Ahoy Comics has been one of the unsung heroes of the comic book world in recent years. While their books aren’t as well known as many others, they are consistently enjoyable and well crafted. The publisher’s flagship series returns this week with The Wrong Earth: Trapped on Teen Planet by Gail Simone, Bill Morrison, Walter Geovani, Rob Lean, Andy Troy, and Rob Steen. So how is it? Is it worth picking up, and is it approachable for new readers? Let’s dig in!
Firstly I think it’s important to give a little necessary context. Wrong Earth follows two parallel universes. But more specifically, they focus on two heroes belonging to those Earths, Dragonfly Man and Dragonfly. Both look nearly identical but come from vastly different contexts. Dragonfly Man is from a Earth that is a riff on The Adam West Batman and comics of the Silver Age. It’s a goofier, far more innocent world where all conflicts are wrapped up neatly and sweetly. Dragonfly comes from a much grittier reality. If Dragonfly Man is the Batman of the 60s, Dragonfly is the Batman of Zack Snyder and Frank Miller. His world is about as dark as you can get. So Wrong Earth is focused intently on contrasting those two styles, with the two heroes swapping places to live each other’s life as the basic premise. It’s a brilliant series, and I highly recommend tracking down those previous stories to get the greater picture.
Thankfully if you haven’t read the past issues, this issue works perfectly without it. Ahoy is working on a series of standalone one-shots to explore fun new angles for this premise. This issue is a great example since the basic pitch is that the characters are now moving into the world of Archie Comics. Dragonfly (pretending to be the more aloof and kindly Dragonfly Man), his sidekick Stinger, and their new crime-fighting partner Deuce are sucked quite literally through the looking glass into an entirely new Earth. The issue has two different artists, one for the standard Earth stuff and another for this new Archie comics reality called ‘Teen Planet.’ Both art styles perfectly match the tone and style of Simone’s writing. Geovani’s exaggerated poses and action-packed framing fit right at home with the superheroic house style of today. Which makes the shift into the Archie style stick out even more. This half of the book is illustrated by Bill Morrison, who does an exceptional job of emulating the look of classic Archie artists like Dan DeCarlo and Bob Montana. Both art styles look great but are all the more effective when placed next to each other.
That shift is executed so well because of the very clear love and passion exuding from every page. This story plays up and gently ribs a bunch of classic Archie tropes without ever feeling snide or cruel. Dragonfly, despite his hardened violent exterior, actually quite likes this new Earth. It essentially takes him back to the escapist entertainment of his childhood. It demonstrates a real level of nuance that lots of parodies might lack, and it makes it all the more enjoyable. A lesser comic writer would have Dragonfly mock the very notions of this world, but Simone pulls the rug out from under us to reveal something a lot more earnest. Gail is, of course, known for having great comedic sensibilities, and that is on full display here. The story also has a very unique and hilarious framing device that homages a style of narration and editorial micromanagement that has long since faded into obscurity. The whole issue is just one of the funniest comics I’ve read in a good while, as Simone clearly finds a great amount of joy in juxtaposing the serious and silly worlds of the Dragonfly characters against the soap opera tales of Teen Planet.
Wrong Earth is a series that explores the ways that comics have changed and evolved. It’s a grand celebration of comics, modern and classic. Not only the ways that they’re different, but importantly, the ways they are similar, and the ways that they connect with us. Overall The Wrong Earth: Trapped on Teen Planet is a clever, funny love letter to the comics medium. Its art and writing are perfectly in tune to deliver a wonderfully sweet and sincere one-and-done package.