Who is Maxwell Lord? – Part III: The Fall

Biography (cont.)

Loss of control: Heimlich, Dreamslayer, and Superman

Max’s tenure as the administrator of the Justice League had held the team together and had kept it strong despite the disparate personalities involved. His own brand of practical, blunt logic and arms length management had worked surprisingly well for the League. The arrangement’s glaring weakness was that Max had no true deputy, there was no backup plan should anything happen to him. Nevertheless, his colleagues respected their enigmatic benefactor and even regarded him as a friend. He seems to have reciprocated that sentiment and he was about to introduce his girlfriend Wanda to the League – a massive step for the fastidiously private Max – when everything he had built came crashing down.

Max and Wanda were approaching the JLI’s New York Embassy when Max was shot by a sniper. The bullet wound was not fatal, but Max was left comatose. The international press started a death watch outside the hospital and many people did not expect Max to recover. The UN feared that the JLI would spin out of control without him and appointed Ambassador Kurt Heimlich as Max’s temporary replacement. Max had governed the JLI with a relatively light touch, but Heimlich’s iron fist caused chaos within the League. Heimlich and Max’s assassin were eventually revealed as agents of the Bailyan government, but Max’s coma and the Heimlich debacle caused the UN to suspend the JLI’s remit.

Max made a miraculous recovery from his injures, but he did not realise that this was because he was coming under the control of Dreamslayer of the Extremists. Dreamslayer was a powerful sorcerer/entity from a parallel Earth. He based himself on Kooey Kooey Kooey and used Max’s telepathic talent to force an engineer to rebuild the original Extremist robots and their leader Lord Havok. Dreamslayer baited the JLI to investigate Kooey Kooey Kooey and then used Max’s telepathic power to turn them against their friends. It was only the Silver Sorceress’ self sacrifice that defeated Dreamslayer and freed Max and the other Leaguers (“Breakdowns”). Max was given a clean bill of health by his Doctors, but everything that he had worked to create had been torn down (Justice League Europe #35).

J’onn helped remind Max why the League was important and spurred him on (Justice League America #60). Lord contacted the Batman about reforming the League, but Batman passed and referred him to Superman. The Man of Steel had repeatedly passed on earlier offers to join the JLI and had no intention of working for Lord. Left on his own Max began to revert to his old methods. He contacted the Royal Flush Gang again and paid them to create a suitable event to draw a new Justice League together. What Max didn’t know was that a second benefactor, a new Weapons Master, had given the Gang weaponry that turned them into a genuine threat. They were even able to capture Superman before Hal Jordan and Aquaman allied themselves with former JLI members to defeat them. Max was horrified at what has almost happened, but his League was back together and they were now bolstered by Superman’s participation. What Max had not bargained for was the Man of Steel resistance to his authority (Justice League Spectacular).

Superman told Max that “The Justice League is not one of your toys. It doesn’t exist to feed your ego. It exists because there’s a need for it — and because we say it does.” (Justice League America #61-62). Nevertheless, Max pressed forward with a new United Nations deal. The League would have greater autonomy and access to a new high-tech complex next to the UN in New York. In return they would aid the UN with security matters as and when requested. Superman didn’t appreciate the deal, but his protests were delayed by Starbreaker’s attack on Maxima’s homeworld (Justice League America #63-65). Max was not the only person who had a problem with Superman and he repeatedly clashed with Guy Gardner. Guy pointed out that Superman came and went as he wanted, and he refused to carry a JLA signal device, yet he still expected to dominate League matters (Justice League America #68).

The interpersonal rivalries were halted by Superman’s untimely death fighting Doomsday. The creature left Blue Beetle comatose, Booster Gold’s equipment destroyed, Fire powerless, and precipitated Ice taking a leave of absence. Max was forced to rebuild the League again and offered membership to the Ray, Black Condor, Agent Liberty, and Wonder Woman (Justice League America #71). However, most of the new members didn’t last beyond the new team’s encounter with Doctor Destiny (Justice League America #72-75) and the revelation of Bloodwynd’s true identity (Justice League America #76-77). Only Wonder Woman remained on the team and she succeeded Superman as the group’s natural field commander (Justice League America #78).

The UN left Max’s new JLA alone until a situation developed on the island nation of Seylone. The UN’s Geneal DuLac requested the League’s help to establish a bridgehead at Seylone’s airport for a peacekeeping and humanitarian mission (Justice League America #78-79). Max’s relationship with his team was strained when they rescued a pair of interstellar criminals and then refused to hand them over to the State Department for extrication. Max wanted to cooperate with the President and Captain Atom’s military team, but Wonder Woman stood fast. The situation was compounded when a doppelgänger of Guy Gardner murdered one of the criminals (Justice League America #81-83).

The relationship between League and administrator finally broke during the second visitation of the Overmaster. It/he appeared on Mount Everest and announced the extinction of humanity. The UN Security Council forbade the League from intervening, but Captain Atom refused to acknowledge their order. The UN leaned on Max and threatening to kill the League’s funding unless he acted. Max organised a bloodhound unit of “League Busters” to bring back Captain Atom’s rogue League faction. He never intended to use the team, but Atom called his bluff and Max was forced to send them into the field. Wonder Woman revolted against Max’s decision and took the rest of the League to help Atom. After the defeat of the Overmaster the League fractured into three competing teams – all outside of Max’s control (“Judgement Day”).

