Axel-In-Charge: "Secret Wars" Jam Session Talking "A-Force," "Ultimate End" and More
I thought this issue was particularly strong all around. There’s still a bit of setup to take care of, but it all serves the needs of the larger story. Plot threads are tying together, Act Three’s engines are revving, and if we can see where the story’s headed, at least the journey looks fun.
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“And They Fought” 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 God War, and what came of it.
— Well, this explains the “acolytes and servants” reference Kellel made last issue. I’m sure I don’t need to expand on the appropriateness of “the Sons of Atmahn” being ninja-esque warriors, or the “Diannazons” wearing classically-styled armor.
— Although Batman has trained quite a few protégés (including four Robins, two Batgirls, and one replacement), he hasn’t really built an army of followers. I call these guys the “Sons of Atmahn” after the “Sons of the Bat,” the alternate-future gang co-opted by the aging Batman in the last book of The Dark Knight (1986).
— It’s noteworthy that Kellel hides his face, since Superman may be the most prominent DC superhero who maintains a secret identity but doesn’t wear a mask. Of course, at full power Kellel, like Superman, wouldn’t need armor either. Thus, his battle garb here suggests to me that he is abandoning anything which might reveal his humanity, and striking out as a creature of raw power.
— I just want to be clear: in past issues I’ve compared scenes in this book to similar scenes in Infinite Crisis, Kingdom Come, and other Trinity-centric works; but I don’t think everything needs an antecedent to have merit. The God War depicted here is unlike anything else I can think of, clearly because these beings have gone beyond their familiar pasts, and probably because they lack familiar networks of support.
— “Arrogant, self-absorbed popinjay”: Still, speaking of Kingdom Come, when Batman and Wonder Woman (who, remember, was part of Superman’s army) fought at the climax of that miniseries, she called him an “aristocratic bastard,” adding “[a]fter all these years, you have the nerve to swagger out of your cave and expect everyone to bow before your precious wisdom!” So, you know, there’s a precedent.
— Note that the deaths of his “eyes and ears” don’t provoke a reaction in Atmahn, although the death of Rabat did; and likewise with the deaths of Kellel’s family and Dinanna’s favorites. I presume the Trinitarians are too consumed with their own battle to care, or even notice.
— Again, this fight is unprecedented in the shared histories of these characters, not only for the apocalyptic consequences but also for the fact that each is out for him- or herself. As Dinanna’s “my world” comment from page 4 indicates, each is the other’s equal, whether in terms of dominion or power, and that too is something the comics haven’t reflected.
— Dinanna may have been the only Trinitarian who could have convinced the others to stop fighting, given Kellel’s bombast and Atmahn’s hard line.
— “It felt like the passing of ages, but it [wasn’t] more than a month or three”: something you want to say about the weekly schedule, gentlemen…?
— It’s a shame that the apparent reconciliation between the Trinity and their worshippers happened off-panel, because it seems like a big part of the story. After all, these are three nigh-omnipotent beings who have just devastated a good bit of the planet, causing untold destruction, death, and (literally) holy war among the people; but we go from the moment of reconciliation to the ratification of their newly-resolved unity. Granted, there are practical and in-story reasons why we didn’t see the healing process (and we still might see it), but the way it’s presented, the people might look a little too forgiving.
— Never noticed before that the sunburst emblem atop the Kellel-priest’s staff looks to me like the symbol of “Nova,” Superman’s alternate identity from an imaginary story in World’s Finest Comics #s 178 (September 1968) and 180 (November 1968).
— Here’s a better look at the Trinity’s citadel, which more clearly resembles the current JLA Watchtower space station.
— No annotations.
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“A Special Dark Angry Flappy Toy” was plotted by Kurt Busiek and Fabian Nicieza, scripted by Nicieza, pencilled by Scott McDaniel, inked by Andy Owens, colored by Allen Passalaqua, lettered by Pat Brosseau; Rachel Gluckstern, associate editor; Mike Carlin, editor.
In Brief: Meet the new Fool!
— No annotations.
— The Creeper, a/k/a Jack Ryder, was created by Steve Ditko and first appeared in Showcase #73 (March-April 1968). As Enigma notes, he’s the only one of these candidates who’s not normally a villain.
— The Trickster, a/k/a James Jesse, was created by John Broome and Carmine Infantino and first appeared in The Flash vol. 1 #113 (June-July 1960). In the regular timeline, the Trickster died somewhere around Countdown #21 (December 5, 2007). [Fun fact: GCD has no page for the main Countdown series.]
— Mr. Nobody, f/k/a Mr. Morden, was created by Grant Morrison and Richard Case and first appeared in Doom Patrol vol. 2 #22 (May 1989). Morden was a minor character created by Arnold Drake and Bruno Premani for Doom Patrol vol. 1 #86 (March 1964). His mind-expanding transformation, and Mr. Nobody’s first substantive appearance, took place in DP v. 2 #26 (September 1989). Mr. Nobody disappeared in DP v. 2 #52 (February 1992). Personally, Enigma’s shadowy “god-form” reminded me of Mr. Nobody, but the resemblance is only superficial.
— Harley Quinn, a/k/a Dr. Harleen Quinzel, was created for the “Batman” animated series. She first appeared in the episode “Joker’s Favor” (original airdate September 11, 1992), written by Paul Dini and directed by Boyd Kirkland. Harley’s costume was designed by Bruce Timm. Her first comic-book appearance was in the Batman: Harley Quinn one-shot (October 1999), written by Dini, penciled by Yvel Guichet, and inked by Aaron Sowd..
— “Happiness is a warm puppy” was the title of a 1962 Peanuts collection. It helped inspire the Beatles song “Happiness Is A Warm Gun.”
