Forerunner. Wait a minute. How can John talk about Forerunner? She’s a new character? There IS no back-story! Well, perhaps not on this particular character, but there’s definitely some back-story regarding ANOTHER right-hand woman of the Monitor, and that would of course be Harbinger.
Lyla Michaels worked for the Monitor before the first Crisis, primarily as weapons brokers both to heroes and villains alike. When the Crisis occurred, the Monitor imbued Lyla with great powers, transforming her into Harbinger, a being capable of splitting herself into multiple bodies, each quite powerful. The Monitor instructed her to gather heroes for the coming Crisis. She also took part in the Millennium storyline, and eventually went to live on Themyscira with the Amazons before being killed by a Doomsday clone (I still think it would be easy to bring her back, since she could have split before being killed). In the time after the first Crisis, Harbinger made a physical record of the history of the Multiverse, which was recently passed on to Donna Troy.
Monarch. This one is rather complex, yet interesting. DC generally likes to think that it has everything planned well ahead of time, making only minor adjustments along the way of major storylines. However, in this case, they actually changed the big reveal of the villain of their major storyline. In 1991, DC put out a storyline called Armageddon, in which a bleak future was ruled with an iron first by Monarch, a mysterious character decked out in full body armor like Iron Man. A scientist, Matthew Ryder, decided to travel back in time to 1991 to try and figure out who Monarch was. He knew that it was a former hero, so he hoped to stop whatever event caused the change in that hero that would lead him/her to become Monarch. In the process of the time travel, Ryder mutated into living temporal energy, becoming Waverider.
What followed was a series of really great annuals that showed Waverider looking into the possible futures of various DC characters. Now, DC’s initial plan was to have Captain Atom become Monarch, but apparently there was a leak of information and DC decided to change their plans to where Hank Hall (Hawk) became Monarch instead. The irony of this particular switch was that, of all the various DC characters who had their futures shown, Hawk and Dove were the ONLY ones shown battling Monarch in the future. So essentially, DC could have chosen ANY other DC character, and it would have made some type of sense.
DC decided to have Captain Atom become Monarch’s nemesis. (Waverider, despite having cool temporal powers, was always depicted as a pansy). When they clashed, their combined energies sent them back in time. They battled through different eras in time until Captain Atom returned to the present, with Monarch’s fate unknown at the time.
A few years late in Zero Hour, Monarch joined up with a crazy Hal Jordan Parallax to reshape the universe. He was now going by the name of Extant, and took the opportunity to absorb Waverider’s powers. Extant was later killed in an issue of JSA when Atom Smasher placed him where his mother was during a plane crash.
In Extreme Justice, a new Monarch was appeared. This time it was an alternate Nathaniel Adam who claimed that Captain Atom was a copy of him. This “real” Adam had apparently been in the quantum field all this time, and had in fact encountered Hank Hall Monarch and trained him in manipulating the quantum field enough to become Extant. In return, Extant gave Adam the Monarch armor.
One Year Later Captain Atom was contained inside a secret facility in Bludhaven, used for scientific experiments after having returned from the Wildstorm universe. The Atomic Knights had an updated version of the Monarch armor into which they put Atom once rescuing him. Atom then killed Major Force and destroyed Bludhaven. He was later found by Kyle Rayner in the Bleed, still wearing the Monarch armor and avoiding the eyes of the Monitors. It is unknown whether Atom is good or evil at this time.
Those are the main new characters in this issue. I’ll cover other characters in future editions, but I figure that Monarch’s history is enough to digest for this week, since he appears to be making a significant appearance next week!