Across the DC Universe #36 - Part 2

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Welcome to the second part of Broken Frontier’s weekly issue by issue roundup of events from every corner of the DC Universe. This is where to come to catch up on what’s been happening with your favorite DC characters and how events in their books affect the DCU’s recent "Bigger Picture". We also point out any interesting continuity tidbits, link to suggested background reading and examine any pertinent questions raised by events in the week’s releases.

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

Batman: Battle for the Cowl: Man-Bat #1

As Gotham continues to implode Kirk Langstrom searches for his wife Francine who has apparently answered Oracle’s call to arms. After encountering the new Lynx, Langstrom is captured by minor Bat-villain Dr. Phosphorus who has imprisoned Francine in an abandoned power station. For unexplained reasons Phosphorus pushes Langstrom into changing into Man-Bat without his serum and is seemingly killed by him. As the Outsiders come onto the scene Langstrom flees from them and his wife, horrified at losing control of himself.

Crossovers: Battle for the Cowl

The Bigger Picture: Francine Langstrom was most recently a member of the Outsiders in Batman and the Outsiders, filling the role that Dr. Helga Jace used to back in the team’s early days.

Dr. Phosphorus appears here having escaped from Arkham Asylum when Black Mask blew up the institution in Batman: Battle for the Cowl #1.

Questions: Why would Francine Langstrom, a non-powered support operative at best, be summoned into the middle of the conflict in Gotham? For what purpose did Phosphorus abduct Francine and Kirk? And why does he go to such lengths to force Langstrom’s transformation into Man-Bat without the serum even at the risk of his own life? Where next for Man-Bat? And will Francine Langstrom rejoin the Outsiders?

Haunted Tank #5

At the end of the 2003 conflict in Iraq, Jamal Stuart learns the truth behind his ancestor J.E.B. Stuart’s ghostly guardianship of his tank and the crew lose one of their own.

Continuity Corner: This is, of course, a Vertigo miniseries so canonicity is dubious at best. It’s worth noting, though, that this issue gives an origin for J.E.B. Stuart/The Haunted Tank that contradicts previous accounts in the original G.I. Combat run. In this version Stuart was cursed by one of his plantation slaves to be eternally trapped in conflict and suffering. This is his punishment for raping his slaves. Jamal Stuart’s family line descends from one of these acts of brutality.

Haunted Tank member Chop Chop is killed by a sniper’s bullet this issue. His nickname is almost certainly an ironic reference back to the unfortunately named Chop Chop who was a member of the original Blackhawks.

The Haunted Tank has made a number of appearances in the modern day DCU after the crew’s wartime adventures  came to an end in the long-running G.I. Combat series. Their feature there ran from the early 1960s to the late 1980s. Later, original tank commander Lt. Jeb Stuart, by now a general, was a semi-regular supporting cast member in the much-missed Ostrander Suicide Squad series between 1987 and 1992. The entire "original" crew then made a contemporary, but continuity-crushing, appearance in The Demon #s 46-48 (Apr-June 1994) before appearing once again in Anarky #7’s Day of Judgment crossover (Nov 1999).

In Power Company #s 16-18 (Jul-Sep 2003) Jeb’s granddaughter briefly became the commander of an updated version of the concept - Jeb’s spirit guiding her while he was comatose in hospital. With comics’ sliding timescale we can probably place events in the current Haunted Tank mini prior to this. More recently the Tank has popped up in the Dr. 13 backup  in Tales of the Unexpected #s 1-8 and can currently be seen in Sgt. Rock and the Lost Battalion.

Questions: Why can J.E.B. Stuart be seen by the whole crew of the tank in this conflict when, traditionally, he has only appeared to his descendants? And how is the General able to take such an active physical role in combat when, in the past, he has been able to do little beyond offering cryptic, ghostly advice?

Strange Adventures #2

Stars are being extinguished in the heavens and Adam Strange’s investigation of this reality-warping phenomenon leads him to the disembodied consciousness of The Weird. On Hardcore Station Synnar, now inhabiting the Weird’s corporeal form, warns Comet and his allies of a universe-threatening menace. Prince Gavyn/Starman struggles to come to terms with the loss of his people and Lady Styx takes out a contract on Bizarro, who has recently been identified as Hawkman’s "replacement" in the Aberrant Six.

