Axel-In-Charge: "Secret Wars" Jam Session Talking "A-Force," "Ultimate End" and More
Overall, this issue didn’t shy away from exposition, but it still advanced the main plots. The narration cleared up some things about the rifts, justified all the Arcana-talk without making the underlying theory sound too goofy, and started stitching together the events on Earth and the Genesis Planet. And no, I don’t have any complaints about Kellel’s story the way I did about Dinanna’s.
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“The Depths Beyond The Depths” was written by Kurt Busiek, pencilled by Mark Bagley, inked by Art Thibert, colored by Pete Pantazis, and lettered by Pat Brosseau; Rachel Gluckstern, associate editor; Mike Carlin, editor.
In Brief: The Dark Arcana gains on the Justice Arcana while Kellel’s story begins.
— No annotations, but again, I appreciate the exposition.
— Back in issue #31’s annotations, I guessed at the Justice Arcana’s assignments. Here’s the full roster, along with my guesses and earlier reveals in parentheses.
1. The Magician = The Phantom Stranger (I guessed Gangbuster)
2. The High Priestess = Raven (Charity)
3. The Emperor = Aquaman (no guess)
4. The Empress = Tomorrow Woman (revealed already)
5. The Hierophant = Lex Luthor (Aquaman)
6. The Lover(s) = Hawkman and Hawkgirl (which I guessed)
7. The Chariot = The Flash (Wally West; revealed already)
8. Justice = Ragman (which I guessed)
9. The Hermit = Space Ranger (Mister Terrific)
10. Wheel of Fortune = Gangbuster (Booster Gold)
11. Strength = Triumph (Power Girl)
12. The Hanged Man = Deadman (Phantom Stranger)
13. Death = Crimson Avenger (Deadman)
14. Temperance = Mr. Terrific (Cyborg)
15. The Devil = Booster Gold (Luthor)
16. The Tower = Cyborg (Triumph)
17. The Star = Starfire (which I guessed)
18. The Moon = Black Orchid (no guess)
19. The Sun = Firestorm (which I guessed)
20. Judgment = Green Arrow (revealed already)
21. The World = Geo-Force (no guess)
0/22. The Fool = Plastic Man (which I guessed)
— “He’s their ‘World’”: not according to the roster in issue #30, which has the Floronic Man as the World and Grundy as Death. Was that one a rough draft?
— Nightshade was created by Joe Gill and Steve Ditko and first appeared in Captain Atom vol. 1 #82.
— Sandmaster, f/k/a Sandy the Golden Boy, a/k/a Sand, was created by Mort Weisinger and Paul Norris and first appeared in Adventure Comics #69 (December 1941). He started out as a teen sidekick in the 1940s, spent several years in a form of suspended animation before being revived by the Justice League and Justice Society (Justice League of America vol. 1 #113 (September-October 1974)), and graduated to his own identity (“Sand”) in JSA #1 (August 1999). As of Justice Society of America vol. 3 #1 (February 2007), he had taken his mentor’s codename “Sandman.” Therefore, I presume “Sandmaster” is an alternate-timeline name. Regardless, I’m sure his presence here makes my colleague Melissa Krause very happy (even if he is behind Geo-Force on the depth chart).
— “Earthly body made of…”: remember, Superman’s powers come from his cells’ solar batteries.
— Doomsday was created by Dan Jurgens. Its fist first appeared in Superman: The Man Of Steel #17 (November 1992), and the rest of it followed in S:TMOS #18 (December 1992).
— “A demon from the molten heart of the world”: before his fight with Superman, Doomsday escaped from an underground prison.
— “From the void beyond the stars”: in Superman/Doomsday: Hunter/Prey #2 ([March] 1994), Doomsday was revealed to be of ancient-Kryptonian origin. It is hundreds of thousands of years old.
— No annotations.
– “Sky-Castle of crystal and light”: well, the “crystal” part sounds like the current version of the Fortress of Solitude, introduced in Action Comics #840 and clearly reminiscent of the Superman movies’ Fortress, which was designed by John Barry for Superman (1978). Normally, of course, Superman’s Fortress is on Earth, whether it be in the Arctic, the Antarctic, or South America.
— “Alone … with nothing but his love for us”: sounds like the Silver Age/“Earth-1” version of Superman, whose deeper awareness of his Kryptonian heritage alienated himself (pun unavoidable) from the rest of humanity.
— “We could die. And he could not”: Not quite a New Testament reason for divine self-sacrifice, but close.
— Doomsday killed Superman in Superman vol. 2 #75 (January 1993).
— “All the world mourned”: in Superman: The Man Of Steel #20 (February 1993), speakers at Superman’s funeral included President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. (The issue went on sale December 15, 1992, just six weeks after Clinton was elected, so I wonder if there were alternate pages featuring George and Barbara Bush.)
— “You are of the sky. You are not one of us”: Bear with me, because this can get a little confusing. In The Adventures of Superman #500, shortly after Superman’s death, Pa Kent has a near-death experience. It brings his spirit into contact with Superman’s, which is being carried along in a Kryptonian funeral procession. This doesn’t seem right to Pa, so he tells Superman
the only reason you’re here is … because we raised you with the concept of mortality! You’ve been conditioned to accept this fate, and maybe it doesn’t have to be that way at all! For once, I’m begging you not to think like an Earthling!
