(Note: This is another set of articles from the early days of 4th Letter. I always liked these articles, so I figure I’d update and repost them. Plus I have an extra article prepared that goes with it. Enjoy)
As you already know, I really like Booster Gold. Out of interest, I made it my mission to read nearly all of his major comic appearances. At the very least, read through any series that heavily included him. His solo series? Check. The Giffen era of Justice League and the one or two years following? Check. The Superbuddies stories? Check. Infinite Crisis and its bells and whistles? Check. His scattered appearances in Superman, Green Lantern and Flash? Check.
This left one major challenge: I had to read through Extreme Justice.
And I did it. It nearly killed me, but I finished the series. Oh, and what a series it was. The mid-90’s was a dark time for comics and Extreme Justice was no shining beacon among the crap. Before I go into the story, let’s look at the original roster for the team and what brought them here:
Captain Atom: Cap was the team leader. He left the Justice League over his disagreement over how they handled potential threats. Rather than do something about criminals in hiding, the League just waited for a crisis to react to. But Atom had his own idea for a team. An extremee idea, if you will.
Maxima: Maxima was the warrior queen of the planet Almerac. Her entire gimmick and motivation was that she wanted Superman’s cock. That’s about it. She joined the Justice League for no reason other than wanting some of Superman’s super-seed so her own kid could be a genetic giant on the level of Mr. T. While she stayed with the League, the death of Superman sort of put her character in limbo with little to do but act like a bitch to her teammates. She ended up leaving the League because of her attraction to Captain Atom, who would also make for a decently powerful offspring.
Booster Gold: After the big fight with Doomsday that made Superman sorta-dead, Booster Gold’s costume was torn to pieces and rendered worthless. Blue Beetle built him a very 90’s armor outfit that was overly bulky and constantly malfunctioning. Booster led the Justice League against the evil Overmaster, who both reduced Ice to ash and tore Booster a new asshole. Booster had lost his arm and was so horribly injured, that he had to live in his armor 24/7 or he’d die.
Blue Beetle: At the time, the Justice League had a huge rivalry going on with the media vultures, who were constantly hounding them. Feeling that the media was going to make Ice look like a devil after her sudden death, Beetle did an interview and set the records straight. While being ostracized by the other members of the Justice League, he explained his reasons, including the fact that he needed the money to help pay for Booster’s immense medical bills. Beetle left the team in a huff, but Captain Atom liked how he handled the incident and brought him in.
Amazing Man: Will Everett III was the grandson of the Golden Age superhero with the same name, gifted with the powers to absorb objects and take their form (in other words, he’s like Absorbing Man). Amazing Man helped the League defeat Overmaster, after absorbing his power and duking it out with the villain. I’m not sure why he joined Captain Atom’s team instead of the League, but it probably had to do with Maxwell Lord, who supported him, severing his relationship with the League.
All in all, it was a pretty damn good roster. If it wasn’t for the fact that only one of them is still alive, a modern revival of the concept could’ve been worth reading. Not only are most writers a bit more competent these days, but we barely see any of the Rob Liefeld knockoff art that plagued the first half of this series.
The first arc isn’t worth going in-depth about. The team found a base in a Nevada mountain, which they decided to use as their headquarters while investigating what it was. They ended up uncovering some crazy, old military guy’s conspiracy to create a utopia, involving genetically engineered soldiers. It was just a bunch of bad art and bland storytelling.
It did include an unrelated subplot about Ronnie Raymond, who used to be Firestorm until losing his powers. At the time, he had leukemia and went to find the League to help him deal with it. Instead, all he found were Oberon and Booster Gold’s robot sidekick Skeets. By the end of the arc, all attempts at treatment were deemed worthless and Ronnie started freaking out due to a fever. All of the sudden, he exploded in fire and his Firestorm powers returned.
In the next arc (cleverly titled “Nuclear Family”), Firestorm became a big, destructive fireball that flew around screaming and getting Extreme Justice’s attention. Captain Atom and Amazing Man calmed him down by absorbing a lot of the excess nuclear energy flying off of him. It’s worth noting that Maxima didn’t join in on this mission because she and Captain Atom had this exchange earlier:
Maxima: Captain Atom, I want your penis.
