Here’s what I picked up this week:
Blue Beetle #29
DC Special: Cyborg #3
Green Lantern #33
Huntress: Year One #6
JSA Annual #1
Reign in Hell #1
Superman / Batman #50
Teen Titans #61
The Justice Society Annual was interesting for a few reasons. On the surface it’s a pretty straightforward “you can’t go home again” story for Power Girl, as she finds herself back on the alternate earth (Earth-2) that was her home and that was presumed destroyed in the first Crisis. And while it is that kind of story in many ways, it tackles that theme from so many angles that it makes for a deep, wonderful read.
Geoff Johns could have easily played Earth-2 as the happier, shinier earth where everyone was happy and untouched by the tragedies that have befallen their New Earth counterparts… and instead he opted to give us an Earth-2 that is a logical extension of the classic version, updated for today, with all the added complexity and drama that that entails. Thus we get a Helena Wayne that is perhaps in a worse place emotionally than Helena Bertinelli of New Earth, who’s no picture of mental health herself. This Helena Wayne is haunted by an aging, still-murderous Joker, and torn between her feelings for her long-time boyfriend and her feelings for Dick Grayson, who is, after all, practically her brother. It’s an interesting extrapolation of the classic Huntress character, but Johns isn’t done yet.
Despite what the cover might lead you to believe, Earth-2 is not patrolled by classic members of the Justice Society, but rather by their children and heirs. Al Pratt (for some reason) is the sole original JSAer to remain an active member of the team. Johns therefore gives us the “classic” JSA earth, only for us to find that the classic JSA lineup is less represented here than it is on New Earth! Johns seems to be wagging his fingers at the readers who have spend the last twenty-two years waiting impatiently for the return of the “real” JSA. Despite what comic book readers like to believe, time can’t stand still, after all.
And then there’s Power Girl itself. Her story could have gone down two very formulaic paths. 1) Kara returns to the earth she loved, it’s everything she remembered, BUT WAIT, now she’s being pulled back to New Earth and she’s all sad and mopey! Or 2), nothing’s like I remember it, so I’d like to go back to New Earth now, please! But Johns takes the story down neither road. Earth-2 isn’t perfect, but it isn’t horrible, either. It’s just different. Time has passed, her friends have aged and matured, and the world has gotten a little darker, but these aren’t BAD things. It’s just what happens. It happens to everyone, everywhere. And so of course Kara is happy to see her old friends, but it’s like she says to Helena: “I don’t feel like we’re friends anymore. I don’t feel like I belong here.” Like Helena and the others, Kara has grown up. She doesn’t need to go home and be with her old friends any more because she has new friends. She’s not the junior member of the JSA “Super Squad” any more, she’s the chairwoman of the Justice Society of America! It’s no surprise, then, that Kara realizes fairly quickly — much faster than we, the readers, are likely to — that there’s no choice to be made here. She has to go home, back to her real home, on New Earth.
It’s to Johns’ credit that this Annual is both a loving tribute to the old Earth-2 stories, and a cautionary tale about living in the past. After all, surely this earth isn’t inherently better because Al Pratt is still the Atom, or because Ted Knight is still Starman, or because Jay Garrick is still the only Flash? No, this earth just seems a little less special without Ray Palmer and Ryan Choi, without Jack Knight and Thom Kallor, and without Barry Allen and Wally West running around.
Earth-2 is a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.