One of the first questions asked by fans all over the place when the New 52 was announced with the insistence that Superman would now be the first superhero ever in continuity as well as out was "what happens to the Justice Society of America?" Earth 2 #1 is their answer.
One of six new titles replacing six cancelled titles to keep it at The New 52, sort of – Huntress, Penguin: Pain and Prejudice, The Shade, etc., tend to skew things a bit – Earth 2 decides to recomplicate the DCU with alternate realities once again, and it'll be interesting to see what James Robinson does with this new, younger take on the gold-standard Golden Agers. No more will they be the "old folks home" for veteran superheroes – this time, it'll be their world as if they were the only heroes, and that should be refreshing.
They're NOT the only heroes, of course. We begin with a massive boom-tube-style invasion from Apokolips led by Steppenwolf that has wiped out Metropolis and pretty well conquering Earth, and in a last mad, desperate gamble, the Trinity of Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman manage to free the world from the Parademon grip, sacrificing themselves in the process in grand fashion, while young Supergirl and Robin get shunted into the prime New 52 world over in Paul Levitz' Worlds' Finest. No other heroes seem to be present – are folks like Aquaman and Cyborg dead in this world, or just off-panel? We don't know. We know that Robin is Helena Wayne, that Diana's gods go by Roman names instead of Greek, and that Mercury is wearing that classic old Jay Garrick Flash helmet and thanking Diana for inspiring him to believe in humankind as heroes.
And all the heroes are dead.
Leaving us five years later with a young, enterprising man named Alan Scott, CEO of G.B.C., who is apparently celebrity enough to narrate a documentary of remembrance about the heroes who died to save the world from enslavement. A tycoon with a heart of gold he tries to hide, but not very well, as he heads to China and flies over the flaming crater-ridden landscape of what was once Italy. Will he become Green Lantern again, and if so, will it be a part of this world's standard GL Corps or in his strange, mystic Starheart way?
Cut to Lansing, Michigan, where a young Joan Williams rather callously breaks the heart of Jay Garrick on her way to her career on the west coast at Tyler-Chem (Hello, Hourman!), making a point to be nasty and dismissive. "Honestly, I'm destined for greater things and I can't say the same of you. Goodbye, Jay." Now, Joan and Jay were one of the most solid and enduring marriages in the DColdU, so one wonders if this is really 'new, edgy Joan' or if it will revealed that she's trying to break their relationship off as coldly as possible to try and make it easier for the directionless Jay to get over her. Then again, apparently Jay is a bit of a screw-up here, so maybe he did something really crappy to her to prompt that attitude. We'll have to see. Robinson has proven his talent often, so I've got some faith that this won't just be edgy for the sake of edginess.
Earth 2 #1 ends with what will likely be the dawn of another heroic age, as Jay Garrick meets Mercury on his way to becoming the Flash, and it leaves us with an odd sort of feeling. It's been a while since we've seen these characters, and much longer still since we've seen them as young adults trying to find their way. They've always been these hallowed elder statesfolk, so it will take a little getting used to reading about them as regular schmucks instead of sages of wisdom and altruism. That cognitive dissonance should fade with time. They're in pretty good hands with Robinson, and Nicola Scott's artwork is pretty fantastic as well. Really straightforward comic book style, scary, emotive and action-packed.
It's a good issue, and sets the stage for something that feels pretty fresh. There are some residual nerves at work, hoping we won't lose some of these beloved characters to that pit of reinvention for its own sake in the Billy Batson Is A Dick vein, but so far, only Joan is in danger of that, and we don't really have enough information to pass judgment on that shift just yet.
Yes, I know, when has that stopped us before? Touché. How's about we let it stop us here, just this once?