Sex-crazed international clichés vs. the awesomest villain ever created!
Something that you start to notice about a lot of crappy comics that have spun out of the last twenty years is that they tend to come about because they were spin-offs from a popular (or semi-popular) comic. Sometimes these spin-offs are widely successful and great, such as Blue Beetle from the relatively recent Infinite Crisis or the old Justice League international that came out of DC’s Legends event. On the other hand, there are some books that just seemed silly to start with.
DC’s Millennium crossover featured two main plot details – one was that the Manhunter robots were secretly infiltrating Earth and disguising themselves as friends of heroes within the universe. The second plot detail was the stupider one – ten human beings who will be the next stage of evolution in the universe. Some of those ten were dead or evil by that point, but the few that were still alive were imbued by the Guardians of the Universe with powers. And thus we get where we are here.
The series only lasted for twelve issues. Supposedly, the idea was that since most of these characters were original creations, they could explore themes that weren’t touched on in regular mainstream books and the characters could change significantly within the book over time. However, it all went downhill quickly as it seems editors were rather squicked out at the idea of a comic that dealt with stuff like sexuality and identity and drugs and etc., etc. It also wasn’t helped that the team was a pastiche of new foreign characters that were basically stereotypes right from the get-go. So, essentially, it was a book that tried to be more than it was, but editors prevented it from reaching its potential and the fans never exactly latched onto the concept.
What really made this worse is that I’m not showing you the first issue here, where it’s more jaw-dropping than this one. For that, I leave you to Truly Awful Comics’s write-up. What’s the problem with the book? Well, apparently the mission of the New Guardians is to have lots and lots of sex so they can pass their genetically-superior genes on to the next generation and ensure mankind’s survival.
The cover is once again a little bit better than the usual garbage that graces this book, though I think that’s because it’s issue #2 and not #1. No doubt if this was the first issue, we’d be treated to the team running at the reader as if it was something new and exciting. Instead, we get a scene of the New Guardians in a blizzard, but I should point out that while we do get a jungle in the book and a villain with snow in his name, there is no snow to actually be found. They’re all showing how much in pain they are, reflecting the number of responses people had to this comic.
We open to a full-page spread of the team in front of a silhouetted leg. “Life is hard, then you die.” Well, actually life is like a box of chocolates... no, wait, actually it’s more like an onion – it has layers and- look, I’m just dropping the cliché phrase crap while we’re at it. “I don’t know where I last read those words of inspiration... But they’ve been coming to mind ever since my bold amigos and I arrived here in this snake-infested jungle off the coast of Columbia.” Funny, I’ve been saying the words, “Why-oh-why was this ever green-lit?” ever since I first heard about it. “We were chosen, you see. Chosen by a cosmic pair of higher powers to ensure mankind’s survival throughout the next Millennium.” Ladies and gentlemen, we have a crossover title! “But at the moment -- we may have our hands full just surviving the day!”
Sooo, the Guardians of the Universe entrusted the fate of all mankind for a thousand years to, looking at the image of our stalwart heroes, the following:
-Some Chinese woman in a cleavage-exposing number with red hair that’s so long she’s got Starfire asking her for showering tips.
-Some guy in a Dr. Strange cloak with a spherical earring that’s larger than both of his eyeballs and a hairdo that screams, “I just discovered Hair gel!”
-Some woman whose green hair appears to be on fire (plus she’s running around in a bikini top and loincloth).
-A guy with more than half of his body replaced with see-through plastic that shows off the fact that he’s got the largest motherboard of any computer on the planet (for that matter, he’s a walking computer. In a jungle. With no visible fans to cool off his systems.).
-Jasoon Woodrue, the Floronic Man. A BAD GUY.
-Harbinger from Crisis on Infinite Earths. Who was taken over once by the most powerful bad guy in the history of the DCU.
Let’s face it, people – our species is doomed.
