After a rather rocky start, it appears that the series has finally found its footing. Unlike the previous arcs, Tragedy and Betrayal delivers a concise and well-focused plot centering on the events of the mission in Apokolips led by Mr Miracle. Even though storylines involving the Graysons, the Primal Forces and the Fire Pit took a backseat, their, albeit less significant, progression surprisingly did not steal focus from the mission on Apokolips. I would postulate that coupled with the placement of their storylines, having their plots go in line with the general theme of tragedy and betrayal helps maintain an unprecedented level of consistency throughout the arc.
The crux of Tragedy and Betrayal focuses heavily on the Apokoliptians Mr Miracle, Fury and Barda. With Mr Miracle seeking to find out the truth about his existence and Fury looking to take revenge for the murder of her mother, they each have their own motivations for seeking out Darkseid to kill him. Barda on the other hand had her own intentions. While the story was no doubt compelling, it seemed as if they had rushed passed major key moments such as the reveal of Barda’s true loyalty to Darkseid. There was barely any following up as to why she chose this pass and for how long had she been working as a double agent – or is it quadruple, I’ve lost count. The problem with this is that Barda is already a secondary character with minor involvements in most arcs thus having relatively little opportunities for development. With the time she had, the writers had made her loyalties seemingly tied to Mr Miracle and not under the influence of Beldam. It would have been better if they had hinted at this possibilities or something along that line to slowly develop this progression.
To make matters worst, after realizing that she can’t beat Darkseid, Fury decided to join him in a superbly lackluster manner. Now there are two ways to look at this. On one hand, it could be viewed as simply a result of poor writing while on the other it could be an obvious ploy to serve as a Trojan horse. As it turns out it was both, there was nothing particularly exciting nor surprising about the whole battle with this titan. All that said, I do appreciate and respect that the arc was able to keep in line with a consistent theme.
The most significant aspect of Tragedy and Betrayal was the true revelation of Terry Sloan’s origins. As it turns out, Sloan is not an Earth 2 native but from and unknown dimension. To citizens of Apokolips, Sloan is known as The Traveler who was sent to deliver a startling message to Darkseid. Apparently, New Genesis has agreed to a peace treaty so long as Apokolips feasts on Earth 2 only and will have no interference from the High Father. This is particularly compelling because it somehow fits with the way Terry Sloan has been developing over the series and gives a plausible reason for his terrible decisions during the Apokolips invasions.
Barbara’s death in the previous arc allowed for Dick Grayson as a character to grow. Barbara has consistently been portrayed as the more strong-willed and action-orientated of the two – the alpha if you must. That is why the decision to kill her off was particularly surprising. Between the two, I have developed an unanticipated fondness for the detective which I only realize after her death. While I do believe that this move allows Dick to experience some character development, it does seem that this sub story is overly drawn out. With all the major missions occurring, this Grayson subplot has run its course to characterize the impact of this Apokoliptian invasion on the ordinary folks. Ending with Grayson hands his boy to Constantine to take care of him paves to end this story and come back at the end with a reunion. That would more than suffice – any more would just be excessive.
Following the tease in Armed for Apokolips, Helena Wayne has tragically been transformed into a demonic creature to serve as a replacement for the Fury of Famine – the original had been killed by Dr Fate in the previous arc. Helena’s transformation certainly adds a whole new dimension to the multi-layered series. If any series is going to turn one of their core characters into a demon, Earth 2 is without a doubt the best choice to make this risky development – which as expected, pays off rather well.