New Age of Heroes

Five months have passed since Scott Snyder’s DARK NIGHTS: METAL forever changed the face of the DC Universe. With this event came new stories and consequences as the Source Wall collapsed and unfamiliar threats appeared. However, the biggest change METAL brought to DC stemmed from a new initiative. For DC’s New Age of Heroes, the publisher did something rather cool. They put together the industries top artists and writers in order to create new characters and teams.

These heroes have grown in complexity and popularity. With many of these series getting annuals in the coming months, it’s time to explore the future of these series. Sure, they have carried the sheen of something new, cool, and different. Yet can DC’s New Age of Heroes continue to grow and better integrate into the main DC Universe?

DAMAGE: An Hour Limit?

New Age of Heroes
DAMAGE #1 Cover. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

DAMAGE follows the story of Private First Class Elvis Ethan Avery. After volunteering for a mysterious government program, Ethan was injected with an experimental serum. Now, for one hour every day, Ethan can become a living Weapon of Mass Destruction. As the invincible Damage, Ethan committed a number of atrocities for the US Government. However, he eventually escaped. With government agents on his trail, Ethan must learn to coexist with his darker alter ego. Otherwise, he’ll simply become another tool in the war on terror.

I had very little hope for the New Age of Heroes DAMAGE on its first release. The story was interesting, albeit reminiscent of Marvel’s Hulk. In fact, the visual designs and concept are strikingly similar. Also, for those early issues, the entire gimmick of his series was one-on-one brawls with other heroes. After decimating a city, he faced both the Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman.

However, as the series continued, it found its own niche. Ethan Avery developed a much deeper personality, and the themes of government experimentation and exploitation felt rather poignant. Because of this, I see a great future for DAMAGE. As a solo series, this character has a surprising amount of potential. Yes, the one-on-one character brawls could get tedious. I don’t deny that. However, future writers needn’t take this character down that road.

They could pit him more directly against his former masters, sending him on raids on corrupt military encampments. Even if they wanted to work in the “villain of the week,” element, they could send Ethan back to his masters, only for him to take missions of his choosing. Future stories definitely need to focus more on the man behind the master, but this could easily work.

Breaking into the Mainstream

New Age of Heroes
DAMAGE #3 Cover. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

While DAMAGE has a future as a solo figure, his character might not be able to escape the New Age of Heroes. He may not break free from his solo structure. While Avery technically has had the most exposure to the DC Universe proper, teaming him up with other heroes doesn’t necessarily make sense. For example, what if Damage were to one day join the Justice League? Considering that his powers are limited to only one hour, the League could only send him in at the perfect moment, for the perfect threat.

In essence, the League would act no better than the government in how they use this soldier. The same would be true for any team. This doesn’t negate future team-ups. I’d love to see Superman and Damage fighting on the same side. Also, if DARK NIGHTS: METAL gets a sequel event (likely based on its popularity), I could see Scott Snyder and his team putting Damage on the front line beside other New Age of Heroes characters. Writers need to be careful how they incorporate this character, though, lest they tear apart his character arc. They cannot forget that Avery wants to escape the things he did. He can’t simply fall back under someone’s control for no purpose.

THE SILENCER: Around the World

New Age of Heroes
THE SILENCER #1 Cover. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Trained by the legendary Talia al Ghul, Honor Guest was the world’s foremost assassin. That is until she retired. Honor escaped her past life as a killer. She started a family, had a son, and found love. Then her former employers found her and tried to strip that normalcy away. Now, Honor must pick up her guns and take the fight to Leviathan. In the New Age of Heroes, you should fear no one more than the Silencer.

THE SILENCER is an interesting series and one of the strongest additions to the New Age of Heroes. Part of its strength comes from Honor’s motivations. She isn’t a Punisher-style character, obsessed with death and vengeance. She is a loving and protective mother and wife, who only wants to keep her family out of the fire. This doesn’t just turn her story into something less predictable, it makes her a relatable and likable character. Immediately, we care about Honor’s situation because we can put ourselves in her shoes to an extent.

For this reason, I see a ton of continued solo potential for this character. As the New Age of Heroes starts to fade away, I think the Silencer will stick around. Not only is she DC’s only African American women leading her own series, Honor also has the distinction of being able to operate in realms usually unseen by the heroes. As a former assassin, she can find her way into and through circles of killers. She can walk through the seedier parts of the DC Universe and come out the other side unscathed.

