|He's got the whole cast in his hands|
The cover of this week’s installment is pretty busy. This isn’t really a spoiler but there’s a lot going on, and it seems like Wolfman and Perez couldn’t decide on one decisive image that crystalizes what happens in this issue, so everything that happens in this issue is on this cover. Everything. Why read it? Just look at the cover and save your money for next month. I’m half tempted to just describe the cover and call it a day, but it is my sworn duty to go cover to cover for you, so never you fear. Anyway, back to the cover…
Written above the title, is written, “Titans! The Legion! The Outsiders! And more!” The page is divided into four tableaux. In the top quadrant, we see the Legion. I really don’t recognize most of these guys, despite having met them last issue, but it looks like Brainiac 5 and a woman in white are watching the rest of the team blasting energy beams at… something, I guess, from one of the view screens of their base. A second screen shows a character in green with a turban floating in mid-air with a wall about to collapse on him. To the left, Cyborg, Green Lantern, Brainiac, and Firebrand are in the Old West, presumably one of these guys is Jonah Hex. To the right, Batman, the Teen Titans, and the Outsiders (I don’t really know their deal, but I recognize Katana and they seem pretty cool) surround another spectre-like vision of The Flash.
Down below, Blue Beetle, Dr. Polaris, and Geo Force (I may slip and call him GF Man… ye gods, that stupid chest emblem…) are near the sight of one of the golden cyberpunk spires. Of greater interest is the fact that they are accompanied by a group of WWII era American soldiers. They are riding a tank that has been mounted with a Confederate flag. I thought these gold towers were only on Earths-1 and 2. So either this troop of soldiers are all from South Carolina (or at least The South), or the Civil War ended very differently on Earth-2.
Again, I say there is too much going on in this cover, but it does have some unifying elements. At the center of the page is the planet Earth. Bolts of energy converge upon it, dividing the four scenes. Above all these scenes, the Monitor’s face appears, looking somber and half cast in shadows. Below, the Monitor’s two hands cup the lower quadrants of the imagery, bathed in the same energy emitting from the Earth. The greatest takeaway is he ponderous sense of responsibility the Monitor feels, literally holding the fate of the Earth in his hands.
The issue starts in the Monitors’ base. He is using his equipment to examine a very naked Alexander Luthor, who has aged to about age 12 in the span of two days. Seriously? Two days and you haven’t thought to hook this kid up with clothes? And we are supposed to trust you with the fate of the multiverse? Hell, I don’t even trust you with the fate of this kid. I’m calling Child Services. The
|Can you clothe the little star child as you study him? Please|
While he contemplates this, Harbinger contemplates that her father is ignoring her. This brief moment of human clarity soon devolves into her worrying that he is wise to her corrupted nature. Instead of following up on this concern, she instead checks in with the unseen bad guy. Okay, I’m going to digress again. Sorry, this has to be said. The “villain in the shadows” shtick is getting silly. I get the distinct impression that Wolfman and Perez hadn’t figured out who their big bad was supposed to be just yet and they didn’t have time to fill him in when the book before the print deadline. Regardless, the shadowy figure trope works with a set up like Dr. Claw on Inspector Gadget because the high-backed chair obscures him while still leaving one arm open to gesture and physically express itself. In this case, we literally have a silhouette walking around. Sorry Perez, no bueno. I keep waiting for Peter Pan to try to stick him on with soap. I honestly thought him being a voice in the darkness could have worked a bit longer, but I can see why as an artist, he wanted to make some attempt to visualize him, so I’ll give him some credit for good intentions. That being said, I think this is definitely a case of “less is more.”
|What is up with this evil lair's lighting design?!|
Okay, getting back on track. At [unknown villain’s] base, Harbinger and Psy-Pi have some banter that makes me want to write a fanfic exploring their obvious UST. Psy-Pi revels in telling her of all the myriad lives their master has promised him. Monitor shushes him long enough to instructHarbinger to kill Alexander Luthor. She flies off without reply. Psy-Pi says Harbinger is unstable and offers to use his powers to better manipulate. However, our big bad can’t seem to get enough of shooting down Psy-Pi even when he makes a valid point. She’s a good guy, so it wouldn’t be unwise to make extra efforts to keep her under your sway.
Cut to the future where we meet the Flash. The book isn’t specific about this and I’m still banned from Wiki-research, so I’m going to at least guess it’s a good future, considering his thought balloons say he’s been happy and hopeful for the month that he’s been here and living in retirement. Or it would be all sunshine and lollipops if it weren’t for the fact that Mother Nature appears to have gone insane. Suddenly, a white energy force is seen coming in his direction. Flash isn’t fast enough to dodge it and fades into a fuzzy blur.
