Tuesday, October 28, 2014

POBB: October 22, 2014

The Pick of the Brown Bag
October 22, 2014
Ray Tate

The POBB returns with reviews of Aquaman, Bionic Woman, Harley Quinn, Judge Anderson, Justice Inc., Justice League Dark and the first of my Comicon haul Scott Hedlund's Weirdlings.

This week's Aquaman starts with Dr. Shin apparently about to pay for his association with organized sea evil Triton Base.  Triton Base houses the geniuses behind Chimera, the aptly named creature who threatened Aquaman for last two issues.  Fortunately, Dr. Shin has a few allies in Amnesty Bay.

The lady in uniform is Aquaman's old high school friend Erika Watson.  The young woman with Aquaman's dog Salty is Jennifer, whom Mera extricated from a sexual harasser.  Their rescue of Dr. Shin grants a homey Smallville type of atmosphere.  Their presence also reminds the readers that Aquaman is a being of two worlds, which will come into play later in the story.  

Geoff Johns created Shin as an fanatic from Aquaman's past who obsessed over Atlantis...

...Jeff Parker treats Shin a little more kindly now that the madness is no longer relevant.  To be honest, Johns rarely did anything with this mania anyway.  If he was building up to something, it was too slow a build to notice and more likely  overwhelmed by the major plotting.  

Because of Shin's past service, Aquaman grants Shin his greatest wish.  

Major Majesty Bestowed by Artists Paul Pelletier, Sean Parsons and Rain Beredo

This is a busman's holiday however.  Seaquakes struck Atlantis.  The prevailing theory lies in myth.  The Continent itself rejects the King because he's half-human.  Arthur accepts the possibility, but he doesn't know why.  So, he enlists Shin and Dr. Evans.  Evans is the anthropologist who unwittingly released ancient Greek monsters and mourned over the college students that he unwittingly doomed.  Sorry, I'm having a hard time empathizing with this jerk.  Shin committed no crime.  He just really, really wanted to see Atlantis.  Evans let his thirst for knowledge blind him to the possibility that he was being played.  That never would have happened to Van Helsing.

The answers to the enigma feed straight into the cliffhanger.  In between, Arthur deals with the rebels that attempted to overthrow he and Mera.  Johns reintroduced Aquaman as the badass that he was.  Aquaman killed the Piranha Men that arose from the Trench and tore the Karquan a new one.  To sentient beings Aquaman exhibits mercy and seeks to create a mood of optimism that's form fitting for the noble King Arthur.  His decision is a good resolution to the problem, and it's a dual-edged sword that could wind up slicing deep.

DC does it again.  This issue of Justice League Dark occurs after the events in the Justice League Dark Annual, on sale next week.  Fortunately, the stand-alone inventory issue won't feel all that frustrating.  It could have taken place at any time or place.  That said.  Anybody who has seen Star Trek: Next Generation will find themselves on familiar ground.  

Did Zee time travel? If so why doesn't, she remember fighting the Mome-Raths?  What gyres and gimbles here?

J.M. DeMatteis likely knows his story is derivative.  So he concentrates on generating genuine feeling from Zatanna over the death of her father.  For the most part he succeeds in presenting Zatanna's vulnerability in a situation she knows to be false.  Zatanna is an experienced spell-casting hero.  She traveled to alternate realities and played plenty of mind games, but Zatarra's authenticity, another clue to the reveal, convinces her to lower her guard.  Guest artist Tom Derenick hasn't lost an iota of his skill, and with Scott Hanna and Chris Sotomayor, he adds to the worth of the story by investing in Zatanna's and Zatarra's convincing interaction.  By no means a vital purchase, Justice League Dark won't hurt you, and it will appeal to Zatanna or Derenick fans.

At the cliffhanger to Justice Inc. readers learn that Richard Henry Benson survived the devilish plot perpetrated against he and his family.  His wife and child appear to be lost to the machinations of crime, but he refuses to believe that.  This chapter of Justice Inc. begins with Benson's resurrection.

The pulp heroes take Benson to the Temple of Cobras, where Kent Allard began his transformation into the Shadow.  Lamont Cranston for those not in the know is not the Shadow.  

The Shadow assumes his identity when he needs it, and Cranston later became a Shadow agent.  Uslan suggests, justifiably that this arrangement is strained, and he equates the tactic as identity theft, although for a good cause.