War and Peace

New Age of Heroes
THE SILENCER #4 Cover. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

As far as Honor’s utility for future team-up stories, I think Silencer has a good chance of breaking free from the New Age of Heroes. She could almost play a Black Widow role on the Justice League or a future team of heroes. Essentially a former villain, Silencer can use her past criminal connections to help her team find their targets. I do have to caution future writers of this character, though. Like Damage, Silencer is defined by her themes. Without her family, she has no motivation. A team-up would likely take away this motivation without some extensive work. They can have her appear for brief team-ups in her Georgia hometown. However, to have her leave her family for long stretches of time would be a hard sell.

NEW CHALLENGERS: Weird Adventures

New Age of Heroes
NEW CHALLENGERS #1 Cover. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

During DARK NIGHTS: METAL, the mysterious Challengers Mountain reappeared from the Dark Multiverse. After the war was over, though, the Mountain disappeared. Using the Mountain’s mystical and technological abilities, a man named Prof calls on four skilled (and deceased) victims of the METAL tragedy. Revived by the power of the Mountain, these new Challengers of the Unknown must venture out into the strangest parts of the DC Universe to save it from a coming doom.

NEW CHALLENGERS is one of my favorite series in the New Age of Heroes. Sadly, it will also be the shortest lived. NEW CHALLENGERS #6 will be the team’s last stand in the DC Universe. At least for now. See, I want it to make a comeback. Jack Kirby’s original CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN series did something completely different. It clung to old adventure narratives while adding in a dash of the Silver Age.

NEW CHALLENGERS was just starting to capture that sense of adventure. Imagine, a monthly adventure series where this cast visited a new location every issue. More importantly, its lead characters have developed interesting and diverse personalities. Whether you look at the bruiser Krunch or the superstitious doctor Trina, the story really made you care. DC will lose something really special when that final issue rolls around. I still hold out hope that the last installment will be for NEW CHALLENGERS, not for a continued CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN series.

Against Gods and Monsters

NEW AGE OF HEROES
NEW CHALLENGERS #2 Cover. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Of the New Age of Heroes series, I feel that NEW CHALLENGERS has the least team-up capability. They are a group of completely average human beings. In a solo context, this makes them an interesting and inspirational group. With a team-up, though, they would simply get overshadowed by more established DC characters. In NEW CHALLENGERS #2, for example, Aquaman made a brief appearance. Suddenly, I didn’t care as much about agoraphobic hacker Moses’ story. I wanted to follow the king of Atlantis around. I’d rather see them continue on as a solo adventure narrative. In fact, I see this working rather well with the correct writer.

THE CURSE OF BRIMSTONE: Literally on Fire

New Age of Heroes
THE CURSE OF BRIMSTONE #1 Cover. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment

Of the New Age of Heroes characters, Brimstone is probably the most generally popular. Joseph Chamberlain was just like every other small town kid. He wanted his hometown to prosper like in the good-old-days. Despite his love for his home, though, he grew frustrated with the options he had available to him there. One day, his car broke down in the woods. Luckily, a mysterious man in a limo drove by and volunteered to take him home. On the drive, the stranger gave Joe an opportunity to put his hometown on the map. Joe only needed to give up his soul and body to a fiery, uncontrollable demon monster to do so.

THE CURSE OF BRIMSTONE did a lot of things right almost immediately. The visual style set it apart from almost every other DC property. Meanwhile, the concept deviated just enough from the obvious GHOST RIDER influences to be really interesting. Joseph Chamberlain’s small-town frustrations and loyalty stood apart from so many of the big city superheroes out there. His views on his living situation feel entirely believable, making him one of the most relatable DC heroes in a long time. He isn’t some random rich kid that decided to wear tights and fight crime. He made a horrible mistake and paid the price for it. Joseph doesn’t just give up, though. In fact, he fights back against the Salesman. That makes his story interesting, and it gives it so much potential for continuation.

A Deal With the Devil

New Age of Heroes
THE CURSE OF BRIMSTONE #1. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Much like Silencer and Damage, future writers have to be careful when incorporating this character into future teams. So much of his character lives in that singular, isolated personality. It hasn’t really been tested by a large cast yet, so it is hard to tell how this small-town kid would fit into the larger DC Universe. Now, if writers wanted to put him on a team like JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK, I would wholly stand behind that decision. They simply cannot forget to address the unique elements of his personality. If he’s visiting some other dimension or even Gotham City, he needs to put his own spin on the location. They cannot let Joseph Chamberlain’s voice be buried under the plot or other characters. If they do that, though, he could have a great team or cameo potential.

