Millennium was almost like two stories in one. This 8-issue long crossover event featured characters from all across the DC universe, following two main storylines: our heroes’ battle with the Manhunters, androids created long ago by the Oans, who rebeled and are now out to destroy the world; and the story of ten individuals, chosen from Earth’s population to guide the planet into the future.
The main premise behind this comic is pretty clear: let’s create another Crisis-like event that forces countless superheroes to join forces, and create a little shakeup in the standard order of things while we’re at it.
The comic technically accomplishes both of these things, but the overall effect is far less Earth-shattering than might be expected.
The Manhunter element of the story had promise in the beginning. I very much liked the idea that the Manhunters had infiltrated the lives of superheroes and had been posing as people they were close to. That alone could have carried numerous issues, and for all I know it very well could have.
Therein lies the first problem with this collection: we see a massive crossover event, but while these individual trades are being released, each character’s respective trade publication is being released as well, in the same continuity. These trades not only made reference to, but expanded on the events of Millennium. Without having all of those stories in this collection though, this trade is left feeling rather incomplete. There were a host of references to characters and events that made no sense to me, and that I can only assume were explained in various issues of other series.
The best example of this can be seen with The Outsiders. When we last see them in Millennium, they are going off on their own mission to fight the Manhunters:
However, in the very next issue featured in this collection, we see a snippy Batman commenting that the Outsiders had been “crushed”.
And that’s the last we ever hear of them.
One can only assume that their demise must have been featured in the pages of a Batman comic or some related title. Regardless, it’s not featured in this collection, therefore the story presented within these pages is incomplete.
Aside from the Manhunters, the other focus of this trade is on ten individuals who have been handpicked by the Oans to bring Earth into a bright, new future. The process is rather long and drawn out, but the result is simple:
Each ordinary citizen has been transformed into a superhero of sorts.
Forgive me, but I took some serious issue with this plot.
Firstly, it was a drawn-out, convoluted way to bring about a handful of new superheroes. This could have easily been done without the whole “Millennium” crossover element. The eight-issue buildup just didn’t pay off. Okay great, a few new superheroes – show us something we haven’t seen before.
Also, I disliked the message behind this new group formation. Before they changed, these were just ordinary people. The comic seems to say that in order to change the world you must be more than simply human. They weren’t good enough to affect change as they were; they must be transformed into something greater in order to have a real affect.
Um…no. There are plenty of superheroes out there who don’t have any “magic” powers who still do plenty of Earth-saving, thank you very much.
I’m certainly willing to concede that perhaps in future storylines these characters will serve a critical role, and that their transformations will have a larger purpose. As it stands in the collection presented here though, there is no other reason than that the creators thought it would be cool to create some new superheroes. While I applaud the creation of superheroes who aren’t all white males (about time they branch out a little bit more) the entire plotline felt contrived, with no true purpose.
Lastly, I took issue with the entire “lesson” our new superheroes were given before their respective transformations. I admit to being intrigued by what the Oans would teach them. Being literally billions of years old, I figured they would have some wise words to instill upon these people, and I was curious to find out what it would be.
Sadly, the story ended up reading as though the writers bit off more than they could chew, beginning with an intriguing concept but ultimately being overwhelmed with how to explain it.
The “lesson” breaks down to numbers, with each being a symbol of some point of the universe. After this brief explanation, each person is to reflect on what they have learned and somehow emerge a better, more centered person for it.
This isn’t the first time a comic’s details have detracted from what could have been an interesting story. I could have looked past it though, had it not been for this:
The Oans are from a far-distant planet and lived for billions of years. They are meant to be teaching the workings of the universe to these people, and yet they are basing their argument on the concept that the number “10” is comprised of a “1” and a “0”. This is true in the modern English-speaking world, but it most certainly isn’t true of every language or culture ever to exist across the universe. Hell, even on our own planet there are multiple ways to represent the number “10”. The Oans’ teaching, which should be about the existence of the universe as whole, is explaining the universe with a concept that would only make sense to modern-day Earthlings. This individual concept is hardly applicable to other races or even other time periods; how, then, could it possibly explain the entire universe?
Am I reading way too much into this and nitpicking over absolutely nothing? Absolutely. This is a comic book from the 1980’s, for God’s sake. It’s not meant to be read as metaphysical gospel. Still, after having read so many well thought-out comics, its frustrating to see a story that is so haphazardly thrown together. These minute details that cause the reader to stop and think can have a tremendous impact on how the story is received. The fact that seemingly no thought was put into those details in this comic is disappointing.
It’s safe to say that this wasn’t my favorite collection. Had the entire Millennium storyline been collected in this trade, or had more thought been put into the explanation of why everything was happening, I may have enjoyed it more. It’s entirely possible that this is a key moment in the DC universe and that I simply haven’t reached the comic that explains its significance. Maybe one day I’ll come back and regret these words, having recognized the importance of this storyline in the overall DC saga.
At this point though, I’m very skeptical about that.