Question had seen what had befallen Earth as a result of the unknown variables that each of the seven brought to the first roster of the Justice League. It is of course not unforeseen that just one going rogue or having conflicting mindsets would compromise the team and by extension the team's global reputation. Superman's going rogue incident a few years back had left him in the hot spot to this day because all it takes is a single slip to topple the people's belief, faith, or trust.
Whatever the word is, once lost it is nigh impossible to regain unless one forgives or instead weighs everything else against the slip. Many had forgiven or seen that he is repentant or seeking redemption yet plenty in the shadows had not forgotten and definitely had not forgiven him either.
Superman's greatest ally in Metropolis paid the ultimate price for his loyalty to the Man of Steel and for his city.
The headstone calls this man Earth's Greatest Hero. His name is Daniel Turpin.
The two had not gotten along at first, but in discovering the real source of Intergang's unseen supplier, they found that the edge had come from an off-world entity, the merciless conqueror from Apokolips, and they did stop that foothold scenario. Darkseid however had not given up so easily because Superman's defiance and his uncompromising morality had only given incense to Darkseid to attempt to breach Earth's defenses again through Metropolis.
The second incursion comes again through Intergang using Apokolipitian weaponry again and one device in particular is shown to be powerful enough to make Superman bleed, which at the time had only been possible through Kryptonite. However this is also when another off-world party enters the fray, an alien known as Orion, and he is a somewhat random element aside from providing some insight into why Darkseid is still after Earth. He returns because of Superman's resistance, because conquest is persisting tendency, and it is rarely a thrill anymore because too often does he have victory by a show of force alone.
A device is taken to Ayers Island Nuclear Power Plant, which at first sounds like a mouthful, but Ayers Island would be literally taken off the map thanks to the device. The hover tank battle at the Air Force Base had been a diversion and even with Orion's assistance Superman only stalls the progress of the second incursion. Orion's departure at first is inconvenient, but this battle is too heavy for Earth to face alone even with one Kryptonian on their side. Once en route to Ayers, he is given pause by a fight with Steppenwolf, the chosen herald sent to lead the invasion of Earth, and for once Metropolis sees their iconic hero in the fight of his life against waves of Parademons that awaken memories of dark things.
Dark things from any religion throughout the world and seeing the Parademons had made it clear that Earth needs heroes even at this hour. Detective Daniel Turpin and the SWAT would come to Superman's aid and so Superman is given the opening to get to Ayers. Ayers Island had been blown up in order to turn Earth into another Apokolips yet Superman's speed is the only thing that deflects that effort in making fissures in the underwater rock bed near the crater left behind by the explosion. The effort to drain the away the nuclear overload had left him weak and so Darkseid struck at that moment.
Superman's unwillingness to compromise earns him a few rounds with Darkseid's Omega Beams and usually as Question found out later, nobody can survive that, well almost nobody, but of course Darkseid also made a point of telling the Kryptonian one last thing before taking him into the city. A baffling chess analogy that probably went along the lines of if Superman would not be his 'knight', then he would be his 'pawn', and somehow nobody thought it would ever happen, least of all Superman. The strange overshadowing tank arrives at the heart of the battle for Metropolis.
Turpin very much in the thick of things saves James Olson from an untimely death by Parademon and Lois Lane looks on in horror to see her pillar of a man beaten to a bloody pulp. His behavior lives up to the moniker Man of Steel at that dark hour, but of course Darkseid makes the error of taunting those there to see what he had done to Superman.
Turpin steps forward and makes his last stand. Those in the streets rally behind their brave man and in a tense moment it becomes clear that Metropolis like Superman will not bow down to Darkseid, that they rather perish from the face of the Earth for the ideals that they cherish and uphold in that moment. One could imagine Darkseid perhaps slightly admires them yet keeping in mind to break their spirits. Superman in chains could only have felt respect for all who would rally to Turpin's stand against Darkseid's invaders.