Doc and the Shadow find the Temple desecrated with disciple blood.  The Shadow's former master leaves only one last cryptic behind.  "Genghis."  This leads Doc and the Shadow arriving at an unsettling conclusion.

Surprisingly both are wrong!

With the Temple destroyed, Doc and the Shadow take Benson to Doc's secret laboratory, which was ironically partially funded by Benson.  There Benson arises as the Avenger; trained by the Shadow in the deadly arts but tempered by his own conscience, he will begin his war on crime.  

This altogether unusual arrangement lies outside the canon of the Avenger.  In the novels by Paul Ernst, the Avenger needed no help from his peers.  Indeed, these pulp heroes did not share a universe.   It's unlikely that any pulp fan will object to such aid in this alternate cosmos of Dynamite comics.  One might, on the other hand, raise a hand when stomaching Doc's explanation for Benson's condition.

Honestly.  There's no scientific basis for the Avenger's pallor and malleable skin.  In the original novels, Ernst attributed the unusual condition to a blow to the head from a fire extinguisher used to silence Benson on the plane; in other words brain injury.  Psychological trauma was the other rationale Ernst offered.  Neither makes a bit of sense.  The truth of the matter is that the Avenger needed a gimmick, and Ernst came up with a doozy.

Uslan juxtaposes the birth of the Avenger with the schemes of the Voodoo Master and his unwitting pawn.  Along the way Margo Lane meets Doc Savage's illustrious cousin and the joke Uslan included last issue gets a good punchline.  Finally, the second villain of the piece arrives in dramatic fashion.  No complaints.  Just pure pulpy goodness.

The third issue of Judge Anderson is unfortunately entirely skippable.  Anderson shakes the tree of hoodlums in Mega-City One to see if a Keyser Soze falls out.   Take away the funky trappings, and this story could have been on any mediocre cop show.  I expect better.

Bionic Woman finds Jamie Sommers in danger of losing her memories and trapped in a suburban nightmare.  Fortunately writer Brandon Jerwa already took steps to eliminate cliche amnesia and interminable scenes of the hero wandering around trying to find out where she is and why is this place so strange.

Jaime's doctor Rudy Wells upgraded her bionic systems, including a memory protector.  Though cut off from her allies in OSI, Jaime nevertheless less manages to jury-rig a signal to alert them to her predicament.  So whatever fiendish scheme rogue military man General Morales has up his sleeve, he can forget it, and the reader can cut to the chase.

What a fine chase it is.  Less like The Prisoner, although referenced visually, and more like Invasion of the Body Snatchers Jaime finds herself under assault by assassins, surveilled by spies and allies herself with fellow inmates.    Smartly written with an enviable brevity, Bionic Woman is a must buy for fans of the series and strong female characters.  

Jimmy Palmiotti and his wife and creative partner Amanda Conner return to making merry with Power Girl.  Struck by a meteorite, Kara loses her memory and finds herself at the tender mercies of Harley Quinn.

Conner's and Palmiotti's amnesia story is the second book this week that enlivens the creaky trope.  Instead of doing the expected.  Harley does the opposite.  She doesn't try to convince Power Girl that she's a criminal.  Instead, she tells her the truth.

The switch comes with Harley putting on the ruse that she and Kara fight crime together.  They're superhero partners.  Instead of aiming for outrageous comedy, Palmiotti and Conner instead opt for genuinely cute amusement provided by such scenes as Harley and Kara shopping, eating and in the climax of this first chapter stopping a bank robbery by two classic villains given a new 52 update.  Although one is merely a dead ringer from a certain animated series.

If artist Chad Hardin felt nervous about illustrating a character so associated with Conner, he doesn't show it.  Instead, he stretches his artistic muscles to present a Power Girl nigh equal to that of Conner.  He captures both the inherent comedy in the character as well as the dignity of her super-powered station.

Weirdlings is an independent project from Brian Babyok and local Pittsburgh artist Scott Hedlund.  The story regards an invasion by time traveling forces in the life of Lucy Leodegrance.  Ostensibly an innocent she will in the future join Nathan Hale alias Deathwynd in the super hero group the Weirdlings.

