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.
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.