And what master supervillain are they facing off against?! Well, apparently it’s David Carradine in an armless Santa Claus suit and white face paint over his eyes. He proclaims to the New Guardians, “First freak who comes any closer is a dead freak.” This from the guy who once did a cameo in Epic Movie. Each of our heroes gives off a line that’s meant to be reflective of their character in response to his threat, with the worst of it being a woman named Jet who is our woman with green fire hair in a bikini. According to Wikipedia, she’s supposed to be from England, but the way that her dialogue is written, it looks like she’s supposed to be Spanish. “Freak? ‘E callin’ us freaks? De mon be, higher den a kite!” Yeah, that’s a British accent, all right.
Harbinger proclaims, “The man has obviously never heard of the New Guardians!” Yeah, I mean how can he not have heard of you after you- um... Did that... thing. Yeah. Ram, our Japanese cyborg (a Japanese man whose superpowers are based around computers – that’s not remotely stereotypical), takes the lead and attacks the man. Said white-haired guy roars, “I am Snow-Flame! Every cell of my being burns with white-hot ecstasy. Cocaine is my God-- and I am the human instrument of its will!” I can now say, without any hint of irony, that that is the crackiest statement I’ve ever seen in a comic – and I’ve seen Jetpack Hitler and an ancient Khandarian book being used for toilet paper by zombie superheroes. In fact, that statement is so bloody ridiculous, insane, and bad that it swings back around to become AWESOME. Snow-Flame, the man powered by cocaine, is now my favorite character in the universe.
Ram and Snow-Flame exchange blows for a bit, Snow-Flame taking the time to expound about how awesome he is: “A blow like that would have sent an ordinary man reeling! But I am no ordinary man!” Yeah, few men can say they got to pretend to be Uma Thurman’s lover. “You see before you a man on fire!” Well, a man on drugs, anyway. “A man who craves any excuse to burn brighter!” Or a man who craves any excuse to snort cocaine. “I feel no pain, Ram -- although I relish your feeble attempts to inflict it!” SNOW-FLAME KNOWS NO PAIN! The other New Guardians, not doing anything to actually help their colleague in taking down the being of pure win that is Snow-Flame, simply comment on the fight. “Takeo remains silent!” Harbinger cries. Gloss, the Chinese woman of the group (who channels the “mystic dragon lines of the earth,” nothing racist there, by the way), comments, “That means he’s getting down to business! serious business!” My God, could it be?! Serious business, you say?! My goodness, what could he be doing?! Devoting more CPU power, perhaps?!
Our helpful narrator, the Doctor Strange wannabe by the name of Extraño, informs us! “Ram’s eyes were now apertures of cold light, as the human side of nature yielded... and gave way to an advanced electronic fighting machine, wielding an awesome might with computer-calibrated precision.” And just to be clear – he says the whole “eyes were now apertures of cold light” right next to a panel of showing that his eyes look just fine. I fear the artist wasn’t really paying that much attention to what he was reading. But then again neither was the writer. And by the by, this “advanced electronic fighting machine” apparently consisted of turning Ram into a Rock’em-Sock’em Robot, since all he does with it is repeatedly punch against Snow-Flame’s chiseled abs.
Snow-Flame remains unimpressed and regails us of more of his Dr. Doom-esque rantings of win: “How long do you think your silicon chips can stand up to my psycho-kinetic flames? Don’t you understand yet? I burn with thought-- accelerated thought generated by my fantastically heightened mental senses!” Take note of this, kids: cocaine IMPROVES your senses. Apparently, according to Snow-Flame, the more that people fight him, the bigger his high becomes and the stronger he gets. This is illustrated by knocking down Ram (though I think a simple refrigerator magnet would’ve done the trick) and his speech starting to accelerate, removing the spaces like he’s the Flash or something. The Floronic Man laments, “Erythoxylum Coca-- what new spore of madness have you released upon the world this time?” You know, with dialogue like this, I am seriously starting to wonder whether this is the worst comic in the world or the awesomest comic in the world.
