Sunday 17 July 2016

Earth-2: Society #14 Review

Title: Earth-2: Society #14
Story: A Whole New World
Characters: Fury (Donna Troy), Huntress (Helena Wayne), Power Girl (Kara Zor-L), Hawkgirl (Kendra Muñoz-Saunders), Green Lantern (Alan Scott), Flash (Jay Garrick), Val-Zod, Sandman (Wesley Dodds), Sonia Sato, Doctor Fate (Khalid Ben-Hassin), Captain Steel (Henry Heywood Jr.)
Creators: Dan Abnett (writer), Federico Dallocchio (artist)
Publication Date: July 2016
Available In: Print | Digital

Summary: At Justice Society headquarters in Neotropolis, Huntress, Power Girl, Khalid Ben-Hassin, and "Dick Grayson" propose to Fury and Hawkgirl that they use the Pandora Vessel to revive the previous world that they lost. Fury is against the idea because the vessel has never been used at such a capacity and worries about what could go wrong. This angers "Grayson" who then starts to argue with Fury, though the situation is quickly defused by the intervention of Huntress, Power Girl, and Fury.

Later in the day, Fury (who now calls herself "Donna") asks "Grayson" what he lost, and "Grayson" then reveals his life's story to her. Power Girl meets with Alan Scott at his place to propose using the Pandora Vessel to resurrect the old world, and Scott (like Fury) is against the idea as well because he feels using the vessel for that purpose could yield very dangerous results. The heroes are then attacked by the Ultra-Humanite's child army, and despite looking like kids, they prove to be very dangerous. Scalpel successfully takes down Captain Steel, and Firepattern successfully incapacitates "Grayson" and effortlessly takes down Fury. When Firepattern sees "Grayson," he recognises him as his father.

Review: This is a very difficult comic for me to review because none of the characters I'm actually invested in get any meaningful character arcs, and the one character who is given this luxury is the one character I find offensive because his entire raison d'etre is centred on the complete usurpation of a woman's story, which--you guessed it--comes from a place of sexism. The more frustrating part is that literally half Earth-2: Society's narrative is centred on this one character at the expense of the rest of the cast, which effectively limits how much can actually be said about the individual characters. Not only is DC's over-reliance on Batman very tiresome and annoying, but repeat discussion on sexism is equally tiring as well, and I end up wasting almost half of a review addressing that very problem DC keeps pushing onto this title. So I apologise well in advance if this review turns into yet another discussion on this comic's perpetual Batman and sexism problems. (Though to be fair to me, he does literally occupy half of the comic's page count).

The only thing I genuinely enjoyed from this month's issue was the Ultra-Humanite and that was mainly due to Dan Abnett's writing. One thing I've been enjoying about Abnett's run of this series is that he's very good with characterisation. I love, for example, that Helena Wayne reads more like her classic self, I just wish she was actually fronting her own story instead of functioning a supporting character in her own story. I love that Power Girl reads more like her classic self, I just wish she was actually given more to do than just function as a negotiator. Same with Alan Scott. I love that Abnett writes him like his more classic self, but again, I wish he was given more to do.

Then we get to the Ultra-Humanite who, despite getting only three panels, had the best line in the entire comic. When one of this child soldiers asked him if she should kill Alan Scott and Power Girl, he very nonchalantly answered with 'Oh, my dear Turncoat. Absolutely, yes." I have to give props to artist Angel Hernandez who equally helped convey Ultra-Humanite's composure in that panel. One major revelation that does happen in this comic is Fury finally gives herself a name, in this case, Donna, presumably after Earth-1's Donna Troy. I have very mixed feelings about this. One the one hand, I hate the idea of DC erasing Lyta Trevor as Wonder Woman's daughter. On the other hand, considering how badly DC screwed up this version of Fury for the current continuity, it's a bit of a mercy that it isn't Lyta Trevor. I just hope DC brings back the pre-Crisis original that Roy Thomas created for the Rebirth JSA and we can forget that this version of Fury even exists.

Everyone else in this issue (with the exceptions of Khalid and Fury since they at least did a little more than just show up) gets a cameo appearance. The bulk of this issue is unfortunately centred on "Dick Grayson," which means we now have to address that part of the comic. If you don't want to sit through another monthly discussion on DC's perpetual "Batman" and sexism problem with Earth-2, you are welcome to turn back now. All the positive things I had to say about this comic were already addressed in the last two paragraphs. So here we go. 'DC's Perpetual "Batman" and Sexism Problem, Round 14.'

Literally ten pages (half the page count) are wasted on "Dick Grayson's" man pain, and two of those pages specifically address the question of whether or not he has the right to be "Batman." Not only do I not care for this story arc because it's not a legacy that actually belongs to this "character" (it belongs to Helena), but also because it takes away page space from the other characters I actually want to read about. Alan Scott only got one page where he expressed his thoughts on using the Pandora Vessel to bring back their old Earth, and then he just avoided getting killed. Kara and Helena did little more than vouch for the same idea and intervened in fights that broke out. Jay Garrick and Val-Zod were barely in this except to stop the Ultra-Humanite's child army from attacking people. As I mentioned earlier, none of these characters get any meaningful character arcs, and the only character who is, is the "character" DC keeps trying to rationalise as their new "Batman." It's incredibly insulting because many of us know that it should be Batman's own daughter fronting that story, not some random imposter who has no reason to take over that narrative besides having a name in common with Dick Grayson.

