Jumping from an airplane, Christopher Smith, the Peacemaker, pulls off an assassination sniper shot worthy of a James Bond villain killing President Harley.
Why? That's the question (not the Question, he hasn't shown up yet). From there, the story jumps around a bit, goes backwards, sort of. See the assassination has already taken place. Peacemaker is already in custody and being questioned. We were watching the replay. Outside of the interrogation room the Vice President (now the President) talks to his daughter, Nightshade, about the case and her future. The assassination has destroyed the public perception of the hero. Peacemaker is a killer, Captain Atom is MIA, so Nightshade can become a doctor now...its what her father wants (not her).
The Question, up on the rooftops, talks to Blue Beetle who is in the BUG. Question thinks everything ties to the "Yellowjacket case".
When Ted replies there is no case and that "our people" are watching, things get shaky between the two former partners. Ted is working with the government (pre-assassination) and Question thinks that compromises him...so he uses a giant electromagnet to grab the BUG, trapping Blue Beetle. Making his escape into a subway tunnel, the Question comes face to face with Nightshade.
After a brief scuffle, he hops a subway train leaving her with one of his cards. Later, or earlier depending on how you read this story, at the Pax Institute, the Question investigates the murder of Nora O'Rourke (girlfriend of Chris Smith, the Peacemaker) by a man with metal hands, while simultaneously we see her murder, and her conversation with Chris before he left to perform the assassination.
In a particle accelerator, Captain Atom sits and reads a comic book. Not just any comic though, the one that has carried through each of Morrison's "Multiversity" books, "Ultra Comics".
Captain Atom comments on the comic, seemingly breaking the fourth wall and addressing the reader, before vanishing as the scientists monitoring him declare "Captain Atom has left the universe." A shadowy figure with a metal hand (Sergeant Steel?) enters the room and draws a gun. The scientists plead, they've done everything that was asked...they created an artificial black hole in Captain Atom's skull...but he kills them anyway.
We get a couple brief interludes. Nightshade visiting her seemingly Alzheimer's afflicted mother. Peacemaker and Nora discussing the mysterious mathematical Algorithm 8. Peacemaker being interrogated, punched by a metallic fisted figure (Sergeant Steel again?). And the Question, uh, questioning a mob fixer/dirty cop who is trapped under a neon sign. As the man begs for his life Question replies, "I don't save bad guys."
Jumping further back in time we witness the public introduction of Pax Americana, President Harley's very own super team named for the golden age of the Roman Empire; the Question, Judomaster, Peacemaker, Blue Beetle (Ted, but wearing a costume similar to the silver age Dan Garrett), Nightshade and Captain Atom.
Backstage the heroes toss around a couple other possible names. Peacemaker suggests "Justice League of America", while Blue Beetle offers "The Sentinels" and then "The Law". All clever nods to comic history. We also learn that the President's father, Vince Harley, was a comic book artist and war veteran, having served in Vietnam.
Another interlude further into the past, shows an unstable (?) Captain Atom dismantling a dog. "I thought the pieces would explain the whole. But it's hard to love the pieces..." He attempts to create a duplicate dog, but it's not the same, before being led away by the (future) President Harley. Here after reading this book several times backward and forward, we get a future/past explanation of the assassination. It was Harley's idea!
"Only a super-hero can do the impossible. Only a super-hero can bring the President back to life." The problem is...Harley was counting on Captain Atom being that hero...and in the future, Atom had vanished.
Jumping again, we see President Bush (looks like George W.) threatened by terrorists who have invaded the White House. Peacemaker shows up to save the day in an action sequence nearly as cool as the opening skydive assassination.
Then forward in time to the interrogation. Then back to Chris Smith telling Nora that the President had "chosen to become the sacrificial victim".
Blue Beetle and the Question bust a drug dealer. Ted handcuffs him to a pole for the authorites, but Question takes it a step further...choking the dealer on the heroin he was selling. While Ted worries that the criminal might die, Question's mind is elsewhere...the ultimate mystery...the disappearance of America's first super-hero, the Yellowjacket.
Finally, we see a young man sitting by the grave of Vince Harley, that young man ages over several panels before being joined by Captain Atom. Then another young man, a boy, sneaking into his dad's office. A drawing table. Vince Harley, comic artist. The boy, and the young man by the grave, is the future President Harley. The boy finds a gun, and startled by his dad's unexpected return, accidentally fires it killing his father...killing...Yellowjacket.
When I heard this book was coming I was excited to see the Charlton Action Heroes again. What I got was the Charlton Action Heroes, filtered through Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon's "Watchmen", itself an adaption of the Charlton characters. You know what they say about a copy of a copy of copy not being as clear as the original? Let me be clear, I didn't hate it. It just wasn't exactly what I expected, even if I wasn't entirely sure what I should be expecting. Quitely's art was amazing, as usual. Morrison's story...well, I've read stories he's written that I thought were brilliant (his run on "JLA" and "All-Star Superman" come to mind), but there have been a few I was less impressed with ("Final Crisis"), and others I still haven't quite made my mind up about ("Arkham Asylum")...this falls into that last category. Didn't hate it, didn't love it...honestly I will probably still be trying to decide months down the road, and many repeat readings later.
What did you think? Please comment and let me know what you thought of Pax American, or message me...
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