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.
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.