Countdown Breakdown #36A column article, Comics Bulletin Soapbox by: John Hays
Equus. Equus is from Brian Azzarello’s "For Tomorrow" storyline that ran in the Superman title a few years ago. I never read the storyline, so this is an educational experience for me. In fact, I had thought that Azzarello's entire storyline ended up being undone by some time travel issue, so I’m surprised to see a character from that storyline appear again. Equus is basically one of those brute-for-hire-with-a-mysterious-master types (see Ignition).
He’s sort of a Bane-meets-Wolverine (I apparently like the hyphenated ideas this week, as well as the parenthetical notes). Equus was cybernetically enhanced with claws that could pierce Superman’s skin. He worked for a man who was backing a war in the Middle East, where Superman had traced the source of a piece of technology that had caused one million people including Lois to disappear from the Earth.
Superman fought Equus multiple times, eventually ripping the claws from his arm and discovering much abut him using X-ray vision. Equus’s mysterious master was a Mr. Orr, seen here in Countdown. Equus turned out to be one of many scienctific experiments, but an unstable and psychotic one.
Speaking of experiments, let’s talk about Deathstroke. Slade Wilson, or Deathstroke the Terminator. It’s interesting for me to learn more about Deathstroke, since I didn’t read the Titans run years ago that is now so famous, and I originally came into contact with Wilson when he helped Superman stop Brainiac and helped Wonder Woman in her title, so I’ve traditionally viewed him as an anti-hero. Of course, in recent years that view has been blown apart, with Identity Crisis and Slade’s involvement with the Society.
Wilson’s story actually begins much like Captain America’s. He was a super soldier experiment. However, instead of fighting the good fight, he became a mercenary. Slade kept this occupation a secret from his family until his son Joseph (see Jericho) was kidnapped and had his throat slashed, severing his vocal cords, in a rescue attempt by Slade. When his wife discovered this at the hospital, she shot Slade, damaging his right eye.
Slade had another son, Grant, who also was enhanced and took a contract to kill the Teen Titans under the name Ravager. Grant’s enhancements ended up killing him, causing Slade to attempt to fulfill the contract. This began Slade's lifelong vendetta against the Titans that included seducing a teen named Terra and planting her in the Titans, probably the most well known Titans story of all time. Slade’s own son Joseph helped bring him down and joined the Titans as Jericho.
Among his many adventures, Slade gained the ability to survive any wound so long as his brain is intact (that’s handy). His wife gained similar power, and in fact immortality, when Slade had to give her a blood transfusion. This drove her insane, and ended with Starfire disintegrating her at her own request. This act of mercy caused Slade to sever all friendly ties he had developed with the Titans over the years. Of course, Slade had his dealings with the League in Identity Crisis, and the Society during the Infinite Crisis, but what is interesting is that more recently he apparently attacked the Titans, including his son Jericho and daughter Rose, in order to make them grow closer and have a family in the Titans that he never could provide them. Fascinating character.
Another fascinating character is Eclipso. He was originally the Wrath of God, before being replaced by the Spectre, and was actually responsible for the biblical flood, while the Spectre was apparently the angel of death who slew the firstborn children of Egypt. His first appearance was in House of Secrets #61 in 1963. My first interaction with the character was in the Darkness Within miniseries, which ramped Eclipso up to a major threat in the DCU. Originally, Eclipso was a dark aspect of Bruce Gordon, sort of a Jekyll and Hyde type of thing. His weakness was bright light. In the Darkness Within, the story was changed so that Eclipso was an actual demon, and that there were a thousand black diamonds that made up the Heart of Darkness gemstone, which trapped Eclipso’s soul. Possessing one of the individual diamonds caused the bearer to be possessed by Eclipso when that person became enraged. In a later story, the Spectre gathered the pieces together and destroyed the Heart of Darkness.
Years later in JSA’s "Princes of Darkness" storyline, Eclipso returned to team with Mordru and Obsidian. Alexander Montez, cousin of Wildcat II’s Yolanda, whom Eclipso had killed, found the 1,000 black diamonds (I guess they reappeared after the Spectre destroyed them all?), liquified them, and injected them into himself after covering his body with special tribal tattoos to bind Eclipso. Alex could control the power while remaining in control of himself. During a battle, one of the tattoos was cut, freeing Eclipso. Alex killed himself to prevent further control by Eclipso. This story reduced the number of diamonds to the one that Alex had kept to call Eclipso. The black diamond eventually found its way into the hands of the deranged Jean Loring (see Identity Crisis).
The Jean Loring Eclipso manipulated a then Hostless Spectre into trying to destroy all magic, killing the wizard Shazam in the process. After being banished to an orbit around the sun, Eclipso has since returned and can be seen in Countdown.
That’s it for this week! See ya next week!