With the exception of a few issues, the 1991 Armageddon 2001 crossover from DC was meant to be read in any order, with the main title bookending all of the annuals that were the crossovers. Justice League Europe Annual #2 was one of those exceptions, as it was the penultimate chapter in the event with the last page leading right into Armageddon 2001 #2, an issue that has is infamous for a last-minute change to its central premise: since the events of the first issue, we have wanted to know the identity of Monarch, the former hero who would rule earth with an iron fist in 2030.
By the time we get to the JLE, our crossover’s hero, Waverider, has seen into the futures of just about everyone in the DCU (except Green Lantern and Wonder Woman, neither of which had an annual in 1991 and the latter of which was fully ensconced in War of the Gods), so he takes a trip to the team’s embassy with Superman to look at how all of their lives turn out. And whereas the JLA annual read like a dramedy of superheroes dealing with middle age, the JLE annual leans into silliness with Waverider seeing that the team has been split across time after some sort of catastrophe. We have appearances by the founders of the Legion of Super-Heroes, Anthro, The Demon, Bat Lash, General Glory, Hex, and Sherlock Holmes, and it’s not until the embassy’s resident cat brushes up against Waverider and we see its future that we understand how it got that way–the cat foils the plans of terrorists who are bugging the embassy and causes an explosion that sends them through time.
And then we get to Captain Atom, whose own book had been canceled (ending that very month) and had ended with him fighting his darker self. Then, on the letters page of that issue, there was a teaser for Armageddon 2001 #2 that led me to write “Captain Atom is Monarch” on a piece of memo paper in my room. This, by the way, was without having any insider information about the comics industry. I don’t know if I was even buying Wizard at this point in time (not like that magazine would have really covered this). And the very last page of the issue is Waverider making contact with Captain Atom, something that portends bad happenings in the final chapter.
If you know your DC Comics history, you know that Captain Atom was slated to be the hero that becomes Monarch but that secret had been leaked and DC editorial panicked. Jonathan Peterson, who at the time was editing The New Titans, suggested that they write Hank Hall, aka Hawk, as Monarch since that book had been canceled as well. The result was a boneheaded “wtf” ending. Even in 1991, I thought that Captain Atom was a better choice and my figuring it out beforehand wouldn’t have ruined that because I would have wanted to see how it all ended.
Armageddon 2001 and War of the Gods are, essentially, my crossovers because they are the first two that I was there for as they happened and collected in full. Both are flawed (in the case of WOTG, deeply flawed, although it is greatly improved by just reading the Wonder Woman books associated with it), but still entertaining and in the case of A-2001, we get a cool snapshot of the DCU at this time. This annual is fun, funny, and definitely entertaining beyond its usefulness as a setup chapter for the finale. Still, with the exception of the issues that I want or need to hold onto (New Titans Annual #7, for example), I am going to hold out hope that one day an omnibus or trade will become available instead of tracking these down.
Keep, Sell, Donate, or Trash?