Overview

Across the DC Universe #10

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Fans of Barry Allen’s potential resurrection close your ears! Chances are you won’t be too keen on what I am going to say over the next couple of paragraphs. But with Final Crisis: Rogues’ Revenge #1 out this week I want to share a few thoughts on the potential return of the most fondly-remembered of the Scarlet Speedsters.

When the original Crisis cut a swathe through the DC Universe there was one standout moment that affected me more than any other: the events of Crisis On Infinite Earths #8 and the final fate of the Silver Age Flash. You see, Barry Allen didn’t go out in a blaze of glory. He didn’t meet his demise with a show of swaggering bravado and a clever quip. And he certainly didn’t embrace the inevitability of his death with stoic determination and defiance.

Instead he died alone and scared… saying desperate goodbyes to those he loved knowing they would never hear them. His last thoughts were filled with terror at the prospect of what he had to give up to save reality. And he made that sacrifice never knowing if it would succeed long-term or whether the inhabitants of the DCU would ever know what he had done on their behalf.

In short, Barry Allen met a lonely, miserable end. But it was that very same humanity of his final moments that made his death the most heroic I think I will ever read in a comic book. Twenty-three years later those scenes of Barry ageing to death before our very eyes still haunt me. For what it’s worth, I sincerely hope that classic sequence is not really about to be undone.

Spoiler Warning: Read no further if you’ve not had your DC fix this week and don’t want to read about key story elements.

Across the Universe
(A rundown of the week’s releases)

Cassandra Cain faces her demons as the full truth behind her return to the dark side comes to light in the pages of Batgirl #1.

A long-lost member from the team’s original incarnation returns in Batman and the Outsiders #9.

Who is Infinity, the enigmatic new member of the team? A mystery begins and an old foe returns from the dead in Birds of Prey #120.

In Checkmate #28 Chimera is all that stands between mankind and the supernatural forces stacked against it.

Hunted on all sides, the Flash’s Rogues Gallery get a chance to pay their tormentors back in Final Crisis: Rogues’ Revenge #1.

Check out The Flash #242 as Wally takes the twins on a day trip to Gorilla City. But this is no jolly jaunt as tragedy strikes for the West family.

It’s Pamela Isley’s turn to escape her straitjacket in The Joker’s Asylum: Poison Ivy #1.

In Simon Dark #10 the time has come for revelations, as the truth behind the cult taking control of Gotham begins to unravel.

A hero dies as the JLA’s team-up with the heroes of Earth-9 continues in Tangent: Superman’s Reign #5. And Tangent-Superman makes an ominous decision.

Trinity #7 sees plotlines intersect as our three heroes begin to understand the enormity of the forces converging on them.

And over on Earth-50 the "team-up" between WildStorm and DC’s finest takes an unexpected twist when a major DC villain enters the fray in DC/WildStorm: DreamWar #4.

The Bigger Picture
(All the developments, hints, clues and teasers for the overarching storylines)

The Tenth Age of Magic – Humanity’s failure to live in harmony with the planet has led to attacks across the Earth by huge mystical beasts who are following the will of the displeased Great Spirits. As the great cities of the world face supernatural assault the newest Checkmate agent Chimera may hold the key to securing mankind’s survival. (Checkmate #28)

Salvation Run – When the DC villains were exiled to the Prison Planet their bases became prey to scavengers looking to exploit the work of the scientific geniuses of their ranks. Macintech were one organization whose scavengers made a remarkable discovery in the absent Dr. Sivana’s lab: the corpse of Fearsome Five member Gizmo (pictured right), murdered by Sivana in Outsiders #14 (Sep 2004). Macintech’s Research and Development department resurrected Gizmo, seeing the financial possibilities in harnessing his intellect. Within three days, though, Gizmo had taken control of the company. Meanwhile the Joker has also returned from his otherworldly exile and is less than pleased to discover Macintech scavengers raiding his old HQ for Joker venom. Terrified of Gizmo a Macintech operative instead leads the Clown Prince of Crime to the Visionary and his underlings, the Birds of Prey’s current nemeses in Platinum Flats. (Birds of Prey #120)

The surviving Rogues make their return to Keystone City after their time on the Hell Planet. (Final Crisis: Rogues’ Revenge #1)

Brother Eye-Spy – The giant "space gun" orbiting the moon was built secretly over the course of the last year by the Jardine Corporation who have been using astronauts from across the globe under the guise of carrying out commercial and research missions. They then returned them to Earth with no memory that they were contributing to the construction of the stellar weapon. The gun has recently been fired at the moon to create an underground sea on the Earth’s satellite.