The Air Force had sent fighters against Darkseid once more and even though it seems pointless they went into the fight anyway. Turpin as seen on the news broadcasts later hefts one of the Parademon's weapons and hurls it at one of the clamps restraining Superman's hand. The Kryptonian proceeds to break free yet in the effort to break the other binds, Superman gains the receiving end of a tackle from one of Darkseid's lackeys; the heavy set one called Kalibak. Several seconds later Kalibak flops over from a well aimed punch then Superman in his tattered costume hovers up to face down his enemy.
The tension is palpable even to be watching a replay later that day, the next day, or even years later, but of course this is why Question felt respect for Superman at that eleventh hour. Multiple boom tube portals appear in the reddened sky and out come the cavalry led by Orion who had come with the full authority of Darkseid's long time enemy, Highfather as well as a sizable force to match Darkseid's. The conqueror backs down and orders his forces to return to Apokolips. Turpin's last comment did bother Darkseid yet there had been an ulterior motive as like Luthor had done and likely continue to do in the years to come.
The alien dictator desires to crack Superman's character, to make him fall, to destroy that which he represents at the core among other things, but it is clear that this route did not achieve that end.
"Savor your moment of triumph Superman…"
The Omega Beams fire again, Superman braces for impact, but Darkseid aims not for him, he aims for Turpin. Turpin lets out a brief anguished cry of pain and then nothing. Everyone reels and gasps collectively. One would imagine his injured partner Detective Maggie Sawyer had seen just as countless others watching intently on their televisions or monitors. Maggie most of all would be hurt by this death and she would not be alone in that regard. Superman turns to maul Darkseid, but the dictator slips away through the boom tube vortex.
Superman in a fit of frustration and rage descends upon the Apokolipitian super tank and turns it into a pile of unrecognizable metal. His howls are strong enough to shake the city as even the camera operators were stumbling from the backwash of his super strength punches that never miss though who could miss pummeling something that size. A camera tilts almost by accident towards Lois Lane who covers her face and mirrors the sadness she feels in the loss that Superman is obviously facing in this moment. He eventually can no longer drive himself to smash it and he falls fully to his kneels. The Man of Steel is vulnerable to more than just Kryptonite now, but this is not a 'weakness' that his enemies have gone after before or at least not in a way he had been powerless to avert at that time. Orion descends and offers his condolences.
The city could be rebuilt yet the community, the families, the people that would take longer even as they gather to collectively mourn the passing of Dan Turpin in the coming days. It is in keeping with the Turpin family's religion. If it were possible to not be moved by attending that Question or rather Vic Sage could no longer consider himself fully human, but of course he too felt the loss. Turpin might have some disreputable qualities, but on that day, nobody could say he was not a hero. All that is left of him are the memories the good, the in-between, the bad, and of course that day. Nobody ever forgot it entirely and the city limps on knowing that Superman would continue in Turpin's memory to look after Metropolis.
Question had made a visit at some point and wonders how Superman might have faced this occasion yet of course he would have been here, how could he not be here as Turpin had been the first to die on his watch, and once that happens you wonder who will be the next?
Events however took a disgusting twist once it had become clear to Luthor that Superman is missing and Supergirl had been covering for him with robots. Luthor with his stockpile of Kryptonite goes to the one man in the military that most assuredly does not like Superman, General Hardcastle. Another Apokolipitian incursion follows and the wounds are still fresh from the last one. It is true recoil to see Superman's crest upon the banners brought by the invaders led by none other than Superman himself in Apokolipitian battle armor. However it is clearly suspicious to Question at that time that Superman would do this sort of thing, something felt very wrong about it, but still Superman could not be allowed to continue to lead this assault.
Hardcastle utilizing Luthor's Kryptonite senses opportunity to waste both Superman and Supergirl. She is transparently on unsteady ground in having to fight her 'cousin' yet she does until the Kryptonite enhanced weapon appears to kill both of them. However it only brought them both to death's door and they are taken into captivity. Superman is kept in a room with red lamps made to simulate the effects of a red sun, which thanks to Luminus' mirror trick awhile back shows that Superman's energy is driven by yellow solar energy.
