Saturday, 21 March 2015

Frankenstein: Agent Of S.H.A.D.E Book 2 - Secrets Of The Dead (#8-16, #0)

"You are more than the sum of your parts" - Nina

A quick recap, this series is based heavily on Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers reboot of the DCU character Frankenstein, the monster who took his creators name and now fights monsters to protect mankind as part of the covert non-governmental organisation S.H.A.D.E - the "Super Human Advanced Defence Executive". This takes the form of a tiny city housed in a three-inch sized sphere that agents beam in and out of.  Also working for S.H.A.D.E are Frankenstein's estranged wife Lady Frankenstein, and the "Creature Commandos", Doctor Nina Muzarsky, an amphibian/human hybrid. Warren Griffith, a wolfman. Vincent Velcoro, a vampire and Khalis a mysterious mummy who is currently seperated from it's head due to events in the first volume. Running the show is an ageless human called Father Time who likes to change bodies once a century and is currently taking the form of a Japanese schoolgirl.  Also in attendence is observer Ray Palmer (who later on will become The Atom due to his own shrinking powers) who is liasing with S.H.A.D.E to see if they deserve continued funding.  The book continues to be written by Jeff Lemire and drawn by Alberto Ponticelli, although Matt Hindt takes over writing duties about halfway through.  This volume unfortunately gets bogged down in a lengthy crossover that was going on between Animal Man and Swamp Thing at the same time.  Having not read those books, my knowledge of the overall "Rotworld" plot is confined to what shows up in this book and the DC wikia, so if things get a bit inchoherent I apologise.  The first book ended on a cliffhanger with Frankenstein and his wife's son having been released from The Ant Farm's maximum security prison area and escaped to the earth below.
The story begins with Frankenstein and his Lady searching a ruined town, which Lady F regretfully realises is ruined because of their son.  Frankenstein says he is no son of his but Lady Frankenstein accuses him of having a "cold dead heart".  Frankenstein says his heart has only ever belonged to her.

We then get a flashback as to how their child was conceived.  Using mad science, Father Time combined their "unique, hybrid DNA" to create him in the lab.  But their embryonic son has a sudden growth spurt and bursts out of the tube he was growing in.  He attacks Lady Frankenstein and Frankie shoots him, leaving him presumed dead, but his relationship with Lady Frankenstein irreperately damaged.

Back in the present Frankenstein wonders how their son can still be alive.

Lady Frankenstein: "Father Time and his lab rats can do anything, Frank.  You know that.  I saw our son.  You saw a monster.  He saw a weapon."

They track him to Castle Frankenstein.  The Ant Farm is close by monitoring events.  Ray Palmer is outraged by Father Time's locking up of their son in secret.  He accuses him of toying with their lives and storms out saying he will recommend the U.N withdraw their funding of S.H.A.D.E.
Their insane son, pleads for death.
Back in the castle, Lady Frankenstein asks Frankenstein to give her a chance to get through to their son. They find him in the lab, obviously quite insane.  He attacks Frankenstein who just defends himself, while apologising to his son for shooting him before.  His son just begs to be killed and keeps attacking Frankie, leaving Lady Frankenstein to strike the killing blow and put him out of his misery.

Outside the castle, the Creature Commandos and Father Time are waiting.  Lady Frankenstein removes her S.H.A.D.E.Net implant and quits the organisation despite Father Time's protests.  She gives Frankenstein a big, farewell snog and disappears into the wilderness.  Frankenstein, while not happy with Father Time's deception says "S.H.A.D.E is all I have." And choses to stay.

The next issue is a sneak peek at the Rotworld plotline that will play a larger role in a few issues time.   Father Time orders Frankenstein and Nina to investigate the disappearance of Animal Man.  They have traced the last person he talked to, a Detective called Krenshaw.  Nina and Frank beam out to look for him.
They find him dead, horribly bloated and rotting.  The body starts to break apart and speak, calling itself "The Rot",  Frankenstein's dead flesh is somehow immune to it, and it calls him an "abomination".  No matter how many peices Frankenstein cuts the body into, the Rotlings keep attacking.  He calls down a flamethrower from S.H.A.D.E and fries the closest ones but many more appear.

Frankenstein then calls down the ultimate clearance device, the "Black Bomb".  He dives on Nina to protect her as his flesh is immune to it, and all the Rotlings are atomised.  Sadly, Frankenstein sits and contemplates recent events.

Frankenstein: "Maybe those things were right... maybe my wife was right.. maybe I am an abomination."

Nina: "I.. think you're right Frank.  You aren't a man.  You're more than us."

And she holds his hand, causing him to smile.
Silence in the library!
The next three issues see some dirty secrets of S.H.A.D.E being bought to light.  Frankenstein is also suffering from flashes of memory from the people whose bodys parts make him up. Frankenstein is attacked in the library by giant insectscalled SCARE-EB's.  Supposedly allies of S.H.A.D.E. used for covert assasinations, Frankenstein manages to fend them off.  Father Time decrees this attack means their is a mole in S.H.A.D.E and that an agent called Crowly stopped reporting in just before the attack.

Crowly is stationed in the "extra-dimensional fourth cloud.  In the city of Untropolis", a place that spontaneiously came into being five years previously.  Frankenstein and the Creature Commandos are sent to find Crowly  They have jetpacks with a "nether field" protecting them from being vaporised when they hit the extra-dimension.  They arrive in the sky city and Frankenstein goes to find Crowly alone.  After a chase he finds her and grabs her and demands to know who the mole is.
She says she got a message from the "Leviathan" field office that Frankenstein was going to turn traitor.  He lets her go and she fires a steam vent at him, knocking him off the walkway and sent plummenting down through the city.  He falls and as he hasn't got his nether field equipped jetpack he will be vaporised when he hits the city interface with the rest of the world.

At the last minute, Nina flies over and grabs him.  Her jetpack protects them both and the fall out of Untropolis and into the Atlantic.  Father Time tries to get Frankenstein to come back to base, but Frankenstein wants to find the informant - Satan's Ring - in the Leviathan.  Right on time it comes swimming by and Frankenstein picks up Nina and they jump inside it through a hole.
The Leviathan
Inside they find a normal looking town, they sneak inside a safe house and Frank tells Nina about his visions.  He gets all emo about his monstrous nature again, Nina tries to comfort him, but she brushes her off and says they must carry on and find Satan's Ring and the true nature of the Leviathan.  Using a holo-emitter, Frankenstein disguises himself as a human and gets one of the town's inhabitants alone, then threatens him into revealing the history of the Leviathan.

