Earth 2 #17
Review by Paul Bowler
Steppenwolf is dead, slain by his own henchman, the powerhouse known as Brutaal – who is revealed to be the previously deceased Superman of Earth 2! Transformed into the herald of Darkseid, the greatest evil in all creation, Superman killed Steppenwolf and left Dherain to burn in the raging energies of the murdered god. Commander Khan and the New Wonders retreat to the World Army Arkham Base, where the government forces have hidden dark secrets. But not even this secret location can keep them safe from the furious Man of Steel, as a new wonder is created, Doctor Fate valiantly battles Superman, and the new Batman breaks into the lower levels of Arkham to unleash the horrors imprisoned there…
Earth 2 #17 is very much all about new beginnings, as this is the first issue by the series new writer, Tom Taylor, who joins fellow Australian, the artist Nicola Scott, on charting the ongoing adventures of Earth 2. With the shocking return of Superman in Earth 2 #16, former writer James Robinson’s final issue set the stage for a whole new chapter on this parallel world. The Dark Age: Begins throws us right into the middle of the action, with Dherain consumed by fire, the World Army and the New Wonders escape to Arkham where a well-known General and Doctor Craine are overseeing a crucial upload of data to the Red Tornado.
Superman arrives and attacks Arkham as the Red Tornado comes online. Commander Amire Khan orders a full retreat, but Sloan knows there is something in the base that Superman wants. Mr Terrific knows Superman is vulnerable to kryptonite, but it is Khalid Ben-Hassin who, as everyone notices Green Lantern is missing and wonders if he managed to escape from Dherain, suggests using his magic as Doctor Fate to fight Superman.
While the mysterious new Batman breaks into the lower levels of Arkham, Superman and Doctor Fate clash in the sky above the base, where Darkeid’s servant unleashes his terrible power against Doctor Fate’s magic and the Helm of Nabu. The aftermath of their fight pummels the base into the ground, Flash manages to save Doctor Fate, and the Red Tornado emerges from the rubble as tragedy strikes. In the bowels of Arkham, the Batman has reached the stasis chambers, where the worst of the criminally insane are held, and now he must convince Major Sato to set them free…
Tom Taylor’s first issue of Earth 2 hit’s the ground running and doesn’t give you chance to pause for breath, as the New Wonders are confronted by the unstoppable fury of Superman’s attack on the World Army Arkham Base. It’s reassuring to find that although Taylor ramps the action all the way up to eleven in Earth 2 #17, none of the rich characterization and attention to detail which has been so intrinsic to the series during Robinson’s tenure, has been sacrificed in any way whatsoever.
There are some great scenes featuring Khalid Ben-Hassin as he contemplates using his magic against Superman, and later Jay Garrick’s bravery as the Flash shines though after he rescues Doctor Fate before returning to face Superman alone as the base is evacuated. The personality inhabiting Red Tornado offers a surprising twist to this issue; and her role is bound to impact on Superman’s return now that he is allied with Darkseid.
Needless to say the art by Nicola Scott for Earth 2 #17 is as stunning as ever, with Trevor Scott’s inks and colour by Pete Pantazis, this has to be one of their most dynamic issues yet. Doctor Fate’s fight with Superman is short, brutal, and shakes Arkham right down to its very foundations. The Helm of Nabu is also cracked in the battle, which has a profound effect on Khalid’s mind. The final scenes in the lower levels of Arkham as Batman confronts Major Sato offer a tantalising glimpse of some very familiar prisoners inside the stasis chambers, and Batman’s argument for releasing them hints at the new Dark Knight’s identity.
Green Lantern is conspicuous by his absence, having been beaten up by Steppenwolf and Brutaal/Superman last issue. I’m sure he would’ve escaped somehow before Dherain was destroyed; although it seemed a little odd that everyone should only noticed he was missing after they escaped to Arkham. I also hope that we catch up with Hawkgirl again soon, she’s a great character, and it’s a shame that Hawkgirl has been sidelined a little by recent events.
Earth #2 #17 is a confident start to Tom Taylor’s run on the series, any misgivings are quickly dispelled as the story follows on quickly from last issues shocking cliff-hanger, with everyone getting a good share of the action. Earth 2 #17 features a striking cover by Ethan Van Sciver, and there is also a variant cover by Doug Mahnnke. Earth 2 #17 is an excellent first issue by Tom Taylor, the story had plenty of exciting surprises and art was excellent, and I’m really look forward seeing to what Taylor has planned for the New Wonders of Earth 2 in the issues ahead.