While Brother Eye is implicated, the Outsiders’ Dr. Francine Langstrom has also located an alien back program that is involved and was hidden deep within the OMAC that the team recently captured from Jardine. Batman kidnaps one of the affected astronauts, taking him to former Outsider Looker who uses her vampiric powers to read his mind. Looker claims the astronaut’s mind was extracted from his body and swapped with the mind of an alien life form for reasons as yet unknown. (Batman and the Outsiders #9)

The Religion of Crime – As the foreboding lightning strikes continue to hit Keystone City the surviving Rogues (Captain Cold, Mirror Master, Weather Wizard and Heatwave) claim, to the second Trickster’s surprise, that they never meant to kill Bart Allen back in The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13. It was an accident. Pied Piper also reveals that, at the time of Bart’s death, he and the Trickster had been working undercover trying to take the Rogues down from the inside.

Libra’s is giving a sermon to the Secret Society of Super-Villains foretelling the coming of Evil (with a capital E!) to the world and how every super-villain will be a footsoldier in his cause. Captain Cold’s message that the Rogues, tired of the heat that killing a Flash has brought down on them, want nothing to do with the Religion of Crime, is thus somewhat ill-timed.

Elsewhere Inertia, the villain responsible for Bart Allen’s murder, escapes his imprisonment in violent fashion (we noted here a few weeks ago that Wally West’s pondering on his punishment of Inertia in The Flash #241 was going somewhere...). He is almost immediately confronted by the second Reverse-Flash who announces his plans for him – Inertia must become the new Kid Flash. (Final Crisis: Rogues’ Revenge #1)

The Trinity – Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman realize there’s a link between the kidnapping of Tarot, the museum thefts being committed by Gotham criminals that center on mystical artifacts with a tarot connection and the branding of Wonder Woman. Meanwhile Enigma and Morgane Le Fey invite Despero to join their dark Trinity and become a Lord of Creation.

Krona appears to have escaped from the Cosmic Egg into which he was imprisoned at the end of JLA/Avengers (or Avengers/JLA depending on which combination takes your fancy). Superman has also concluded that the pocket solar system he encountered earlier in the series was linked to the primal energies of universal creation. This also hearkens back to Krona who was placed in the Cosmic Egg so that he could see the birth of a universe firsthand and thus satisfy his universe-threatening curiosity once and for all. (Trinity #7)

Rounding up... Batgirl prepares to betray the Batman Family for one final time when she vows to kill Deathstroke and her father, the assassin Cain, for corrupting her mind. (Batgirl #1)

There’s a new operative in town as the mysterious Infinity begins her work as one of Oracle’s agents. Is she an all-new character or have we met her before? Time will tell... (Birds of Prey #120)

Wally West takes his family to Gorilla City looking for a cure for daughter Iris’s rapid ageing. But tragedy strikes when Gorilla Grodd’s intervention apparently causes Iris to age to death. (The Flash #242)

Earthwatch

Earth-9 – The JLA’s mission to rescue John Stewart from Earth-9 ends in defeat with only Batman escaping capture. Tangent Superman reads Stewart’s mind and what he discovers about New Earth leads him to make a momentous decision. The "corrupt" New Earth and its heroes must be conquered before they can conquer Tangent Earth. (Tangent: Superman’s Reign #5)

Continuity Corner
(The whys and wherefores of some of this week's characters and events)

Batgirl #1: Bring on the Bad Girls 1

The use of Batgirl Cassandra Cain over the last couple of years has been more than a touch controversial. The decision to turn her into a villain in the One Year Later DCU was, of course, the major element of her handling to incense her fans. However, there were a number of other continuity glitches and problems of characterization that were similarly niggling to Cassandra’s long-term readers.

Adam Beechen tidies this up in Batgirl #1 this week and we’ll look at some of the relevant points here. First up, the reason behind Batgirl’s suddenly acquired verbosity was the result of Alfred arranging intensive education in the One Year Later period. It was shortly after this that Deathstroke drugged her and began transforming her back to the dark side. At his behest she took control of the League of Assassins and had Ra’s Al Ghul’s daughter, and League big shot, Nyssa (introduced in Batman: Death and the Maidens) murdered to establish her position. Deathstroke was secretly working with Cassandra’s father Cain in an extremely elaborate scheme to form an "assassin shop" with Cassandra as Cain’s second.

The question of Robin foe Lynx’s second death is also addressed. During a fight with Batgirl Lynx was accidentally beheaded by one of her own gang during the Bat-books' War Games crossover. However she was also murdered One Year Later by Batgirl when she framed Tim Drake for Lynx’s death in Robin #148 (May 06). Apparently, Cassanadra had Lynx resurrected by League of Assassin mystics before killing her a second time, finally explaining what I assume was a continuity error the first time around and not a deliberate plot twist. This was all part of an unhinged attempt to recruit Robin to her League.

