MINI-SERIES REVIEWS...

#1 - coverArmageddon 2001

1991, two (double-sized) issues, DC Comics

Writers: Archie Goodwin, Denny O'Neil. Pencils: Dan Jurgens. Inks: Dick Giordano, with Art Thibert, Steve Mitchell.

Armageddon 2001 was one of those company-wide crossover mini-series DC churns out every year (sometimes a few times a year!) where the actual mini-series bookends a story that carries over into various regular on going comics series. The premise here is that ten years in the (then) future, earth will be under the thumb of a super powered tyrant, the Monarch, who has killed off all the super heroes. A disgruntled inhabitant of this future, Matthew Ryder, goes back in time, hoping to stop Monarch before he rises to power. The catch? Ryder doesn't know who Monarch was before he became Monarch...except that he knows that Monarch used to be one of the super heroes.

The first, 56 page issue actually works pretty well -- surprisingly since it focuses on Ryder and none of the familiar DC heroes appear in anything more than fleeting flashbacks. But as a kind of Orwellian SF tale, it's reasonably effective, with writer Archie Goodwin involving us in the character's world and his dilemma, even providing an intriguing little character twist. And the art by Dan Jurgens and Dick Giordano may be some of the best I've seen by Jurgens, almost as if he's more comfortable drawing this non-super hero tale. The issue ends with Ryder transforming into Waverider, a semi-discorporeal time traveller who intends to travel back in time to 1991 and, by touching various DC heroes, foresee their individual futures in order to ferret out who will become Monarch. These tales were told in various 1991 annuals and, because they just looking at various "what if..." futures, means you don't really need to read them to follow the second issue in this two-part micro-series.

Which actually becomes a bit of a problem, as Waverider explains in issue #2 that he was only able to see one of their possible futures. As such, even though none of the futures he envisioned had a hero becoming Monarch, that didn't eliminate anyone as a suspect -- kind of negating the whole exercise!

Anyway, the concluding issue becomes somewhat problematic. For one thing, the rumour (whether true I don't know) is that DC had intended to have Monarch revealed as Captain Atom...but that news was leaked to fandom ahead of time. So DC hastily ordered the story rewritten, with a different revelation. As I say, I don't know if that is true, but it could explain why a different writer (Denny O'Neil) is brought in, and why Jurgens' art seems a bit more rough and uneven, with three different inkers, as if maybe the issue had to be hastily rewritten and redrawn.

But the result is pretty bland. Like too many crossovers, the heroes themselves are mainly just there to fill up the crowd scenes, with little personality or emotion given to most of them, and the plot itself seems kind of anti-climactic. And there's just some awkwardly (badly) written scenes...though some of the Flash's quips are cute. The revelation over who Monarch is doesn't make a lot of sense (since it's not explained how he became powerful enough to destroy all the other heroes -- save as perhaps a time loop, where the future, super powerful Monarch comes back in time to grant his less powerful self extra-powers. But if so, that's just dumb!) And which, as a result, kills off another character in a rather perfunctorily and dismissive way.

Worse, the story doesn't really end. Well, it does, sort of...but carries a banner advertising threads continue into another mini-series, Armageddon: The Alien Agenda.

Ultimately, I'll admit I'm not too often impressed by these "crossover" sagas, but though I was surprised that the first issues was pretty decent, the concluding issue just seemed like a bit of a pointless, uninvolving slog.

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