Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Retroactive - The 90's Part 1

As DC Comics are celebrating the creators that made an impact in the 70's, 80's and 90's, I thought I'd wander through the same decades and pull out my favourite comic of each year.

And here we are, finally in the 90's.


JUSTICE LEAGUE EUROPE #15 - The Extremist Vector Part One: Kings of The Dust, written by Keith Giffen and Gerard Jones with art by Bart Sears and Pablo Marcos.

We closed out the 80's last week with a look at Justice League Europe #1 where I mentioned that along with the humour than ran throughout the Giffen/DeMatteis (and Gerard Jones as well - he tends to get forgotten) era, there was a serious side that turned up every now and then. In JLE the first real indication of this was the story that introduced the DCU to The Extremists.

The early 70's had seen the arrival of the Champions of Angor, a not-too subtle pastiche of Marvel's Avengers, who had appeared once, fought the League in a typical case of mistaken identity then teamed up, beat the villain and were never heard from again. At least until Giffen and co brought them back in to the new JLI series where they ended up prisoners of the Soviet Union. They eventually escaped, Blue Jay ending up with the JL Europe team while the Silver Sorceress returned to Angor where the Extremists had destroyed everything and ended up rulers of a dead world:

Villains weren't the only new thing in this issue either as Power Girl had a makeover. Gone was the classic white costume, red cape and blue boots to be replaced by an all in one yellow and gold affair which the then-perpetually horny Wally West Flash couldn't help but notice:

It may not be the best thing in the world, but it's better than the red, white and blue monstrosity that followed it! I remember reading somewhere that the costume change was dictated by DC editorial; in an earlier adventure, Power Girl lost her flight ability and - supposedly - only characters who could fly were allowed to wear a cape.

Anyhow, back on Angor, the Silver Sorceress is discovered by the Extremists who want her to show them how to get back to Earth:

Notice that it's referred to as "that other dimension" not "that other planet." This is post-Crisis and the Multiverse no longer existed yet, confusingly, other dimensions could exist. Sure there may not have been multiple Earths but what was the difference, really?

Long story short, the Extremists find their way to Earth and set about trying to take over:

The Extremist Vector was one of the best arcs in the JLI books and to this day I think it's a damn shame that following this they became not only a recurring enemy for Justice League America, but they turned into a completely ineffectual enemy. Such a waste.


ARMAGEDDON 2001 #1 - Darktime, written by Archie Goodwin with art by Dan Jurgens and Dick Giordano.

2001 . . . the Millennium . . . it all seemed so far away back in 1991, didn't it? It all sounded so . . . futuristic, I suppose, which may be why Armageddon 2001 sounded like such a cool name: who knew what might happen in the DCU by such a far off time?

Gentle mocking aside, this was probably one of the better of DC's summer crossover events and not just because the introduction had giant Batman beating the crap out of giant Superman:

Nor because it gave Jurgens the chance to pre-visualise what would become a classic image a few years later with the death of Superman:

Armageddon 2001 worked, I think, because it gave us a mysterious villain who was once a hero, one that was around at the time the comic was published, one that we knew, and posed the question: who would become Monarch?

Sadly, the debacle of Monarch's true identity being revealed before the finale and the resultant switcheroo that DC pulled took the steam out of the story for some and it runs the risk of being renowned for that rather than the cool romp through time and exploration of alternate futures that it was. Although if we can take anything positive from the story it should be this:

Waverider - one of the coolest time travellers ever!


THE SPECTRE #1 - Crimes of Violence, written by John Ostrander with art by Tom Mandrake.

If there's one series that really deserves to be collected as a series of trades, The Spectre from the 90's is it. Written by Ostrander with art pretty much throughout the entire run by the fantastic Tom Mandrake the series was the first to really nail down who and what both the Spectre and his alter ego Jim Corrigan were and what made them tick.

It also introduced a sterling support cast who would become characters as well defined as the title pair, including Amy Beitermann whose story would take up the first year's story arc:

While Ostrander focused on the human side of Corrigan, digging into his past and working out just why, of all the people on Earth, he had been chosen as the host of God's wrath, Mandrake was more than up to the job of depicting the Spectre's vengeance in action:

Years after Corrigan was killed by mobsters, he finds Louis Snipe, his one-time snitch, now an old man in hospital and, as the Spectre, enters his psyche to try and discover something about himself. Instead, he finds out that Snipe had sent him to his death all those years before, leading to the first epic-scale mind battles that Mandrake would illustrate so well.

Corrigan's hope that the death of Snipe - the last person connected with his own death - would free him:

But if that were the case, we'd miss out on the next 60 or so issues and that would be a bad thing!

With only the first few issues collected you'll have to track down this series in back issue bins or on the net but trust me, it's well worth it.


JUSTICE LEAGUE AMERICA #72 - Destiny's Hand, Part 1, written by Dan Jurgens with art by Jurgens and Rick Burchett.

As I write this a week or so before it's posted, Bleeding Cool make mention that in the post-Flashpoint DCU there will be something new called Justice League Dark. There's no other news or information concerning it and speculation is rife, but I find myself wondering if it will in any way be as cool as this Dan Jurgens story from 1993.

The Jurgens-helmed JLA had just had their arses handed to them by Doomsday and were stumbling around, looking for new members when issue #72 arrived and dropped us straight into a world which was familiar but which we didn't entirely recognise. Within the first couple of pages, J'onn J'onzz, kills Star Sapphire and breaks Sinestro's arm:

Rather than stay with the heroes, we follow Sinestro as he escapes from the Martian Manhunter and the Green Arrow and Black Canary, only to run into Hawkman:

True, Hawkman's long been depicted as having a bad temper and the ability, if not urge, to beat Seven Hells into villains but this version seemed extreme, even wilfully sadistic:

Couple this with the League setting off a nuclear missle in China, manoeuvring Hal Jordan into the Presidency of the United States along with still being based on a satellite above the Earth and it was clear that this was not the League we had been reading for some years. The only one who seemed close to genuine was Green Arrow:

Things were clearly different and the four part Destiny's Hand became the best of Jurgens's otherwise solid run on the title and, in all honesty, the last really good story before the series was cancelled a couple of years later.

Next Tuesday we reach the mid-90's where everything changes!


  1. I recently picked up the Destiny's Hand issues....they were a great read.

  2. I agree, easily the best of the Jurgens JLA stuff. Let's hope he can reach the same quality on the forthcoming JLI book.


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