This was a pleasant, earnest effort with a strong visual narrative.  The well-thought out characters possess depth and issue constructive dialogue that either/and frames personality, details history or hints at the overall plot, without clunky exposition.  Babyok wants you to figure things out rather than hand you information on a silver platter.  It's more fun that way.

Hedlund's art stretches what you usually think of as pro-am.  In addition to contributing the attractive designs, Hedlund chooses challenging artistic poses, both in action and every day.  The artist furthermore matches the expectations when the story takes a mysterious emotional turn.

Weirdlings is downloadable in comic strip form at www.weirdlings.com.  

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

POBB: October 15, 2014

The Pick of the Brown Bag
October 15, 2014
Ray Tate

The POBB is all new with reviews of Batman and Robin, Justice League, Loki, Spider-Man 2099, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Painkiller Jane, Simpsons Comics, Supergirl, Teen Titans.  

Loki works well as a two-part story and part of a larger whole.  Last issue Victor von Doom and his godchild Valeria Richards trapped Loki in a square of frozen time.  They didn't do this just for fun.  Doom traveled to the future and saw that Loki had destroyed Midgard.  Valeria was on board so long as her "Uncle Doom" didn't kill the Asgardian.

Unbeknownst to Doom, he and Valeria as well teleported Loki's companion, Verity Willis, the human lie detector.  Meanwhile strife is tearing apart Latverians, and that's where the big crossover comes into play, for the Red Skull has acquired the telepathic powers of Charles Xavier by stealing his brain, obviously inspired by the classic Z Movie They Saved Hitler's Brain.

So this is a lot of fun.  Al Ewing begins his story by touching on events outside of Loki that would logically affect the God of Mischief.  Not to worry though.  Ewing doesn't dwell on say the sudden inclusion of Neil Gaiman's Angela in the aegis of Asgard.  Instead, he uses these developments to frame the characterization of Loki and the hopelessness in Loki's quest to change.

Verity makes a good case for the future being mutable, despite Doom's evidence.  Sharp-eyed Doctor Who fans will note the similarity of Doom's observance to that of a young Sarah Jane Smith who travels to a devastating future that will occur if she and the Doctor do not prevent Sutekh from taking over the world of the past.  The homage is an honest one, for Al Ewing includes the famous Vworp sound effect for Doom's time travel trap.

Doctor Who isn't the only subject of the plot-jokes to be found in Loki.  The Prisoner also gets a funny yet pertinent nod.  The pop culture sight-gag grants insight into Doom's multifaceted personality.  Doom shares some aspects in common with He Who Is Not Number Six.  He is a prisoner of the throne.  He alone can rule Latveria.   It is a cage of his own making.  For this reason, Doom often replaces himself with Doom-bots, for Doom has as insatiable a curiosity as his rival Reed Richards.  Thanks to Valeria, Doom has begun to appreciate simple pleasures as well as a scientific cohort.  

It sounds like Loki has little to do in his own title, but he's vital in stopping the Red Skull's influence of hate.  Doom of course fights off the telepathic wave--ironically through his love for Valeria, but he's powerless to save the Latverians.  Verity has the plan.  Valeria employs the science to convey the plan, and Loki is the only one that can carry out the plan.

Loki exemplifies what a good crossover should be, but Spider-Man 2099 demonstrates the pitfalls in such things as well as the inherent weakness in the Marvel multiverse.  It turns out Morlun has been eating the Spider people across the cosmos.  That's rather cheesy, but cheese has never been a crime in comics.  Morlun of course died in the Marvel universe proper.  So here's another.  Therein lies the problem.  

If nothing can ever be threatened, where lies the suspense?  Morlun, miraculously living, chews through a number of alternative Spider men based on the 2099 design, and it's hard to feel anything for them since they're not truly entities.  Rather, they're hashed together products of different choices.

Contrast the multitude of Miguel O'Haras with the differences between earths one and two from the DCU, and it becomes obvious.  Each DC character is unique.  Now, this is not the case with the overall Spider people populating the Marvel universe.  Spider-Girl Gwen Stacy is nothing like Spider-Girl May Day Parker, but to suggest there exists infinite versions of each character undermines the resonance of the original.  Result? Spider-Man 2099 is just kind of there.  Nothing to hate.  Nothing to love.  Not worth your time or money.