Lois Lane through her father General Samuel Lane learns where Superman is being kept so she intends to break him out sensing that whatever happened to him during his absence from Earth had worn off. He however by the time she finds him is about to get a lethal injection meant to finish him off except Luthor's mistake to think that he finally beat Superman is the undoing of that attempt. Luthor would have a few parting injuries for the arrogance and Kara would have to get treatment somewhere else or she would die otherwise.
They went to STAR except Hamilton fearing treason charges refuses to aid them. Superman literally threatens Hamilton. The man complies out of fear, but of course Hamilton would link this incident to the fallen angels.
He obviously went after Darkseid, but it would likely not be the last time that Apokolips would overshadow the Man of Steel.
Darkseid would not be able to kill Superman this time either, but he had however done something far worse than killing him. Metropolis and by extension the world had taken a collective blow so even the most loyal to Superman had their doubts.
"Think'st thou I'd make a life of jealousy/To follow still the changes of the moon/With fresh suspicions? No, to be once in doubt/Is once to be resolved."
Othello had it right more than maybe he had known yet like Othello, Superman, an alien instead of a Moor, falls prey to a similar problem. The lady lover in both situations forgives the man albeit Desdemona is killed by Othello and Superman had nearly broken Lois' heart in leading an army to attack, instead of to defend the city.
It made about as much sense as the comparisons some had drawn between him and Rorschach, sure they might dress alike, share some aspects of uncompromising ideals, but Vic could never imagine being quite the same as Rorschach or Walter Kovacs. He had not completely given his body, his mind, or even his soul to being The Question. It had given some insight into the dualism that befalls costumed heroics when the individual believes an alter ego, a disguise, another identity becomes necessary to deflect suspicion or interest away from them.
Superman and Clark Kent, a definite example, one wonders how so many are so easily fooled by a different hairstyle, fake eye glasses, and a somewhat bumbling reporter, but of course denial and obviousness are nearly predictable responses. However it does not fool everyone, of course the Kents are privy to the dualism of the two, but of course there's a firm belief that Clark Kent is closer to real man.
His Kryptonian birth parents had given him life, love, but most importantly they sent him to Earth to save him from Krypton's destruction while the Kents in informally adopting him upon his arrival built up his farm boy notions as the feisty Lois Lane would call him or more affectionately call him Smallville.
It had only been a few months prior to his so-called going Rogue incident that Clark Kent was 'killed' by a car bomb because as Kent he had gotten too close to the crooked Detective Bowman's dirty secret regarding Ernest Walker. Bowman had framed Walker for the murder and Kent only got wind of it because Perry White sent to do the story on Walker's impending execution. Something obviously got to Kent about Walker's story so the investigation as Question learns a rather rhetorical explanation about how Kent made a break in the almost rock solid conviction against Walker.
A pizza delivery was taken to Walker's place at almost the exact time that the alleged murder was committed. The question then for Kent was how Walker can be guilty if he was at home paying for pizza at the time of the murder. Bowman was the only connection between the victim and Walker. Bowman was the first one on the scene at the dead woman's residence and he framed Walker by innocuously leaving damning evidence in Walker's possession, a necklace owned by the dead woman. Kent however is taken out of the picture by Bowman, but of course as Lane discovered the eyewitness to the car plummeting into the ocean had the worst eyesight imaginable.
Her faith in Kent returning was weakened by the fact that Superman was the only half that was turning up after the car bombing. It was fortunate that he chosen to attempt reappearing as Kent, but Bowman's handiwork didn't end with the car bomb. Lane found taps in Clark's land line phone, they were police model taps, and of course Superman noticed the absence of the computer. Another bomb was planted in the apartment though this is only seen by Lois pushing around books in the bookcase. Their escape from the explosion is owed to Superman's speed.
