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Across the DC Universe - Week 5

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Rip Hunter’s chalkboard makes an appearance this week in Booster Gold #10’s pages to torment us with more tantalising clues as to upcoming events in the DC Universe. First appearing in 52, the Time Master’s scribbling have kept readers guessing for well over a year now.

While many of the clues have eventually played out (as I pointed out in the first ATDCU the current events in Titans were first hinted at waaaay back in the pages of 52) I’m beginning to suspect some may have been deliberately misleading! I still live in hope that characters from forgotten 80s titles like Sun Devils, Spanner’s Galaxy and Silverblade will reappear (as hinted at in Rip’s lab) but I’m willing to concede now that this may all have been a deliberate tease.

My inner fanboy will cry himself to sleep tonight.

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)

The Sightings banner adorns the cover of Action Comics #866 meaning the return of Braniac will have major repercussions for the DC Universe.

Learn the naked truth behind the first meeting of Catwoman and Batgirl in the second part of this team-up arc in Batman Confidential #18.

Time must be reset but who will send Ted Kord back to the moment of his death? Find out the shocking answer in Booster Gold #10.

It’s the Day The Penguin Died in Gotham Underground #9...

Green Arrow and Black Canary #9 teams Plastic Man with Team Arrow as the investigation into Connor’s disappearance continues.

The origins of the Black Mercy plants are revealed in the pages of Green Lantern Corps #25.

Helena Bertinelli’s origin retelling reaches the halfway mark in Huntress: Year One #3.

Which villains will escape the Hell Planet? And what of the Martian Manhunter? Who lives and who dies? Discover the answers in Salvation Run #7.

Gotham’s newest protector seeks to stop the cult’s rise to power in Simon Dark #9.

Meet the Sons of Trigon (and they’re a chip off the old block) in Titans #3.

Trinity #3 sees reality warp around Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman.

Another unlikely old face appears in Wonder Woman #21. More sword and sorcery adventures for our favorite Amazonian princess.

And a quick heads up for the next part in the current crisis on Earth-50 in Number of the Beast #5 and the reprint collection of stories featuring that major current Green Lantern player Mongul in DC Universe Special - Superman:Mongul #1.

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

The Religion of Crime – Despite losing the gang war, the Penguin refuses to flee Gotham and leave it in the clutches of Intergang and their new ally Tobias Whale. Batman and the Outsiders save him from Intergang’s assassins though, and Batman forms an uneasy alliance with his colorful foe. From hereon in the Penguin will enjoy Batman’s protection but will report back to him on all of Intergang’s activities. With Bruno Mannheim, the man behind Intergang, being a devotee of the teachings of the Crime Bible, it looks like the Religion of Crime now has a major foothold in Gotham City. (Gotham Underground #9)

In Darkest Night... – The Green Lantern Corps learn the origins behind the Black Mercy plants when they seek to rescue Arisia and Sodam Yat from the clutches of Mongul. The planet the flowers originated on was originally linked to a core plant (the "First Birther") that Kyle Rayner dubs "Mother Mercy". Mother Mercy explains that she and the planet are essentially one and the same.

Millennia ago, an alien visitor crashlanded on her planet, leading her to the realization that she could psychically ease the suffering of the dying with visions of their greatest desires. From this encounter Mother Mercy decided to create offspring that could potentially be used to alleviate pain and suffering across the universe. However, the original Mongul started stealing a number of the plants from the planet’s surface for use in his schemes (see 1985’s Superman Annual #11 for example).

Eventually Mongul’s visits to her world stopped. This was presumably after the death of the original at the hands of Neron in Underworld Unleashed #1 (Nov 1995). Now he has returned (Mother Mercy seems unable to distinguish between father and son) and turned her "dreamweaver" children into "fearmongers" that have been sent to corrupt targeted planets.

On Oa the Guardians of the Universe consider the possibility of a "Violet Corps" emerging (originating from Zamaron). One of the Guardians has the Star Sapphire symbol reflected in their eyes. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this phenomenon. Back in Green Lantern #27 the female Guardian who was scarred by the Anti-Monitor had the Black Hand logo reflected in her eyes (leading me to speculate she could be the founder of that Corps?). Indeed that very Guardian suggests to her peers that they stop the surge of the violet power before it spreads further... (Green Lantern Corps #25)

A Crisis in Time? – The true mastermind behind the Time Stealers is "unmasked". Those puzzled as to how Booster’s father could have been behind events need wonder no more – he was being controlled by that inadvertent creator of the new Multiverse Mr. Mind. The Time Stealers have been plucked from throughout the timestream (Ultra-Humanite from the pages of the 1980s first volume of Infinity Inc., Despero from the early issues of Justice League of America in the 60s and Per Degaton from his days battling the JSA).

