To Live and Die in L.A.
Finally back! Sorry again about the long hiatus, I should be all up and running again in no time.
This issue is special for a few reasons. One, it's handled by guest artist Khari Evans rather than the usual Barry Kitson (though Kitson still did the layouts). Two, for the first — but not last — time, our interviewee isn't a member of the Order at all; it's Order Senior Staff member and PR expert Kate Kildare. I'd talk about the cover, but these guys are the villains for this issue and I want to cross that bridge when I get to it.
Kate gives her name, age (38), and astrological sign (Virgo) for the record before asking if they're even recording yet. The interviewer seems very sheepish around her. Anyway, as we can see from a family photo featuring a preteen Kate, she was something like the second or third youngest of ten children — and the only girl. Anyway, her mother died in childbirth and her dad never married again. The interviewer tries to get her to talk about how that made her feel, but she all but ignores the prodding. The topic shifts to her education: Kate doesn't want to talk about it ("Useless degrees, still paying off loans."), but she graduated Magna Cum Laude at Vassar when she was only 16 years old with a double major in Media Studies and Classical Literature. She reiterates that she thinks those degrees are useless — and that despite being rich she's still paying off her student loans 22 years later. She's clearly very embarrassed about all this.
Changing the subject, Kate asks if this is going anywhere. The interviewer says s/he finds her abrasive and annoying, and is just trying to divine what Henry sees in her, why he wants her on his staff. With a shot of Kate and Henry clinking champagne glasses together, it becomes clear that they've got a certain history. Kate says Henry's the one that got away, and guesses that if he recommended her it's probably because he feels guilty. The interviewer doubts that; whatever happened between them, they're confident in Henry's judgment. Kate says there wasn't a relationship to speak of, but there nearly was. But that was when Henry was a star and had hundreds of other women to sleep with; it was only after he'd drank himself to rock bottom that he contacted her again, begging her to save his career. After she saved his life, they both had other things to do.
Cut to the present, where Kate has cornered Becky in her room and is grilling her about the sex tape. She's being very passive-aggressive about it. As she tosses a cell phone running the video at Becky, we get our quotes. The theme for this issue is information and lies. We get a quote from Gertrude Stein about information overload, one from Ernest Hemingway concerning the pervasive nature of gossip, and an interesting line from Clare Booth Luce: "Lying increases the creative faculties, expands the ego, and lessens the frictions of social contacts." Kate says that as a member of the Order, Becky's her client, and she takes care of her clients. But she's going to request that Henry bench her until this can all get sorted out.
Cut to a desert road "somewhere outside Barstow." Barstow is a rinky dink town whose economy revolves around people going from L.A. to Vegas or vice versa stopping for gas. A cherry red muscle car tears down the road and nearly runs over a turtle. The turtle, as far as I can tell, sees the driver, a 20-something blonde idly chatting on her phone, and goes berserk. Its eyes crackle with electricity as it grows to ten times its size (and with much longer limbs). The driver, an actress talking to her agent, soon finds her car ripped to shreds by the creature, which runs off into the desert on two legs, roaring as it does. The woman survives and doesn't appear to be hurt.
Soon, the Order is called in to investigate. Supernaut and Mulholland arrive on the scene — and don't quite believe the woman when she gives her eyewitness account about a giant, "super mad" lizard man. Some people would cry Arbitrary Skepticism
, but come on. Not believing her isn't any different from not believing "my dog ate my homework." Supernaut asks Mulholland to see if she can pick up any details of the incident with her powers, but no such luck: her abilities work off people
, and this is the desert
. This talk of a lizard man reminds Mulholland of a Hopi myth about lizard people with underground cities in and around L.A.; one of them might be around here. Supernaut practically says "Cool story, bro." He reviews their findings so far: either the car took itself apart or a Hopi lizard man did it. Mulholland defends her idea by saying it's not that much more stupid than it just being a giant thunder lizard. Besides, she bets that they could gawk around at the scene all day and not come up with anything better.
In the Hollywood Hills, Tony Stark (with the aid of a realtor) is showing Henry "the Demeter", a lavish mansion that he hopes will be the next Order HQ. Henry's skeptical — there's no cell reception up there, which strikes him as a huge issue, and it's close to private residences. Oh, and he really doesn't think it'll help their image to move into a palace on the Hills. Tony thinks it feels right, but to Henry, the Bradbury downtown, the old HQ, is what felt right. Of course, the city evicted them, so they're in the market for a new base anyway. Henry decides to humor Tony as they go past the gate for the guided tour. The realtor gives an extended history lesson. First it was an Air Force barracks, then it was sold to movie studios who converted it into living space for East-Coast stars when they came out here. Then, in the 1960s, it was turned into a luxury hotel. Tony's heard enough — he's buying. The realtor protests that she hasn't even given the price, but Tony hands her a check and tells her to write down a number - and he can make it out to whatever she wants.
