Thursday, September 08, 2011

80-Page Thursdays: The Century War!

Who but Batman could make a rolling marble so ominous?
During the Comic Book Shop's 23rd anniversary sale, I picked up a nice pile of 80-pagers on the cheap, so we'll take this next month or so to look one every Thursday. Today, we've got one I'd been looking forward to for a while: JLA 80-Page Giant #3, "The Century War II" Written by D. Curtis Johnson, art by Dale Eaglesham and Andrew Hennessy, Christopher Jones and Ande Parks, and Steve Scott and Mark Propst.

I had seen this around a few times, and was excited for an 80-page JLA adventure with the big guns incarnation of the team, plus Steel and the Atom. The cover also features Pariah and Harbinger, from Crisis on Infinite Earths, which seems to make this adventure a big deal. Maybe.

The moon is spiralling into the earth, the tidal effects are being felt worldwide, asylums are crammed full to bursting, and there's time-space distortions. All in all, a relatively typical day for the JLA, but J'onn and Arthur are both having half-remembered dreams of a mysterious girl that seems to be a forgotten teammate. Investigating an anomaly, the team heads to Barstow, CA; and meets astronaut Hugh Klein, of Apollo XXV. Hugh's been waiting for them, since he knows the older JLA members: his daughter was a member.
Notice the's not mine. On the final manned moon landing, Hugh discovers a mysterious cave. Investigating, he finds a holographic message from the Hundred, Roman alchemists and philosophers who used their advanced science to flee the corruption of Rome. Eventually, they died out, but they left the "Praemonstra Supra, 'she who will point the way.'" A baby.

Hugh brings her back to America, where the Apollo program is out of money. (You might think they'd find something in the budget for this, but it was probably the seventies...) With the government's approval, Hugh and his wife Jenny raise Laura as their own. She proves to be both a genius and a gifted athlete, then develops super-powers at 16, and Hugh has to tell Laura her secret origin.

Laura decides she needs to know what the Hundred expected of her. Borrowing the lunar excursion module and some spacesuits from the Smithsonian, she flies herself and Hugh to the moon; where the Hundred have left her a costume, some equipment, and a warning of a foe they created themselves. Laura takes the name Laurel, the Moon Maiden, and becomes a super-heroine and apparently part of the Justice League.

The Leaguers are understandably skeptical, since they don't remember any of this. Investigating the moon, however, the Hundred's cave is right where it should be. Hugh then tells of Laurel's foe, the Centurian: the Hundred had planned to give a young poet immortality and other powers to spread their message of peace. Unfortunately, he was stabbed in the back by a rival named Valkus, the very moment the power-beam was sent. Valkus became the Centurian, measuring his life in centuries, and developing a number of powers like "hypnotic influence, uncanny perception, and worst of all, his ghost army." Before the JLA can ask about that one, they meet them: the reanimated souls of all the soldiers that died under the Centurian's command.

Flash remembers fighting the ghost army before, and that Laurel told him the ghosts have to keep fighting to stay coherent. Retreating, the ghosts fade; but back at the Watchtower, some old friends are waiting for them:

Pariah makes it sound like the end of everything every time he shows up, but Harbinger admits it might not be Crisis-level bad. They had been working on "a self-generating map of the universe," but there were paradoxes, holes in space-time that were returning to continuity. Using their map, they restore the heroes memory of the first Century War.

The Centurian, whose symbol looks like a C and a fist in an upside-down Superman logo; was on the verge of bringing world peace. By taking over. The remaining heroes still opposed him, but the Centurian's secret weapon has given him the edge: he can wipe his targets from history, wiping them from existence and memory. Already, Superman, John Stewart, and the Centurian's ally Lex Luthor have been removed from the board.

As the remaining heroes fight through the Centurian's forces, the ripple effects of his weapon are made known: Raven had been erased from history, which meant the Teen Titans never formed. Nightwing turns back into Robin, but since he never quit, Jason Todd never became Robin and disappears from the fight. Alan Scott got erased a couple days ago, "but the universe is just now getting around to the matter of his two children." Jade and Obsidian disappear, without Alan ever existing, he never had kids. Which points out a serious flaw in the weapon, as Laurel explains once they take it away from the Centurian: if you take Superman out of history, what about the numerous times he saved earth? (I had the same problem with Dr. Who, a few times: if the Doctor never existed, the universe would have been destroyed by the Daleks alone, fifty times over.)

Centurian realizes he's made a mistake, but the weapon won't target him. Laurel sacrifices herself, cracking its casing and wiping them both from continuity. As Hugh explains, afterwards he found himself in his old Apollo module: a museum piece in the Smithsonian, never used. In the new history, he never made the astronaut corps, never met his wife, never went to the moon to find Laurel. But with the overwritten continuity snapping back, the Centurian strikes first, gathering alien armies into his new Ghost Army, with his 'daughter' Laurel by his side.

Even though the retroactively-inserted teammate has been done before in JLA (Triumph, anyone? I thought not.) this isn't a bad one-shot. Guest-spots from Power Girl, Deathstroke, Elongated Man, Firestorm, Blue Beetle, and Adam Strange as well. Major Hugh is a neat character as well, predating a recent resurgence of sci-fi involving Apollo missions. Still, the last chapter seems a bit rushed, with Centurian and his forces defeated in relatively short order. And while Moon Maiden's origin is told in the pages of her comic, the art style of the comic-within-a-comic doesn't really differentiate it from the rest of the book: if it had been done in a proper sixties (or even nineties) style, that could've brought this one up a notch.

1 comment:

Dale Bagwell said...

Another 80-pager that looks interesting. Good one goo, you lucky dog for being near a cool comic store that does stuff like that.