“Team 7” written by Justin Jordan with dialogue by Tony Bedard; “Deathstroke” written by Rob Liefeld; “Secret Origins” written by Christy Marx
I was torn about the placing of these issues, given that they include a little scene taking place in the present, but I think it is fine to read them this early on. Team 7 in this continuity takes place five years before the “present”, unlike the much older original Team 7. They are the government’s reaction to the appearance of superheroes; they want a team capable of responding to them, of taking them down if need be. So they assemble a team of the best of the best, hoping they’ll be able to develop a metagene.
It all begins after Superman defeated Brainiac and made himself known to the world in the pages of “Action Comics”. The government’s first attempt at creating a super soldier, the Steel Soldier Project, failed during that crisis, so now they’re looking for an alternative. And John Lynch is a man with ideas. After Brainiac the government isolated something in the human genome that gives people superpowers; the metagene. Just like in the Wildstorm universe, there exists a gen-factor that makes people receptive to gaining powers.
Lynch comes up with Team 7 and the Majestic Project; the Team 7 members will be administered drugs and put under genetic experiments hoping that the extreme situations they’re constantly put into will awake any latent superpower in them. A bit like Project Genesis for the Gen13, or like the original Team 7, innit?
A team is put together: Dinah Lance, an infiltrator (who will become the superheroine Black Canary in the present), her husband Kurt Lance, a tracker, Slade Wilson, tactical genius (who will become Deathstroke), Alex Fairchild, weapons expert, James Bronson, a driven utility player, Summer Ramos, pilot, Cole Cash, Special Forces veteran (Grifter), Amanda Waller, NSA analyst and loan to the army, and Dean Higgins, strategy. If they seem like way too many, it’s because they are. There are way too many nobodies on the team and all of them wear generic military costumes. On the cover to the first issue they wear some funny looking armours and masks to help differentiate one another, but it’s worth nothing they never wear them inside. At least we got two recognizable Wildstorm characters in the mix.
There is a tenth team member mentioned in “Black Canary” Vol.4 issue 9: Some guy called Valentine Chan, who apparently was thrown out early on for being too violent. “Deathstroke” Vol.2 issue 0 also includes a consultant called Adeline Kane to the team. This is the woman who will become Deathstroke’s wife in the future. None of these two characters are actually seen during this series.
Back to the story: Grifter is already wearing his trademark red mask, the same one he’ll wear five years later when daemonites kidnap him and erase his memories. He’s the only member of the team to wear a mask; apparently he wants to protect his identity in case anything of what they do comes back to haunt them in their civilian lives. The book establishes Deathstroke as being intimately connected with Wildstorm characters; he has known Lynch for years, even before his friend Dinah was even born, and Alex Fairchild is his best friend.
Waller and Higgins are recruited while they were stopping John Akara, a terrorist for the Basilisk organization of Kaizen Gamorra. Little do they know, he always meant to be captured. Akara’s family had run to the US after Kaizen the elder lost his marbles and started executing anyone who might be attempting to overthrow him, as his son was. Indeed, Akara’s family were radicals who supported Kaizen the younger and had to flee the country to survive, and now that Kaizen the younger is president, John Akara can act for him in the US.
Lynch tasks the team’s with the first mission of investigating Facility 9, AKA The Float, after it went radio silent. This shouldn’t have happened, considering The Float was a prison designed to be inescapable by remaining floating above the air. As it turns out, the scientists inside the facility had been testing a formula for rehabilitative purposes on the inmates. However, this formula used the essence of Eclipso, an evil being who corrupts souls. It was used on John Akara, who always planned on being sent to that prison in hopes of becoming a superhuman. The formula gives him superhuman strength, and Akara exposes everyone on the ship with it to turn them into violent monsters. This is when Team 7 arrives. At first they believe Akara might be heading the ship towards Gamorra Island, to hand out the prison as a weapon, but he’s actually going towards Sentinel Island, where Eclipso lies and where Gamorra will be able to obtain a lot more power. Thanks to the help of a scientist in the ship, Team 7 discovers those corrupted by the formula have a vulnerability to a certain frequency of light, and they manage to stop Akara. However, they know Gamorra has plans on Sentinel Island, so their mission isn’t over yet.
