So, I had this plan to use this space to go over one of the old DC Annuals storyline/themes. I had read many of them back in the day, and I was wondering how many, if any, actually held up to new reading years later. I was mostly trying to decide between the Armageddon 2001, Legends of the Dead Earth, or Elseworlds. Yes, the last two were not really connected to each other, but the point stands. Then, it turns out, DC Infinite only has sporadic issues in all of those storylines. The service is still adding older issues on a weekly basis, and my guess is there’s no real priority to get all of those up there. I even considered Eclipso: The Darkness Within or Bloodlines, but same deal. Heck, I don’t think the service even had the story bookends for those two. So, I could go with some random annuals and hope that DC Infinite would continue to add more as time went on, or I could do something else.
Well, the service did have a lot of Elseworlds stuff listed as some kind of series, so I figured I’d try that.
Issue: The Secret Society of Super-Heroes #1, September 2000
Writers: Howard Chaykin and David Tischman
Artists: Mike McKone and Jimmy Palmiotti
The Plot: An aging Superman leads the Kryptic Society, a secret group made up of the world’s superheroes, that have been fighting crime and injustice for years without revealing their presence to the rest of the world.
Commentary: So, yeah, this one didn’t work for me. I might have thought as much when I noticed Chaykin’s name here. I think he does better with stories about crime and corruption, but his superheroes almost always come across as assholes. That is very much the case here, but not in a particularly distinctive way. Instead, I wonder where he got his idea on who Superman as a character actually is.
In fact, his Superman is someone who, for some reason, has been around since the 40s but ages like a normal person, to the point where his superpowers are actually starting to fail him in his old age. This is a Clark Kent who suffers a heart attack and is shocked when a paramedic gets an IV into him. Granted, both should be shocking for Superman, but the point stands. This Clark Kent is the editor-in-chief of the Daily Planet while Lois Lane, here much younger, works for Perry White on a Weekly World News style tabloid. But Lois and FBI profiler Bruce Wayne are both looking into the mysterious disappearance of scores of people.
These people are the criminals that Superman’s Society hunts down and captures. Using invisibility fields given to them by the Amazons, Superman works with Wonder Woman, Hawkgirl, Metamorpho, Plastic Man, the Atom, Wally West’s Flash, and Kyle Rayner’s Green Lantern to bring down criminals and send them off to the Phantom Zone before the rightful authorities can capture them. Wally is also working to bring a new superhuman, Bart Allen, into the fold, hoping that Bart can break the forever tie that the Society has over whether or not they should reveal themselves to the public. Kyle is the leading voice to do so, and Clark is chafing somewhat towards the younger hero.
Oh, and it does appear there are no supervillains in this world. The closest the book comes is that Bruce is tracking a serial killer that is basically the Riddler. Additionally, the brief glimpse given of the Phantom Zone shows it is a rather pleasant place with its own society, watched over by the Martian Manhunter.
As it is, as I read this, I could only wonder, is there a point to all this? The book shows the different members of the Society taking down criminals and in one case causing a stock market crash to fight evildoers, but all of it is in secret. Why do they wear costumes if they’re invisible when they fight crime? There’s the impression that Clark learned as a boy in the 40s that it is better to do good deeds without recognition, but why do the others go along with it? Some, like Metamorpho and Plastic Man make sense, and the story teases that Bruce’s father Thomas was a member at some point in the past, but unless this is a world where they fear and hate their heroes, I don’t see the reason to stay secret. As Kyle wonders aloud, shouldn’t they be role models?
So, there’s some mystery, but if I hadn’t decided to do all those Elseworlds stories, I probably wouldn’t have gone on. That said, I do like Mike McKone’s artwork, and he redesigns of the heroes is rather cool. But for the rest, it felt rather “meh”.