The Black Beetle is Jaime Reyes’s future arch-enemy. By saving Ted Kord he prevents Reyes becoming the Beetle and taking an unknown female away from him. Something to look out for in the pages of Blue Beetle perhaps? Booster’s creation of the alternate timeline has wiped out his own future and he is fading from reality. Ted unselfishly resumes his own place (and death) in the timestream  in order to put time right. It would appear Booster has a great destiny that the Time Stealers are determined to stop with their complex manipulations. (Booster Gold #10)

The Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul – Team Arrow’s investigation into the attempted murder and subsequent abduction of Connor Hawke has uncovered links to Ra’s Al Ghul. The trail led to an English castle where they hoped to rescue Connor. However the character they discovered there was not the missing former Green Arrow but rather the pliable former JLAer Plastic Man. Plas has been operated on by Ra’s Al Ghul’s League of Assassins who have taken a number of tissue samples. The League of Assassins arrive to take out the heroes but so, significantly, does Batman...

With Talia attempting to build up her own metahuman army to protect herself from her father over in the pages of Nightwing could the League of Assassins’ kidnapping and experimentation on Plastic Man be connected to this? (Green Arrow and Black Canary #9)

Rip Hunter’s Chalkboard – As cryptic as ever but there are still a few teasers we can guess at... The Peter Platinum mention seems to be a direct reference to next month’s Booster Gold #1,000,000 where Booster meets his far-future successor. "Gotham isn’t safe - Midnight has the hearts." is presumably a reference to and a plug for the Niles/Jones Batman: Gotham After Midnight maxiseries. "Red Lanterns = Blood" could hint at major carnage when that Corps rises.

As for "Jean Paul Valley Lives! That’s not him!" did the former Batman survive his apparent death in Azrael: Agent of the Bat #100 and is a new character about to take on that identity? It seems too easy to equate "Listen to Libra – The Prince will fall on HIS sword" with the recent skewering of the Martian Manhunter but I suppose it’s possible. "Why Captain Atom? Why?" could give those readers perplexed by Atom’s abrupt transformation to evil despot Monarch some hope for an explanation? (Booster Gold #10)

Mystery in Space – This week’s Action has a Sightings tie-in logo so we know it has Final Crisis significance. Thirty-five years ago Braniac stole the city of Kandor in a bottle-like forcefield from the surface of Krypton. This was despite being opposed by Kryptonian forces including General Zod and Ursa. Fast forward to the future and a robotic Braniac unit resembling the pre-Crisis On Infinite Earths version attacks Superman in Smallville. Having taken a blood sample it confirms his identity to a Braniac mothership and shuts down.

Onboard the spaceship a humanoid, Coluan (and drooling!) form of Braniac is held captive within the vessel’s machinery as a computer voice signals a Kryptonian has been encountered and "Attempt #242" is now in progress. This number may just be an Easter Egg as Braniac debuted in Action Comics #242 (July 1958). Are we about to see some trademark Geoff Johns "pulling together" of the character’s history and continuity over the next few months? (Action Comics #866)

The Tenth Age of Magic – The Titans track down the possible mothers of Trigon’s other offspring and discover three sons of the demon with emotion-manipulating powers similar to those of Raven. Once again we discover some rules of magic remain the same in this new age. There is still power in names and, as the only people to ever defeat Trigon on New Earth, anyone who has called themselves a Titan is a perceived threat to him. (Titans #3)

Is Trigon really behind the Titans Hunt however? Rip Hunter’s chalkboard has the clue "Trigon=Red Herring" scribbled on it. (Booster Gold #10)

The Mystery of the Legion – Rip Hunter plays his part in putting Booster Gold’s timeline back in place. In doing so we discover the classic Legion remains the version of the team that Booster’s origin is contingent upon. (Booster Gold #10)

Salvation Run – The villains escape the Apokoliptian training planet and Desaad’s Parademon army. Lex Luthor teleports them back to Earth using a combination of the planet’s alien technology and the teleportational abilities of Brotherhood of Evil member Warp. This is powered by a number of energy-based villains and heroes (Plasmus, Neutron, Heatmonger, Thunder and Lightning) who, alongside Warp, are all strapped into the machinery. Once all have departed the equipment explodes, killing the Parademon army and, apparently, all those strapped into it (we see the bodies of all but Thunder and Lightning vaporised in the explosion). This is a sacrifice Luthor has little qualms about making.

