While I’m missing a few of the connected annuals, I think you get the idea. Armageddon 2001 wasn’t an event like you see today, where every regular issue is interrupted to tie into the event going on. They were practically Elseworlds stories of things that won’t happen. It all centered around Waverider’s search for the hero who would become Monarch and rule the future with an iron grip. It was a good idea and allowed the writers to play with the characters outside of the confines of continuity. Stories like this are better than new writers tossing everything aside to tell the story they want rather than continuing the universe. And the mystery of which hero they were going to toss aside and become a new supervillain, that they would actually be aware of now and could keep from creating his fascist state, was also a good idea.
And then it all went to pot in this issue. The reason? The twist was more important that the mystery. I’ll get into that once we get to the reveal of who Monarch is…and why it shouldn’t be him!
Armageddon 2001 #2
DC Comics (1991)WRITER: Denny O’Neil PENCILER: Dan Jurgens INKERS: Art Thibert, Steve Mitchell, & Dick Giordano COLORIST: Adrienne Roy LETTERER: John Costanza EDITOR: Jonathan Peterson
Justice League Europe‘s entry (which I don’t have…all hail Wikipedia) ended with Waverider reaching the last person on his list, Captain Atom. His timeline revealed that Nathaniel Adam had to give up his superhero identity after it was learned he might be damaging the universe or something with his powers (wait, if this timeline didn’t happen, does that mean his powers now AREN’T damaging reality?) and he’s now dating some woman named Shirley. I never had the chance to read any Captain Atom comics so I don’t know anything about this. Anyway, he comes upon his children and grandchildren dead after being caught in rival gang crossfire. Because the gangs are now semi-legal in whatever town he’s in (because that made a whole lot of sense) and the cops couldn’t give two whatevers nobody is going to get punished. At least not until Nat learns his family’s bodies were sent to the landfill because the morgue was full. Becoming Captain Atom again he vaporizes the landfill and then does the same to the gang responsible, before seeing what his rage has caused him to do.
It’s done something else, too. Thanks to Waverider’s scan of time Atom’s burst in that alternate future somehow allowed Monarch (who was trapped in time going after Waverider to prepare his future’s continued existence) to complete his trip to the modern-day, where he proceeds to kick the butt of every superhero in the general area, even Superman and Power Girl (at least I think that’s Power Girl, she was wearing that yellow thing without the cape) before teleporting away to begin his master plan.
Waverider tries to explain what happened but Captain Atom blames himself even though it was his alternate reality self who was responsible. Then things get…confusing.
That’s right, Waverider never eliminated anyone because (and we did admittedly see evidence of this with the Superman stories and with Flash’s) he kept changing history every time he scanned someone’s potential future. In other words it’s possible that, in his new voyeur role, he created Monarch. (Not surprisingly, this gives Flash an even bigger headache.) And because Monarch broke the scan prematurely Captain Atom is fully aware of that reality and still blames himself for freeing Monarch. In other words, we’ve just been told that the whole mystery angle was all for nothing and whomever we thought it was it actually wasn’t. I wish the biggest complaint fans have with this story was a denied detective story. No, it gets worse, and it really isn’t Denny O’Neil’s fault.
While the explanations have been going on Monarch has been busy. He kidnaps Dove and kills her boyfriend and then does the same to Hawk. Then he goes “shopping” for various items he needs to build a huge explosive. But he’s not going to be the one to set it off. And here is where the failure comes from. First, Monarch goes on and on about Hawk’s life, about he couldn’t talk to girls, about his anger, and his unrequited love for the current Dove…and then kills Dove! This is half the reason the Hawk & Dove comic ended. Of course Monarch released Hawk so he could kill him…and by that I mean so Hawk could kill Monarch! Wait, what? Oh it gets worse. Much, much worse!
Hank “Hawk” Hall is Monarch!
There are two problems with this. One is continuity. I’ll let Wikipedia explain part of this.
This revelation was extremely unpopular among both fans and professionals, in part because of the logical flaw mentioned above and the disregard for the clues placed in previous issues. Additionally, it required Hawk to behave in ways that many felt to be out of character. This also made it impossible to continue using either Hawk or Dove as they had in the past and necessitated the cancellation of the Hawk & Dove series. Karl Kesel, the writer of Hawk & Dove, commented that “Hawk and Dove was always a love story. Then one day, Hawk went insane and murdered Dove”.
That’s half of the continuity error. The other is that in the Hawk & Dove Annual story Waverider checked ALL of Dove’s potential futures. In all of them Hawk FOUGHT Monarch…and got his butt handed to him. In one reality in particular Hank and Dawn’s daughter (because I guess Kesel had planned to get them together eventually), Unity, rose up and finished Monarch off once and for all. Of all of the people to choose, why Hawk? Why fridge Dove to turn Hank into Monarch? Because of that twist I mentioned.
Armageddon 2001 is generally disliked by readers for what has been described as the dishonesty of its resolution. The frame story had been presented as a mystery – which superhero would go insane, kill all other heroes, and take over the world, and why? – and clues were provided. However, at some point during the crossover the future-culprit’s identity was leaked. Captain Atom would be the one who became Monarch. The conclusion of the Annual for Justice League Europe, the final crossover issue before the conclusion of the story, seemed to confirm this leak. Waverider had seen the futures of various Justice League Europe members but had not scanned Captain Atom, who was away at the time. The final panel of the issue showed Waverider about to touch Captain Atom, who had just returned, and a text box stated that the story would be concluded in the second issue of Armageddon 2001.
