23 September 2013

Faster than a DC Bullet: Project Crisis!, Part XIII: Millennium

Comic trade paperback, 191 pages
Published 2008 (contents: 1988)
Borrowed from the library
Read August 2013

Writer: Steve Englehart
Layouts: Joe Staton
Finishes: Ian Gibson
Letterer: Bob Lappan
Colorist: Carl Gafford

Millennium is the last DC crossover I'll read prior to Zero Hour: Crisis in Time!-- like Legends, it has some light connections to Crisis on Infinite Earths. In this case, that's the presence of Harbinger, having finished writing History of the DC Universe, and that the plot spins out of when the Guardians of the Universe departed the universe, which happened in the Crisis.

The plot of Millennium is that a Guardian and a Zamaron have decided to jump-start evolution on Earth so that humans can take the place of the Guardians, which they will do by picking ten (or eight, or seven, or some other number) of special humans. But the robotic Manhunter cult is opposed to this, and so they activate their hidden agents to destroy the special humans as well as superheroes in general. This means that anyone could be a Manhunter-- only in practice, the only significant Manhunter is Lana Lang (I don't know how this was resolved, because she's still around in later comics, and I assume not an evil android by that point). Most of the Manhunters are "revealed" as characters I've never heard of, and whose significance to the superheroes isn't really explained. There's also a hilarious scene where Booster Gold discovers a Manhunter by overhearing telling another Manhunter that he hopes he isn't discovered-- with security like that, no wonder they end up soundly whomped on.

The frustrating part of Millennium is that though it has a much more complicated plot than, say, Legends, we never get to see many of the important moments of this plot. One issue ends with heroes going off to attack the Manhunter home planet; the next begins with the planet having been destroyed, in an issue of some other comic book from 1988 that I'll never read. This means mostly you read about the heroes talking about what they have just done, or what they are going to be doing... but you never get to see them do it.

Meanwhile, the Guardian and the Zamaron tutor the chosen "New Guardians" in a lot of cod-mysticism that makes The Empire Strikes Back and Death Comes to Time look deep and complex. Then they "evolve"; as you might have guessed, "evolution" in this context means "assume the identity of a superhero that could have only been thought of in 1988." One of them becomes the superhero RAM-- Random Access Memory. His power is, of course, "computers".

Poor Harbinger doesn't fare well here-- her history is used by the Manhunters to discover the secret identities of the superheroes, and she gets tortured by the Manhunters. She's not quite the powerful, mystical being she was during the Crisis; she comes across as a pretty "ordinary" superhero, alas.

Famously, this is the book where it was established that in the DC universe, Britain is a fog-shrouded fascist dictatorship, which I find hilarious. I wonder if Paul Cornell dealt with this in Knight and Squire? Also Ronald Reagan makes a return appearance after Legends. Is it noteworthy that this is the third big DC story in a row (after Crisis on Infinite Earths and Legends) where Firestorm gets a decent amount of focus? Were they trying to push his solo book or what?

The art of Joe Staton and Ian Gibson is more stylized than is normal for a mainstream DC book, but I really liked it for that reason-- it gave this book a little more oomph than it might otherwise have had. But overall, Millennium is an exercise in eight issues of frustration.

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