Across the DC Universe - Week 4

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Let’s face it... DC’s historical characters are always going to struggle to find an audience when so many of their more colorful masked contemporaries find it hard enough to secure healthy monthly sales figures. The likes of the Viking Prince, Enemy Ace and Sgt. Rock, though, remain fondly remembered. Perhaps that’s why the temptation is always there to bring them into the more fantastical world of their super-heroic brethren.

Sometimes this works – Bruce Jones’s intriguing The War That Time Forgot series is the focus of our Continuity Corner this week and we will no doubt be returning to this book again and again in that part of our DC coverage over the next few months.

Sometimes it doesn’t – Whoever thought it was a good idea to take Frank Rock out of WWII and have him fighting aliens in space during Our Worlds at War really wasn’t doing the character the greatest of services.

What is certain is, that however unlikely it is that the likes of the Golden Gladiator or the Silent Knight are going to feature in their own books again, these characters are well enough loved that they’ll always be popping up here and there in the DCU whenever you least expect it. If done sparingly it can be a lot of fun. The novelty of the likes of Jonah Hex interacting with the JLA is always going to be too tempting to ignore after all. And Tomahawk against a T-Rex? Even better...

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)

A third version of a long-time Atom villain debuts when Ryan Choi faces Lady Chronos. Prepare to for major shocks about Ryan Choi’s world in The All-New Atom #24.

The Medusa Mask continues to throw Raven’s life into turmoil in DC Special: Raven #4.

Detective Comics #845 gives us the return of an old ally along with Eddie Nigma, the Riddler.

The mystery of the Bogeyman plays out in Infinity Inc. #10.

Hex meets the Matador in a tale of spurned love in the Old West in Jonah Hex #32.

The origin of the one, true Gog is finally revealed in the pages of Justice Society of America #16.

Manhunter #31 sees Kate Spencer back and investigating the brutal murders of hundreds of young women on the U.S. Mexican border.

Dick Grayson finds himself embroiled in the schemes of Talia, the daughter of Ra’s Al Ghul in Nightwing #145.

Adam Strange! Hawkman! Starfire! Comet! Starman! It doesn’t get any more cosmic than this.... More from DC’s space heroes in Rann-Thanagar Holy War #2.

Learn more about Stephanie Brown’s life in Africa after Leslie Thompkins faked her death in Robin/Spoiler Special #1.

Supergirl #30 further examines the Maid of Might’s Kryptonian heritage...

Major mysteries begin in Trinity #1 as hints about the future of DC’s greatest icons are given.

More colorful characters from DC’s historical and war comics join the ranks of the Dinosaur Island soldiers in The War That Time Forgot #2.

And finally, on Earth-50, there’s double trouble for Midnighter in issue #20 of his book.

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

The Trinity – Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are all having similar dreams of a cosmic entity escaping imprisonment which they all interpret differently. Elsewhere an opposing Trinity that mirrors the heroes begins to form: the magical warrior woman Morgaine Le Fey (Wonder Woman’s counterpart), the technologically-advanced Enigma (Batman’s duplicate) identify Despero (Superman’s double) as the third member of their triumvirate. Interestingly, the Despero they seek is the barbaric version from the days of Justice League International rather than the more traditional version seen as a member of the Time Stealers in current Booster Gold issues.

Le Fey’s visions give plenty of teasers to the future including a timeline where the Trinity appear to be no more. In this reality Green Arrow and Speedy are challenged by Ragman and an unknown sidekick for guardianship of Gotham City and Lois Lane appears to be a hardened, embittered columnist.(Trinity #1)

The Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul – Talia is building an army of her own in order to stave off the threat of her father’s vengeance for her recent betrayal. She fears for her life and that of her son Damian’s. To this end she has been experimenting with super-powered soldiers (like the Man-Bat army in recent issues of Batman). Recently she has allied herself with the Society of the Golden Wing’s Dr. Creighton Kendall to work on resurrecting super-powered corpses with a variation of the Lazarus Pit’s chemicals. Their latest project involves kidnapping the ultra-fertile Mother of Champions from China’s Great Ten to produce their metahuman army for them. Meanwhile Ra’s Al Ghul engineers his escape from Arkham Asylum... (Nightwing #145)

Mystery In Space – On Rann Hawkman, Adam Strange, Animal Man and Starfire seek to persuade the population of Lady Styx’s villainy as religious fervour grows. The heroes also wonder exactly who Styx’s bloody crusade was on behalf of. Could there be a link to the Religion of Crime here? (Rann-Thanagar Holy War #2)

A Crisis in Time? – With many of DC’s historical characters having been mysteriously transported to Dinosaur Island, we learn a little more of the nature of the two factions this week. With The War That Time Forgot #1 re-introducing us to the side that comprises combatants from mainly the last two or three hundred years of the DCU, this second offering shows us the ranks of the opposing "Raiders" who include the Viking Prince and the Golden Gladiator among their numbers (both characters are from early issues of the original The Brave and the Bold run in the 1950s). The Raiders worship a god called Job who turns out to be none other than the original G.I. Robot (or a variation thereof as this one can speak!) who debuted in Star-Spangled War Stories #101 (Feb/Mar 1961). (I would assume this is one of those originals as his name is Joe whereas the later models in Weird War Tales were called J.A.K.E. Mark 1 and Mark II). Interestingly the latest version of the G.I. Robot recently appeared as one of the Rooks in Checkmate #25. (The War That Time Forgot #2)

Creatures from Rann’s past including the dinosaur-like Monarchasaurus and the Shaggy Man (an in-house homage to the old Justice League of America villain) are being transported to Rann’s present. (Rann-Thanagar Holy War #2)

Lady Chronos kidnaps Ryan Choi to her future world – a reality she has conquered allegedly with his help. Lady Chronos’s origins appear to be in 1745 Beijing. However, just because the original Chronos is shown visiting her there doesn’t mean it's really her home time. She was once an ally of the first Chronos and they are responsible for Ryan Choi becoming the Atom – faking his correspondence with Ray Palmer and leaving ray’s belt for Ryan to find (it looks like we have some "Everything You Knew Was A Lie"-type revelations coming!).

