OK, the title is a little melodramatic, but I think this book deserves it. Earth 2 #1, written by James Robinson and drawn by the incomparable Nicola Scott, has me wishing (with qualifications) that this new Earth 2 were the mainstream DC Earth. (Its companion book, Worlds' Finest, by Paul Levitz, George Pérez, and Kevin Maguire, was also excellent, but pales in comparison to the cinematic bombast of Earth 2.)
I can't discuss this book without massive spoilers, so proceed with caution! More below the jump...
The book opens with Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman fighting Darkseid's parademons. Despite slight differences in appearance, this is the Trinity we know: Clark/Kal-El, Diana, and Bruce. As opposed to those on the mainstream Earth, these three were apparently seasoned heroes Five Years Ago, when the Justice League on Earth-whatchamacallit are just starting out; it's comforting to know that the relative timing of the Trinities on Earth 2 and Earth 1 (for lack of a better name) is retained from the pre-COIE days, even though the rest of Earth 2's heroes will be emerging at the current time.
I also found it very appropriate that the beginning of Earth 2 paralleled the first case of the Justice League in terms of foe, and while the latter team was just beginning five years ago, what we see is the Earth 2 Trinity's last mission. Yes, they killed Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman. Death, death, death--I know. Nonetheless, I found the tale of the end of the Earth 2 Trinity to be inspiring--Robinson and Scott's portrayal of Bruce's death and Helena's reaction was particularly moving--and it was an effective way to establish the background of the new world.
But it is also tragic for another reason. It seems like ages since we saw Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman (much less the rest of the League) cooperating, getting along, and supporting each other, without sniping, quipping, or jockeying for dominance. (Admittedly, we haven't seen much of them together at all, but what we have seen isn't encouraging.) It brought back fond memories of DC's attempts to promote the Trinity as the foundation of the DCU (not least in the weekly Trinity series, but also in Infinite Crisis and Brad Meltzer's JLA).
The Earth 2 Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman acted heroically and nobly in life, and in the same way, they died. I would happily pay cold hard cash to read the earlier adventures of the Earth 2 Trinity, because they remind me of the DC heroes I grew up reading and loving, as opposed the other ones whom I simply do not know.
Abstracting from the story itself, I find cause for both hope and anxiety. Does this spell the return of dignity and hope to the larger DCU? Will the new heroes of Earth 2 follow in their predecessors' footsteps? Or is this DC's way of killing off the idea altogether--dignified heroism died with the Earth 2 Trinity--and the next generation on Earth 2 will be antiheroes, constantly walking a fine ethical line in a feeble attempt to appeal to DC's imagined postmodern, morally relativistic audience who couldn't possibly want to see true heroes anymore? Robinson does have a knack for inserting metacommentary into his books; reread the last issue of his JLA run for a reminder. I fear this may be what's going on.
In Earth 2 #1 we do see glimpses of Al Pratt, Alan Scott, and Jay Garrick, who will soon emerge as heroes in the aftermath of the Apokolips War. I remain skeptical about their prospects for the future; Scott seems like a blowhard (with a heart) and Garrick is portrayed as an irresponsible young man, while only Pratt is shown to be heroic (a sergeant during the war who is kidded by his comrades for being small). Sad to say, I foresee more cynical, "edgy" superheroics, along the lines of the first wave of the DC New 52. I sincerely hope Robinson and Scott surprise me on that front.
In the end, my initial enthusiasm--which led a good friend to comment on Twitter, "Now THAT intrigues me. Mark approving of something from the New 52?"--has now dimmed somewhat. It is still a wonderfully written and dazzlingly illustrated book--Nicola Scott has truly stepped up her already formidable game--and I think I will enjoy where it goes. But it is likely due to my diminished expectations of the new DCU that even the slightest glimpse of true, noble heroism has me tweeting with unbridled glee. Sigh.