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Across the DC Universe - Week 6

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If this feature had a mission statement one of its identified responsibilities would be to alert its clients to the overarching tales and subplots of the DC Universe. For well over a year now, here, and in our predecessor feature Out for the Count, we’ve tried to pull together all the disparate story threads across the DC line and clarify what we’ve termed, in big, daunting capitals, the Bigger Picture.

However, as the "Original Universe" moves further away from Countdown and its many crossovers key events are occurring that, while having probable longer-term significance, don’t as yet tie into any distinguishable mega-storyline. From this week on we’ll be rounding up some of these intriguing elements at the end of our Bigger Picture section. You never know when a dangling plotline may be revisited after all, and it would seem the double betrayal of Superman (in this week’s Superman/Batman) is a pretty good place to begin recording these loose ends...

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)

Brother Eye and the OMAC threat loom large once more in Batman and the Outsiders #8.

Oracle enters into an alliance with her arch-foe in Birds of Prey #119.

Green Arrow and Deadman team when Nanda Parbat falls to demonic forces in The Brave and the Bold #14.

Selina is determined to regain her place in Gotham’s underworld in Catwoman #80.

Checkmate #27 is the second part of the origin of Chimera, the agency’s latest operative.

A group from DC’s wartime past may have links to Vic Stone’s troubles in DC Special: Cyborg #2.

It’s New Earth versus Earth-50 in DC/WildStorm: DreamWar #3.

The Flash #241 sees Wally West confronting his recent actions plus big changes for his daughter Iris.

What’s up with Red Tornado? Justice League of America #22 has the answer...

There’s not one but two stunning betrayals in Superman/Batman #49.

Crisis on Earth-9? Check out Tangent: Superman’s Reign #4 for the latest cross-Multiverse team-ups.

The early days of DC’s sidekick super-team are investigated in Teen Titans: Year One #5.

And Konvikt proves he’s no pushover when he takes on the Man of Steel in Trinity #3.

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

The Tenth Age of Magic – In the Arctic the mystical monster Akhlut is freed and Checkmate mobilises its forces to deal with the spate of demonic creatures suddenly rising from slumber. Akhlut is the dark entity the Great Spirits set upon mankind when it forgets to revere Mother Earth and live in harmony with the planet. (Checkmate #27)

Deadman enlists Green Arrow’s aid when the demon priest Siva Anuttara captures Rama Kushna and changes the souls of Nanda Parbat, the mystical DC hidden city in the Himalayas, into his spectral assassins. (The Brave and the Bold #14)

The Dark Side Club – It’s interesting to note that those youngsters the Club comes into contact with seem to have their lives changed in major ways as a result. Misfit and Oracle have a heart-to-heart about the Club’s claims she is a blood relation of Black Alice. (Birds of Prey #119)

And Iris West’s escape from the Dark Side Club’s attempted kidnap triggers a change in her powers, ageing her and giving her super-speed. (The Flash #241)

Brother Eye-Spy – The Outsiders’ investigation to the links between Brother Eye, the Jardine corporation and the Chinese military continue. In China Nightwing and REMAC take part in a rescue attempt that brings the team into conflict with members of the Great Ten. In space Metamorpho watches as a giant laser is fired at the moon. What is Brother Eye's ultimate aim? (Batman and the Outsiders #8)

The Mystery of the Legion – The classic Legion continue to interact with the denizens of Earth-50 but I’m beginning to wonder if all is as it really seems in this miniseries... (DC/WildStorm: Dreamwar #3)

Salvation Run – With so many villains off-world on the Prison Planet, the Calculator began raiding the labs of genius bad guys like Dr. Sivana and The Brain. When he attempted to pilfer items from Professor Ivo’s secret HQ he discovered a group of Tech-Scavengers were there already. Escaping with just one laptop the Calculator has been on the run from this group ever since. He has now entered a tentative alliance with Oracle who is keeping him one step ahead of his pursuers in return for information on the criminal fraternity of Platinum Heights. (Birds of Prey #119)

