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The Fog of War

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With the end of the landmark weekly series 52 approaching, DC Comics took the opportunity to discuss World War III, a series of cataclysmic one-shots connected to the story. Present were editors Peter Tomasi and Michael Siglain, as well as special guest co-writer Keith Champagne.

As revealed in the company’s issue solicitations, World War III is composed of four one-shots—A Call to Arms by Keith Champagne, with art by Pat Oliffe, The Valiant by Champagne and Andy Smith, Hell is For Heroes by John Ostrander and Tom Derenick, and United We Stand by Ostrander and Jack Jadson. The series will feature covers by Ethan Van Sciver.

Tying in to Week Fifty of 52, World War III marks a dramatic change in the series’ narrative and a major upheaval for the characters of the DC Universe. As the ending of the weekly drew near, it became apparent to DC’s creative minds that the story was simply getting too big to be contained within the original comic. World War III promises numerous big continuity-changing moments and answers to many fans’ pertinent questions. The story will serve as a bridge to DC’s current "One Year Later" status quo, addressing how the characters ended up as they are and why.

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At least one major character will experience a life-changing event but the story will touch upon a variety of mysteries and changes that have been perplexing or intriguing DC readers. Although the editors were keeping mum on details of the war itself, they stressed that the events would "encompass the whole planet" and many different heroes. "Think of it as the multi-angle button on your DVD player," we were told, an event seen from a variety of angles and perspectives.

Some of the most dramatic (or controversial) changes that have taken place "One Year Later" will be expanded on within the pages of World War III. Batgirl Cassandra Cain’s recent turn to the dark side, a switch met with surprise and resistance by some fans, will be addressed. Readers will see how the war affects this character and will witness the very moment she makes her transition. The villainous Deathstroke apparently plays a role in this change, getting into Cassandra’s head and playing upon her rather vulnerable state of mind. The editors promise massive repercussions from this, some of which will play a part in upcoming issues of Teen Titans.

Aquaman’s apparent transformation from sea king to mysterious soothsayer in the Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis title will also be explained and the story of his new status told at last. World War III marks something of an Aquaman reunion, as both Tomasi and Champagne were involved in the series prior to its "One Year Later" revamp. As such, addressing the shift in the aquatic hero’s world was a high priority, though only one aspect of the overall tale.

Click to enlargeClick to enlargeIn fact, prior to the creation of the one-shots, the writers and editors sat down to lunch together to cover all the characters and story beats they felt were important to address. However, though many answers connected to "One Year Later" will be given, the creative team insisted that this is no mere exercise of "connect-the-dots" storytelling. Rather than a mere jigsaw puzzle being pieced together, World War III is intended to be character-driven and emotionally grounded. The writers wanted to be certain there was a strong story and through-line before proceeding with the tale. Had the story been contained within 52: Week Fifty alone, fans would likely have felt disappointed. But given more space to develop it organically, the writers feel they are offering a sense of completion and of bringing these characters full circle.

When asked about the experience of writing versus his duties as an inker, Champagne expressed that he always enjoys the opportunity to flex a different set of creative muscles and a different part of his brain. He wished that he had some "war stories to tell" about World War III (pun most likely intended) but that the process has been overall an easy and enjoyable one. His only major challenge has been catching up on the various DC series affected by the story. Siglain and Tomasi added that Champagne brings a clean sense of storytelling and momentum to his work, giving all the characters a very fresh feel. They were also enthusiastic about Jack Jadson’s contribution in the final one-shot, as Jadson has been primarily known as an inker while working at DC.

Click to enlargeClick to enlargeWhen the floor was opened up to questions, the writer and editors addressed the rapid transition between major storylines (Infinite Crisis to 52 to World War III to One Year Later). While the danger of making things too event-driven is present, DC does not view World War III as an event for event’s sake. A cynical reaction might be that it was created to cash in on 52’s success but DC feels that the one-shots are necessary from a story and character perspective, rather than one of marketing. There are no plans for an eventual World War IV or anything similar as milking the concept is not the intention of the story.

In a rapid fire question-and-answer sequence, it was revealed that Cyborg’s coma in the pages of Teen Titans will be referenced and explained, Firestorm, Captain Marvel and Black Adam will each play a role in the war, and that "lots of people kick the bucket." When asked if the Great Ten, the Chinese super-team from 52, is involved, no comment could be given at this time. The recent reappearance of The Monitor(s) was said to be significant to the DC Universe but not necessarily connected to World War III.

In the end, the creative team hopes that fans will see World War III and an integral part of the ongoing story of the DCU and a satisfying expansion of recent events. The World War III one-shots are set to be released April 18th, 2007.

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