When in rome

With my Prophet series now at a close, I thought I’d return to DC Comics. And what better way to usher in my triumphant return than to write about a character that I personally feel deserves more respect, the Alpha Centurion? What’s that? Who’s the Alpha Centurion? You see, that’s my point. This character made a large impact in the pages of Superman’s titles. He was even a member of the famed “Superman Family”! But, like many characters in the 90’s, he pretty much disappeared as if he never existed at all. So, join me as I take a look back at the Alpha Centurion Special! (Damn! I rambled way too much! I wonder if anyone’s still reading this?)

We begin our story as the Alpha Centurion has decided to leave Metropolis and strike out on his own. He has chosen to look into possibly serving as the protector of Washington D.C. (Yeah. Great place for a superhero to find some crime to fight. Of course, the biggest criminals are most likely employed in high offices!) As he looks down upon our nation’s capitol, he suddenly finds himself under attack as an energy blast hits him in the chest! It doesn’t take long for his hidden assailant to make herself known. She calls herself Ephemera and she fancies herself the keeper of history. It seems that she has just stolen important documents from the national archives and believes the Alpha Centurion was sent to stop her!

The hero quickly recovers and retaliates. He flies in quick, energy blade and shield at the ready! As he attempts to grab the misguided villain, he passes right through her! (Women! Always playing hard to get!) She states that she will have these documents and they will be added to her personal library in order to better preserve history. Not to be defeated, he quickly takes another airborne pass. Same result! It’s then that Ephemera recognizes him. She exclaims that, as a Roman soldier of days long past, he is a piece of living history! He exclaims that He will not be added as a relic to her strange collection. But, she replies that she has other uses for him in mind! (Oooooh! Me thinks someone’s about to get a supervillain booty call!)

The Alpha Centurion ignores her and examines the woman’s wardrobe in detail. He notices a strange clasp holding her cape to her body. Remembering that it reacted ever so slightly when he passed through her intangible form, he attempts the same attack once more. But this time, as he passes through, he smashes the clasp! It explodes in a flash of light! Outraged, but now powerless, she begins to plummet toward the earth below! Victorious, the hero rescues her and her loot and descends. He releases her into the waiting arms of the authorities.

Met by the flashing cameras and a barrage of questions from the amassed media, the hero decides to bow out and fly up to his awaiting spacecraft. He leaves them with a promise to get to all of their questions at a later date. While aboard, the Alpha Centurion attempts to relax. Peace however doesn’t come to him as his ship’s scanners notify him of a non-human entity requesting admittance inside. Suspiciously, he grants it. (Wow! Talk abou trusting! I lock the bathroom door when I’m alone! That’s my biz!) In walks a green-skinned alien being from a race he’s all to aware of, a Virmiru. The very race that made him into the powerful being he is today!

The creature wastes little time in getting to the reason for his visit. When the man that would become the Alpha Centurion, a Roman warrior by the name of Marcus Aelius, was given the chance to leave ancient Rome for the stars, the Virmiru left a representative of their own to learn the ways of man. But now that Marcus has returned, his replacement should now return home as well. But, the alien has refused. His people now fear that madness has overtaken their comrade and that he might attempt to harm the Earth to end his long exile here! (A bit extreme, isn’t it? Well, I guess I’ve thought about nuking my house on the holidays when my father’s side of the family show up, even with me inside, to end my misery.) He must be apprehended before this can come to pass!

Unsure, the Alpha Centurion at last agrees. That night, the rebel alien receives the coded message that the others of his kind left for him. It calls for a meeting. He accepts but wishes for it to be at a place of his choosing, a formal event for the upper class of D.C. Shedding his armor and weaponry, Marcus Aelius attends the strange meeting place. Even though he appears as one of them, he is still noticed by all for his role as a very public superhero. A female press agent even approaches him and begins talks of representing him. Her words fall upon partially deaf ears however as the hero spies a statue from his era on display. He soon loses himself in thought. (Uh-oh! I sense an origin flashback coming on. We’ll let him get away with it this time though. It’s not like Spider-Man doesn’t do this every ten pages or so and nobody seems to care!)

