Title: Earth-2: Society #21
Story: After the End: The Final Fate of Earth-2
Characters: Huntress (Helena Wayne), Power Girl (Kara Zor-L), Fury (Donna Troy), Hawkgirl (Kendra Muñoz-Saunders), Flash (Jay Garrick), Superman (Val-Zod), Commander Steel (Henry Heywood III)
Creators: Dan Abnett (writer), Vicente Cifuentes (artist)
Publication Date: February 2017
Available In: Print | Digital
Summary: The heroes of Earth-2 put up a final fight against the Ultra-Humanite for the future of the new Earth-2. But is their combined effort enough to ward off the Sandmen Army and the god-like powers of Alan Scott? And what of the Huntress and her team of two? Do they have what it takes to stop the Ultra-Humanite from having complete control over the new Earth? What will the Huntress lose in the final battle against the Ultra-Humanite? The battle for the new Earth-2 ends here in this literal groundbreaking conclusion.
Review: This is essentially the final chapter of this story arc, which I imagine makes the actual final issue the epilogue to this series. Admittedly, this was a chapter that went out with a bang in a rather anticlimactic way, or at least, it didn't pack the emotional punch it was aiming for. Pretty much all the heroes are beaten and one of them is killed in the process, and it took Alan Scott by himself to overcome the Ultra-Humanite's control on him to beat him. Once he killed the Ultra-Humanite, that was pretty much it. There aren't any meaningful character moments to speak of that are actually worthwhile.
The only character writer Dan Abnett attempts to give a meaningful conclusion to is the artificial Dick Grayson character few people care about. I'm assuming it was planned since the Annual at least that this character would be getting the axe soon since there was some foreshadowing to this moment in that story. The Annual did make a point of emphasising that the legacy of Batman is constantly met with a tragic end, and Grayson's demise in this issue continues that trend. However, his heroic sacrifice is rendered meaningless by the fact that he was never a legitimate Batman successor to start with and was literally nothing more than a gimmicky placeholder. As such, his loss doesn't carry any emotional weight for the reader. At least not compared to if this had been the original Dick Grayson from the pre-Crisis Earth-2 continuity who was actually mentored and raised by Helena's father, and worked alongside him as the Robin to his Batman.
If this Earth-2 Dick Grayson had a similar backstory to the pre-Crisis original, the heroic sacrifice would've at least paralleled that of Helena's father in Earth-2 #1 in a much more meaningful way that would've carried a much stronger emotional weight on Helena's character, and ultimately the reader. But that is exactly the problem: there is absolutely nothing about this Dick Grayson that is actually authentic. There never was. Without that original history intact, the scene where Helena cradles Grayson's lifeless body in mourning feels forced and outstandingly artificial. A problem not helped by the fact that we--the reader--were never shown the journey of how these two people met, how they bonded, how they formed a relationship, and what led to Helena to eventually allow this strange man to wear her father's identity and even run her family company. We were just told that these things happened, but we were never shown the details.
At best, Abnett seems to acknowledge in this issue that this Dick Grayson is not particularly popular with fans given the rather trivial way he was killed. Compared to the heartfelt way James Robinson depicted Bruce saying goodbye to his teenage daughter in Earth-2 #1 before sacrificing his life to save her (and ultimately the planet from the threat of Apokolips), that same amount of thought is not present in Dick's sacrifice. He is instead depicted as behaving rather recklessly. It's hard to say for certain if Dick thought his son was killed by the Ultra-Humanite, effectively acting like he had nothing else left to lose, or if he was just being stupid.
With only one issue left, the final issue will most likely focus on telling individual short stories with these characters as they adjust to their new setting. Hopefully, moving forward with Justice Society Rebirth, we get the classic versions of all of these characters back on Prime Earth, and Prime Earth versions of characters who don't already have a pre-Crisis or pre-Flashpoint counterpart like Val-Zod. Hopefully, moving forward, the Justice Society characters will be given more heartfelt story arcs that allow for meaningful character development. Two things this botched New 52 Earth-2 has consistently lacked was the heart and soul of the pre-Crisis original, and the complex, interconnected histories and character developments of the classic characters people are more fond of. Let's hope that with the reinstatement of the original characters to Prime Earth, Rebirth changes that.