Moon Maiden and the DC Crisis
by Travis Hedge Coke
The Crisis is my favorite thing about DC Comics. Not Crisis on Infinite Earths, not The Super-Crisis that Struck Earth-Two!, or even the Crisis of a Letters Page. Crisis as a concept, as a cap C term.
But, most Crises skate over some of the metaphysical, pataphysical, and ethical pitfalls I find the most fascinating. The longing for things that now never were, but once had been. The curse, for blessing of instantaneous forgetting. That neither memory nor physical evidence are definitive proof of the past.
At its base, a Crisis is an encounter, and then admixture between two worlds. Those world can be alternate realities, two publishing lines, differing timelines, social strata, idiosyncratic foci.
Almost all Crisis stories have an unstated or underplayed anamnesis. Characters from one world experience the other world as a visitation or resurgence. In the very first Crisis story, Flash of Two Worlds, the resurgent comes in the form of nostalgia made tactile and alive, when our Flash meets the fictional character whose name he took, as our Flash is a comics fan, essentially cosplaying a character he likes.
Nostalgia is a root motivation Crises.
Drawn primarily by Dale Eaglesham and Andrew Hennessy, with sections penciled by Christopher Jones and Steve Scott, The Century War II is one of my most loved DC Crises. An oft forgotten fictive sequel to an in-world forgotten Crisis, The Century War II is writer, D Curtis Johnson’s finest moment. So, how come so few of us have even heard of it?
Published in 2000 as JLA 80-page Giant #3, the opening page may give us the most succinct answer, in something Aquaman said to our central character, and then forgot: ” I just think your kind don’t recognize beauty until they’ve left trash all over it.”
Moon Maiden, who all but two people in the world has forgotten, assured Aquaman in the past, she was cleaning up some of that trash, including on the moon. He, like the rest of their conversation, forgot that, and like everyone else, forgot her.
In the present day, Justice Leaguer Green Lantern ( Kyle Rayner) can visualize an entire coast of North America, each nook and twist and cranny of their coastline, and most of be complementary South American, but does not, with as much readiness, grasp the consequences of a global twenty-fold increase in the tides.
Spacetime is warping, along with these various crises, the physical laws have changed, previously consistent distances are now unreliable, but Green Lantern Rayner cannot readily factor these into his perception of reality.
For we, school trip on our own staircases, who run low on gas when we don’t we are, turn our hand on our own range, how will we cope if the physical laws changed? Even if we have memorized mass times distance, kilometers to miles, the boiling point of olive oil and the melting point of steel, if they have shifted, and we have no time to test or to be sure of tests?
In The Century War II, Batman is the first person to connect rampant psychological breakdowns with volatile physical laws, because Batman is, at a true essence, something of a wizard or a mystic. These are changes wrought, not along causal lines, but metaphoric.
For all the atheistic disdain of “magic thinking,” when the chips are down, the magic fingers come out, those who got too rigid, will be like Steel and the other superheroes in The Century War II, standing in a disaster arguing level table will remain level.
Many a Crisis has relied on magic thinking, emotional thinking, metaphor and hope. At the end of the Crisis in Time, Zero Hour, Green Arrow murders population of the universe, untold times over, when he ends the new multiverse. He does so, in the face begging people, because his best friend hurt his feelings.
Green Arrow is treated as the reluctant hero of that story. His best friend, who disrupted normativity to try to save trillions lives ended by conscious action.
Harbinger, an alternate reality survivor open earlier Crisis ( on Infinite Earths), explains in The Century War II that, “If space and time are undisturbed, every particle agrees with every other particle about what the universe looks like.” The space and time of the DC Universe, that is to say, these stories, Harbinger’s partner in research says, “Doesn’t match up at all.”
The Century War II is a Crisis about the crisis of Crises. Yes, a dilation of time, a contraction of space, strange visitations, these are dangerous and peculiar things. But, these concerns obscure the fundamental risk of existence highlighted by a world in which not an abstract person, but you, as a specific person, can have your life altered in significant ways, with physical reality and memory colluding against that earlier life.
That a Crisis offers alternate realities, possible futures, at a different present, is often dealt with via a manner of prizing a singular continuity and a singular reality over all others. There is a prime Earth with a prime present and future.
Less attended, is that alternate pasts do not exist solely outside the stories, or can they. Alternate pasts cannot be excluded without removing the memory of them from in story and without, and without removing all artifact evidence or implication.
Crises that deal directly with alternate pasts, those disconnected from what were even once canon or “in-continuity,” have been traditionally, probably without intent, themselves forgotten or occluded.
Infinite Crisis create a causality between an earlier alternate past and that perceived, and qualified as false for the purposes of tragedy. Crisis of Confidence/Welcome to Sundown Town bring the minority-centering Dakotaverse into close contact with the straight white male-centered DC Universe. A Crises might loop in the Marvel Family originally published by Fawcett, the superheroes DC purchased from Charlton.
