By Dan Jurgens & various (DC Comics)
This Skip Week enterprise has been collected and revived due to its inclusion in the expanded DC Universe following the events of 52 and Countdown. A “Skip Week”, if you don’t know, was one wherein no regular comics would be released. This was due to the arcane fact that some five week months clash with regular printing and shipping schedules. Publishers like to ship on the same day/date each month if possible, but the vagaries of the calendar mean that about four times a year the stars just aren’t right. In the 1990s savvy companies, realising that we fans need our fixes, began timing special events for these periods.
The Tangent Universe was a specific re-imagining of DC concepts as tribute to Editor Julius Schwartz, whose invention of the practice created the Silver Age of Comics in 1956. Writer/artist Dan Jurgens was instigator and head imaginer for the nine one-shot titles that launched in 1997. The experiment was repeated in 1998 with another set of one-shots.
So what’s the difference?
In 1962 The Atom, an American superhuman fails to prevent the Cuban Missile Crisis which results in an exchange of nukes. Although he limits the destruction the world is forever changed. Everything from Cuba to Florida is vaporised. Atlanta is destroyed, but eventually rebuilt as New Atlantis. In the oceans the radiation mutates marine life, creating intelligent new species. As a political result the Soviet Union’s invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 is met with American military intervention. The Soviet Union is ideologically strengthened and still controls half the world. It is a world of advanced science, powerful Magic, and fewer freedoms than ours; a much darker place than we’re used to.
This initial volume collects Tangent Comics: The Atom, Tangent Comics: Metal Men, Tangent Comics: Green Lantern, Tangent Comics: The Flash and Tangent Comics: Sea Devils with the balance of the 1997 releases collected in volume 2.
The Atom story ‘Truth’, by Jurgens and Paul Ryan, focuses on the debut of the squeaky clean grandson of the original nuclear superhero, but swiftly reveals the dark sordid truth of the Cuban Event. This look at the nasty underbelly of this world sets the thematic scene for all the titles, which have been created for a much more cynical and pessimistic audience than those of the 1950s.
The Metal Men is written by Ron Marz and illustrated by Mike McKone, Mark McKenna and Mick Gray. ‘Secrets & Lies’ reveals the story of a US Special Ops unit whose exploits during the 1968 War saved the Free World, and how those men have continued to affect it since. Green Lantern, ‘From Beyond the Unknown’ sees a mysterious woman whose Magic Lantern can revive the dead to conclude unfinished business in a seemingly unconnected set of tales by James Robinson, J. H. Williams and Mick Gray whilst The Flash tells the bright and breezy story of oh-so-modern Lia Nelson, teen actress-slash-model who just happens to be made of light. ‘Premiere’ provides a welcome change of pace and tone amidst the dire intrigue from Todd DeZago, Gary Frank and Cam Smith.
The final adventure is by Kurt Busiek, Vince Giarrano and Tom Palmer. Sea Devils is the name given to mutated sea-creatures born in the wake of the Cuban Nuclear Exchange. ‘Devils and the Deep’ is a tale of teen-age alienation as the new generation of Sea Devils seek their place both in the human and sub-sea worlds, led by the heroic, moody and charismatic Redfin, son of the awesome Ocean Master, who rules the irradiated depths.
These are tales for a bleak and disillusioned audience, and there is a crying need for an over-reaching narrative arc, but they are still very readable and their inclusion in both the Hyper-Time concept and latterly as part of the 52 Multiverse (their world is Earth #9 if you’re keeping tabs) underscores their relevance to the official DC universe.
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