Snow-Flame’s goons suddenly pop up out of the brush and open fire on the team, apparently killing them all. Huh. That was quick. Snow-Flame orders the New Guardians to be buried, “With alltheir (sic) personal effects intact! In my jungle we respect the dead!” So don’t put them into any humorous poses or anything and- oh, damn it, Steve! I admit it’s funny, but get his hand off of there! Well, folks, that was an interesting read, but at least it was short and- oh, son of a... Extraño’s still talking in his caption boxes! “Death. How often over the course of a lifetime does one entertain colorful fantasies of a swift and noble demise?” Well, considering how many bad comics I’ve had to endure around here... “And how often, I wonder, does the reality turn out to be a slow and agonizing nightmare? Life is hard, then you die.” Look, you’re dead, Extraño! Stop making a big production out of it and just die!
We suddenly shift to the New Guardians in what appears to be a Doctor’s office. Yeahbuhwha?! There’s no text box to indicate that this is in the past or the future or just an hallucination brought on by Extraño’s refusal to just die already and end his melodramatic monologue. But here’s the real kicker of this scene, which is apparently referencing the events of the first issue (not that we get a text box to tell us this, simply speculation on my part with help from Wikipedia): “The results of the autopsy were conclusive. The monster died of AIDS.” Huh. There’s something else this comic has taught me: monsters die of AIDS almost instantaneously and not after months of treatment and being bed-ridden from the various infections that crop up as a result of it.
This is all coming from a Doctor, mind you, and one has to wonder what the heck Steve Englehart was thinking when he wrote this stuff: “This “Hemo-Goblin,” as you call him, could’ve picked up the virus from any of the other victims. Unfortunately, the results of the blood tests we gave the three of you are anything but conclusive.” Harbinger points out that they’ve already been tested as negative, but the Doctor points out (accurately, as well), that there’s an average two-month window where HIV won’t be detected. What I find fascinating about all of this is that they’re giving a lot of accurate information about HIV and AIDS here, but the jaw-dropping moment is what the Doctor apparently thinks may have caused an infection: “This creature who bit you was highly contagious-- perhaps due to his accelerated metabolism.” Okay, first of all – if “Hemo-Goblin” just bit the New Guardians, they’re in no danger. The only way a bite could possibly infect them would be if this being had bleeding gums or something that caused the infected blood to mix. Saliva doesn’t carry the virus. Their own blood getting spilled won’t get them infected. I know this was 1988, but come on.
Following this there’s more technical jargon about how AIDS works and transmission and blood cell count and, well, all it does is remind me of the shoddy job that Judd Winick did with it when he gave Mia Dearden AIDS in the pages of Green Arrow. Well, that and Team America’s wonderful song “Everybody Has AIDS!” Extraño laments about how he’s gay and how he’s already familiar with all of it since he’s in a high-risk category. Harbinger expresses her own angst about their (not-possible) infection of AIDS to Jet: “Oh, Celia... how on earth will we be able to go on... with this hanging over us?” Jet’s response is equally drama-free: “Day by day, girl. We haveta larn to live day by day.” Speaking of which, this comic feels like it’s been going on for days now. Come on, give me some Snow-Flame already!
It gets better with Harbinger’s next question: “And our glorious mission? What becomes of that?” Yes – their glorious mission to become pregnant – the goal of any great superheroine! The Doctor points out that women can pass on the virus to their children, much to the horror of the group. They walk off, sullen at the news, but Ram speculates that some guy named Kroef is responsible (another thing I assume happened in the previous issue, but no editorial boxes to indicate this), sending in the Hemo-Goblin to fight them and infect them. The group rush off to the airport (they’re a superhero group that needs to book passage on an airline?! In full costume, no less?!) but are stopped there by CIA agent Twerlinger (*Snickers*). By the by, our little CIA Agent here is dressed in an ugly brown suit with an even uglier yellow plaid shirt beneath the jacket. Because nothing says “Central Intelligence Agency” more than the outfit of a Used-Car Salesman.
