New Guardians #1 (September, 1988)
“The New Guardians”
Writer – Steve Englehart
Artist – Joe Staton
Inker – Mark Farmer
Letterer – John Costanza
Colorist – Tony Tollin
Editor – Andy Helfer
Cover Price: $2.00
We’re taking a break from our Millennium coverage to discuss… well, the book that spins out of Millennium… for better or worse.
My bloggin’ brother, Mike from the Crapbox of Son of Cthulhu informed me that this month is the CDC’s STD Awareness Month, and that he will be covering Ninja High School Talks About S.T.D., and after I namedropped the Hemo-Goblin during a Twitter chat, suggested I cover the only issue the bugger shows up in today. Now, I’m not the kinda guy to ever turn down the opportunity to cross-post with a pal, so here we are!
I wanna clarify something before we continue. The purpose of this discussion is not to mock the “AIDS Vampire” (absurd though it may be) nor the disease itself. This is more just a look at how comics of an earlier generation handled serious topics in fantastical ways… most likely because it was the only way they could without causing too much of a stir. This is still superhero comics, after all…
One last thing… for more information on STD Awareness Month, check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention page, right here.
We open with the (not yet) New Guardians descending on their new base of operations in Los Angeles. The “chosen” from Millennium have been whittled down to an easier to follow six. Gloss (Xiang Po), Ram (Yakata), Floro (Woodrue the Floronic Man), Extrano (Gregorio), Jet (Celia), and Harbinger. Their new digs ain’t cheap… $17 Million to be exact. Ram figures they’ll take his offer of $15M.
Suddenly, the discussion shifts to their new purpose in this world. Ya see, they’ve been evolutionarily advanced to their immortal state… Gregorio offers up the idea that they are here to breed! Well, not him of course… not that he can really say why. I’d blame that on the Comics Code Authority… but this bugger ain’t carrying the stamp!
So, looks like ol’ Ram’s got his pick of all the ladies. Gloss is immediately interested in having a go… while Jet ain’t havin’ any of it. Poor Harbinger hasn’t the foggiest idea what sex is… and so, she (thankfully) suggests they change the subject. Lemme tell ya, not a moment too soon.
From here Harbinger and Jet decide to compare and contrast their powersets with a hotdoggin’ flight around Los Angeles. Turns out that their powers are more or less the same. Why, they even talk alike… or, the letterer filled in the wrong balloons… either way.
Meanwhile, in Pretoria, South Africa… we meet the racist member of the “chosen” Kroef. So, I guess he does survive Millennium. Anyhoo, as we kind of suspected, he’s a pretty bad dude. He’s looking to off his fellow chosen… and so, we are introduced to former Olympic Boxer Piet Broem… and the villainous character find of 1988, the Hemo-Goblin! The Goblin is a white-supremacist vampiric fella… kinda looks like Caliban from the X-Men’s Morlocks. They send a black man in… and he is quickly devoured. Kroef is pleased, and offers the critter a gig.
We shift back to Los Angeles… but not to the Guardians. Instead, we check in with the Kalamakus. We get some Millennium exposition while he plays ball with the kids on the front lawn. Tom’s wife sees Harbinger and Jet flying on the news… and is visibly displeased.
Two days later, a creepy duo arrive at L.A.X… and it ain’t the Safir and the Old-Timer either. No sir, this is Piet and Hemo. They head to the Airport Hilton where Piet finds their orders, and Hemo-Goblin eats a cat.
Back with the gang… Harbinger is standing on a balcony, concerned about her current lot in life. Jet has the same powers she does… and of course, she doesn’t know what sex is. Her pity-party is interrupted by my favorite… Gregorio! He refers to himself as Harbinger’s “Old Auntie” and tells her that sex is overrated. They embrace. Nice scene.
Elsewhere, Jet and Gloss are getting seated at a nightclub (in costume). Xiang is approached by bad-guy Piet, who asks if she’s down for a dance. Of course she is! She notices Piet’s Australian accent, and mentions that their group once had an Australian… we remember her, right? The woman who always talks about the Dreamtime!
Jet grows restless as folks stare at her… and so, she leaves. No sooner does she reach the parking lot than she is attacked by the Hemo-Goblin! They fight for a bit before Hemo lunges and bites a chunk out of her left side. Pretty gross.
Gloss rushes out to intervene, and is able to distract Hemo-Goblin long enough for Jet to land a whopper of a punch. The baddie flees through a nearby building as the ladies give chase. He ultimately manages to give them the slip. They return to HQ, and Ram is shocked to see Jet’s wound… because the same one suddenly appeared on Harbinger a few minutes earlier!
The group tries to plan their next move… and there is a brief power struggle, with Xiang kind of putting herself in charge. Nobody is all that cool with that decision. Ram suggests Kroef may be behind this, and so Floro taps into the Green to check. That’s an incredibly useful power ol’ Woodrue’s got, no?