The Century War II resurrects characters who had no previous appearances. The comic we are shown pages of, demonstrating Moon Maidens earlier appearance, are simply part of this story. And, they exist, somehow, both for us, and in the story, as the familiar superheroes read a comic drawn by Christopher Jones, and we can see their fingers holding the pages apart.
Harbinger and her partner, Pariah, use a retro-chronometer to help the Justice League and us, the reader, to perceive the first Century War by broadcasting relevant past events (drawn by Steve Scott) as personal memories.
Fitted five years in their past, which would be for them, then, about 1995, they and we flash back to a middle-aged man not visually unlike Richard Nixon is the spokesman or the Unified Government, a world government headed by Moon Maiden’s arch-nemesis, the Centurion. The Centurion’s army are the ghosts or ghost-memories of soldiers he has killed, many designed to look just generic and just specific enough they could be characters we have forgotten, or characters borrowed from other comics. Immediately recognizable characters, like Superman and Nightwing, are dressed in familiar costumes, but they may be costumes and faces that for us, were last in regular use in comics published fifteen, twenty years earlier than this one.
Lex Luthor, Green Lantern, Superman and other famous figures have been removed, either killed or simply wiped from reality and from all memory. The more the Centurion removes people and their lives, the more other lives are changed, history and life, changed backwards and forwards.
Standing against him in the end, are Moon Maiden and her adoptive father, Major Klein of NASA.
This is a meta gambit. Meta; term I have come to loathe.
The retro-chronometer is shortened to, “the ret-chron,” soundalike for, retcon, meaning a retroactively implanted continuity in a serial story.
That history is only memory, is a nod to our readerly memories.
That five years of superhero continuity is the equivalent fifteen to twenty or more of our years, alludes to genuine publishing practices and needing to keep trademark characters young enough to be recognizable have their traditional style of adventures.
That phrase, meta, so often is used to imply that directly addressing publication, audiences, these characters existence as fictional characters, is something unemotional, inconsequential, academic in the sense willfully ignorant people use academic.
The Century War II is meta in the sense that it is about loss and unfairness experienced by the characters and Lawson on fairness experience by all of us. We have all felt the bite of forgetfulness, the injustice a being told to forget, and sadness if and when our forgetfulness can hurt others.
Green Lantern Rayner cannot be expected, fairly, to remember accurately the outline of the entire coasts of two continents, to simultaneously juggle psychological, metaphysical, and quantum fluctuations. On top of those, he has forgotten, of course, the people that machinations have made nearly everyone forget, but he also cannot place individuals connected to one of the most momentous occasions of his life, mainly because he was not present for those intimate aspects of the occasion and it is no good reason to know who they are.
Like Lantern Rayner, in both life and when reading a comic, we are frequently confronted places we do not recognize names we misplaced or misidentify. Our chagrin is not entirely justified, our apprehension understandable, yeah we feel embarrassed. We feel that we have done wrong or have caused problems.
Moon Maiden could be based on an old character the same name. Maybe Lex Luthor was killed or wiped out of existence in a comic from fifteen or more years ago. You might like to say you will be sure, but you would not be. You could be confident. But, you would still run the risk of being wrong.
This is the nature of life for Lantern Rayner, Superman, Major Klein and his daughter. This is the nature of life for every one of us. Conflict cannot be ended by a rain of punches. This is not a struggle that a prison sentence psychiatric evaluation will solve or even delay.
There is not a decade since Superman’s creation that has not included official, licensed, legit from the publisher stories in which Superman is a gigantic ass. But, we, I included, emphasize the good Superman, the Superman we want, the Superman we like.
That is our disaster. To be confronted with the Superman we dislike, the condescending bully, the bigot, is on some level upsetting to nearly everyone anglophone comics, even if they don’t like Superman at all.
In being confronted with the bully Superman, we also confronted with an audience, a multitude, who prefer rejoice and that Superman, so long as he is bullying, so long as he is bigoted against people they also are bigoted against.
When we encounter a character like Moon Maiden, freshly made, fleshed out, heroic and good and intriguing in different ways all the superheroes, how we encounter her, how we treat her during that, how we leave her after is reflective on us. That too is our Crisis.
This is why we, the reader, cannot recall a Century War I. This is a Crisis that has directly affected us, and unlike other, acknowledges that it has affected us.
Moon Maiden has not been used in new comics since her original appearance, except for a brief cameo when George Perez decided to draw every character who was ever a member of the Justice League.
Moon Maiden has been again forgotten, again let go. And, there are those of us who remember her. And, when we do, we also recognize the absence and may wonder.
Moon Maiden and the DC Crisis
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