Review: Milestone Forever #1 (of 2)

by

Or – “I Always Wondered How That All Ended…”

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The early nineties were a good time to be a comics fan.  New universes were popping up everywhere, new characters abounded, new settings and premises as far as the eye could see…  These days, Barb Wire, The Strangers, Bloodfire and their ilk are most often found deep in the 3 For A Dollar bin, but even today, a few 90’s refugees have made their mark.  Odds are most of y’all only know the Milestone Universe as ‘that place where Static started, before his cartoon,’ but we are all about to witness the latest chapter in the history of Milestone media…  I sure hope it lives up to what came before.

Milestone Forever #1

MF2.jpgWritten by Dwayne McDuffie
Art by John Paul Leon, MD Bright, Romeo Tanghal and others
Cover by Admira Wijaya

Previously, on Milestone Forever:  The city of Dakota has the sort of problems that any large city runs into…  Crime.  Poverty.  Strangling social strata.  But thanks to a few key moments of history, Dakota has larger problems.  Over 100 years ago, a spacecraft crashed to Earth and was found by a young woman.  The pod configured the child within to match the genetic profile of the mother, but his abilities made him more than a man… They made him Icon.  When police strike teams attempted to  break up a gang war using special grenades loaded with a tag to identify and capture the gangs.  Unknown to the police, the grenades were loaded with “Quantum Juice,” a substance which killed most of the assembled police and combatants.  After this event, known as the Big Bang, a few remaining gang members were given super-powers and united as the Blood Syndicate.  Virgil Ovid Hawkins wasn’t interested in gang warfare, but did want revenge upon the bully who had been tormenting him, and the Q-Juice turned him into an electromagnetic powerhouse, the walking unified field theory called Static.  Discovering that his employer was a criminal, genius inventor Curtis Metcalf created a specialized suit of armor, the better to take his “benefactor” down as Hardware.  Anything else, we’ll cover as we go along…  AND WE’RE OFF!

We open with Dharma (a precognitive man who fancies himself a kingmaker and world shaker) lamenting the fact that, no matter how powerful he is, the futures all end the same way:  the world in flames, the universe destroyed, and the fault all his.  Luckily, D has prepared for this day by assembling a personage of heroes, creating the Quantum Juice used at the Big Bang in the hopes of creating people who will keep him in check.  He opens one of his precog windows, to view the fates of some of these heroes, starting with Rocket…  Once a teenage unwed mother, Rocket broke into the home of Augustus Freeman, discovered his super-powers and convinced him to go public as Icon.  Now, she is undercover in a new iteration of the Blood Syndicate, trying to stop the machinations of a malicious pyromaniac jerk called Holocaust.  (The irony is, he KNOWS how offensive the name is, and revels in it.)  Holly has been preparing to make his big move, to take over the town and once and for all cement himself as the man in charge.  After a visit to the mayor of Dakota (his own mother, we might add) Holocaust swears that the end is near.  He summons his Blood Syndicate and sets out to make war in the streets, only to find himself opposed… by ICON.  I have to say that I love the fact that original creator Mark Bright is back onboard drawing this chapter, as well, giving us the characters the way that they SHOULD look. 

Holly mocks Icon, calling him a fool for arriving without backup, but Icon is joined by Hardware, then Rocket, then Static.  His own soldiers begin to turn against him as Holocaust leads them into battle, and his new bloods (pun fully intended) aren’t up to the task of facing the most powerful heroes of Dakota.  Icon stands up to Holocaust, claiming that the battle is between the two of them.  Another voice interrupts…  “Beg to differ with you, big man.  This is between him and ME.”  Wise Son, the long-missing leader of the Blood Syndicate comes forth, bringing with him the original Syndicate members who left Dakota as that book wound down.  Holocaust and Wise Son engage in a one-on-one fight for leadership of the Blood Syndicate, and the invulnerable Wise takes every shot that the pyromaniac can dish out.  Holocaust turns up the heat, burning brighter and brighter, until both men are engulfed in flames.  When the heat dies down, Holocaust has been burned up, consumed by his own power, while Wise Son is (as usual) unhurt.  As he gathers his gang and leaves, Dharma muses that one of the assembled heroes could be the one to stop him, hoping that when it becomes necessary, someone can keep him from taking the world down with him.

I love the fact that the original creators have come together to give us this series, even if this issue is more of a final capstone on the last gasps of the Milestone line a decade ago.  The characters here are sometimes dissed as “affirmative action” heroes, as though there’s nothing more to Icon than Superman with more melanin content., but the characters of Dakota and Milestone provided a perspective that hadn’t been seen before, and to some degree is still lacking in comics.  The Milestone books gave us characters of many different ethnicities, different backgrounds, different sociological backgrounds and upbringing…  Not many of the shared universes launched during the period were as cohesive as Milestone, and Dwayne McDuffie’s keen ear for dialogue and character makes this issue a wonderful read.  I have sincerely missed some of these characters, and their brief appearances in Justice League recently just reminded me of how good they could be.  John Paul Leon’s moody artwork is perfect for the brooding of Dharma, and it’s wonderful to see Mark Bright drawing Rocket and Icon again…  Mark is one of the talents that I most miss from the last decade, with a distinctive style that made his characters live and breathe on the comics page.  Sad to say that some of the Milestone premises won’t work in the DC Universe (Blood Syndicate particularly) but I’m glad that this world finally got the resolution that it deserved.  One of the only downsides to this issue is the fact that it’s NOT a jumping-on point for Dakota, indeed, it’s the kind of story that works best if you already know the facts (Harm is an undercover cop, Hardware is a snarky Tony Stark, Rocket is an idealist, Static a comics geek, Wise Son a man on the path to enlightenment, etc.) but, man, does it WORK when you do.  I will freely admit that McDuffie is preaching straight into the choir with this installment, giving me the Milestone that I loved so much in ’94, but Milestone Forever #1 earns a heartfelt 5 out of 5 stars from me.  I don’t know how next issue will bring Dakota into the DCU, but even if it’s the worst idea ever, I’ll still have this wonderfully drawn and written love letter to comics long past… 

Rating: ★★★★★