Diana Prince: Wonder Woman Volume 2

By Mike Sekowsky, Dick Giordano & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-84576-900-0

Back for a second delicious helping of pop nostalgia and startling action is Diana Prince, erstwhile Amazon superhero, but for a brief moment a mortal woman with all the power and wit that entails – solving problems and fighting injustice with great style and incredible fashion-sense.

In 1968 superhero comics were in decline and publishers sought new ways to keep audience as tastes changed. Back then, the entire industry depended on newsstand sales, and if you weren’t popular, you died. Editor Jack Miller and Mike Sekowsky stepped up with a radical proposal and made a little bit of comic book history with the only female superhero then in the marketplace.

The superbly eccentric art of Sekowsky had been a DC mainstay for decades, and he had also scored big with fans at Gold Key with Man from Uncle and at Tower Comics’ T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents and war comic Fight The Enemy! His unique take on the Justice League of America had cemented its overwhelming success, and now he was stretching himself with a number of experimental, youth-market directed projects.

Tapping into the teen zeitgeist with the Easy Rider-like drama Jason’s Quest proved ultimately unsuccessful, but with the Metal Men and the hopelessly moribund Wonder Woman he had much greater impact. He would ultimately work the same magic with Supergirl.

When the Amazons were forced to leave our dimension, they took with them all their magic – including Wonder Woman’s powers and all her weapons … Now no more or less than human she decided to stay on Earth permanently, assuming her own secret identity of Diana Prince, dedicated to fighting injustice as a mortal. Blind Buddhist monk I Ching trained her as a martial artist, and she quickly became embroiled in the schemes of would-be world-conqueror Doctor Cyber. Her one true love Steve Trevor was branded a traitor and killed…

This volume (which collects issues #185-189 of her comic book, a guest shot from Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane #93 plus the first of two appearances in the Batman team-up vehicle Brave and the Bold #87) shows just how bold were those changes to the Amazing Amazon’s career. With young scripter Denny O’Neil moved to other projects Sekowsky took over the writing himself, surprising everyone with his savvy ear for dialogue and a refreshingly original take on the old conventions.

With apparently nothing to lose, the switch to espionage/adventurer in the fashionable footsteps of such popular TV characters as Emma Peel, The Girl from Uncle and Honey West, not to mention our own ultimate comic strip action-heroine Modesty Blaise, seemed like desperation, but clearly struck a chord with the public. Sekowsky opens this book with ‘Them!’ – one of the most original tales of the period, with few to match it written since.

Steeped heavily in the hippie counter-culture and Mod-fashion explosion, the New Wonder Woman had opened her own boutique and into it rushes a young girl seeking to escape three women who took her in and then made her their slave. Today this sort of psychological thriller is more recognisable, but in 1969 themes of bullying and peer abuse were utterly unknown in comic books, and this groundbreaking tale is uniquely informative: exploring other solutions than simply punching bad guys – although there’s enough of that so that the regular readers aren’t completely bewildered.

This is followed by ‘Morgana the Witch’, (WW #186) a spectacular flight of whimsy tapping into the then growing interest in the supernatural wherein a trio of teenaged girls with a talking frog (who was originally the boy friend of one of them) request help after accidentally summoning a powerful (and clearly bi-polar) sorceress to the 20th century.

Next is ‘The Superman-Wonder Woman Team!’ (by Robert Kanigher and Irv Novick from Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane #93), a less adventurous and unreconstructed yarn where the also socially evolving girl-reporter seeks to uncover the reason the ex-Amazon is making an ill-concealed play for her man, and a superbly tense thriller by Sekowsky and Giordano from Brave and the Bold #87 entitled ‘The Widow-Maker’, wherein the son of one of Batman’s foes tries to add to his tally of murders by luring the Caped Crusader into a rigged high performance car race.