Twerlinger explains, “Ever since your well-documented rift with Janwillem Kroef last year, the Agency has been keeping tabs on the six of you. We don’t presume to know all the particulars of the split. Our goal here is to prevent six aliens from causing an international incident.” Okay, let me stop you right there, Mr. CIA-Man. You just admitted (and followed-up on in the next page) that these six are not United States citizens. As such, if they should go to South Africa and confront this guy, it won’t be on the United States’ plate. Furthermore, it’s not like a country tends to be held accountable for the actions of a citizen of that country acting on their own volition. If an American travels to China and murders a Chinese citizen because the American was a sociopathic freak, the Chinese government isn’t going to hold the entire United States responsible for the actions of one psychopath. These six people, none of whom are citizens of or agents of the United States or its government, are traveling to a foreign country to confront a criminal of their own free will and decisions. No one ordered them to do so. What exactly is the “international incident” you’re worried about here? That the USA will be embarrassed that the people who helped save the planet earlier now want to go around having lots of sex?
In any case, more posturing from the CIA guy follows and the New Guardians respond that they need to see him for what they’ve done and blah, blah blah. Man, I just really miss Snow-Flame. The CIA guy agrees to make a deal with them – if they go to Columbia to put Snow-Flame out of business, the CIA will keep the Kroef file open and give them time to build a case against him. We cut back to the scene that we just saw seven pages ago when another member of the New Guardians, Betty, speaks up about how Snow-Flame’s troops are in the brush. Betty, according to Extraño, is “the cosmic aborigine with whom I share my soul.” So, what, Extraño’s soul is on a time-share? Betty, by the way, is a floating ball with a face on it, a huge nose, and more green hair. What was with the artist for this and his obsession with green? We have Ram, whose technological bits are shown as green, Floronic Man, who has plants all over him, Gloss with the green costume, Betty and her bizarre green whatever-the-hell-that-is, and Jet with the flaming green hair. To make matters worse, Extraño’s powers apparently manifest in the form of green energy. I suspect that if Harbinger hadn’t already had her colors chosen that her uniform would be bright green instead of blue.
Anyway, Extraño says that the heightened senses of the others gave them precious little time to prepare for the danger, and now we cut back to, hell, I don’t know. You know how the timeline of All-Star Batman and Robin makes no sense because of the text boxes saying when they took place? I’m now really lamenting those, since now we’re back to the New Guardians being dead. Except it turns out they’re not dead. Even more to my surprise, Snow-Flame’s men, who were supposed to be building graves for them, have apparently made a huge-ass trench[!?] to bury them! Why? Because it makes it all the more dramatic when the New Guardians suddenly pop up and look down at the soldiers. “They are demons!” one poor soul shouts. Gloss responds, “No. Superior beings.” Not a hint of arrogance with that, is there?
Gloss uses her earth-powers to bury the soldiers in the huge freaking trench that they had just dug. And no, we don’t get any explanation about how the hell the New Guardians survived being shot repeatedly beyond “we’re superior beings!” and “Thank goodness Betty warned us about the soldiers!” Yet another thing we can all learn from this comic – you are immune to bullets as long as you know that they’re coming. Ram comments that he has been disgraced and “There is but one way for me to regain my honor.” Yeah, because you know, the Japanese are all about honor and stuff when it comes to battle, since they’re all samurai ninjas who like their technology. Extraño ends the dialogue in the group with not only a cliché, but a cliché that makes no sense: “By the end of this long jungle trek, you will find revenge is a dish best served cold, amigo.” Just let that line sink in for a moment and remember that somebody actually wrote that and was paid to write it, in fact.
The group makes its way through the jungle and discover Snow-Flame’s compound. Snow-Flame himself is lounging around a pool, reveling in how they only need to sell a paltry ten bags of cocaine in order to afford a Rolls-Royce while women in bikinis drape themselves over him. The New Guardians knock out the guards with what Jet refers to as “alpha waves,” which makes no sense to anyone who even bothered to look up what an “alpha wave” is. They point out that his guards aren’t a match for them and his guests are too high to care. “You cannot take on the six of us alone!” Oh, those poor fools. Don’t they know they’re going up against the awesome might of Snow-Flame?!