Still under Deathstroke’s influence, and now reconciled with her father, she came into conflict with the Maid of Might in Supergirl #14 (April 07) and then became involved in Deathstroke’s Titans East team in Teen Titans #s 43-46 (March-June 07) where Robin was able to inject her with a counter-serum and bring her temporarily back to her senses. Astute readers though will remember a later appearance in Robin #162 (Jul 07) wherein Cass shot dead a drug company executive despite her apparent Teen Titans redemption.

This is explained by the drug not being fully out of her system when she caught up with her father following the Titans East arc. Falling under his influence again she aided him in acquiring a drug known as Pheno that could turn his assassin recruits into super-powered operatives. Robin was also investigating the company producing Pheno and the gangs using it and Batgirl’s murder of the Pheno top brass was her addled way of trying to help the Boy Wonder. After this she came back to her senses fully, parted ways with Cain and returned to the Batman Family and into the pages of Batman and the Outsiders.

Batman and the Outsiders #9: Bring on the Bad Girls 2

Former Outsider Looker returns to Batman’s world this week sporting a surprising current look that can best be described as vampire chic. This is a direct nod to the events of Outsiders Vol.2 #1 (Nov 1993) when the character was turned into a vampire. Looker now appears unable to go out in sunlight and has the traditional weaknesses of the children of the night. While this is certainly an acknowledgement of past continuity it’s a little jarring as it’s a side of the character that has been downplayed in recent years. She certainly had no problem being out in sunlight in World War III #4 (June 07) or Infinite Crisis #7 (June 06) for example.

The Joker’s Asylum: Poison Ivy #1: Bring on the Bad Girls 3

Pamela Isley’s post-Crisis origins are touched on in the latest entry in this series of Batman one-shots focusing on the inmates of Arkham Asylum. The role of Jason Woodrue, the Floronic Man, in shaping Poison Ivy’s future was first hinted at in Neil Gaiman’s 1988 Black Orchid miniseries. Gaiman also provided an origin for the villainess in Secret Origins #36 (Jan 1989). Alan Grant then later expanded on her origin in Batman: Shadow of the Bat Annual #3 (1995).

Rounding up...

Gizmo is the fourth member of the original Fearsome Five to have been categorically dead and still manage to get better. Psimon was casually executed by Brainiac in Crisis On Infinite Earths #10 (Jan 1986) but returned in New Titans #116-117 (where he murders ex-team-mate Shimmer) and was eventually killed again, beaten to death by the Joker, in the recent Salvation Run #2. Dr. Light went out in a blaze of glory in Suicide Squad #36 (Dec 1989) but was quickly resurrected in Suicide Squad #52 (April 1991) in a tale that, unfortunately, rather undermined the whole concept of the Squad. Shimmer eventually returned to life, thanks to the genius of Dr. Sivana, in the arc in Outsiders #13-15 (Aug-Oct 2004). This is the selfsame storyline where Sivana killed Gizmo. And to top it all off Dr. Light is much rumored to be meeting his demise again, at the hands of the Spectre, in an upcoming Final Crisis spinoff. And they say Marvel deaths are meaningless... (Birds of Prey #120)

When Batman investigates the identity of Morgaine Le Fey’s thrall in this week's Trinity a number of previous Wolf-men adversaries are seen on the JLA’s monitor screens. These are Anthony Lupus, who first appeared in Batman #255 (March-April 1974), Ian MacCobb, who debuted and died in Swamp Thing #4 (May 1974) and Jimmy Olsen whose werewolf form first appeared in Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #44 (April 1960) and was most recently seen in the pages of Countdown. (Trinity #7)

Trading Places

You can get the full story of Batgirl's framing of Tim Drake in the Robin: Wanted trade paperback and Cassandra's time as an ally of Deathstroke is reprinted in Teen Titans: Titans East.

Lycanthrope enthusiasts can read Ian MacCobb's story in the Swamp Thing: Dark Genesis trade that reprints the classic Wein/Wrightson stories while Jimmy Olsen's Wolfman adventures were reprinted in last year's The Amazing Transformations of Jimmy Olsen collection.

And while it's only tangentially related to Poison Ivy the collection of Neil Gaiman's Black Orchid series is still available from Vertigo.

Fanboy Moment of the Week

The ever-charming Tiny Titans reached its sixth issue this week. Not buying it? Johnny DC books not your cup of Earl Grey? Think again! This delightful little book comes from Art Baltazar and Franco, the team behind the equally enchanting Patrick the Wolf Boy. Tiny Titans #6 puts its own playful spin on current Teen Titans continuity with Supergirl and Blue Beetle joining their diminutive counterparts in the playground of Sidekick City Elementary. Pick an issue up – you won’t be disappointed and at $2.25 it’s the cheapest way I know to put a big smile on your face for the rest of the day.

That's it for another week. Until then feel free to post corrections, criticisms and commentary on the Broken Frontier ATDCU message board thread  here. See you in seven days and thanks for reading!

 

 

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