The book concludes with a gripping three-part saga revealing some of I Ching’s past  and reintroducing the deadly Dr. Cyber before seamlessly transiting into an exotic Cold War thriller. In ‘Earthquaker’ and ‘Cyber’s Revenge’ Diana’s mentor is summoned by old friends to Hong Kong where he and his astonishing pupil happen upon a plan to blackmail the island with catastrophic artificial earthquakes, before attempting to smuggle an entire village out of Communist China in the delightfully epic ‘Red for Death’. The spectacle is broken up by a wonderful extra two page strip vignette ‘Crime does not Pay’ which brilliantly demonstrates the wit and economy of the medium

Comics are an art-form dictated by markets, driven by sales and influenced by fashion. For a brief moment all these factors coalesced to produce a compelling, engaging and utterly fabulous sequence of tales that are timelessly perfect and eternally fresh. And now you can read them whenever you feel the need for better times simply by opening these pages…

© 1969, 1970, 2008 DC Comics. All rights reserved.

JLA: the Tenth Circle – New Fully Revised Review

By John Byrne, Chris Claremont & Jerry Ordway (DC Comics)
ISBN 1-84023-913-1

After battling all manner of contemporary and futuristic foes the World’s Greatest Superheroes found themselves pitted against an ancient malevolence from out of Earth’s oldest nightmares in this sadly lacklustre tale from three of the industry’s biggest talents that originally ran in issues #94-99 of the monthly comic-book.

When team mystic Manitou Raven divines that a great evil has come hunting he is silenced before he can warn his comrades. As Batman and Flash follow a rash of global child disappearances Superman is defeated by a pair of rather unique kids. Comparing notes with other JLA members the heroes discover a pattern of metagenic abductions: someone or something is taking super-powered children…

Meanwhile an enthralled Man of Steel has become the slave – and lunch – of the diabolical vampire lord Crucifer, whose race of undying leeches has been secretly working to conquer the world since their initial defeat by the Amazon warriors of Themyscira thousands of years ago.

And in the background a shady group of freaks and outcasts undertakes their own plan to save the day…

The X-Men team supreme reunited for this supernatural adventure, but their old magic is sorely lacking: Byrne co-writing with Claremont and pencilling for the criminally underappreciated Jerry Ordway to ink and embellish is a far better “look” than “read”.

Comic fans love these sorts of nostalgia stunts, but sadly the results seldom live up to expectations and the result here is a competent but woefully predictable heroes versus vampires yarn that suffers greatly because it’s blatantly obvious that the whole thing is a high-profile, extended gimmick designed to kick-start Byrne’s reinvention of the Doom Patrol, and not really a JLA story at all.

Although competent enough the whole extravaganza is insubstantial and vaguely unsatisfying: Not the kind of book for a casual bystander and no certainly no way to broaden the appeal or range of the comic experience.

© 2004 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Justice League Elite volume 2

By Joe Kelly, Doug Mahnke & Tom Nguyen (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-84576-632-0

Joe Kelly, Doug Mahnke & Tom Nguyen continue their examination of morality and necessity in the concluding volume of Justice League Elite (collecting issues #5-12 of the controversial series) as the assemblage of undercover heroes strives to cope with the poisonous nature of their black ops missions whilst holding on to the tattered shreds of their honour and integrity in a world so dark and seemingly beyond their control.

Multi-part saga ‘The Aftermath’ looks into the past of the energy wielding Coldcast, as the heroes infiltrate his own brother’s gang: a small-time mob of ordinary thugs with unexplained connections to alien narcotics and weaponry, whilst magician Manitou Raven makes some unwise bargains as he seeks the identity of the team-member who murdered the dictator of Changsha (in volume 1). Major Disaster succumbs to the constant pressure by going on a booze-and-drugs fuelled bender and Vera endures some very disturbing, persistent nightmares before their sting-operation brings them all into conflict with the out-of-the-loop Justice Society of America.