The Bigger Picture: The Aberrant Six were first mentioned in last year’s Hawkman Special #1 and are six paradoxical characters whose existence in this version of the Multiverse is anomalous and tied into the original pre-Crisis On Infinite Earths DC reality. That Special went to great lengths to establish Hawkman as one of those continuity-conflicted beings, even apparently predicting what we all took to be his fiery "death" in Final Crisis #7. It also revealed his past as a lie and implied this Hawkman was really the supposedly dead Silver Age version Katar Hol. Plans for the Hawks appear to have been changed as Strange Adventures #1 unexpectedly retconned his membership of the Aberrant Six and placed Bizarro amongst their ranks instead.

The Weird and Synnar’s body-switching status comes as a result of their climactic confrontation at the end of the recent Rann-Thanagar Holy War miniseries which also saw the demise of Starman’s people, Rann’s destruction and the Rannians’ relocation on Prince Gavyn’s throneworld.

Questions: Only Adam Strange can see the changes in reality as the stars are snuffed out – is this related to him being one of the Aberrant Six? Does Synnar’s interest in Comet imply he is also one of the Aberrant Six? What are Synnar’s plans for the Six and why does Lady Styx wish to disrupt them? Will we ever get explanations to all the Hawkman plot threads begun in last year’s Hawkman Special #1 or have they been dropped for good now?

Teen Titans #69/Teen Titans Annual #1

In TT #67 a new lineup for the Teen Titans is revealed (Wonder Girl, Aquagirl, Bombshell, Kid Eternity, Red Devil, Static, Miss Martian and Blue Beetle) and odious Dark Side Club survivor The Face is murdered by the Titans Tower security system after falling out with the team. In Teen Titans Annual #1 the new team are attacked by their headquarters as we learn that Cyborg is being controlled by an outside force.

Crossovers: Deathtrap Prelude (Annual)

The Bigger Picture: Miss Martian and the survivors of the Dark Side Club appear in Teen Titans #69, where they recuperate from their recent experience, directly after the events of Terror Titans #s 1-6.

To help him learn more about the team new Titan Kid Eternity  summons up the spirit of Marvin, the Teen Titan support member, who was murdered back in Teen Titans #62. Marvin’s ghost takes a look in at his critically injured sister Wendy, whose story is currently being played out in the Oracle: The Cure limited series.

The Deathtrap crossover follows on from recent events in Titans and DC Universe: Decisions wherein former member Jericho's descent into villainy had been the main focus.

Continuity Corner: The survivors of the Dark Side Club include Argent from the 1990s Dan Jurgens Teen Titans book, Aquagirl from the most recent Aquaman series, Hardrock from the ‘90s Superboy and the Ravers, the Milestone imprint’s Static, the newest Terra who has her own recent miniseries courtesy of Palmiotti and Gray, Sapphire from Power Company, Plastic Man’s son Offspring, One Year Later’s Zatara, Bunny and Young Frankenstein plus Son of the Fallen and The Face.

Questions: Just who is possessing Cyborg and why is he/she so determined to kill the Titans? Is it Jericho? How is Red Devil going to remain on the team in the long term without his powers?

Rounding up... Over on Earth-50’s The Authority #9 Abnett and Lanning prove that The War That Time Forgot isn’t the only locale in the Multiverse to see a mix of Roman warriors and dinosaurs when the team face time-manipulating villain Meantime. And if you look very closely you may notice a cameo of what might be intended to be Enemy Ace. But only might be... If you want another take on the Captain Marvel/Black Adam rivalry after this week’s Justice Society of America #25 then check out Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! #4 which finally concludes the first story arc...

Jonah Hex #42 looks back on Jonah’s violent childhood and the abuse he suffered at the hands of his father... In Superman/Batman #57 the Man of Steel is shrunk to microscopic size by the Prankster. Can Batman and Steel save him from a sub-atomic world before conditions there prove fatal?... Despero and the Crime Syndicate join forces with the Troika in Trinity #44 while, elsewhere, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman refuse to give up their godhood. They do, however, give the gift of life back to the long-dead Tomorrow Woman who debuted back in JLA #5 (May 1997).

Fanboy Moment of the Week

It just has to be the return of Eddie Bloomberg’s original Kid Devil costume in Teen Titans Annual #1. Eddie first donned that apparel back in Blue Devil #14 (July 1985) and managed to usurp Dan Cassidy’s book in Blue Devil #19 (Dec 1985) with the cover proudly announcing it to be an issue of "Kid Devil Comics". Kid Devil even teamed up with Robin the Boy Wonder (Jason Todd) in that very issue. For those of us saddened by how far the Blue Devil character has drifted from his creators’ vision as a truly fun hero this was a welcome nod to the past.

On that note we’ll be back again in seven days for the next major bout in the Battle for the Cowl. See you then and thanks for reading!

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