Poet's Journal. This is way it happened. Not the way I would like to think it happened. Or even the way it probably happened. Just the truth about the way it happened, and what came after. Though no one really understood what happened that night. Not for a long time. Not until the first of us was born.
The year is 1969. A single comet falls from the sky
, looking like God's finger. What finger of God it was
, Poet doesn't know. However it then explodes/disappears in a flash that lights the sky above the small American
town of Pederson. Poet is one of the 113 specials, the children that were ready to be born when that flash occurred and gave them powers that only ruin their lives. Each has a power regardless of their personality, not that they want them.
The story is told by Poet, about his friends, the other Specials, and how they began and ended over a period of decades in flashbacks
The comic was published from 1999-2005. J. Michael Straczynski
wrote it, and it has been speculated how much The 4400
drew from it.
Tropes related to this comic book:
- The Atoner: Jason after Chicago. His atonement? Straight out of Superman 4, Disarmament.
- Beware the Superman: Played with here; Specials mean well for the most part, but once everyone turns against them, we see how rough they can get in Chicago after the murder of enough Specials the power is redistributed to the survivors, who are now pissed off and are all Flying Bricks.
- Bizarre Baby Boom: All 113 were in utero or being conceived when a flash hit their small town. No one else gets powers, not even their children.
- Blessed with Suck: Combined with the fact that the public hates them, the Specials have a terrible time with their powers.
- Book Ends: The last page of the comic draws from the first couple of pages.
- Captain Patriotic: Flagg (later Patriot) works on a reputation as this, but Matthew Bright is a better example because he's so dedicated to his country he even wants to work for the police after being banned.
- Matthew goes as far as getting a fake name and joining the police under it, only getting discovered after he uses his powers to save several cops from a bomb. Subversion here as once he's found out the Federal Government gets involved as per act of Congress the Specials are banned from Government jobs and he can't have a regular badge. So the police give him a special badge.
- The Cape: Patriot set out to be this due to being a huge superhero fan, but it was the capeless Matthew Bright who better embodies the ideals of this kind of hero. He wanted to help people so badly that he got a fake identity in order to be a police officer, since Specials were banned from any government service. At one point an investigation into some bombings results in several fellow officers being trapped in a burning building. To use his powers to save them means exposing himself as a Special, losing his job and being subject to a media circus, as well as the scorn of his friends. Matthew's inner thoughts says it all.
Matthew: "I signed on to save lives. If I meant that, then I had to do what was necessary. Or it was all a lie. Whoever did this was smart, all right. Lead me on a wild goose-chase. And now my men are trapped inside the building I didn't search. I can't let them die. I refuse. Damn the exposure, I refuse.
- Corporate-Sponsored Superhero: Originally Patriot, who is sponsored by Nexus Corp. Once he's freed from Critical Maas's mind control, his first movie is to quit and expose the unethical practices of Nexus Corp.
- Differently Powered Individual: "Specials".
- Die or Fly: Many powers get triggered by either the need for their use or the situation. A few seem to have been on since as a small child, but most don't get activated until after the kids are taken to camp. How people figure out who can fly is to jump off the roof. Those that can fly do so. Those who can't get broken arms and legs.
- Feel No Pain: One of the Supers doesn't feel anything when he's hit (and is functionally invulnerable)... but on the other hand, he can't feel anything but taste, which is why he's obese.
- Fictional Document: A large part of issue #9 is a fake magazine called "Mediaweek", which describes the situation 10 years after the events of the previous issue.
- Flying Brick: Matthew Bright and Patriot. Poet can use some of those powers, but hides it due to Dr. Welles belief that Poet's the failsafe.
- After the incident most of the surviving specials get enough power to throttle them to high power and give them these abilities with their other powers .
- Flight, Strength, Heart: Patriot is a flying brick with super senses for radiation, Joshua Kane can fly and has strength as well as lights, Willie Smith can not only fly and have the strength and speed, he's a minor telepath. After Volume 1, the surviving specials are all much stronger since the power is conserved. Except Brody, he gets even smarter
- Freudian Excuse: Freud explains most of screwed up nature of the folks involved.
- Heart Is an Awesome Power: Laurel can use her powers to telekinetically manipulate tiny objects. It sounds lame, but those tiny objects include your arteries. Deadly. Another gets the ability to be smart, is smart enough to commercialize just enough to hide and spends his time inventing and proving here Reed Richards Is Useless doesn't apply. . A third gets the ability to talk to the dead. Uses it to get the secrets of the dead and be able to fight political blackmail.
- The Hero's ability is control of energy fields, supposedly minor and not of much use. He actually controls the power itself and is by far the deadliest.
- Heroic RROD: Laurel manages to turn the deserts of the Middle East into fertile lands, but it kills her.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Defeating Critical Maas takes four: Cathy Jean, Joshua, Matt (though he just falls into a coma and gets better eventually) and Stephanie Maas.
- I Just Want to Be Normal: They're all so Blessed with Suck, who could blame them? A few are not quite as hostile due to Power Perversion Potential
- I Just Want to Be Special: One boy, born a year after the other "Specials", acts out and pretends to be one of the empowered 113. He dies saving a girl's life from an out-of-control truck. The Specials all go to his funeral and honor him as one of their own.
