Friday, March 6, 2009
Twilight (of the Superheroes)
After the success of Watchmen, Alan Moore's follow-up was to be Twilight. This would have been a super-heroic version of the "Twilight of the Gods" that foretold the deaths of the Norse pantheon and served as the basis for one of history's greatest operas. The proposal was either rejected by DC, or retracted by the writer. A murderous Superman, adulterous Mary Marvel and Plastic Man's serving as a gigolo might have rubbed editors the wrong way. However, Moore himself says the deal was killed over the royalty dispute concerning The Watchmen, as well as a rating system for content being considered at DC. Still, it appears to have influenced many tales to come, including Kingdom Come, Marshal Law, Wanted and Uncle Sam. Some have even said that it was out and out stolen, but you can judge for yourself by following this link. Twilight could have been one of The Martian Manhunter's greatest tales, insuring his place among DC's superstars. Instead, it's just a forgotten work.
The story revolves around John "Hellblazer" Constantine, who is visited by time traveler Rip Hunter, bearing bad tidings of the future. It seems in the early '90s, the world went straight to hell, with most governments crumbling. Super-Heroes provide the only source of security, but the power goes to their heads. They split control of the Earth among several groupings of familiar heroes, called "Houses." They play at being judge, jury, and executioner, killing most villains and banning alien life from the planet.
Heroes not belonging to one of the ruling houses usually end up in ghettos, working odd jobs. For instance, The Question plays police detective, investigating the murder of a midget found bound and gagged in a whore house. The little person had last been seen alive entering with a tall, dark, beautiful prostitute.
Meanwhile, the House of Steel (Superman family) and the House of Thunder (Captain Marvel family) made a move to consolidate their power with a marriage between Superboy (son of Kal-El and Wonder Woman) and Mary Marvel Jr. (daughter of Billy and Mary.) The other Houses realize that the combination of the two mightiest families could not only end their reign, but remove any sense of democracy left in the world. They begin plotting it's downfall, as do an alliance of alien races. Based on one of the moons of Mars, the alliance includes Martians (of course,) Thanagarians, and what's left of the Green Lantern Corps.
There are also scandals occurring within the combining houses. Mary Jr. isn't too keen on marrying the sadistic Superboy, and her mother is having an affair with Captain Marvel Jr. Worse, the senior Marvel has renewed interest in his neglected wife of late, making her indiscretions all the more dangerous. Constantine plays on this tension, manipulating the lesser Houses into joining with the aliens, who plan to strike at the wedding. Constantine also pays a visit to the House of Thunder, attempting to convince them to allow the House of Steel to fall to the invaders, thus restoring the equilibrium of world powers. Hellblazer realizes that won't be necessary, when the flicker of his lighter's flame causes Captain Marvel to flinch as he smokes.
Soon enough, the surviving Justice League launches their assault on (a) marriage, wherein most of Earth's heroes are killed by one another, leaving only Superman and Captain Marvel to fend off the alien hordes just arrived by Zeta Beam. The Man of Steel still thinks they can handle it, until Marvel reveals himself to be the Martian Manhunter! The dead midget from earlier on was actually Billy Batson, Captain Marvel's youthful alter ego, whose body never grew to maturity. He still craved adult delights, and was seduced by J'Onn J'Onzz, Transgender of Mars. Once gagged, the deviant little Billy couldn't say the magic word ("Shazam,") and died with a quick and painless snap of the neck. J'Onn then impersonated Captain Marvel, working as a spy for the alien alliance.
Supes and J'Onn fight it out, with J'Onzz dying from a hefty dose of heat vision. Now, Superman must stand alone, his life ended by a Daxamite Green Lantern. This leaves Batman and his army to face the Lanterns, wearing golden yellow armor. Constantine finds a way to swindle the other alien races, sending Qwardian troops via Boom Tube to their home worlds (including New Mars) to force their exit from Earth. The world is finally returned to humanity, including former vigilantes like the Batman, who renounce their old fascistic methods.
Even more here.