ALAN MOORE'S AWESOME ADVENTURES
PART THREE: JUDGMENT DAY
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 4
"I've got to warn you," he winced, "that was drawn by Rob Liefeld."
Indeed. But these are the risks you take when you become an Alan Moore completist, and besides, how could I disappoint you, the readers, by ignoring this crucial component of the saga of Alan Moore's Awesome Adventures? To do so would be to shirk my duty. So, with baited breath and gritted teeth, I delved into the world of Judgment Day…a crummy world of missing backgrounds, horrendous anatomy, hilarious facial expressions, and mysteriously absent feet.
In the previous two installments of this article, Rob Liefeld, once the Most Hated Man in Comics (and with some justification, too) has loomed larger and larger as his path intersects with Alan Moore, but now we come to the crux of it: a "special comics event" scripted by Moore and drawn by Liefeld. Starring, in fact, the characters from Youngblood, considered by many to be one of the great black marks on comics history--not just because it was bad, but because it was so popular, and had such a deleterious effect on the industry. Youngblood, as mentioned in the previous chapter, was Liefeld's answer to The Avengers, a government-sponsored team of superheroes used on covert (cough) military missions, and licensed to use extreme force. And use it they did. If I'm not mistaken, the first issue featured a serial killer-turned-superhero (such is not a contradiction in Liefeld's world) messily dispatching a Saddam Hussein-analogue; another team member, "Chapel", represented possibly the nadir of juvenile shock tactics, being a philandering gunman who'd been deliberately infected with HIV for the purposes of population control. I need a shower.
This ambitious revamp would begin with a three-issue miniseries called "Judgment Day" (Liefeld's title). Liefeld presumably imagined an apocalyptic event that would "hit the reset button", so to speak, but what Moore ended up doing was both more subtle and, in a way, more ambitious. The "Judgment" in question ended up referring to a legal trial-but in the broader sense, Moore is also passing judgment on the state of modern superheroes.
(WARNING: I'm going to spoil some of the story of Judgment Day in the following paragraphs, though I'm not going to reveal "whodunit". The way the trial unfolds, however, is hardly the point of the exercise.)
I should begin by mentioning, for those of you who know nothing about Youngblood, that it consists of two teams, the domestic and international operatives. The domestic team is headed by-don't laugh, now-a very white guy named "Shaft", one of the few members of Youngblood who might be considered a recognizable human being, and a fairly blatant ripoff of Marvel's Hawkeye. The name "Shaft" refers to the shaft of his arrows, get it? NOT to the fact that he's a sex machine with all the chicks, or a bad-mother-shut-your-mouth. Ahem. Anyway, the leader of the international team is known as Sentinel, and as it happens he is black, and from the streets, BOY-EEEE! He's also an engineer who built himself a flying, strength-enhancing supersuit-so he's the Iron Man rip.
When Knightsabre stumbles back to Youngblood HQ on the night of his 30th birthday, drunk and horny, he makes the mistake of crashing in Riptide's room, apparently with less than honourable intentions. Unfortunately, on waking, he discovers the bed covered in blood and Riptide lying murdered in the next room. Faced with the delicate situation of a murder where both victim and suspect are superheroes, Youngblood is forced to call together the entire superhuman community to participate in a precedent-setting trial.
Acknowledged by all to be a unique situation, the superheroes close ranks and make special arrangements for the trial. Supreme converts the stadium area of his Citadel Supreme into a huge courtroom, to hold pretty much the entire superhero population and a superhero-friendly judge is appointed. Handling the prosecution is a former partner of Professor Night's named Shona Shane, aka Lady Day (presumably meant to be in her 50s, but drawn by Liefeld as a 20-year-old hottie with grey hair); the defense is a very young kid named Toby Tyler (although he's later called "Mr. King" for some reason) who is better known as "Skippy", sidekick to The Fisherman (the Moore-created analogue to the Green Arrow).
This takes us to the end of the first issue. As rendered by Liefeld, this story is, as you might expect, not as impressive as the subject deserves. In particular, Liefeld's aversion to drawing backgrounds can practically cause eyestrain as you try and get a sense of where the characters are.
But wait! It's not all bad! Perhaps anticipating that we'd need respite from the assault on the eyeballs that is Liefeld's art, the first issue is interposed with a series of short (4- or 5-page) stories of seemingly unrelated stories done in an old-fashioned comic style, just like the interstitial segments of Supreme. These ones feature a variety of classic-style comic characters: a Tarzan analogue, a Conan analogue, a Prince Valiant, a war story, a bunch of western heroes, and so forth. These are drawn by an array of far superior artists including Chris Sprouse, Rick Veitch, and Steve Skroce (who will be becoming more important shortly) as well as no less a figure than Gil Kane.
What eventually became clear was that the book had immense power; not only did it have the power to increase intelligence and promote unnaturally long life to its owner, but one could play a part in actively altering history, including one's own past and future, simply by rewriting the book. A puritan adventurer named Deliverance Drue first put this aspect to use to fight evil, but later it was employed by the Allies member Storybook Smith, who used the book to summon literary characters to fight crime. But it was the books' next owner who caused the most damage with it…
All this is almost a sidenote, however, to Moore's reinvention of the characters. By the end of the trial, Youngblood has been shut down by the government and disbanded, the former members going on to new lives, and the modern heroes have found themselves humbled by a glimpse of the rich history of the universe they live in-a history that is now preparing to be born anew now that the book is in better hands.
The last part of the book, "Aftermath", is drawn not by Liefeld but by Gil Kane (with a short contribution by Steve Skroce). Here Moore lays the groundwork for six, count 'em, SIX new comic titles, including a revamped Youngblood. Waxey Doyle, the former Waxman of the Allies and now a furniture polish magnate, offers to put up the seed money to support a new Youngblood with Shaft as team leader; the new team is younger and generally more well-behaved, if still dogged by angst and bickering (as you'd expect from a bunch of teenagers).
The other shorts include a new, more mythologically-inspired Glory, who petitions the moon goddess Selene for a new identity as a mortal; the revamped New Men, now under the aegis of the Conquerors of the Uncanny, forming a team of scientist/explorer/adventurers; "Maximage" (also, I believe, a revamped Liefeld character), a sorceress who learns she's only the latest in a long line of magic-wielders; the reformed Allies, who as mentioned are basically the equivalent of the Justice League; and Spacehunter (another member of the Allies), a very weird little short featuring a character who speaks entirely in alien glyphs. Add to that the dozens of new characters that Moore fleshed out in the history of the book, and you've got a foundation for an incredibly ambitious new line of comics.
Continue to Part 4!
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