Four for a Dollar – New Universe Pt 3: New Format, Old Problems

John Byrne took over writing and pencilling Starbrand at #11 and switched that book to a bi-monthly schedule. In Starbrand #12 we finally learned the secret of the White Event that kicked off the New Universe, and then we saw what became known as the Black Event.

Ken Connell, keeper of the Starbrand, discovers that the Old Man (former holder of the weapon) tried to transfer the power to an inanimate object, an asteroid. The ensuing explosion caused a wave of the Brand’s near infinite power over the earth, turning thousands of humans into paranormals. Every paranormal held a sliver of the Starbrand power.

The PittConnell, never the sharpest pencil in the drawer, decides to rid himself of the power the same way. But instead of flying off into space, he only goes up about 10 miles over Pittsburgh. The energy blast creates a 50-mile across sphere of distruction, ripping a hole in the ozone layer above, and digging out a 15-mile deep crater below.

The Pitt.

Everything in the New U is effectively thought of as before or after The Pitt. No longer were paranormals hidden from the world. No longer did they have to worry about if regular people would accept them. They wouldn’t.

The Pitt was a prestige-format special that set in motion everything that would happen next in all four New U titles. There would follow another special called The Draft and finally a four-issue mini The War. The titles alone can give an idea of the direction of the line.

This is the era that I love. The creative teams had settled in and would vary almost none for that final year. Writers Mark Gruenwald, John Byrne, Peter David & Fabian Nicieza worked closely with group editor Howard Mackie to create a much more unified world.

All four books also went to a higher-quality paper with extra content such as Marvel Handbook-style info pages, text pieces and short stories.

Characters from the four cancelled books would return as well. Spitfire’s Jenny Swanson, mutated by the toxic waste of The Pitt would become a regular in DP7. Nightmask and Jack Magniconte (of Kickers, Inc) were drafted into the military when the United States began recruiting paranormals into a special division.

His memory returned, Justice’s story became inter-twined with Psi-Force as Justice sought the paranormal behind the destruction of Pittsburgh. Psi-Force, having lost members to an attack by a Russian paranormal, were scattered around the world with one member ending up in the US Paranormal military.

DP7 also got scattered around for some time, with members doing some time in the military before escaping to an evacuated New York City, itself a casualty of the fallout from The Pitt.

And Ken Connell learned the ultimate secret of the Star Brand when he is confronted by the Old Man, and by Connell’s own child – a child conceived while Connell had the Brand and who carried a fraction of that power from birth.thewar1

1988 was an election year, but it wouldn’t be George Bush who won the office, it would be DP7’s old nemesis Phillip Voight. A paranormal took the highest office in the world (though it would turn out he was not the first). And it could lead only one place – War.

All of these fragments would fold together into the final story of the New U. The world of the New U would get to the edge of World War 3 and only paranormals could save it from destruction. The War was the end of the New U as an imprint.

Or final for a while. Though the New Universe was over, it had its fans inside and outside those working in comics.

Find out next time what Spider-man 2099, Quasar, Warren Ellis and myself have to do with the legacy of the New Universe.


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