Saturday, July 1, 2000

The Mount: Anarky - Better Dead Then Read!

Okay. Throughout this issue, you've been reading a lot of stuff about a lot of good books that didn't get a chance to develop. But I want to talk about something else. Maybe it's because I just enjoy being the one shining beacon of originality at all times. Maybe I just enjoy going against the grain. Maybe it's because all the books I wanted to write about were already taken. Regardless, I want to talk about a book that didn't get canceled quickly enough: Anarky.

Now, I had a bad feeling about this book from the start. I liked most of his early appearances, but at the time his book came out he had become an uber-god: a human who has nothing but a lot of technology and their wits and still manages to take on most of the metahumans on the planet, much like Prometheus or Batman as written by Grant Morrison.

I liked the original concept behind Anarky: a teenage geek who reads "The Will to Power" one too many times and decides to go out and fix the world. But the minute he wound up getting $100 million in a Swiss Bank account, owning a building, impressing Darksied, getting a Boom Tube and was shown as being able to outsmart Batman, outhack Oracle and generally be invincible, I lost all interest I had in the character.

The first issue set the tone for the series. We opened on Anarky meeting with the JLA, after having hacked the Watchtower communications network. After introducing himself (nobody knew who he was) as "branded a criminal", he then informed them that not only had he proven the Superstring Theory true, but that his calculations proved that there would soon be an aberration that would negate all the laws of space and time and cause the universe to stop existing. Or to use more easily understood psuedo-science babble, a big anti-matter monster was going to come and eat everything as all hell broke loose. The JLA was loath to believe this, even after they used Wonder Woman's lasso to find out Anarky was telling the truth. They were going to take him into custody, when the timer on his boom tube activated and teleported him away. While the JLA gasp and look around in confusion, Anarky watches them from his secret base underneath the Washington Monument.

Pretty much every major problem I had with the Anarky series and indeed the character can be explained away in this one scene.

  1. Inexplicable Stupidity for a Genius.

    I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer but this thought occurs to me. If you are going to ask a bunch of superheroes for help, the phrase "I'm branded a criminal" is not one to include when introducing yourself.

  2. The Justice League of Idiots

    Of course the JLA isn't much better. Their entire presence in this story is entirely dependent upon the same premise that Peter David used recently in the "Sins of Youth" storyline. That is, the JLA will trust a public media impression of someone over their own word. Granted, in the case of Anarky that is much more justified than when they questioned their own sidekicks but let's think about this. Here we have Anarky, who admits to being a wanted criminal. As far as you know, he has no superpowers other than being really clever and a good hacker. Now, we send out Superman, Martian Manhunter, Wonder Woman, The Flash. all the big guns on duty that night and surround this guy. He explains that the reason he called you is that he thinks that something weird is about to happen and needs you to fight it before the universe goes kablooie? Do you:

    1. Figure that he's got to be telling the truth, what with all he is risking just talking to you and the fact you've got him surrounded with four of the most powerful beings on the planet. And even if he's just a nut, it can't hurt to check his figures.
    2. Have your team telepath reads his mind and confirm that he at least believes he is telling the truth.
    3. Assume that there has got to be a trick. Somehow this guy has got to be lying as part of some scheme, never mind that you wouldn't know he was a wanted felon if he hadn't told you. Say that he is obviously wrong and that you are taking him in.

    If you picked C, you're either far too paranoid or noticed that sarcastic writers like me always put what really happened as the last option in an ABC poll.

  3. With Powers Like These.

    As I mentioned before, Anarky has become insanely overpowered in his last few appearances. But his escape from the JLA takes the cake in terms of pure Batmanesque "I prepare for everything". He preset his Boom Tube to take him back to his secret hideout, which is built in the bedrock under the Washington Monument. He then notes, with some satisfaction, that his cloaking technology must be working if the JLA doesn't realize that they are standing on top of him.

    Sorry. that doesn't cut it. Superman is there. The guy with a little thing called super-hearing? If he can hear children crying way on the other side of a big city like Metropolis, I can guarantee you that he can hear through a mile of rock. But for the sake of argument, let's say that Anarky spent a couple of million on soundproofing walls to the point that even a Kryptonian can't hear him. That still leaves one big green Martian telepath, who in the past has been able to track the minds of people on the other side of the planet. I'm not sure what the DC has in the way of telepathy blocking technology, but I'm pretty sure that whatever exists is classified and under tight guard. Of course Anarky could just hack the plans out of a Pentagon computer, but it doesn't matter. Either way you have a character whose actual abilities are being greatly exaggerated.

Anarky also did one thing that all Green Lantern fans should find unforgivable; it erased the one good permanent thing to come from Emerald Knights. Before returning to the past, Hal Jordan made a copy of his ring and gave it to Kyle, so he could someday start a new Corps. Kyle went off into space to do that, leaving one copy of the ring and his battery in the hands of Jenny "Jade" Hayden. Anarky #1 took place at the same time as Green Lantern #111-112, when Kyle returned to Earth only to find Jade and Jon Stewart fighting GL-hunter Fatality. Anarky knew that it would take the power of a GL ring to fight this aberration, so he went try and help Kyle and Jenny in the hopes that they would then help him. Instead he found Jade's power ring, which had been forced off her hand by Fatality in their fight. He takes the ring and after testing it by uprooting a statue of "Senator Gerry Mander" (oh, that IS subtle), he goes off to fight the aberration. The story continued through issue #2 of Anarky, where a very displeased Kyle kicks Anarky's rear around Washington DC as the anomaly grows in power. The two then team-up to fight the aberration in Anarky #3.

Why should GL fans be upset by this? Because after Anarky and Kyle defeat the anomaly, Kyle asks for the ring back and it poofs into nothingness after Anarky removes it. The two are both dumbfounded into where the ring gone and Kyle basically just shrugs and flies off.

The GL issue ended with Kyle telling Jade and Jon that he couldn't find any sign of the ring Fatality took. This left it wide open that somehow, some day, this new ring might show up again and could be used again.

But because of this plotline in Anarky any hope that GL fans had of a new Corps through this ring that could make duplicates were dashed. Similarly, this story destroyed the hopes of Jade fans everywhere that she'd be taking an active role as a hero again and not just be Kyle's girlfriend.

Anarky slouched on for a total of 8 painful issues. After the three-issue story with the GL ring, there was another three-issue story that involved Ra's Al Ghul deciding that Anarky was too dangerous to live after he discovered Ra's trying to start a war in the Middle East. This brings to mind two immediate questions. First, why would a dedicated environmentalist like Ra's be trying to start a conflict that would result in nuclear war? Since Ra's ultimate goal is the to save the world from the more destructive side of humanity, wouldn't causing fallout to rain down on the planet be totally counterproductive to his goals? And secondly, if Ra's thought it important to kill every brilliant person in a costume who contested with him, he'd have sent assassins after "the Detective" long ago. The final two issues concluded the series with an Anarky/Haunted Tank meeting (no I am not kidding) and Anarky searching for his birth father in Arkham.

Suffice to say, I'm amazed it lasted as long as it did and I don't miss it a bit. Rest in Pieces, Anarky. Rest in pieces.

Oh, and one last final thought. After reading my review of Catwoman 80 last month, several people asked me on the boards if I favored canceling Catwoman, due to the many problems with the apparent direction. Well, no I don't. Not yet. I'm still riding out the current storyline and hoping for a plot twist soon. Once it becomes apparent that Selina really HAS become a whinny bimbo for good, only then will I declare this book "better dead then read".

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