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The Armageddon Agenda (part 1)

What immediately comes to mind when you think of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Is it brightly colored masks? The word: “Cowabunga”? Pizza? Vanilla Ice? (Don’t lie. It’s Vanilla Ice, isn’t it?) Well, I’m almost positive that it isn’t their titanic clash with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse! Think I’m lying about that last one? Has your friendly, neighborhood Symbifan ever lied to you before? I guess seeing is believing. Prepare thyselves, Unspokenites! It’s about to get Biblical up in here…..

Our story unfolds as the Turtles, Splinter, and Ninjara enter the Earth’s atmosphere, returning home from yet another interstellar adventure. They sit within the moist, dark confines of Cudley the Cowlick’s large, bovine mouth. (A humongous, detached cow head that carries beings inside his mouth in order to transport them to the furthest reaches of space! My question is, who was smokin’ what when this character was imagined?) While on Earth, the Mutanimals lie defeated, victims of heavy lazer gunfire, fired from mechanized skeleton weaponry! Only Leatherhead and the changeling, Azazel, still stand to defend the others’ fallen forms! Leatherhead fires blast after blast from his own lazer rifle until the weapon runs out of ammo! Never one to surrender or flee from a fight, the aligator-man begins to fight with his bare hands! Azazel joins him but the two soon find themselves outnumbered! Leatherhead orders Azazel to transform and take flight to get help. Reluctantly, she shapeshifts into a bird and takes to the skies. Leatherhead then falls.

Atop a nearby hilltop, a well-dressed, bald man with small horns takes a long puff on his cigar. Laughing, he approaches the defeated Mutanimals. The robotic skeletons give him a wide berth. He is known only as Null, and he is the personification of all that is evil. (Well, maybe he’d lighten up if he had a baby kitten. Do these hero types ever stop to consider something as simple as that? Like, maybe the Joker wouldn’t be quite so demented if he had a cute puppy to take care of.) Null orders his skeletal warriors to take the unconscious Mutanimals into custody. This is interrupted, however, by the timely appearance of the Ninja Turtles! Raphael orders Null to freeze right where he is and to release his friends. This demand is met with Null pulling a lazer rifle of his own and opening fire! His minions follow suit without delay! The Turtles waste no time in throwing themselves into close combat against their enemy! The fight has truly begun now!

The combined attack of the Turtles, Splinter, and Ninjara does cut down the number of robotic skeletons, but they still run the risk of being overwhelmed by sheer numbers. A blast from Null is deflected by Leonardo’s blades. This stray shot wings one of the fallen Mutanimals, Man-Ray! Man-Ray springs to life and uses his muscular, aquatic body to help in the fight! His aid helps but not enough! But just as the battle seems lost, a barrage of lazer fire hits the skeletal warriors from the high ground! The enemy falls at last! The heroes look up to discover that the other Mutanimals are in fact their saviors! (Today’s lesson, kiddies? Never bring ninja weapons to a lazer gun fight! I now return you to your regularly scheduled article, already in progress.) But before the heroes can celebrate their victory, they see that not only is Null gone, but so is Azazel!

Null enters a secret door in the rocky terrain, far from the fighting, a beaten and unconscious Azazel thrown over his shoulder. Closing the door behind him, he enters the darkness of the cave. Null makes his way easily through the darkness until he comes face to face with a grinning skull, illuminated by torchlight. It appears that this skull is attached to a full, bone body and covered by a dark, hooded cloak. In its skeletal hands, it grips a long scythe! It is in fact Death himself! The Reaper asks Null for a report. The horned man replies that the heroes were too much for his army and that it’s up to Death and the others now. Three more sets of eyes appear in the darkness behind the Grim Reaper. The beings are ready. In fact, they seem almost excited to reveal themselves. (There you have it. Null went all out for recruiting frightening allies in this one! Are even the combined forces of the Ninja Turtles and Mighty Mutanimals enough to stop these villains? They’ll be fine. After all, the Turtles “Don’t Fear the Reaper”. Ha! I totally worked in a song title!)