At best, Abnett seems to acknowledge in the writing that nothing about this character is authentic, and therefore doesn't realistically have what it takes to be a true successor of Batman, or even a true Dick Grayson at that. However, as a work-for-hire, he is still editorially obligated to rationalise it. We additionally still don't get Helena's point of view in this story, and her point of view is far more important than "Grayson's" because she is the only legitimate successor to her own father. She is the only child Bruce actively trained and raised to succeed him. We are especially never given an explanation for why Helena would just hand over her own family legacy to a random stranger who's story is literally the same as every Earth-2 survivor's. I just know that it doesn't make sense for her to do so. "Dick's" man pain is not unique to him seeing as everyone--including Helena--lost something or someone on the previous Earth. So what's in it for her? "Dick" didn't have any existing history with either herself or her father prior to the events of Earth-2: World's End, and knowing Helena's grandfather for only a few hours before being killed off in Convergence is not history. It's barely even enough time for any two people to form any meaningful relationship, which renders the idea of Thomas being a "metaphorical father" to "Dick" absolutely absurd. It's especially absurd because not even Helena got to know her own grandfather for very long either.

On the note of Thomas Wayne, he never named "Dick" as his successor in Convergence as established in this issue because he died protecting him against some of Batman's post-Crisis villains in issue #3 of that series. Thomas didn't actually expect to die, he only did so because he thought that was the only way to stop those villains. It was actually "Dick" who entitled himself to the bat symbol following Thomas' death (see Convergence #5) because Telos told him that in every DC continuity, Dick Grayson always has a tie to Batman. That's the real story.

If I was in Helena's shoes, that would not be reason enough for me hand over what's left my father to a stranger I have no relationship with. It's ludicrous to assume that she would, especially since her grandfather wasn't a legitimate Batman either. Thomas also took something that wasn't his to have because Bruce himself never named his own father as his successor. As I recall, Bruce actually disowned him and cut him out of his life when he learnt that he had been alive this whole time and still chose a life of revenge instead of a life with him (see Earth-2 Annual #2). That's something Helena took issue with when she learnt this truth as well in Earth-2: World's End.

It's very unfortunate that Abnett has to work with such a problematic editorial mandate because as much as he tries to make this "Dick Grayson" work, it just becomes more obvious why he doesn't work. Aside from perpetuating sexism (it's absolutely ludicrous that DC thinks Batman's own daughter isn't good enough to carry on his legacy), you literally cannot recreate Dick Grayson's history artificially. The name "Dick Grayson" comes with a very specific history and certain expectations that this character simply does not embody. When you especially juxtapose this character with Tim Seeley's Nightwing (which came out the same week), the differences really stand out and not in a good way.

The Dick Grayson we get in Seeley's Nightwing is charming, optimistic, funny, compassionate, and witty, and he has a real existing history with the Wayne family. He even tells Bruce in Seeley's Nightwing that he is his own person and doesn't need Gotham as much as Bruce does. Prime Earth's Dick Grayson is a better established, more three-dimensional character with a believable history and narrative. The "Dick Grayson" usurping Helena's story in this comic is nothing more than a stand-in for Bruce Wayne, complete with a carbon copy of Bruce's personality installed. He has no real discernible traits as a character--something Helena Wayne actually has--but has all the characteristics of an unnecessary placeholder. Why does DC insist on robbing Helena of her own story for this? That's like a company attempting to sell a customer a blank Bluray disc that happens to be inside of a movie cover, instead of the disc that actually has the movie in it. Why should a customer be satisfied with that?

I don't know what the fate of the Earth-2 characters is going to be when this comic concludes later this year, but I do know I want Helena Wayne to reclaim her rightful place as her father's successor, and for DC to drop this stupid "New Earth-2 Batman" stunt that no Justice Society fan is sold on. DC already tried having two new Batmen on Earth-2 after Bruce died, and neither one was a success because they were forced inclusions that no one asked for. Perhaps instead of trying to sell us new a usurper Batman each time that the previous one fails, try developing the character who already exists to take over that narrative: the Huntress. She already has the right history and character developments for a writer to work with, all that needs to happen is for someone at DC to actually do something with it. The sooner DC drops this sexist idea that women can't be successors to Bruce Wayne as their own legacy heroes, the sooner we can move on from this topic of conversation in every review.

I really feel bad about giving this comic only two stars because none of the problems with this comic are Dan Abnett's fault. He's an excellent writer, but he's working with a very ill-conceived premise. He's a state-of-the-art storyteller who excels at characterisation, but his efforts are terribly overshadowed by DC's insistence on giving more spotlight to an usurper "Batman" so few Justice Society fans care about. I hope Geoff Johns gave Earth-2's editorial office a memo about focusing on the Justice Society characters moving forward with Rebirth, and to stop making every Justice Society book about an alternate universe "Batman." That is not what any of us who are Justice Society fans sign up for when we subscribe to a Justice Society comic. If we want to read about Batman, we'll subscribe to one of the many Batman comics DC is currently publishing. Same with Dick Grayson. If we want to read about Dick Grayson as a Batman legacy character or as a team player, we'll just pick up Tim Seeley's Nightwing or Dan Abnett's Titans. But if we subscribe to a Justice Society book, we except the damn Justice Society to be at the front and centre of their own comic. Not Batman, not Thomas Wayne, and especially not a "Dick Grayson" who isn't even Dick Grayson. (Stop insulting our intelligence, DC. You're not fooling anyone with this stupid stunt).


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