Parts 3 and 4 see the beginning of the end, and as is so often the case, infidelity between people who should know better starts the ball rolling. When the covert team finally meets the extraterrestrial mastermind behind the off-world contraband they discover just how hostile aliens can be, how duplicitous and self-serving humans are and, as a team mate dies, just how bad things can get…

‘Poison’ sees the guilt-ridden adulterers attempt to come to terms with their betrayal and someone finally confess to the murder that aborted the experiment before it began. Meanwhile Flash is super-quickly dying from a hideous toxin, assassin Kasumi reveals her true identity and human overseer and Naif al-Sheikh calls in the JLA Proper to end their missions for good.

The three part ‘Eve of Destruction’ finds the Elite in JLA custody, but far too late as the beast that has been possessing Vera erupts in a devastating orgy of destruction, giving the miserable failures one last spectacular chance to atone for all the harm their misguided efforts have caused in a classic, stirring epic of redemption.

Whether you like your heroes dark or shiny, this exploration of the ethics and morality of superhuman endeavour will address points you’ve never considered, and since the creators never forget that all that philosophy is “added value”, it’s all wrapped up in a tremendously rousing, intoxicating epic of superb writing and wonderful illustration. Enjoyment, Elucidation and Education: how can you resist?

© 2005, 2007 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Justice League Elite volume 1

By Joe Kelly, Doug Mahnke, John Byrne & Tom Nguyen and various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-84576-191-2

Every comic-book is a product of – or at least reaction to – the times in which it was created. In the grim, authoritarian, morally ambiguous climate of post 9-11 America writer Joe Kelly wrote an issue of Action Comics (#775) that addressed the traditional ethics and practices of ultimate boy scout Superman in a world where old values were seen as a liability and using “The Enemy’s” own tactics against them was viewed with increasing favour by the public.

With art by Doug Mahnke & Tom Nguyen, ‘What’s So Funny about Truth, Justice and the American Way’ introduced super-Esper Manchester Black and his team of Elite metahumans who responded proactively and with extreme overkill to global threats and menaces in such a drastic and final manner (much like The Authority they very much resembled) that Superman was forced to take a long hard look at his core beliefs before triumphing over a team who saw absolutely no difference between villains, monsters or people who disagreed with them…

In a distressing sign of the times, the Elite proved so overwhelmingly popular that they returned in JLA #100 (‘Elitism’ by Kelly, Mahnke & Nguyen), led now by Black’s cyborg sister Vera, to oppose and eventually help the heroes save the Earth from a catastrophic ecological and metaphysical meltdown. Vera Black saw the fundamental flaws in her methodology but also the weaknesses in the JLA’s. She proposed becoming the League’s “Black Ops” division, gathering Intel, working undercover and decisively dealing with potential threats before they become global crises. Her team would get their hands dirty in a way the JLA simply could not afford to…

Over Superman’s protests, but with stringent oversight in place and using a combination of Elite and League volunteers, the plan was adopted and Justice League Elite subsequently won their own 12 issue series.

‘What’s So Funny about Truth, Justice and the American Way and ‘Elitism’ form the first two chapters in this collected volume which demonstrates a chilling darker edge to the World’s Greatest Superheroes. After some Who’s Who pages from JLA Secret Files 2004 the intrigue begins in ‘Grand Experiment’ as Major Disaster, Green Arrow, Manitou Raven, Flash and mystery heroine Kasumi join Vera, energy manipulator Coldcast, human bio-weapon arsenal Menagerie and Naif al-Sheikh, a normal human spymaster who acts as Director, Adjudicator and Conscience for a unit designed to neutralise organizations and nations that threaten World Security before things ever reach a boiling point.

Their first mission is to infiltrate and dismantle the roving assassination team the Blood Brothers and retrieve mass-murdering terrorist Richard Atwa from the rogue state of Changsha. ‘Candle in a Hurricane’ is a tense two-part thriller full of twists, subterfuge and double dealing, but when the mission goes horribly wrong a prisoner is murdered by a member of the team. Has the grand experiment failed even before it has fully begun?