It’s about this time that the two heroic groups discover that Cudley and Azazel are missing. Leonardo asks Man-Ray just what the situation here was. He replies that he and the other Mutanimals were searching for Jagwar’s missing human mother, Juntarra, when they discovered she was being held by a creature resembling the Grim Reaper. They located his stronghold, but were attacked by an army of skeleton robots when they approached. Jagwar adds that Azazel also told them that this barren land they stand upon was a tropical rainforest before this Reaper set up operations here! (Yeah. Let’s worry about the rainforests when you’re human mother is being held captive by Death himself! What’s that? How did a human woman give birth to a humanoid jaguar? Umm. Moving on…..) Just then, Ninjara picks up the scent of smoke. The group turns to see a nearby forest in flames! They rush to investigate.

Shock would be an understatement for what the heroes feel when they witness what’s causing the mayhem. An entire village of people is setting the forests ablaze by the use of torches. But the most shocking part is that the people are zombies! The slow-moving undead stand no chance against the combined might of the Ninja Turtles and Mighty Mutanimals! They dispatch the zombified villagers quickly. (I’m not kidding here at all. They didn’t even see if these poor people could maybe be healed! They just slashed them to pieces! Talk about bloodthirsty! The most appalling part to me is that they didn’t really show the gore in the comic. You just have to use your imagination. What? So I love slasher flicks. Sue me.) But before they can take a breath, they notice three figures approaching them through the inferno. Three of the Four Horsemen have arrived!

To be continued.

This article is dedicated to my brother, Eric James Miller. Though he never got into the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as much as I did, it was our love for all things supernatural that bonded us for life. And what could be more supernatural than the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, I ask you? (Plus, he’s tolerated me spouting off Ninja Turtle trivia long enough to at least deserve an article dedicated to him.) Love ya, bro!

The Shield Is Mightier Than the Sword

I know, right? It’s unbelievable. I’m back with another article in the same month! I’m not even spouting off some wild excuse as to my tardiness! Will wonders never cease? Why, you ask? Well, it’s because I truthfully felt compelled to. No. I took all of the appropriate medications, with the proper doses. (At least I think I did.) I really did feel like I was supposed to do this somehow. That’s when the realization hit me, this will soon be the anniversary of my stepfather’s death. My subconscious must have been letting me know. You see, my spepdad and the character known as the Shield are synonymous to me.

Why? Because he was the one who bought me my first Impact comic, the Shield action figure, and even purchased every other single issue from the Impact line for me. And when he was taken from this world, all of these things meant even more to me. He protected me, cared for me, and made me believe in a fatherly love that I until then had never known. He was my personal superhero. In my heart, he was the Shield. Not a symbol of patriotism, but a symbol to me of what a man should aspire to be. (Wipe your tears, Unspokenites. You still have an article to read.)

Our story begins as two United States military helicopters fly through the evening sky of Colorado. They are armed to the teeth and in search of their appointed target. Suddenly, they spot the enemy…..one man?! The lone figure stands defiantly in their spotlights. Wasting no time, they unleash heavy gunfire! The man runs at an incredible speed, sidestepping the bullets. He then disappears from sight. The helicopters search frantically. Just then, the Man reappears, a large boulder in his hands. He hurls it at one of them! It caves in the metal on one side and crushes the rotor, sending it spiraling to the rocky ground!

Before the pilot of the other craft can react, the Man leaps over the crashing aircraft and slams his body with incredible force into the other chopper! Tearing his way inside he knocks one of the soldiers out after he grabs for a concealed firearm. The other pilot simply smiles! He then begins laughing as he remarks how the man threw a boulder as a projectile. With the pilot smiling, the helicopter lands. The simulation has ended. The man then steps into the light. He stands clad in an armored uniform modeled after the American flag. (Well, there ya have it folks! Our tax dollars hard at work. Can you imagine if all of our troops wore this amazing armor? Of course, the question of camouflage comes to mind…….)

The strangely-armored man taps his earpiece. He asks how the exercise looked back at home base. He’s answered with resounding applause from the soldiers on the other side of the call. That is all except for one gruff-looking, old general who leaves the control room . The general appreciates the performance of the Shield armor that they have developed, it’s the man inside that he cares very little for. The original man to be called the Shield was a friend and an ally of his. That was until his mysterious disappearance in 1963. He was located by the U.S. military for a brief time during the Vietnam War before the hero took off his armor and vanished for good. Though the original Shield’s armor was extraordinary, it’s design proved impossible to duplicate.

