With Superman and Batman’s return to Earth 2, the world now needs the joint power of all the Wonders to repel the forces of Apokolips.  In the opening chapter of “The Dark Ages” arc, Tom Taylor has brought his talent from Injustice: Gods Among Us to showcase another tale of Superman turning on his adopted home-planet.  The New Wonders and the World’s Army have pooled their skills to create a meager resistance to the brute force of Superman to little avail.  Green Lantern is dead, Doctor Fate is babbling gibberish, and most of the other Wonders can just look on while Superman destroys the World’s Army Arkham Base.

“The Dark Ages, Part Two” picks up where the last issue left off, with Batman and Major Sonia Sato squaring off in the bowels of the Arkham Base, surrounded by stasis pods containing the world’s most dangerous “criminals and madmen.”  Superman has effectively wrecked the Arkham Base’s top layers, and seems to be searching for something, but it interrupted by Flash.  Flash’s naiveté and rash thinking shows as he distracts Superman and immediately regrets it.  We have a couple of panels that hearken back to one of the more well-known Superman/Flash story as Flash attempts to buy the Wonders some time. 

Spoiler
The “Fastest Man on Earth” race around the world.

All is not as it seems in the sub-levels under Arkham Base, as Major Sato claims that she was there the day Batman blew up the Parademon towers and saw him die.  It is evident that this is not the same Batman who was in the Trinity of Wonders, but we learn little else besides scraps of information.  Red Tornado Lois intervenes, and there’s a cool scene that even further hints that this is not the Batman everyone is accustomed to. 

Spoiler
She calls him “Bruce,” and Batman gets this wistful look in his face.  So it seems like Batman did indeed know Bruce. 

We learn what the purpose is behind the Arkham stasis pods, and for those who read the review for last issue, we learn pieces of Doctor Fate’s rambling puzzle.  In the rubble of the Arkham Base, the only people remaining are Mr. Terrific, Terry Sloan, Kahn!, and Sandman.  How is Mr. Terrific not ready to kill Sloan?? Sloan kidnapped him, was using him to work for him, and all signs point that he brainwashed him.  I would be at that guy’s throat.  I think Sloan’s real superpower is making everyone on Earth 2 forget that he’s a complete and utter ass who uses people for his own devices and helped Apokolips in the last war. 

By the end of the issue, we’ve added more Wonders to the group, bringing the total to almost a dozen.  We’ve met a new Wonder almost every issue, and it’s getting a bit unbearable.  It feels like I’ve said it on half of my reviews, but if you keep adding characters, the ones that the readers like will get watered-down.  I’d much rather have seven New Wonders who are complex and interesting than twenty who are nothing more than strangers in the costumes of heroes we know and love.

The story still hasn’t advanced, but it seems like the anti-Superman team has been formed, and hopefully soon we learn about the forces at work behind Superman’s conversion to evil.  Earth 2 is still suffering from the introduction of too many characters, and with those we meet in part two of “The Dark Ages,” it’s just another excuse not to flesh out the Wonders and villains that we’re interested in.  I’d love to know more about Kendra – who’s been missing in action the last half-dozen issues – or Sandman, The Atom, or even someone like Major Sato, who has been around since the Trinity of Wonders.  I’d love to know more about the two other Hound Dogs, Bedlam and Beguiler, but they’ve been given a grand total of five panels this entire run.  They’re supposed to be the two most powerful enemies of the Wonders after Superman, and I know nothing about them.

I want to know so much more about the denizens of Earth 2, but the story isn’t allowing for it.  It’s a strange conundrum; there’s the addition of so many characters so it feels like the story is moving along, but it’s really not.  It’s like digging a long, shallow trench, rather than one shorter and deeper one (weird analogy, I know).  I can’t say it enough, cut the number of Wonders (because there’s no way Green Lantern is dead, he already pretty much died once), and make them more interesting.

Spoiler

  • “The Queen” from Doctor Fate’s vision is Aquawoman! Batman frees her from stasis and calls her “Your Majesty,” and she has all the trappings of aquatic royalty.
  • “The Child” from Doctor Fate’s vision is Jimmy Olsen, who can apparently absorb data from thin air? And can own the Internet? His powers are kind of vague but it seems that he can tap into any information on the Internet or from machinery and use it as he sees fit.  Apparently he was the sole person behind some terrorist group that sounds based off WikiLeaks.
  • Batman gets shot in the head by Sato and manages to live.  Either he’s got a super-bulletproof cowl, or something is afoot.  He also manages to twist Red Tornado Lois’s arm, and Jimmy calls him “Batman on steroids.”  Maybe it’s Venom?
  • Flash’s ankle gets broken by Superman, I’m relating more and more to Jay.
  • Superman captures Flash, Mr. Terrific, and Terry Sloan.
  • Superman seems to be under the control of Bedlam, who is “in his head” at all times.  Mind-control anyone?
  • The last page is Batman taking Sato’s gun and shooting a stasis-frozen Joker in the head.  It was a powerful image and, honestly, it’s something I’d personally never seen before.  Even if this isn’t Bruce, Batman just took a gun and shot a defenseless Joker in the face.  It was powerful, made a statement, and *muttering* was actually pretty bad-ass.

Favorite Quote: “You’re not human. What the hell are you?” “I’m…” – Major Sato and Batman.

Recommended If…

  • You want more heroes.
  • You want to learn more about this new Batman of Earth 2.
  • You want to see how heroes would plan to battle Superman on the fly.

Overall: The story isn’t moving along, and there are more characters added every issue, but it seems that Earth 2 is reaching a tipping point.  A few cool images save some SCORE points, and this could have been ranked lower than a 7.5.  A fight is coming soon, I can feel it, and I can only hope that the payoff is going to be worth all the build-up.

SCORE: 7.5/10