, with well-drawn, anatomically correct figures and a stylistic use of powers and movement. This brightness at first seems counter-productive to the point of the book, but I see it as something symbolic. The dark foreboding of evil (the script) is always countered by the glimmer of hope that is good (the art). That’s not saying the script is bad and the art is good, but rather that good will always triumph over evil (cheesy but it works), no matter how desperate or dangerous the situation.
As an arc closer, Earth 2 #16 both works and fails at its goal. It works in that it’s an epic, with lots of battling and character moments that serve to bring things together. But it doesn’t work in that it feels rushed and that it closed off this arc too quickly. The catastrophe happens way too fast for it to have any sense of dread or tension. It just feels like a last issue where the writer cared, but didn’t care enough to pace things out evenly. That being said, Robinson probably wanted to give his story a proper conclusion rather than leave the new writer to pick up the slack. So it works and it doesn’t work, leaving us with mixed results.
With everything I’ve addressed and said, I have to say, Robinson will be sorely missed. This was a title I looked forward to every week, even with all of its strengths and weaknesses. It was great to see him take on the golden-age favorites again, but all the foreshadowing he did is naught. Still, Scott is on the title, so the transition will be easier, but Taylor is going to have a hell of a job following up on Robinson.