The military however moved forward and designed an armor all their own. Now for the ideal man to wear it. No-one proved themselves more perfect for that role than the general’s own son, Lieutenant Joseph Higgins. Too perfect in his father’s eyes. That’s when Sergeant Higgins set up a falsified report in order to have his own son courtmartialed and demoted! This would show him humility and make him more easy to control! (Wow! The Shield’s father is one piece of work! My genetic father was a military man himself. He’s damn near this evil too. But while Joe gets bulletproof armor, I get therapy and meds. Ah. To live in the comic book world!)

Later, Joe takes some much-needed time off and decides to visit his mother. She talks to him a bit about her divorce with his father and almost slips up and begins to talk about his courtmartialing. Feeling discouraged, he leaves her office and returns to his room on base. (I bet! Maybe his mom would like to bring up the death of a beloved childhood pet while they’re hanging out!) While there, he runs over the series of events that brought him to where he is now in life. Very little time passes before he’s on the move again. Upon leaving his room, he runs into his bestfriend. The two catch up a bit before they take a jeep together to a different part of the large military installation. At this exact moment, Joe’s father wraps up a secret meeting in his office with a tall, shadowy man. Sergeant Higgins demands that the man before him take his son out of the picture! With very little to say, the man turns. As light falls upon him, it is revealed that he is in fact more machine than man at all! This cybernetic monstrosity is called Mann-X and he leaves the office driven by his new orders and ready to carry them out!

Time has passed and Joe now finds himself standing on the same ground that he fought against the copters earlier. He waits, encased in his powerful Shield armor, to perform in another combat test. This test however is to impress even more important men in the government. This simulation must go off without a hitch. Jets soar through the skies towards the hero, ready for a fight. Joe takes in a deep breath and tells himself that he must execute this maneuver perfectly. He must make his father proud. (Me thinks Joe needs a wake-up call about “dear old daddy”. The guy makes the Devil look like Elmo!) But suddenly, the jets turn and veer away from him! Confused, the Shield contacts the control team. They reply that the jets have been recalled because something strange has been picked up on radar. Before he can question further, a huge, armored fist sends him sailing through the air!

As Mann-X approaches the downed Shield, he says that he doesn’t want to hurt him, just give up the armor. Shield’s reply is that if he’s so interested in the armor, maybe he should show this mystery man just what it’s capable of! A furious fistfight ensues and Mann-X replies that he knows what the Shield armor can do, he’s the one who built it! (Didn’t see that coming, did ya? I mean, who wouldn’t trust the United States government? Fools, that’s who!) Shocked but determined, Joe waits until Mann-X gets closer and then electrifies his armor! The sudden jolt knocks the cyborg for a loop, dropping him momentarily to the ground! The Shield knows that this will not be enough, so he sprints into a military garage. An enraged Mann-X enters the building soon after but is met by a surprise attack! The Shield attaches powerful jumper cables to the man/machine’s armor, sending a powerful jolt of electricity into his armor! Mann-X drops, defeated!

Soldiers surround Mann-X and prepare to take him into custody while the Shield is approached by the U.S. government brass. Surprisingly, though the test went badly off the rails, they were nonetheless extremely impressed! They shake his hand and leave. Just then, Mann-X springs to life! He tosses soldiers as if they’re mere ragdolls and breaks through a garage wall, escaping into the night! The Shield tries to follow the villain, but is stopped by his father. The general states that though he’s impressed others this day, the intruder has escaped. He then takes his leave. Joe removes his headpiece and sits down. He speaks to his friend. The realization has come that no matter what he does in life, it’ll never be enough for his father. He lowers his head in shame. (Preaching to the choir here, Joe. I know that feeling well. It’s nice how the Shield wants to impress his unworthy dad, but screw that guy! Who needs him? At least he has a great mom…..um…..wait.)

End.

This article is dedicated in the memory of my stepdad, Bob Metz. You always wanted me to show off my knack for writing. I hope this story makes you proud. You are still a true inspiration to me and I will always love you. You will always be my superhero. Rest in peace.