Turns out it's the place where S.H.A.D.E forcibly retires all it's ex-agents, especially ones who know things that could change the world.  Their only way out is if the Leviathan dies, which Frankenstein decides to implement.  He gets into the Leviathan's hind brain and starts slowly killing it.  He believes this will bring out the S.H.A.D.E mole.  S.H.A.D.E send Khalis down into the Leviathan who heals Nina of her injuries sustained when falling out of Untropolis.  He is supposed to stop Frank but the whole population of Leviathan town are on Frankenstein's side.

The dying Leviathan crashes into the Leviathan graveyard where S.H.A.D.E's deep sea base of operations is.  Frank kicks his way into the base and finds Crwoly again.  She tells him the mole is below them, and he is revealed as Mycrift, Keeper of The Leviathans.  He'd seen the future, in which Frankenstein kills him and had tried to pre-empt that, but caused a self fulfilling prophecy.
Good job, Mycroft.
There isn't a mole network either, the ring is an "O-Ring", future predicting S.H.A.D.E tech he got out of storage.  He activates a spell, before Frankenstein can kill him, but that reacts badly with Khalis's healing abilties, and everything in the graveyard starts to heal.  Frankie kills Mycroft then attacks the resurrected Leviathan.  He somehow catches fire and blasts the Leviathan apart leaving him very badly burned and injured.

Khalis heals him and Nina, who no longer needs her helmet thanks to Khalis, joyfully greets Frankenstein as he awakes, no longer plagued with visions.  They embrace, and it turns out the organic material needed to repair Frankenstein was donated by the ex-S.H.A.D.E agents.

Belroy: " He won them over.  Turning potential enemies into and army of allies."

Father Time: "But armies for what, Belroy?  What aren't you telling me?"

Belroy: "Victor is back sir, and he's brought the Rot with him."
So before we jump into the Rotworld plotline, we get a zero issue detailing Frankenstein's backstory, narrated by a S.H.A.D.E report on him.  Victor Frankenstein awakes Frankie in his lab.  Almost immediately Frankenstein attacks him and frees the humans Victor was using in his experiments.  He then leaves having shown "an immediate sense of justice."  Victor becomes a "dangerous loose end" that S.H.A.D.E fail to neutralise, though they take the materials needed to create Lady Frankenstein from his lab.

Victor then starts hunting Frankie with a group of mercenaries.  Frankenstein has taken refuge with an Amazonian tribe who accept him unconditionally and help him find his "Humanity".  Unfortunately Victor arrives with his goons and decimates the tribe.  Victor and Frankensteinend in a one-on-one fight, which goes poorly for Victor.  With him dead, a beautiful woman appears to Frankenstein and introduces herself as Father Time, and with that he is recruited into S.H.A.D.E.
Victor gets pwned.
S.H.A.D.E report: "And he has gone on to perform years of covert service.  Averting disasters.  Changing the course of wars.  Rooting out evil that no other could."

And the zero issue ends. It's here that we hit the three issues dealing with the massive "Rotworld" Animal Man/Swamp Thing crossover that was going on at the time.  I'm going to skim these issues because they are borderline unreadable if you haven't been following the story in the main comics involved.  Here's a brief description of the Rotworld plotline from the DC wiki.

DC Wiki: "Rotworld was a crossover between the books Swamp Thing and Animal Man, telling the story of the struggle for dominion between the three elemental forces of The Red, The Green, and The Rot. The story begins as Swamp Thing and Animal Man emerge from the Rot one year into the future, to find that the Rot has overrun the planet, and overtaken any and everyone save those who have a connection - if tenuous - to the Red or the Green. The story unfolds as two separate arcs: The Red Kingdom and The Green Kingdom, in which each hero tries to make his way to face Anton Arcane and reverse the Rot's effects. The two arcs converge at the climax, as Arcane is defeated, and the two heroes are returned to the present day."
Victor's back, with some friends.
Unlike Swampy and Animal Man who time travel a year in the future to deal with Arcane, Frankenstein and The Creature Commandos and all those he rescued from the Leviathan have to take the slow path and live out that year.  Frankenstein's foe during this time is a Rot-resurrected Victor Frankenstein, and the key to defeating him and the rest of the Rot creatures lies in a device built by Victor Frankenstein called "The Soul Grinder" which he split into pieces and hid inside various humungous beasts around the world. 

It was Victor Frankenstein's plan to reassemble it and use it to overthrow Arcane when the time was right, but slowly and on horseback Frankenstein and Velcorro start months of travel collecting the pieces, while the others hide out in a desert wilderness far from Rot-corruptible flora and fauna.  Although Victor killed everyone on the Ant Farm at the beginning of the Rot outbreak and the year of hell's start, they can still use their implants to communicate between each other and Frankie and Nina keep in touch.  Velcorro is killed taking down one holder of a soul grinder piece, and a mysterious race of golden women help Frankenstein kill the final monster and the Soul Grinder is assembled, Frankenstein kills Victor by forcing him through it.
Victor gets killed for good.
The ex-S.H.A.D.E agents pass through it rendering them immune to the Rot, and then... the story ends.  Sorry folks, this story wraps up in volumes three of Swamp Thing and Animal.  But safe to say, they win, though I don't know if history resets and wipes out the memories of that year or if Frankenstein and Nina etc still remember even though it never happened etc.  The final issue of this volume shows the status quo back at the Ant Farm restored, Velcorro is alive and I have no idea what happened to the ex-S.H.A.D.E agents.

The final issue has all the hallmarks of something that was planned to run longer and got severely truncated.  Some weird looking people under survelliance from a guy from Homeland Security seem to be conjuring up the Rot style virus and also have a missile.  As the Homeland Security watches, Frankenstein comes dropping in and takes out the missile.  We then get a flashback of Frankie and the others are being given the job back at the Ant Farm.
Back to business as usual.
Later Frankenstein admits to Nina that he wants to quit S.H.A.D.E, Nina is somewhat saddened as she thought they had shared a moment together and started a relationship.  We arrive back at Frankie taking out the missile before the rest of the Creature Commandos move in and finish the virus carriers off.  When the Homeland Security guy is bought before his superiors to explain what happened, they find his story of mythical monsters combating evil to be incredibly farfetched, calling his report "insane".
And with that Frankenstein: Agent Of S.H.A.D.E becomes an ex-comic.  Despite the three issue tie-in to Rotworld, which was almost ceratinly done to boost flagging sales of the monthly, this book still has a lot going for it.  Big ideas, bold characters, brilliant artwork and other things beginning with B. The world of Frankenstein here is a compelling one and he remains an interesting hero, with the zero issue giving us some much needed insight into his history. This was not the end of Frankenstein the character though, his disatisfaction with S.H.A.D.E ends up with him joining The Justice League Dark, the group of magical and anti-heroes working in the DCU.  I don't follow that comic so I don't know if he is still there or if he continued his relationship with Nina or if he had a totally clean break from S.H.A.D.E.  All I know is once again, DC cancelled a fun comic with plenty of potential still left in the premise.  Curse you DC!

