Across the DC Universe - Week 3

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One of the more frustrating elements of Across the DC Universe’s parent feature Out for the Count was trying to work out the placement of DCU puzzle pieces that just didn’t seem to fit. The role of the Crime Bible and The Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul, both prominently alluded to in Countdown house ads, were particularly perplexing and the direct relation of the latter to the Bigger Picture is still something of a mystery.

The last few weeks, and the return of Libra in particular, have finally shed some light on just why the Crime Bible and its followers are such an integral part of the Final Crisis. Now, like a reverse engineer in Area 51, I’m finding myself tracking back through a year’s worth of past reading to put all the clues together into something a little more coherent. And what intrigues me the most is not what has been answered by the revelations surrounding Libra’s role and the Religion of Crime but, rather, the new set of questions it opens up…

In a similar fashion we continue to draw your attention to any magical happenings across the line under the heading of The Tenth Age of Magic. Despite the rumors of Michael Moorcock’s "rulebook" for magic in the DCU this is an aspect of DC lore that has never really lived up to those early promises of redefinition and coherency post-Infinite Crisis. Perhaps the upcoming Reign in Hell series will tackle some of those concerns...

Time to welcome 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.

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

Questions you didn’t know you had about Winslow Schott, the terrible Toyman, are answered in Action Comics #865.

The tension mounts as a favorite character finds himself in mortal peril when Batman R.I.P. reaches part 2 in Batman #677.

The twisted minds of Steve Niles and Kelley Jones take you to some of Gotham’s darkest corners in Batman: Gotham After Midnight #1.

Blue Beetle and Traci 13’s date is interrupted by some magical gooseberries in Blue Beetle #27.

Final Crisis #1 is the one big DC release this month that really needs no introduction…

The secret origin of Hal Jordan is elaborated on in the pages of Green Lantern #31.

And another origin retelling, this time for Helena Bertinelli, continues in The Huntress: Year One #2.

Wildcat seeks to stop a criminal enterprise intent on stealing the abilities of ex-prizefighters in JSA Classified #38.

Classic Legion writer Jim Shooter continues his run on the Threeboot LSH in The Legion of Super-Heroes #42.

It’s the grand finale as three generations of magical heroes make their last stand in Shadowpact #25.

Robin and Wonder Girl stand alone against the new Clock King’s Terror Titans in Teen Titans #59.

And over on Earth-50 the End of Days has come for the WildStorm Universe in Number of the Beast #4 while there are more revelations in The Secret History of the Authority: Jack Hawksmoor #3.

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

The Rebirth of the New Gods /The Dark Side Club – The Question and "Terrible" Turpin are investigating the abduction of super-powered teens (by the Dark Side Club). (Final Crisis #1)

The new Clock King and his Terror Titans have captured the Teen Titans as profitable fodder for the Dark Side Club’s arena. Hardrock (from Superboy and the Ravers) is the current reigning champion and Fever (from the Arcudi Doom Patrol run) is also a combatant. (Teen Titans #59)

A new-look Metron appears in prehistory to Anthro, the first boy of the DC Universe and gives him "knowledge". Ostensibly it appears to be the secret of fire which Anthro uses to fight off an attack on his tribe by Vandal Savage and his hordes. However, it would seem more likely that this is symbolic. Has Metron somehow primed the human race, via "the first boy", for the conflict with Darkseid in millennia to come? Indeed when Kamandi (the "last boy" of the DCU) appears to Anthro some time later he describes Metron’s gift as a "weapon".

Dan Turpin discovers a dying Orion in a dumpster. As the Black Racer lurks in the background, Orion’s final words that "They did not die. He is in you all..." further point to Darkseid’s victory. When Dan Turpin later confronts Boss Dark Side at his club this is underlined. Dark Side presents a group of vicious children he has taught the Anti-Life Equation to and who are now his "malformed slaves". Was Darkseid’s "destruction" in Countdown to Final Crisis actually all part of the greater plan?

John Stewart and the Alpha Lanterns are assigned to a "1011" (a GLC code for deicide) to investigate the murder of Orion (aren't the Alpha Lanterns the Corps' "internal affairs" - is this significant?). The JLA puts itself on "condition amber" though its members seem curiously quiet about the recent destruction of all things Fourth World. In Bludhaven the Rev. G. Godfrey (a human form of Apokolips’ rabble-rouser Glorious Godfrey) stirs up emotions with his preaching. (Final Crisis #1)

The Tenth Age of Magic – Three students use a long-forgotten spellbook to take revenge on everyone they feel have slighted them. Jaime Reyes’ girlfriend Traci 13 apprehends the culprits but not before Blue Beetle realises, to his terror, that his scarab is completely ineffectual against magic. (Blue Beetle #27)

