Leonard Nimoy's Primortals
1995 - 1997
# 5 Scorched Earth Part III - Prophesy's End
The refugees become restless. Three ships already tried to land on Earth without permission. Force was applied to hinder them, resulting in a handful of satellites blown to pieces, disrupting communications in North America. Mutations continue to proliferate as the virus changes constantly, with sometimes deadly results.
What bugs the General is that Primaster seems to have lied to them, as apes and rhinoceroses weren't around at the age of the dinosaurs. They had to be taken more recently than the 65 million years ago the Majae claim they last visited the planet. Stewart is given access to a NASA communications dish in hopes of reaching Primaster somehow and Jess grows gills.
Davidson's technicians find their rosetta stone. The aliens learned our languages by watching our TV programs and subtitling it. They think that by reversing the process, they can come up with a dictionary allowing them to understand the rest of what's in the memory banks and listen to communications among the fleet.
The Primortals receive notification that they'll be assigned a new Primaster. Narab, who thinks that Zeerus followers might have had a point after all, is upset by the news. Their Primaster did what he thought was right instead what was Majae law and he thinks they should follow his example. Kafka developed cures for all diseases but they're still forbidden contact with Earth. Since he's the one who came up with them and prone to be implicated anyway if they're transmitted, Kafka sends Narab and Prisar away on a pretense and gets to the task.
When Primaster cured the masses, he attached a DNA molecule specifically designed for each individual. Using the blood of the people he healed transmitted the molecule to those it was not designed for and triggered viral mutations. If they stop transfusions for three days, the molecules will dissolve, putting an end to the horrors.
In San Diego, where the Republicans gather for their national convention, the Human Unity group blows up the convention center, in Washington the White House is bombarded with missiles, and in Boston they shoot at Stewart and Prof. Karagigian.
# 6 Scorched Earth Part IV - Prophesy's End
Russian president Zhirinowsky sends his country's nuclear plants into meltdown and sets fire to oil plants and cities in what he calls a "Scorched Earth" policy. He claims the plagues were planted by the Primortals to conquer Earth without destroying the infrastructure. By wrecking the continent at their own hands he believes the aliens can be forced to come down and fight them if they want the planet.
Kafka's formulas have been processed into a vaccine and cure that is distributed throughout the US. Since paranoia unfortunately cannot be cured, the clinics are attacked by suicide bombers who believe the vaccines are a "plot to infect those not yet dead."
Stewart finds himself in bed with an unlikely ally. His father was abducted by the Human Unity Militia and he has to rely on Davidson and his FBI cohorts for his father's rescue.
On the Majae Prime ship, Primaster finds he's lost status with his peers who openly start to question and contradict his decisions. To them he's turned out a major disappointment as he was thought of as the most genetically perfect specimen of their clan, destined to ascent and spawn their next generation. Since he was allowed to resign his position, they now must assume he's somehow defect. Anything else would ruin their believe system.
After being in crammed quarters for months, the refugees grow restless. Narab feels for them and the news that they'll be assigned a new Primaster darkens his spirits. He fears the worst as a Primaster gets replaced only upon his death.
Primaster is still forbidden contact with his former crew mates and he diagnoses this to be the cause for their unrest. When the Primortals were given intelligence they were made genetically dependent on the Majae as a mechanism for control. Without sustained contact, the genes repressing their animal instincts would turn off. He suggests a Majae be sent to each of the refugee ships to re-establish order. While they examine the behavioral repression molecule, Primaster sees something that shouldn't be there: human DNA.
# 7 Rites
Prisar and Narab go see their prisoner, Zeerus. Prisar wants to understand what motivates him because he feels Zeerus is most dangerous for what he believes. But Zeerus won't talk to him. Narab tells Prisar to go ahead and once alone tells Zeerus to cut the crap, as he's neither noble nor a patriot, just a murderous throwback. Zeerus only reaction to Narab's remark that he deserves any punishment the Majae deem fit is raucous laughter. He expects to be killed. Narab remains steadfast in his believe they have evolved beyond that, but Zeerus scores a point when he reminds him that the Paxus Majae doesn't always apply as it sanctions Narab's killing as a soldier, even as he protests that he only uses force as a last resort to defend against aggressors.
Zeerus argues that Narab was made a soldier by the Majae while evolution made him a predator and he'd known all his life there was more to him he found difficult to suppress. Some of his lust for violence found an outlet in the bloodsports of his people, but even in the arena it was frowned upon by the Majae and met with punishment when one's opponent was killed. As he rose through the political ranks and was educated about his people's history, he heard about his ancestor Garrizun who started what was called the Homeworld Movement. Before, Zeerus knew very little about it, as there was little information available about Garrizun's rebellion due to censure. The avitaurs were the first ever to raise weapons against other Primortals and devastated entire worlds before a Primaster put an end to it.
While being on his way to an official function Zeerus' ship crashed in the wilderness and he was forced to hunt like his distant ancestors and fight for his life when attacked by a wild creature. He found he savored every minute of it, even though he didn't get much satisfaction out of the fight because the wild beast's claws were poisoned and it had shredded his wings. In his fever he had a vision of Garrizun showing him how the Majae deal with someone they cannot control. Zeerus was rescued and soon thereafter assumed the position of governor on the death of his predecessor.
