The creative team behind Deathstroke wants us to remember just how hard life can be as a superhero in the DC Universe. After years spent reestablishing the basics with Rebirth, Christopher Priest, Carlo Pagulayan, Roberto Viacara, Larry Hama and Jason Paz use Deathstroke #32 to expand the DCU and bring one of the most obscure superhero teams of all time back into continuity.
It might seem like a fun little easter egg, but this group shows us that not all heroes are good enough to save the day. Sometimes having good intentions just doesn't cut it. There are many characters whose adventures we don't follow every month, and through the tragedy of the Justice Experience, we learn the reason why.
The Man They Call Dynamo
Deathstroke and Batman have been at each other's throats for weeks now. Someone is manipulating them behind the scenes over the true parentage of Damian Wayne. Until Batman has found the answers, he has decided to put an end to Slade Wilson's career as a mercenary. In Deathstroke #31 the two fight over a target he has been contracted to kill, but they don't see eye to eye when things get complicated.
Deathstroke has been contracted to kill Ace Masterson, a Cold War-era superhero known as the Human Dynamo. He hooked up with like-minded individuals to found the Justice Experience superhero team, but things didn't go the way he expected. The team was slaughtered on their first mission, because being a hero is harder than you think. As Masterson puts it, "Some people are born to be heroes, Batman, and then there's the rest of us. I failed."
As powerful as the Human Dynamo is, he's in his 80s and losing his mind. Instead of putting innocent people at risk, he has asked Slade to put him down before he hurts anyone, but Batman won't allow it. The Human Dynamo wants to go out in a battle against evil, however, in the morally grey area of assisted suicide, who can we say is the good guy and who is bad?
Batman tries to put him in cryogenic stasis, but Deathstroke obliges the senior citizen vigilante and shoots Masterson dead. Left with this moral conundrum, Slade tells the dead man, "Evil? I kind of resent that." Is it better to do what society has deemed to be the right thing, or should a man's final wishes be respected? Who is good and who is bad in this scenario is for the reader to decide.
Justice Experience Dies Again
In this story, Masterson was a founding member of the Justice Experience, and was seemingly the last one of the team to still be alive. Of course, neither the team not the devastating lesson this group provides the hero community is an original invention of Priest and company. The team was actually created by Dan Curtis Johnson and J.H. Williams III in 1998 for the short-lived series Chase, starring government agent Cameron Chase.
The group served as a means to insert Chase into the superhero community, and also establish a legacy of superheroes in the time between the Justice Society and the coming of the Justice League. In the group's original, pre-Flashpoint continuity, the team's lineup consisted of Chase's father, aka Acro-Bat, Bronze Wraith, Major Flashback, Manx, Song Bird and Mister Action. It was later explained that the Bronze Wraith was actually Martian Manhunter in disguise, as J'onn J'onxx was revealed to have been on Earth far longer than anyone had realized. However, the rest of the group was dead, having been slaughtered by Doctor Trapp, who wanted revenge for the accidental death of his girlfriend.
Though this new iteration of the team does not include Acro-Bat, and Human Dynamo seems to replace Mister Action, the same harsh lesson still applies: Not all people given great power are destined for great things. Sometimes it all goes wrong, no matter how noble your intentions may be. It seems that whenever the heroes of the DCU forget this, the Justice Experience is destined to return to help them -- and us -- remember.