I know what the cover and credits page said, but this did not feel like something written by James Robinson and drawn by Nicola Scott. When this title debuted, I was impressed right away with Scott's level of detail, present on every page and with every character. Here, though she still has her moments, the artwork is generally a little softer around the edges. I noticed it mostly in the characters' faces. Not that they weren't distinct or expressive, but their smaller features seemed to have been wiped out in favor of smooth, unnatural flesh. Scott's artwork is too realistic to mesh with that, and I found myself pulled out of the story a few times because of the lack of detail.
Not everything had this problem. When The Flash's mother's house is destroyed, there's a full-page splash rich in tiny bits and pieces, so it's not as though Scott phoned it in entirely. And in general, whenever The Flash was in action the artwork was at its best. He continues to be the strongest character visually, and found a few creative uses for his super speed this month that were quite well-rendered. I'm not sure if time restraints kept the rest of the art from seeming as finished, or if Scott was just a bit off her game this month or what, but overall I was less sucked in by her work than I typically am on this book. Plus she had a stray panel here or there that confused me, like a single shot of a pissed of government agent's face at the bottom of one page or a panel showing a dummy in a Green Lantern t-shirt that isn't explained until a few pages later. Moments like this and a general vagueness to her characters made Earth 2 #9 a much blander-looking issue than usual.
It is James Robinson's script that I upset me most, though. His dialogue is getting SO unnaturally expository on this series. It was true last month, and continues here from the first scene to the last. Hawkgirl and Khalid (Dr. Fate) have a chat that clearly covers information they both already know, and the only reason to speak much of it out loud is for the reader's benefit. The result is a conversation that feels as forced as it does awkward. From there, we jump to a series of audio clips from various news stations recapping what has happened in the series up to now. I am so fucking sick of that storytelling strategy. It is easy and cheap and tired, and Robinson's career proves he can do better.
The rest of the story centers on the government trying to apprehend The Flash, abandoning all subtely or strategy in their efforts and instead attacking him with destructive force on his mom's front lawn. The idiocy of that aside, it was a fine enough narrative, giving The Flash a chance to, as I said, use his powers in some new ways. But it doesn't get anywhere. The Flash meets Khalid and they escape, but otherwise nothing changes. The government still wants to control these new "wonders," and the wonders are obviously still not into that. It's an awful lot of page space committed to simply introduce two heroes who already have an ally in common and otherwise maintain the status quo.
The real kicker comes on the final page. The issue concludes with what should have been the dramatic entrance of a new character, but was watered down when said character introduced herself through a nearly forty-word sentence that was more plot explanation than character background. It turned the ending into a dull chore rather than an exciting cliffhanger, the perfect punctuation for a dud of an issue.
I am excited for Dr. Fate to show up in full. I am excited for the mysterious impending evil everyone keeps talking about to finally arrive. I am excited to see a New 52 Justice Society, made of a rich and diverse cast of characters who are all easy to understand and enjoy under Robinson's pen. But the longer all of this takes to actually happen, the more bickering and heroes-fighting-heroes scenes I am forced to slog through first, the less excited I feel. I understand that this is how superhero teams tend to get assembled these days, by first disliking and mistrusting each other and duking it out until a greater evil rear's its head and leaves them no choice but to band together. But that, too, is a tired narrative tactic, and it's already been going on far too long with too little progress. Earth 2 seems to be on a downward slide at the moment, and it needs to pick up the slack real soon or it could well become too frustrating a series to salvage.