Armagideon Time

If the road to funnybook hell is paved with good intentions, viagra New Guardians was an eight-lane autobahn to the ninth circle of the abyss.

The superteam and its short-lived series were spun out of DC’s Millennium event, itself an inexplicable outgrowth of concepts hashed out during writer Steve Englehart and artist Joe Staton’s stint on the Green Lantern franchise (making it the Blackest Night/Brightest Day of its era, I guess).  An eight-issue weekly miniseries arguably “supported” by scores of tie-ins, Millennium was crossover storytelling at its most incomprehensible.  It was the Distinguised Competition’s answer to Marvel’s infamous Secret Wars II debacle, but with the hot mess of its marketing-stunt-posing-as-narrative crammed into the space of two frantic months.

The earth-shattering and destined-to-be-retconned-over premise of Millennium centered around of a diverse group of humans chosen by the then-retired Guardians of the Universe to take over for the blue-skinned lads from Oa while they got their cosmic freak on with their statuesque Zamaronian counterparts. 

Opposed to this plot were the sinister Manhunters, the robotic predecessors to the Green Lantern Corps.  Bearing a long-standing grudge against their former bosses for outsourcing their galactic law enforcement jobs, the Manhunters activated their legion of supporting character sleeper agents in order to co-opt or neutralize earth’s superhero population, which had been recruited to serve as the ground team for the coming paradigm shift.

Though it didn’t make a lick of sense, either in concept or execution, some one in DC’s editorial chain of command was impressed enough with the resulting silliness to greenlight an ongoing series featuring the beneficiaries of the Oans’ evolutionary largesse (along with Crisis remant Harbinger, for some inscrutable reason), otherwise known as the New Guardians.

The resulting product was a not-quite-shining example of good intentions gone horribly, horribly wrong.  While New Guardians demonstrated the social conscience (and sense of white liberal guilt) which served Englehart so well during his 1970s work on Captain America and The Avengers, it did so to laughable extremes which only got worse after Cary Bates took over the writing duties.

Concepts that were radical and forward-thinking for the time — like a team consisting almost entirely of racial/social/ethnic minorities and which featured an openly (though not directly labeled) gay character — were consistently undermined by on-page representations that veered into the realm of bombastic (and occasionally offensive) caricature and dire attempts at dialect writing.

The superhero genre isn’t known for its grasp of nuance.  Its metaphoric language tends to be of the broad variety and has difficulty standing up to close scrutiny.  (See: Marvel’s “mutants as symbol of oppressed minorities” trope.)  The writers’ efforts to distill the BIG ISSUES of the day into punchable adversaries was done with as much subtlety as a Gallagher performance, and featured such memorable heavies as Hemo-Goblin the AIDS-infected super-vampire and Snowflame, a mullet-sporting mastermind who drew his powers from…

You guessed it, Angel.

The New Guardians’ primary nemesis was a racist (and jowly, though that may be redundant) South African politician who had been one of the Oans’ chosen, but opted out of his genetic destiny on ideological grounds (though he did grow a fetching pair of very subtle devil horns to match the very subtle Nazi uniform he wore).  His efforts to destroy the team came to naught, however, as he found himself bombarded with the “power of love” during their climactic confrontation, an experience which convinced him to strip off all his clothes and meditate upon his wicked ways.

No, really.

An uncalled for follow-up to an uncalled for event series, New Guardians married the painful earnestness of a progressive-leaning PSA with the thoughtful restraint associated with Mark Millar’s post-Authority body of work, and topped it off with a generous helping of New Age wankery.  If that doesn’t scream “Nobody’s Favorite” to you, then I don’t know what possibly could.

16 Responses to “Nobody’s Favorites: Out with the new”

  1. sallyp

    Although I think that Millenium had a certain bizarre sort of charm, and I do mean bizarre…I have to agree that the New Guardians were simply…dreadful. Their names were ridiculous, their characterization was more so.

    Heck, I can remember Guy Gardner referring to Gloss as “Cleavage Lass”, which was quite appropriate, if you ask me.

  2. jadasc

    Extraño: it takes a certain kind of chutzpah to make a gay sorcerer supreme and name him Doctor Queer.

  3. Kid Kyoto

    Someone needs to reprint this series, I just want to marvel that it was ever printed.

    I also love that Extrano was so clearly taking the piss of Dr Strange (a queer gentleman who lives in Greenich Village with his manservant).

  4. Tom Hartley

    Wow. Dialectese that would make even Claremont roll his eyes.

    Didn’t DC recently reprint MILLENNIUM? Why?

  5. Kid Kyoto

    I think the Millennium reprint was a cheap shot at Marvel who, 20 years later, were doing the same sleeper agent plot with their Secret Invasion.

  6. Chris G

    I remember reading Millennium and being completely confused that the next step in human evolution turned out to be a really lame super-hero team.

  7. Tom Hartley

    Baby steps, Chris. The next step in human evolution after a lame super-team, The New Guardians, will be a marginally less lame super-team, The Outsiders, followed by the Detroit-era Justice League (the one with Gypsy and Vibe), followed by Doom Patrol written by Rachel Pollack, etc. In a couple billion years, we’ll all either be Grant Morrison’s JLA (pre-Plastic Man) or the X-Men drawn by Neal Adams (but not written by Roy Thomas).

  8. Rottgutt

    >>Didn’t DC recently reprint MILLENNIUM? Why?

    Apparently so I could find it in the bargain bin of a comic shop while on vacation, read it, and be amazed at how I ever read dialog so bad and stories so choppy.

    And while Kid Kyoto is probably right, I stand behind my ‘it was to torture me’ stance.

  9. Tom Hartley

    Rottgutt, your theory makes sense to me. Why else would DC also reprint INVASION?

  10. Jeff R.

    Anyone who thinks Millineum was crossover storytelling at it’s most incomprehensible never tried to read War of the Gods.

    At least Millineum’s parts came out in order…

  11. Bill S.

    Is it wrong that I think Hemo-Goblin sounds kind of interesting? An AIDS-infected vampire? That writes itself!

  12. Jeremy Henderson

    Don’t forget that the New Guardians were supposed to be the next step in evolution for humanity, despite the fact that several of them were unable to procreate, due to being made of wood (Floronic Man), silicon (RAM), or not having a physical body at all (Betty Clawman).

  13. Sol B

    Brilliant Clash reference

  14. Jeremy Aron Patterson.

    At least DC tried to salvage both Jet and Gloss by putting them on the post-OYL Global Guardians!


  15. Snark Shark

    Millenium was TERRIBLE!




  16. Agent_X

    Sorry, this sounds a million trillion times more inventive, uncompromising and AWESOME than corporate drivel like “Axis” or “AvX”

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