Other casualties include Solomon Grundy (but he’ll get better!), Brutale and, possibly, General Immortus. The closing scenes go to great lengths to stress Monsieur Mallah and the Brain are really dead (their corpses are shown being eaten by the planet’s wildlife). With this series claiming the live of so many villains associated with the Doom Patrol could it be that the decks are being cleared for another revival of the team? Meanwhile the Martian Manhunter is left behind on the planet in a cage made of fire... (Salvation Run #7)

The Trinity – Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman are beset by reality-warping misadventures. Diana finds herself up against giant robots, Clark finds pocket solar systems invading Metropolis and Bruce is surrounded by a supernatural version of Gotham. This is all linked to the mysterious entity who appeared in #1 in the dreams of our heroes demanding an end to his imprisonment. Who is this individual? The smart money is currently on Krona, that unwitting architect of the original Multiverse, who was left trapped in a cosmic egg at the end of Trinity scribe Kurt Buisek’s JLA/Avengers crossover series a few years back. (Trinity #2)

Earthwatch

The magical Earths – While it’s probably just a temporary reality warp, and nothing to do with the 52, Batman’s "transportation" to a darkly mystical Gotham could possibly be a sideways shunt to a magic-based Earth. In which case Earths 13, 33 and 43 are some of the best bets for the identity of this world. (Trinity #2)

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

Wonder Woman #21: The Red Hand Gang

Gail Simone continues to treat those who first picked up their DC reading habit in the 1970s with the return of another stalwart of the sword and sorcery/barbarian books of the day in Wonder Woman #21. Not content to rest with just Beowulf and Stalker, Gail adds Claw to the mix this week. And that seems as good a reason as any to look back on this sword-wielding hero's publishing history to date.

Debuting in Claw the Unconquered #1 (May-June 1975) Valcan was a warrior of the planet Pytharia in the conflict with the Shadow Gods. For generations all male descendants of his line were born with a hideous claw in place of their right hand – the result of an ancestor freeing a demonic entity. To keep the evil hand from influencing him Claw covered it in a gauntlet. Despite lasting longer than some of its contemporaries the book was cancelled abruptly in the mid-Seventies after just twelve issues when the infamous DC Implosion hit the DC line.

Published around the same time the events of the "Sword and Science" fantasy book Starfire (the original DC heroine to take this name not to be confused with the Teen Titan member) were also eventually tied in as part of the Pytharia continuity. Both Starfire and Claw were later revealed as two of the eternal champions of their homeworld.

Twenty years later a new version of the character appeared as a member of Primal Force, a team of mystical heroes with a premise very similar to Shadowpact. This incarnation of Claw was a modern-day businessman’s son who acquired the original’s armor and sword from an antiques dealer but found that the curse of the demon’s claw came with it. Quite how the original Claw’s world was tied to Earth is, as yet, unexplained. Possibly a different Earth altogether or maybe an alternate timeline? In all honesty it doesn't really matter that much - let's just go with the flow on this one!

In 2006 Claw the Unconquered was briefly revived in a DC/WildStorm reimagining that also spun off the Red Sonja/Claw 2006 mini-series.

Salvation Run #7: Casualties of War

And so farewell Thunder and Lightning. As yet more Titans-associated characters die we begin to wonder if the Teen Titans are this season’s JLI. Quite what these two Vietnamese brothers were doing in Salvation Run when they aren’t actually villains still remains something of a mystery. Debuting in New Teen Titans #32 (June 1983) the brothers had a somewhat convoluted origin that involved magic, science and alien parentage!

The children of a Vietnamese woman and a U.S. serviceman these conjoined twins were mystically separated before developing destructive powers that only an infusion of their father’s blood could control. Searching for him in America they came into conflict with the Teen Titans. Bizarrely, it would turn out that on top of all their other problems their father was really an alien who had crashlanded on Earth centuries ago. Although a cure for their power-based difficulties was eventually found it was not before they had been forced to kill alien Dad. This was thanks to the actions of criminal organisation the H.I.V.E. who had taken control of him.

Their one and only moment as headliners occurred in Teen Titans Spotlight #16 (Nov 1987). While never really Titans-proper they were close enough allies to be involved in the gathering of all former Titans in 1998’s JLA/Titans miniseries. It seems unlikely they could have survived the explosion in Salvation Run #7 but we can, at least, say we have yet to see the bodies...

Trading Places

The short-lived DC/WildStorm Claw the Unconquered run has been reprinted as a trade paperback. Details on the DC website here.

Fanboy Moment of the Week

This has been building up for a little while but it was wonderful to see Cat Grant, Ron Troupe and Steve Lombard together in the pages of Action Comics #866. The Daily Planet supporting cast looks set to come to prominence in the Super-books once again and that’s to be lauded. (Much) older readers will remember sports presenter Lombard from the 1970s continuity during Clark’s days as a news anchor. Back then Steve Lombard made Clark’s life a misery with his "practical jokes" (or what we’d call workplace bullying in these somewhat more enlightened times...) I suspect Steve will be no match for Clark this time round however and look forward to seeing Mr. Lombard get his long overdue comeuppance in the months to come!

That's us done for another week. Don't be shy. 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!

Thanks to Eric Lindberg for correcting an old man's failing memory as to the format of the Red Sonja/Claw crossover...

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