Plot: In the wake of the Doom Patrol's fatal sacrifice, the death toll keeps climbing higher for the heroes in tights.
Comments: Wein chooses an interesting point to hang his theory of the darkening of the DC universe upon. I don't know if others have cited the demise of Rita, Cliff, Larry and the Chief (murdered by their foes in their final issue) as the turning point that lead to darker, grittier stories, but it's not a bad place to start. Though they were eventually reborn, that was from within the pages of parent book Teen Titans, itself renewed in order to cash in on/compete with the runaway success of Marvel's re-invigorated, multi-cultural X-men. Certainly DC had gone through some kind of sea change during the Bronze Age, or at least needed to as Marvel embraced the politics of the era sooner and was more primed to bring anti-heroes to the forefront.
It helped that the DP went out in a noble sacrifice, and for the longest time Rita (like Bucky at Marvel) was revered as one of the few lasting deaths in comics. Of course both have since been reversed. There have been some interesting developments regarding Rita's revival in the current Doom Patrol (can it really be that issue #13 was the first comic solely dedicated to Elasti-Girl and her history?).
This story takes us back to the bitter aftermath of their deaths, though; for what came next was an unmitigated Crisis, one that would rewrite the multi-verse (which has also since returned) into one confusing and contradictory mish-mash, shoe-horning in the Charlton stable of characters, making room for new stars like Firestorm and the Outsiders, and largely shunting the Golden Age generation and versions of the characters off the canvas. I don't quite remember it all going as smoothly as depicted here, with plenty of room for the newbies and surprise saves from the Legion of Super-Heroes and the All-New Titans.
As Wein stitches together the split and frayed seams of the past in the backstory, the main story continues to revolve around our narrator, Paul Lincoln, who was serving his hero-inspired career as a policeman during the advent of the Crisis. Harbinger and Pariah make appearances, but Wein is more concerned with the redemption of Paul's childhood friend, a career criminal now trying to go straight.
George Perez turns in the art on the main story, and thus turns back the clock to 1985 effortlessly. The back-up feature may be even better, as it is a 100% Silver Age type tale of several time and space travelers who have been kidnapped to do battle on an alien planet, illustrated by the amazing Walt Simonson. It's fun to see these guys (including Adam Strange and Tommy Tomorrow and Captain Comet) both follow and break the rules of old conventions, in a manner as entertaining as it is goofily artificial. One of their foes wields a deadly vacuum cleaner!
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