No Such Thing As Monsters (Part 3)

I’m back! Yes, my time is now more my own, so I have returned with the last installment of my look back at DC’s “Superman: Hunter/Prey” slug-fest extravaganza! I come to you now, not as a busy father, but as a man with a migraine and stomachache that could topple the gods of Olympus. (Okay. So maybe I’m exaggerating my condition a tad. All I know, dear fans, is that I feel crappy and thus I must whine.) Anyway, enough talk of my seemingly-fatal condition. On with the finale….

As Superman stands upon a crumbling mountaintop, on the planet Apokolips, he clenches his fists at his sides and vows that this is the end. This time, Doomsday will fall. (Is he posing and flexing at a time like this? I guess if you’ve got it, flaunt it.) Darkseid then interrupts by commenting that if the Kryptonian truly means to follow and confront the beast, he will once again face death. Though Waverider hates to admit it, he fears the Dark Lord of Apokolips may be right. As Darkseid and his minion, Desaad, turn to leave, Darkseid picks up a button-sized disc from the ground. He whispers to the other that, though Superman believes that the Cyborg Superman is now no more, he had the foresight to contain the madman’s consciousness onto this very device, should he have use of the villain at a later date! (Man, turns out you can’t even trust an evil tyrant nowadays! What happened to this world? Sheesh)

Warnings aside, the Man of Steel prepares to meet the monster head-on. But, before he can even think, the Mother Box strapped to his arm begins to ring out! Superman is then encased in an orb of blinding light! When he emerges, his wounds are healed and he wears a type of armored version of his traditional costume, complete with sophisticated weaponry! It seems the sentient computer has decided to help! Then, from out of nowhere, the Mother Box opens a portal to the place that Doomsday now is! (Wow! Screw buying a smart phone! Sign me up for a Mother Box! I bet it even gets free WiFi and HBO Max! ) Wasting little time, Superman and Waverider fly in, on a path with what will most likely be certain death!

Meanwhile, Doomsday has been doing what he does best on the distant planet of Calaton, mindless death and destruction! However, his rampage has been recently halted. The creature now finds himself locked in combat with the energy being that handed him his first defeat so very long ago, Radiant! The two titans battle back and forth until Radiant finally decides this fight has gone on long enough. He unleashes the full might of his power in one mighty blast! And though this has worked once, Doomsday is always evolving. The beast stands unharmed! Doomsday then swipes at Radiant with such force and ferocity, that the already weakened hero begins to dissipate! The victory goes to Doomsday this time around! (Damn! Things are looking pretty bad. The comic? Oh. I meant my stomach cramps. Yeah. Superman has his work cut out for him it seems.)

Superman and Waverider enter the atmosphere of Calaton via the Mother Box’s teleportation capabilities. Scanning the planet, smoking ruins and mangled corpses litter the landscape. Suddenly, Superman spies Radiant’s fading form. Waverider joins the Man of Steel as he descends. Before Radiant is no more, he whispers that the creature is headed to the power facility that runs the entire planet. As this facility is powered by the planet’s core, its destruction could mean the end of all life on the planet! Radiant then passes away into nothingness. (I’m not crying! It’s my headache! I swear! Made my eyes tear up. That’s all. Ha! They bought it.) Doomsday slams his powerful fists again and again into the thick walls of the power facility! But he’s halted suddenly by the sound of an angry and familiar voice. Turning, the monster stares face-to-face with the Last Son of Krypton!

It’s then that the creature does something Superman doesn’t expect, looking at the hero with recognition in his cold eyes, it speaks! It utters the word, “Metropolis”! Then, turning as if to show that it doesn’t see the Man of Steel as a threat whatsoever, it continues its rampage! (Man! I don’t know about you guys, but I’d be hurt! Thats when you get back in Doomsday’s face and say, “Hey! I’m not just a piece of meat that you can just discard! I’m a person too, damn it, and I deserve some respect! Now, I demand you pay attention to me and beat me to death like everyone else! Yeah.) Regaining his composure, Superman takes full advantage of the beast’s arrogance and lets loose with the full might of his heat vision! Doomsday is only momentarily stunned! He raises a clawed fist and his knuckle spurs lengthen several feet, piercing Superman’s shoulder and releasing a powerful toxin into the wound!