The Shadowpacts from across time finally defeat the menace of the Sun King – an entity so powerful that the Phantom Stranger had identified it as "a threat to the Multiverse" in a previous issue. In so doing, the Pact finally break the prophecy that every incarnation of the team ends in failure. One of the rules of Tenth Age of Magic sorcery though is that magic use comes with a cost. In this case future Shadowpact member Magus is apparently mortally wounded as the price of victory. (Shadowpact #25)

The Religion of Crime – The career of new teen super-team The League of Titans (Empress, Sparx, Mas Y Menos) is cut short when Dr. Light and the Mirror Master, who are also searching for Metron’s Mobius Chair on behalf of Libra, easily take the young heroes out.

To prove how serious his claims are, Libra executes a captured Martian Manhunter in front of the assembled villains of the Society. Note that Libra is sitting in Metron's Mobius Chair with a copy of the Crime Bible at his side in these scenes... (Final Crisis #1)

Batman R.I.P. – The Black Glove organisation step things up another gear when Dr. Hurt triggers a long dormant keyword (see our Continuity Corner for more on that!) effectively shutting Bruce Wayne’s mind down. Elsewhere the possibility that Thomas and Martha Wayne were not the pillars of society we’d always thought is raised. Did Thomas Wayne fake his own death after arranging for Martha’s murder? Or where they actually victims of the Black Glove even back then? John Mayhew, the philanthropist movie director behind the Club of Heroes (who was apparently murdered by the Black Glove in Batman # 667-669’s story arc) made a movie called The Black Glove that detailed the destruction of two innocent lovers at the hands of a group of super-rich gamblers...

From Batcave trophies like Thomas Wayne's "Bat-suit" to stage names (again see our Fanboy Moment of the Week below) to the now familiar chant of Zur En Arrh, this is another issue chock full of continuity references to the compressed history of Batman that Morrison has been developing. The obvious question, as the hints that Batman’s whole career may have been a manipulated lie build up, is what’s Jezebel Jet’s role in events? It seems a little obvious to conclude that she is part of the conspiracy but sometimes a cigar really is a cigar.

Other possible clues (or red herrings!) this week include Alfred conveniently having misplaced a file central to Batman’s investigation. Somewhat unlike him I feel. Could the cry of "Farewell faithful butler" as the Club of Villains invade the Batcave have a different significance? Or is this yet more misdirection? Surely the butler didn’t do it! And I’m still wondering if the flashback to Joe Chill’s last moments in Batman #673 is more important than we may have originally thought. Hey for all I know Aunt Harriet is secretly the Black Glove... (Batman #677)

The Monitors – For his failure to prevent the Great Disaster on Earth-51 Nix Uotan, that universe’s Monitor, is sentenced to exile and later awakes on New Earth in human form. It’s probably just a throwaway reference but there’s either a postcard or a brochure of some sort of Oolong Island (from the pages of 52) stuck to the wall of his bedroom.

The Monitors are becoming more distinct than ever. A number of them have now taken names. "Time" has invaded their timeless world giving them individual histories and personalities. What appears to be our old friend Solomon is delighted at Uotan’s banishment and stage whispers to an unknown collaborator, almost as if he’s looking off the page, that his only obstacle is now gone and "We’re on.." (Final Crisis #1)


Earth-51 – With Kamandi’s reality now established as Earth-51 in Countdown to Final Crisis we can assume that somehow New Earth and Earth-51 briefly converge when the Last Boy on Earth appears to Anthro. It’s possible that Anthro brings this about himself. He appears to be performing some sort of Metron-associated ritual just before Kamandi’s appearance. (Final Crisis #1)

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

Batman #677: Zur En Arrh

So what is the relevance of this mysterious phrase used by Dr. Dark as a trigger word? It’s been appearing since Batman #655 (sep 2006) in a variety of guises after all. To shed more light on this poser we need to head back to February 1958’s Batman #113. In one of this issue’s stories the Batman of an alien world transported Bruce Wayne to his planet Zur En Arrh to aid him against robotic invaders. A side effect of Batman’s time there was that he gained briefly gained super-powers making him the "Superman-Batman of Planet-X". Ah happier, simpler times!

So how long, do we think, until the trade paperback comes out reprinting all the Batman stories Morrison has been obliquely referencing?

Final Crisis #1: Captain Caveman?

With Tor back last month it’s a good time to be a caveboy at DC. Anthro pops up in the DCU for the third time in the space of a year and plays a pivotal role in Final Crisis #1. But just who is this prehistoric warrior?