And that Snow-Flame charm quickly ramps it up after they offer him the chance to give up. “Give up the ultimate exhilaration-- the divine rapture-- the euphoria of electricity that now surges through every molecule of my body?” You know, that feeling of euphoria he gets right before the drug wears off and all. To enhance the rich insanity of Snow-Flame, he buries his face in a whole bunch of cocaine and just starts snorting like mad. Snow-Flame orders his entourage to attack, who strangely obey, despite the fact that they’re all strung out on cocaine just as he is. However, knowing the New Guardians, I’m surprised the whole thing didn’t turn into a huge drug orgy.
The New Guardians are taken aback by the various people in swimwear that attack them. “All de coke ‘as left dem crazed!” Damn it, why couldn’t they have had Pepsi, instead?! “They feel no pain!” So, in addition to the superpowers cocaine apparently creates, it also destroys nerve endings. Got it. Floronic Man suddenly starts feeling sick while Ram goes to confront Snow-Flame again. Floronic Man starts commenting about the color of one of the attackers’ eyes and, much to my complete and utter amazement, Gloss reasons what’s happened to him: “Erythoxylum coca! That photosensitive plant skin of his has given Floro a contact high!” That’s right, folks: Floronic Man absorbed cocaine into his skin via photosynthesis. Not only does cocaine not work that way, plants do not work that way, and photosynthesis sure as hell does not work that way.
Gloss uses the “dragon lines of power of the earth” (whatever the hell those are supposed to be) to extract the cocaine from Floronic Man’s system. The two hit upon the idea of using this to siphon the cocaine from the bodies of all the people who are attacking them (and no, nobody thinks to use this to help out real-life cocaine addicts, because that would actually be the smart thing to do). Ram wrestles Snow-Flame into a swimming pool at the compound, which I’m sure is meant to extinguish his flames, even though I can’t see any evidence of Snow-Flame’s powers actually being flame-related. When they get out of the pool, his strength returns, but Ram punches him into a shed, which turns out to be the chemical shed. Said chemical shed subsequently explodes. Can anyone explain to me why the highly flammable chemical shed was owned by the guy whose powers apparently involved bursting into flames, and furthermore why you’d put it next to the pool?
The New Guardians recover and get up, cracking a few jokes with one another (no one is apparently upset that Snow-Flame just went kablooie). Harbinger, however, will have no humor. “How can any of you laugh and make light of our situation? Don’t you realize our mission has been aborted before it has begun?” Jeez, every party needs a pooper. Harbinger flies off, upset more about the fact that three of them may have contracted AIDS than all the people who were killed by the explosion. The various swimsuited people in the compound come to the New Guardians and state, “For so long... we permitted Snowflame and the white powder to be our Gods. But you have shown us the folley of our ways! It is the six of you-- you who are the true gods here!” So, wait a second, these people were genuinely worshipping cocaine? What, did they pray at the altar of “his holiness John Belushi” and make sacrifices to “the reverend Chris Farley?”
And instead of giving an answer to the church of the snorters, we just get a one-page splash of Extraño looking down at the plants as beams of light shine down around him. “...Yet I do not know if my future is to be measured in months... years... or decades. I tell you something. Life is hard.” I tell you something, too: The Prince look went out- well, let’s put it this way – the Prince look was never in to begin with.
Okay, let’s collect everything we’ve learned from this comic:
-Cocaine leaves you not only lucid after inhalation, but with super-strength and white face-paint under your eyes.
-AIDS can be spread by biting people and kills you almost instantly.
-Being shot to death is really nothing more than some kind of reverse placebo effect. If you know the bullets are coming, you won’t get shot!
And that’s the review! Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go see if I get superpowers from marijuana.