When I last put a piece of text here, we left Captain Nathaniel Adam hovering over a devastated city in his world and wondering what was going on. In oh so many ways, there are a few of us who wish that had never ever being answered, because the answer was a series that certainly raised more questions than answers.
Battle For Bludhaven
was one of the Crisis Aftermath series that were published by DC to set up the world after the events of Infinite Crisis. First, a history lesson. If Gotham City could be thought of as Sodom, then Bludhaven was Gomorrah – the little brother of the metropolis that tried to outdo it in every way. Introduced in the pages of Nightwing by Chuck Dixon, it soon established itself as an important location in the Bat-lore – until the events of Infinite Crisis, when Lex Luthor ordered his Society to make an example of the city by dropping a bomb on it.
That bomb was the chemical entity known as Chemo, and as a result the city and most of the then-present population were destroyed. After the event, heroes such as Superman and the Titans removed Chemo from the site, but the city was declared a disaster area and sealed off by presidential order.
One year later, and the city is still walled off and under the control of the government. The official reason is the high level of chemical and nuclear contamination – but Chemo was a chemical mix, so where is the nuclear contamination coming from? More to the point, why has the government-sponsored team known as Freedom’s Ring ordered all super-heroes out of the area?
As the story opens, the refugees are camped around the city, where they are helped by a being known as monolith – a golem-like creature that was the subject of a mini-series by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Grey, who wrote this series as well. The Titans want to help, but fell compelled by the government edict to stay out for now. It is obvious, however, that some people in the city have gained powers as a result of the attack, such as a young man called Firebrand who is leading the protests against the government.
Meanwhile, within the city, there are a number of factions vying for control. The government forces, including Freedom Force, are co-opted by a man called Father Time into the Super-Heroes Advanced Defence Executive, with orders to find out how people are escaping. A former drug lord has taken control of other parts of the city as the Black Baron. Finally, and most mysteriously, a group known as the Atomic Knights have both helped people out of the city and appointed themselves the city’s defenders.
When Firebrand persuades the Titans to enter the city, the stage is set for a battle royale, as Father Time brings in a group of government operatives that have taken the names and costumes of the deceased Freedom Fighters to battle them.
And Captain Atom? Well, it is revealed that he had appeared over Bludhaven, but his containment suit was damaged, and the Knights have to place him in a new suit – one very familiar to fans of DC comics in the late eighties…
Does the series work? In some ways yes, in others no. Take the character of Father Time for example – he is depicted here as an old white man, but in the Seven Soldiers series he first appeared in he was a young black man. Although this was eventually explained, it did cause some confusion.
Then there’s Captain Atom. Forced to wear the new containment suit, he becomes the being known as The Monarch, takes his revenge on one of his greatest enemies in Major Force, and then destroys what is left of the city in an atomic blast. Later series would explore what happened further, but to me it ruined what had been established in the Wildstorm series about his character.
On the other hand, the re-introduction of the Atomic Knights to the New Earth was handled well, and definitely raised more questions than answers – especially when they escaped the devastation of the city by Monarch by retreating to Command Bunker D. It was left to Grant Morrison to pick up those threads in Final Crisis.
Father Time, Firebrand, and many of the other characters would move on to appear in the two Uncle Sam mini-series, of which more will be said in later columns.
So more of a score draw in terms of how the series played out and the influence in the future of New Earth. You can’t shake the feeling that lot of stuff was thrown in and mixed together – some works, others don’t. I still recommend reading it, but just go in prepared not to have all your questions answered – especially when Firebrand gets the message to head south…