Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Wednesday Comics: Pax Americana

"In Which We Burn"
The Multiversity: Pax Americana #1 (January 2015), Written by Grant Morrison; Art by Frank Quitley 

Last week saw the release of the fourth installment of Morrison's Multiversity storyline. Pax Americana is perhaps the most ambitious issue to date, being a refiguring of/homage to Watchmen, and either a commentary on deconstruction and comic book violence or the essentialness of violence to American cultural--or possibly both. So check it out.

All that aside, the issue takes place on Earth-4, which is essentially (or possibly exactly) the same as Earth-4 (first appearing in 52 week 52 in 2007), the home of Captain Atom, the "Quantum Superman" that appeared in Final Crisis: Superman Beyond. In other words, it's a mixture of the Pre-Crisis Earth-Four (home of the characters DC acquired from Charlton Comics) and the Earth of Watchmen (characters inspired by the Charlton characters--well, after they were inspired by the Archie/MLJ characters). If that's a bit confusing, there is some background here.

Blue Beetle (Earth-4)
This Blue Beetle is Ted Kord, Earth-4's version of Charlton's second Blue Beetle, who first appeared in Captain Atom #83 (1966). There is mention in this issue of Dan Garrett, who shares a name and probably more with Charlton's first Blue Beetle--who they had purchased and revamped from Fox Comics. The original version of that character (and the likely inspiration of Pax Americana's Dan Garret) first appeared in Mystery Men Comics #1 (1939). Both these Blue Beetles have analogs in the first and second Nite Owls in Watchmen. The Question's accusation of the Beetle's impotence in this issue is a specific reference to Nite Owl.

Captain Atom (Earth-4) 
First Appearance: Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1 (2008)
The original Captain Atom first appeared in Space Adventures #33 (March 1960). Both that one and this one are Allen Adam, who gained super-powers after being "atomized," then reforming with atomic powers. This Atom's expanded consciousness, almost godlike power, and blue skin are borrowed from Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen.

Nightshade (Earth-4)
Eve Eden is the daughter of the Vice President and a superheroine. The original Charlton Nightshade first appeared in Captain Atom #82 (1966) was the daughter of a U.S. senator and a visitor from another dimension with the power to manipulate shadows. An otherworldly origin for Eve's mother is mentioned in this issue, but her veracity is questioned by both Eve and her father, and her mother is portrayed as suffering from dementia, at least at the time of the story. The Nightshade stand-in in Watchmen is Silk Spectre, though she is not as close an analog as the male characters.

Peacemaker (Earth-4)
The original Charlton Peacemaker (a man who "loves peace so much he's willing to fight for it") first appeared in Fightin' 5 #40 (November 1966). The loose Peacemaker analog in Watchmen is the Comedian. Dialog in Watchmen hints that the Comedian assassinated John F. Kennedy, a parallel to the Peacemaker's actions here, though in a very different context. Unlike the cynical Comedian, the Peacemaker of this story seems to be a well-meaning idealist.

The Question (Earth-4)
One of a couple of similar masked and fedora-ed vigilantes created by Steve Ditko, the Charlton Question first appeared in Blue Beetle #1 (1967). Rorshach in Watchmen was inspired the Question and his non-Code approved doppelganger Mr. A. While taking a role in the story similar to Rorschach's, Pax Americana's Question moves beyond the the black-and-white moral reasoning of Mr. A and Rorschach and espouses of 8 color spectrum theory of moral development (probably from here). He is, however, as ruthless as both of those characters.

This is actually Yellowjacket's first DC Universe appearance in any version. The original Yellowjacket was Charlton's very first superhero character, debuting in Yellowjacket Comics #1 (September 1944). That Yellowjacket was Vince Harley, crime writer. This one is Vince Harley, comic book writer. He has no direct specific Watchmen analog.


garrisonjames said...

Sounds interesting. Might have to pick this up.

Jim Shelley said...

Like you, I saw this comic as a bit of commentary about violence in comics/society. Hard not to with Captain Atom's pronouncements midway through the story. --- I was less sure what the commentary meant. The way time is played with in the story I believe is suggestive of some connection (there have been people who pointed out that the first scene mimics the scene from Mark Millar's Wanted in a very specific way.)