Accordingly, Superman ditches the procession and flies Pa through a spatial rift. Pa wakes up on the operating table, and a few pages later, four new Supermen have appeared….
— No annotations.
— “Heat vision”: I’ve been meaning to ask why Interceptor wears goggles. The Eradicator-Superman (one of the four replacements referenced above) wore goggles, but he had some sensitivity to light which Interceptor/Supergirl lacks. Maybe they’re some kind of heads-up display or other kind of device which lets her communicate with home base … but again, you’d think the heat vision would screw up the electronics if she’s not careful. I am probably thinking about this too much.
— “That garbage”: actually, it kinda makes sense to me, but I can see why Lois would have a problem.
[By the way, this may be the first issue where the centerfold is the end of one story and the beginning of the next, but I haven’t exactly been keeping track of that….]
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“Not Much Of A Soldier” was plotted by Kurt Busiek and Fabian Nicieza, scripted by Nicieza, pencilled by Tom Derenick, inked by Wayne Faucher, colored by Allen Passalaqua, lettered by Pat Brosseau; Rachel Gluckstern, associate editor; Mike Carlin, editor.
In Brief: Hawkman and Gangbuster fight the Dark Arcana.
Page 13 (story page 1)
— Of course, there is some symmetry in having the reincarnation-prone, functionally-immortal Hawkman fighting the actually-immortal Vandal Savage. Now I feel like listening to some Queen….
— “Connie Delgado’s boy”: I don’t have time to check, but this might be the first reference to Gangbuster’s mother’s name.
— Hawkgirl is fighting the Silver Swan and Firestorm is up against Doctor Light.
Pages 14/2 and 15/3
— Plastic Man’s got his arms around Punch (on the right) and Jewelee. The duo were created by Steve Ditko and first appeared in Captain Atom vol. 1 #85 (March 1967).
— Cat-Man, a/k/a Thomas Blake, was created by Bill Finger and Jim Mooney and first appeared in Detective Comics #311 (January 1963). He owes his current buff, long-haired appearance (not including his regular Batman-like costume) to writer Gail Simone and artist Dale Eaglesham, who got him in shape for Villains United #1 (July 2005).
— Appropriately enough, the figure right above Catman is his fellow Secret Sixer Deadshot, a/k/a Floyd Lawton, created by David Vern and Lew Schwartz and first appearing in Batman #59 (June-July 1950). He was reintroduced and redesigned by writer Steve Englehart and artist Marshall Rogers for Detective Comics #474 (December 1977). I can’t tell who he’s trying to kill.
— I’d complain about Gangbuster’s shield in the last panel on page 3, but I remember a New Teen Titans where Robin pulled an old-fashioned, Plexiglas-looking riot-control shield apparently out of his utility belt (although it was more like some orifice adjacent to said belt). If Wolfman and Perez can do it, I’ll let Nicieza and Derenick have this one.
— “Punch and Jewelee make up their Fool”: I had guessed the Joker.
— “Catman and Catwoman stand in for The Lovers”: in fact, in his first few appearances (’Tec #s 311, 318, and 325), Catman was smitten with the original Batwoman. Revised-timeline rules apply, I suppose.
— This Hawkgirl seems more violent than normal.
— No annotations.
— No annotations.
— Regarding the action in panel 2: as far as I know, none of the Dark Arcana can fly. However, Gangbuster is looking up at them, and going by their silhouettes, they’re jumping up towards the rift. Seems like a serious jump, especially with Vandal Savage being armored. I guess they’re hoping to be “stuck” there, like flies on flypaper, but it seems a little complicated for what they want to do. Doesn’t Savage have some spare jetpacks…?
— It took me a couple of scans to figure out the last silhouette on the right in panel 2: it’s Firestorm, but you can’t see his flaming head against the glare.
— “That’s what it’s supposed to be”: same as with the Anti-Matter Earth, naturally.
— No annotations.
— No annotations, although I am definitely keeping an eye on the small stuff.
* * *
I suppose I should be wondering (again) what happened to the outer-space subplot, but after reading Wizard‘s interview with Kurt Busiek I’m not holding my breath. If next week is Act Two’s last issue, it looks like it will end on a downer for the Earthbound heroes. However, I’m still predicting that we’ll have the Trinity’s current status confirmed, even if we don’t see them in the flesh (or whatever).
Nothing really to do with the storyline, but that Gangbuster’s-mother question has gotten me thinking: I wonder whose profile Trinity has helped raise? Gangbuster, sure; but I don’t know that Trinity has created a lot of interest in a miniseries or even a reprint collection. (I’m not sure there are a whole lot of Gangbuster-centric Superman arcs to collect.) I wouldn’t turn down a Gangbuster miniseries, mind you.
Still, who else? Firestorm has obviously gotten a lot of play here, but he’s also been featured in Justice League. Maybe Ragman, since Shadowpact has been gone for a while and he hasn’t really been seen anywhere else.
I’ve been toying with the idea of doing “the Trinity Awards” after the series ends, so maybe “Breakout Character” will be one of the categories. Along with “Most Obscure Reference” and “Best Use Of Dead Character,” of course….
See you next week!