Tuesday, 4 June 2013

reviews Earth 2 Annual #1

Now, I think annuals are a mixed bag. For one, an annual is an extra issue that, while maybe not part of the main series, can give serious insight into the story that you wouldn't learn otherwise. On the flip side though, an annual is just a waste of money, there with no purpose and created with no other reason than to bleed cash off of me, the dedicated fan. So Earth 2 Annual #1 is both good and bad because it seems to fit somewhere in between.

This annual gives insight into the life of Al Pratt, the military hero known as (Captain???) Atom who has been a bit of a background character as well as a bit of a villain so far this series. Here though he is centre of attention as he is sent on a mission to a black market city to hunt down and bring in a war criminal from the previous battle with Apokolips. As he prepares for this he reflects on the time since the first issue and now, as he has (literally) grown from soldier to weapon. This annual also takes the opportunity to introduce new characters as an interlude in Pratt's story introduces Captain Steel while an epilogue re-introduces Mister Miracle and Barda from their brief reveal a couple of issues back as well as an all new Batman.

Don't let the cover fool you
(seriously) this is an Atom story

Now, despite some problems, I am glad that this annual was realised as The Atom deserves to be centre of attention after spending most of the series so far relagated to bit player and occassional antagonist to Flash, Green Lantern and Hawkgirl. James Robinson portrays Pratt as an everyman who, depsite pride in doing his duty, knows that he is part of a situation that his morals can't completely stomach. While appearing to be quite an ass early in the series, it is here that he seems much more likeable while not entirely having his personality altered from earlier appearances. The thing I liked about this issue most though was the interlude, where during a part of the Atom's story where he is knocked out, the interlude is used to intro Captain Steel and set up his future story plans, only for Al's story to resume shortly after with a "now, where was I?" moment. It's story plotting at its best right there and that alone made good for all the other problems.

Which is a good thing as these problems are a bit numerous. The main story's main culprit being Cafu's art which, while moderately consistent, did have problems in certain panels toward the beginning, especially with Atom spending half the issue missing an eye (I'm not sure if it was meant to be shadowing or intentional). Now, that's not to say I didn't like the art here but the simple fact is this art isn't Nicola Scott's!!! Of course this is only a small quibble compared to the epilogue which seemed totally unimportant. While I liked the ideas Robinson is setting up for future episodes, why, oh why, did Batman have to be included? The character, which was heavily implied in previews and cover to be an important figure in the issue does absolutely nothing, although he helps establish the future plot points. It does make me wonder though if this new "Batman" could be the reason for Robinson's recent departure, as I bet DC held a gun to his head to get a new Bat in the book because Batman sells so we need to have him in every book (I didn't disprove that though, I bought the damn thing). Then there is the final page reveal of Mister Miracle and Barda which, while I won't spoil, feels to me as though it leaves a big plot hole in the series proper.

So, has this annual changed my views on annuals in general? Probably not is the honest answer. I think annuals should be optional extras for a regular series but this one isn't and while I think that overall this is a good book, it's the final pages having greater influence on the overall arc that make me dislike this annual. Earth 2 Annual 1 IS essential reading, but only because of the info it includes. But that revelation shouldn't be allowed to spoil a great Atom story.

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