In response to the leak, the surprise ending was changed at the last minute: Monarch was revealed to be, not Captain Atom, but rather Hawk. The problem with this reveal as many fans pointed is that Waverider had seen Hank Hall fight and die against Monarch and that Dove had allowed him to see so many futures as to conclude “No matter the future they fought him but never became him, making Hank Hall and Dawn Granger the two heroes Monarch could not be. Ironically, they were the only characters shown in this situation, and thus any of the other major characters could have been Monarch without creating a continuity issue.
In order to preserve their twist they went with one of the two people proven beyond all doubt to NOT become Monarch! They even provided a potential second mystery in the Hawk & Dove Annual, where Monarch brings in a moment of doubt that he was responsible.
In fact, in the story he seems rather disappointed about the heroes’ deaths and being the only one, which is why he so willingly accepts Unity into his ranks, not realizing it was a trap. The only evidence of a Hawk connection is when he mentions that he was surprised Hawk didn’t die with the others, “with…Dove”. Either he was trying to throw that in Hawk’s face, realizing that Dove could have survived as well as Hawk (Hawk even mentions that avatars of Order and Chaos don’t die so easily and it turns out she’s been biding time in the dimension of the Lords), or he was sad about her passing, which could be due to his alternate universe self I guess but how does that even work?
Pretending this was always the intention, Monarch’s plan was to go back in time, have Hawk kill him (when we saw in both that annual and in this issue that Monarch can easily wipe the mat with him or the other superheroes), and then have Hawk become Monarch, who will kill off the other heroes, establish his new world order, and then leave that order without his leadership so he can commit suicide and start the time loop all over again?
You said it, Wally!
Oh, and don’t worry about Dove. She gets better. If you call this better:
A storyline in JSA would later reveal that the ending of Armageddon 2001 had been faked by Mordru. He had created an illusion of Dove being murdered by a future Hawk/Monarch in order to drive the current Hawk insane. He then took control of Hawk and used him to impregnate Dove so she would give birth to a child that would inherit all the powers of the Lords of Chaos and Order. Mordru cast a spell on Dove that kept her in a comatose state for years. She did give birth to a child but before Mordru could possess the child’s body it was instead inhabited by a reincarnated Hector Hall who aged the body to adulthood and became the new Doctor Fate. Much later while searching for his wife Lyta, Hector would discover Dove and bring her out of Mordru’s spell revealing the truth of these events. She would then discover that her sister had inherited the Hawk powers after the death of Hank Hall.
. . . . . WHAT?
Back to the story I guess. Hank then becomes the new Monarch after giving the obligatory “nothing makes sense anymore but I’ll make it right” speech out of nowhere that still sounds better than Superboy-Prime’s. He demand every hero on Earth show up at Metropolis at 3:00 but Captain Atom, failing to convince everyone to let him face Monarch alone (still at his pity party but if you read it it’s more understandable that currently used), decides not to show up at all. Everybody else shows up, including a cameo by the Team Titans, a story too long to go into here, even if I knew it. Monarch arrives and declare that he is going to make everything right and will start by blowing up Metropolis and killing all of the heroes, picking off the stragglers later. I should remind you that this story takes place in modern-day, let’s say 1991, when Monarch’s big betrayal is supposed to happen in 2001, hence the title of this event.
As Monarch activates his bomb, though, Captain Atom bursts out of the ground and uses his powers to hold in the explosion. Monarch goes to interfere and both are absorbed into the explosion. This will not actually kill them because…I don’t know, Virginia is for lovers. It’s comics, we don’t have to explain it! The heroes go into rescue mode since some damage was done to the city and not everyone was evacuated from the area yet. And among the rubble is one small boy who will always wonder who the superhero was that rescued him. It will haunt him until he becomes an adult, will tire of the rule under Monarch, and will go back in time to stop him. Yes, Matthew Rider has finally found out who the hero is that rescued him…Waverider! Missing is the speech we saw at the beginning of the comic, though, but it is Waverider’s hand that reaches for Matthew Rider’s hand and pulls him from the rubble. Waverider, for whatever mistakes he made, is a superhero.
(And before any Whovians start going over the problems of two of the same people sharing the same space and stuff, Waverider is a different being from the Matthew Rider he used to be. And it never stopped the Doctor from interacting with his other regenerations, including physical contact. So hush up!)
As for Captain Atom, he isn’t dead. He wakes up in dinosaur times, and finds part of Monarch’s gauntlet. This will lead into the second chapter of Armageddon, the four-part non-tie-in The Alien Agenda, which we will be getting to in the Monday DC comic reviews for “Yesterday’s” Comics. Waverider himself will return in the final Armageddon story, Inferno, which we will also get to after The Alien Agenda.
Even DC Comics acknowledges that the decision to change Monarch from Captain Atom to Hawk was a dumb idea. Their solution, however, in addition to the bit above, was to try to make Nathaniel Adam into Monarch after the fact, with retcons and other silliness. As for MonHawk, he’ll be back in the Zero Hour event, which we’ll get to. I do wonder how it would have ended otherwise. Would modern Captain Atom oppose his evil future counterpart? That would make even more sense that he would want to take Monarch down at all costs than this leftover memory of losing control, some would say justifiably considering how his family was treated in that alternate future.
Armageddon 2001 could have been a great mystery story, with the readers buying all of the crossovers looking for hints as to who this Monarch actually is. It would have been a fascinating story, but having a twist was more important to DC than having a good story. This wouldn’t be the last time DC screwed up a mystery like this, when Identity Crisis would throw in an unnecessary rape subplot as part of their plan to make the DC Universe more edgy and less lighthearted, as well as red herring to the true villain of the piece. It ruined many good characters and overshadowed a potentially good mystery. Still, Armageddon 2001 still works for the alternate timeline tales in the annuals, even if the driving story falls apart at the end, so those at least are worth finding. I also hope to get the annuals I missed to see how those came out. That, and the fact that I honestly like Waverider, make this event worth it.