"Since when were superhumans a big threat?" - Zenith
I covered the first volume of Zenith here, but here's a quick recap of this Grant Morrison penned and Steve Yeowell drawn 2000AD superhero story. In the 1960's the government created several superheroes as weapons who ended up turning against them, becoming counter-culture hippies instead in a group called "Cloud Nine". They were based on a hero created during World War 2 called Maximan, who had been created to combat the German super being Masterman. Masterman turned out to be much stronger than Maximan as he was the vessel for an extra dimensional entity, one of the Many-Angled-Ones or Lloigor. They fight in Berlin but before Masterman can kill Maximan, the atomic bomb is dropped on the German city instead of Japan ending the war. The "children of Maximan" known as "Cloud Nine" suffer various fates, but before most of them die off or disappear, two of them conceive a child together, a boy who grows up to be Zenith. He's a callow young man, a pop star singing disposable hits, who can fly and has super strength depending on the time of the month. The three superheroes left from the sixties who had all pretended to lose their powers, were alchoholic Siadwel "Red Dragon" Rhys, journalist Ruby "Voltage" Fox and Tory MP, Peter "Mandala" St.John.
The story begins with Ruby Fox on holiday in an art deco Sydney, Australia with a man called David and a woman called Penny. It's1987 and a parallel universe and the other two are superheroes discussing whether they should make their prescence known to Zenith. They mention something called The Omnihedron, but Ruby says to leave Zenith to her and that they have a year to get ready.
David: "Evolution takes no prisoners. The masters of the earth become simply monsters, condemned to extinction. Think about that and the plan we made in 1968. If we survive the Alignment, 1990's going to be a red letter day of evolution. Ring out the old. Ring in the new".
We then jump forwards in time to February 1988. Zenith has arrived home after a party and is listening to his phone messages. One of them warns him to get out of there, but it is too late and he is attacked by a humanoid being with a rocket for a head. We then cut to two men watching how Zenith fought "Warhead". The older man is called Peyne, the younger, bearded one called Wallace.
|Peyne and Wallace, Wallace is wearing a red nose for a UK charity event.|
Peyne: "Strange. He has his mother's eyes."
Wallace: "Really. I thought we had his mother's eyes."
And the next panel shows some eyeballs in a jar. Zenith and Phaedra then visit Zenith's agent Eddie MacPhail. Phaedra says she is part of a CIA division set up in the fifties to monitor superhuman activity. There is only supposed to be three superhumans left on earth, Ruby Fox, Peter St. John and Zenith. So what was that being who attacked Zenith in his flat? Zenith decides to go to Scotland with her to investigate further, despite entreaties from his agent not to.
|Zenith's agent tries to keep him out of trouble.|
Phaedra and Zenith are on a plane up to Scotland, there is a hollowed out hill there that used to be an army base and is now owned by Wallace International. Which in turn seems to be linked with the person who was the last to see Zenith parents alive, Doctor Peyne who created the postwar superhumans. Later Peter St. John has a terrible nightmare where London is a wasteland and the sun has turned black, and somehow the Lloigor are behind it.
Zenith and Phaedra arrive at the Wallace International base and fly over the fence to get inside the grounds. Then they enter via an air duct, but things seem far to quiet inside. No security or anything. They come to a room where Zenith's parents costumes are on display and suddenly Zenith is hit by an electric bolt. Peyne appears and helps him up, Wallace also appears saying "all you had to do was knock."
At Number Ten Downing Street, the Prime Minister and Peter St. John are discussing the missile crisis. There have been no demands or ultimatums so they don't know what to do. Back with Zenith, Wallance has Warhead back with him and is flanked by two superpowered women called Blaze and Shockwave. And what is motivating Wallace?
Wallace: "I'm just sick of the way the world's going and I think I could do a better job. Build a better world, that's all."
Phaedra accuses him of violating the superhuman test ban treaty, trying to "rustle up some superhumans and take over the world." Walace declares her "Bo-ring" and shoots her dead, much to Zenith's shock and surprise. Then Wallace says he'll launch the missiles on friday and goes to tell the Prime Minister.
|Wallace is a petulant meglomaniac|
Later Zenith is being taught by Peyne to do different things with his powers. Peyne says he is special because he inherited his abilities rather than getting them via exposure to his super-serum. Peyne goes on a mini-rant about how humanity doesn't deserve the earth.
Peyne: "The history of mankind is a catalogue of atrocity, brute ignorance and blind greed. It can only have one outcome."
He then says he wants Zenith, Shockwave and Blaze to breed and Zenith enthusiastically takes up the offer. While he is getting busy, Peyne says to Wallace that tommorrow when the missiles fly, Zenith will lose his powers for a day and "that's when we'll kill him."
Shockwave is a clone of Ruby Fox, Peyne also thinks the CIA might have been behinds the death of anotehr member of Cloud 9 - Lux. Although there was something fishy about the scene of his death. Peyne then drops the bombshell that Zenith's father survived the crash, badly brain damaged and Peyne turned him into Warhead. Peyne then locks Zenith in a room with Warhead saying today is the day Zenith loses his powers and Warhead is to kill him.
Zenith and Warhead fight and Zenith has NOT lost his powers. He fights Warhead off temporarily, while Peyne starts to panic and tries to get through to Wallace that things are going wrong. Wallace is locked up in a bunker room getting ready to launch the missiles and won't be distracted.
|"Zenith, I am your father."|
Zenith goes to stop Wallace blowing up London. The code to Wallace's bunker is a riddle. Zenith telepathically contacts Peter St. John, who is currently floating above London in the hope he can disable the missiles before they hit, and asks for help. Peter solves the riddle for Zenith and Zenith enters Wallace's bunker. "You've got four minutes" says Wallace.
Peter St.John speaks telepathically to Zenith saying he can shut Wallace down telepathically via Zenith. But Zenith decides to reason with Wallace.
Zenith: "You know, I don't really envy you trying to take over the world. I mean the world's a big place. All that crime and starvation and wars and drugs. Everyone would expect you to have all the answers."
|Wallace finally listens to reason.|
Once home, before he can relax, he is confronted by a strange, shape shifting being called "Chimera". The mysterious being keeps transforming:
Chimera: "One shape is not enough. I crave the sensation of all shapes."
It keeps changing, finally ending up as a nebula before fading away, leaving a very bemused Zenith behind.
Penny: "A love letter from the Lloigor. They've found us. Happy Valentines Day."
|The superhumans start to gather.|