THE UNEXPECTED: Somewhat Expected

New Age of Heroes
THE UNEXPECTED #1 Cover. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Before becoming the supernatural brawler known as Firebrand, Ronan only fought to save lives as an EMT. Her life changed, though, when Challengers Mountain appeared in Gotham City, and monsters followed. They swarmed her ambulance, broke in, and her life ended. At least, that is what she expected. An organization acquired her remains, and with a little Multiversal metal, implanted the “Conflict Engine” in her chest. Now, she has to fight once every twenty-four hours or she will die. Thankfully, there are a lot of fights in her future. Villains Onimar Synn and Alden Quench are on the hunt for Nth Metal. Only Firebrand, Neon the Unknown, the Ascendant, and Viking Judge can stop them.

I had a lot of hope for THE UNEXPECTED after its first issue. Writer Steve Orlando promised a truly “unexpected” series of events, and after the first issue found two team members dead, I believed him. Now, though, the story has fallen into a bad rhythm of somewhat predictable storylines. Don’t get me wrong. I believe in THE UNEXPECTED, and with two reality bending superheroes, this team book can branch out in ways other series cannot. Much like NEW CHALLENGERS, THE UNEXPECTED can expand outward into some crazy and cool story arcs. Unlike the Challengers, though, this story can go multiversal, which I love. The creative teams simply need to capture the fun and excitement of that first issue, and I’ll buy into it.

Reality Bending Problems

New Age of Heroes
THE UNEXPECTED #1. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

In terms of expansion into the DC Universe proper, THE UNEXPECTED will find a hard time finding a foothold. Neon and his team have divine levels of superpowers. They can do things that the Justice League can only dream of. This puts them out of the game for most stories, sadly. Any cameo appearances will have to be massive threats. In fact, if and when DARK NIGHTS: METAL gets its sequel, this team will likely play a key role. I’m calling it now. However, until then, they need to spend some time on personal introspection. We haven’t even had the chance to get to know the whole team yet. Right now, they feel like little more than heroic archetypes. They can’t start branching out into DC proper without a good sense of self first.

SIDEWAYS: The Teenage Wunderkind

New Age of Heroes
SIDEWAYS #1 Cover. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Derek James was at ground zero during DARK NIGHTS: METAL. Living in Gotham City, he watched as Challenger’s Mountain clawed its way out of the Earth and doused the city in dark multiversal energy. Derek didn’t escape that day unscathed. Rather, he woke up with the ability to open portals to anywhere he could imagine. Sounds like a dream come true, right? Wrong. Powers and responsibilities prove tricky when you have school and a social life to attend to. So when your closest friends and family start getting caught in the crossfire? Being a superhero can seem like hell.

SIDEWAYS has the greatest potential of any New Age of Heroes property to hit the big time on both a solo and team-up level. For the former, he’s already played into the elements that made Spider-Man such a likeable character. He’s a young guy with friends and a life and, at least for the beginning of this series, being a superhero just looks fun. Sideways can go wherever he wants in the blink of an eye.

More importantly, Derek James is a likable character, and one who truly represents the struggles and joys of being a teen today. For God’s sake, he runs a his own video blog while fighting crime. This is a character who’s proven that whether he plays to a young adult or purely adult audience, he can relate to the reader. That gives him staying power for years to come.

Going Multiversal

New Age of Heroes
SIDEWAYS #3. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Sideways also has the greatest potential of any property on this list to make it into the big league team-up scene. Seriously, who wouldn’t want this character playing around on the Titans (teen or otherwise)? He already fits the fun and aesthetic elements of those groups, and he could play a nice foil to Damian Wayne’s dark and brooding demeanor. More importantly, he has already been tried and tested on a team. In the most recent issue, he joined up with the Seven Soldiers of Victory to help them battle an incoming threat. I see that as DC putting Sideways through a test run to see if he can make it with other characters. So far, I think he’s passed with flying colors. DC needs to bring this character into the mainstream before he fades into anonymity.

THE TERRIFICS: Pretty Terrific

New Age of Heroes
THE TERRIFICS #1 Cover. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

In an attempt to save fellow hero Metamorpho, Mister Terrific and Plastic Man accidentally send everyone present deep into the Dark Mulitverse. Returning with the alien Phantom Girl in tow, the four discover that they cannot separate. This isn’t referring to love and friendship. If they move more than a mile away from each other, they could possibly explode with dark energy. Now, these four have become DC’s least likely superteam, with a single mission in mind: find a way to counteract the dark energy before they go crazy.

