“Earth 2” #0 written by James Robinson and drawn by TomÃ¡s Giorello is an origin story for Mr. 8, Terry Sloan, whose Golden Age counterpart was Mister Terrific, Terry Sloane. Robinson extracts the “e” and also the original Terry Sloane’s untainted moral compass for this Earth-2 version as Mr. 8 occupies the stage for the ironically-titled “A Hero’s Title.”
“Earth 2” #0 is told in flashback by Mr. 8 as he returns to the memory a particular battle with Apokoplips in which he parts ways with the Trinity and possibly with his sanity and scruples. It ought to be a story dense with suspense, but it is leaden with exposition and oddly light on characterization.
The art by TomÃ¡s Giorello is one fight scene after another, and both Giorello’s strengths and weaknesses are illuminated by this focus. His transitions are smooth, but his anatomy is off, particularly with Wonder Woman’s body as she leaps and twists through space. Nathan Eyring’s colors look cluttered and discordant in the busy jumble of bodies. However, both he and Giorello do a lovely job in a well-composed panel of Mr. 8 in the blast of a bomb, the lines and flames blurring his body with incandescent glowing hues.
Still, even if all the panels were artistically riveting, that would only do so much, because the art fights with the script’s past-tense, first-person narrative voice. Over every fight scene, Mr. 8’s voice blithers on in voiceover, muffling the action and sapping what should be an epic betrayal of any immediacy or surprise. The reader is never in the thick of the battle, but instead removed to the future and at the mercy of a self-involved narrator preoccupied with larger strategy.
Worse, the dialogue and diction lack Robinson’s usual wit and spark. “Savior or darkest villain,” it matters not, because Mr. 8 is a painful bore. Reading “Earth 2” #0 is like being cornered and forced to listen to an arrogant “hero” dictate their memoir. Sloan is a know-it-all and self-appointed messiah — a clear nod to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Adrian Veidt, Ozymandias, who also styled himself as “the smartest man on earth,” also being the only one far-sighted and daring enough to destroy the world in order to save it. It’s all there — the same obnoxious paternalism, the blind trust in logic and utilitarianism, the sociopathic detachment, the chess-like manipulation of fellow super-powered teammates and the absolute certainty in his own judgment. Giorello’s last panel even has the villain in his war room, gazing at a world map on a large screen, in a throne-like chair, just like Ozymandias in his hideout.
Whether homage or rip-off, Mr. 8 is a diminishment of the inspiration. While the revelations about Ozymandias were timed exquisitely, unleashed at the climax of “Watchmen,” in “Earth 2” #0, Robinson plops them in at the first page without adequate buildup. Mr. 8’s synthesis and use of Opal Kryptonite also comes out of nowhere. While it may be a fun reference to Robinson’s Opal City in “Starman,” it’s also a lazy deux ex machina thrown in so that Mr. 8 can get around Superman.
“Earth 2” #0 also falls into the zero-issue pitfall of being disconnected from events and characters in the current storyline. No doubt these characters will eventually converge and the current team will be seeing more of Mr. 8, since Terry Sloan sees something coming that is “an evil far, far greater than the gaudy hordes of Steppenwolf.” There is also a cryptic reference to an eighth original teammate who Sloan refuses to name. Readers must hope that these potentially juicy tidbits develop into stories are not executed in the disappointing manner of “Earth 2” #0.