Same Coin’ mirrors a “straight” JLA mission against magician Felix Faust with the far less clear-cut capture and interrogation of a pair of witches who have attempted to bring about Hell on Earth, and this first volume concludes with ‘The Right Thing’ as the JLE looks inward to find the killer who broke protocol – and faith – to murder their captive in ‘Candle in a Hurricane’

Deliberately distasteful, challenging and compelling these astonishingly fascinating stories are well told, with great art from Mahnke & Nguyen, plus guest illustrators Lee Bermejo, John Byrne, Wayne Faucher, Jose Marzan, Jim Royal, Dexter Vines and Wade Von Grawbadger, and ask the kind of questions of our comic heroes that we’ll be asking about our soldiers and politicians for many years to come.

A must have for every fan who likes to think about what they’re reading…

© 2002, 2004, 2005 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Wonder Woman: Amazons Attack!

By Will Pfeiffer & Peter Woods (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-84576-654-2

Beware any book that begins “the Story So Far…”

Have you ever watched a film or read a book when you were so tired that you kept nodding off, only to repeatedly wake and find whole chunks of the story gone by and you unable to work out where you were and how you got there? If not you could closely mimic the experience by reading Amazons Attack!

And now that I’ve got that off my prodigious chest I’ll attempt to be a little more generous and helpful. But I will say this: if you’re new to comics or need all the details to enjoy a story – buy something else.

They could at least have provided a list of the other titles and issues the story strands this six part miniseries wove through so that interested readers could track them down…

Before all this kicks off the Department of Metahuman Affairs has ordered the arrest of Wonder Woman, on the orders of a shape-shifting agent called Everyman who has replaced the real boss Sarge Steel. On the magical island of Themyscira the evil sorceress Circe has resurrected the Amazing Amazon’s dead mother, but the once serene and stately warrior queen seems a little strange…

When Queen Hippolyta learns that Wonder Woman has been captured and is being tortured by the Americans she declares war on the United States, unaware that US agent Nemesis has already helped her daughter escape…

Now begin reading…

The great pity here is that when taken in conjunction with the missing chapters that comprised this braided mega-event, Amazons Attack! is a tremendously entertaining and powerful read, with Washington DC, Kansas, Gotham City and many other locations spectacularly reeling under the magical assault of the mythological super-women and their fabulous war-beasts surpassing anything you’ve seen as movie blockbusters.

With the US government in retreat, the President declares anyone with Amazon connections a potential terrorist, equalling the iniquities of Japanese internment in WWII, and forcing heroes to choose sides, torn between friendship and love of country.

Naturally Batman deduces that there’s a deeper, double game being played, Superman proves the power of true nobility and Wonder Woman is forced to confront some ugly truths before the whole rotten mess is resolved in a shock ending.

And then there’s another, bigger one that impacts both Countdown to… and Final Crisis!

Will Pfeiffer and Pete Woods produced superb work in the miniseries that manages to amaze and entertain as well as make some telling points about the real American war in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s borderline criminal to produce a collection that only gives half the story – and yes I know there’s a text catch-up page preceding each chapter; my point is there shouldn’t have to be!.

Can we have a complete book, pretty please – even if it does have to be a whacking great Absolute Edition?
© 2007 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

JLA volume 2: American Dreams

By Grant Morrison, Howard Porter, Oscar Jimenez, John Dell & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-56389-394-0

After getting off to an impossibly cracking start in JLA: New World Order the superb quality of storytelling actually improved as Morrison and Porter began laying the groundwork for their first big story-arc, and this collection of shorter tales (originally appearing in JLA issues #5-9) stands as excellent interlude as well as a fine example of how modern superhero comics can still surprise, beguile and addict impressionable minds.

Leading off is ‘Woman of Tomorrow’ wherein veteran League villains Professor Ivo and T. O. Morrow construct the perfect super heroine to infiltrate and destroy the World’s Greatest Superheroes from within – but for once they build too well…

This is followed by ‘Fire in the Sky’ and ‘Heaven on Earth’ (with Ken Branch joining John Dell to ink Porter’s hyper-dynamic pencils) as the Angel Zauriel risks everything to warn the heroes of a second rebellion in Heaven, and the League must defeat an invasion by God’s own armies. This spectacular mini-saga also features old foes Neron and arch-demons Abnegazar, Rath and Ghast and was intended to introduce a new Hawkman to the DC Universe, but somewhere, somehow, wiser heads prevailed and the original was eventually retooled and reintroduced with Zauriel winning his own place in the company’s pantheon.