The Alpha Centurion recalls the events that led to his creation exactly. He, a Roman commanding officer, was just returning from a successful battle and was being welcomed with open arms by the emperor himself. The celebration was cut short when a strange craft suddenly appeared above them in the skies! Thinking it was their gods, the Romans stood transfixed as it landed. But what came from inside were not Gods at all. They were an alien race! Called the Virmiru, they had come to find the greatest example of a human being. They would then take this human with them and leave one of their own behind. The chosen one would be trained in fighting techniques and futuristic weaponry over a period of many years and then returned, a protector for his home world! (Um. Shouldn’t the Romans be a little less trusting here? These are Romans! They’re not exactly known to be, shall we say, friendly with other people’s beliefs! Food for thought….)

It is agreed and a contest is scheduled. Marcus, as expected, passes all tests with flying colors. Soon after, he finds himself in deep space, leaving his home far behind and recording his thoughts as the training begins. And as promised, Marcus Aelius was introduced to many wonders. He was granted an education almost beyond his comprehension, learned the ways of sophisticated technology, and trained in numerous ways of combat. Finally, the day came when his benefactors proclaimed that he was at last ready to return to his home world. Many, many years had passed since he had stepped upon Earth’s soil and Marcus found himself to be nervous. But regardless, after the gift of his own personal starship, he returned home. (Anyone else hearing the Motley Crue song, “Home Sweet Home”, in their heads? No? You kids today with your cell phones….mumble….grumble….)

And so it was to the city, Metropolis, that he first re-entered the human race. The first being he met was of course the legendary Superman. It was even he and the reporter, Lois Lane, that gave him his new name, the Alpha Centurion. (End origin flashback. And what have we learned, boys and girls? If a stranger offers you a ride into space to become a mighty superhero, go on and take a chance. Sheesh! The dude’s lucky he didn’t end up on ancient Roman milk cartons!) The Centurion is brought back to present day by a man requesting he go with him. The Virmiru will see him now.

Marcus follows the man into a comfortable-looking, higher class den. He is introduced to the alien sitting in the high-backed chair. The Virmiru begins with the typical pleasantries but the Alpha Centurion is not deterred from the matter at hand. He asks why the creature has not been in contact with his home world point blank. The alien sidesteps the question and tells the warrior that he may now return to the party. He has learned all he needs to about the Roman by their brief encounter. He will contact the Centurion later.

Deeply annoyed, the Alpha Centurion sits within his craft a short time later. The gall of dismissing him in such a rude manner! (There’s no accounting for alien manners! Look at how rude the Vulcans are! Okay. So we’ve established the fact that I’m a nerd some time ago.) It is only a small amount of time before the Virmiru rebel requests another meeting. This time, it’s upon the roof of a government building. The Centurion follows the alien’s words to the letter and waits. Before long, the Virmiru arrives, but he’s wearing battle armor!

As it turns out, the rebel extraterrestrial has already assumed the Centurion has come to bring him in and he doesn’t plan to go quietly! The armored alien attacks! And as he does so, he tells the Alpha Centurion the truth about his “noble benefactors”. He reveals that the so-called protectors that were taken, were done so to conquer their home planets upon their return! This would then pave the way for a massive invasion force! He is nothing but a pawn in the grand scheme of things! The hero denies this with outrage in his tone! He is a protector, a hero! (Things’re getting deep now, folks! It seems you can’t trust anyone these days! Not even an alien species! What a universe we live in!)

The brutal battle continues back and forth until the Virmiru stands triumphant! But, as he’s about to deliver a killing blow, he yields. He has come to admire the human race in his time on Earth and will not kill a human that was betrayed. The Alpha Centurion gets in one last mighty blow before he finally hears the other’s words. He reaches down to help his opponent up. They have much to discuss. (Was that last hit really necessary? The green guy gave up already! Man, this really makes the hero look like an a-hole! Too long since the last sexual conquest, my Roman friend?)

A short amout of time passes before the Alpha Centurion requests entry to the waiting enemy Virmiru craft. On his way in, you can see that the rebel is now his prisoner! But, it is soon revealed to be a ploy! The Centurion attacks! (They pulled a trick like when Chewy acts as if he’s Han and Luke’s prisoner in the original Star Wars! Yeah. I know. Further proof of my nerdhood….) Throughout this clash of warriors from two worlds, Marcus Aelius continues to attempt to force the alien to admit the truth, but again and again he denies it! The hero’s resolve will not break! He’s sure now of whom is using whom. Finally in anger, the creature admits it! Still shocked by hearing the truth, the Centurion is nearly fatally wounded by a well-placed energy blade swipe!