The Trinity – What is the role that new heroine Tarot, part of Trinity’s supporting ensemble, will play in Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman’s future? Her card readings indicate potential leadership, a team of which she will be a part and her participation in a great "cosmic dance". When reading her tarot deck she feels something major has happened recently "like the universe burped and no-one heard". Does this refer to the god-like entity (Krona?) attempting to free itself in the first two issues or something more obvious like the events of Countdown/Final Crisis? When local gang members threaten her they are ripped apart by an unseen entity. An animal-like creature and a group of shadows can be seen in the alley where this occurs and the words "She is not for you... She is meant for the three who are to rise" are heard. Which three? The Trinity? The Dark Trinity? Or are the three who are to rise another set of characters altogether? (Trinity #3)

Rounding up... Lana Lang is behind Lexcorp’s Kryptonite weapons program for the U.S. military. Is her betrayal of Superman all it seems? In her despair at issue’s end a disembodied voice speaks to her saying "Why so sad Lana love?! You did perfect." While this could indicate someone else being behind Lana’s actions it’s also worth noting the speech patterns sound very like Lana’s did in previous "continuities". Specifically the use of the term "love". Is Lana in her right mind? (Superman/Batman #49)

The Flash saves Inertia from the burning Flash Museum where he had been left frozen in time as punishment for his part in Bart Allen’s murder. In the aftermath Wally West is left in doubt as to how the young villain should really be dealt with. A question we will no doubt be coming back to in the months to come. (The Flash #241)

Superman entrusts Batman with the "last piece of Kryptonite in the world" to use against him if needed (a notion that goes right back to Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns). Don’t get too cosy though about this demonstration of trusting friendship though - the final page reveal shows Batman has an entire vault full of different forms of Kryptonite in the Batcave. (Superman/Batman #49)

Back in Justice League of America #9, during the Lightning Saga, Wildfire implied there was something evil inside of Red Tornado and urged him to fight it. This week we discover just what the Legionnaire was referring to when Amazo makes his move. (Justice League of America #22)

When Lana Lang makes Earth uninhabitable for the Man of Steel by seeding a fine layer of Kryptonite in the atmosphere, the most recent Toyman, Hiro Okamura, uses his inventions to clean up the Earth at a micro-level. His reward is a date with Power Girl and honorary membership of the JLA. This story must take place prior to Action Comics #865 where it was revealed that all "Toymen" except the Silver Age Winslow Schott were sophisticated robots and concurrent with Salvation Run as Luthor is "off-planet". Okamura’s "non-existence" must remain a matter of some debate. Would the World’s Finest team really be fooled into making a robot a JLA member? And given a future version of Okamura has appeared in Teen Titans recently one would have to call Schott’s account into some doubt. (Superman/Batman #49)

Earthwatch

Earth-9 – Doc Magnus and the JLA look for a way to rescue the New Earth heroes currently trapped on Tangent Earth while John Stewart confronts that reality’s version of Superman. (Tangent: Superman’s Reign #4)

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

DC Special: Cyborg #2: The Monster Mash

Anybody else noticed the proliferation of military/scientific super-soldier programs in the DCU of late? And not clean-cut, good-looking Steve Rogers-style super-soldiers either. Guys like the Doomsday-empowered All-American Boy (Superman/Batman #48) and the grotesque Chimera (Checkmate #26-27) are part of a DCU thematic tradition of monsters in the armed forces.

Two of this week’s releases explicitly mention something called Project M. In Checkmate #27 we observe Chimera’s ability to transform into a hideous representation of his enemies’ greatest fears. This is noted to be very similar to Project M’s creation of soldiers designed to psychologically terrify its Nazi targets during WWII. In DC Special: Cyborg #2 we learn that not only is a version of Project M (based in S.T.A.R. Labs) still alive and kicking but that it could have links to Vic Stone’s origins. Worse yet, former New Teen Titans supporting player Sarah Charles may be involved and an old face from Vic's past could be a victim of the project's research.

