Filing Cabinet of the Damned

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Champions Project: Moondragon #4

Moondragon #4: I and Thou

Splash page: Moondragon kneels in tall grass over the body of Alice Coughlin. Alice has a long bar of metal protruding from her back. Blood covers her back and forms a pool around Moondragon's boots. Captions read: "Moments ago, Alice Coughlin was impaled. Nearly slain twice before by strange beings for reasons unknown, she has been under the protection of Moondragon. The Priestess of Pama employed Alice as a way to understand humanity."

Moondragon has a single thought balloon: "Disappointing."

Another caption reads: "Her understanding is incomplete."

On the next page we see the Laughing Killers from the previous issue emerge from the smashed-open entrance to the MegaMart. They are silent. Moondragon comes to her feet and assumes a fighting stance. When the nine Laughers see that Alice is dying, they turn from Moondragon and walk away into the parking lot. As they leave, Moondragon feels the psionic jamming from the attackers fade away.

She scowls. "I'll follow them later," she thinks. She then turns back to Alice. Alice has not yet died, but it won't be long. Frustration etches Moondragon's face. More than anything, she's burning with curiosity about who would go to such lengths to kill such a useless person as Alice Coughlin, fake psychic. Two armies of orangutans, a group of nine laughing middle-aged superpowered assassins...she had to know.

She places one hand upon Alice's bloodstained face. Before the woman dies, Moondragon decides, she will perform one last probe of the unremarkable woman's mind.

We see a small checkerboard montage of Alice's life: childhood, marriages, and so forth. No luck. "Alright," Moondragon thinks. "To the depths." And so she digs herself deep into the core of Alice's mind.

Double-page splash. Structured exactly like the double-page montage of Moondragon's life back in issue #1, we see the full scope of Alice's life.

A lot of it is less than pretty, and most of that is Alice's own doing. We see that Alice is greedy, a liar, and dishonest. Her life is pathetic, shallow, and venal. And yet it no less a treasure for all that. Despite her shabby character and foolishness, her life is beautiful. It has a value beyond price. And we see that though her story is different from Moondragon's, the feeling is the same.

We come back to Moondragon, kneeling beside Alice. Tears stream down the heroine's face. She still does not understand why Alice was attacked, but she now knows Alice as well as she knows herself. For the first time, Moondragon sees Alice as a person instead of a puzzle, an impediment, or a joke. The Priestess of Pama has discovered what humanity is, and that, despite her longstanding resistance to the notion, she is a part of it.

Using her telekinesis, she withdraws the spear from Alice's back and does what she can to keep her newfound sister alive.

Meanwhile, three police cars squeal into the parking lot of the MegaMart in front of the now-silent Laughing Killers. Six police burst out of the squad cars, guns drawn. They yell at the Laughers to halt.

All nine middle-aged killers begin to laugh again.

We jump back to Moondragon, lost in concentration. She's trying to suture together Alice's ruptured organs and stop the bleeding with her telekinetic powers. Large patches of dirt and blood stain her white sci-fi outfit. Grief and loss distort her face.

Cracks of gunfire draw her attention.

We see what she does: the police officers are being manhandled by the Laughing Killers. One has levitated a squad car nine feet in the air. Another is arcing lightning bolts from her body. A short man has lifted an officer above his head. Laughter barks across the asphalt.

Until a mud-caked sci-fi superheroine tears into them. Her kung-fu skills unloads generous portions of whoopassedness to two of the Laughers. They skid across the asphalt, losing a bit of skin. We see that beneath their skins is metal, blood, and a green viscous liquid.

Moondragon fights harder than we've ever seen her. Her psionic powers muted by whichever of the nine cyborgs is the psi-jammer, she has only her physical skills to take care of business. As she fights, dodging lightning bolts, punching men in the head, and flipping around, the captions tell us what she is thinking: I will protect my sisters and brothers. Every single one of them. I will die if I must, but I will not let a single one be hurt. Not one. Never. These sentiments are spread among panels of carnage.

