Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Episode #23: Action Comics Annual #6, 1994, "Legacy"

DC Comics' Annuals for the summer of 1994 all bore the header "Elseworlds" above the title. This was an updated version of DC's "imaginary stories" of the 1960's through the mid 1980's. This annual was originally published on July 19, 1994. The cover showed bluecoated colonial soldiers dead or injured on the ground, with a floating man bearing the familiar Superman "S" on his scarf. He ripped the colonial flag. The only reprint I could find of the story was in the out of print trade paperback, Superman/Batman: Alternate Histories.
The cover was drawn by Mike Mignola, and the story was written and drawn by John Byrne. The opening page was the familiar exploding planet of Krypton, with one lone rocket outracing its destruction. Only the sole survivor is not baby Kal-El, but an adult Gar-El. His rocket lands on Earth in colonial times, just before the Revolutionary War. He becomes a member of British royalty, and singlehandedly captures the would-be revolutionaries at Independence Hall by carrying the entire building to London. The men inside are hung for treason and the entire world becomes a crown colony as Gar-El becomes the "Soverign". HIs great-great grandson is Kal-El, who through successive generations of intermarrying with humans, has no superpowers at all. The modern world Kal-El lives in is a strange melding of still colonial era dress with modern technologies like internal cumbustion vehicles. Gar-El has unwittingly re-created the stagnant civilization he left on long dead Krypton.
An underground resistance movement does exist, and Kal-El seeks to join it as he has increasing doubts about his elder's reign. We learn his father Jor-El was killed by the Soverign for voicing his own dissent. Kal-El is captured by an unknown gang and taken to a secret location, where he learns that the resistance leader is none other than Lois Lane of the Daily Planet. Kal-El proves his loyalty by infiltrating the Soverign's palace dungeion to a secret vault containing a piece of kryptonite. He takes it back to the resistance cell, and then back to the Soverign's palace. He baricades himself in Gar-El's bedroom as he attempts to reason with him. Kal-El is killed by a sniper when he is seen as a threat to the Soverign's life. When guards find the lead box with the piece of kryptonite in it, Gar-El's eyes are finally opened when he realizes that Kal-El could have assassinated him but instead tried to reason with him. Gar-El takes Kal-El's body into space, to bury him in the sun, and then to fly into deep space, finally freeing Earth.
I have always enjoyed DC's "imaginary stories" from childhood, and all of the "Elseworlds" annuals I bought during this year of 1994 made a summer full of fun reading. The plot twists in this particular annual, intertwined with American history, made for a riveting read that has not dimmed after reading it again fourteen years later. The story reads as if it could have been written yesterday.

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