When there was a very public, very sudden shift in the creative talent on this book, there was naturally some backlash both in the method and abruptness in which it took place. The book’s quality suffered as well, in my well-documented opinion, but that had less to do with whatever was going on behind the scenes at DC and much more to do with a dislike of the sudden tonal shift and plot aimlessness. As of this issue, I am joyed to report these problems are to be evaporating rapidly. I have enjoyed Tom Taylor’s run on INJUSTICE: GODS AMONG US enormously, which is one reason I held EARTH 2 to such a high standard with the new writer, and while those books share some larger thematic similarities, they’re not actually at all similar but Taylor seems to have found his footing and infused this issue with some of the wit and cleverness that he’s becoming known for. The introduction of Jimmy Olsen as a genius, comedic foil to the grim, dour Batman has certainly helped, but we get a major turnaround in the Earth Army’s resistance to Apokolips’ conquest. It was one of my main fears that, after several issues of brutal, unchecked destruction, the tide would be turned too abruptly to be believable, but that surely isn’t happening. The storyline feels organic and every development earned. The revelation regarding Val-Zod could have dominated the entire issue, but is actually explained in short order, but with enough detail to emphasize what a major turn it represents.
Nicola Scott’s pencils are in incredible form this issue as well and with the battles being more even-handed than in the past, her incredible visuals are on display. The opening is some of the best of the entire book’s but there are a lot of quiet, subdued moments that look just as great. Again, a lot of it comes down to the finer details of communicating subtle body language, most especially with the scene involving the rampaging Superman returning home for a nice, quiet dinner. The final splash page of the issue also deserves special mention as an absolutely incredible visual. Trevor Scott’s inks emphasize and give razor-sharp detail to the pencils, creating a great sense of motion and impact. The visual language of this book comes through loud and clear and that’s also in large part to the colors by Peter Pantazis, which are beautiful, bright and shift the tone from actually hopeful and uplifting to savage and dark at the drop of a hat, but it always feels earned and lends a great sense of tension to a lot of the issue.
The action in this issue is incredible, and the calmer scenes look generally good, the latter falters in a few places. The visuals aren’t as sharp in several panels, especially in closeup where facial features become indistinct.
While Val-Zod's parentage is revealed briefly and doesn't pause the action too much, we still don't know a great deal about his back story. It feels like we could have learnt more about his birth parents without requiring much more exposition.
I doubt this is a fluke, but I’ll still hold off on declaring the book entirely back on track, but it’s definitely heading in that direction and I couldn’t be happier. The other fear I had of it becoming just another Superman or Batman focused book also seems to have been unfounded as the original players are now back firmly in the spotlight. As someone who loves a good alternate Earth story, I couldn’t be more thrilled to be excited about this title again.