The team travels to the island, which is full of mystical energies and an electromagnetic anomaly that causes electrical devices to malfunction. They arrive too late, though, because Gamorran mercenaries are already there and they already murdered an entire town of natives, including their children. The Team hurries to catch up with the killers, but both groups have to struggle to overcome the spirit sentinels of the Black Diamond which hosts Eclipso.
Meanwhile, we turn to Gamorra Island, where we get our first glimpse of Kaizen. Apparently, in this timeline he uses a group of metahumans kids he calls the “All-Seeing Children” to see other places and even visions of the future. He knew Team 7 would arrive, so he alerted his mercenaries.
Both groups reach the prison where the Heart of Darkness, Eclipso’s gem, is being held, but the mercenaries had the whole place wired and everyone but Deathstroke is forced to fall back. Left alone, Deathstroke’s attracted by the black diamond, which seduces him and convinces him to touch the diamond. This allows Eclipso to escape and possess his body . As the stakes keep rising, now is when Grifter really gets to shine. Eclipso had super strength, so bullets didn’t damage him. But Grifter manages to trick Eclipso into walking onto one of the bombs that had been set up, knocking him out and stealing the Black Diamond from his fingers. This is just a temporary solution, though.
The Team is given a mystical sword by one of the spirit sentinels of the Island. They have to harm Deathstroke’s body badly enough that Eclipso will want to move onto another host. Alex takes it upon himself to stab his best friend through the chest, causing Eclipso to fly towards Cole, because damn, he’s just so tempting. I mean, Deathstroke was the most skilled one in the team, and yet Eclipso says Cole might be an even better host. He’s a cool dude like that. Cole was actually counting on it, because once Eclipso gets close enough he pulls out the Black Diamond, and successfully traps Eclipso inside. Threat aborted, and Deathstroke manages to survive. None of Kaizen’s mercenaries live, so all in all, it’s a win-win. Now that this tedious first arc is over the Wildstorm references get a lot heavier.
The second story opens in the Advanced Research Prosthetic Centre, where Caitlin Fairchild gets to have an internship. She chats with one of the friends she’s made there, Maxine, who likes the band Ladytron! Yep, this is the New 52 version of Ladytron. The first one we’ll get, anyway. Apparently, Maxine is a war veteran who lost most of her limbs and now is having her body replaced with prosthetics. The scientist in charge of the facility is Dr. Henshaw, who takes care of another project on the side – the Spartan Project. He’s found an old mechanical soldier that has been disused for years and that he hopes to reanimate. Little does he know, the Spartan android was sent by Kaizen Gamorra, and it is about to be activated soon! Thanks to being able to peek into the future, Gamorra figured out one of Team 7’s members is capable of becoming a superhuman as powerful as Superman, and he wants this transformation to happen under his own terms. Wait. This is what we get for Spartan in the New 52? An evil robot sent by Kaizen? Jeez.
So Spartan activates itself and starts spreading its consciousness to all the prostheses around him, causing them to overtake its hosts and turn hostile. Even Maxine is affected by this, and she slowly loses her consciousness. Spartan is using the mechanical pieces around him to rebuild himself. And Caitlin is alone in there…
As soon as Team 7 notices there’s an emergency in the facility, the team flies in. It seems that in the period between this and the previous mission Dinah and Kurt got married, but they had to cancel their honeymoon because of this emergency. The only one missing is Bronson, due to not picking up his phone. As soon as they get near the building, mechanical drones assault the ship and kill the team’s pilot! The ship crashes on the centre. When they step inside they meet Caitlin, who seems in shock. Her father runs to her… but it turns out she’s not Caitlin at all; she has been overtaken by mechanical parts already. Yep, Caitlin is dead. Immediately, Cait reveals metal razors and kills Alex! In retaliation, Deathstroke doesn’t hesitate in putting Caitlin down.
