Let’s continue our look back at the original run of Tangent comics, as collected in the second of three editions put out in the last year by DC. The Tangent line, as conceived by Dan Jurgens, was designed to do the same thing in 1997 as Julie Schwartz had achieved with the onset of the Silver age of comics in the 50’s – new approaches to established names, in a world where superheroes have had a direct impact on the world.
The original run in December 1997 four other issues which were not collected in the first volume – these kick off the second collection with very, very different takes on the Tangent world.
In an interview, Jurgens has said that eh took the inspiration for the Tangent Joker very much from the associate of the original Joker in the Dini cartoons – one Harley Quenzel, aka Harley Quinn. This joker is a young woman who seems to want to poke fun at the police and criminals of New Atlantis, but is actually trying to make the city a better, safer and more fun place.
The identity of this woman is not revealed, although there are three suspects – Lori Lemaris, one of the head reporters for the World’s Finest E-mag; Mary Marvel, a student at Higher Atlantis University and sarcastically known as “The girl of a thousand gimmicks”; and Christy Xanadu, owner of the best vrcade in the city. Through the eyes of Officer John Keel, we learn of the possible origins of the masked marauder, as well as a link between the two that may go to the heart of her approach.
The remake by Karl Kesel and Matt Haley is light, fun and also deadly serious at times, as we never quite get a handle on why The Joker does what she does, or who she is. Light, however, does not describe the next story in the collection.
The previous issues have established that in this world, the Nightwing organisation is seeking control of the world for its own ends. In this story, we delve deeper into the occult forces used by the organisation, as led by one Carl Waters, aka Gravedigger as introduced in the Metal Men.
He leads a team consisting of Nikki Faure, a changeling known as Wildcat; Vincent Lord, aka Hex, a warlock always accompanied by his “familiar”, Nightshade; and Arlette St George, aka Black Orchid, whose power derives from Tantric Magic. Although declared rogues by Nightwing, they reveal the existence of the organisation to President Schwartz before an attack by Kryos, a member of the inner circle known as the Creeper who feeds on souls. But are they rogues, or is there a more dangerous game afoot?
There are storylines set up that will not pay off until much further down the liner, but in the hands of John Ostrander and Jan Duursema we get a taste of something rotten at the state of the Tangent world – something that will bite back.
Every DC world needs a collection of the great and good working together to save humanity – and the Tangent world is no exception. Here, however, we get a very different grouping…
A disturbance that kills a group of Sea Devils attracts the attention of a group know as Firestorm and a number of other parties. At a book signing, Atom and Flash here of the disaster and go to offer help. In Guatemala, the bounty hunter known as Manhunter learns of the man behind a chemical accident that killed others – one Dr Aquadas – and sets off for the area to confront him. At Brande Laboratories, a young thief who can make himself undetectable and calls himself The Spectre seeks to steal a compute chip, only to be captured by a being made of living polymer called Plastic Man who recruits him to work for his employers – Nightwing. Finally, in New Atlantis, an attack on a ball by the Riddler is foiled by The Joker – who afterwards sees news of the disaster and decides to look into it in her own way.
Eventually, all six meet up to defeat the schemes of Dr Aquadas, a being of living water sometimes called Aquaman, and then decide to help each other out informally as the Secret Six.
Tom Grummet and Chuck Dixon give a story that holds well together, as well as introducing three new characters that will have a part to play in the future of the Tangent universe – especially the masked woman known as Manhunter and her robot dog, Pooch.
They came from the future to prevent a disaster on their time – Dr Deirdre Dey and her daughter Lourdes, known as Firehawk, Star Sapphire, a crystal woman who was a victim of a past event, and Rampage, a cyborg. Landing in the world of 1997, they find themselves ridiculed as Dr Dey is christened Dooms-Dey and the group are called the Doom Patrol.
There are subtle hints of other links – what exactly happened to Sapphire? What is the link between Dey and the Atom? And, even if they manage to prevent the incidents they say will happen, does that change the future?
To say more would spoil the story by Jurgens and Chen – but as a stand alone I find it slightly dissatisfying, almost as if it wants to do more than it achieves.
Nine months after the initial event, a second run of Tangent Comics was issued – and this time it was decided to bring the “Big Three” into this world, starting with
London is protected against crime and attacks both superhuman and supernatural by a mysterious being, which seems to appear and disappear at will. This night he follows a person known as Prysm as they attempt to kidnap Irma Ardeen for a being known as Kobra.
In a world that has been hit by a massive electromagnetic pulse, only The Batman stands in Prysm’s way. All that is ever seen is his suit of armour, but in Irma he sees a reflection of his past – and a chance for his redemption.
Jurgens and Klaus Jansen give a twist on the Dark Knight that satisfies – he literally is a Knight, one of the Round Table who is cursed to stay in his castle until he atones for his sins, with the Batman carrying out his will in the outside world.
There are, however, unanswered questions here. What caused the electromagnetic pulse? Who is the Ultrahumanite? What exactly has happened here? Questions to be answered – next time…