Created by Howard Post, Anthro debuted in DC’s legendary tryout title Showcase #74 (May 1968) before spinning off into his own Anthro book (which lasted just six issues in the late 1960s). In the time of the Neanderthals, Anthro was born as the first of the Cro-Magnons (hence references to him as the First Boy of the DCU).

While his appearances over the last forty years have been limited, to say the least, he has popped up in places like Crisis On Infinite Earths #2 (May 85) and Justice League Europe Annual #2 (1991). Of late, though, there seems to have been something of an Anthro renaissance, with Dr. 13 finding him frozen in ice in the current day DCU in last year’s Tales of the Unexpected and the caveboy being seen as a member of the Freedom Fighters in the alternate timeline that was created after Ted Kord’s murder was erased from history (see Booster Gold #8).

In the mid-1970s DC had another stab at the Caveman genre with the short-lived Kong the Untamed series, set some generations after the time of Anthro. And just to be a completist the final days of the Neanderthals in the DCU were chronicled in Swamp Thing #88 (Sep 89) in a story that reversed roles, making the Neanderthals the peace-loving race.

Huntress: Year One #2: Dark Knight Daughter

Nearly twenty years after her first appearance in The Huntress #1 (Apr 1989) Helena Bertinelli got an origin re-telling that continues this week in the second issue of her Year One miniseries. Of course this is only one of a number of characters to sport the name in the DCU. The latest model is herself a post-Crisis version of the second Huntress, Helena Wayne, daughter of the Earth-2 Batman and Catwoman, whose debut appearance was touted on the cover of DC Super-Stars #17 (Nov-Dec 1977). This Huntress’s solo outings were largely to be found in a backup strip in Wonder Woman in the late 70s/early 80s.

When the original Earth-2 disappeared post-Crisis On Infinite Earths Helena Wayne was one of a number of characters felt redundant in the brave new DCU. She died alongside the Golden Age Robin and Kole of the New Teen Titans in the final hours of that Crisis.

If we go all the way back to September 1947, though, we can find a Huntress to predate even these two. Paula Brooks, the original character to take on that identity, was a villainess who first made Wildcat’s life difficult in Sensation Comics #69. Paula went on to become a member of the JSA’s foes the Injustice Society. For Paula’s "Year One" you can always scour the back issue bins for Roy Thomas’s late 80s series Young All-Stars, a spin-off from All-Star Squadron. This title showed Paula’s early career as a teenage hero called Tigress and the circumstances that led to her choosing a more dubious career path.

Just to make things even more confusing (because what’s a Multiverse without a healthy dollop of continuity chaos?) there appeared to be a new version of the Helena Wayne Huntress on the new Earth-2 (as revealed in the final issue of 52). However Justice Society of America #15’s teaser trailer indicates that Earth-2 now resembles its pre-Crisis On Infinite Earths counterpart. Is the original Helena Wayne back?

Action Comics #865: The Terrible Toyman

The Toyman is one of Superman’s oldest recurring bad guys, first appearing in Action Comics #64 (Sep 1943). There’s major Toyman retcon madness this week as Geoff Johns reveals that any non-Winslow Scott iterations of the Toyman were, in reality, extremely sophisticated robots. Many of these creations had taken on personalities of their own. These include the Jack Nimball version who debuted in Action Comics #432 (Feb 1974) and whom Schott subsequently "murdered". It also reveals that the most recent "Toymen" Hiro Okamura (who has lately been an ally of the World’s Finest team in Superman/Batman) and the fourth Toyman (the doll version) were also simply constructs.

I’m not sure I can really buy that someone as powerful as the Man of Steel himself would have been fooled by this but, on the plus side, it does explain away that less welcome 90s dark-cloaked, shaven-headed, child-murdering version of Winslow Schott. Yep, you guessed it! He was another faulty robot all along...

Trading Places

For more on the Helena Wayne Huntress check out the recent trade paperback collection Huntress: Dark Knight Daughter. For some very early Grant Morrison Batman reading pick up the Batman: Gothic trade reprinting Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #s 6-10.

Fanboy Moment of the Week

For the second time in recent issues Bat-butler Alfred Pennyworth’s acting stage name is referred to as Alfred Beagle. This is yet another Morrison nod to Batman’s rich history. Alfred Beagle was our favorite manservant’s original Golden Age name when the character had a slightly more portly appearance. It would later be the name applied to the pre-COIE Earth-2 Alfred. Batman: Shadow of the Bat #31 (Sep 94) saw the character make a brief return when Zero Hour’s colliding timelines caused a number of alternate realities cross into the regular DCU.

And on that note, with the Red Skies forming outside my window, join us next week as DC’s latest weekly book, Trinity, debuts. Corrections, criticisms and commentary can be posted on the Broken Frontier ATDCU message board thread here. See you in seven days and thanks for reading!

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