Across the DC Universe #18 - Part 2

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Welcome to the second half of our weekly DC coverage honing in on characters and events behind this week’s stories and examining relevant DC history pertaining to the latest releases.

Although we are largely looking backwards into the DCU’s past, current plot details may still be mentioned. So, as ever, take heed of our 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.

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

Wonder Woman #24: I-Spy With My Little Eye

As Nemesis’s role in the pages of Wonder Woman expands from supporting character to major love interest it seems a fitting point at which to assess the career of DC’s death-defying master of disguise.

Making his first appearance in The Brave and the Bold #166 (Sep 1980), Tom Tresser and his brother Craig were agents for a government intelligence agency investigating the shadowy criminal organization called The Council - a group whose nefarious schemings were obviously matched only by their verbal economy. Craig was brainwashed by The Council into assassinating the Tresser brothers' mentor and boss Ben Williams, dying himself in the attempt. Wanting to balance the scales by taking down The Council, and avenging his family name, Tom took on the identity of Nemesis. His Brave and the Bold espionage/crimefighting backup series would run for a very respectable two-plus years.

Armed with just his wits and his face-changing skills, Nemesis fought the good fight against organized crime and even teamed up twice with Batman in The Brave and the Bold #s 170 (Jan 1981) and #193 (Dec 1982). In the latter issue his story came to an apparent end when he died in a helicopter crash that took out The Council and its headquarters once and for all. Displaying a knack for cheating death that would repeat itself over the years Tresser was later revealed to have survived the explosion and became an early member of Task Force X’s most expendable metahuman team from Suicide Squad #1 (May 1987) on.

Nemesis’s conscience and sense of ethics made him a poor fit for Amanda Waller’s clandestine operatives however and, although an effective field agent, he never really belonged with a group like the Squad. This was, perhaps, somewhat ironic given his intelligence agency origins. His unrequited love for teammate Nightshade also factored into a shaky relationship with the team. Much later he was one of the few surviving members of the Shadow Fighters who were massacred at the hands of Bruce Gordon’s demonic other half in Eclipso #s 11-13 (Sep-Nov 1993).

Presumably to free up the name for the second Nemesis, Soseh Myrkos, who debuted in JSA Annual #1 (2000) Tom was killed off a second time in Catwoman #62 (Oct 1998). Though this was a well-intentioned attempt to give Nemesis a decent sendoff long-time fans of the character found his portrayal in this story unconvincing; especially the way his ineptitude effectively led to him being shot dead at the issue’s end. Tellingly enough perhaps, Tresser seemed to refute these events and appeared to claim no knowledge of working with Catwoman in an early issue of the current Wonder Woman run!

Geoff Johns resurrected the hero in Superman Secret Files and Origins 2004 and, since then, he’s moved to the pages of Wonder Woman as her partner and new romantic lead. Sporting a new attitude Tom was barely recognizable in his first WW appearances – the stoic, reserved Nemesis replaced by a wisecracking, smart-mouthed alternative. Since the arrival of Gail Simone as writer, however, his characterization has shown far greater depth and understanding. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing where Gail goes with Diana and Tom’s relationship in the months to come.

Final Crisis: Revelations #2: Crime and Punishment

Crispus Allen, the latest host of the Spectre, faces an unpalatable truth this time around – he is not alone as an avatar of the supreme being on the mortal plane. He may be the Spirit of Vengeance but God’s Spirit of Mercy also has her own mission to carry out on Earth. Why is this such a devastating blow for Crispus? For the answers we have to go back a few years and concentrate on a subplot that Spectre fans have been waiting many years to see resolved.

Allen first appeared back in Detective Comics #742 (March 2000), one of a number of police characters who fleshed out the ranks of Batman’s supporting cast and eventually became the major players of the critically-acclaimed Gotham Central book in 2003. In that title he was partnered on the force by one Renee Montoya, the face behind the Question’s blank visage and the object of his wrath in Final Crisis: Revelations #2. Who could have foreseen that turn of events back then?

Montoya and Allen’s partnership was cut horribly short when Allen was shot dead in Gotham Central #38 (Feb 2006) by the corrupt cop he was investigating: one Jim Corrigan. This Corrigan just happened to be a dead ringer for his namesake... the original alter-ego of the Spectre. Adding to this tragedy was the fact that had Montoya followed procedure in dealing with the Corrigan case Crispus’s murder would probably have been avoided.

In Infinite Crisis #4 (March 2006) Allen was selected as the new Spectre and eventually agreed to take on his role as a supernatural force for justice in the Infinite Crisis Aftermath: The Spectre (2006) miniseries. One of his earliest judgments was on his own son who, enraged that Jim Corrigan had escaped prosecution for his actions, had killed him in revenge. And therein lies the explanation to Crispus’s despair this week. Had Radiant, the newly-discovered Spirit of Mercy in the DCU, dealt with his son instead, she would presumably have taken a far more lenient course of action than executing him.

As a postscript, I hope the dangling Jim Corrigan plot thread is something that is finally tied up in this Revelations series. Five years after we were first teased with this we are no nearer knowing what his connections to the original Corrigan are or the significance of his doppelganger status. Just take a look at the copy on the cover of Gotham Central #38 above to see how "tease" was very much the operative word. Could this Final Crisis companion series be where we get the answers at last…? Let’s hope so. Please Greg?

Sadly Gotham Central trades have apparently stalled at five volumes. However Crisis Aftermath: The Spectre collects the miniseries that saw the final fate of the second Jim Corrigan and The Spectre: Tales of the Unexpected continues his story courtesy of writer David Lapham's lead feature in, naturally enough, last year's Tales of the Unexpected miniseries.

Fanboy Moment of the Week

The obvious event to focus on this week would be that book and that printing error but (a) didn’t we all grow out of finding naughty words in print funny back when we were nine years old? ...and (b) I haven’t read it anyway and have more important things to do with my time this week than trying to hunt down a copy on EBay – my translation of the CAMRA Real Ale Guide into Klingon is only half complete after all.

So moving swiftly on, let’s give Fabian Nicieza a hand for bringing back Signalman and the Cavalier, those perennial losers of Batman’s Rogues Gallery, in Batman Confidential #21. These guys never get anything but cameo appearances these days. Given their gaudy costumes, I doubt we will be seeing them popping up in any of the main Bat-books anytime soon, though one never knows where Grant Morrison is concerned.

However, they’re a welcome reminder of the days when Batman had a more colorful set of villains, when the Penguin used umbrellas as weapons in his bird-themed crimes and when bad guys like Crazy Quilt appeared and everyone took them seriously. And if Signalman turns out to be the Black Glove we'll all be laughing on the other sides of our collective faces.

That's it for another ATDCU until next week. Until then feel free to post corrections, criticisms and commentary on the Broken Frontier Across the DC Universe message board thread  here. See you at the end of the week for a roundup of this Wednesday's releases and, as ever, thanks for reading!

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