09 December 2007

Millennium (DC, 1987)

Millennium was DC's first limited series to be published weekly but it's pretty much forgotten by the comic books fans nowadays. It wasn't until 52 was revealed to be a weekly limited series that the memory of Millennium was brought back from the deep recesses of the minds of those who were there when it happened. And we all thought the same thing, "What, again? For 52 weeks this time? Who do DC think they are? The British?"

Millennium had two things about it that was hyped back in 1987. That it was a weekly mini-series and that many of the supporting characters in DC's comics turned out to be traitors working for the series' enemies, the Manhunters.

Written by Steve Englehart with art by Joe Staton and Ian Gibson, the Millennium was about ten people on Earth who Herupa Hando Hu, a Guardian of the Universe, and Nadia Safir, a Zamaron, have chosen to become the new Guardians of the Universe. The old Guardians decided to leave the guarding of the Universe to someone other than themselves after the events of the Crisis on Infinite Earths. Instead they chose to pair up with the all-female Zamarons and see if having sex all day and night is as great as what Hal Jordan has been telling them all those years.

And they found that Hal was telling the truth. Celibacy, hell! I'm calling me some booty!

Except for Hu and Safir. They decided to channel their energies by appearing on Earth and calling for an impromptu superhero conference and inform the heroes of their search for the chosen ten. That's right. Herupa Hu and Nadia Safir are not doing it like the rest of their brethren because they have an important mission. Plus, they. are. just. good. friends. Okaaay?

Superman asks the two why the 'spandex brigade' was called away from their busy schedules just to hear this announcement. Herupa Hu explains that their mission is fraught with danger. He tells them of the android Manhunters, who the blue skinned Guardians created to safeguard the Universe long ago. But something happened to their programming and they rebelled against the Guardians. They were quickly defeated and the surviving Manhunters ran and hid in distant worlds to lick their wounds. In the meantime, the Guardians established the Green Lantern Corps who are made up of sentient beings (including one huge frickin' planet).

After hiding for billions of years, the Manhunters are now ready to exact their revenge. They discovered the secret identities of most of Earth's heroes when they intercepted the Tome of History, a golden satellite the Harbinger (the Monitor's former assistant. Go read Crisis of Infinite Earths if you don't know who she is) launched into space. That's right, folks. She recorded everything she could find out about Earth's heroes and then launched the records into space. As a memoriam to her former mentor. Not making sense much? It was nothing more than a plot device to explain how the Manhunters knew where to infiltrate on Earth of course. There would never be such a huge deus ex machina from DC ever again until 'Superboy-Punch'.

This led to the revelation at the end of the first issue of Millennium where the heroes find out that their colleagues, their bosses, their friends, their relatives and in Wonder Woman's case, one of the Greek Gods, were actually agents of the Manhunters.

The premise of the first issue made it interesting enough for the teenage me to hop on board and pick up each issue as it came out every week. I mean, what's not to like? It was the year's superhero team-up crossover mega event from DC (even though I did not pick up any of the tie-in comics that I wasn't already buying), it promised a story of cosmic proportions, it featured an enemy I was not familiar with at the time so I was curious and DC promised that the characters we were familiar with could turn out to be sleeper agents of the bad guys.

Boy, was I duped.

The 'traitors' were mostly throwaway characters who were introduced just before the crossover started, like Flash's estranged father and Karin Grace in the Suicide Squad. These were people who the readers didn't care as much because they weren't as yet fleshed out by the time they were revealed to be traitors. So when it was revealed that they were agents of the Manhunters, hardly anyone cared. Other, more famous 'traitors', were actually mind controlled like Lana Lang or substituted by an android double like Commissioner Gordon. In other words, not much happened to the supporting cast status quo. I bought into the hype and thought there were gonna be company-wide repercussions. I was young and naive, that's my defense. Although, one Manhunter sleeper agent did manage to fool everyone and got away with it:

Yes, Nancy Reagan was a Manhunter agent!

The ten 'Chosen' people who were to become the future Guardians of the Universe were revealed to be an Australian aborigine, a bigoted South African, an Iranian woman, a Russian, a Chinese, a Japanese, an effeminate Peruvian man (I'm not sure but I think he was supposed to be gay but DC was too chicken to go with it and so they just made him campy...this was 1987, gay wasn't cool yet), an Afro-Caribbean lady from England, Hal Jordan's friend Tom 'Pieface' Kalmaku and the super villain the Floronic Man. By the end of the series only six remained. The Iranian and the Russian were killed, the South African refused to join any group that had non-white people in it and Pieface Kalmaku changed his mind. The 'New Guardians' were supposed to be launched with their own series but unfortunately they never captured the interest of the readers, their own comic ended after just twelve issues. I never read the 'New Guardians' so I can't say why it didn't last but their appearances in Millennium itself didn't make me care. All I wanted to see was the heroes fighting the Manhunters. The Chosen for the most part were just sitting there with Hu the Guardian and Safir the Zamaron getting New Age-y lessons. And at the end of the mini series when they finally received their new powers and costumes, my reaction was, "Who? Oh yeah. Those guys. So who were they again?". And I believe that was shared by many others who read the mini series.

As for the Manhunters, they got their metallic asses whupped by the good guys, most of it happening in the tie-in comics so I missed a lot of action since I didn't care for most of the titles that tied in with the mini series. Today, the Manhunters seem to be making a comeback with the Sinestro Corps but back in Millennium they were potrayed as all talk and no action. Okay, they were the bad guys and they had to lose but for a billions of years old android army who have infiltrated almost every aspect of the superheroes lives, they went down too easy.

In the end, Millennium, failed to deliver. The interesting premise in its first issue was letdown with a weak follow up in the remaining seven issues. And Steve Englehart failed to make the readers care about the New Guardians. That's why no one talks about them today. Ambush Bug has a better chance of coming back than these guys. Wait, wasn't he in 52? See? Neither Geoff Johns nor Grant Morrison care about the New Guardians. And those guys try to bring back every obscure character who ever appeared. That's gotta be a bad sign.

Millennium. Get it cheap from the back issue boxes if you still want to read it. Don't expect it to be collected 'cause I doubt that's ever gonna happen.

1 comment:

snell said...

Yeah, like a lot of DC's (and to be fair, Marvel's, too) this one was about as impactful as a snowflake. Seriously, has anyone even referred to the "New Guardians" in the past 15 years? Anyone? Maybe Zero Hour wiped them out of continuity...