Despite all the tragedies, the robots seem too easy to kill. The team realizes they’re only a distraction meant to keep them away from the only survivor in the facility: Dr. Henshaw. Even though his body perished, his consciousness was protected so he managed to build himself a grotesque mechanical body. He explains to the team that Spartan has already left. His primary command was to attract Team 7: Kaizen wants to attack the member with most potential and activate his superhuman powers. However, Spartan had run out of patience and decided to fly directly towards his objective: Bronson. He finds him in his home, surrounded by all his loved ones, but Spartan does not care. He initiates a “core transfer”, merging with Bronson and turning him into a superhuman… Majestic!
At first Kaizen’s plan seems puzzling. All he’s done is to give the Americans a super weapon, a creature as powerful as Superman. And after losing his family, Majestic is mad with anger. But that was Kaizen’s intention; to make this creature go towards Gamorra, where he will be able to corrupt him using his secret weapon. As Majestic flies towards him, the government decides to turn the event into a full-scale operation against Gamorra. This will be Team 7’s final mission. We see three different testimonies of it: Lynch’s after-action report in “Team 7”, the story as it was told to Deathstroke’s ex-wife in “Deathstroke” issue 0, and Dinah’s memories in “Secret Origins”, issue 11. They agree on most of the details, but not all of them.
According to “Deathstroke”, Team 7 always counted with a consultant called Adeline Kane. According to her their final mission took place at night, and it was about retrieving the Black Diamond from Gamorra. Also, she’s the only one who remembers Alex Fairchild using a helmet. In her mind, the mission was over as quickly as it started: it got called off after a sniper caught Deathstroke and injured him. The entire team cared for nothing but getting Deathstroke out of there alive, so the mission was cancelled and Team 7 was shut down. Yeah… That’s not what happened.
The reports from Lynch and Dinah are basically the same, and a lot more accurate. First off, the team brought in a new member for the mission: Steve Trevor, to be the new pilot. He lands Team 7 on the island while Majestic destroys Basilisk troops around them; there are also some Children of Gamorra on the scene, you know, those guys wearing black shirts with Gamorra’s symbol from the Wildstorm timeline. We don’t know if they are clones this time around, though.
Anyhow, Team 7 starts advancing through the hordes of Basilisk soldiers. They’re too outnumbered, and Cole, Dean and Kurt get shot. Seeing his husband hurt finally activates Dinah’s gen-active abilities, unleashing a sonic scream which destroys all the foes around them. According to Lynch, this is the first time Dinah finds out about her abilities. According to Dinah, her powers first manifested in one of Team 7’s periodic genetic tests. Anyway, the team reaches Gamorra’s Oracle Room, where his All-Seeing Children were waiting for them. The precognitive children show Team 7 a vision of the future Gamorra wants to achieve; a world where he managed to make Majestic evil, and where he faces his old Team 7 teammates. The vision even reaches Majestic, out in the city, who understands he can’t allow it to happen.
Kaizen wants to achieve his means through Pandora’s Box, a mystical item that can corrupt anyone and unleash many sins around the world. It can only be opened by great power, but Kaizen prepared for this day. As the good guys were arriving, Kaizen assembled all the metahumans on his island and absorbed their power for him. Now he can open the box, and he’s so powerful that bullets don’t even graze him. Majestic decides to fly to the edge of space and then back down; reaching enough speed that when he crashes against the sea he creates a giant wave to destroy all of Gamorra at once. It’s just like in Fire From Heaven! Also, is it just me, or is the Kaizen’s palace modelled just like International Operations’ headquarters in the old timeline?
Majestic’s wave destroys the entire island, but the royal palace manages to keep standing. Cole, Deathstroke and Trevor head off to find a chopper in which to escape, while the rest of the team continue fighting to get Pandora’s Box from Kaizen. Kurt reveals he has powers of his own; if he’s touching his wife he can amplify and concentrate her powers. Dinah and Kurt work together, blasting a sonic scream at Kaizen and making him lose Pandora’s Box. The effort almost kills Kurt, but not even this is enough to defeat Kaizen. Lynch is forced to reveal his telekinetic powers, trying to make Pandora’s Box go to him. However, the process is interrupted by Majestic blasting through a wall, facing Kaizen for killing his family. Kaizen understands that Majestic had been the key to opening the Box all along; it craves power, and Majestic holds unlimited power. Undeniably drawn to it, Majestic opens the box; as it turns out, Pandora’s Box was actually a Skull. Huh.
