Andrew A. Smith
Special to The Nashua Telegraph
May 15, 2012 -- DC has begun its “Second Wave” of six new series, following “The New 52” titles launched last September. The first four are already out, and successfully upgrade concepts that will make older fans nod their heads in approval.
The first two titles, Earth 2 and Worlds’ Finest, re-introduces what used to be called Earth-Two. Earth-Two came into being in the early 1960s, when DC decided to address what had happened to its long-canceled 1940s characters by establishing that they lived on an alternate planet. So the Flash and Green Lantern introduced in 1940 lived on Earth-Two, you see, while the Flash introduced in 1956 and the Green Lantern that debuted in 1959 lived on “our” Earth, Earth-One. These worlds “vibrated” at different speeds, but could be accessed one from the other, which happened more and more frequently until DC threw everybody into the pool by having the Justice Society of Earth-Two team up with the Justice League of Earth-One in 1963. All that Spandex in one place created a disturbance in the Force, as millions of fanboys cried out in delight at once.
In fact, fans loved this idea so much that DC began introducing all kinds of Earths – so many, that in a few decades even the editors were getting confused. The solution? They wiped them all out. In a 1986-87 series called Crisis on Infinite Earths, all the Earths – including the beloved Earth-Two – were blended into one.
But now, once again, Obi-Wan Kenobi is getting a headache from fanboy cheers. A couple of years ago, DC decided to bring its multiple-Earth concept back. There had only been hints of Earth-Two until now, but is confirmed with the release of Earth 2 and Worlds’ Finest.
The former title revives the old concept with a small re-spelling but some huge differences, in order to appeal to newer fans. Once again we’ll see versions of the likes of Flash and Green Lantern, but newer, younger ones, rather than the middle-aged WWII vets of the ‘60s. Best of all, the writer of Earth 2 is James Robinson, who has written some of the most beloved and best-remembered Earth-Two stories, such as the entire Starman series and The Golden Age graphic novel. The first issue is mostly set-up, but it is a delicious set-up even from the perspective of this aging fanboy.
The second Earth 2-related title is Worlds’ Finest, a play on the old World’s Finest Comics, a title that grew from the 1940 World’s Fair Comics, which for the bulk of its four-decade run (1941-86) teamed Superman and Batman. That’s no accident, because this book stars the Supergirl and (female) Robin of Earth 2, who get stranded on “our” Earth, taking the names Power Girl and Huntress (since we already have a Supergirl and an army of Robins). Once again DC has taken an older concept and spiced it up for new readers – a gender switch, if nothing else -- while leaving just enough nostalgia for us creaky oldsters.
The other two “Second Wave” books also re-invent concepts for the modern world, but ones that were pretty awful in their original incarnations.
G.I. Combat, first series, was a war book that ran for three decades, mostly featuring a tank crew in WWII Europe that had a ghost. The new G.I. Combat instead revamps a series that ran for a few years in Star-Spangled War Comics, called “The War That Time Forgot,” which somehow made World War II soldiers fighting dinosaurs on a mysterious island really boring. The new series promises to be a lot better, and features U.S. Special Forces battling those overfed reptiles.
A back-up series also features an old Star-Spangled War Stories series called “Unknown Soldier.” The old series featured a master of disguise in WWII whose non-disguised face was always hidden by bandages. The new series has a face-bandaged protagonist, but this time in Afghanistan, and the first issue doesn’t tell us much more than that. However, it’s being written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, who have written the finest Jonah Hex stories every published, so I have high hopes.
Lastly we have Dial H for Hero, which could not possibly be as lame as the old “Dial H” series that preceded it. In those stories, mostly for kids, irritating teenage protagonists used a mysterious, magical rotary dialer to change briefly into some of the dumbest superheroes you’ll see this side of a first-grader’s Big Chief tablet. There was one “Dial H” series that took a more adult approach, but it was also really depressing, mainly to show how turning into a superhero briefly would ruin your life. So whatever writer China Miéville plans has to be better than what’s come before.
To my surprise, I actually liked the first issue of Dial H. It’s a little early to say if I’ll continue to like it, but it stars a fat guy – unattractive, but let’s face it, that’s what most Americans look like these days – and the “heroes” in the first issue were ingeniously nightmarish. And there are no annoying teens anywhere!
Contact Andrew A. Smith of the Memphis Commercial Appeal at firstname.lastname@example.org.