Meanwhile, in the 80s, the end is nigh! The anti-matter field seems to be coming down on a sky scraper. The Teen Titans are teamed up with the Outsiders. I think this is New York, considering I think that’s where the Titans are situated, but I could be wrong. DC sure does love its fictional cities. At this point, I’m giving up on trying to ID every single character I see. There’s just not enough space on the page. Instead, I’ll just point out that Beast Boy—sorry, I mean Changeling transforms into an elephant, a green elephant because he’s Changeling and all his beast forms are green, and it is a high contender for my favorite moment in the issue. Half the assembled teams seem to be attempting to fight the energy field, which seems kind of like attacking the sea with spears—their tactical skills are on par with Caligula’s. What I was more invested in was the team members dedicated to rescue. With an apocalyptic event, that’s where junior/b-list team are probably better suited, considering their books are more character-driven. Soon, they are joined by Batman and Superman, who saves the walking continuity snarl known as Donna Troy from being crushed by a collapsing building. Then Superman joins Team Futility, where Starfire, whose backstory from memory I can tell you involves being an alien princess of a conquered world, enslavement, and hella PTSD, is giving it her all. Superman, being everyone’s big brother, has to talk her down.
|Imagine how fanservicey this would have been in the New 52...|
Another sidebar: which is better? Jericho’s sideburns or Nightwing’s amazingly “disco” first costume? Does it matter? No, they both deserve equal praise! If only Dick could be compelled to grow awesome mutton chops like that so we could combine both into one fashionable package.
Suddenly, The Flash appears again. He doesn’t get to say too much more than they last time he appeared to Batman before seemingly blinking out of existence again. This time, rather than disintegrating, it’s more like someone turned off the Flash channel on an older model of television.
Meanwhile, in space, Brainiac is riding around in a space ship shaped like a skull, like his own head, in fact, with octopus tentacles… like a baller. He too recognizes that some real s#%t is about to go down and his programming is all about his own self-preservation, requiring him to reach out to find those who might be of use to him, namely Lex Luthor.
AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT
|These protect quests go on forever...|
Oh, yeah. The gold monolith teams… I’d almost forgotten about those guys. Blue Beetle, Geo Force, and Magnet—I mean Dr. Polaris have found themselves in the midst of war-torn Markovia, where they come to the aid of a small troop of soldiers. And these guys… Okay, military guys, I’ve never found them too remarkable. When my next door neighbor was playing with toy soldiers, I was quite honestly content to play with my superheroes and model rockets. But these guys are pretty amazing. Apparently, Lt. Jeb Stuart rides a tank named Jeb Stuart, both of whom are named after Lt. Jeb Stuart’s ancestor, Confederate General Jeb Stuart, who haunts Jeb Stuart—the tank not the lieutenant. That description really needs a visual aid. The ghost of General Stuart is fairly amorphous. If I didn’t sneak a peek at the internet while my boss wasn’t looking, I’d have no idea who this guy was, let alone know why this cloud of smoke was talking. The general delivers a message of—you guessed it—portentous doom.
|Haunted Tank... your argument is invalid.|
The rest of the gang are on a different part of the battlefield and have fairly generic names, which I presume give us a window into their personalities: Four-Eyes, Wildman, Rock, and Bulldozer. These sound more like call signs the more I think about it though, like the fighter pilots on BSG.
Geo-Force is highly invested in helping these guys out since he happens to be Markovian, and these soldiers are protecting the country’s stock generic peasant population from the Nazis. Again, just like in last issue, Monitor seems to have picked the wrong people for this mission. They can’t seem to stay focused on the whole end of the world thing. They’d much rather pay attention to the proverbial bush in the foreground of a painting instead of looking at the bigger picture. The Nazis, meanwhile are interested in monolith because they want the technology for themselves. I’m guessing that this series coming out in and around the same time as the Indiana Jones films probably influenced this little beat in the story.
