It’s the future. A young woman has an audience with the President.
Rose and the Thorn. Ordinary woman and her split personality ‘sister’, a crazed vigilante who’s begun to suspect she’s immortal. Rose, who has been the dominant personality for years due to drug treatment, is terrified that the Thorn is about to re-emerge.
It’s further into the future. The Thorn is loose, savagely tackling Neo-Gotham’s crime problem. Batman Beyond interrupts.
Further still, and Thorn has reached the world of Kamandi, Last Boy on Earth. She’s really not nice.
Later still, Rose is back in charge of her body. She wants to run away from her problems by joining the space police.
Well, this was a rollercoaster.
Publicising this two-issue mini-series leading to a new Legion of Super-Heroes book, writer Brian Michael Bendis said it featured a present day DC character discovering they’re immortal. The Thorn doesn’t seem clear as to how it’s happened, but her encounter with Red Cloud in last week’s Action Comics seems a pretty decent possibility.
Rose Forrest’s story, as presented here, is pretty tragic – she’s torn between two personalities – one a deeply disturbed woman, which puts immortality firmly into the ‘curse’ category. The Thorn is so savage – a scene with her killing an ape elder pal of Kamandi’s is visually striking as drawn by Andrea Sorrentino, but deeply unpleasant – that I really don’t want to spend time with her. By the end of the book, apparently driven mad by her situation and the things she’s seen, even the Rose side of her is pretty unpleasant. To be fair to Bendis, her first appearance, in 1970’s Lois Lane #105, had Thorn threatening to hunt down and kill every member of criminal gang The 100, so it’s not like there isn’t precedent.
This moment is intriguing – is it her ‘different’ mental state that allows the Thorn to notice the DC Metaverse’s changing realities?
I like seeing Supergirl as a stateswoman (fellow ancients may recall that Superman Family #200 ‘predicted’ Linda Danvers would become a governor). Supergirl – Superwoman, I suppose – displays a sensitive approach to mental illness, which is something rarely seen in comics. The first page, with its stressing that the person Rose is about to meet is able to tell if a person is lying, had me expecting Wonder Woman and her lasso of truth, but of course, Kryptonian senses can easily substitute for a lie detector.
President Superwoman being surrounded by dummies wearing her old costumes is nutty, but fun – Kara has traditionally been big on outfit switching.
I’m dying to know how Kara came to be President. I don’t know Batman Beyond at all but Terry McGuinness seems a nice guy. The Kamandi pages close on an intriguing note of suspense. And Bendis’ version of Tommy Tomorrow of the Planeteers is super-sweet.
As I’ve said previously, I’m not a fan or DC heroes effing and blinding – Zatanna, for goodness’ sake, was at it in last week’s Justice League Dark – but I suppose it isn’t out of character for the fightin’ mad Thorn, and indeed, the frayed Rose. And it does allow for a fun scene with Batman Beyond.
The overall tone, though, is pretty grim for the lead-in to a new Legion series which we know Bendis intends as a splash of optimism in an ever-gloomier world. I can only assume it’s an ‘it’s always darkest…’ approach and that by the time the Legion shows up daylight will be firmly here. I really hope poor old Rose finds some peace because as a fan of the original version of the character – spiky costume, auburn wig, exploding thorns and all – I hate seeing Rose stuck with an eternal life of misery.
Bendis is on fine form, crafting dramatic scenes that give us just enough of Rose’s journey to suggest the sweep of the various DC futures. We don’t really need to see all these times and places to kick off a new Legion book, but if Bendis wants to briefly visit concepts outside of his usual DC playground, this is as good an excuse as any.
The mix of artists is impressive. In the opening vignette, Jim Lee – inked by Scott Williams and coloured by Alex Sinclair – gets to strut his stuff with a couple of action-packed spreads (apparently this version of the Thorn either has super-strength or access to big prop boulders) and show he’s not bad at quieter scenes. Dustin Nguyen’s moody Batman Beyond pages really sell the cocktail of craziness and confusion that is the Thorn, and the lighting of colour artist John Kalisz is very effective. Andrea Sorrentino’s Last Boy on Earth pages, with high contrast colours by Dave Stewart, are epically eye-popping. And André Lima Araújo’s Tommy Tomorrow art, coloured by the always excellent Jordie Bellaire, carries just the right note of whimsy. The letters throughout come from Dave Sharpe, someone who never gets the praise he deserves.
As for Ryan Sook’s cover, it’s just brilliant in concept and execution.
And look, a Bryan Hitch variant. I love the heroic dash of the composition and how he’s portrayed the characters, this is the kind of art DC would put on a Seventies treasury edition – just magical.
All in all, Millennium #1 is a strong snapshot of the DCU’s future and knowing it’s bringing us, as Bendis says, to the front door of the Legion clubhouse makes the intensity of Rose and the Thorn’s role more bearable.
Long Live the Legion!