Tuesday, February 27, 2024

DC Power 2024 (March, 2024)

If you haven't been following the story so far, Raphael Arce gained empathic powers during the Lazarus Planet event, which led him to a confrontation between Martian Manhunter and the psychic ghost of Doomsday that caused his corpse to be pressurized into a blood gem of sorts. Later, around the same time Supergirl and the Alien Atlas were dragged to the metaphysical Hell to again deal with Doomsday, we learned the infernal realm also hosted the lost soul of Raphael Arce. However, in the afterlife Arce had taken on the identity of Bloodwynd, with a new array of abilities. He was at this point in the Fifth Circle of Hell, and had to use a demon in each circle as a "passport" into the next. He was apparently working his way through the circles in pursuit of The Devil himself, and had randomly been assigned the role of "A Superman for Hell," whatever that means. Bloodwynd was sidetracked by an adventure outside Hell alongside the actual Superman and Etrigan the Demon. He then returned to Hell, where we rejoin him in the Eighth Circle: Fraud.

Raphael was meant to be tormented by "his" personal Hell, invoking the Arce surname and images from the career of the original Bloodwynd. But also, Raphael learned the history of the actual Blood Gem, crafted by antebellum slaves to slay their cruel master and gain infernal power from the act. The Blood Gem had been handed down through the ages, and passed through the hands of Raphael's mother. Returning to Bloodwynd, even Raphael was surprised to learn that he was a distinct entity from J'Onn J'Onzz, rather than an assumed identity of the Martian. Felix Faust eventually consigned Bloodwynd to the pit, which I wasn't aware of, and may be an invention of this story.

The demon assigned to torture Bloodwynd confirmed that he was a blood relative of Raphael, and that any who die while wearing the family's Blood Gem are immediately damned to Hell. Raphael claimed Bloodwynd was a hero who saved lives and served with the Justice League, and so fought the demon to liberate his soul. Bloodwynd finally declared himself Quintus Arce, the brother of Raphael's mother, who together faked his death so that her son might be spared the curse of the Blood Gem. Instead, they were both temporarily incarnations of Bloodwynd, until Raphael drained all vestiges of the mantle to allow Quintus access to Paradise. Quintus made Raphael promise to be a better Bloodwynd than he had managed, and to tell his sister that he loved her before vanishing. Finally, the new, sole Bloodwynd grabbed his uncle's demonic tormentor to grant him access to the Ninth Circle, to confront The Devil...

"Pit Stop" was by Lamar Giles, Sean Damien Hill, & Anthony Fowler Jr. I think the 8-pager is the best of the new Bloodwynd stories, which admittedly isn't saying much, but it did make sense, engaged me, and sorted out necessary details. It doesn't make it any less misguided, though. In the early days of the internet, Bloodwynd got picked up by African-American comics catalogers and touted as a high level powerhouse deserving of more exposure. However, in all my years of following the character as peripheral to Martian Manhunter and as a Black super-hero, I never heard of anybody who had a legitimate affection for him. It was all utility-- the abilities, the visibility, not being a "street-level" stereotype. But fans? Not really.

The main reason Bloodwynd is still a recognized quantity is that he was high profile during the Death of Superman, and strong enough to be one of the only Leaguers still standing after trading blows with Doomsday. Bloodwynd was created by Dan Jurgens, for his League book that was a key tie-in to the Doomsday arc, who got a splash page with Ice in Superman #75. It was by design, but Jurgens never actually put the character over, and abandoned him in the rushed wrap-up of said Justice League America run. Sure, he's on the big funeral for Superman poster, with the foul play red herring of J'Onn J'Onzz also appearing separately, but he's sort of like Dan Ackroyd at the "We Are The World" recording session. Bloodwynd is a Where's Waldo-- a "who is that and what was he doing there" geek drink night trivial pursuit answer. No matter what else you try to do with him, the very name of Bloodwynd in disqualifying. Bloodwynd isn't an heroic identity, but a gastrointestinal disorder. What do you call two Bloodwynds? A pair of Arces. A Bloodynd is when you fart so hard that you explosively rupture a hemorrhoid. A Bloodwynd is like racing stripes in your underwear, but it gets up the crack and looks like spray paint splatter from being kissed directly by the pucker. Bloodwynd is when you queef while on the rag. No good comes from a Bloodwynd.

And despite all this lip service, if DC cared so much, why have they passed Raphael Arce around from book to book and across multiple creative teams? Why saddle him with such a lame sub-New Bloods/gene bomb/"so you just got powers from an event book" origin story? Now that DC barely publishes anything not directly related to their Trinity, do they really have room to explore a multi-hero Bloodwynd dynasty, especially when the mysterious and slightly sinister old Bloodwynd has given way to a plain Jane goody-two-shoes model? There are ten stories in this book, most spotlighting a single hero or villain of African descent. There are three different variant covers spotlighting different groupings of these characters. The main cover offers eight characters, a variant has seven, and then there's a Far Sector one with about a dozen. Bloodwynd made none of these covers. He's not one of the five who got a Who's Who bio page, either. Nobody actual cares. This is trademark management personified, that will get killed off in a different crossover event down the line, until we get a third case of Bloodwynd... like Montezuma's Revenge.


Kevin from New Orleans said...

Frank you made me laugh so hard I almost peed myself!

The Deadend Kid said...


Perfect post, perfect summing-up.

"A superman for Hell" might be a fun conceit, but tying this particular epitome of magical black guy to DC's Weird Catholicism... Not very thought out. Like the wrist-chains, it's just that extra bit Too Much.

Too Much on the original Bloodwynd was that garter of glowing stones Jurgens liked to draw. I note the golden garter made a reappearance here. In a cosmology full of magic rocks, you'd think they'd find a way to string all their magic rocks together. That's what i.p. maintenance *should* be for. Building some sort of complete story out of all these shards.

Hell with that, tho. The last thing anyone needs is DC's The Infinity Garter.

Diabolu Frank said...

Kevin, your response made my day!

Dee, I definitely had tying the Blood Gem into other DC artifacts on my garter of ideas for Bloodwynd. Problem being that we're multiple continuities past any of it mattering anymore.