When Jeb and the rest meet up with the rest of the gang, we have two more characters, a soldier named Johnny Cloud, who I think might be either Native American or very New Age since he believes in the Great Spirit Guides, and sea captain who wears and eye patch and goes by the name Storm. In the next row down, there is also a black soldier named Jackie. I’ve lost track of whether he was with the first group and only getting name-dropped now or if he was hanging out with Cloud and Storm. Honestly, I have no idea if these three separate groups that converge are different war comics properties or if they are all parts of a larger ensemble. This whole time, they kept calling themselves losers. I thought that was just what they were calling themselves as underdogs. Nope. Turns out that’s their “team name,” for lack of a better description. The shadow beasts appear and seize a handful of the Losers: Johnny Cloud, Captain Storm, Sarge, and Gunner. The latter two were only named after they were seized, so I really have no sense of attachment to them. This is when I realized these guys must be some toyline that DC bought the rights to make into comics, like G.I. Joes or those little army guys that everyone had growing up in the 80s, or at least they were created to compete with the GI Joe comics which I believe Marvel held the rights and were pretty successful in its day. The Losers decide to shoot at the shadows, and Flowers, named so because there are flowers in his helmet, is killed one panel after he is named. I think it should go without saying that rifles are fairly useless against shadows, but Dr. Polaris and Geo Force have a fairly creative team-up in which Geo-force pinions the creature to the ground using his geo-gravity abilities while Dr. Polaris uses his magnetic powers to stretch it, causing it to shatter. Honestly, I think Dr. Polaris could have used his magnetic powers to accomplish both these tasks, but hero/villain team-ups are to be appreciated whenever possible.
|Just inserted into the mythos and now we'll never see the Blue Beetle in the DCU again... Right?|
Oh, looks like everyone forgot about The Blue Beetle. He’s been climbing up the golden tower hoping he can do science at it and figures that is where he can really contribute. Suddenly a shadow creature phases through the tower and nearly knocking him down, but then it explodes. Why? Because he inherited a mystical blue scarab from his predecessor and it only becomes handy (he actually seems to have completely forgotten he had it) when the plot deems it necessary. However, both high and low, our protagonists seems to realize that they are drastically outnumbered by the shadow creatures—they’re boned. Viewing them from a view screen, The Monitor also acknowledges how badly they’re screwed and opts to send all three of them back to their own places and times, vanishing in a blast of blue and green light, rather than die in the past.
Time to catch up with Superman-2, Dawnstar, Solovar, and Kamandi. Solovar perishes from a wound sustained rescuing Kamandi during the battle in the previous issue. Solovar too vanishes in a blast of light, presumably to die in Gorilla City. Kamandi seems really upset about this. And it feels really shippy. DC was a hot second away for some same-sex interspecies lovin’. They are tied with Harbinger and Psy-Pi for my OTP of the issue.
|Shipper on deck. Sorry. Not sorry.|
This is getting pretty long, so I’m going to shorthand this section. We now find ourselves in the late 1800s with Jonah Hex and characters I haven’t heard of. I might have heard of Johnny Thunder, but all I know is he’s a villain on Earth-1 and a hero on Earth-2, but I might have gotten that backwards. The other characters are cowboys Bat Lash and Nighthawk, and Native American Ke-Woh-No-Tay. They all converge at a golden spire. Ke-Woh-No-Tay, being the token Native American character is required by the rules of hack writing to show how in tune he is with nature, they all want to explore. Cyborg, Firebrand, Green Lantern, and Psimon appear. Shadow creatures appear. They attempt to ward them off. One *new* detail: Green Lantern’s ring isn’t working. Jinkies. The heroes fail again.
And now we see the result of the compounded failures across the series thus far as the anti-matter field encroaches upon them seemingly at all time periods simultaneously. The anti-matter hits Nighthawk in the Old West and Psycho Kid in the Metropolis of the 30th Century. So far, they are the only Earth-1/2 casualties, which I guess means they won’t be coming back when DC reboots at the end of the event.
|Hope you saved your game before the boss battle, player 1.|
The Monitor realizes that instead of a matter of days, he has a matter of hours. He has to enact his final plan now. That’s when Harbinger finally unveils her betrayal, declaring, “Wrong old fool. It is time for you to die!”
|Lyla's true power is dramatic cliffhanger poses.|
Some cliffhanger, huh? So yeah, like I said at the top of the entry, everything that happens in this title can be gleaned from the front cover. The devil is really in the details. The one big surprise though, although not that big a detail if you read the previous couple of issues, is Harbinger’s betrayal. Although, I think it would have been more effective as a cliffhanger if the creative team hadn’t belabored the point that Harbinger is definitely evil now. If they’d made it more ambiguous instead, I think it would have been much more of a surprise. It’s symptomatic of something I’m starting to really pick up on about this book—a lack of subtlety.