Four for a Dollar – New Universe Pt 2 of 4: Expect the Unexpected

In a world suddenly populated by paranormals, the New Universe was an unpredictable place. Even the reader had trouble finding their footing sometimes. A couple of the titles did not seem to keep the party line of a world like ours, and others had nothing to do with paranormals at all.

The highest concentration of powered characters was in Mark Gruenwald and Paul Ryan’s D.P. 7 (Displaced Paranormals: 7). Following the White Event, seven ordinary people found themselves in possession of frightening powers. Answering a newspaper ad, they go to the Clinic: Institute for Paranormal Research, an organization which promised to “cure” them. Very quickly they learn that the Clinic isn’t interesting in curing anyone, but instead intends to brainwash powered individuals into a private army. The Clinic is run by Phillip Voight, who eventually grows to become the greatest villian in the New Universe.

D.P. 7 escape the Clinic and spend the first year of the series on the run, meeting other paranormals and attempting to get their lives back. D.P. 7 is the tightest of all of the New U titles as it is the only one to not change creative teams for its entire run. Gruenwald would later become the defacto head of the New U and so many important events of the imprint centred on this series.

Collector Note: D.P. 7 is the centre of a nearly four year teaming of Gruenwald & Ryan, beginning with the final issues of Squadron Supreme and ending in Quasar.

The oddest and perhaps most memorable title was Kickers, Inc. I mentioned the New Universe on Twitter and an old friend of mine immediately said “wasn’t there one about a football team?” Yes, Kickers, Inc. focused on a group of football players who, after their quarterback becomes a super-powered paranormal, form a not-for-profit agency to solve crimes a la Scooby Doo.

The team coach, Coach Kirby, is a very obvious look-a-like of Jack Kirby. The series had a very retro style including a teaser splash page, a Kirby staple which had fallen out of use by the mid-80s.

Collector Note: Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz did the first three issues together and would renew their partnership when DeFalco was writing Thor.

Not to be outdone, Mark Hazzard: Merc had a total of 0 paranormals in its entire run. The book never makes a mention of the White Event and for all intents and purposes has nothing to do with the universe as a whole. Written by Peter David (#1-4) and Doug Murray (5-12 + Annual), it is the story of a mercenary stuggling to be a part of his son’s life while travelling from war to war around the globe. Merc is the series that was to maintain the grounding in the real world concept of the New U. It also stands on its own very well, given the lack of threads to the other titles. It could comfortably sit in your collection with Murray’s much beloved The Nam.

Collector Note: Check out issues #1,2,8,10 & 11 for art by the legendary Gray Morrow.

I’ve saved my personal favorite for last. Justice was one of the titles that seemed to have abandoned the concept of the New U even before it started. It introduced a refugee from another dimension, Justice Warrior John Tensen. Justice had the power to generate a physical shield from his left hand and an energy weapon, which he called his sword, from his right. Tensen was alternately fleeing and chasing his extra-dimensional enemy known only as Dad for the first year of the series.

Justice also suffered irregular creative teams with seven writers in the first 14 issues before Peter David settled in for the remainder of the run.More New U

Collector Note: Great Keith Giffen art on issues #9 to 11. But the best is yet to come for Justice.

With the end of the first year came cancellations, permanent creative teams and reimagingings of the New U. Gone were Spitfire, Nightmask, Kickers and Merc. Various characters from the first three of these titles would continue to populate the New U.

Psi-Force would get permanent writer Fabian Nicieza with art by Ron Lim, Rodney Ramos and others. Nicieza destroyed the Psi-Hawk and split the team across the world.

Peter David, teamed primarily with Lee Weeks, took over Justice. David and Gruenwald closed out the first iteration of Justice in #15 by retconning that Dad had been a paranormal drug runner who altered the memories of DEA agent Tensen. Most everything from the first 14 issues was halucinations caused by the evil paranormal. His memories returned after more than a year, Tensen began a new mission, killing rogue paranormals like the one who had stolen so much from him.

D.P. 7 became the political and sociological view of the New U, following the characters in an increasingly complex world, which is decreasingly like our own.

Star Brand, taken over by writer & artist John Byrne, would lead to the single most dramatic event in the New Universe …

Next: Pt 3: From The Pitt to The War

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