Oscar Jimenez and Chip Wallace stepped in to illustrate ‘Imaginary Stories’ as mind-bending villain The Key attempted to conquer the universe by trapping the individual League members in perfect dreams, and the art team was augmented by Hanibal Rodriguez for the tense conclusion ‘Elseworlds’ which saw the Zen warrior Green Arrow (son of the original, irascible ultra-liberal bowman) join the team in classic “saves the day” style.

Savvy, compelling, dauntingly High-Concept but not afraid of nostalgia or laughing at itself, the new JLA was an all-out effort to be Smart and Fun. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, Flash, Green Lantern and Aquaman are the “World’s Greatest Superheroes” and these increasingly ambitious epics reminded everybody of the fact. This is the kind of thrill that nobody ever outgrows. Got yours yet?
© 1997 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

JLA volume 1: New World Order

By Grant Morrison, Howard Porter & John Dell (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-56389-369-8

After the Silver Age’s greatest team-book died a slow, painful, wasting death, not once but twice, DC were taking no chances with their next revival of the Justice League of America and tapped Big Ideas wünderkind Grant Morrison to reconstruct the group and the franchise.

And the idea that clicked? Put everybody’s favourite Name superheroes in the team.

Of course it worked, but that’s only because as well as star quantity there was a huge input of creative quality. The stories were smart, compelling, challengingly large-scale and drawn with desperate vitality. With JLA one could see all the work undertaken to make it the best it could be.

This slim album collects the first four issues of the revival and covers a spectacular landmark tale that altered the continuity landscape of the DC Universe by introducing a family of alien superbeings called the Hyperclan whose arrival on Earth could have ushered in a new Golden Age – a least by their standards.

Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Martian Manhunter, Flash, Green Lantern and Aquaman are the legends who see their methods and careers questioned only to uncover a deadly secret that threatens to doom the planet they’re pledged to protect in a splendid old-fashioned goodies ‘n’ baddies romp that re-sparked fan interest in the “World’s Greatest Superheroes”.

If you haven’t read this sparkling slice of fight ‘n’ tights wonderment then your fantastic life just isn’t complete yet…

© 1997, 1998 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

JLA: World Without Grown-Ups

By Todd Dezago, Humberto Ramos, Mike McKone, Todd Nauck & others (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-56389-473-2

There are a lot of different aspects that contribute to the “perfect mix” in the creation of any continuing character in comics. How much more so then, when the idea is to build a superhero team that will stand out from the seething masses that already exist? In the mid-1990s a fresh batch of sidekicks and super-kids started cropping up at DC after some years of thematic disfavour, and as the name and modus operandi of the Teen Titans was already established something new needed to be done with them.

But why were kid crusaders back at all? Ignoring the intrinsic imbecility – and illegality if you count numerous child-endangerment laws – of on-the-job training for superheroes who can’t shave yet, why should young champions appeal at all to comics readers?

I don’t buy the old saw about it giving young readers someone to identify with: most kids I grew up with wanted to be the cool adult who got to drive the whatever-mobile, not the squawking brat in short pants. Every mission would feel like going out clubbing with your dad…

I rather suspect it’s quite the reverse: older readers with responsibilities and chores could fantasize about being powerful, effective, cool and able to beat people up without having to surrender a hormone-fuelled, purely juvenile frat-boy sense of goofy fun…

That’s certainly the case in the adventures of the frenetic trio here. Although pitched as a Justice League miniseries World Without Grown-Ups was really a commercially-loaded vehicle intended to introduce the new teen super-team, Young Justice, where teen issues and traditional caped crusading could be seamlessly blended with high-octane adventure and deft, daft home-room laughs.

