Make Them Remember My Name


On Wednesdays I look at various chapters in Wonder Woman’s history. Click here for previous installments.

Max Lord: Not actual size.

Justice League: Generation Lost vols. 1 & 2, DC Comics, 2011.

In talking about J. Michael Straczynki’s “Odyssey” storyline for the last few weeks, in which Wonder Woman’s life story was suddenly rewritten and she didn’t remember being Wonder Woman at all, I mentioned that no one else in the DC Universe remembered her either (except for Dr. Psycho, because his grasp on reality was so loose anyway). That’s not entirely true.  Mostly true, but not entirely. There was at least one other small group of people who remembered Wonder Woman, but that was only because they were in the middle of their own storyline about the entire world forgetting someone else.  

Justice League: Generation Lost was an awkward attempt by writer Judd Winick to reconcile the light comedic tone of Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis’s 1990s Justice League International series with the horrific stuff that was done with those same characters in the godawful crossover Countdown to Infinite Crisis by Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka and Winick himself. In that story, Maxwell Lord, the lovably shady founder and bankroller of Justice League International, was revealed to be a superhero-hating villain who killed his old teammate and pal Blue Beetle in cold blood.

A brief recap from JL: GL #15.

Nothing about it made any sense with Max Lord’s character as it had been previously established, and he immediately became a one-note villain until Wonder Woman had to kill him to stop him from mind-controlling Superman to do horrible things. And even that didn’t stop Max Lord. Geoff Johns’s subsequent Blackest Night crossover brought many character back from the dead as evil zombies, and some of them wound up coming back to life permanently, Max among them.

In Generation Lost, Winick tries to capture some of the lighthearted spirit of JLI and its more recent follow-up miniseries by original JLI creators Giffen, DeMatteis and artist Kevin Maguire, Formerly Known as the Justice League and I Can’t Believe It’s the Justice League, in which everybody was still super-buddies and Max was the same lovable rogue we’d always known, while also fully acknowledging the 180-degree shift in personality that Winick himself was partially responsible for. (Short version: Max was always a little crazy because his mother was a sociopath, and he really does think he’s saving the world.)

The actual plot is that Max is back from the dead and the Justice League is spearheading a full-on manhunt to capture him and bring him to justice. The JLI-era Leaguers are somewhat sidelined in the search because they’re seen as too close to Max and especially to Beetle, whom he murdered—and frankly, that era is seen as a joke by a fair portion of the superhero community. Booster Gold, Beetle’s best friend and the biggest embarrassment of all, goes against orders and actually finds Max—right as Max is about to stretch his mind-control powers to the limit by making everyone on earth forget he ever existed, while also wiping himself from every database. Not only does no one remember him, but even if they’re shown video of Max, their minds reject the information and they see something else instead.

Okay, that’s discouraging.

Only the former JLIers Booster Gold, Captain Atom, Fire and Ice remember Max at all, because they happened to have been right in the next room when Max changed the world, so Max has also subtly changed everyone’s memory to make the four of them seem completely disgraced and discredited. Well, except Booster, who was already seen that way. So not only isn’t anyone else hunting for Max anymore, not only does what our heroes say about this guy sound absurd, but no one’s even willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Most jarring to Booster, now everyone thinks that Beetle committed suicide.

So the rest of the series is these JLIers trying to hunt down Max while he keeps manipulating the world to make them look like the bad guys, and manipulating them into playing right into his hands—not through mind control in their case, just how well he knows how they think. Along the way they pick up some like-minded allies who don’t remember Max either but are inclined to help them anyway: the new Blue Beetle, and a new Rocket Red who’s just stoked to be hanging out with a Justice League.

There are a ton of side adventures along the way, involving time travel, attacks by various groups sicced on them by Max, and trying to get through to colleagues hither and yon. There’s a pretty radical rewriting of Ice’s family history that has nothing to do with Max. But that’s not I want to talk about. I want to talk about Wonder Woman.

Now, at the beginning of this story, Wonder Woman is still Wonder Woman, and she doesn’t remember anything about killing a guy, being put on trial for it, or losing her friends and her sense of herself for a while over it.

Just what she needed – to be even MORE perfect.

But by issue 15 of this series, when Max decides to turn his attention to the woman who killed him for good old-fashioned revenge (or as he himself puts it later in the series, “just simple, petty, doo-dah revenge”), he finds that no one remembers her either, all of a sudden. In that same issue, the four core JLIers who remember Max make the same discovery, that none of the other heroes have any idea who Wonder Woman is. Even Skeets, Booster’s portable computer buddy, has no data on Diana anymore, although he’s savvy enough to know by now that doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

Yeah, uh-oh.

Now, there’s really nothing in the story that explains at all why they can remember Wonder Woman when no one else can. Wonder Woman was blotted out by the goddess Nemesis and a new thread of her life hastily woven by Clotho, one of the mythic Fates. It has nothing whatsoever to do with Max making the world forget him; it’s just a similar thing that happened around the same time.

At the same time, Wonder Woman killing Max Lord is one of the prime exhibits that our rag-tag group of heroes keep trotting out to try to make people remember Max, so the best explanation seems to be that the story Winick’s trying to tell doesn’t make sense if they suddenly forget Wonder Woman in the middle of it. At best you’d need one of those awkward boxes interrupting the story with a note from the editor saying, “Why has everyone forgotten all about Wonder Woman? Read her comic to find out!”

Anyway, they can’t worry about that for a while, because there are many more attacks, near-death experiences and other stuff to occupy them for the next several issues. You know, the usual. They finally get back to it in issue 22, when they have to save Wonder Woman from Max, who’s finally been able to track her down even though she kinda-sorta doesn’t exist anymore. Fortunately the JLI now has Batman on their side, because he’s had his memory restored by unrelated events in the Blackest Night sequel, Brightest Day. (Ah, the intricacies of a shared world with way too many crossover events happening at once.)

Well, thank goodness for that.

Now, Diana has no idea who these people are—except Batman, because everybody knows who Batman is. She also has no idea who the hell “Wonder Woman” is, because she’s never been called that, but she doesn’t seem to blink an eye about being called that in this series. I’m guessing Winick just didn’t know that or wasn’t paying attention.

Booster’s having his Luke Skywalker moment. Or trying to.

This continues into the next issue, as Max sends an army of OMAC robots (with a chewy innocent human center) to kill Diana, and this time the OMACs have been accentuated with technology from Professor Ivo’s Amazo android, allowing them to absorb and replicate opponents’ powers.

See, this is what I mean. This Diana is not “Wonder Woman”! She doesn’t even know who that is!

The resultant battle takes two issues, because comic book writers now like to stretch events out as long as possible, and it leads directly into the end of the series as Max pulls out all the stops to kill Diana and everyone else comes together to keep that from happening. But the interesting thing is that by the end of this story Diana’s had a big team-up with more than a half-dozen other heroes, and you’d certainly never know that she ever met any other heroes if you read what was going on in her own series at the same time. Of course, it’s not unusual for a hero’s solo title to ignore all the other friends they could call upon, because you don’t want to be thinking about how Batman could just whistle for Superman when he’s in deadly danger—it kind of spoils the story. But in this particular story, where she’s alone and forgotten by the world, it definitely complicates matters to know that that’s not actually true. Other heroes—including freakin’ Batman, “the world’s greatest detective”—knew where she was and that something seriously weird was going on with her, but apparently didn’t care enough to look into it. But they did care enough to help save her life, so you know, that’s something.

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