Greg Pak's tale of cosmic demonic amnesia peters out in Batman/Superman.  This started out so interestingly with the return of Kaiyo the Chaos Bringer from the ballpark vicinity of Apokolips and New Genesis punishing Superman and Batman for going soft.  She was banking on their brutality being the tonic against Darkseid.  Batman as a clean slate starts to dig being Batman.  Superman revels in his powers.  The heroes switch dance partners with Batman hitting on Lois Lane and Catwoman staking her claim to the Man of Steel.  It was actually pretty entertaining.  Impressive given the age of the chestnut premise, but the way the heroes reclaim their memories draws in a breath of dust, and it just lacks power.  The story deserved better.

Batman and Robin is not the best chapter in this eye-brow raising saga of a sane Batman attempting an insane quest, but you can do a lot worse.  Batman learned that to save the world Damien must live.  In order to resurrect Damien, Batman must acquire the dead tyke's body, which was inconveniently stolen by Apokolips agents.  Bad choice.  People are often surprised when Superman starts playing handball with really powerful villains.  Not so when Batman boils and begins to tear through fiends of all ilk.

The trouble is that what's around Batman on Apokolips often doesn't make sense.  Kalibak uses the shard stuck in Damien's coffin to build a Big Sciencey Doo-Hickey.  With it, he destroys a planet or moon in the name of Darkseid.  Why exactly?  How does that help Darkseid, who is apparently sleeping one off like Odin.  How did that happen anyhow?

While sometimes confusing, Batman and Robin boasts excellent characterization and dialogue.  The Batman Family decide to go to Apokolips and save Batman's ass.  Batman fully believes that this is a suicide mission.  Robin, Red Hood, Batgirl and Alfred will have none of it.  As you can see, they place Gotham's protection in the hands of Batwoman.  Even Batwing gets name-checked.  In addition, the set-pieces are often rousing.  Batman waylays a truckload of Parademons then beats the crap out of Glorious Godfrey, whose use of weaponry parallels the new 52 Eros from Wonder Woman.  

Tony Bedard finally gets a chance to write Supergirl, rather than an orange-vomit spewing harridan, and he blows it.  Bedard's Supergirl lacks personality, almost always fails to use contractions in her dialogue, which makes her speech sound stilted and pretty much identifies the problem with the premise in the first place.

Bedard's Red Hood is a joke.  There was no reason for any of this animosity.  Implying that he killed a dog was low.  Jason has been reinstated in the Batman Family.  He doesn't have a villain's reputation among the heroes.  Hell, even I approve of him.

From Red Hood and the Outlaws #35

He could have precluded Supergirl's natural reaction of speeding him out a window by replying, "The doggie's fine.  Locked in the bathroom.  It's true we don't really know each other, but we need to talk.  Alone."  Instead of "I took him out of  the equation."  What Liam Neeson wannabe rubbish.  Why in fact does Supergirl need to know any of this anyway? She has X-ray vision and super-hearing.  So she should be able to detect the dog alive and well anywhere in her new beau Michael's apartment.  Feh.

Red Hood and the Outlaws this week poses a lot of questions, but the answers aren't forthcoming.  So, this is a wait and see type of book.  In it's favor Scott Lobdell loves writing these characters and it shows in all the pages.  You should read this book before Supergirl since it hints at where Jason received his curious super-strength, evinced in the latter.  Actually, scratch that.  Skip Supergirl.

Teen Titans entertains with a terrific character dynamic by Will Pfeifer and Kenneth Rocafort.  The story begins with Raven attending a concert and discovering that the lead singer is her number one fan.  

The pleasant evening gets remade into a night of terror thanks to the robot that's been causing the Titans so much trouble.  Raven's not amused, and she displays a proactive stance that's very different from the original Daughter of Trigon.

The call to battle segues into a humorous overpowering that leads to Red Robin seeing a bigger plan in the making.

The duplicity is courtesy of one Manchester Black, an obscure post-Crisis anti-hero introduced in the Superman titles.  Why he's attacking the Titans with his robot is anybody's guess, but Robin's investigation leads to a good cliffhanger.  

In addition to these assets, old Wonder Woman fans will enjoy the return of Helena Sandsmark, Cassie's Mom, to the new 52.  Though how long she'll last is questionable.

The new 52 changed the face of DC by restoring Barbara Gordon's mobility and her identity.

