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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

This Day in History: Canceled Series Annuals

The Justice League International Annual isn't due for another two weeks. While it might seem odd to release an annual to a series that has already been canceled, it certainly won't be the first time that this has happened to a Justice League title. Sixteen years ago today, DC published Justice League America Annual #10 more than two months after the series had been canceled at issue #113. Then, as now, Booster Gold took center stage.

The theme of the DC annuals in 1996 was "Legends of the Dead Earth," a series of tales about how the heroes of the DC Universe would go on to inspire humanity years after their own deaths. While many of the stories in these annuals could be considered unlabeled Elseworlds tales of an alternate reality, the Justice League story was heavily linked to ongoing continuity.

© DC Comics

The story focuses on Captain Atom during one of his many unintentional trips through the quantum field to a future where Maxwell Lord's villainous schemes were oppressing humanity. (Sound familiar, Justice League: Generation Lost readers?) Lord has created a new JLI-inspired team called the Alliance that spend most of their time violently putting down "Trogs" bold enough to oppose Lord's tyranny. Whatever his original motivation, it becomes clear that Maxwell Lord has become corrupted inside former JLI-foe Lord Havok's robotic body (expanding on a plotline last seen in Justice League America #100).

The other original member of the JLI on the team is Michael Jon Carter. Refusing to be called Booster Gold, Michael acts as the team's field leader. Michael's position as Lord's right-hand man is fitting given that Lord had once hand-picked Booster to join his new JLI (as seen in Booster Gold #16). Michael is still something of a time traveler, having survived the intervening centuries by replacing his organic parts with mechanical imitations (a process begun in Justice League America #90). Wearing a prototypically Extreme! 1990s costume, this Michael exhibits a no-nonsense demeanor, increased power, and a warped set of personal values, even by Booster's admittedly questionable standards.

© DC Comics

Before the story careens to its conclusion, it is revealed that Maxwell Lord is an evil megalomaniac who relives his past with living puppets based on his JLI template. Booster's motivations are never made clear, though Captain Atom expresses many uncharacteristically derogatory theories. Booster Gold fans are likely to be far more forgiving to our hero's actions.

Clearly a product of its era, this book is hardly the best annual in which Booster Gold appeared. Christopher Priest's story really doesn't make much sense, and Nick Napolitano's inks are especially unattractive. With the bar for annuals of cancelled series set this low, Geoff Johns and Dan DiDio won't have to do much work to top this effort.

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