Captain Atom: Maxima, you cannot have my penis.
Maxima: I hate you, I hate your penis and I hate your stupid face! And I especially hate your mullet! I’m going to create my own fortress five feet from where we’re standing! Oh, I’m so angry that I’m going to start wearing an outfit that makes me even more scantily clad than usual!
Anyway, Firestorm returned back to normal, but his troubles continued. You see, he used to have a professor living inside his head and at some point, this professor turned into this giant cosmic being and flew off into space. With me so far? The Professor returned to Earth to discuss things with Firestorm. Mainly how awesome it was scouring the universe and how he sorta needed to eat Firestorm’s soul to really enjoy it. That sounds reasonable.
While the Professor merely stood around, his existence itself caused the surrounding city to catch on fire. Captain Atom and the rest, needing something EXTREME to do, went to rescue some folks during this verbal conflict.
Firestorm talked his way out of assimilation and even got his leukemia cured as a reward. The Professor flew off into space and Firestorm decided to join the team. Oberon and Skeets also joined the team, although Oberon was written off after appearing as a member for about one scene. I’m pretty sure the writer just completely forgot he put Oberon in there until somebody whispered into his ear ten issues later.
Now you might be saying, “Hey, this isn’t that bad. I mean, it’s nothing to write home about, but it’s only mediocre.” That’s what I figured. Over time, the art got bearable. I figured that once the “extreme 90’s” calmed down, the series could get somewhat readable. Instead, the writing got even more bizarre, until reaching an amazing finale that we’ll get to later.
As the story continued, Booster Gold decided to finally go after Dirk Davis. Now, for those of you who don’t know who Dirk Davis is (and that’s pretty much everyone on Earth except five people), he was a major supporting character in Booster Gold’s solo series. He worked as an agent, PR man, assistant and best friend before Booster met Blue Beetle. Then, at the end, Booster Gold’s series became a part of DC’s big event Millennium, which was just as bland and irritating as the Robbie Williams song of the same name. People were being revealed as Manhunters (emotionless robots that acted as Green Lantern villains) and started attacking the heroes.
Dirk Davis, as it turned out, was a Manhunter all along. This guy, reeking of charisma and personality, was an emotionless robot underneath it all. It was just like the revelation that Maxwell Lord was always evil, but it made far less sense. Dirk moved Booster’s funds around so that Booster was broke and had no choice but to join him. Hell if I know or care what happened after that.
So Booster went after Dirk, who was no longer a Manhunter anymore. Dirk Davis: now with double retcon action! Booster found that Dirk used Booster’s money to start a videogame company, so Booster crashed through the window of his office, yelled at him, claimed that he now owned the company and told security to remove Dirk from his office.
I had no idea that actually works. I’m going to go break into a Dairy Queen and try the exact same thing.
Captain Atom smoothed things over with Maxima and started talking to his ex-villain girlfriend Plastique. They were interrupted when the Monarch appeared in the middle of a major city, prompting a cliffhanger. Time for another history lesson:
The Monarch was a villain from the DC event Armageddon 2001. He was an evil ruler of the world from the future, who was once a hero before going mad and killing all of his peers. Originally, he was going to be revealed as Captain Atom, but they were a bit too obvious about it and the fans figured it out easily. DC decided to go for a major swerve and at the last minute, they changed it to Hawk from Hawk and Dove. This made absolutely zero sense and is considered to be one of DC’s greatest story blunders.
As of Extreme Justice, Monarch had been assimilated with some guy named Extant, meaning this guy showing up wasn’t Hawk. This new Monarch, oddly enough, was going around and curing the ill with his power. He insisted that he meant well and only wanted to use his powers to heal instead of hurt. Captain Atom kept blowing a gasket and violently barged into Monarch’s headquarters about fifty times throughout the series, only to find that he wasn’t really up to anything.
But who was this new Monarch and where did he come from? He was more than happy to answer that.
What the hell?! Nathanial Adam? How can there be two Captain Atoms?! We’ll get to that next time. Believe me, things haven’t even begun to get crazy.