September 27, 2022

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Noteworthy Issues: The Secret Society Of Super-Heroes #2 (October, 2000)

The Kryptic Society reaches a breaking point that not even a Superman can hold together.

Well, here I am with the second and final issue of an Elseworlds story where the Justice League acted in complete secrecy because Superman said so.  I found the first issue rather bland.  How about the second?  Will it also be rather bland?

Issue:  The Secret Society of Super-heroes #2, October 2000

Writers:  David Tischman and Howard Chaykin

Artists:  Mike McKone and Jimmy Palmiotti

The Plot:  Internal tension within the Kryptic Society may make them a lot more public than they planned to be after all.

Commentary:  Well, that was…something.

Part One was bland because, for one, Howard Chaykin’s superheroes often come across as borderline assholes.  For another, the book had no clear focus.  Was it about FBI man Bruce Wayne’s investigation?  Was it about Superman’s losing control of his secret society?  Was it about Bart Allen’s joining it and deciding whether or not they should go public, breaking the eternal tie between opposing forces?  And the answer is, well, yes and no to all of those questions.

See, there was a minor plot moment in part one, something that confused me, that showed members of the Kryptic Society manipulating the stock market.  I assumed that had something to do with fighting the forces of evil, but no, it turns out half the society–Green Lantern, the Flash, the Atom, and Plastic Man–are doing that to supplement their incomes simply because they can.  Ray Palmer refuses to go back to living on a college professor’s salary, and the others, well, just see it as a bonus to what they do.  Wally is trying to bring Bart into that, and Bart just isn’t so sure about the whole thing.

Meanwhile, Bruce learns his father might have been a member, going by the name of Bat-man, and he opts to do much the same thing himself before the whole thing is over, and there’s a subplot about the criminal the Society sent to the Phantom Zone learning to like it there because J’onn J’onzz is leading them to what looks like a pastoral paradise for all involved.  The Phantom Zone, it seems, is rehabilitating all of these people.

Is J’onn there as a punishment too?  The book never says.

However, whatever plot strand that suggested Bart might break the tie on whether or not the heroes should go public is moot when Superman learns of the stock manipulation.  And while Wonder Woman doesn’t side with the cheaters, she does acknowledge that the Amazons cut off their funding years ago and she might have been aware of what was happening.  That just leads to a massive brawl in the streets, one where Batman’s understanding of the invisibility devices makes the heroes very visible for the first time.  Superman dies from a heart attack after stopping a building from collapsing, Wally dies when he jumps in front of a Green Lantern beam intended to silence someone else, Kyle is arrested for murder, Hawkgirl stomps on the Atom before she and Wonder Woman fly away, and after he subdues Plastic Man, Metamorpho just slinks into a sewer and that’s that.

So, in the end, Bart’s influence here is minimal.  Wally, despite his stock manipulation, is honored in the end by Bruce and Bart and is seen as a good guy probably because he helped Bart realize he wasn’t alone or a freak.  That’s a good reason, and Wally was easily the least awful of the Society members that were engaged in criminal activity, but it doesn’t erase his stock manipulation.

But then again, this is still a book co-written by Howard Chaykin, and he doesn’t write nice people.

So, whatever problems the first issue had are still very much in evidence for the second.  I do still like McKone’s artwork, but that doesn’t change the fact that the story ultimately felt somewhat inconsequential.  There were too many characters floating around, not enough focus on any of them, and I didn’t much care what happened to any single character in this two-parter.  Bart comes closest to being a flat-out “good” guy character, mostly because he just isn’t crazy about what the other heroes are doing, but he doesn’t really do anything about it.  Lois Lane is just some kind of New Age type for some reason.  Bruce just becomes Batman like Batman is almost everywhere else, only friendlier.  And Superman learned too late that he didn’t need to do everything in secret, the book seeming to suggest Clark just felt deep in his bones that all good deeds must be done anonymously.

That still doesn’t explain why the heroes had costumes.  They only got to wear them for each other.

Oh well.

Grade:  C-

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