After seeing this cover in the ads of nearly every comic book I read for the past 3 or 4 months I was eager to open this issue and just get the big reveal over with. Who is the new Batman? WHO? Would it be Jean Paul Valley? Dick Grayson? Terry McGinnis? Someone else entirely? What would make this Batman different from the Caped Crusader who shows up in around a quarter of the New 52 books?
Well here’s the answer you’re looking for: You do not find out who Earth 2 Batman is in this book. After all that hype, he is only in the comic for maybe 7 pages. In that time we see him fight the alternate universe’s Mr. Freeze, who goes by the name Mr. Icicle (who, like our New 52 Mr. Freeze, still has hair and forsook his doctorate when he turned to a life of crime). He’s given quite a bit of inner monologue, none of which hints at a personality different from the Bruce Wayne Batman we’re used to, but his actions, particularly his willingness to kill (with a gun-like weapon, mind you) definitely sets him apart. The identity of Earth 2’s Dark Knight is still a complete mystery. It could be anyone.
So if you were thinking about picking up this book for Batman alone– don’t.
But if you were thinking of picking it up because you are a fan of Earth 2, then you should seriously consider it. Annual #1 explains the origin of The Atom, who is a character I liked in the first arc of this series, and it brings in more new characters than just the Dark Knight, setting up an interesting new arc to be continued in issue #13 next week.
Another important question I should answer is: Is Earth 2 Annual new reader friendly? Yes, I think it is. Since it’s primarily the Atom’s origin story, we get a nice walkthrough of what’s happened in this alternate timeline with Steppenwolf, the deaths of the Wonders, and how the Earth 2’s version of a Justice League was assembled. I’d say it’s a decent jumping on point sure to get the uninitiated interested in what’s going on in this other timeline.
It’s a good world-building issue that should please frequent readers of Earth 2 and it makes a nice jumping on point for curious new readers. The artwork by Cafu is quite good with expressive faces and fun action scenes for an all around good-looking book. But was it worth $5 bucks? Not for me. I actually found it to drag in the middle and the lack of attention to the new Batman was a disappointment considering how heavily it was advertised. It’s an okay comic, but it feels falsely advertised and the price is too steep for what you get. I think an annual should have a higher re-read value than this when you’re asking people to pay so much.