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E: Book 1 - War Of The Monsters (#1-7)

"Never give up hope...Life has a way of enduring in even the darkest of times" - Frankenstein

During my look at the Grant Morrison penned Seven Soldier's series, I covered his reboot of Frankenstein As that miniseries progressed, Frankenstein was found and employed by S.H.A.D.E which stands for "Super Human Advanced Defence Executive".  His job to seek out places where science and monsters had run amok and deal with them, he gained an wi-fi internet connection to the base and was able to have information downloaded into his brain.  His ex-wife, known only as "The Bride" then and more commonly referred to as "Lady Frankenstein" here, also worked for S.H.A.D.E. She had two extra arms grafted onto her and was an excellent kicker of asses.  Basically this whole set-up has been used to kick off this Frankenstein based series which launched as one of the first of DC's The New 52, it's 2011 universal reboot.  The only difference being that in this version of the DCU Frankie had been working for S.H.A.D.E. for many decades rather than having just recently been revived and returned to action.  This time the writer is Jeff Lemire and he does a good job springboarding off Morrisons ideas, keeping Frankenstein as the same kind of lugubrious but intelligent philosopher while really going crazy with S.H.A.D.E.  Alberto Ponticelli's art deserves some praise as well.  It's has a nice, thick lined weight to it set off by a limited palatte that emphasises green keeping things looking a little sickly and monsterous.

The story begins with an old man and his grandchild fishing by a lake, their dog goes off to investigate something and when they look for it they find it dead and skinned.  Then several monsters appear causing the old man to stutter "It''s finally happening.."  We are then introduced to S.H.A.D.E and it's new base called "The Ant Farm".  It's a miniturised city inside a three inch sized sphere that hovers miles above the Earth. S.H.A.D.E have been helped in this regard by Ray "The Atom" Palmer, who is a representative of the government and there to keep an eye on things.
Frankenstein meets with Ray and Father Time in his new body.
Frankenstein arrives having been called away from his holiday on Mars and is greeted by "humanids", artifical humanoids made to last 24 hours before being recycled.  Frankensteins comments on the dangers of creating life. He then meets Father Time who has transferred his conciousness into the body of a young, sailor suited, Japanese schoolgirl after getting bored of his old body, a black male. He tells Frankie that earlier that day they got reports of monsters invading a small American town.  They sent Lady Frankenstein in, but have lost contact with her.

S.H.A.D.E are keeping the monsters contained to the town right now, but Frankenstein will need help and is assigned a new field team.  Doctor Nina Muzarsky, an amphibian/human hybrid. Warren Griffith, a wolfman. Vincent Velcoro, a vampire and Khalis a mysterious mummy who doesn't hardly speak.  Frankenstein is appalled at this meddling with humanity.

Vincent: "Relax old man.  We volunteered for this. What's the matter?  Don't like the competition for monster of the year?"

Warren: "Watch your mouth Velcoro.  This man deserves your respect.  Agent FRankenstein it's an honour if I may say sir.  You're the reason I joined S.H.A.D.E."

Nina: "Yes. You and your life inspired all of my work."
Nina, Griffith, Velcoro and Khalis.
Nina was responsible for creating the "Creature Commandos" apart from Khalis. Frankenstein once again says he hopes things work out better than the last time someone he knew tried to create life. Then they teleport down to the town and start fighting the monsters.  They make their way to a church where Khalis has detected life and inside find a large group of children hiding in a cellar under the altar.

Questioning the woman with the children, Frankenstein discovers the children were being used as "bartering chips in some ancient pact".  Frankie knocks the old woman out and calls for evacuation of the children.  Ray Palmer contacts them and says the invasion is coming from a "temporal rift" under the lake.  The Creature COmmandos set up a "firewall" round the lake to keep the monsters contained, then Frankenstein and Nina, who can both breathe underwater, go down to investigate the lake bottom.
Nothing suspicious about this at all...
Nina has a flashback to how after the loss of her child, she focused on creating life in the lab. The first bacth went mad and are confined to a special prison area on the Ant Farm,.  She next experimented on full grown humans including herself and was more successful. She and Frankenstein reach the lake bed and find a huge number of child skeletons littering it.

Frankenstein: " Innocents sacrificed by the terrified people of this town in some insane attempt to keep whatever lurks down there at bay."

The fight off three monsters down there with Frankenstein approving of how quickly Nina adapts to the situation.  Nina says she needs a brain, so Frankenstein rips one out of the defeated monsters.  Nina hooks it up to some equipment and reads it. The three monsters were scouts looking for suitable planets to conquer.  The locals misread their intentions and started sacrificing children to them which amused the creatures.
The temporal rift under the lake.
Now the monsters planet is dying which gave new urgency to the invasion plans.  Lady Frankenstein was dragged through the portal when she came to fight them and now the invasion proper is underway.  Back up in the Ant Farm, Frankie's team is introduced to "The Egg" a small ship that can take them safely through the portal.  So through they go and are faced with thousands of monsters and Lady Frankenstein fighting them.  "What took you so long?" she asks them.  They all get stuck into the horde.

Lady Frankenstein: "Don't talk, just shoot!"

Velcoro: "Shoot?!  There ain't enough bullets in the world!"

Lady Frankenstein: "Charming new friends you have dear!"


Frankenstein contacts Father Time saying it's a suicide mission, but The Egg needs to repair itself before they can leave so for the moment they are stuck there.  Things look grim, but then Khalis concentrates and a huge flash of energy bursts out of him, killing not only the monsters in the immediate area but all over the continent as well.   There is still another continent with monsters on it and an ocean too, but for now they are safe.
Outnumbered on the moster planet.
Khalis is unconcious now and can't be of any further help.  Suddenly what looks like a mountain comes racing towards them, when it reaches them it reveals itself to be a huge monster.  Frankenstein charges it and gets swallowed whole.  The rest of his team start running from it, but then Frankie bursts out of it's chest with it's heart gripped tight in his hand, killing it instantly.

There is a similar "Titan" on the second continent and under the ocean and the team have three hours to deal with them before the planet reaches the temporal rift under the lake on Earth and all the creatures can invade. The team splits up, Lady Frankenstein takes Velcoro and Griffith to the other continent and Frankenstein and Nina go down into the water to look for the undersea one.  Back at The Ant Farm, the psychics suddenly start freaking out, all yelling the same phrase: "Help me!".