— Fran Tarkenton played quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings (that’s a Vikes logo on the beer-cap) from 1961-66 and 1972-78, and for the New York Giants from 1967-71. Wikipedia sez that Howard Cosell used to call him “Sir Francis,” so the Joker’s in good company. After football, Tarkenton became one of the hosts of the ABC proto-reality series “That’s Incredible!” (1980-84). As it happens, “TI!” had three hosts, including Cathy Lee Crosby, who had previously played an off-model Wonder Woman in a TV movie remembered mostly by people who’d rather it be forgotten. However, the CLC version of Wonder Woman did show up on a parallel Earth in Infinite Crisis #6 (May 2006). In a weird way, then, Fran Tarkenton is part of a Trinity.
— I guess I was right about the Joker being the Fool … just not at first.
— Carleton College is a real place, and why wouldn’t it be?
— “The Joker’s controlling it”: This is actually not the first time the Joker has had some form of ultimate power. Besides the “Emperor Joker” storyline in the Superman titles, or the Joker’s brief possession of the Philosopher’s Stone in JLA’s “Rock of Ages,” the Joker teamed up with the Shaper of Worlds in the Batman Vs. The Incredible Hulk special (officially called DC Special Series #27 (Fall 1981)).
— “Red Robinson”: I can’t tell if this refers to a particular story, but the name combines two important figures in the Joker’s creation. Jerry Robinson claims credit for creating the character; and according to Detective Comics #168 (February 1951), the Joker (real name unknown) started out as a small-time crook called the Red Hood.
— “Wilhelm Veidt”: The Joker’s original look seems to have been inspired by the disfigured title character in the film The Man Who Laughs, who was played by Conrad Veidt.
— “Failures as a husband and father”: this possibly alludes to the tragedies which drove the future Joker to crime, as told in flashback in Batman: The Killing Joke (1988).
— “Jack Napier”: This, the first real name given to the man who would become the Joker, comes from screenwriter Sam Hamm, who wrote Batman (1989). As we all know, Jack Nicholson played the older Napier/Joker, while Hugo E. Blick played a younger Jack.
— “Disfigured while fighting Ragman”: as revealed in the aforementioned ‘Tec #168, the Red Hood was knocked into a vat of chemicals while fighting Batman (or Ragman, in the altered reality). The chemicals bleached his skin white, turned his hair green, and colored his lips ruby red.
— “Urban legends he perpetuates himself”: this is a widely-accepted theory for why the Joker’s origins will forever remain mysterious. However, Batman: Gotham Knights #55 (September 2004) seemed to confirm the Killing Joke’s backstory; and both it and a revisionist origin in (the possibly-apocryphal) Batman Confidential #s 7-12 (September 2007-February 2008) refer to the proto-Joker as “Jack.”
— The second and fourth ovoid panels are homages to Killing Joke, while the third recalls Batman ‘89’s younger Jack.
— Of course, giant props were a staple of Batman stories for decades.
— As Enigma will observe on the next page, the Joker’s mind is pulling in items from “our” reality, like the giant Batarang impaling that poor fellow, and the blocks spelling out “B-A-T.”
— Nice translation of “Pop Goes The Weasel.”
— No annotations.
— The notion that the Joker feels a profound connection to Batman goes back at least as far as the seminal Detective Comics #475 (February 1978; written by Steve Englehart, penciled by Marshall Rogers, inked by Terry Austin), where the villain observed,
The Joker must have the Batman! Nay, the Joker deserves the Batman! What fun would there be in humbling mere policemen? I am the greatest criminal ever known! […] And for anyone else to destroy the Batman would be unworthy of me!
Therefore, if the Joker finds out Morgaine took away his “toy,” she’s in trouble.
— “Everyone’s going to love having me around”: Yes, I know he’s being ironic. Still, I feel compelled to mention that, in Infinite Crisis #2 (January 2006), the Royal Flush Gang’s King tells the Joker he’s the only one the all-inclusive Secret Society doesn’t want. “Everyone knows Joker’s too wild,” King says, right before the Joker kills him.
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As mentioned above, the notion that the Joker might reshape reality is nothing new. I’ve seen enough stories coast on the Joker’s reputation to know that he’s not automatically cool. However, the presentation here really highlights the Joker’s menace. I especially like the fact that Enigma, who can appreciate just how dangerous the Joker can be, is the one who fills in the rest of the Troika.
Naturally, it’s getting to be a “Troika” in name only. Clearly this is Morgaine’s show, and she’s letting Enigma have a say only because she knows he’ll leave this Earth alone. There’s a nice parallel with the God War, because Dinanna started and stopped that conflict and Morgaine looks pretty responsible for the Troika’s eventual dissolution. I really don’t think we’re supposed to think that their gender had something to do with their group’s problems. Instead, both have the strongest connections to the Earth itself (as opposed to the extraterrestrials and the “self-made men”), and I think that sense of possession contributed to their actions.
The Joker makes the second “Trinitarian” villain we’ve seen specifically recruited by Morgaine, after Khyber in issue #31. He’s not the only Bat-villain (Ra’s al Ghul, Catwoman and Cat-Man, Lady Shiva, and the Scarecrow are all part of the Arcana, which also includes peripheral Bat-villains like the Gentleman Ghost, Prometheus, and Deathstroke). The other Trinitarians’ rogues are represented as well, with Brainiac and Khyber for Superman and the Cheetah and Giganta for Wonder Woman. However, not only does the Joker have a much higher profile than any of the others, he (like the Construct trapped in John Stewart’s ring) has a connection to the regular timeline — and thanks to his “affection” for Batman, a compelling reason to see the old timeline restored. Bad news for Bigger Melvin, though….