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So I was paging through X-Men #26 the other day, when I realized that something that was true for X-Men was true for all the 2099 titles under the One Nation Under Doom stamp.
Y'see, before ONUD, the X-Men of the year 2099 were once a band of outlaws. They were a ragtag band of mutants carrying on a thrice-discarded dream and hounded constantly by a casino of neon-lit sin and a sadistic theatre-house of blood. Barely teammates, they were constantly hounded by what passed for law in the western half of the United States. The authority figures of the future firmly had them underfoot, not killing the X-Men out of the mere fact that they were never a true threat to law and order. And so the X-Men went on, constantly plagued by in-fighting, members going off to "find themselves" and harsh betrayals to the cause, most notably Xi'an's betrayal. Xi'an, the de facto leader plagued by the sins of his Lawless past.
But once ONUD hit and Doom announced his construction of Halo City, the X-Men were suddenly the authority. Granted they were the mutant police force of a small city alongside the coast of California. But now, this band of mutant outlaws carried the torch for the new laws and the new order of the United States under Doom. Although, Doom was disposed before the city was even fully built, the X-Men still served as authority figures even under the faux Captain America's figurehead totalitarian state under Herod. The X-Men…excuse me, the Protectorate, fought once again to make the dream of the salvation of mutantkind a reality in a city that held no discrimination between degens, freaks, outcasts or mutants. Everyone was equal here, even those society had considered deviates. This, and the Protectorate even had snazzy new badges, to further off-set them as instruments of law and order and to show that they were a team, finally.
I was like: Wow. That's pretty damn cool.
From being hounded by the authority, to BECOMING the authority. That's a hell of a leap. And that's about when I discovered that what was true for the X-Men was true for pretty much every 2099 title under ONUD. Observe:
X-Men 2099: With #26, the X-Men become the Protectorate of Halo City, dishing out law and order to the rejected and often lawless masses.
SMAN 2099: With #34, Miguel is offered Tyler's old position as VP of Alchemax, in charge of the monstrous corp's research and development divisions. After some thought, Miggy accepts and, with the unexpected murder of Avatarr by Doom, automatically ascends to the CEO of Alchemax, the corporation whose Public Eye soldiers had dogged him from the BEGINNING. Dayamn. Miguel puts an end to that soon enough, saving his SMAN alter ego from having to deal with trigger-happy Public Eye pursuers.
Punisher 2099: With #26, the vigilante lawman Jake Gallows is suddenly is appointed the Minister of Punishment by President Doom. He was once the vigilante Punisher operating outside the corrupt system of subscriber police enforcement and black cark immunity, having to hide his face as he delivered old-school "brutal punishment" to the guilty. Suddenly, Gallows was fully endorsed by the incoming presidency and became an official enforcer of justice in Doom's America. Jake Gallows no longer needed to hide his face behind a digitized mask, operating freely in the streets and in full command of the new SHIELD force.
Ghost Rider 2099: With #14, Ghost Rider was appointed Marshall of Transverse City by incoming president Doom. Kenshiro Cochrane, a wild, officially-deceased rebel teenager housed inside the body of an unkillable warbot, once took the fight to the heavy duty CSS troops and the D'Monix Corporation with 'lectrosaw's screaming digital fire and a hovercycle that'd put the fear of Thor into anybody, cloaked or uncloaked. Doom changed all that, re-wiring the warbot as per the Ghostworks instructions, involuntarily making him the new carrier of the law. With a new suit and new attitude, he began cleaning up Transverse City as an officer of the law.
Doom 2099: With #29, Doom took over the White House and became the President of the United States of America, parking his stolen Libera Cielo over the White House as a symbol of the new era. He vowed to clean up the corporate threat to Latveria with his Environmental Maintenance Platforms (EMPs), his appointing of a powerful cabinet to enforce his new mandates. He ended the division between black carders and everyone else liable to subscriber police brutality and punishment. Although he was undoubtedly a dictator who ruled with an iron hand, quite literally, he actually began to make things a little better in the squat-hole that had become of the U.S., until a little shut-in named Herod came calling…
Ravage 2099: With #32, Ravage had finally defeated the bloodthirsty Dethstryk, freeing the Mutroids of Hellrock from the slavery of a brutal master, gaining the popularity of the masses and finally becoming the de facto leader of Hellrock. Now a massive mutroid himself, Ravage was suddenly able to steer the fate of Hellrock toward a brighter future, with his pseudo-goddess lover Hela/Tiana firmly at his side as an equal.
Interestingly enough, Doom's official presence in this book had the OPPOSITE effect it had on most of the titles, as Doom declared the poisonous Hellrock a biohazard that he would not tolerate any longer. Armed with EMPs and powerful satellite weapons, he made a strong entrance destroying an "invincible" sea creature that served no purpose other than meaningless plot device. Engaging Ravage in final combat, he single-handedly removed Hela's technological divinity, turned Ravage into the ugliest wretch you ever did see, and killed the denizens of the toxic waste island by drowning them in LIQUID ADAMANTIUM, solidifying it and sending it into SPACE. Not bad for a title that started out as a simple anti-corp hero fighting for the environment.
So what's the POINT of all this, you ask? Well, I'll tell you. In all six of these titles, the main characters shift from hunted outlaws to authority figures overnight with the arrival of old Valhalla over the White House. I enjoyed this sudden shift in power structure…and I suddenly realized the widespread appeal of One Nation Under Doom. 2099 was always a depressing, dystopic future. Public Eye and Watchdogs patrolled the streets with no codes of conduct to follow other than protect only those who subscribe to the protection plans. Everyone else is free to do with as you please. Let them die. Or beat them to death yourself. They're nobody. And if nobody gets hurt, well…
Megacorporations ruled with an iron hand, making their own rules as they went along. Big brother cams were everywhere. Black carders were held above the law by piles of unending wealth and privilege. Justice could be bought. And amidst this glorious technology were the degens, discards, mutants and rejects that were less that secondary citizens in their own country. They were a surplus population. They had no rights.
And then Doom, always this evil villain in the comics, stepped in and turned things around. He appointed the unsung heroes and righteous few of that era to the lawgivers, giving our constantly hounded boys a chance to dictate for once. We could root for our favorites, be it Ghost Rider or Doom or SMAN, and it made it easier knowing that their battles would be just a bit easier from now on.
They were that much closer to winning the war to remake the world of tomorrow into something EVERYONE could stand to look at. And it was all done without compromising anyone's character. Ghost Rider's mind was overruled. Miggy's promotion fit in with SMAN's crusade. Halo City fit in with the X-Men's dream of mutant acceptance and equality. Dragging out the black carders from their homes of luxury and murdering them on the street had always been a psychotic pipe dream of the Punisher's. Ravage never had much of a stable personality to violate in the first place.
And DOOM…here was a storyline that actually involved Doom taking over the world for a reason that was actually fitting for Doom: Saving Latveria from the grip of a nation of corporations bent on destroying the world through parasitic control and environmental pollution all for profit. He started to save the United States from destroying itself, but his primary motives were ALWAYS to safeguard his homeland Latveria. THAT'S the Victor Von Doom we all know. And I'm glad that ONUD was able to respect the man behind the mask.
Amazing the kinds of stuff you start thinking about when you read comic books.
~Jason McDonald, Assistant Editor