Ray: "They're just channelling a message."

Psychics: "Help Me! Help Me!  Help Me!"

Father Time: "A message from whom?"

Ray: "It... It's from the planet itself!"
My heart will go... wait did that one already.  Frankie kills the Titan.
The planet isn't actually a planet at all but a massive telepathic entity which had been hijacked by the three titans and their monstrous offspring.  They have leeched off it until it can no longer support them and now it's nearly dead they want a new host: Earth.

Lady Frankenstein's team is having trouble reaching the second titan, so Father Time authorises the sending through of something code-named "The Toybox" to help them out.  This turns out to contain a huge battle vehicle, covered with spikes and guns and crewed by a lot of android soldiers.

Underwater the monsters there don't attack Nina and Frankenstein.  Nina's fish like appearance makes them think she is their mother and they swim placidly along with them as they search for the titan.  They soon find it.  Nina says she could learn much from it, but Frankenstein reminds her that it was enslaving the planet-entity, torturing it for eons and has an "evil nature" and he draws his sword to attack it.

Back with the other team, The Lady Frankenstein orders the battle vehicle to smash into the titans kneecaps, while Velcoro and Griffith stab it in it's single eye.

Velcoro: "Aye aye Captain.  And what the hell are you going to do?"

Lady Frankenstein: "Me?  I'm going to stand here and look good of course."
Velcoro, Griffith and Lady F. take down another Tita.
Crippled the titan falls down and the androids soldiers pile in and attack it.  Frankenstein and Nina deal with the undersea titan and with all the titans dead the planet relays it's thanks via the psychics.   Trouble now is that the planet is moving away from the rift leaving only minutes for the team to return to Earth.  Things look bad then Khalis appears piloting The Egg.  He picks them all up and they make it through the rift to Earth with around a second to spare.  Back at the Ant Farm, Father Time has a question for Frankenstein:

Father Time: "So, Frankie.  What do you think of your new field team now?  Pretty awesome no?"

Frankenstein: "Hrrm...They'll do."
Frankenstein's holiday fun.
The next issue begins with Frankenstein on holiday in Tibet killing some ugly beasties who have been bothering the local temple.  Father Time then calls him and tells him to come to Checkmate HQ in the US.  Checkmate is another covert operation funded and run by the U.N.  The current "King" is Maxwell Lord.  Frankie arrives and Father Time and Lord bicker for a bit before getting down to business.  Checkmate has lost a being called O.M.A.C (One Man Army Corp).  He's been tracked to Metropolis and Checkmate think S.H.A.D.E have a better chance of dealing with him.

On the way Frankenstein says the whole thing feels suspect, S.H.A.D.E also has no information on O.M.A.C, "I don't like going in blind" comments Frankenstein.  He is dropped down on a normal looking man who yells "Omactivate!" and changes into a hulking, mohawked, brute.  While it and Frankenstein fight S.H.A.D.E.Net is under attack from a foreign intelligence.  Father Time says to let it have access to S.H.A.D.E's systems.  Meanwhile Frankenstein and O.M.A.C keep fighting, Frankenstein gets the upper hand and crys out "Brother! I need help!" then he unleashes an energy pulse that knocks Frankenstein back.
Frankie and OMAC fight.
"Brother Eye" is the name of the intelligence infiltrating S.H.A.D.E.Net, when it reaches the Hub it is intercepted and copied by the waiting Ray Palmer. Frankenstein is given the go-ahead to kill O.M.A.C but it suddenly teleports away, taking Frankenstein's left arm with him.  Frankenstein returns to the Ant Farms medical bay where Nina starts growing him a replacement.  She comments off-hand that she could use DNA to find out who his various body parts belonged to.  Father Time comes to check on him, but Frankenstein is irritated with him and warns Father he won't be a pawn in his wider schemes and goes to wait for his new arm in his quarters.

The next issue starts with Nina showing Ray around more of The Ant Farm.  They overlook a huge vat called "The Pit" where the humanids are broken down and recycled into new ones, "a perpetually regenerating non-human workforce."  Ray says he knows they aren't sentient and that S.H.A.D.E.Net acts as their collective hive mind but he still feels sorry and a little creeped out by them.  As they leave, one of the humanids become self-aware.

Humanid: "What am I? Why am I? Where am I? Must run.  Hide. Learn."
Tying up loose ends in Vietnam.
At the same time the rest of the Creature Commandos and Frankenstein are floating up a river in Vietnam,  During the Vietnam war, Frank and a being called Colonel Quantum fought on the US side.  One day Quantum said he was done with the war and S.H.A.D.E and disappeared into the jungle.  Later S.H.A.D.E and Frankenstein also realised the war was wrong. S.H.A.D.E monitored Quantum's energy signature and over the years it dwindled to nothing, but two weeks ago it flared up and destroyed all the villages in a fifty mile radius.  Griffith asks if they are bringing him home. No, says Frankenstein they are here to kill him.

They find a mutated Quantumn in a temple, he is a broken man who wishes only to die.  Frankenstein has a gun with anti-nuclear bullets that will return him to normal but also kill him.

Frankenstein: "Are you sure?"

Quantum: "Yes.  I'm sure.  I want to rest."

Frankenstein shoots him and Quantum suddenly grows huge, before shrinking down and returning to human form.  He dies content, holding Frankenstein's hand.
Quantum just wants to die in peace.
Back up in The Ant Farm, many humanids have rebelled and release the inmates of "The Zoo", the high security prison area.  Lady Frankenstein and Nina go to deal with them.  They are experiments gone wrong, Nina's first attempt at The Creature Commandos. One that looks like melted wax disables Lady Frankenstein by partially absorbing her and another knocks Nina out, though they recognise her as their "mother".

Frankenstein and his team bust their way back into The Ant Farm and are faced by a group of armed humanids.  Turns out Brother Eye was responsible for their sentience and rebellion and a fight ensues.  Lady Frankenstein meanwhile, blasts her way out of the wax creature then confronts the rest of Nina's "children".  Velcoro and Griffith break into the armoury and liberate some powerful ordanance and go to close down The Pit.
Nina's "children".
Father Time and Belroy are saved by Ray Palmer and his ability to shrink which he uses to explode the heads of the humanids holding them. With the rebel humanids wiped out and The Pit where they are made closed down, The Ant Farm is secure again.  But suddenly the last of Nina's children appears, grabs Frankenstein's sword and cuts off Khalis's head.  Frankenstein kills it, but it seems Khalis can survive a little decaptitation.  Then Father Time orders them to come to the teleport room.  Father Time says there was a final prisoner so dangerous and secret that they didn't have any S.H.A.D.E.Net files on it.

