Tuesday, December 27, 2011

"The End" Week: Nth Man #16!

Ah, now here's a proper last issue! This was the absolute end of this series; to date, it has not come back. But, it's not completely inaccessible, it wraps up the whole run with a big bow on top, and doesn't look like it was thrown together by the first guy the editor saw holding a pencil. From 1989, Nth Man, the Ultimate Ninja #16, "The Rinse Cycle" Written by Larry Hama, pencils by Ron Wagner, inks by Fred Fredericks.

Even though I'd only read it sporadically, the splash page gives a great recap:

"In the last issue, John Doe, aka the Nth Man, and his friends were rescuing Mrs. Parrish from the dead orphanage keepers in their mutant mink-strangling ranch when Alfie O'Meagan returned from saving the universe...unfortunately, something had followed Alfie all the way home to Merrivale Center, Iowa!"

Man, if that doesn't make you kick yourself for missing the last fifteen issues!

John and Alfie had been foundlings, dropped together at an orphanage when they were both babies...by a woman who proclaimed one was good, the other bad; before spontaneously combusting. John would go on to become a fantastically skilled ninja, capable of minor psychic feats like localized gravity inversion. (His 'turn the world upside down' trick.)

Alfie, on the other hand, had seemingly unlimited reality-altering powers. He had left earth sometime back (and earth was in a sorry state, due to Alfie's meddling...) but was pursued back by the cosmic entity M'gubgub. Staggered by M'gubgub's scale and power, the unstable Alfie knew he didn't have the stones to fight him...but he knew who would.

Giving John cosmic-level power (and a costume resembling the New God Lightray) Alfie encourages him to destroy M'gubgub. For his part, M'gubgub claims earth is home to a temporal anomaly and must be "nullified." John pulls a magnified gravity reversal on him, collapsing M'gubgub on himself, but before disappearing it tells John he is the anomaly. Realizing what has happened, John punches out Alfie.

You have to expect spoilers in something called "The End" week, right? Well, I'm putting the rest behind the break; since I like this one.

As kids in a terrible orphanage, John and Alfie had used their developing powers for "could-be's," glimpses into possible futures. But, they were actually weakening reality, and the reanimated corpses of the orphanage keepers were pushing back from the future...and killed John in the past. The John that became the Nth Man was more a creation of Alfie's than anything; built around a trace of a dead boy.

While John tries to reason with Alfie, Alfie invisibly appears to John's companion Deb. Mortally wounded some issues back, she pleaded with Alfie to save her, and he did...for a favor. Calling it in, Alfie demands Deb shoot John in the back. To her credit, Deb doesn't hesitate...to do the right thing, dropping her rifle and offering her life back, if that's the cost. Smiling, John tells her she doesn't owe Alfie any more.

Desperately, Alfie claims John can't make him, since he only can travel back in time when he's pulling from the past as well. But that's because Alfie is a whiny sack. "John" is able to use the power from Alfie, to become "what the real John might have become with those same powers!" Easily opening a door to the past, John says goodbye to his mentor (and adoptive dad) and his former enemy Vavara Novikova, KGB ice-queen. Who suddenly melts, proclaiming her love for John, and jumps through to the past.

Arriving in the dead of winter, Novikara is dismayed to realize John and Alfie are infants again. Worse, she can't tell them apart--otherwise, she probably would've killed Alfie on the spot. To get them out of the cold, she runs them to the door of the orphanage, and notices the date on the newspaper is her own birthday...

We mentioned Nth Man a while back, in his odd crossover with Excalibur. Big thanks to Ron Hogan for confirming my suspicion that Larry Hama had the ending in mind from the start! With a little legwork, you could probably round up most of this series on the cheap...although I wonder what the distribution was like on this last one.

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