First Death

Wonder Woman’s League faction established an open-shop, drop-in presence in an orbiting “Refuge” that they had salvaged from the Overmaster. The Kilg%re – the artificial intelligence that had originally helped Max set-up the JLI – desired the alien technology and information contained within the Refuge. It’s first attempt to infiltrate the Refuge was a failure so it decided to reactivate its collaboration with Max. Without his knowledge the Kilg%re activated a “kill switch” that it has placed inside Max’s brain. He had approached Wonder Woman’s JLA with his services, but they politely declined – not out of spite, but because they wanted to be in control of their own destiny. Max passed out during his visit to the Refuge and was rushed to hospital by his worried friends (Justice League America #93, 98).

Max’s doctors told him that a rare form of tumour that was spreading through his brain. They told him that they could save his life, but the operation would leave him a vegetable (Justice League America #94). In hospital, Max was approached by the Kilg%re who offered him a” way for your consciousness, for your will, to survive, Mr Lord. Is that worth any price?” Max, ever the pragmatist, accepted – even if he wasn’t aware that his old “benefactor” had returned. The Kilg%re removed Max’s consciousness and let his physical body to die (Justice League America #95).

Max’s hospitalization was noted by the Arcana, the secret society he had joined shortly after founding the JLI. They sent a team to his home to recover any sensitive documents he may have preserved, but they were attacked by a new super villain who was unaware that Lord had just died. The villain, codenamed Judgement (alias James Collins), was the brother of the mental patient turned terrorist (John Charles Collins ) that Max and the Kigl%re had sacrificed at the UN to create the right political climate for formation of the JLI. James Collins had blackmailed Max for hush money which he had then used to fund his own transformation into a powerful super-villain. Collins wanted revenge against Maxwell Lord, but he had waited too long (Justice League America #94-96).

The first thing that the League knew about Max’s metamorphosis was when Fire checked on him at the hospital and was told that he had just died (Justice League America #95). A funeral was arranged and many past and present Leaguers attended. Also in attendance were powerful figures from the media, politics, and finance. This highlighted how powerful Max had been, but it also showed his friends in the League just how little they knew about him. Judgement shifted his attention to Max’s friends and attacked them at his funeral. Collins was defeated, but he escaped to attack the League’s Refuge before they were able to capture him in own home (Justice League America #96-97).

Judgement’s attack on Lord’s funeral had destroyed Max’s “corpse”. However, an autopsy had been carried out and Max’s Doctor contacted the League to tell them that he had discovered that Max’s brain had been wiped clean. The autopsy records were mysteriously erased while the Doctor was speaking with Hawkman (Justice League America #97). The Kilg%re had digitized Max’s mind and had turned him into a synthetic intelligence, a computer program, within its own computer world. It then created a new cybernetic-body based on that of Lord Havok, the Leader of the original Extremists, for Max to inhabit. The new identity was both a smug play on Max’s name and an unwelcome reminder of one of the League’s most dangerous foes. The Kilg%re believed that Max/Havok’s knowledge of the League would allow him to successfully penetrate their Refuge, but he was defeated by their superior numbers (Justice League America #98-100).

Without Max’s influence the Arcana moved to procure another source of influence with the Justice League. They recruited the Blue Devil via his movie producer friend Marla and got him to supply them with a commentary on the League’s activities in the belief that they were actually researching a Justice League movie (Justice League America #101). Their plans were thrown into chaos when Marla died (Underworld Unleashed) and the Arcana’s Queen of Spades had to lean on her associate Speakman to restore contact with the Blue Devil (Justice League America #108).

Max/Havok began asserting his independence from the Kilg%re and planned to bring the Arcana under his own control. He recruited Judgement as his lieutenant and had him kill the Arcana’s agents that had been sent to kill Speakman. The Blue Devil’s unwitting deal with the Arcana was revealed by the man-demon El Diablo, but they arrived at Speakman’s studios during Judgement’s attack and Speakman died before he could be properly questioned. Max attacked the Arcana and recruited the Queen of Spades to his cause. He then used the information they had gathered from the Blue Devil to out do the Kilg%re and actually usurp control of the JLA’s Refuge. The JLA regained control of it by flying into deep space where they were outside of the range of his control signal. The League returned to Earth and followed the signal to the lair of the Arcana’s leadership (the four “Aces”), but they arrived just after it had been destroyed by Havok and Judgement (“Purge”, Justice League America #111-113).

The Wonder Woman’s open-door JLA was winding down and Captain Atom’s League splinter team was increasingly seen as a liability so the UN contacted Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman with the idea of creating a single, more powerful League. Their League’s first case involved the arrival on Earth of a group of White Martians disguised as a group of alien superheroes called the Hyperclan. The visitors destroyed the old JLA Refuge and targeted known super villains for headline grabbing executions. One of the villains the Hyperclan executed was Judgement, Lord Havok’s lieutenant (JLA #1). However, there was no trace of either Lord Havok or Maxwell Lord.

And that is where the Arcana/Maxwell Lord storyline ends. It was never finished by Gerard Jones before his run on Justice League America was cancelled in favour of Grant Morrison’s Big Seven JLA relaunch. The comments made by DC editorial, circa Infinite Crisis (see Part One), imply that they regard Max’s tenure as a cyborg as a dead-end – an inconvenient detail to be quietly ignored. There is a scene in JLA #1 where the Hyperclan BBQ a line of supervillains tied to stakes. The entire issue involves scenes like that which draw a distinct line under the earlier League’s stories. The only villain clearly identifiable in the line up is Judgement, but the next in line looks a bit robotish/Dr Doom like so he could be Max’s Lord Havok.

Next: The Super Buddies