Frankenstein: "Who Father? What the hell did you have trapped in that thing?"

Father Time: "It was him, Frank.  It was your son!"
Frankie and the Creature Commandos do what they do best.
Dun-dun-DUH!  And that concludes the first volume with an excellent cliffhanger.  This was a very enjoyable collection of issues.  Building off the small details and relationships featured in Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers: Frankenstein mini, it creates a very believeable atmosphere for "mad science" to run riot.  Giving Frankenstein a back-up team and keeping Lady Frankenstein around was another great idea.  It allows levity to take place around Frankenstein without turning him into a wise-cracking creature himself.  He's still a noble, utterly serious soul, dedicated with protecting humanity from monsters.  He also has a softer side which the gentle Nina brings out of him and they make a good couple when it's time to team up. If you enjoyed Grant Morrison's, Doug Manhke drawn Frankenstein, and don't go into this with the insanely high expectations that it set, you'll find plenty to enjoy here.  Join me in a few days for Book 2 and the resolution to that cliffhanger.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Zenith: Phase 2 (2000AD #589-606, 2000AD Winter Special 1988)

"Since when were superhumans a big threat?" - Zenith

I covered the first volume of Zenith here, but here's a quick recap of this Grant Morrison penned and Steve Yeowell drawn 2000AD superhero story.  In the 1960's the government created several superheroes as weapons who ended up turning against them, becoming counter-culture hippies instead in a group called "Cloud Nine".  They were based on a hero created during World War 2 called Maximan, who had been created to combat the German super being Masterman.  Masterman turned out to be much stronger than Maximan as he was the vessel for an extra dimensional entity, one of the Many-Angled-Ones or Lloigor.  They fight in Berlin but before Masterman can kill Maximan, the atomic bomb is dropped on the German city instead of Japan ending the war.  The "children of Maximan" known as "Cloud Nine" suffer various fates, but before most of them die off or disappear, two of them conceive a child together, a boy who grows up to be Zenith.  He's a callow young man, a pop star singing disposable hits, who can fly and has super strength depending on the time of the month.  The three superheroes left from the sixties who had all pretended to lose their powers, were alchoholic Siadwel "Red Dragon" Rhys, journalist Ruby "Voltage" Fox and Tory MP, Peter "Mandala" St.John.

 During the events of Phase One, a Many Angled One is reincarnated in the cloned body of Masterman.  The three ex-memembers of Cloud Nine who haven't really lost their powers band together with Zenith to beat him.  Rhys is killed in the battle, but Zenith destroys Masterman's body and Peter St.John using a post-hypnotic command kills the Many Angled One he was holding.  Omninously Peter detects that this is only the beginnings of the Many Angled Ones plans for humanity, and Phase One ends with Siadwel's funeral with Ruby telling Zenith she'll tell Zenith about his parents when she gets back from her holiday.  And it's from here that Phase Two begins.

The story begins with Ruby Fox on holiday in an art deco Sydney, Australia with a man called David and a woman called Penny. It's1987 and a parallel universe and the other two are superheroes discussing whether they should make their prescence known to Zenith.  They mention something called The Omnihedron, but Ruby says to leave Zenith to her and that they have a year to get ready.
Extreme Bullfighting.
The world they are on has never had superheroes so makes a great hiding place from the Lloigor. They end up in a stadium where Tyrranosaurus Rex's are being fought for the amusement of the audience, the last year it'll happen before animal rights people get it banned.  Ruby is horrified, but David says to think of it as a metaphor.

David: "Evolution takes no prisoners. The masters of the earth become simply monsters, condemned to extinction. Think about that and the plan we made in 1968.  If we survive the Alignment, 1990's going to be a red letter day of evolution.  Ring out the old.  Ring in the new".

We then jump forwards in time to February 1988.  Zenith has arrived home after a party and is listening to his phone messages.  One of them warns him to get out of there, but it is too late and he is attacked by a humanoid being with a rocket for a head.  We then cut to two men watching how Zenith fought "Warhead".  The older man is called Peyne, the younger, bearded one called Wallace.
Peyne and Wallace, Wallace is wearing a red nose for a UK charity event.
Back with Zenith, a woman who arrives who introduces herself as Phaedra Cale she uses a "stroboscope" on Warhead which temporarily disables it, leaving Zenith free to knock it out, she is also the one who left the warning message.  "CIA" asks Zenith and she answers in the affirmative, then asks if he wants to know what happened to his parents after all these years.  Peyne and Wallace discuss how to get a hold of Zenith now, Peyne says to wait, then muses:

Peyne: "Strange.  He has his mother's eyes."

Wallace: "Really.  I thought we had his mother's eyes."

And the next panel shows some eyeballs in a jar.  Zenith and Phaedra then visit Zenith's agent Eddie MacPhail.  Phaedra says she is part of a CIA division set up in the fifties to monitor superhuman activity.   There is only supposed to be three superhumans left on earth, Ruby Fox, Peter St. John and Zenith.   So what was that being who attacked Zenith in his flat?  Zenith decides to go to Scotland with her to investigate further, despite entreaties from his agent not to.
Zenith's agent tries to keep him out of trouble.
The next day Peter St.John is doing a TV interview where he answers criticisms that he has used his telepathic powers to influence votes taken in the House Of Commons, which he brushes off.  Meanwhile Wallace takes control of the computers on a nuclear sub and points the missles at London.

Phaedra and Zenith are on a plane up to Scotland, there is a hollowed out hill there that used to be an army base and is now owned by Wallace International.  Which in turn seems to be linked with the person who was the last to see Zenith parents alive, Doctor Peyne who created the postwar superhumans.  Later Peter St. John has a terrible nightmare where London is a wasteland and the sun has turned black, and somehow the Lloigor are behind it.
Peter's nightmare...
He wakes to see a glowing woman who he seems to know, floating in his bedroom.  She's one of Cloud Nine, who "fell through a mirror" many years ago and has stayed the same age ever since.  She mentions the plan made in 1968 and tells Peter that she'll be back because "in the end... you're still one of us."

Zenith and Phaedra arrive at the Wallace International base and fly over the fence to get inside the grounds.  Then they enter via an air duct, but things seem far to quiet inside.  No security or anything.  They come to a room where Zenith's parents costumes are on display and suddenly Zenith is hit by an electric bolt.  Peyne appears and helps him up, Wallace also appears saying "all you had to do was knock."

At Number Ten Downing Street, the Prime Minister and Peter St. John are discussing the missile crisis.  There have been no demands or ultimatums so they don't know what to do.  Back with Zenith, Wallance has Warhead back with him and is flanked by two superpowered women called Blaze and Shockwave.  And what is motivating Wallace?