- Immunity Disability: One man's power is invulnerability from external harm—but this also leaves him highly insensitive to any form of touch, except on the back of his tongue, where he could still taste. He developed an eating disorder and became an indestructible obese man.
- In Medias Res
- Kill 'em All: At the end, all Specials are dead. The two most important non-Special characters - Dr. Welles and General Paulson - also die.
- Kill One, Others Get Stronger: If a Special dies, his/her energy is transferred to the surviving Specials, making their powers stronger.
- Kryptonite Factor: All the Specials can be killed. When an invulnerable Special is found murdered, the other Specials are suspects, since they watched each other grow up and have seen each others' weaknesses.
- Magic Meteor: Although the trope is typically not used this darkly. May not of been a meteor either...
- Magic Pants: Averted: Pyre is naked when he's using his powers.
- Mass Super-Empowering Event: The meteor dropping.
- Also the "Waco" incident where The Government murdered seven Specials(and later made bullshit excuses about reflections of sunlight as in Real Life) - this turns every Special into a Flying Brick who can shrug off artillery. Mass pig slaughter ensues.
- No Sell: Subverted. One guy is completely invulnerable, but he's one of the first to be killed by asphyxiation.
- Playing with Fire: Pyre, Lee Jackson.
- Power Perversion Potential: Several. Most try to figure out a way to make a few bucks on their powers. Some become government assassins. Some go full super-villain or use their powers in kinky ways. Maas has to use her power in a perverted manner for it to work, at first.
- Puberty Super Power: Averted for the most part as all of the "Specials" were taken around the age of six and most of them had their powers activated over the next few years, mostly triggered at need (e.g. falling off a floor caused some to fly). Then there were some whose powers weren't activated until adulthood such as Cathy. Elizabeth is one of the rare ones as her power just turned on one day in high school.
- Reed Richards Is Useless: Averted, as the last third of the series is devoted to the Specials using their powers to help humanity. For instance, Brody Kempler, who has the power of super-intelligence, is smart enough to hide until he's ready with his inventions. Including cures for just about every disease, fusion power, and an interstellar spaceship.
- He's still stumped by Jason's radiation sickness - any normal person would have been dead after absorbing a fraction of his rad count, so Brody doesn't even know where to start.
- Shooting Superman: Or shooting Pyre. Bullets don't have effect on him.
- Shout-Out: There were 113 specials born. The protagonist - who was conceived at the exact moment of the Flash and is thus the 113th Special - is named John. In the Bible, John 1:13 reads: "Who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."
- So Beautiful, It's a Curse: Elizabeth has a power that she is seen by everyone as the most beautiful person they can imagine. This hurts her in that no one sees the real her, and sees her as their own object of lust. Later she gets the power to inspire love instead of lust.
- It's implied that another Special sees her as she really is because he fell in love with her as a child, so her real self is the most beautiful person he can imagine.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism Goes both ways. On one hand, you have an evil government agency who wants to control/kill all the main characters, but on the other hand, the Middle East getting farmable land stops all the fighting in that region, vigilantism ends all crime and terrorism, and everyone getting the ability to read minds for a day results in world peace.
- Strawman Political: Joshua's dad is a pretty harsh strawman of the religious right. The main antagonist, General Paulson, is a stereotypical General Ripper. While Patriot works for Nexus Corp, he's a fairly selfish Jerk Jock corporate tool who is being mind-controlled by Critical Maas (who he willingly cheated on his wife with). Once he quits and becomes good, he lets everyone know they're an evil Mega Corp. whose been dumping toxic waste and holding sweat shops amongst other things.
- Super-Powered Evil Side: Stephanie Maas/Critical Maas
- Superpowerful Genetics: Averted. Specials' children don't get their powers.
- Super Power Lottery: Oh Boy. Powers vary, and many get some combination of a classic power, flight or strength, with some thing else. So you got the 'high powered' Patriot and Mathew Bright with Genius level minds, super-strength, and flight. Goes all the way down to the lower powers of Heart with Paula Ramirez's ability to sing beautifully. At the end of Book 1, The Government kills one too many of them in a Waco-style incident, pushing all of them to high power, and most gain at least strength or flight, except Brody who gets even smarter.
- Time Skip: 10 years between issue #8 and #9.
- Touch of Death: Laurel has it; specifically she's touching the artery giving blood to the brain.
- Writers Cannot Do Math: The magazine in issue #9 (see Fictional Document) is dated July 2012. However, in issue #22, which is supposed to set years later, it's stated that Randy Fisk unsuccessfully ran for President in 2008 and 2012, before winning in 2016. It's also stated that he was 48 in 2008, meaning that he was born around 1960. However, earlier it's said that the flash occurred at the end of the '60s, and all Specials were born not long after that.
- Oddly averted with more difficult math — while 113 women in a small town being pregnant sounds like a large number, about 3.13% of women are pregnant at any time. Adding in the male half of the population, this comes to just over 8000 people in Pederson, and doesn't even account for multiple births.