He likely saw Bowman in the crowd below while putting out the fire that is consuming what used to be 'Clark's' apartment. Together they tricked Bowman into exposing himself. It is likely that Bowman deduced the connection between Kent and Superman, but execution by gas chamber prevented him from revealing this revelation.
As for Ernest Walker, he no longer sleeps in a five by five cell and he pays a visit to the grave of the woman that was murdered by Bowman in attempt to finally pay his respects to the woman. He also briefly saw the headstone that had Clark Kent carved into except the work crew was in the process of removing it. He ran over to be sure it was what he thought he saw except one of the workman steps him with concern for Walker's safety.
Walker is told that Kent is still alive, that he probably faked his death to dodge his would be killer, and Walker leaves with a sigh of relief. The workmen later realize they had been talking to the man that Kent got cleared for false imprisonment. The release of Ernest Walker is proof that one can make a different no matter what costume that one wears, but of course Question had come to understand that by now.
Kent's reappearance after Bowman's arrest should have clued Lois into the connection between Kent and Superman, but she bought that he swam ashore somehow though not near where the car fell into the water. She buys it because she is too stubborn to admit that the idea of Clark being dead bothered her more than anything else and of course tenuous steps towards a flirtatious romance seems to begin and as for whether or not she did work it out, that is a question indeed. Question suspects she probably knows, but somehow is allowing him to tell her when he is ready to fess up about it.
Orion had almost given him away at their first encounter except he was somewhat shook up from his journey so first he said Superman, then he said must warn Superman, so Kent could relax, but still keeping that kind of secret from billions or even just one person say Lois for instance could cost him.
It is likely that Batman had figured it out after what happen with the brief partnership of Joker and Luthor the year before Apokolips took a stronger interest in Earth and Superman.
It would prove to be problematic, but of course she had been fooled by Kara's efforts to delude people into thinking Clark and Superman were still around. However the ruse did not fool everyone and Luthor would repeatedly resent Superman's presence in Metropolis even after the second incursion.
Superman's brainwashed involvement in the third incursion was probably like getting the Man of Steel's reputation killer on a golden platter. He took it though of course more than just Superman conspired to stop him, Lois would not allow whatever Luthor was up to… to succeed, and fortunately her father had enough allies in the military as well as the government. General Lane convinced plenty that Superman was not in his right mind; that being captured and tortured by Darkseid had twisted his mind, and so they would have to wait and see how he progresses in recovery from it.
Lane's championing for Superman had given the Kryptonian opportunity to mend and recover from the experience, but of course he never forgot what the experience meant for him, no more than those who had not forgiven would continue to view him and others like him as a threat. These few as Question saw them then and especially now are part of the conspiracy though of course the conspiracy involves the fears held about how to deal with and handle the costumes are part of their agenda. A further twist is their funding is not from government money and so the investigation into who is funding them begins though Luthor is naturally on the list.
The repentant image that Luthor exudes is not fooling him, but of course he too had seen the limited footage from the fight between the Justice 'League' and the then unidentified monster attacking Metropolis. The first thing that appears wrong about the 'League' in this quietly swept under the rug footage is the costumes. Superman's demeanor is decidedly malevolent, the costume colors are darker except the cape is white, and a wonder if the triple bands are at all significant is a question in mind. Next the Wonder Woman with him, there is no bare skin, no tiara, no high heeled boots, and the hair is shorter.
Hawkgirl looks more like a soldier than a costumed hero, which wryly ironic with more recent events involving her people, the Thanagarians, and the colors on John Stewart's costume are inverted as well as being almost sleeveless as well as bald. There is a darker look to the Martian Manhunter, but the truly stand out wrongs are where is Batman and more so where is Flash? There are no obvious answers here and so he would have to question Batman on the subject or possibly even hack the Batcomputer if that is even possible.