From Batgirl #6

Batman had a hand in this.  Explicitly, Batman paid for Barbara's medical bills.  The technology came from Africa, and Batman either recognized the potential while in search of Batwing or was actively seeking a means to repair Barbara's spine.  Whatever the explanation, Barbara's rejuvenation and her regeneration would never have happened in the post-Crisis.  Batman there was portrayed as an unfeeling obsessive and content to lock Barbara up in a Watchtower in order to slave her to his war on crime.  The new 52 opened up Batman's personality, and writers such as Geoff Johns in Justice League highlight just how different this Batman is from the post-Crisis version.

Such a conversation would have been unthinkable in the post-Crisis.  Had this discussion occurred then, it would have overtly established Batman as a hypocrite, and a mean one at that.  It would have raised too many questions.  It would have really underlined the query so many asked: why did Barbara need to stay crippled?  This is the new 52, and things are better.

Batman's animosity toward Lex Luthor lies in Luthor's largely unexplored criminal past and his blackmailing Batman to attain a position in the League.  This issue of Justice League is ostensibly a trap set by Batman and Superman for Luthor, but it's not quite so cut and dried as that.  Wonder Woman expresses hope in Luthor's change of heart, and Johns grants Luthor far more depth than he usually exhibits.  This is the new 52, and things can change.  Luthor could truly become if not a bona fide champion of justice, then at least then a protagonist like Victor von Doom.

Jimmy Palmiotti concludes the story that reunites Painkiller Jane with the 22 Brides.  Somebody's been blowing up buildings, and I kind of hoped Palmiotti didn't go the way he did.  It makes perfect sense and provides a fairplay answer to the mystery, yet I can't help feel that having the identity of the "mastermind" linked to the 22 Brides was unnecessary.  It looked to me that Palmiotti wanted to justify the Brides' involvement, when they didn't need justification.  The Brides are private eyes that work in New York.  New York's being attacked.  Jane operates in New York.  She likes to kill bad people.  "Thus endeth the lesson."  


Ming the Merciless still hunts Flash Gordon, kills underlings when they fail to deliver him good news, yet...

Evan Shaner makes Ming look positively adorable, and that actually works in conjunction with the charisma of the overlord.  Shane's art furthermore creates a stark contrast from the things Ming does and the way he looks.  The redesign is also quite an improvement over the basic Yellow Menace Ming from the original comic strip.

Flash happens to be in the thrall of sirens from Sky World, and writer Jeff Parker comes up with a very unusual ecology for the aliens that builds on the mythology of Flash Gordon's universe.  This in execution casual exploration into the flora and fauna of the extraterrestrial shows how Parker wants Flash Gordon not to be just about Flash, Zarkov and Dale.  He wants to build science fiction worlds, which imbue a sense of wonder.

The Hawk People refer to the sirens as Dirt Eaters, an apt description, and the soldiers require Dale to retrieve the men.   Since they lack a shield against the Dirt Eaters' seductive song.  The Hawk Soldiers seek to rescue Flash and Zarkov not out of altruism but because they hold the Crystal that opens gateways to a multitude of worlds.  This however is a cleverly woven lie from Dale to secure their services.

The Hawk Soldiers escort their prisoners to classic Flash ally King Vultan, remembered as the bombastic Brian Blessed.  This updated version of Vultan keeps the bluster and seems to eliminate the affection.  Perhaps though Vultan's execution of Dale, Flash and Zarkov is merely a ruse.  Whatever the explanation, Parker keeps the reader wanting more.

Last but not least Ian Boothby's Simpsons Comics plays with the importance of Homer Simpson to Springfield citizenry.  It's in fact a clever story in which Homer plays an unwitting modern day Svengali, through the efforts of Professor Frink.  There's something about Homer that Springfield's inexplicably trust, and that leads to all sorts of weirdness.  The backwash of this lemming like behavior affects Homer with an astonishing reinvention that raises the hackles on the back of Marge's neck, and she in fact becomes the catalyst that saves everybody and returns the book back to the status quo.

Monday, October 13, 2014

POBB: October 8, 2014

Pick of the Brown Bag
October 8, 2014
Ray Tate

This week it's a cornucopia of comic book goodness.  I review Batgirl, Captain Marvel, Copperhead, The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage, Doctor Who, Earth 2, Earth 2: World's End, Justice League United, Smallville: Chaos and World's Finest.