This irresistibly contagious fun-fest collects that initial miniseries and also includes a related one-shot that appeared as part of that year’s (1998) skip-week publishing event “GirlFrenzy“.

‘Young Justice: the Secret’ (by the Todds Dezago and Nauck, with inks by Lary Stucker) finds Robin, Superboy and the super-speedster Impulse relating the suspicious circumstances that led them to rescue a young girl composed entirely of smoke and vapour from the supposedly benign federal agency the Department of ExtraNormal Operations – a exploit that would have major repercussions in later tales – before the main event kicks off.

‘World Without Grown-Ups’ sees a young boy use an Ancient Atlantean talisman to get rid of all adults, leaving the planet a responsibility-free playground. The planetary guardians the Justice League can only wait helplessly in some other existence as all the underage heroes left on Earth try to cope with the wave of idiocy and irresponsibility trying to cope with the spiralling disasters caused by a dearth of doctors, drivers, pilots and so forth. Robin, Superboy and Impulse meanwhile seek out the cause, desperate to set things right unaware that the malign entity imprisoned in the talisman has its own sinister agenda…

This canny blend of tension and high jinks, comedy and pathos, action and mystery fair rattles along with thrills and one-liners aplenty courtesy of Dezago, Humbert Ramos & Wayne Faucher (kids world) and Mike McKone, Paul Neary & Mark McKenna (JLA sequences) who combine a compelling countdown to calamity with outright raucous buffoonery.

Kids are all about having fun and this book utterly captures that purest of essences. Unleash your inner rapscallion with this addictive gem but remember not all genies want to get back in their bottle… and not all the Young Justice tales were ever collected.
© 1998 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Blue Beetle: Reach for the Stars

John Rogers, Rafael Albuquerque & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-1642-9

Although long-gone as a monthly series the latest incarnation of the venerable Blue Beetle still survives in trade paperback collections where you can – and should – experience the frantic, fun and thrill-packed exploits of young Jaime Reyes, an El Paso teenager who was catapulted into the world of high-level super-heroics when a sentient scarab jewel affixed itself to his spine and transformed him into an armoured bio-weapon.

The third volume (collecting issues #13-19 of the monthly comic-book) begins with ‘Defective’ by Rogers, Albuquerque, David Baldeon and Dan Davis, wherein a benevolent seeming alien from an interstellar collective named The Reach introduces himself and reveals that the scarab is a invitation used to prepare endangered worlds like Earth for trade and commerce as part of a greater pan-galactic civilisation.

Unfortunately the one attached to Jaime has been damaged over the centuries it was here and isn’t working properly.

But the Reach envoy is a big, fat liar…

The Scarab should have paved the way for a full invasion and once they discover this, Jaime and militaristic superhero Peacemaker soon realise that The Reach are the worst kind of alien invaders; patient, subtle, deceptive and stocked with plenty of space-tech to sell to Earth’s greedy governments. The only hope of defeating the marauders is to expose their real scheme to the public – which is too dazzled by the intergalactic newcomers’ media blitz to listen…

‘Mister Nice Guy’ (Rogers & Albuquerque) finds the Beetle teamed again with the erratic Guy Gardner – a Green Lantern who knows all about The Reach and their Trojan Agenda – to defeat the macabre Ultra-Humanite who has sold his telepathic services to the invaders. Still looking for allies and a solution Jaime meets Superman in ‘Someone to Watch Over Me’ by J. Torres & Freddie Williams Jr. and battles one of the DC Universe’s gravest menaces in the startlingly powerful change of pace tale ‘Total Eclipso: the Heart’ by Rogers & Albuquerque.

The same creative team produced ‘Something in the Water’ as the elemental menace Typhoon joins with The Reach to endanger an entire city – and Bruce Wayne’s off-shore oil wells – in a clever and insightful tale with plenty of punch whilst ‘Away Game’ (Rogers, Albuquerque, Baldeon & Davis) finds the Beetle and the Teen Titans in pitched and pithy battle against the unbeatable alien biker-punk Lobo.