The rebel Virmiru comes to his aid and the two aliens are now locked in mortal combat! (Good game. Awesome fatalities and cool characters. Umm. What was I talking about?) The enemy’s armor is way more advanced than the rebel’s however and the tide begins to turn. But, before the final blow is struck, Marcus Aelius recovers and strikes the enemy alien down! He turns to check on his comrade but the villain is not yet defeated! He pulls a hidden dagger from his armor and strikes! The rebel notices this move and strikes with a hidden blade of his own! And that’s that. Just that simply, the fight has ended.

Later, we find the Alpha Centurion tending to his wounds within his own ship. He leaves his healing waters and begins to place his armor back on. (Healing waters?! I want a hottub with those! I have fibromyalgia, damn it!) He turns to his new friend and asks if there might be any truth to what the villains said of an invasion. His reply is hardly comforting. Only time will truly tell. Until then, he truly is the protector of Earth like he has always wanted. It’s time to act the part.

End.

This article is dedicated to both of my children, Jade and James. These poor kids have had to grow up their whole lives hearing about this superhero or that, opening presents that only their comic nerd daddy thinks is cool, and watching every Marvel or DC film ever produced! And they’ve never complained in all of these years. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is! I love you both.

-Symbidad

And so it was written….part 6

Finally! We’ve reached the end of the road! It’s certainly been an adventure too, hasn’t it, Unspokenites? As we’ve joined John Prophet on his quest to stop an apocalyptic Earth from ever coming into being, we have all been dealing with the very real and frightening world that now surrounds us in 2020. Though it isn’t a machine-ruled Hell-on-Earth, it is scary. And you know what? We’ve survived. In our own way, we’re warriors, not unlike Prophet. And though we don’t have his power or his sophisticated weaponry, in many ways, we’re stronger. Stronger because we keep on living our lives, despite our fear. (Well, now. That was an actually heartfelt paragraph! Where’s the action? Where’s the lame jokes? Fear not. For the time is nigh!)

We begin our final chapter with Prophet and Kirby sifting through the rubble of Youngblood’s headquarters. What happened, you ask? Crypt happened. Kirby senses something alive beneath a downed pillar. Using his enhanced strength, Prophet lifts it free, revealing the battered and broken forms of the members of Youngblood! The two men leap to action, carefully removing the heroes from the debris. While Prophet continues this, Kirby discovers a bloody shuriken. He hands it to Prophet and comments how he himself fashioned his throwing star long ago. But then how does Crypt have it in his arsenal? (Curious. Not how Crypt had the weapon in his possession, rather how Kirby could tell it was of his creation! Did he leave his damn initials on a throwing star? Who does that?)

Moving on. This moment is interrupted as the hollow corpse of a hero drops from the ceiling, suspended by a long chain! At the other end of the chain, holding the body up, stands the messenger, Crypt himself! (No, I don’t know who the hero is! I’m normally a DC and Marvel guy! Gimme a break!) Prophet turns and stares at his monstrous adversary. As their eyes lock, Crypt uses a type of telepathy. He shows Prophet a glimpse of all of the horrors he’s committed in his long lifetime. When this fades away, a sense of revelation suddenly hits the hero. He bellows, “I know who you are!”

Prophet prepares to attack his enemy but Kirby stops him. The old man reveals that he’s with the warrior for the long haul and that he considers him not as just a friend, but his son. (Sorry. I had to pause here. There was something in my eye. I’m not crying! It was dust, I swear! Can’t a guy have allergies? Geez!) Prophet gives his heartfelt thanks and the two heroes rush off to battle! Sadly, the fight only lasts minutes. Crypt aims a powerful, energy gun at Kirby and pulls the trigger! All that is left is ash! (Damn, more dust!)

Shock quickly becomes rage and Prophet roars like a mighty lion, striking at his nemesis! The two men savagely beat one another to bloody pulps, neither gaining the distinct advantage! Finally, Prophet manages to knock Crypt down and pins the beast to the ground! He knocks the bloodied battleaxe out of reach and tears the hood from his enemy’s face, revealing his own face beneath! Though the hero knew the truth in his heart, seeing the truth face to face shocked him nonetheless. (Didn’t see that coming, huh? Kinda like when Vader was revealed to be Luke’s father! What’s that? You saw this coming a mile away? Umm. So did I. Way too simple to figure out really….damn kids today….)