Doomsday used his elongated knuckle spikes then whip Superman to the ground with tremendous force! It’s then that the hero becomes very aware of the poison spreading throughout his body! Wasting no time, the Man of Steel leaps to his feet and pulls a strange handgun from a holster that the Mother Box has gifted him! Pulling the trigger, the weapon unleashes a devastating pulse of sonic waves! The creature seems to be hurt! But alas, only momentarily! Flesh grows over his ear canals, protecting him from harm! Superman then rips the claws out of his shoulder and takes flight to get some distance! Waverider uses this opportunity to rush in and touch the monster, entering his mind! He plans to try and understand the creature in order to find its weakness! What he finds shocks even the time-traveler! (Like how I left that paragraph so that the suspense and anticipation builds? I’m actually pulling this writing thing off while on my death bed, yo!)

Waverider staggers away from Doomsday, obviously shaken! Superman demands to know what he has found. Finally, the truth is revealed, Doomsday was created by none other than kryptonians! He’s a product of Superman’s home planet! (Didn’t see that coming, did ya? What? You read this in the 90’s or already read the speech balloons in the picture above? Nobody likes a smarty-pants. Well, I’m cool, but that’s my jam.)

However, the two heroes can argue no more about the subject, because Doomsday has stood idle for way too long for his liking! He springs! Thankfully, Superman is prepared and hits the creature in the face with a thunderous punch! The two combatants then begin to destroy one another in hand-to-hand combat! Superman, soon realizes that the monster is quickly gaining the upper hand once again! Rather than face death once again, the Last Son of Krypton pulls yet another weapon from his armor, a lazer sword! (Uh-oh! Watch out Supes, or Disney will sue! Everyone knows that “The Mouse” owns all rights to any lazer sword-like weaponry. Or worse yet, you could be Disney’s next acquisition! Gulp!)

Superman cuts deep into the creature’s tough hide! And while Doomsday stops to heal, he finishes the maneuver with a full blast of heat vision! But the monster is once again way too fast! He pummels Superman within an inch of his heroic life! Waverider tries to intervene as the creature raises the fallen superhero above his head, but Doomsday uses the Man of Steel’s still form as a projectile and shatters the wall to the planet’s reactor! The explosion is deafening! (Is….is Superman dead again? For good?……sob……I had twenty bucks riding on him…..sob……) The blast dissipates Waverider’s energy form and Superman’s body drops limply to the ground.

Doomsday senses victory. He pulls himself from the rubble and approaches the Kryptonian’s unmoving form. But, just as soon as the beast is about to deliver a finishing blow, Superman moves with blinding speed and strikes the creature under the jaw with a powerful uppercut! But the beating doesn’t end there. No. The hero continues his onslaught with renewed strength and determination! While the monster is momentarily stunned, Superman places Waverider’s time travel device around one of Doomsday’s protruding shoulder spikes and activates it, hoping to remove the creature from this already devastated world! (Damn! Did anyone else hear the “Eye of the Tiger” in their heads while that beat-down was going on? No? Hmph. You all sadden my nerdy heart.)

The pair find themselves floating in a specific point in the timestream, a place that can only be described as a living nightmare. That’s when a newly reconstituted Waverider appears! He takes Superman from this place. Only Superman. He leaves the monster to face his end. You see, this is the end of the universe, and no amount of quick healing can stop the end of all that is. This is truly the end of the living engine of destruction known only as Doomsday! (Until DC decides to use the character once again, rendering this epic ending for the powerful supervillain moot. Don’t you just love comic books?) The two heroes thank one another for their part in ending this seemingly unstoppable menace. Mother Box uses the last of its power to reform Superman’s familiar costume before it is no more. Waverider flies off to parts unknown. As for Superman? He enters the window of a worried Lois Lane and embraces her. There is much to be proud of. Afterall, who truly gets to physically defeat the monster in the darkness that they feared as a child? This superhero did.

End.

This article is dedicated to my son, James Christian Miller. He turned eighteen years old this month and is now thrust into the sometimes frightening unknown world of adulthood. May you conquer all of the monsters that lurk in the darkness of your past and future. But remember, there are always those who love you to help you in your fight. I love you.