Sunday, November 25, 2007

Secret Files & Origins Guide To The DC Universe 2000 Vol.1, Part 1 (3/00)

I love it when major companies publish a book like this, intent on giving a snapshot of their entire universe at a specific point in time. Much less so on specific titles, like the nigh-yearly Superman-related Secret Files that would merely recap the previous year’s overheated storylines. Here though, you’re treated to a brief overview of the entire line without getting lost in boring minutiae. You see who the company’s priorities were: who kept steady on, who was hot, and who was being pushing to no effect, entirely forgotten by the next snapshot. Also, artist Scott Eaton is one of those guys who still hasn’t received his proper respect for a classy, mainstream base look for characters married to a distinctive personal style that in a more just world would have landed him on crossover merchandising, or at least steady work on a title to call his own. Instead, we’re treated to his great takes on a wide range of characters, most of whom he (and ofttimes others) would never touch again.

Speaking of underused concepts from bygone days, the United States Department of Extra-Normal Operations, the government’s F.B.I. for super-people, asked Green Lantern Kyle Rayner to scour the DCU for the presence of Badlam. They believed the wraith, capable of possessing metahumans, had escaped their custody to infiltrate the super-hero community as one of their own. This premise allowed writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning license to explore the newly reformed Justice Society of America, a collection of World War II-era heroes and the legacy characters that followed in their footsteps. Next were the still-powerless Black Canary and Jade, the Ted Kord Blue Beetle, Guy Gardner in his days as a half-alien Warrior tending his own bar with meta-human associates, the Ronald Raymond Firestorm and Firehawk (largely unused at that point,) John Henry Irons Steel in his bulky second armor, the female Strange Visitor who inherited Superman’s lame electrical look and powers, “the Captains Marvel,” Resurrection Man, a still-living Max Mercury, Project Cadmus, Superman, harpoon-handed Aquaman, the Hitman Tommy Monaghan (to whom GL owed a bar tab,) Huntress, the Cassandra Cain Batgirl, Azrael in his silly “angel” costume before his death, and the Batman.

Kyle spent extra time with the reformed founding Titans, an incarnation which his girlfriend Donna Troy was a part of while he’d left a couple sets back. The Linda Danvers Supergirl, part-human/part-earthborn angel/part-other-dimensional construct, was grazed here. Green Lantern tracked the then-fugitive Young Justice by their Supercycle, as their cave base had previously been destroyed. At that time, the Wally West Flash was faced by a Dark Flash version of himself from an alternate future. Wonder Woman and Artemis trained in her flying Wonder Dome made from a shape shifting alien material. Kyle Rayner flew to the JLA’s lunar Watchtower, where he found his teammate, the Manhunter from Mars, overseeing events on Earth from his Monitor Womb.
“Anybody home?”
“Green Lantern. A pleasant surprise. I was not expecting you.”
“I just stopped by to say hi.’s it going?”
“Everything is fine. Was there something on your mind?”
“Nope. Not at all. Nothing. Honestly.”
J’Onn J’Onzz moaned to himself, “Hmmm.”

Further into the base, Kyle found an amused Plastic Man ringside as an indignant Orion demanded of Zauriel, “Angel, how dare you question my Godhood?!” Big Barda played peacemaker. Eventually, night turned to dawn, and the still fruitless search for Bedlam came to an end. As Kyle Rayner headed for home, the DEO’s Dr. Charles and Major Lutwidge of the Special Sanctions Division congratulated themselves on having duped the hero into collecting a wealth of information for them. Using his data and blueprints salvaged from Professor Ivo, they had constructed a giant “Amazo 2000” as their ultimate sanction against any metahumans gone rogue. However, light shined on marble head, as Green Lantern arrived to revealed, “...when I got urgent messages from Batman and Martian Manhunter [who’d deduced the scheme,] I decided to double back and check up on you. You used me. You made me betray my friends. You’re going to pay... I know you’re operating without D.E.O. authority! Batman confirmed with Agent Chase that this is all a black ops setup. Bedlam is still locked up tight.” The rogue pair unleashed Amazo 2000, but Kyle similarly used all the data on super-heroes he’d obtained to create a legion of them with his power ring, his virtual Martian Manhunter among the constructs to destroy this ersatz Amazo. Agent Cameron Chase, D.E.O. Northeastern Regional Director Bones, and a special missions force then arrived to collect their strays. Though Chase protested, the Director allowed Green Lantern to erase any files he’d collected and fly off into the sunrise.

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