Rogers and Albuquerque are joined by the weirdly whimsical Keith Giffen for the final tale in this collection which focuses on Jaime’s best friend Brenda, who has blithely lived her entire life unaware that her foster-mother is La Dama, El Paso’s crime boss supreme. The distraught girl only learns the dreadful ‘Hard Truths’ when the rival mob Intergang declares war and sends the fifty foot woman Giganta to smash her and her family to gooey pulp…

There are so few series that combine action and adventure with fun and wit, and can even evoke tragedy and poignant loss on command. John Rogers excels in this innovative and impossibly readable saga and the art is always top notch. And with the climactic final battle against the Reach still to come, this is a series any adventure fan will want to read over and over again.

© 2007, 2008 DC Comics.  All Rights Reserved.

Legends: the Collection

By John Ostrander, Len Wein, John Byrne & Karl Kesel (DC Comics)
ISBN: 1-56389-095-X

With the success of Crisis on Infinite Earths (ISBN: 978-1-5638-9750-4) and Marvel’s Secret Wars (ISBN: 978-1-90415-983-4) comicbook publishers had dreams of regular, spectacular sales boosts, but a section of the cantankerous buying public muttered about gimmicks to make them spend more and voiced concerns about keeping the quality high.

At DC fan-interest was still fresh and keen as so many of their major properties – and indeed the entire continuity – was open for radical change, innovation and renewal. So, how best to follow the previous years cosmic catastrophe? Why not a much smaller and more personal Great Disaster, spotlighting those strangers wearing familiar costumes and a bunch of beginnings rather than the deaths and endings of Crisis?

Darkseid of Apokolips decides to attack humanity’s spirit by destroying the very concept of heroism and individuality. To this end he sends the hyper-charismatic New God Glorious Godfrey to America to lead a common man’s crusade against extraordinary heroes, while the God of Evil initiates individual plans intended to demoralize and destroy key champions of Earth. The rampant civil unrest prompts President Ronald Reagan to outlaw costumed crime-busters.

Some comply and many rebel, but as world-wide chaos ensues Darkseid amps up the pressure by adding monstrous artificial threats such as Macro-Man and Brimstone, a sentient mountain of super-heated plasma. With the world in tumult and Godfrey making a power grab using Apokoliptian Warhounds, the destructive anarchy forces the heroes to act: coming together to prevent the conquest of Mankind…

The enthralling core tale contained here can comfortably be read without the assorted spin-offs, crossovers and tie-ins, and it still feels like a magnificent mission statement for that new DC Universe, gritty, witty cohesive and contemporary. This collection also includes covers reproductions of each out-rider installment of the greater story, should you feel like tracking down those missing components…

John Ostrander was new to DC, lured from Chicago’s First Comics with editor Mike Gold where their work on Starslayer, Munden’s Bar and especially Grimjack had made those independent minnows some of the most readable series of the decade. Paired with veteran Len Wein, whose familiarity with the DC stable ensured the scripts would have the right company flavour, they concocted a bold and controversial tale for super-star Superman re-creator John Byrne to draw and the immensely talented Karl Kesel to ink.

Possibly the best and certainly the most cohesive of the company-wide braided mega-series, Legends launched as a six issue miniseries cover-dated November 1986 to April 1987. Like its predecessor the major narrative thread spread out into other DC series, but unlike Crisis each tie-in was consecutively numbered and every pertinent cover was labeled. If you got ’em all you couldn’t help but read them in the right order! The miniseries crossed into 22 other comics and miniseries and premiered three new series, Justice League, Flash and the superb and long neglected Suicide Squad. It even led to another new treatment for Billy Batson in a Shazam! miniseries and a sneak peek at the newly re-minted Wonder Woman.

If anything was ever destined for a complete Absolute Edition…

Until then however you can look for this little cracker and wonder why DC ever let it fall out of print.
© 1986, 1987, 1993 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.