Written by DAN ABNETT
Art by VICENTE CIFUENTES • Cover by BRUNO REDONDO
The Wonders battle the Sandmen army to free the new Earth 2 from a dystopian fate, but the new world Director has unleashed his terrifying secret weapon. Can Batman, Huntress and John, the weakest of the wonders, shut down the Director’s stronghold? It’s a dangerous, last-minute gamble…and the price may be too great to bear.
On sale FEBRUARY 8 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US RATED T • FINAL ISSUE
That "FINAL ISSUE" notice certainly doesn't leave much (if anything) to the imagination. The real question is "where do we go from here?"
One of two things could come out of this. First, if Dan Abnett's latest interview with Comicosity is hint of anything, a new Earth-2 title might get launched sometime in 2017. After all, Abnett did make it sound like he still had more stories to tell with each of the characters that couldn't possibly be told in only two issues. Second, DC may in fact be calling this a wrap and may end up saving resources for the Justice Society Rebirth title. Either way, we'll probably find out next month, if not sometime later next year.
How do I personally feel about this? To be honest, I can't really bring myself to care. Compared to the pre-Crisis Earth-2 that will always be my heart and soul, I can't say that I ever really grew to love this incarnation. I tried to like it. I gave it every chance that I could. In the end, it left me feeling cold. I therefore can't say that I'll miss it.
At best, I am at least interested in the stories Dan Abnett wants to tell with his own version of Earth-2, but that's pretty much it. It's not James Robinson's Earth-2, it's certainly not Daniel H. Wilson's attempt at Earth-2, so Abnett's Earth-2 would certainly count as a fresh start. But I really don't think I'll ever come to love this Earth-2 as much as the pre-Crisis original. Some part of me will never come to accept this Earth-2 as an authentic "rebirth" of the pre-Crisis original. It's just literally someone else's take on it. For me, the pre-Crisis Earth-2 will always be the authentic Earth-2. Nothing will replace that.
While I doubt this new Earth-2 will ever match the success of the pre-Crisis original, it can at least still be a successful miniseries ala Multiversity, provided that DC actually learns from the bad choices they made with the New 52 incarnation. I don't know what observations DC made that they feel contributed to the failure of the new Earth-2, but I have a pretty good idea of the three main factors that facilitated its demise. Here are my personal notes:
1. THE LOSS OF HISTORY AND LEGACY
Some legacy heroes like Huntress and Power Girl joined the Justice Society right away, and others like Fury, Jade, and Obsidian formed their own superhero team--Infinity Inc--before eventually becoming Justice Society members. A combination of all of these concepts created a natural sense of history and legacy on the first version of the DC Universe that ever was. The fact that Earth-2 originally functioned as the home of DC's Golden Age continuity made it extra special in the hearts of DC Comics fans.
In DC completely abandoning the original concept of Earth-2 in favour of essentially doing an alternate take on the Prime Earth continuity with Justice Society characters, they gutted a huge chunk of what made Earth-2 unique and interesting to fans. Without any age diversity amongst the Justice Society heroes, there was no such thing as a multi-generational team like on the pre-Crisis Earth-2. In creating doppelgängers of characters that are exclusively unique to Prime Earth like Constantine, Harley Quinn, and Barbara Gordon (most notably in Earth-2: World's End), you no longer felt like you were still reading about a modern take on DC's Golden Age Earth. It was essentially just a worse iteration of the already abysmal New 52 Earth, which kind of leads me to my next point:
2. ULTIMATE MARVEL WITH DC COMICS CHARACTERS
Ultimate Marvel at least lasted fifteen years despite having been turned into complete schlock a decade before Marvel pulled the plug on it. The New 52 Earth-2, however, only lasted three years before the mean team of Eddie Berganza and Michael Cotton brutally murdered the franchise in spectacular fashion with Earth-2: World's End, and in ways that made even Marvel's Ultimatum look like a masterpiece by comparison. Once that abomination of a storyline happened, there was no going back from that without an immediate reboot, or at least placing the Earth-2 characters on Prime Earth to start the Justice Society there. If the departure of James Robinson from the original Earth-2 title was the event horizon, Earth-2: World's End was the blackhole that completely destroyed the franchise's future.
Despite Dan Abnett doing his very best to salvage this broken property, the fact is the damage had already been done. He was attempting to save a ship that had already sunk to the bottom of the ocean and had already started to rot. The primary audience for Earth-2 had already moved on and basically just resorted to begging DC on the discussion forums to bring back the more classic Justice Society people remember more fondly. This request is now going to be fulfilled with Rebirth.
3. TOO MUCH FOCUS ON BATMAN AND SUPERMAN
The decision to create new male placeholders for Batman and Superman instead of developing Helena Wayne and Kara Zor-L as the legitimate successors of their father and cousin respectively was a decision many fans found very off-putting. Many fans were especially annoyed at the presence of a new Earth-2 Batman precisely because he ended up usurping a comic that was supposed to be about the Justice Society characters.