As a team book, THE TERRIFICS  has done a rather good job. It has had its slow moments but, for the most part, this series has proven itself time and again. I really care for each of these characters. Their personalities conflict to such a high degree that it actually makes every book hilarious. Yet even if you don’t come for great characterization, their adventures succeed where books like NEW CHALLENGERS and THE UNEXPECTED have faltered. They delve into some deeply obscure areas of DC lore and have some high intensity adventures in strange science-fiction environs. This is a book where the writer obviously has fun telling the story. It comes through on every page, and for that reason, I think THE TERRIFICS has a fantastic chance to continue on for several more issues.

Stretching Out

New Age of Heroes
THE TERRIFICS #3 Cover. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

I don’t necessarily think this team can branch out past the New Age of Heroes into the DC Universe proper, though. This isn’t a criticism, however. Unlike so many of these teams, three-quarters of this team are well known heroes. Mister Terrific, Metamorpho, and Plastic Man have all made names for themselves already. Even Phantom Girl is based on a Legion of Super-Heroes character.

The problem I foresee is that if and when they make a cameo, I won’t recognize them as part of a team. I’ll see them as separate entities, which makes it hard for this team to find footing. After all, when I see Superman, one of the first connections I make is with the Justice League. The same can’t be said for Plastic Man. If these were new characters, I might not have the same problems. Yet, for this reason, their team-up potential does falter a bit.

THE IMMORTAL MEN: Nothing Lasts Forever

New Age of Heroes
THE IMMORTAL MEN #1 Cover. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

For millenia, the Immortal Man and his siblings have guided the course of mankind in their own ways. Able to give pieces of their immortality to other warriors, they have each built armies of like-minded people. Their only rule: don’t interfere in your siblings’ affairs. Now, though, the Immortal Man’s sister has waged war on his army. Only four remain, with a fifth new recruit roaming through Manhattan. The Immortal Man and his remaining forces must find this boy, Caden Park, before his sister. Otherwise, they will lose this war.

In terms of concepts, THE IMMORTAL MEN is one of the coolest additions to the New Age of Heroes. Unlike the Terrifics, this isn’t a personality driven team book. I don’t particularly care about these characters in the same way. However, the action and adventure elements simply work.

With that said, though, part of me is glad that the sixth issue will be the final one. I love this series and, because of that, I recognize that it doesn’t necessarily have a solo series future. After the battle with the Immortal Man’s family, there aren’t many directions for this story to go on its own. The Immortal Man’s forces are decimated. He has to rebuild his army. What then? What could be next for this team?

They could simply go about typical superheroing. Alternatively, they could go out in a massive, incredible blaze of glory. I prefer the latter. Now, if DC wanted to take one of these characters and make them a solo act, say Caden Park (who now holds all of the powers of the Immortal Man’s army), I wouldn’t have a problem with that. I wouldn’t even mind a Vietnam War prequel series for the white-robed Reload.

Bringing the Fight Elsewhere

New Age of Heroes
THE IMMORTAL MEN #5 Cover. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

All of this applies only to the solo series THE IMMORTAL MEN. They should quit while it’s ahead. However, I don’t want this team to disappear. Rather, I think they have the greatest potential for future cameos. The Immortal Man himself ties directly into the lore of DARK NIGHTS: METAL, representing the Bear Tribe of historical warriors. This makes them an integral part to any future METAL material. More importantly, they are a team based on righteous action. They intercede for the best of the world. Could they see fault in the Suicide Squad? The Justice League? What if they could actually win those fights? The Immortal Men need to live on in the DC Universe. The building blocks are already there. The right writer simply needs to take up the reigns.

DC’s New Age of Heroes: Final Thoughts

The New Age of Heroes is chock full of interesting characters. DC has a wealth of potential storylines in any one of these series. The New Age of Heroes provided DC with exactly the boon they needed. Their best writers and artists have created potentially integral new DC characters. Will these heroes all survive the coming years’ publications? Probably not. Most of these series will likely disappear at some point, disappointing fans everywhere. However, what will remain are a wealth of potentially incredible characters that can make appearances in other stories. DC made the right decision by instituting the New Age of Heroes. Now, they need to figure out its next steps.

One Comment

  1. dc4life

    August 28, 2018 at 1:01 am

    Everyone of these books is failing and most will be canceled by issue #12! All you have to do is look at the bottom of the sales numbers to find almost all of these books.

    Reply

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