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Extreme Justice Revisited: The Alliance

January 20th, 2007 by | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Elseworlds can be a mixed bag. Scratch that. Elseworlds can be a mixed bag that’s half eaten. You know when somebody’s picked out most of the good candy from the jar and there’s only three Jolly Ranchers left among a pile of 20-year-old pieces of candy corn? That’s more like what Elseworlds are like.

There are some good ones to be sure. The epics like Kingdom Come, Dark Knight Returns and Red Son count without question. Other good Elseworlds that come to mind include the Justice Riders, where Sheriff Diana Prince goes after railroad baron Maxwell Lord while accompanied by madcap inventor Beetle, godly-quick gunslinger Kid Flash, maverick card player Booster Gold and others. The Secret Society of Superheroes is another obscure story with a great spin, where the Justice League act in the shadows while FBI Agent Bruce Wayne works to exploit them. That story has possibly my favorite incarnation of Batman ever. Then there’s JLA: Destiny, which is only half good. The core of the story is about Jor-El being the sole survivor of Krypton with Thomas Wayne being the one who watched his wife and son being shot down in front of him. Sadly, while everything relating to Jor-El and Mongul (who fills in a Luthor role) is seriously good, the comic is absolutely bogged down by unnecessary characters and subplots.

Most of the rest I can care less about. In the end, you’re just seeing another retelling of Batman’s origin, only he has a mustache or his father was Abraham Lincoln.

The subject of this article is part of a 5th week event known as Legends of the Dead Earth. Information on it is pretty hard to come by, but to the best of my understanding, something screwy happened to Earth, causing its heroes to scatter into alternate realities. So on one hand, it’s a series of Elseworlds while on the other hand, the issues are canon in a sense.

This issue, Justice League America Annual #10, is part of the series. There are really two reasons I find it worth talking about. For one, it’s based on Extreme Justice, which I had just gone over. For two, it’s really out there and moves so fast that you can only scratch your head. Christopher Priest wrote this issue, by the way. So that’s something.

For those of you not too keen on Justice League lore, this is the original roster of the Keith Giffen/JM DeMatteis Justice League known for their wacky misadventures and strong, character-driven stories. Batman’s missing, but we’ll ignore that. We’ll also ignore how sloppy and last-minute that shattered original cover looks under Martian Manhunter. Other important members of this incarnation of the League were Captain Atom and Booster Gold, who joined an issue or so apart. At first Booster was forced onto the League by team liaison Maxwell Lord, but he proved his worth by single-handedly taking down the Royal Flush Gang. Captain Atom was added to the team as part of the US’s agreement in accepting the new Justice League as the official hero team of the United Nations.

At the time of the issue, Captain Atom was the head of the Extreme Justice team with Booster as a one-armed teammate stuck in a life-support suit of armor.

Captain Atom has the ability to jump forward in time, which I suppose he did in relation to that whole dead Earth thing. He finds himself in the midst of a battle between the Giffen Justice League and some attacking force of angry guys riding robots. One of these robots hands Captain Atom his atomic ass and sends him into a nearby building. Captain Atom gets up to see Martian Manhunter, Dr. Fate, Guy Gardner and others coming to the rescue. He gets the idea that somehow he’s quantum-jumped back in time, which he’s never been able to do. Though as we the readers discover, this definitely isn’t the Justice League he knows.

For instance, Martian-Vision impalings. Captain Atom fights alongside his comrades and saves the lives of Blue Beetle and Black Canary, though nobody actually recognizes him. Nobody except for Booster Gold. Or, as he insists his team calls him, Michael Jon Carter. He leads his team and at one point gets caught by one of the enemy robots. Captain Atom pulls him away and makes a wisecrack about how Booster was always a screw-up. As Captain Atom yammers on about wanting answers, Michael shoots him down. All of the sudden, a scantily-clad mystery woman pops in, grabs Captain Atom and flies off, insisting that these guys aren’t his friends.

You can tell that he’s sinister. If the Matrix has taught me anything, it’s that pointy eyewear = evil.

