Title: Earth-2: Society #17
Story: After the End: The Final Fate of Earth-2
Characters: Fury (Donna Troy), Power Girl (Kara Zor-L), Hawkgirl (Kendra Muñoz-Saunders), Flash (Jay Garrick), Val-Zod
Creators: Dan Abnett (writer), Bruno Redondo (artist)
Publication Date: October 2016
Available In: Print | Digital
Summary: Earth-2 has been erased from existence. The Flash, Hawkgirl, Power Girl, Fury, and Red Tornado all find themselves in a ghost world that resembles the Metropolis of their old Earth, but nothing concrete. No where in sight are the Huntress, Green Lantern, Sonia Sato, or even the Ultra-Humanite. As the heroes try to figure out where they are, how they got there, and where the rest of their friends are, a new menace appears ready to exterminate them. No it isn't the Daleks, but an army of Sandmen who look like the newly deceased Wesley Dodds.
Review: Maybe I'm just ready to move on. Maybe I'm just feeling tired of the constant 'fight for survival' narrative of the last three years. Maybe I'm just frustrated now with the constant waiting for a proper return of the Justice Society, or all of the above. But I couldn't feel more apathetic for this new story arc even if I tried. It seriously took more time for me to download this comic to my iPad than it took for me to read it. By the time I got to the last page, I found myself feeling absolutely nothing for this story or characters. It just didn't speak to me. But then, this Earth-2 hasn't been speaking to me for years.
At best, this story arc is setting up for reviving the old Earth, and the ghost city the heroes end up in is a blueprint for the old Metropolis. Frankly, this story should've happened three story arcs ago when Convergence concluded last year instead of wasting everyone's time constantly dancing around the question of 'will they/won't they bring the old Earth back?'
If DC hadn't wasted so much time and energy trying to figure out how to get these characters back on track after they needlessly dropped the proverbial axe on the neck of Earth-2, effectively cutting its life short with that loathsome Earth-2: World's End event, I would probably feel more excited for this story arc. But again, it should've happened a long time ago. This is very much a case of 'too little too late.' A case of DC realising they've allowed the corpse to rot for too long before they realised they had to immediately reattach the head back on to the body in order to get blood circulating once again, and successfully revive the body while the flesh was still fresh.
For DC to reattach the head they chopped off more than a year later and still try to bring this corpse fully back to life is like Dr. Frankenstein attempting to create life by reanimating an actual corpse. Sure, the creature he ended up with resembled a human being and tried to function like one, but it still wasn't the same. He still didn't have blood flowing through his body, he still didn't have a heartbeat, much less an actual functioning brain. He was undead at best, and artificial at worst. This is how this Earth-2 feels to me now: like a cold walking corpse trying to pass off as a living, breathing human being with warm blood flowing through its veins and arteries. But no one is fooled because the lack of a heartbeat and warmth still gives its real status away.
I really feel bad for both Dan Abnett and Bruno Redondo that they were tasked with trying to breathe new life into this skeleton of what used to be my favourite DC universe to read from. DC tasked Abnett in particular with the role of being Dr. Frankenstein on this project long after the body decomposed following its brutal murder in the hands of a far less skilful writer and an even less thoughtful editor. At this point, it probably would've been far more moving to see a formal funeral for this Earth-2 and remember it for the good thing it used to be instead of the miserable Dr. Frankenstein creation it later became.
If DC is already set on bringing back the more recognisable Justice Society to Prime Earth, I really fail to see what good will come of an Earth-2 reboot. In my opinion, bringing back the Justice Society to Prime Earth defeats the purpose of Earth-2 since this world is suppose to be their world. If a new Earth-2 book has to compete with the classic Justice Society on the mainstream universe--especially after it suffered a tragic loss of life under less skilful hands prior to Abnett--sales are never going to be where they used to be. Earth-2 was a best selling title when it still had the Justice Society audience. If the Justice Society audience is now moving onto the Prime Earth version for Rebirth, that's going to leave this Earth-2 in a position of needing to quickly find a new audience (especially without the Rebirth banner), and we all know what happens to diverse titles that fail to sell above 60K in monthly preorders.
The best thing that could happen for this Earth-2 at this point is if this story arc establishes that the characters we've been following this whole time have been the classic Justice Society mentioned in DC Universe: Rebirth #1, and the "Earth-2" they've been inhabiting was never their real world but a byproduct of whatever limbo Johnny Thunder sent them to. Obviously, that's going to require Dan Abnett or someone at DC to pull a either Donnie Darko-styled retcon or a Matrix-styled plot twist to restore the characters' original timelines. But at least in formally setting these characters up to be a part of the Rebirth initiative with their original histories reinstated, that would give them the much needed kick to truly revive fan interest in them once again.
The characters and world as they are just isn't doing it for most readers. Not because Dan Abnett hasn't tried, but because DC really did take this property in a truly damaging direction it wasn't bound to easily recover from, and that's something they have to take responsibility for. If the goal of Rebirth is course correction, the way I described above is literally the only way they can do it with these versions of the characters and make it successful. Otherwise creating a brand new Justice Society to pass for the classic version while essentially abandoning this Earth-2 that DC actively destroyed isn't going to do it. It's just going to put the final nail in the coffin for them.
Here's to hoping this story arc leads to that surprising plot twist I described and it gets truly salvaged.