However, this partnership no longer seems to be in place and a conflict between the two "time-villains" is raging. Lady Chronos’s future self warns her of her predecessor’s machinations in perverting the timeline and the necessity of now eliminating Ryan Choi from history (apparently Choi is an "anomaly"). She had wished to save the Atom from the "ugliness" of his future (could that be linked to the corpses of Chronos and the Atom we saw in recent issues?) but is willing to kill him if there is no other option. Ryan is saved by a speedy rescue attempt from Booster Gold (is this part of Booster’s mission in his own book?).

Lots of questions and the return of Ray Palmer looks set to give us some answers next month. As to the identity of Lady Chronos I’d hazard a guess that Ryan’s first love, Jia, from the first year of The All-New Atom could be a good candidate. (The All-New Atom #24)

Salvation Run – Batman welcomes Catwoman back from the prison planet and cryptically states that no-one could have foreseen how badly things would turn out there. (Detective Comics #845)

Superman’s Continuity Conflicts – Supergirl’s quest to learn more about the last days of her family on Krypton presents what we can only hope is now a definitive origin for the Teen of Steel. The Kara sent to Earth to destroy Kal-El on her father’s behalf seems to have been quietly retconned away... (Supergirl #30)

The Death of the New Gods – The one, true Gog is freed from his imprisonment. He confirms he is the last survivor of the Third World and the only god who opposed that war. Cast out by his peers, he fell through the Multiverse landing on New Earth where, partially entombed he was worshipped by a primitive tribe. This tribe channelled his power through a staff which, hundreds of years later, William Matthews found and used to become the false Gog. The real Gog’s journey to Earth appears to have linked him specifically to visions of Earth-22 which drove Matthews mad when he clasped the staff for the first time. (Justice Society of America #16)

The Tenth Age of Magic – Enigma uses cold iron to deflect Morgaine Le Fey’s spells. Some basic rules of magic appear intact then in the new age. (Trinity #1)

Black Adam returns to power and the possibility that Isis will soon be at his side again is more than hinted at... (Justice Society of America #16)

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

The War That Time Forgot #2: Weird War Tales

Bruce Jones’ take on this feature has seen plenty of old faces from the ranks of DC’s historical characters. We’ll run through the roll call of combatants in future ATDCUs. This week, though, let’s take a look at the origins of this Edgar Rice Buroughs-like world. As we shall see, Dinosaur Island, home of The War That Time Forgot , is not unused to tourist trips from across the DC Universe. In particular, many of DC’s war heroes have been here before...

Dinosaur Island and its inhabitants have twice had their own feature (though never their own title before) and also spun-off proto-versions of the G.I. Robot and the Suicide Squad from the original 60s run. Debuting in Star-Spangled War Stories #90 (April 1960) The War That Time Forgot was originally a more generic armed forces versus dinosaurs concept. In fact early stories were not limited to just one island and occurred all over the globe (cold-blooded dinosaurs in snowbound arctic conditions for example – hey it was the Silver Age do we care if it made sense or not!?!).

As time went on, however, Dinosaur Island would become a more definite locale in the DCU’s rich history. While the original Star-Spangled War Stories run did not see out the 1960s a number of DC’s war characters would visit in the years to come. The Haunted Tank made the trip there in G.I. Combat #195 (Oct 1976). In the early 1980s The War That Time Forgot became a semi-regular feature in Weird War Tales with both the Creature Commandos and the rebuilt G.I. Robot crossing into the strip.

Interestingly, given his appearance in the current run, Enemy Ace will make a chronologically later expedition to the island. Hans von Hammer, Bat Lash, Biff Bradley (an ancestor of Slam) and a character resembling Chop Chop of the Blackhawks will come into conflict with Vandal Savage there in the 1920s. That adventure takes place in Tim Truman’s 1998 miniseries Guns of the Dragon.

In addition Sgt. Rock may have visited the island as revealed in Suicide Squad Vol. 2 #10. Black Canary also ran into Gunner and Sarge of The Losers there in a time-tossed tale that played out in Birds of Prey #s 44-46. Those wanting a consolidated background for the origins of the Suicide Squad can learn more about the early history of Task Force X and Dinosaur Island in Secret Origins #14 (May 1987). While Bruce Jones is certainly extrapolating the concept it’s fair to say his hugely enjoyable maxiseries isn’t without precedence...

Trading Places

There’s a bumper collection of the original stories of Dinosaur Island available in Showcase Presents: The War That Time Forgot.

Fanboy Moment of the Week

Flick through to page 7, panel 1 of The All-New Atom #24 and focus on the display cabinet at the back of Lady Chronos’s throne room. It’s a background detail but, clearly, we can see the costume of Walker Gabriel, the second Chronos, from the 1998 debuting Chronos series. Gabriel was last seen in JSA # 72 when he was apparently killed off by being erased from all history by Per Degaton. The resolution of that story gave the possibility that Degaton’s acts had been nullified but this is the first confirmation that Chronos II, whether he’s currently alive or not, at least existed in the DCU. And that J.F. Moore and Paul Guinan Chronos run is well worth searching the back issue bins for...

That's us done for another seven days! 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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