Wallace: "I'm just sick of the way the world's going and I think I could do a better job.  Build a better world, that's all."

Phaedra accuses him of violating the superhuman test ban treaty, trying to "rustle up some superhumans and take over the world."  Walace declares her "Bo-ring" and shoots her dead, much to Zenith's shock and surprise.  Then Wallace says he'll launch the missiles on friday and goes to tell the Prime Minister.
Wallace is a petulant meglomaniac
Peyne seems unconcerned by Wallace's plan and that he has "learned not to stand in the way of history."  He says now is the time of the superhumans and that Zenith is "evolution's perfect child."  Zenith grumpily demands a televison so he won't miss the TV soap Neighbours.

Later Zenith is being taught by Peyne to do different things with his powers.  Peyne says he is special because he inherited his abilities rather than getting them via exposure to his super-serum.  Peyne goes on a mini-rant about how humanity doesn't deserve the earth.

Peyne: "The history of mankind is a catalogue of atrocity, brute ignorance and blind greed. It can only have one outcome."

He then says he wants Zenith, Shockwave and Blaze to breed and Zenith enthusiastically takes up the offer.  While he is getting busy, Peyne says to Wallace that tommorrow when the missiles fly, Zenith will lose his powers for a day and "that's when we'll kill him."
Sexy time!
The next day Peyne tells Zenith what happened to his parents.  Cloud 9 had a plan which involved his birth, his mum and dad disappeared for a few months in 1968 during which time Zenith was born and passed into the care of his grandparents. In spring 1968 his parents turned up in France.  But the CIA "Shadowmen" - people with crude psychic powers - surprised them and they drove their car off a cliff.  Peyne retrieved their bodies and cloned Blaze from his mother, which squicks Zenith out.

Shockwave is a clone of Ruby Fox, Peyne also thinks the CIA might have been behinds the death of anotehr member of Cloud 9 - Lux.  Although there was something fishy about the scene of his death.  Peyne then drops the bombshell that Zenith's father survived the crash, badly brain damaged and Peyne turned him into Warhead.  Peyne then locks Zenith in a room with Warhead saying today is the day Zenith loses his powers and Warhead is to kill him.

Zenith and Warhead fight and Zenith has NOT lost his powers.  He fights Warhead off temporarily, while Peyne starts to panic and tries to get through to Wallace that things are going wrong.  Wallace is locked up in a bunker room getting ready to launch the missiles and won't be distracted.
"Zenith, I am your father."
Zenith smashes the headpiece off Warhead's outfit and reveals his father's face inside.  He tries to reason with him, but Warhead is too damaged to understand.  Zenith finds the stroboscope inside Phaedra's bag that temporarily stuns Warhead, then Zenith punches his head off, killing him instantly.  A rage filled Zenith confronts Peyne who says he was surprised Zenith still had his powers, his biorhythm chart says he should have lost them today.  Zenith says the birthday he made public isn't his real one, so Peyne's calculations were off.

Zenith goes to stop Wallace blowing up London.  The code to Wallace's bunker is a riddle.  Zenith telepathically contacts Peter St. John, who is currently floating above London in the hope he can disable the missiles before they hit, and asks for help.  Peter solves the riddle for Zenith and Zenith enters Wallace's bunker.  "You've got four minutes" says Wallace.

Peter St.John speaks telepathically to Zenith saying he can shut Wallace down telepathically via Zenith.  But Zenith decides to reason with Wallace.

Zenith: "You know, I don't really envy you trying to take over the world.  I mean the world's a big place.  All that crime and starvation and wars and drugs.  Everyone would expect you to have all the answers."
Wallace finally listens to reason.
Zenith keeps asking hard questions about what Wallace would do about all the worlds problems.  He compares him to Alexander, Napoleon and Hitler.  Wallace mumbles he could be a "nice Hitler."  Finally he decides to stop the missiles.  "No harm done, eh?"  Zenith leaves, and once he is gone the power goes off, trapping Wallace inside his bunker, though it is not clear if Zenith or Peter St.John through Zenith did that. Sadly Zenith contemplates the remains of Warhead, then flies off.

Once home, before he can relax, he is confronted by a strange, shape shifting being called "Chimera".  The mysterious being keeps transforming:

Chimera: "One shape is not enough.  I crave the sensation of all shapes."

It keeps changing, finally ending up as a nebula before fading away, leaving a very bemused Zenith behind.
The Chimera.
Back on the Alt-Australia, Ruby, David and Penny are out by Ayers Rock.  There is a small floating sphere called an "Einstein-Rosen Bridge" which allows travel between parallel earths.  Three superhumans called Black Flag from Alternative 6 arrive.  They compare notes saying they lost Alternative 257 to the Lloigor.  They also think they may have miscalculated the alignment.  Suddenly a horribly burned human comes through the bridge.  One of the new superhumans helps him or her pass on.  Penny remarks:

Penny: "A love letter from the Lloigor.  They've found us.  Happy Valentines Day."
The superhumans start to gather.
And after a short interlude chapter (not drawn by Yeowell) set on yet another earth introducing a blindfolded superhuman who is an Alternate Maximan and who will go on to play a major part in Phase Three and just recaps Zenith adventures so far while calling him the last hope, we come to the end of this Phase. One of the great things about Morrison as a writer is he isn't afraid to throw up a lot of questions in his writing, but crucially he will answer those questions rather than doing the equivalent of LOST and throwing in more mysteries just for the sake of it.  This Phase answers many of the questions asked in Phase One around Zenith's existence and keeps several plotlines in the air ready for the apocalyptic, multi-universe spanning events of the seminal Phase Three, which keeps appearing and disappearing off Amazon's coming soon listings and I swear if it falls into rights hell again after waiting all this time I will set myself on fire outside of Rebellion's publishing headquarters. Steve Yeowell's sparse yet hi-energy art continues to impress and the whole thing is once again gorgeously presented, with the original paper dimensions kept and reproduced on thick shiny paper with a minimalist hardback cover and all the cover's and promotional art collected at the end of the book.  Zenith remains one of Morrison's truly great creations that only increases in scope and complexity as it goes along.  If you are a fan of Morrison you have no reason not to own both this and Phase One, and be looking forward to Phase Three as we speak.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

The Midnighter Book 1: Killing Machine (#1-6)