The Evil Justice League, hereby known as the Alliance, regroup with the team’s co-leader Maxwell Lord. Lord is in his mid-90’s incarnation of Lord Havok (no relation), the evil cyborg. From the dialogue, it’s apparent that Lord Havok and Michael rule the world together, though they have disagreements. Michael wants to rule with more of an iron fist when it comes to dealing with their people. When it looks like Lord Havok might in some way be the nicer of the two, he strangles Guy Gardner to death for acting up. Guy’s defense is, “I am what you made me. I’m only being consistent.” That bit will be explained later.

Some of the other Alliance members have a problem with seeing their friend die in front of them, but they don’t say anything.

Let’s get back to Captain Atom and the mystery woman. She is none other than Maxima! Except she isn’t. Despite having the same powers, name – and as we soon discover – demeanor as the redheaded alien queen from Extreme Justice, we’re dealing with a completely different character. Wow, what a needless coincidence.

Captain Atom isn’t too happy about being taken prisoner and has a hard time believing that the Justice League are bad guys. Blue Beetle, unmasked and wearing a lab coat over his tights, steps in to give Captain Atom his word that Maxima’s telling the truth. Through their conversation, the turncoat Beetle shows that he has never heard of “Booster Gold”, “the Justice League”, “Captain Atom” and that Earth is merely a myth to the people here.

Yes, as Captain Atom had suspected, they aren’t on Earth. They’re on War World. Lord Havok has taken it over and goes across the galaxy, conquering planets and abducting its peoples so that they’re forced to live on War World. With all these different angry groups stuck on this planetoid, Lord Havok basks in the constant warfare going on. To keep a semblance of order, he has his Alliance going around to snuff out the rebellions going on.

The fake Justice League guys are created by taking normal people, shoving them in special chambers, rearranging their DNA at a molecular level, imprinting personality and memories, and then letting them out. Considering how long it took to explain that, it would’ve been far easier to just say “clones”.

Of these semi-clones, Blue Beetle has secretly grown a conscience. I’d think Captain Marvel would’ve been the first, but I guess he’s just the trendsetter for the eventual Clone Thor massacre in Civil War ten years later.

Captain Atom figures that Maxima pulled him out of the quantum field and can probably help send him back in time. He demands his return, which Maxima reacts to by smacking him across the room and stripping. Much like the regular Maxima we know, she wants some of Captain Atom’s seed for a powerful offspring. Sure, she is in love with Blue Beetle, but Ted Kord’s DNA isn’t the best fuel for a rebellion movement. Post-coitus, Captain Atom wanders the corridors in his human form, thinking about how if he leaves, he’ll be leaving his own child behind. He doesn’t have time to continue pondering before Martian Manhunter pops in and punches him out.

Captain Atom wakes up to hear the evil Michael Jon Carter explaining that he and Max Lord are the only two real Leaguers left. Even though Maxima and Blue Beetle have escaped, the Alliance has killed pretty much the entire rebellion. When Captain Atom asks how Michael’s still alive, the corrupted one explains.

Once Michael brings up what he’s going to do to Maxima’s unborn child, Captain Atom attacks. He’s still in his human form and finds that somehow Michael is preventing him from turning on his powers. Michael easily overpowers him and tells him the truth: Captain Atom isn’t who he thinks he is. He wasn’t brought to this time through quantum jumping. He is merely a creation, like Blue Beetle and the other semi-clones. Michael always suspected someone would try something like that eventually.

“LIAR!!”

“I don’t think so. What’s your mother’s maiden name? Where did you go to grade school? Who was your academy instructor? What was your wife’s name? Don’t you get it, Adam – you’re one of them. Some low-rent trog they reprogrammed into a ‘hero’.”

With Nathanial Adam unconscious on the floor, Michael leaves to go find Maxima. The other Alliance members are given orders to kill Adam. Instead, his body covers itself with a quantum metal shell, he blasts them all away and stands back up.

“Rebecca Saunders. North Hills Prep. Lt. Colonel Nathan Brooks. Angela. CAPTAIN ATOM!

Silly Captain Atom. Booster didn’t ask you what your name is.