So who or what is this mysterious organization? Project M(onster) has a long-standing history in the DCU of creating combat-ready soldiers with a supernatural twist. Back in Weird War Tales #93 (Nov 1980) we were first introduced to the Creature Commandos. These Second World War mutated soldiers were the result of the experiments of the project’s genius scientist Professor Mazursky. The original team comprised the human Lt. Matthew Shrieve, the werewolf soldier Warren Griffith, Lucky Taylor who resembled Frankenstein’s Monster, the vampiric Velcro and, later, Dr. Myrra Rhodes. The latter's head of living snakes made her appear like the mythical Medusa. The Commandos were semi-regulars for the last two and a half years of Weird War Tales visiting the War That Time Forgot and encountering the G.I. Robot (itself later revealed to be a Project M creation) along the way.

Roy Thomas also played with Project M in the pages of Young All-Stars in a 1988 arc that spanned #s 12-15 of the junior All-Star Squadron’s book. This wartime storyline saw villains Deathbolt, Per Degaton and the Ultra-Humanite infiltrating Project M and the latter’s brain being rehoused in the body of a T-Rex from the War That Time Forgot. In the prelude to these events in Secret Origins #26 (May 1988) Roy also elaborated on the role the Project played in the creation of Golden Age heroine Miss America.

After a number of missions during World War II, the conclusion to the Creature Commandos’ feature saw them banished to outer space, seemingly never to return. In Swamp Thing #145 (Aug 1994) it appeared that their story was, indeed, well and truly over. All of the team, bar Velcro, were shown as stuffed and mounted heads in the trophy room of monster-hunter Nelson Strong. In a rare example of direct continuity between Vertigo and DCU books the surviving Commando Velcro had appeared just a couple of months previously in the pages of Team Titans. In those issues he was shown working as a specialist working for S.T.A.R. Labs.

In 2000 Tim Truman revived the concept in an 8-issue miniseries entitled, unsurprisingly enough, Creature Commandos. This run, though fun in its own right, is difficult to entirely reconcile with previous continuity. Indeed those readers who dislike seeing DC’s war heroes displaced in a more fantastic environment would certainly have had some reservations about the book. The original Commandos returned, although the names of some were slightly different, and physically they did not necessarily resemble their Weird War Tales incarnations that closely.

There were also a number of familiar additions to the ranks including Gunner from DC's wartime group The Losers. Despite dying in both Crisis On Infinite Earths #3 and The Losers Special #1 in 1985 Gunner had found himself resurrected as a cyborg by the Project. Leading the team in a similarly enhanced body was Lt. Hunter (from the Hunter’s Hellcats feature in late 1960s issues of Our Fighting Forces). The series saw them end the threat of the Terra Arcanna alliance – a potential alien invasion by a number of cosmic villains from the very early days of Justice League of America.

Time will tell how closely the Project M in DC Special: Cyborg is tied to any of these prior ensembles. But with Vincent Velcro having once worked for S.T.A.R. there are certainly pre-existing links between that organization and the shadowy Project M...

Fanboy Moment of the Week

Trinity #3 gave us a treat when a long absent character made a very welcome return to the DCU and should Jose Delgado once more don the costume of Gangbuster we’ll cover the former Adventures of Superman supporting character’s past career in a little more detail. I must admit I am not a huge fan of forgotten heroes popping up just to be casually killed off a panel or two later (like The New Blood in Infinite Crisis for example) so Jose’s return was far more my cup of Earl Grey. The character is back refreshed, re-invigorated and with a sense of purpose to his reappearance. Better yet his co-creator Jerry Ordway provides finishes for the story! And with Cat Grant back in the Super-books, is a reunion a possibility for this one-time couple?

Join us in a week as we begin the second chapter of the Final Crisis . Until then feel free to post corrections, criticisms and commentary on the Broken Frontier ATDCU message board thread  here. See you in seven days and thanks for reading!

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