Meanwhile, at Boyle Heights, James and Maggie are staking out a cheap motel. Maggie's running through his activities vis a vis meeting up with Carl Crenshaw, and says that she's honestly surprised James is still on the team. James says he didn't break any laws or violate his contract in any way. He just wanted to see the guy, show him what he took away from him. But when he got there... the guy was a mess. The accident had ruined him, and he never stopped feeling that guilt. James says it was worse than anything he could've done to him. And as it turns out, Carl's an alright guy. In fact, he recommended him to the Initiative. Anyway, their old friend Carlos Carvalho, formerly Corona, is late for their meeting. James suits up and contacts Pepper for help. Thermal imaging isn't picking up anything inside the motel, but that's surprisingly easy to fake out; he's probably in there. Pepper reminds him that even though he used to be his teammate, right now Calamity needs to treat him like a murder suspect. Calamity says he understands, but goes on to say that he trained with Carlos for a year and he's a really great guy and there's no way he could have killed anybody.
As Calamity bursts into the room, he finds Carlos tied to a chair and surrounded by a black leather clad Amazon Brigade
with flower tattoos. Diesel, their powerhouse, manages to grab him after hearing him coming. Calamity looks at Carlos, who has a metal rod lodged in his head (which is being prodded by one of his assailants). Carlos tries to tell him to run, but he doesn't get the chance — Diesel tosses him through the wall and into the parking lot below. Veda rushes to him and asks him what happened; Calamity points to the hole in the wall and says they
happened. The Black Dahlias. Cut, a girl with a talking katana that reminds me of Bluetooth, orders the girls to attack. When her sword identifies their prey as Order, she ammends her instructions: "Kill 'em all, then." Veda tells Pepper they've got a problem.
Back at the Bradbury, in Pepper's control room, Kate decides it's time for a little chat. She's thought of a way to make Becky's sex tape go away, but it might not be strictly legal. Pepper doesn't have time for this, since this is in the middle of a mission, but that last part concerns her. Kate explains that it's rumored that Becky's about a year younger than her father's told everyone. If so, then that footage is illegal. It's clear that Kate doesn't actually believe this, but is comfortable lying about it to protect Becky. Pepper's against it — it would break the law and ruin the girl's father. Kate says that Becky's father made a living exploiting her; she's been sexualized her entire life, but she sleeps with one freak and it's her fault? Pepper says heroes don't break the law, but Kate tells her this is a matter of doing the right thing. Pepper says that in light of the Initiative and the SHRA, that's not a very popular sentiment these days. Then she gets Veda's distress call.
At the motel parking lot, it's gotten pretty bad. Veda and Calamity are outnumbered 5 to 2. Veda tries to even the odds by calling up a few of her "babies". Calamity covers her, then gets into a race with the Black Dahlias' own speedster — who uses her kinetokinesis to hurl projectiles into him and run him into the ground. Cut slices the leg out from underneath one of Veda's golems, and a blonde gun-toting Black Dahlia sets her sights on Calamity, promising Veda that she'll end his suffering right quick. She gets off a shot... which deflects harmlessly off the armor of the newly-arrived Supernaut. Oh, and he brought Mulholland, too. Supernaut asks for a sitrep, and Veda responds with an awesome line: "Apparently Tim Burton sponsors a women's golf team." Cut's sword tells her that in light of Supernaut's arrival, it would probably be a good idea to run. Veda tells Mulholland to stop them, and she tries, launching an airborne attack from behind Cut and her gunslinging associate. Cut's sword (which she just calls "Sword") warns her of the assault in advance, causing her to turn and see an old friend. "Hiya Holly." Mulholland, clearly shocked by the identity of these malcontents, is thrown off her balance and falls to the ground. The Black Dahlias regroup and the teleporter Drang gets them out of there.
Back at base, Kate released the information about Becky's age (which I really have no idea if it's true or not at this point). Now Becky's dealing with the fallout — which is to say, the fact that her father won't speak to her and is being demonized by the press. Kate says it may not seem like it now, but she's trying to protect her. She also claims that there's no way to prove she had anything to do with that info being leaked.
Back in the field, Veda is chewing out Mulholland for choking again. As she helps Calamity (who complains about not having kinetokinesis himself), she lectures her about the entire team waiting for her to get her act together. But she keeps letting them down, and people keep getting hurt, because she can't handle it. Mulholland tries to explain herself, but the team just walks away. She calls out to them, telling them to look at her. She pulls her collar down, revealing a Black Dahlias tattoo on her left breast. She knows these people, she knows what they're doing, because she used to be one of them.
Way back at Kate's interview, Kate sums up her job in as direct terms as she can manage. "Our histories are broadcast instantly and remembered infinitely. Everything we do can now haunt us all for the rest of our lives. It's my job to manage that history, to manage that message, any way I can. So, do I have the job
, or what?"
I have mixed feelings about this issue. When I first read it I thought it was a bit of a cheat to not profile an actual member of the team when there were still several team members left to profile. That said, regarding the actual content of the issue, I loved the resolution to the "Calamity meets Carl Crenshaw" subplot — as I said, the first time I read through the series I didn't know what was going to happen there and I wasn't sure what I wanted to happen. What ended up happening was Calamity being mature and forgiving towards the man he thought ruined his life, which was a great character moment. Next issue, as it happens, is about my second favorite member of the team, but you'll find out who when we get there.
Next issue: I'm Going-Going Back-Back to Cali-Cali