"Just for the record.  I'm going to kill you all" - The Midnighter

A short bit of background to the Garth Ennis penned set of issues that kicked off  The Midnighter series.  It's a spinoff to the Wildstorm Universe's (now part of the DCU) superteam The Authority, a very popular group of superheroes created by Warren Ellis in a series that pioneered the "widescreen" style of comics.  They were heroes, but also not afraid to get their hands dirty making them edgier than their Marvel or DC counterparts.  The Midnighter is based roughly on Batman, a black clad figure who uses martial arts to take down his foes and can anticipate any move made against before before his foe can make it.  Unlike Batman, he is bionically augmented and perhaps most notable he is homosexual and when this spin-off series was penned, he was married to The Authority's Superman equivalent, the sweet natured if a little dim, Apollo. I have to say much as I like Garth Ennis, he can be a little crass when male homosexuality is concerned so I approached this with some trepidation.  I had nothing to fear, in the first five issues his sexuality is mentioned but not made a big deal of, and issue six features an alternate universe take on him and Apollo and is gorgeously romantic and respectful of his gayness.  However the art lets this book down somewhat.  Chris Sprouse's work on the first five issues can generously be described as "perfunctory", which is odd because his then recent work on Tom Strong was extremely good.  Glenn Fabry illustrates issue six and it's better looking though not up to the standards he previously set in his 2000AD work.

The first story "Killing Machine" begins with The Midnighter moping about The Authority's inter-dimensinal ship "The Carrier", he seems full of ennui and teleports down to a middle-eastern country to blow off some steam.  He attacks some westerners driving tanks, his enchanced body allowing him to do things like kick a tank shell back at the tank firing at him.  He kills all but one man who he tells he knows they were delivering those tanks to the Mujah, when the injured man says it was to keep stability in the region, The Midnighter retorts:

The Midnighter: "You're a salesman.  I never stop watching people like you."

Then he kills the man to send a "message" to his superiors.  He teleports back up to The Carrier, but in the matter stream he is attacked by armoured figures who beat him into unconciousness.

He wakes up with a white suited man standing over him called Paulus. He tells The Midnighter that his ability to anticpate his opponents moves have been disrupted.  The Midnighter gets up and follows him into a corridor where he sees several armoured figures in "shimmer suits".  When one of them provokes The Midnighter with a derogatory reference to his sexuality, The Midnighter punches him, but gets a beatdown again from the rest of the shimmer-suited figures.  He is knocked out again.
The Midnighter and Paulus
Later he comes around and a man appears saying he came to rescue him, they don;t get far bfore the man's chest explodes and Paulus appears saying he hired the man as a demonstration of the bomb now in The Midnighter's chest where his second heart used to be.  Paulus says The Midnighter is going to kill for him and shows him a photo of the target - it's Adolf Hitler.

As Paulus's team start sending The Midnighter back in time ninety-one years, The Midnighter promises he will kill all of them.

The Midnighter: "Bomb in my chest or not.  I'll find a way.  I'll come back and get you.  I always do.  And the results will not be pleasant."

Back in the past, The Midnighter finds himself in the German trenches of World War One.  Then we flash back to him talking with Paulus about why he wants to kill Hitler.  Turns out he and his parents were sent to a concentration camp, his mother was killed and his father struck a guard and was hanged just as the British tanks rolled into Belsen.  The Midnighter says changing the past has consequences, but Paulus dismisses them as "science-fiction".  Paulus says his superhuman abilities will return once he arrives in the past.  The Midnighter sys he won't kill Hitler as a child - "I won't kill children under any circumstances." But Paulus says he is sending him where one more death will not be noticed.
The delights of the WWI trenches.
Back in the past The Midnighter is making his way through the trenches, and hears "Unteroffizer Hitler" reporting to the local officers.  Once he has delivered his message he makes to return to headquarters. The two officers discuss Hitler once he's gone, noting that "the war suits young Adolf down to the ground."  They also mock him.

Silently The Midnighter stalks Hitler, but before he can confront him, French soldiers storm the trenches.  The Midnighter and Hitler fight them off and after some chaotic combat, only The Midnighter and Hitler are left standing.

Hitler: "Who.. who are you?"

The Midnighter: "Let's go for a little walk Adolf."
Fight, fight, fight!
The Midnighter then kicks him hard in the balls then drags him to a secluded spot.  The French rain down bombs on the trenches as The Midnighter gets ready to kill Hitler.

The Midnighter: "You know, there's really no way I can fail to enjoy this."

Suddenly everything freezes, and a futuristic ship appears in the sky and orders The Midnighter to put his hands up.  The tell him he is under arrest for the crime of "temporal realignment".  The Midnighter grabs the frozen Hitler and hurls him at the ship, with this diversion he is able to jump aboard and disarm the crew, then he makes his escape.  The leader, a woman called Bonnie says they need to keep the timeline frozen until they can catch The Midnighter.
Taking out the timeship crew.
She tracks him using futuristic binoculars and spots him on the other end of a very big anti-tank gun.  He fires on them and knocks the timeship about, before returning to have a "chat" with the crew.  But an enraged Bonnie ignores protocol and unleashes a bunch of missiles at him before landing the timeship on top of him, thus they are able to capture and cuff him and start travelling back to the future with him.

The Midnighter: "So you're some kind of temporal police force from the future, charged with preventing the disruption of time by criminals attempting to alter the past?"

He explains about the bomb in his thorax, Bonnie says they'll have to sort it all out when they get him back to the ninety-six century.  Unfortunately there is a big backlog of cases so he'll have to spend some time in custody.
The Midnighter, his superhuman body now healed from having a timeship land on it, snaps his cuffs and breaks out of the holding tank he's in.  He goes to leap out into the timestream, but Bonnie, realising this could cause huge amounts of temporal damage, has the timeship renenter normal time.  The ship crash lands and The Midnighter realises they are now in Berlin, 1945, in the final days of World War Two.

Bonnie: "Oh Christ.  The Hitler timeline!  You know what this means right?"

The Midnighter: "It means I'm running out of time.  I've got to kill Hitler before the bastard dies."

The Midnighter stealthily makes his way through the ruins of the city, before stumbling across four German children fighting off the Russians.  In the final days of the war, all Germany had left to defend the capital was children and old men. The four kids are captured by the Russians who intend to kill them, The Midnighter starts to walk away "too bad kiddies, looks like today's your day." but when one of the children starts to cry there is a ump cut and the Russians are dead and the kids think he is a member of The Gestapo and enthusiastically "Seig Heil" him.  When The Midnighter tries to tell them what an evil dick Hitler is and not worth fighting for, the kids just think it's a test.  So The Midnighter tells them to head west as quickly as they can and not engage in any more combat.
Sadly this really happened.
The Midnighter finds Hitler's bunker where the soldiers are having a drunken orgy now they know the war is lost.  He overhears two high-ranking officers discussing Hitler and Eva's impending suicides - "Christ.  It was fun while it lasted, wasn't it?" Hitler appears at last looking utterly broken, and spots The Midnighter.