For a case in point, every Earth-2 annual story that was published in the last five years was ALL about Batman. Earth-2 Annual #1 debuted Thomas Wayne as Bruce's illegitimate successor, and was the character featured on the cover. Earth-2 Annual #2 explored Thomas Wayne's origin and especially the fallout with his son, Bruce. Earth-2 Society Annual #1 explored what the Batman legacy meant to a random usurper who has no history with the Wayne family, but happens to share a name with another guy who does: Dick Grayson.
In addition to the Earth-2 annuals taking the spotlight away from the Justice Society characters, the majority of Earth-2 storylines following James Robinson's departure tended to give these usurper Batmen unearned lead roles in some capacity. During Tom Taylor's run, Thomas Wayne ended up taking the leadership role away from Alan Scott, and continued to function in this capacity throughout Earth-2: World's End. When he met his demise in Convergence to protect the new Earth-2 Dick Grayson, this Dick Grayson was also given the lead role in a legacy that he hadn't actually earned and with far less credibility.
More than Thomas Wayne proved to be an annoyance for many Earth-2 and Justice Society fans, the new Earth-2 Dick Grayson proved to be an exceptionally controversial character. A huge part of that had to do with the fact that this new incarnation had nothing in common with the pre-Crisis original other than the name. The other part of that was that many fans felt he was unjustifiably taking the spotlight away from Helena Wayne and the other Earth-2 characters fans were actually invested in. Out of the entire cast, he was the only character who was being given any meaningful story arcs. None of the other characters--including Helena Wayne--got that same luxury.
4. SO WHAT NOW?
Batman fans are already buying the books that they want with the versions of the characters they want. With all of the choices of comics DC gives to this particular group to choose from, Batman fans have no reason to invest money on a Justice Society comic that features an unrecognisable version of a character they love. If Dick Grayson fans like the character who started out as Batman's Robin before growing up to develop an identity of his own, they're not going to invest in a comic featuring a random white guy in a bat suit just because he happens to share a name with Dick Grayson. If the guy occupying the bat suit isn't Bruce's original Robin (especially within the context of Earth-2), the majority of Dick Grayson fans will not look twice at this character.
On the other hand, if you have an actual daughter of Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle who started out as their Robin before growing into her Huntress identity, that character will in fact attract the Batman crowd without sacrificing the Justice Society fanbase. Justice Society fans already love Helena Wayne due to the character's history on the team. Batman fans on the other hand will take interest in her character precisely because she is the daughter of Batman and Catwoman (DC's second iconic couple right after Lois and Clark), and because no version of her already exists on Prime Earth. She also has more in common with the Prime Earth Dick Grayson who is Nightwing than the Dick Grayson who is stealing her spotlight in Earth-2: Society.
Like Nightwing, the Earth-2 Huntress (when written in character) is also pretty outgoing, witty, and charming. She also provides a nice contrast to the Prime Earth Damian Wayne who is the brooding son of Talia Al Gul and Bruce Wayne. When paired off with her world's Kara Zor-L, they become the World's Finest of Earth-2. Unlike Thomas Wayne and Earth-2: Society's faux Dick Grayson, Helena Wayne does actually bring something new and different to the table. When she and Power Girl especially had their own comic, they didn't steal spotlight from the Justice Society characters who were the stars of Earth-2. Even when they were featured prominently on the Justice Society team in the past, they never actually dominated the book, nor did their inclusion result in the dumbing down of the other characters to put them in the lead role.
Bottom line? Know the worth of your properties, DC. Do especially know the audience for your diverse properties because they are the people who are going to be buying your diverse comics. In this particular case, Justice Society fans will always buy Earth-2 and Justice Society comics. Focus on meeting their needs first. When catering to the Batman crowd, you already have a character who exists for that purpose: Helena Wayne as the Huntress. USE HER. Develop her character in ways that will actually satisfy both Justice Society and Batman fans. Don't make her a supporting character in her own story to make room for an usurper Batman no one actually wants.
As for me personally, I'm honestly vouching at this point for DC to bring back the original pre-Crisis Helena Wayne (along with the pre-Crisis Kara Zor-L) with the Rebirth Justice Society. Not only do I desperately need an alternative to the current Earth-2 that doesn't actually upset me, but I desperately want to read and review good stories with the Earth-2 Huntress and Power Girl that don't come with rage-inducing sexism, and a proper Justice Society. Relaunch the World's Finest book with the pre-Crisis Kara and Helena as the protagonists so that the classic Justice Society characters can have a book to themselves. This time, do Kara and Helena's story right. This time let the Justice Society characters be the protagonists of their own book without any "help" from Batman. Let the pre-Crisis Huntress and Power Girl continue the legacies of the Golden Age Batman and Superman like originally intended. Let the Justice Society be the damn Justice Society.
In getting back the more recognisable versions of the characters I love, it'll make it easier for me to read and review any new Earth-2 title more objectively because I will no longer be "putting pressure" on this comic to meet my expectations. That's really all I want. That's really all I'm asking for.