Anyway, Team 7 can’t allow Majestic to turn evil, so they combine their powers to stop him. Holding hands, all of them can pour everything they have into Dinah, making her screams stronger. She becomes so powerful that her attack ends up destroying the entire royal palace. With Majestic and Kaizen missing, the mission seems to be over. But when Trevor shows up with a chopper, wanting to pick up the team, it turns out Pandora’s Box is still intact. It calls to Lynch, clouding his head and making him evil. Waller manages to throw the Box into the chopper, but Lynch is so possessed that he starts using his telekinesis to temper with the chopper’s controls. In the end, Waller is forced to shoot his commander. As Trevor lifts off, leaving the Island, Team 7 is over.
But this is far from an ending. Issue 5 features a section taking place in the present, five years after the main story, in which we see that Lynch survived and it is hinted that Majestic will return. This won’t happen in a long while, so just forget about it for now.
We see the immediate follow up to this story in “Secret Origins” issue 11. Right after Dinah retrieved Pandora’s Box (which she calls Pandora’s Skull, which makes more sense), Team 7 was shut down. Lynch, Higgins and Majestic are declared Missing in Action, while Waller manages to make it back to the States without the chopper. She also retrieves Kurt Lance, Dinah’s husband, but this fact is kept a secret. They tell Dinah he is to be considered dead. A few days later they even perform a fake funeral for him, and Dinah can barely hold herself together.
Higgins wasn’t lost in action, though. Nobody knows that while Team 7 faced Majestic, Higgins got lost and ended up in front of Gamorra. Kaizen was with his psychic children, physically recharging for another attack. When Dinah destroyed the whole building. Black Canary’s sonic cry was mixed with the All-Seeing Children’s powers, and it caused Kaizen and Higgins to fuse into one new entity. This mixed personality called himself Regulus. After experiencing what superhumans can do first-hand, he decided he was going to stop all of them, and that’s the new direction he set for Basilisk, his organization. Regulus predicts there’s a war coming between normal people and “supers”, and he doesn’t plan on letting supers win. To justify his actions to his followers, he claims the first appearance of Superman is his main motivator, to keep his identity a secret. But Regulus won’t come into play until a few years in.
Back in the US, Waller gets notice that the government declared Code Black on Dinah; they want to throw her in jail to silence her and make sure the details of the Gamorra mission are kept in high secret. Perhaps feeling guilty, Waller finds Dinah and lets her know there’s a retrieval team coming for her. Thanks to the heads up, Dinah manages to escape and goes rogue. She tries to overcome her grief, promising Kurt that she’ll put her life to good use. Her adventures continue on the pages of “Birds of Prey.” This team will clash constantly with Basilisk.
Meanwhile, Waller decides she has had enough of the government, and takes some permanent vacations. However, they won’t last her long, as we’ll see in “Suicide Squad”. This team will also face Basilisk.
As for the rest of the cast: Brought back to life by the government, Kurt will be tasked with watching over the “Teen Titans.” He was revived using the “Samsara Serum”, a formula which will be used later in the Suicide Squad.
Steve Trevor becomes Wonder Woman’s romantic interest in the pages of “Justice League”.
Cole Cash gets to be free for around three years before being abducted by daemonites in “Grifter”.
Slade Wilson becomes a master mercenary who constantly clashes with kherubims in “Deathstroke”. We know Lynch is still alive, and he’s worried about Majestic returning. These events will also take place in “Deathstroke.”
Even Caitlin Fairchild shows up again, despite having died! She will have a role in “Superboy.”
Next: Birds of Prey Vol.3 issue 0 and Suicide Squad Vol.4 issue 0, by Duane Swierczynksi and Adam Glass.