AHOY there! This week, I am taking a deep-dive into analyzing and raving about the ultimate superhero satire comic, The Wrong Earth, from AHOY Comics.
I’m writing this shortly after helplessly watching the chaos at the White House on January 6th. Needless to say, I’ve witnessed just another example of how supervillains and evil exist in real life, and how dystopian fiction seems more synonymous with our reality than people take the time to acknowledge. America was quite literally founded by corrupt individuals who had no qualms with pushing religious persecution and abhorrent slavery into the country.
I use comics, reading, and writing as an outlet to slip into a fantasy world because I, quite honestly, have difficulty coping with the harsh reality pervading the news outlets every day. People closest to me deal with racism every day, and it hurts my heart to hear their stories and outrage. And then I see ignorant posts from people I used to know and instantly remove their social media page from my sight. It’s all so overwhelming. This past year feels confining, trapping, and suffocating. But there’s no “healing” from a country that emerged from atrocities that continue to carry over into today. There is activism, voting, and other means of combating the plagues inflicted and allowed to continue in the U.S. At least when I’m immersed in reading, I feel a brief means of relief from the horrors of this world, even while reading social or political satire.
Let’s talk about corruption, good vs. evil, and morality in AHOY Comics’ The Wrong Earth. This first volume from writers Tom Peyer and Paul Constant, artists Jamal Igle, Gary Erskine and Juan Castro, colorist Andy Troy, and letterer Rob Steen ping-pongs between two very different societies while maintaining that signature AHOY humor in every issue.
The Wrong Earth is an homage and parody of superhero evolution seen in comics.The duality between parallel universe superheroes works as a comparative exploration of how superheroes were written in the Silver Age versus the representation of more modern era superhero caricatures. We have the strikingly sunny-toned Earth-Alpha, where the morally-bound Dragonflyman gives campy speeches to his captors and details his methods of escape. Think of Dragonflyman as Adam West’s “Batman” and that sums up his characteristics well.
Formidable Dragonfly of Earth-Omega is a gritty vigilante, and his world is defined by police brutality, grimness, and a pervasive dark color palette.
Based on these two images alone, you can easily draw concrete distinctions between the parallel dimensions of Fortune City. Peyer draws upon the playful naivety and campiness of original superhero comic shenanigans. Dragonflyman and his gleeful sidekick, Stinger, engage in over-explained exposition and exaggerated terminology, even as they face impending doom on Earth-Alpha. Igle’s art and Castro/Troy’s colors are resplendent, brilliantly accentuating the comedic stakes our heroes must endure. Meanwhile, dark hues and shadows produce a rich, cinematic effect as Dragonfly battles realistic antagonists on Earth-Omega.
This provocative art crucially delineates the two worlds after Dragonflyman and Dragonfly end up on each others’ Earths. I cannot stress enough how perfectly the art and dialogue synthesize in The Wrong Earth. Each panel gives the reader a plethora of imagery to behold and words to consider that will ingrain itself in any readers’ brain. I’ve spent a large chunk of time merely staring at different pages in this volume. The art is particularly inspirational to anyone who appreciates the logistics of foreground and background placement, varying color schemes, and the minute details present.
Peyer deconstructs these character archetypes and tropes with the skillful mindset of a veteran in the comics industry. Although I’ve been a casual comics reader, I know enough comics/superhero history to not feel blindsided by the unending quips and satirical references pervading The Wrong Earth. From a writer’s point of view, I appreciate how well Peyer can combine story with action to form a cohesive narrative that is accessible to your average comic-reader. There’s so many nuances and subtleties to enjoy on a small-scale level, but the characters of Dragonflyman and Dragonfly are wholly fascinating from an obvious standpoint.
Dragonfly’s main villain on Earth-Omega in The Wrong Earth is the notoriously deranged Number One. He escapes Dragonfly’s clutches by transporting through a mysterious mirror. On Earth-Alpha, the cheeky, retro-appearing Number One also flees his nemesis, Dragonflyman, by disappearing through a mirror. Both Dragonflyman and Dragonfly pursue the respective villains, finding themselves trapped on the wrong Earth.