So, right up front.  Do not read Vampirella: Faery Tales.  There's a massive spoiler on the first page revealing the outcome of Nancy Collins' first story arc, and Vampirella #6 has yet to be published.  Too bad on Dynamite's publishing snafu.  I was really looking forward to this book.  Oh, well.  Maybe in a few weeks.

Batgirl takes a fresh look at Barbara Gordon, and nobody had to be crippled in order to do it.  The story opens with Babs in her new apartment, complete with new friends and a new roommate.

You don't need to deeply analyze the artwork to realize that this entire run is going to look very different from the more traditional illustration in previous issues.  That's not to say those panels were bad.  Far from it.

The artistic degree of latitude simply shifts drastically.  It's a different aesthetic, directed by Cameron Stewart and finalized by the apropos named Babs Tarr.  Despite the change, you shouldn't mistake Batgirl for a funny book.  There's comedy to be sure, but a lot of moments like this.

Batgirl has a smarter attitude.  Writers Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher update Batgirl with text-messaging, hook-ups, and a variety of sexual orientations represented by a multiethnic cast.  In other words, the writers set Batgirl's new adventures in a true-to-life college section of the city.   At the same time, Stewart and Fletcher do not completely forget what happened in previous issues.  For example, Alysia, Babs' former roommate, gets name-checked in a text message.  Black Canary also makes a welcome return, and you needn't know about the blow-up between she and Babs in Birds of Prey.

Fletcher and Stewart essentially cinch what was right in Babs' life while adding a strong group of support players.  They drop the dross.  

Let me reiterate.  When Gail Simone started Batgirl, it was great, but as soon as Simone fell in love one of her characters, Ricky, the carjacking boy caught in the bear-trap, she forgot that she was writing a book about Batgirl.  Instead, she wrote around Batgirl.  Those superfluous additions and the dour negativity that plagued Batgirl from the Joker story onward fizzles.  Instead, Stewart and Fletcher accent the positive.  

Babs is super-intelligent, and the authors use the skills that she acquired pre-Crisis as a crux for her current history.  I wasn't sure how much I would like to experience Babs in college because it seemed to be too much of a regression.  Babs had in the pre-Crisis earned her PhD in library science to become Head Librarian of Gotham City Library.  Stewart assuages any trepidation with the following revelation.

I would have accepted any analytic field from statistics to population genetics.  Urban geography is exactly the kind of dense subject that's worthy of Babs.  It also alludes to her past.  Pre-Crisis, after Babs left Congress, she worked for what would nowadays be called an NGO.  The position would have required understanding about socioeconomic conditions.  So Babs' research in the field of urban geography is a lovely and unexpected call back.  

Still not convinced that Batgirl's redo is right for you? Well, suppose you are a fan like me.  What do you want to see in Batgirl? Photographic memory?

Check, and you'll note that this isn't the mopey Barbara Gordon from Gail Simone's last three or four collections.  This is the Dynamic Daredoll Babs Gordon who is secretly Batgirl.  This is the vivacious, daring Batgirl you fell for in Batman Family, Detective Comics and in the svelte form of Yvonne Craig.

Which brings me to the costume.  

Batgirl was always self-made.  She honed her body into a crime fighting weapon.  She studied martial arts.  She proved herself to Batman.  She fabricated her costume.  Second verse same as the first.

Finally, I think every Batgirl fan wants Babs to fight real crime.  Not something tame.  We don't want to see Batgirl combating jaywalking.  In this issue, she goes after a modern method blackmailer.  She defeats him using her wits and her battle prowess.  This is Batgirl.  

Paul Levitz remains on World's Finest, despite its shift of focus from Huntress and Power Girl, to fill in some of the missing pages in Earth 2 history.  Namely, Levitz details the life and times of Batman and Superman, and he uses a very smart narrator, who would be privy to all the facts.

If you're wondering why I'm lauding the choice of Red Tornado as the storyteller, then you haven't been reading Earth 2.  Else you would know that Lois Lane's consciousness resides in Red Tornado's metallic body.

Lois begins at the beginning.  I know fans will roll their eyes at the thought of another trip to Krypton before its destruction and a visit to Thomas and Martha Wayne before they're slain in Crime Alley.  Events unfold a little differently in Levitz's tale.  Earth 2's versions of the figures are flawed.