Crypt uses this moment to kick Prophet far from him. He then leaps, weapon raised for a killing strike! Prophet finds the battleaxe from earlier. When Crypt gets near, he strikes, beheading the monstrous copy! The threat has ended. Prophet turns away from the quickly disintegrating corpse. No sense of relief envelops him. This is just the beginning. Now John Prophet must live every waking moment of the rest of his life in fear. Fear of what he may become one day. (Deep huh? Poor guy. He needs a hug. I mean, I wouldn’t personally want to do it. Dude’s covered in gore and has to smell of B.O.! Nah. I’m good.)

Meanwhile, Philip Omen enters a secret chamber beneath his heavily-fortified complex. He seals the door behind him and turns. Within a tube of fluid floats a cloned body! The body of Jonathan Taylor Prophet! Omen whispers to the body that until the time is right, this copy will have to slumber. Slumber within his building’s CRYPT! (Cue the maniacal laughter and climactic music!)

Well, that’s it. The end of my six part look back at the first volume of Image Comics’ Prophet. I have to admit, this was a royal pain in the ass! But, overall I’m glad I did it. I feel a sense of completion and finality. It’s a good feeling and I have you, the fans who wanted more, to thank for all of it. This is dedicated to all of you! Until next we meet, take care. Much love. -Symbifan

“And So It Was Written….” Part 5

prophet-4-variant-nm-5-1-1The filthy, inhuman creature crawls from its dark, dank hole. Squinting its eyes, it tries to adjust to the sudden bright light, wasting little time as it knows that the light is fleeting. It quickly bathes, takes in nourishment, and performs any other duties that require proper eyesight. It then attempts the final test. Breathing slowly, it flips the switch to its tablet…success! Internet connection has been established! So now I’m writing my newest article! Yes, fellow Unspoken-ites, your dear Symbifan resides in Iowa and was without power for over a week. This was due to a horrible storm that struck here called a “derecho.” (Insert Dora the Explorer saying, “Can you say ‘derecho’?” here.)

But now I’ve returned, refreshed and ready to continue with my series of articles pertaining to the first volume of Image Comics’ Prophet! So, without even further delay, let’s jump right back into the story…

RCO003_1583525712-1The man, known as Jonathan Taylor Prophet, is always at his best when he’s in the midst of a bloodbath. Deep down, he wants to be a man of God. But men of God don’t kill with such grim satisfaction. Do they? He ponders this as he battles. The combatant’s name is Bloodstrike, and first blood was spilled quite some time ago. Both men are bleeding profusely and are injured beyond mortal standards. Yet they continue. The battleground seems to be a filthy sewer, but the rush of water hardly slows either warrior down. Prophet strikes suddenly with a blade. He is met with a kick that connects under his jaw. Never slowing, Prophet hurls the weapon as he’s in motion. It hits home, impaling his enemy in the chest! When Bloodstrike recovers enough, he sees that Prophet is gone. However, he has left a rather easy blood trail to follow. The search begins. (Daaaaaaamn! I haven’t ever seen a battle this bloody in a comic before! And I’ve even read issues where Archie cheated on Betty! Sheesh!)

RCO009_1583525712-1Bloodstrike nurses his many wounds as he follows the trail of his enemy’s blood. He enters another tunnel and immediately spies his prey. Wasting no time, he springs at the seemingly unconscious warrior. Prophet moves with lightning speed, thrusting upward with a long spear! He impales Bloodstrike through his abdomen, hardly slowing the enraged man down. He grabs Prophet and rams the other end of the spear through his chest! Both combatants are now face to face. All that separates them is the weapon that is jammed through both of their broken bodies! (Holy crap! Someone call a damn medic! These guys are real men! I sob and seek comfort when I break a fingernail!)

Shockingly enough, both continue! That is until both are blasted with a stun rifle by an unseen man. He orders others to load them up. (Now, why were these two so intent on murdering one another? Why are they being loaded up for transport by a mystery man? If you really need to know, you’ll have to read the comics these events crossed into. For the purpose of this narrative, I’ll only be covering the Prophet title and the events contained therein. Plus, I’m feeling especially lazy. It’s the late nights and my advanced age I fear. *sob* Goodbye, teenage years. I remember thee fondly.)