The premise itself grabs readers immediately in issue #1, propelling the story forward with the inciting incident and not relying too heavily on exposition. I like that the characters are very established in their own worlds, and we discover greater backstory with the continuing arcs of each issue. There’s no need for an “origin” story or rising hero. There’s no lulls in The Wrong Earth. Dragonflyman and Dragonfly both face the same stakes: to return themselves — and the Number Ones — back to their own Earths.
The psychological dissociations created from being lost on alternative Earths immediately presents issues for the heroes. The conflict is greater than simply defeating a villain: Dragonfly and Dragonflyman have lost the lives they cherished. It’s a plot that drives at both the psyche and the heart, narratively traversing the ramifications of loss and morality.
On a lighter note, The Wrong Earth features a character that needs her own spin-off series: Deuce. Deuce is the right-hand-woman to Earth-Alpha’s Number One before he is swept away on to Dragonfly’s world. When Deuce is forced to go to trial for the crimes her former leader and his gang committed, she sweet-talks her way into acquittal. But Deuce uses her theatrical flair and dominating confidence to take charge of the ragtag gang left without a leader. She’s a breath of fresh air in this male-dominated tale, and steals every scene she’s in. Peyer’s dialogue provides verisimilitude for Deuce’s character as she is suddenly thrust to the forefront of the Earth-Alpha narrative. She’s a standout character for me, especially since she is given an even more exciting role in the newest issue of The Wrong Earth series in Night & Day #1.
Another thematically intriguing draw to this comic is the discussion surrounding death. In a world where we hear about death every morning in the news and those who have no qualms about putting other individuals’ lives on the lines by not following basic precautions, death can be an off-putting topic to want to read about in an entertainment medium. Regardless, The Wrong Earth addresses death with deliberate care for the subject.
A major portion of Dragonfly’s narrative when he is stuck on Earth-Alpha revolves around his discovery that (spoiler) Chip (or Stinger) is alive on this earth. Alternatively, Dragonflyman discovers a shrine to Chip on Earth-Omega, unearthing the fact that Omega Chip committed suicide. I was shocked when I first read this, as you can see the undeniable pain on Dragonfly’s face in the panel above. Reading it a second time, the impact still remained. Suicide is a shocking topic to find amongst AHOY’s laugh-out-loud humor in their comics. While wit still emerges as a pinnacle motif in The Wrong Earth, the impact of Chip’s suicide is a pervasive, emotional force. The drama in The Wrong Earth comes from the external stakes, but also materializes internally for the superheroes.
Both Dragonfly and Dragonflyman struggle to compartmentalize their feelings about murder and death. This conflict is an essential touchstone of human life, especially in a time when so many seem to gloss over the number of people dying from a horrible virus. Death surrounds us right now, but you’d hardly know it when you look at most people’s social media feeds. Why do some murderers walk free when others face life sentences for the same crime? Why are an inordinate amount of people contracting — and dying from — a virus, yet there are still individuals who think themselves untouchable? Suicide rates have skyrocketed because of shutdowns, but people refuse to listen to health mandates that could have helped curb this virus a long time ago. These are serious issues that The Wrong Earth does a phenomenal — and necessary — job of probing.
For a story about fictional, parallel worlds, an unsurprising amount of themes in The Wrong Earth directly parallel the real world we are currently trying to survive in each day. It’s a timely comic that transcends its surface-level intent. The rich complexities of topics like police brutality, murder, death, and justice present in this comic should be analyzed. The Wrong Earth imparts laughter on its readers, but serves a healthy helping of reality that can create an important discourse on a personal level.
I may have made this comic sound darker than it really is, since my current feelings about current events are tainting my perception right now. Trust me when I say that this comic is bursting with laughs and fun. Bleak themes are juxtaposed with farcical characters in a way that makes The Wrong Earth an indulging read. Whether you know absolutely nothing about comics or you’re a comic aficionado, The Wrong Earth will appeal to anyone who reads it. Thank you for taking a break from the news to glance at this dark review of an exciting comic. I will be back to lure you into my AHOY madness! Or just my general madness. Either way, expect more (that’s the AHOY slogan).