Some of these amendments to history were already introduced in Earth 2.  Others belong to Levitz whole-cloth.  No matter there's quite a bit of craft evident.  For instance, although ostensibly a debut story, with Bruce and Clark as little babies, Levitz still incorporates late additions from Earth 2, like mentioning Val-Zod, the new Superman who was retroactively placed in the House of El. 

Levitz relates time-displaced Apokoliptan shenanigans.  They're right where you would expect them.  At the beginning.  He delves into the more linear criminal connections of Thomas Wayne.  The links ended soon after marrying Martha, who also had a less than wholesome past, but you can see how these dominoes foreshadow the Wayne tragedy. 

The key is that Levitz embraced the intricacies of shared world continuity long before anybody else did, and he knows the ins and outs of such a device.  His skill shows with every scene.  His partners Jed Dougherty, Scott Hanna and colorist Blond provide a strong visual narrative that supports Levitz's intent.  You may not appreciate the artist's overt cartoony exaggeration over photorealism, but that's a subjective decision to make on your own. 

Although a fan of Earth 2.  I'm unsure about its sister title World's End.  Faithful Earth 2 readers will cheer for the price point.  DC would have been teetering on the brink of fraud had they charged any more than three dollars.  Twenty-one pages summarizes a storyline that we just experienced for twenty-six issues.   That leaves approximately sixteen pages of new material, and that new material seems old since it doesn't really do anything to advance a plot.  The new material primarily involves setting up the return of Power Girl and Huntress. 

Power Girl and Lois Lane benefit the most in World's End.  The writers, of which there are many, add something original to Power Girl history, and it's novel no matter the continuity you choose.  Furthermore, the addition is meaningful and not just a gimmick.  It makes sense, and it's a warm moment in an otherwise workmanlike reiteration.  Although, the relationship between the new Batman and Huntress gain practical recognition.

The most curious thing about World's End is that the writers sandwich a Dick Grayson/Barbara Gordon marriage in the tale.  Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon never existed in Earth 2 as far as James Robinson and Tom Taylor were concerned.  If they did, they weren't special enough to warrant any thought.  The writers here however grant the Graysons equal importance.  

I know what you're thinking.  Bonus for me, eh? More Barbara Gordon.  I should be happy.  Not really.  Dick Grayson is a better prospect than Ricky.  A hobo with scabies would be a better prospect.  However, I never held the fevered dream of Robin/Batgirl shippers.  In fact I thought it was mean that the Powers That Be even suggested the possibility.  Babs was in a wheelchair post-Crisis.  She wouldn't have been able to escape Nighwhiner, the man who had every DC heroine in his bed.  All right.   Not Wonder Woman.  Maybe--Maybe--not Black Canary.  In any case, Earth 2 ran fine without Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon.  Why bring them up now?  Earth 2: World's End finishes thusly.  Don't worry.  It's not a spoiler.

Earth 2 begins like this.  Again, not a spoiler.

So, we're not following through with the Scary Cupid angle?  All right.  Either Earth 2 is ahead of World's End, or neither is relevant to the other.  This makes deciding which to buy much easier.  Earth 2 all the way. 

Earth 2's more optimistic attitude appears to dovetail right off of the formation of the Justice Society seen at the end of the last issue.  

Huntress and Power Girl could have encountered these heroes immediately after leaving World's Finest.  No further explanation necessary.  

The story is self-contained and juxtaposes action and suspense along with Power Girl's and Huntress' past, which furthermore comments on their resonating friendship.  

Power Girl and Huntress are necessary to save Earth 2 from total destruction.  The threat while apparently hailing from Apokolips could have come from any-when.  

I'm actually thinking the explicit origin was added after the fact to better excuse the existence of World's End.  Because these things invade CERN, the real life Swiss-centered scientific research complex, I'm thinking the creatures could have originally been the result from an experiment gone wrong.  Some time ago there was the concern that experiments with high-energy particle collisions such as those in the Large Hadron Collider could create black holes that would of course kill us all.  I find it highly suspicious that these things happen to be in the vicinity of something that could easily inspire a writer to create a doorway from another realm, which of course is the whole purpose of black holes in fiction.

Earth 2 offers readers a stronger set of revelations.  Power Girl and Val-Zod are old childhood friends, and they renew their acquaintance in this issue.  Helena finds out who this new Batman is and why he deserves to wear the Bat Symbol.  Things of importance happen in Earth 2, whereas World's End just summarizes and retrofits.  