RCO006_1583668647-1The next issue, Prophet stands upon a mighty cliff side. Garbed in a flowing red cloak, he surveys the land around him. Without warning, a mechanical transport hovers overhead. Enemies leap from it, intent on the warriors blood! He expects them to be disciples, but they are demons! Unfazed, Prophet draws his weapons. He slays the creatures with little effort, advancing on their ship. He leaps aboard. Slowly rising to his feet, he sees a figure looming over him wearing a cloak similar to his own. The man slowly reveals his face. Prophet expects to see his own face, as his visions usually end this way. Instead it is the hooded face of Crypt. Prophet jolts awake, crying to the heavens! (I love these vision scenes! So cool! The most “vision-like” experience I’ve ever had while asleep was the time I saw myself peeing and awoke to a wet bed. Not sure why I just shared that with you….)

RCO007_1583668647-1Kirby bursts into the room, concerned for his friend’s welfare. Prophet quickly describes the vision to Kirby. He tells him that this was a sign. A sign that he must confront the monstrous Crypt. Kirby scoffs. They’re being hunted by agents of Ragnarok and the U.S. military alike! They should be laying low, not hunting a beast like Crypt all because of a dream! But finally, the small man gives in and the two hit the open road. (Can you imagine having a pal like Kirby? I mean, say you dream about Twinkies and wake up and tell your friend that you’ve had a vision. You are destined to devour these sweet little cakes. And your friend agrees?! That’s a true friend right there. Or he has the munchies too. Either way, though…)

RCO009_1583668647-1We then change our focus to Ragnarok HQ. Deep within the bowels of this sinister complex, Omen has given the order to pack up everything for immediate relocation. Too many know of this “secret” base now, and measures must be taken. As the soldiers follow their orders, Omen descends to a small subbasement. He muses to himself  about how his disciple units will take over the world and he will rule it as a messiah. To do this, he will need a general. A loyal soldier to aid in accomplishing his dark dream. Within the tube floats a growing piece of flesh! (Cue the spooky music! Why do these supervillains always want to take over the world anyway? Talk about stress! Ugh! Your blood pressure would be through the roof in days! Guaranteed!)

Meanwhile, our heroes find themselves being pursued by armored soldiers within a heavily-armed vehicle! The reprogrammed disciple unit and Prophet return fire, but the enemy seems to have the advantage of numbers on their side. Kirby suddenly conceives a dangerous plan. He enters the tunnel at high speed. The soldiers are delighted. Their prey is trapped! When the soldiers enter the tunnel themselves, they’re met with a grisly surprise. The disciple self-destructs! Kirby and Prophet race to freedom through the opposite end.

RCO021_1583668647Later, the heroes take refuge in a church. As Kirby chats with the priest, an old friend of his, Prophet kneels before a large crucifix, secured on the wall behind the altar. There he thinks of his father, a man of the cloth that was murdered by Nazis long ago. Prophet remembers that he once swore to be a just man like his father, a man of God. He then realizes that perhaps that isn’t his path after all. He is a warrior, a killer. Lost in thought, he barely notices the sound of flapping metallic wings overhead. Judas strikes! (Man, seems kinda wrong to attack a man mid-prayer. And in a church no less! Oh well. She has great legs, so we’ll allow it. But just this once.)

As the two battle, Judas reveals that she is from a grim future where the disciples rule. When she was only five years old, Prophet liberated her from a camp. She learned hope that day. He raised her, loved her like a daughter. But sadly this was not to last. She was retaken by the disciples and reimprisoned. For a long time she held out hope that he would come, like a knight on a white steed, and free her once again. He never came. Her hope turned to hatred for him in time. She became a willing servant of her mechanical masters in the hopes of getting her revenge. Now, in this era, she would have it! (Um. Never mind what I said earlier. Chick is loco! I can’t believe she attacked him in a church! The nerve…)

RCO022_1583668647-1Just when it seems that Judas’ dream of vengeance will be realized, Prophets now badly-damaged, reprogrammed disciple makes its presence known! It grabs onto Judas and counts down! Prophet and the others run as their cybernetic savior explodes behind them! Far away, Crypt remarks with disgust how Judas has failed him. It seems that if you want something done right, you must do it yourself.

To be concluded!

RCO027_1583668647-1This article is dedicated to my son, James Christian Miller. His birthday was this month and I promised him I’d dedicate my next article to him. Here it is, buddy. I hope you like it. This article hardly covers the amount of love and pride I feel when you’re around me. Nothing can. This is my best try. Love, Dad.

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