Earth 2 #15
Review by Paul Bowler
War is about to break out on Earth 2 as the World Army prepares to strike at Steppenwolf in Dherain, but Green Lantern, the Flash, and Doctor Fate are already tearing across Dherain’s inland steppes towards the nation’s capitol city, Draemyre, to launch an attack of their own. As the battle intensifies the New Wonders receive some unexpected help from the Atom, Red Arrow, and Colonel Dodds and his Sandmen, before suddenly being confronted by the Hunter Dogs of Steppenwolf.
Earth 2 #15 opens with the Flash clinging to the edge of consciousness, as he recollects the terrible events of the battle. The Hunter Dogs of Steppenwolf were far more powerful than any of them could have realized: Brutaal was a raging powerhouse of bruit strength, Bedlam used his ability to drive people into a psychotic rage, and the Beguiler’s strange energy powers seemed able to counteract and reflect all forms of attack.
Hawkgirl’s investigation into Sam’s murder leads her to a casino in Morocco, while back in Gotham the battle between Mr Miracle and Fury continues. Now as the dust settles over the battlefield the Flash must quickly regain his strength if he is to help his friends, but as Commander Khan and General “Stormy” Foster lead the World Army forces into Dherain airspace, Steppenwolf’s Hunter Dogs are expecting them…
After last issues call to war, Earth 2 #15 sees the New Wonders fall in battle against the Hunter Dogs of Steppenwolf. War Torn is another excellent issue by James Robinson, filled with explosive action and exciting set-pieces, as Doctor Fate’s ominous words of caution from last issue becomes a frightening reality for both the New Wonders and the World Army Wonders.
Jay Garrick calls them “Terrors” which turns out to be an apt moniker, as Brutaal, the Beguiler, and Bedlam pick the heroes of Earth 2 apart with savage efficiency. The Beguiler seems to wield some bizarre form of energy manipulation, which she uses to disrupt Doctor Fate’s spells – effectively warping his own energies back at him – with devastating results. Bedlam’s powers causes the Sandmen and Red Arrow to crazy and attack everybody around them, creating absolute chaos on the battlefield, and even the Flash is not fast enough to evade Red Arrow’s lightning quick skill with a bow. But it is Brutaal who proves to be the most ruthless, unleashing his Apokolips eye beams on the Sandmen, cutting a swathe through their ranks before taking on Green Lantern and the Atom without even breaking a sweat. The art by Nicola Scott, with inks by Trevor Scott and colors by Pete Pantazis, brings a shocking clarity to every moment of the carnage, the most striking of which shows Brutaal ripping the head off a Sandman as the battle rages, and the bone crunching smack down Brutaal meets out to Green Lantern and Atom is so intense it will leave you wondering how they could ever hope to defeat these Terrors.
James Robinson also includes two breaks in the action, which allows us to catch up with Hawkgirl and Mr Miracle. In her quest to help Green Lantern find out the truth behind Sam’s murder, Hawkgirl has travelled to Casablanca, which is now a gleaming gambling mecca where Warlords and Mullahs have consolidated their power behind its secure walls. The trail leads to Darcy Twain, a wealthy recluse and owner of the towering Double Zero casino. However, before she can find Twain, Hawkgirl is captured by Hazard and Melody – two villains who quickly subdue her with disorientating notes from Melody’s violin.
Meanwhile in the ruins of Gotham City, Fury has caught up with Mr Miracle and Barda, who have been searching for the mysterious new Batman. Mr Miracle helps Barda escape so she can find Batman and tell him what they‘ve learned, while he stands his ground against Fury. Their battle is fast and furious, with Mr Miracle always managing to stay one step ahead of Fury. We get to learn more about Mr Miracle (Scott Free) and Barda during the fight as Barda recollects their time as fugitives, wanted by Steppenwolf and the World Army, these refugees from Apokolips are prepared to risk everything in their attempt to locate the mysterious new Batman.
Earth 2 #15 concludes as Mr Miracle’s and Fury’s battle is interrupted by a new arrival. This fantastic cliff-hanger rounds off this issue in fine style, with a beautifully crafted final page to reveal the surprise.
The cover of Earth 2 #15 by Juan Doe shows Brutaal, the Beguiler, and Bedlam painted on what appears to be the walls of a prison yard, with the words “Submit” emblazoned beneath them, in a stark contrast to last issue which depicted the Wonders of Earth 2 as murals on an oppressive looking brick wall topped barbed wire. Earth 2 #15 has searchlights beaming into the sky over the walls, as the barbed wire snakes around the walls and seems to wrap itself around the bottom of the cover. This image sublimely juxtaposes the call to war from the last issue, supplementing it with the impending sense of hopelessness and defeat that ultimately befalls the New Wonders during the course of this issue.
With only one more issue to go before James Robinson leaves, Earth 2 #15 has proven to be one of the most exciting yet, as the New Wonders suffer their worst ever defeat at the hands of Steppenwolf’s Hunter Dogs. With Desaad and Solomon Grundy featuring in the two Villains Month specials in September, we still have Robinson’s final issue, Earth 2 #16, to look forward to before Tom Taylor takes over in November with issue #17. I’m sure Taylor will continue to build on the blend of old and new that has made Earth 2 so distinctive, showcasing all of the heroes, as well as focusing on the new Batman. Although it’s still a shame that James Robinson is about to depart, this final storyline look sets to be one of his best yet, and issue #16 will bring his run on Earth 2 to a spectacular end.