Space themes have been the stuff of wild imagination for comic book writers and artists since the dawn of the nuclear age. DC re-imagined Green Lantern and the Flash giving them origin stories based in space travel and a complicated combination of modern science’s most advanced chemicals and a lightening bolt. DC has a long and rich space continuity, however, unlike Marvel and their better known characters such as Thanos, or the Silver Surfer the company’s space books such as L.E.G.I.O.N, or R.E.B.E.L.S, or Darkstars, or The Omega Men were written in more a hard sci-fi vein. Put another way, if Marvel’s space epochs are more Star Wars, then DC’s space epochs were decidedly more Star Trek.
The art was a little more indie looking, the quality of the paper they were published on didn’t carry ink as well of of DC titles like Superman or Batman. Very rarely, but with notable exceptions, DC’s space continuity had little impact on the rest of the shared continuity of the other heroes and their books. All that being said, the books mentioned above had extremely loyal fans. L.E.G.I.O.N and R.E.B.E.L.S ran a combined seven years, between 1989 and 1996. Other series like Darkstars and The Omega Men are entwined with L.E.G.I.O.N/R.E.B.E.L.S, and while they didn’t last as long they added a lot more depth to DC’s intergalactic universe.
All of this, and I’ve said nothing of the Legion of Superheroes!
Another post, I guess.
Here is a primer on the four major organizations and their corresponding titles. I’m doing this as a larger theme focusing on Infinite Crisis. Understanding who these players are will help you better understand Adam Strange 2004-2005), and the events that transpire in Rann/Thanagar War (2005)
Spinning out of 1988’s “Invasion!” event, in which an alliance of alien races unsuccessfully attempts to conquer and enslave humanity. Under the leadership of the charismatic and disciplined Viril Dox, a small but dedicated rebellion to the established intergalactic order becomes an intergalactic private security force, contracted to perform military, para-military, and police activities on no less then 80 planets at its height.
Prior to the Invasion the galactic order was governed by an authoritarian alien race called the Dominators. This ancient alien race imposed its will on nearly every corner of the known universe using overwhelming military might and martial law. There were those who resisted and Viril Dox was their leader, L.E.G.I.O.N was what they called themselves.
L.E.G.I.O.N didn’t bring down the Dominators; their own hubris did that. “Invasion!” proved to be an overstep. Having tried, and failed, to neutralize the metahuman actors that would defend Earth, the alliance of Durlans, Khunds, Coluans, Daxamites, Thangarians, and others collapsed in on itself when the Dominator’s power eroded.
In the vacuum left behind, Dox and his L.E.G.I.O.N overthrew the Computer Tyrants of his home-world Colu, as well as the strategically important planet of Carin. It was from here, with the planets military under his command that the organization matured from rebellion to a major player in the intergalactic order.
That is until the ironies of ironies for an organization and a leader born in rebellion and regime change, Dox’s L.E.G.I.O.N falls to a coup orchestrated by his son. The stress of attempting to fill the security void left behind by the destruction of the Green Lantern Corps and the near annihilation of the Guardians of the Universe. Seeking power and fortune Dox overplays his hand, weakening his grip on L.E.G.I.O.N in the process, and creating the conditions for a successful coup to force him from power and on the lam as an intergalactic fugitive.
Green Lantern (Vol. 2) #46, 48-50 (1993)
From the destruction of Coast City to Parrallax killing the entire Green Lantern Corps, Sinestro, and all but one of the Guardians of the Universe!
The series is also important because L.E.G.I.O.N introduced collectors to fan favorite anti-hero: Lobo!
After “Zero Hour” (1994) Dox’s L.E.G.I.O.N falls to a coup staged by his son. Ousted from the organization Dox and his remaining loyal comrades – Lobo among them – escape with their lives and begin the underground rebellion: R.E.B.E.L.S.
R.E.B.E.L.s ’94 picks up the story where L.E.G.I.O.N ’94 ended: that is, with Dox and a small group of his inner circle (including Lobo) escaping L.E.G.I.O.N custody. As a tale of a small group of fugitives on the run in the vastness of space put established characters in new scenarios that felt organic in the way their abilities to cope with their new reality were tested.