The Kalamakus are watching coverage of the Hemo-Goblin attack on the news… and Tom is growing ever more conflicted in his not being a part of the team.
Back with the team… who look pretty adorable in their civvies, Floro is talking to a bush. The bush tells him to check rooms 816 and 818. Neat!
Jet and Harbinger fly up, while the rest of the team heads inside and up the elevator. Through use of Extrano’s power, they break into the room. Fresh from fetching a bucket of ice, Piet is lingering in the hallway. Once inside, they are not surprisingly, attacked by the Hemo-Goblin. The Goblin lunges at Ram… who has no blood, so, no dice. Extrano heads into the adjoined room to find the carcasses of several small animals… clearly, Hemo-Goblin’s latest meal. He says “for once I wish I had a stronger stomach”. “For once”? Wouldn’t you always want a strong stomach? Would you ever wish to have a weaker one? I dunno…
The Goblin attempts to flee out the window… but runs into Harbinger. He turns to head into the next room… but runs into Extrano… and so, he slices him in the throat with his nasty fingernails.
From here, Floro leaps onto him and “grows” all over him! Hemo shakes free, but runs right into Ram’s fist… and then a thousand-hand slap from Gloss… then, just an overall beating from the two of them until Floro and Extrano can back them off!
Moments later, security arrives at the door… and starts pounding away. Extrano… man, this dude is great, he calls out to them, and… well, just look:
The gang escapes before security can bust in… and returns back to their home base. Along the way, they christen themselves the “New Guardians”. Their celebration is short-lived however, as there’s a knocking on the door. Floro gives his best “Just a min-ute!”, which, not gonna lie… got a chuckle. At the door is Tom Kalamaku, and he brings with him dire news… the Hemo-Goblin died in captivity… from AIDS! We close out with Jet and Extrano tending to their wounds.
Expectations are kind of a funny thing. From everything I’d heard about this issue, I’d almost expected to be spitting fire by this point… and while this most certainly wasn’t the best thing I’ve read in awhile, I gotta say… it’s reputation proceeded it, and did it a bit of a disservice. This really wasn’t bad.
My first impression is that they’re kinda chasing the more soap-opera’y elements of New Teen Titans and Batman and the Outsiders (and Uncanny X-Men) with this. I mean, we go from a discussion about their evolved immortality… to talking about sex? Gloss is really into “getting it on”, and Harbinger is clueless… a bit reminiscent of Halo.
I did dig this good version of the Floronic Man. It was quite strange seeing him tend to his teammate’s wounds… and cracking jokes! His powers including the ability of talking to bushes, is both witty and useful. His presence here was a welcome surprise.
Tom Kalamaku’s scenes were pretty good as well. His apparent conflict over not being part of this team was interesting to observe. I’m glad he’s being included in the series… even if he’s just on the periphery.
Extrano… I know, I know… he’s a walking cliche… there is zero subtlety to his character… but, I think he’s a lot of fun! He’s almost a comforting presence. I dug the scene where he comforted… even mentored Harbinger. His sarcastic humor was most welcome all throughout the issue. It is interesting, perhaps a sign of the times, that ol’ “Auntie” (his word, not mine) Gregorio isn’t even officially “out of the closet” at this point.
Now, I suppose we should discuss our “main event”… the AIDS Vampire, Hemo-Goblin and his toxic touch. As far as I can tell, Extrano is the first HIV-Positive superhero… and while I’m not for certain that the Hemo-Goblin was the reason for this diagnosis, it’s still notable. Jet has also been apparently infected… I mean, hell… she had a chunk of her torso bitten off… stands to reason she’d also catch the disease. I haven’t read any further, so I can’t be sure that anything comes of it just yet… and, honestly… I’m not really in a rush to find out.
The use of HIV-AIDS in this book is interesting. I’ve mentioned it before… but growing up in the 1980’s came with three certainties… you would be offered/forced to do drugs, you would join or be the victim of a gang, and you would get AIDS. AIDS was the topic on many “very special” sitcom episodes, and was something that would be discussed pretty often in school… even at the elementary level. I’ll give a bit of credit to DC for bringing it up here… even if it’s given a fantastic twist. Even though this was not a Code-Approved book, I gotta wonder if transmission of AIDS via “real world” means was off-limits. If that’s the case, I’ll hand it to ’em for being creatively topical.
This is a New Format book… and while the paper is of better quality, I’ve come to find that it isn’t every artist’s “best friend”. Often it appears, at least to me, that the colors come across flat… and the pencils feel, I dunno… almost incomplete. Maybe I’ve been trained to expect excessive linework, but it’s only in New Format books that it really stands out to me. I guess what I’m trying to say is… Staton’s work is done no favors by the Baxter paper.
Overall… is this book awful? Nah… I mean, don’t get it twisted, this ain’t great, but I’d say it gets a bit of an unfair shake online. I wouldn’t say this is anything you need to rush out to read… maybe if you come across it in the quarter bin, give it a flip through… otherwise, it’s completely skippable.
|Pretty fun book…|