This month something a little different with this series hailing from 2003 during what for me is Moore's last great period, his America's Best Comic's one that bought us Promethea, Tom Strong, Top Ten and The League Of Extraordinary Gentleman. Now what makes this a little different is that he wrote the plot and script outlines but Peter Hogan finished the scripts in detail. However according to the introduction from Hogan it wasn't a case of Moore sending him the outlines and leaving it at that, he went to Moore's house and worked closely with him thrashing out the final script. This is an interesting series because all the superheroes featured are ones that were part of a stable of 1940's ones from Nedor comics who had lapsed back into the public domain. If you check Terra Obscura's wikipedia page there is a link to biography pages of each hero which you might find interesting. Now this wasn't their first updated appearance. They actually featured in a Tom Strong storyline, Terra Obscura being the name of an alternative Earth that Tom Strong discovered in 1968 and the heroes there belonged to an organisation called The Society of American Science Heroes or S.M.A.S.H for short The backstory to the heroes in these stories were that they had been in suspended animation since events that took place in 1969 only to come out of it a few years back thanks to the combined efforts of Tom Strong and his Terra Obscura counterpart Tom Strange and are now adjusting to life in the 21st century. I had hoped to feature that Tom Strong adventure first, but for some reason unlike a lot of other ABC stuff (including this series) the Tom Strong books haven't been reissued and cost a fortune right now, however there is a wikipedia synopsis here. Terra Obscura ran to 12 issues in total, with two storylines lasting six issues each and is availiable as either two volumes or one bumper one - "The S.M.A.S.H of Two Worlds" which I have taken this from. So without further ado lets enjoy some superhero japery from Moore and Hogan.
The story begins with Carol Carter, the former "Fighting Spirit", now a school teacher in the city of New Lancaster arguing with the school principal over putting the kid of a mafiosa in detention. She is given a week's leave with pay after she protests that she thought she was supposed to "make a difference". She arrives back home and chats to her cat as she listens to the news on the TV.
There is some debate as to whether the world needs the superheroes then an ominous story about a puzzling phenomenon taking place at the Grand Canyon, nothing electrical is working there up to a radius of several hundred yards from the canyon's edge. Then there is an ad break for something called "Terror Incorporated" and how the "Terror 2003" program is making the streets safe once again. This prompts Carol to phone her friend Diana "Miss Masque" Adams in Invertica City and ask if she can come and see her.
We then cut to some nefarious looking individuals who are speaking to a mysterious voice who assures them he can deal with "Bob Benton" who is the person behind Terror Inc. Bob, known as The Black Terror was killed in the battle that trapped the others in suspended animation but lives on as the computer program The Terror 2000. The mystery voice tells the villains he'll kill the "zombie version" of Bob for a price.
|Diana introduces Carol to Tim and "Bob".|
The Terror: "Science Heroes may be obsolete before too long. But I am sure the world will always need good teachers".
Tim explains that this is where they monitor things but "Bob" can be anywhere there is trouble within seconds. Then he is off to a meeting in Washington D.C. Carol and Diana go off to a diner to catch up.
Diana says she and Tim ended up falling for each other after they worked together setting up Terror Inc. Carol wonders what Bob thinks about all this, Diana says it's odd. Sometimes The Terror is just like Bob othertimes just "a machine pretending to be Bob". So she tries not to think about it too much. Carol notes she still wears her mask and Diana says it's easier to put on in the morning than eyeliner. Carol says when her father died her link to their ancestor died and she lost her powers, but sometimes she can still see him.
Carol: "Sometimes I really can see him and it feels like he wants to tell me something, but he never does. It's driving me crazy.."
Later they hail a taxi back to Terror Inc and a supervillain called "The Grim Reaper" gets in a taxi behind them. He was the mysterious voice promising to take out The Terror. When they reach Terror Inc he has his taxi pile into the back of the women's then takes Diana hostage.
|The Grim Reaper takes Diana hostage.|
The next chapter introduces us to Grant "The Magnet" Halford who is a detective, he has come to veiw the body of his partner Lance Lewis in the mortuary located in Las Vegas. The coroner says he appears to have been "flash fried" and is missing his heart. Grant starts searching Lance's effects to try and find out what happened. He takes some of the sand found on his clothes and leaves. We get a quick history lesson, that Lance was from the future who came back in time to take part in World War 2, "the last good war". He had vanished a week ago leaving just a cryptic note behind, by the time Grant had tracked him down it was too late.
When he and Lance were revived after their time in suspended animation, they had started a detective agency. Grant's magnetism powers had gone screwy but Lance knew stuff from the future which was helpful. Grant is still able to use his ability to find stuff, and it was "a relief not having to wear that dopey costume any more". He listens to the grains of sand hoping they can tell him where Lance's body was dumped. They take him to a green glow in the desert and when he gets there he finds lots of green glowing furniture and "The Green Ghost".
|Grant meets George The Green Ghost.|
George: "We must gather allies if we are to fight the approaching evil. Go back to town, to a club called The Wheel, and find a woman named Betty. Get her to safety and I will join you there".