When the series concluded in R.E.B.E.L.S ’96 #17 (March 1996) Viril successfully overcomes his son taking back the L.E.G.I.O.N. The series concludes with Viril retiring from active duty, replaced by Captain Comet as the leader of the new L.E.G.I.O.N.
The Omega Men hail from the DCU’s Vega System, a cluster of space comprised on 25 habitable planets and has been under the rule of the ancient and authoritarian Citidelians. A rich history of the inter-planetary races, conquests, and dominions is built to explain the origin of a number of DC’s alien races – the Tamaranians – Starfire’s home world, the Okarrans, the Psions, etc. There’s a lot there …
Space, spacity, space, space, lasers, space, intergalactic federation of planets, pew, pew, pew, spaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaace ….. TL;DR
In all seriousness there is one vital piece of information here that is central to understanding why the Vega System is unique among space sectors in that it is not patrolled by the Green Lantern Corps – an ancient space treaty among the Guardians of the Universe and the Psions set forth that the Vega System would develop according to it’s own means without the intervention of the Green Lantern Corps.
The importance of the Vega System cannot be understated here. The Vega System is one of the oldest sectors of the universe, it is off limits to all Green Lantern Corps by order of the Guardians of the Universe, it is where Green Lantern Kyle Rayner learns the truth about Parrallex and kicks off Green Lantern: Rebirth.
Some of this was yet to come when the Omega Men first appeared in June 1981’s Green Lantern (vol. 2) #141; the current tyrannical order is well established. The members of the Omega organization were “renegades and representatives” of the conquered Vegan System, and were tasked with meeting, containing, and ending Citidelian aggression.
This pre–original-Crisis concept would survive the cataclysmic events that transpired in Crisis on Infinite Earths. The Omega Men became the Vega System’s freedom fighters, waging an insurgency for twenty-years during the inter-Crisis era.
The Darkstars hail from the planet Maltus, one of the oldest and longest habitable planets in the universe. They are governed over by a race known as the Controllers; who themselves are an evolutionary offshoot of the the original Guardians of the Universe. The Darkstars are to the Controllers what the Corps is the Guardians.
The Darkstars never numbered more then a thousand active duty officers, although their Earth representatives were no less then Donna Troy and former Green Lantern John Stewart. Another overly ambitious organization looking to fill some part of the security vacuum created by the decimation of the Green Lantern Corps, the Darkstars were thwarted in battle against Darkseid’s son – Kalibak’s younger brother – Grayven. The son of Darkseid paralyzed John Stewart and killed all but three other Darkstars in battle.
Until the Rann/Thanagar War (2005) the Darkstars would make only periodic appearances. One notable appearance was during the “Imperiex War”, the remaining Darkstars appeared in Metropolis for a rematch against Grayven in Adventures of Superman (vol. 2) #595 (October 2001).
In the summer of 2004 DC published an eight issue limited series titled Adam Strange. With little fanfare the first issue of the series was published amidst that year’s event title, Identity Crisis, but would also become the Rosetta Stone for confused readers trying to make sense of what was going on in the next summer’s Countdown to Infinite Crisis: Ran/Thanagar War, one of four lead-in limited series culminating in the company wide event Infinite Crisis.
Unlike the other three lead-in series, Villains United, The OMAC Project, and to some extent even Day of Vengeance, the narrative threads that lead into Rann/Thanagar War had long ago faded from memory. If, like me, you hadn’t a clue what had gone on in DC’s space theater, then Rann/Thanagar War was a maddening read.
Adam Strange is the key to it all. Its in this series that Viril Dox and his L.E.G.I.O.N, the Darkstars, and the Omega Men meet the Rannians, Thangarians, Captain Comet, Adam Strange, Hawkman and Green Lantern Kyle Rayner are all moved into place, setting up the next major crisis that is the point of departure for the first issue of Rann/Thanagar War.