Captain Atom has a noticeably easy time tearing apart the Alliance. Chalk that up to experience, I guess. During this, he’s having a radio discussion with Blue Beetle. Beetle announces that he’s just put the finishing touches on a stunt that will blow up Lord Havok’s command pod – where he watches War World from. In the command pod, Lord Havok laughs at how stupid Blue Beetle is for having this conversation on an open channel. He steps into the transporter and makes note of his plans for revenge. This little segment here is why, deep inside, I sort of enjoy this story.

Blue Beetle kills Max Lord. How poetically perfect is that?

Out in the snow, Michael Jon Carter searches for Maxima. His claims on how Captain Atom and Blue Beetle are dead work to draw her out. She fights him for a bit and has a strong enough showing until he catches her fist and blasts her to the ground. Musing about how he’ll be killing two-for-one, he’s then interrupted by a blast in the back. Captain Atom returns and the two begin to brawl for a bit. Our hero explains that this was really an elaborate trick against Michael. Not only is Captain Atom the real deal, but Maxima went through great lengths to make it look like he was a semi-clone just to mess with Michael’s head.

“They laid it out for you – knowing you’d readily believe I was a creation. You’d have to believe it. Because if I were real – you’d come face to face with your own hypocrisy.”

Despite having the advantage in the fight, Michael flies off and screams, “SHUT UP!!”

“A little pieces of yesterday, Booster – a reflecting the man you used to be (note: yes, that is word-for-word). Which may be overstating the case. I never thought you were much of a hero anyway.”

Spouting off excuses about his immortality leading to immorality, Michael continues to flee. Captain Atom keeps up with him with a little help from Beetle.

With one of his cyborg arms hanging on by a thread, Booster looks up to see Captain Atom, Maxima and Blue Beetle looking down at him. Despite Beetle’s warnings, Michael attempts to teleport out of there. Instead, due to what Beetle did to the teleporters, Booster Gold explodes.

In the one-page conclusion, the three heroes pay their respects to all the faceless rebellion soldiers and scientists who died for their cause. When the conceived child of Captain Atom and Maxima is brought up, Beetle just kind of shrugs it off, since love is about sacrifice. While he believes War World needs a champion, Captain Atom suggests that it also needs a new name.

From what I’ve read, this alternate future would be visited again by the Ray at the end of his solo series. In the adventure, he comes across Tempest, the daughter of Captain Atom and Maxima, who is just as corrupt as Lord Havok was. To no surprise, Christopher Priest was the guy who wrote the Ray’s comic. I doubt you’d see any other writers tripping over themselves to give this issue callback.

This comic is in so many directions I don’t even know where I stand with it. There’s way too much going on with so little space to the point that plot points are buried in-between clever one-liners. There are plotholes all over the place and by the end, I don’t even know what the hell I just read. Yet it does have its moments and the art is nice at times. Granted, Priest writes Captain Atom with way too much of a sense of humor, but he fails to remove anything from the weirdness factor of the story. I mean, come on. Not only does cyborg Booster Gold rule War World in the distant future, but he feels the need to clone Black Canary into her godawful 80’s costume.

I guess, when you get down to it, I get a kick out of this story for being a bizarre little piece of obscurity. I may not really like it, but I’m glad I read it. Besides, it’s interesting to see as a Booster Gold fan. We’ve seen Booster as a hero and a jerk, but this is the first time we’ve really seen him as a straight out villain. I like the way he’s portrayed here. Any superhero can play a villain if you push hard enough in the right direction, so I can buy his descent into madness.

Doing this article, I can’t help but think of how much of a shame it is that Booster Gold is dead. It’s just too bad, isn’t it? Heh.

Heh heh.

HehehehhahahahahAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!

BWA-HA-HA-HA-HAAA!!

…yeah. :)

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One comment to “Extreme Justice Revisited: The Alliance”

  1. Legends of the Dead Earth is, I would think, more of a tribute to those old sci-fi books that feature stories of future generations of humans living on after the earth is gone. Basically, they’re sci-fi themed Elseworld annuals, unlike the annuals a year back.

    I only have the Green Lantern, Flash and Robin books, but this makes me want to get the rest.