Where would that be, Grant wants to know. "Where your path leads you" says George but suspects it is Invertica City and he fades out. As Grant drives back to Vegas he gets a phonecall telling him The Grim Reaper might have been responsible for Lance's death. He's then told about The Grim Reaper's death and calls up Diana.
Diana takes the call and tells him the police would have the Reaper's sword now. She invites him for a drink if he is ever in the neighbourhood then hangs up and goes to talk to Carol who is staying over. She tells Carol she dated Lance for a while. "God, did you date everybody?" smiles Carol. Diana says she isn't a slut, it was just the movies a couple of times. They chat some more then Diana asks if she can come back to New Lancaster with Carol as Tim will be away and she doesn't like going to work without him.
Back with Grant he is attending a magic show at The Wheel. After it ends he goes backstage to talk to the magician, the woman called Betty he needs to find. She knows about George and that Grant has been sent by him. Then the lights go out. She lights some candles and reveals a strange boarlike creature attacking the audience. Betty takes it down with a knife to the head.
Betty: "This thing started out near the Grand Canyon... it's not just power cuts, it's more than that. It's like all technology... even the laws of physics... they just don't work any more".
She asks if Grant is ready to make a run for it, they jump in his care and hurtle off towards the airport as Grant muses he never "much cared for Vegas. And that was before the place went all to hell."
|Betty can handle herself.|
Tim thinks it's an attack on Terror, it can't be a coincidence an anti-technology weapon started up round about the time the Reaper attacked Bob. They know Terror is going to go nationl and this is their response. The Liberator says it could be aliens, mad scientists or unexplained phenomena. They remember that a "Doctor X" had a lab out there and so they decide to go out and investigate. Tim will head back to Invertica and monitor them on their belt cameras.
Betty and Grant are in a bar in Invertica having made it out of Vegas in time. They are there to meet Carol and Diana, Grant hopes they can give him a lead on who killed Lance. The two women arrive and after intoductions Diana tells him that the police do have the Reaper's weapon and Grant says he needs to get back to Vegas where Lance's body is. Betty says "Lance's death is only one piece of the picture here". They need someone who knows about big, supernatural stuff. They need George.
They arrive there a Carol has the password to get them in. Inside are lots of gadgets including a replica of Tom Strong's "Hypersaucer". Grant picks up a bottle of the potion Tom gets his powers from and it starts to resonate. They all pile into the saucer and Grant tells them to fly south.
The other science heroes are flying towards the null zone. Suddenly The Lady In Red tumbles from the sky and is caught by The Scarab. The Liberator caught Pyroman but The American Crusader hit the ground and is badly injured. The Scarab says the null zone affected those whose powers came from science, which his and The Liberator's don't. As they tend to their injured comrade huge boar-dogs suddenly appear.
|Entering the Null Zone.|
They are in the null zone and have dealt with the boar-dogs. The Lady In Red is going to stay with the injured Crusader as will Pyroman. The Liberator and The Scarab leave them to go deeper into the zone. Meanwhile, the gang in Strange's Hypersaucer have arrived at Antartica. Carol doesn't want to be here, it was where her father died, Bob and George as well. Grant says they need to land so they do so. They dress up in cold weather gear and embark on an exploration of the huge alien structure there. Inside a thing points a "weird looking gun" at them.
Back with The Scarab and The Liberator, The Scarab says he's met Dr. X and that he is "weird and scary". Scarier than Mystico asks The Liberator? The Scarab says he is the reincarnation of a priest of Ra, so he's not scared of a mummy. They arrive at Dr. X's place and The Liberator falls through the front door into a void. The Scarab flies down and catches him. Then a voice tells them to "make yourselves at home... in my dungeons".
|Tom Strange is found.|
Diana: "The whole country's under attack and we're pretty sure that S.M.A.S.H are in trouble..."
In Dr X's dungeon he believes the null zone is an attack on him. He says he just wants to be left alone, he had to kill the others who came looking and now he has to kill them.
Down in the pit with The Liberator and The Scarab is the body of The American Eagle and Eaglet. The Liberator says he really wants to hit Dr.X and The Scarab says he can then they'll make sure he's tried for murder. In Antartica, Carol is standing over the grave of her dad. George appears and speaks with Grant saying he should stay and protect Betty.