Smallville also develops its multiverse plot quite nicely.  Superman and Lois Lane are trapped on a dying earth.  They infiltrate a Monitor ship, which travels the Bleed--a phenomenon borrowed from the Wildstorm universe.  Before that, they make a bargain with a classic DC villain, that's not Lex Luthor. 

Luthor is busy making his own deals, which leads to a potent cliffhanger.  Meanwhile, the rest of the gang which includes Superboy and Supergirl contend against the growing Eclipso plague, and Booster Gold finds himself on the short end of the glowing yellow stick.  Good stuff.

Justice League United focuses on Jeff Lemire's new creation Keewahtin.   Lemire carves out a Native legend background for our neophyte champion and throws her against the Canadian demon, Wendigo.  Oh, he calls it a Whitigo, but it's a Wendigo.  It's just not white and fuzzy like John Byrne imagined.

As anybody who read that Uncanny X-Men comic book years ago can say with authority, a person becomes a Wendigo when they eat human flesh.  It's not an entirely crazy bit of folklore.  One can imagine years ago when Canada was mostly unexplored territory, people deprived of game feeding on a herd closer to home.  I suspect it rarely if ever happened, but as far as fears go it's understandable.  

Anyway, Lemire sanitizes the Wendigo legend by expanding the demonic possession.  All the baser transgressions including fear and greed can leave a person open to a hostile takeover, this is especially true if you are one of the chosen. 

Fans might object to Lemire concentrating on just one Justice League member, but those readers coming in for Martian Manhunter, Supergirl or the double-act of Green Arrow and Animal Man still will not be disappointed.  They all get a good moments.

Although artist Mike McKone appears to be taking a breather, Timothy Green orchestrates an excellent visual narrative with decent illustration clearly done as a quick substitute but still easy on the eyes.

Copperhead introduces another trope from the western genre: the drunken doctor.  Sheriff Clara Bronson needs a doctor since one of green potato people from the cliffhanger slaughter happened to survive.  
Deputy Boo dopes out what the attack might have been about, and meanwhile the Copperhead equivalent to a mountain man rescues the lost children from the alien version of coyotes or wolves.

Copperhead continues to be a pleasant diversion without really diverting much from a typical western.  It's still only the presence of a female sheriff that really distinguishes the book from other media set in the same genre.  Despite the longevity of the western there have only been a few female law keepers in such stories and cinema.  
You can argue that the aliens are a difference, but no, not really.  They're just a science fiction veil.  Remove it, and Copperhead is a typical, however enjoyable, western with an atypical central figure.

Captain Marvel is sheer unadulterated fun.  Rocket, the Captain, Tic and her cat now revealed to be the Flerken that Rocket thought it was, battle to save the lives of the Flerken's kitty-hatching eggs from The X-Files' Black Oil.  Highly amusing, one moment will make you burst out laughing.  

Writer Jen Van Meter follows up her impressive debut of The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage with an equally admirable follow-up.  Last issue, millionaire Lincoln Marsh hired Dr. Mirage, actual occult investigator, to separate him from a demon servant.  This issue, Van Meter reveals Marsh's  ne'er do well colleagues while Mirage--real name Shan Fong traverses the planes of the dead.  In order to travel and hire a spirit guide, Fong must relate a story or gift a powerful object to the ghosts she encounters.  This leads to a flashback involving her late husband Hwen and uncovers an even greater threat to Fong.  Once again, artist Roberto De La Torre and David Baron facilitates Van Meter's apparent intent to make Dr. Mirage an undiscovered sixties comic strip.  I approve of that.  It's what makes Dr. Mirage unique on the rack.  

Writer Nick Abadzis concludes his first Doctor Who story with a crescendo worthy of David Tennant's reign.  Abadzis divulges of the secrets of the ethereal Cerebravores, while cementing the friendship of new companion Gabby Gonzalez and the good Doctor.

While the Doctor beats the bad aliens with unknown technology, the bare bones of the explanation makes sense and was foreshadowed from the beginning.  For the close observer there's a lot of inside jokes to enjoy and universal humor involving Gabby's family.  The reaction to the Doctor by the female contingent of the Gonzalez clan is hilarious, and artist Elena Casagrande adds her two sense with some terrific expressions.