Armageddon 2001 was DC’s major event in 1991. It’s a time traveling “who-is-it?” as one of Earth’s superheroes is destined to become the evil Monarch, a brutal tyrant fifty years in the future. In the year 2001, that unknown superhero slaughters all the other metahumans and imposes his totalitarian regime.
A scientist from that future, Matthew Ryder, travels back in time in an effort to kill the superhero before they can become Monarch and prevent the dystopian future from being realized. While traveling back in time, Ryder is exposed to temporal radiation and turning him into the time traveling energy being known as Waveryder. This character, created and introduced by Dan Jurgans would go on to represent a key factor that allowed Superman to come back from the dead after his tragic battle with Doomsday.
The series has two issues that act as the opening and concluding chapters to the tale. The rest of the story runs through 1991’s Annuals, but after the first three chapters the formula gets beat to repetitive shit making nearly every story a frustrating experience. The plot was thin gruel at best, and the identity of Monarch sparked harsh criticism for promising a major hero and then serving up Hank Hall – Hawk, of Hawk and Dove. To further exacerbate the irritation caused by the big bait and switch was the fact that the character Hawk was killed by Monarch prior to the revelation that Monarch is Hawk.
From a collector’s perspective the mistake is perhaps more interesting then the actual story. DC editorial has always planned for Captain Atom to be revealed as Monarch. It makes sense in light of clue that are left behind in the various Annuals. All shit broke lose when it was leaked that Captain Atom was Monarch. DC editorial … well … it seems like they spazzed a little here. Rather then just ignore the leak and publish the story they intended – and, keep in mind this the pre-Internet era – DC changed who Monarch was to be and picked Hawk.
Well, DC editorial picked one of only two characters to actually have been featured, ON PANEL, killed by Monarch! None of the other characters had been seen ON PANEL being killed by Monarch. Any of those characters that weren’t seen ON PANEL could have subbed in for Captain Atom, all of the EXCEPT Hawk, and they chose …. fucking HAWK!!!!!
Anyway, the story is not that bad. It also helps that DC retconned Monarch’s identity to be Captain Atom in the Infinite Crisis Aftermath limited series Battle for Bludhaven. There were further retcons that attempted to explain how Hawk became Monarch as a ruse.
Armageddon 2001 is a lot of thing and none of them are good. If you’re going to read it my suggestion is that you read the core two issues and in between them read as many of the Annuals as interests you.
The set up for each of them is the same.
Waveryder suspects a hero is Monarch, he creeps them, a series of events seem to confirm his suspicions, a heroic test and the heroes rise above eliminating any doubt that they could not possibly become Monarch. This was even true in Hawk and Dove Annual #2 in which Waveryder himseld says: “No matter the future they fought him but never became him.” Two fucking issues before the conclusion of the event! Then, POOF! Hawk is Monarch.
Read one, assume the same set up for each, read Armageddon 2001 #2.