Nobody would answer his inquiries directly because of course it is clear that whoever fought the unaccounted for menace on that was decidedly not the Justice League, but individuals that resemble them. It likewise proves curious when there is a knock at his window, but of course Batman never believes in coming in the front door with an apartment that is several stories up. He powers down the computer, activates the shredder and shreds all the recent tangents about the doppelganger mystery as well as tangents on what the League would do to recover from the Thanagarian Occupation.
One clear notion is that they probably had Hawkgirl aka Shayera Hol left the team unless she left on her own recognizance. The latter is likelier given that Batman of all people is approaching him tonight. He opens the window after putting on the mask again. He already knows that Batman's public face is Bruce Wayne as well as Batman realizing that Question is Vic Sage, but neither really bothers to leverage the information against the other; there is nothing to gain that way. Both prefer to be without partners yet neither really gets their preference met in the field.
Batman had several costumed partners ranging from the first Robin, now Nightwing, to Batgirl, and then the second Robin whose late father had split town to dodge Two-Face, but he is likely deceased for several years now. Batman periodically had favorable working relationships with those working under Batgirl's father at the GCPD, but of course Bullock is persistently at odds with him. Bullock was not exactly the straight shooter either, but he was loyal to Gordon, his loyalty is about one of the few things that kept him on the job.
A few times when he had a case that had drawn him to Gotham, he had been indirectly drawn into working with Detective Montoya yet she seem to be open minded, but of course Batman had favorable experiences with her in the past. This is not the occasion for reminiscence and so he offers the Dark Knight Detective some coffee. They remain standing since this is not entirely a social call.
"I figure you are here to recruit me to the expanding roster Batman," says Question.
"There is an open slot for you, whether you take it is up to you, and I figure you have been tracking who has gotten visits from the six of us," answers Batman.
"It seems each of you is dodging any questions about what happen with Hawkgirl."
"She left on her own, we voted her out, but she left before we could tell her."
"I am betting Wonder Woman and you voted her out… Flash and the Martian would be more forgiving…. Stewart probably felt too close to the issue to make a clear call so the tie breaker was the Man of Steel."
Batman smirks wondering how he could have seen that one without having been there.
"Please that smirk may work on Wonder Woman or should I say Diana, but not even your glare bugs me anymore… as for my answer about joining… I am in, but I have other priorities besides team missions, team meetings...."
"We may be working in concert, but each of us has some sort of default… speaking of which Gotham waits for no man."
"If that is a joke, it's in poor taste… Bruce… I wonder when Diana had you figured, but knowing her, she probably found out before Paris."
Batman facing away from him conceals a flush at this statement.
"I have got patrol… watch your back Vic."
After Batman leaves, Vic returns to his computer and starts a new tangent on who or what is watching this expanding roster of the Justice League, but of course it had to be the same people and others who had come together first with Superman's rogue incident. Their paranoia would only be made deeper by the five who had been masquerading as the League at the same time of the appearance of that gray behemoth. All he had was a random name found in some errant files referring to a Greek word and the word is…
A/N 1: A sort of Question drive story begins here. This lead in chapter is mostly based on flashback content before he is approached by Batman to join the expanding roster between the events of Starcrossed and Initiation. So continuity wise this is pre-JLU, so JLU-centric content is coming.
A/N 2: Most of the flashback scenes refer to events from StAS series, which influenced the Cadmus Arc in JLU, I know much of what I write about pertains to Cadmus or Justice Lords. The two have the strongest pull in mind and series wise it is the most interesting to me.
A/N 3: Even a decade later, the final minutes of Apokolips Now! still make me cry, cringe, or feel some intense reaction mainly because it was the first time since Gargoyles that I saw someone get killed permanently in an animated series. So the story is again partially a character memorial to Dan Turpin.
A/N 4: Why Question? I have done much with Batman already and not so much Question. My interest in Question was raised much by seeing Double Date though what really changed the significance of Question Authority was seeing and reading Watchmen.