Hitler: "I believe I will go to my study now... do I know you from somewhere?"

The Midnighter: ""
A pathetic monster.
And The Midnighter ends up standing round the burning remains of Hitler, sharing a drink with the Nazi's watching. He then returns to Bonnie and the Timeship which is mostly fixed up.  He confesses he didn't kill Hitler, admitting:

The Midnighter: "...watching him walk through that door all I had was this vague, black shadow of an idea.  If I followed him in there, I wouldn't be coming out."

Bonnie: "Creeping me out a little bit here, Dave."

The Midnighter: "Either way, it all seemed so utterly inevitable.  Unchangeable."

He and Bonnie bond some more as she says she's met ninety percent of the world's scumbag rulers: "The past sucks.  But that ain't no excuse for not trynna change the future."  Because he isn't trying to change the past anymore, The Midnighter has an idea that Bonnie can help him with.
The Midnighter and Bonnie share a moment.
The story moves back to 2006.  And old man arrives at Paulus's estate.  He is called Alfred Wolfram from the World War Two German army.  He has a message for Paulus given to him by The Midnighter in the past.  The message is "I am coming".  Then Alfred leaves, saying The Midnighter gave no impression of having been joking.

Back in the timeship The Midnighter is putting his plan in action.  Before they return to 2006 Bonnie asks him if he wants to have sex.  The Midnighter says, no, because he's gay.  Bonnie doesn't understand what he means, when he explains that he is only interested in men she wonders who the hell is only interested in men.  After some more confusion, they finally get things straight.

The Midnighter: "So in the 96th Century body's straight and nobody's gay...? There's no gender based sexual preference at all...? Everyone just does... everyone?"

Bonnie: "That's about the size of it."

The Midnighter: "Aheh. Aheh heh heh.  That's great.  That really is outstanding.  Hey can you hear me in the Bible Belt?  You're all wasting your time! Aha ha ha ha!  That really has made my day."

Back with Paulus, they are trying to track The Midnighter down, but he appears holding a child close to him.  It's Paulus as a boy, heavily sedated and this means the bomb in The Midnighter can't be set off without killing young Paulus as well.  The Midnighter then overloads the shimmer suits of Paulus's guards and then demands the bomb be removed from his chest and his second heart returned.
My hearts will go on...
The Midnighter stays awake during the operation, still holding young Paulus tight.  When it is done he burns down the mansion and drags adult Paulus into the courtyard.  He then tells Paulus that he found out his family were not Jewish, his father was an upper class German officer who was as "bigoted and hateful" as Hitler himself but didn't think Hitler was fit to lead the Reich.

The Midnighter: "In fact, if I had killed Hitler back in 1915, God knows what your father would have gotten up to in his place?"
Tah tah Paulus.
Then he kicks Paulus's head clean off his shoulders, and hands young Paulus back to Bonnie to be taken back to 1945.  He returns to The Carrier, still feeling disatisfied and calls for the door again, this time to take him to Iraq.

The Midnighter: "I am not a lover.  I am not a father.  I am not a friend.  I am what I was bred to be.  And therein lies the problem."

The final issue in this collection is a one-shot called "Flowers For The Sun" which is a non-canon look at The Midnighter is he had existed during the Japanese Shogun era.  It starts with him sitting upon a bone strewn hill, contemplating a gravestone.  Many swordsmen are gathered at the base of the hill having received the same invitation from him.  He says he wants to tell them a story and "we must speak softly for my lover sleeps beneath the Earth".
The "Midnighter" sitting by "Apollo's" grave.
He tells them he has no memory of his youth, that he woke one day clad in black armour with a wazikashi and katana by his side, so he assumed he was some kind of ronin (a masterless samurai).  After impressing a local Shogun with his combat skills, the shogun says he wants to hire him.  His minister says that it is rumoured he "lies with men" but the Shogun doesn't care and The Midnighter is hired to be his bodyguard.

One day a stranger walks into the nearby village, the ancient equivalent of Apollo.  He is being baited into combat and he weeps at having to kill his tormenters.  The Midnighter attracts Apollo's attention with his sword, but is swiftly blocked.

The Midnighter: "You saw it coming?"

Apollo: "I think that's your trick.  I'm merely fast."

The Midnighter: "And merely strong.  Tell me why do you weep for that refuse you left lying in the street?"

Apollo: "Because that way is all they know. Is fighting me your true desire?"
Apollo and The Midnighter meet for the first time.
Back in the present the assembled swordsmen are grossed out when they realise he is the lover buried on the hill and a couple make to attack him.  The Midnighter asks them to wait a little while longer, and let him finish his story.

The Midnighter: "It was a joyful time.  By day I did my duty, while my lover told my master of his travels.  He'd seen things most had only read of, and the Shogun revelled in his company.  The nights were ours."

One night while they sleep, two hundred of the Minister's soldiers, who had drugged the Shogun's soldiers earlier, attack them.  The Midnighter prevailed because he knew no other way: "my lover was merely fast."
You're tearing me apart Garth!
He buried Apollo in the woods where they had spent many happy times.  The Shogun was heartbroken by Apollo's death and also when The Midnighter left his service.  One year later, he returned and killed the Minister who had been so jealous at their relationship with the Shogun.  With his story done, The Midnighter throws himself at the assembled swordsmen.  He kills them all and leaves their hearts on Apollo's grave.

The Midnighter: "The sun has passed. Every year I come here and bring my lover roses.  And every year I weep, for it is all I know."
It's romantic dammit! *sob*
And that concludes Garth Ennis's contribution to The Midnighter's on-going series.  Lacklustre art aside, this is good stuff.  It was the first Ennis stuff I read that wasn't his creator owned stuff and he does a great job.  His love of military history means we get a sensible and accurate use of the settings of both world wars and The Midnighter is well characterised as something of a ruthless anti-hero you can't help but enjoy liking.  Some genuinely funny bits as well, especially his interactions with timecop Bonnie, as well as a perfectly respectful treatment of his homosexuality.  "Flowers For The Sun" deals entirely with that sexuality and does it in a poetic and lyrical way completely devoid of the macho-laddishness that can characterise much of Ennis's writings around sex.  Overall, the strong writing makes this a collection worth owning, and is a good introduction to The Midnighter overall, which gets the series off to a good start.  If neither The Authority nor Garth Ennis are your cup of tea this probably won't appeal, but if you like either of those things give this a looksee, you shouldn't be disappointed.