The floating squad car hurls towards Moondragon. She dodges it as it smashes against the pavement. The car flies at her again, this time sideways. She leaps at the car and passes through the smashed-open driver's side window. Her momentum and the movement of the car help her pass through the smashed-open passenger window as well. She hits the ground, rolls, and comes up with a devastating punch into a cyborg woman's face.

As the cyborg woman collapses, Moondragon feels the psionic jamming stop. She hit the right one at last.

"Now, you animals," Moondragon declares. "It ends."

She levitates all nine cyborgs and smashes them together with a mighty WHOOM! She then "switches off" their minds and drops them to the asphalt.

One of the officers approaches her and asks her if she's okay. Moondragon looks back to the spot where Alice lay. "I don't know," she says.

We jump to a hospital. Moondragon has a few gauze pads and whatnot stuck to her face. She's in a waiting room, fear and impatience evident in her manner. As she paces, she barks at the hospital staff. (She's come to appreciate the value of human life--that doesn' t mean she's mellowed in the least.) She sits down and fumes. Her telepathic abilities have told her that the surgeons aren't done yet with Alice. They think she'll pull through, but aren't sure.

A middle-aged man takes a cup of coffee from the nearby machine and sits next to her.

It's John Massero.

"Alice Coughlin," he says. "Amazing."

Moondragon looks up in surprise. "Who are--"

"About thirty years ago, Alice turned down a boy named Warshaw for a date." Massero drinks his coffee. "He holds a hell of a grudge."

Moondragon rummages through her memories of Alice. "Charlie?"

"Yeah."

The fury in Moondragon's eyes is enough to blister the page. "Charlie did this? Because of high school?"

"Yeah. He wanted to 'get even' with her before his big move."

Moondragon makes two fists. "Where is he?"

Massero smiles. "I'm going after him. You want in?"

We end on Moondragon and John Massero shaking hands. Oh yeah, she's in.


To be concluded in The Champions #1, in a few months!

Come back in two weeks for the next issue in the Champions Project, Mephisto #1: Robinson, the Man of Mystery!

NOTE: The index to "The Champions Project" can be found here.

1 Comments:

  • Okay, you got me. I don't know why I wasn't expecting John Massero to pop up, but I wasn't. And, now I'm curious about how important Charlie's attack on Alice is...love the "gunslinger" version of Moondragon here, I guess I think it kind of makes the seven soldiers thing make sense, because there was really no reason for her to show up into Alice's story except serendipity, and there's nothing in Alice's story that ever would've attracted Quasar, the FF, Dr. Strange, etc. Very deliberate on your part, or only a little? You mentioned in your latest post that you're looking back and seeing plot holes...I suppose you are, but the only things I'd see tightened up are 1) the thematic punch of John choosing to avenge his partner over ending the universal menace, and 2) the way he gets Reed Richards to check it out, but then Reed can't find anything, etc...I think that with the tiniest tweak that could be structured so as to definitively count out all the major heroes at the beginning, i.e. there just isn't a thing they can grab onto about the situation, even to investigate it. So your seven soldiers have to be accidental drop-ins (Moony), people who wouldn't tell anyone about it anyway, and only know about it through unique senses (Mephisto), and like that. I'm assuming the Black Knight's encounter with "liquid time" is going to figure into it all somehow, too, don't ask me why: again, nearly accidental if it does, but then again I am eagerly anticipating being proven wrong about some of my impressions and guesses, that's half the fun! Nonetheless, I hope I'm right in assuming that John's lapse in the original showdown will turn out to be the happy fault that does away with the arsenal's menace forever.

    Just to remind you, I'm reading this! And enjoying it. The Moondragon stuff I found to be pretty tight storytelling, the Black Knight stuff more tantalizingly open. Makes me interested to see if there'll be a payoff with how the different minis take their tones. And that's the intention, right?

    Looking forward to The Reject #1!

    By Blogger plok, at 7:22 PM  

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