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‘Electric Warriors #1’ (review)

Written by Steve Orlando
Illustrated by Travel Foreman
Published by DC Comics

 
“Let electrogenesis begin!”

 
Well, well, well. Things are getting interesting in the DCU.

And it looks like maybe the future of the Earth, and the future of humanity, is not completely doomed after all.

What’s that, I hear you say? Doomed?

That’s right. Doomed.

It’s seven hundred years in the future, and Earth, after centuries of world-wide calamity and strife, has finally clawed itself back to civilization, and with that, to its rightful place in the galactic order of civilized worlds.

It’s an honor that comes with a catch however. The Great Compromise, a peace-keeping accord designed to forestall galactic war among the United Planets, requires that champions be selected from each recognized world to partake in gladiatorial combat, deep in space sector 666 on the dark battle planet of Covenant.

Ominous.

Normally, each recognized world offers up only one of their own for the gilding process known as electrogenesis, a mutagenic empowerment that gifts their champion with the superhuman abilities they will use to fight for their worlds.

Normally that’s true. But Earth… Well, Earth is special.

Earth gets two.

And the reason for this, is very interesting indeed.

Because all of this is playing out in the far-flung future world of Jack Kirby’s greatest run at DC Comics, Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth, set 200 years since the Great Disaster that transformed the world’s beast into men, and the world’s men into beasts, plunging the planet into darkness and conflict, and changing it forever.

In that time, humanity has managed finally to reclaim itself, carving out a tenuous accord of their own, as a free species of its own, in a world still dominated by bipedal Animal-men of every stripe, fin and feather.

A free species which has been granted their own champion to be sent to Covenant, one to stand and fight beside their brother champion, the other champion of Earth, a champion who has been selected from all the civilized races of Beasts that now walk the world and populate its great cities.

Two champions, newly reborn, off to fight to the death to save their world from war.

Welcome to the premiere issue of Electric Warriors, a new limited series by Steve Orlando and the artistic team of Travel Foreman and HiFi. A tale of an unexplored chapter of the far future-history of the new DCU.

A future we didn’t even know we needed.

A future that heralds something big for the whole of DC continuity.

Welcome to Earth, 2735 A.D.

Now, you might think that the last time you saw anything of Kamandi and his particularly fantastic post-apocalyptic future was in the recent critically acclaimed round-robin DC event, The Kamandi Challenge of 2017. And that’d be a good guess.

But in fact, there’s a more recent sighting. On the very first page of this year’s Justice League #1.

That’s when the Totality, that mysterious chunk of the Source wall broke off, and hurtled across space and time on its way to Earth. A number of key DC characters from one end of time to the other were featured observing the Totality as it rocketed across the heavens. And one of them was… Kamandi.

At the time, that seemed odd. Kamandi, as we’ve known him till now, has always been the child of an alternate DC history, on an alternate DC Earth. Earth 51 of the new multiverse, to be exact.

But that… does not seem to be what Justice League #1 is showing us. And now, with the event of Electric Warriors, it begs the question: could it be that a version of Kamandi’s world and the Great Disaster which precipitated it, is to become the future in store for the DCU Prime Earth as well?

All signs seem to point to yes.

And that’s huge.

For one thing, it suggests that DC is taking a much different tack these days when it comes to re-establishing new continuity. Rather than creating a flashpoint crisis, taking all known DC properties and smooshing them all together into a great universal reboot, could it be that the advent of the Totality was itself the catalyst of a new ongoing continuity, one that will be established piece by piece, in a patchwork mosaic that is underway even as we speak?

Could be. That would fit actually. Already in the Justice League, and the rest of the DCU, there is a suggestion of many untold chapters of DC continuity between the reboot of 2011 and the current day. Some of which still don’t entirely make sense…

So, a future Earth Prime, devastated by its very own Great Disaster, 500 years in the future could easily be another part of that mosaic.

In fact, there are already hints and whispers that Electric Warriors itself will be serving as a very important bridge to an even more familiar future era of long-lost DC continuity. A future of the 31st century, where a certain confederation of United Planets also selects world representatives for membership in an elite brigade of interstellar champions. The much-loved and much-missed Legion of Superheroes.

Oh yeah.

There’s been much understandable confusion about how the Legion might make a come-back in the DCU as it has become since the last 52 reboot. But having Earth and its population of heroes go through a dark period of collapse could provide a much-needed break in the history of Earth’s heroes, from the 21st to the 31st.

And yes, this would mean that the future of Earth Prime, and all that our heroes are fighting for today, is indeed… doomed. Doomed by the inevitable Great Disaster of Earth Prime, and the end of civilization as we’ve known it.

It’s a stark concept. But in its way, also, a clever, even an elegant one. Because apparently, it would not be fated to stay that way.

And that’s where our story picks up. In the tale of a future-history you didn’t know you needed until now.

The creative team of Electric Warriors takes full advantage of their opportunity to realize a wonderfully unique, futuristic science-fiction world for their tale. Travel and HiFi in particular prove to be a fascinating mix. I’m not always a fan of current digital coloring techniques but HiFi pushes the edges of its potential, and combined with Travel’s inks and pencils, the book has a certain futuristic anime appeal that is both distinctive and expressive.

Steve Orlando has already shown an aptitude for telling innovative stories that build on existing DC canon in new and original ways. His recent series The Unexpected is a good example of storytelling that seems to be creating on a blank canvass, only to end up delving right to the heart of matters of central importance for the new DCU.

This project has all the signs of having the same potential. Not only is this a world with enough distance from the Great Disaster and Kamandi’s crusades for human liberation that it stands squarely on its own, but it has roots that go back even further still, to the legacy of our own current age of heroes.

That provides plenty of room to create with freedom and abandon. And create Orlando does.

Here we are introduced to a completely unexpected, brand-new chapter of DC continuity. A world where humanity itself lives as best it can as an oppressed minority, a world where the Khunds and the Dominators are only just emerging onto the interstellar stage, a world where even an idealistic, philosophic octopus-man from the civilizations of earth’s oceans can hope to be selected to represent his planet in the great galactic games.

All quite enough to create a satisfying story. But Orlando has also peppered this brave new world with unexpected and unusual references to the legendary age of earth’s superheroes, held after all this time in equal parts reverence and superstition. Here we have strange Joker-looking bliss fish, here we have ubiquitous electrical generators branded with the Flash lightning bolt, here we have a long-lost relic of the great Kal-El himself, one-time champion of Earth, before humanity fell.

So, there’s a history here. And one that may not be nearly as divorced from current continuity as we might at first imagine. That fact is driven home by the very end of this first issue, as our heroes, forever transformed into astonishing galactic warriors, rocket through space to the Covenant battle-world… and the return to the DCU of one of its most interesting heroes of all-time.

Or whatever has become of him…

Away we go!

Electrogenesis indeed. This one promises to be good folks.

Next time: Future’s so bright, you gotta wear shades…

 

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