Then he goes to see Carol by the grave. After she tells him she was too scared to do the hero thing after she lost her powers, George says "Well child, if the cap fits" and he departs. So Carol puts on the hat that had been left on the grave and the ghost of her father is finally able to talk to her. She tearfully tells him she's missed him so much, he says he's missed her, but now "we're back in the fight again".
|Carol reunited with her father's spirit.|
He is not responsible for it, but he thinks it's obvious who has, "and if it is him, then the time has come to leave this planet". And with that he departs for Dimension X telling The Scarab and Liberator they are unlikely to survive the next few days. They are left standing there in the desert so decide to follow the strange light on the horizon.
In Antartica, Tom, George, Carol and Diana are getting ready to leave in the saucer. Grant and Becky are staying behind with Tom's talking ape. Onboard Carol is in costume now and is happy her father is with her. The take off and head for the Grand Canyon.
Tom asks George what he thinks they're up against. He says he's not exactly sure, but it would seem inevitable that those with science based powers will have failed aginst it. "So the future lie in our hands now, my friend. Us, and those like us" say George. Tom briefly manages to raise Terror who demands he come to him. Tom wants to know how far the null field has grown but he loses Terror again. Suddenly the saucer loses power and crash lands. Everyone is safe and George has an idea of how to speed their movement.
Scarab and The Liberator are at the top of a canyon. Scarab offers to carry The Liberator who can't fly. The Liberator reluctantlt accepts but glugs some liquid to help stave off air sickness. The a Native American comes out of the bushes and introduces himself as Lone Eagle. He says he returned from a spirit journey and found all his people gone. The other reservations are empty too. It seems they are both investigating the same phenomenon.
Tom, Carol, Diana and George are flying in green construct of Georges. He tells them it works on the same priciples as a magic carpet. Tom asks they be put down close to the light. They land and discover The Scarab, The Liberator and Lone Eagle already there. The Liberator introduces them to Lone Eagle. He grins at Tom saying this is the second S.M.A.S.H reunion in a week. Tom is surprised to hear it broke up while he was away.
George: "Not an ordinary man. My friends, I very much fear... we're going to have to fight a god"
The final chapter begins with the US President (a black woman) giving a broadcast saying that the armed forces and S.M.A.S.H are fightint to free the country from the darkness that has engulfed the country.
Then we return to our heroes outside the pyramid. They split up and The Scarab, with Diana and Carol go through the front door. The others are going in high. Lots of people are walking into the pyramid like they are hypnotised. Inside is a huge pillar of light shining down from the ceiling.
|Inside the pyramid.|
Back with the others, Carol's father tell them they need to go deeper down, they find a hole emitting the energy and floating in the middle is Lance Lewis's heart. Meanwhile Mystico stops poisoning Tom and The Liberator and explains what he's been up to. First of all his real name is Smenkhkare, a pharoah who once ruled Eygpt. He was the older brother of Tutankhamun. We get some backstory, how he ruled for a short time before being murdered and was buried in a tomb with magic seals and locked doors to hold him.
A priest had decided the nation's troubles began with his birth and that he had been possesses by a god. "And the truly curious thing is this... the fool was right" he says. We then cut to George confronting the god on the spiritual plane. George asks it why he has bought the country to a halt and the god says because otherwise "that which pretends to be Robert Benton would have eaten the world". But now he, Set, is ruler of the world now.
Smenkhkare: "A few generations without machines should cure them, and the survivors will be hardier. Now, the question is: do you want to be among them? It's a very simple choice: join me or die."
Tom asks him how he got the power to do this, Smenkhkare says he killed a time traveller. Lance's death caused a paradox "released the kind of energy men have only dreamed of" and by tommorrow the whole planet will be his.
Carol says her father is telling her Lance's ghost is wrapped round the heart generating a time-anomoly. Because Diana isn't magic she has to be the one to disable the heart and the other two toss her up there and she grabs it. Smenkhkare winces in pain and his hold over the others falters. They start punching him.
The Scarab holds the heart and calls upon a trio of Egyptian gods. They weigh the heart and find it to be true and Lance's soul is allowed to move on to wherever he wishes. But Set is still a problem the heroes are going to have to deal with themselves. But then Thoth decides to bond with The Scarab and everyone congregates where Tom has been punching Set/Smenkhkare.
|One god against another.|
Back in the rest of the US, tens of thousands had died in the panic. Diana also leaves Tim, although the Terror says he'll always be there for him. Lance's heart is reunited with his body and is buried in a ceremony attended by all the science heroes. Tom makes a speech saying he's fixed up a new headquarters and that S.M.AS.H will be reformed.
The story ends with Carol, now back as a science hero fulltime moving in with Diana, and they kiss as they are now a couple. Grant and Betty also have got married and are sitting in the diner waiting to meet Tom, Carol and Diana with Adam the talking ape. Adam has been given his own bubblegum card and gives one to Tipper the diner's boss. She pins it up saying "from where I'm sitting... it looks like science heroes are back in style again".
|Let's end with gratuitous lesbian kissing!|