At first, he tells Narab, he behaved like a properly trained slave, doing the Majae's bidding, while at night he met with those discontent like himself. Narab is shocked that Zeerus killed thousands because of a fever hallucination. Where did that get him, Narab challenges, now he's a prisoner. Aren't they all, Zeerus retorts, as long as they let anyone be their masters?
# 8 Ashes of the Past
The Majae forbid contact with Earth. After months of being scooped up on their ships the refugees grow desperate, though. There is also a profound longing to return to their place of origin. The first one to make it through the blockade undetected is a being named Sharra. Her drop ship, obtained on the black market in the fleet, crashes close to Jack Cassady's farm. (see issue #15 Cross Country Part III )
The plagues are under control thanks to Kafka, who's been restricted to his quarters for breaking the radio silence to help humanity. With their leader in custody, the Human Unity group has splintered. Close contact with those that hate his son so much has given Stewart's father a new appreciation for the huge task he's trying to accomplish and he's no longer disavowing him publicly. Davidson isn't happy that his men let Stewart go after debriefing him, as the FBI now has to start looking for him all over again with the situation in Martinsburgh.
Kafka undergoes metamorphosis, something his species has never attempted in space. His friends are upset since he might emerge insane from the transformation or not survive it at all. Prisar thinks he took the risk because he wouldn't be permitted to return to his home nest if he'd be found guilty and subsequently imprisoned for breaking orders.
Asked what fascinates him about Earth so, Primaster states that humans achieved more in the past 100 years alone than the Majae did in the past 5 million years. It feels more alive than anything in his past experience and he feels an obligation to put things right after all the harm their visit caused. The other Majae, not without reason from recent experience, caution him that despite good intentions he might make the situation worse.
On Jake's farm all hell breaks loose when Sharra attacks. Stewart arrives in time to save all but one of the people living there. Sharra had awakened disoriented from unconsciousness in unfamiliar surroundings just as Jake and the others moved her from the ship's wreck into the farm's barn. She tells Stewart she's ill and close to dying and so wanted to see their ancestor's birthworld for herself and that she's deeply sorry for hurting and killing the people trying to help. Stewart locates the place Sharra tried to reach on the map only to discover that today it lies on the bottom of the ocean. Both are saved the disappointment from delivering the news as Sharra dies before Stewart can tell her that her ancestors' lands were out of reach.
Davidson and his men in black show up right then and there to take the body with them for research. Stewart, guessing what's going to happen, grabs a can of gas, intent on cremating her remains. He thinks she deserves a decent death, if nothing else. Davidson threatens to shoot him but Stewart gets him by insinuating that in this case he won't find the ship she came in.
Big Entertainment had big names, big money, and big plans for the future of Tekno. Founded by the people who co-founded the Sci-Fi Channel, Mitchell Rubenstein and Laurie Silvers, the company aimed to go up against the big players in the business, Marvel and DC. Their plan was to start with comics and then branch out into other media with deals perfect with Disney/MGM and IBM, hoping to add feature films, books, CD-Roms and online content based on their comic book characters to their stock. "If you put these things under Leonard Nimoy's name or Gene Roddenberry's and so forth," Rubenstein said in an interview with CVM in 1994, "they would travel to all these other media on their own." Had the Primortals become hugely successful, Leonard Nimoy would have been the first choice to direct the movie. But, while Nimoy's and other celebrity's names shine on the comic's covers, their influence was contractually limited from the start, as Big Entertainment reserved their right to develop the product as they saw fit.
Although he is understanding of the needs of creators, Big Entertainment will not be a creator-owned company. Rubenstein insists that this will be better for everyone involved.
"The characters are created by the creators," Rubenstein elaborated. "Big Entertainment owns the rights to the characters. This is needed in order to control the ultimate licensing and merchandising in the various media. The creators receive royalties from that but we own and control it. (...) They are also doing it this way because they have limited, ongoing creative input. their names are being used, their initial storylines are being used, they help promote it, but basically we now have to execute it." (...) "If it works, everyone is going to make a lot of money and we expect that it will work."
Hopes flew high, but by the time Cross Country: World in Flames was out, Tekno was a failed experiment and it's lineup was incorporated into Big Entertainment's fold. The Primortals would see nine more issues under Big's heading, a CD-ROM and a novelization before they were gone and forgotten.
Reading the comics in their entirety now for the first time, I find I regret they didn't continue, as the characters and their quandaries grew on me, as did the plot that had human nature turn something good in intent into a horrible plague because we are what we are. There seem to be no right decisions to make, all turn out to have consequences. It is probably this feature that really distinguishes the Primortals comic book series from other fare dealing in heroics. (1) The tone gets darker from the first few issues with its stock heroes in shining armor with overly defined musculature and noble character without turning completely to the apocalyptic. There's strife and struggle and enough of hope left that perhaps the voice of reason might find a way one day to penetrate fear and self-interest to keep the story interesting. Even the female characters got bearable and a little varied over time, as someone appears to have managed to partially pry the writers and artists away from modeling them after 1950's movies and Playboy pin-ups. A real surprise was finding the blog of James Vance who wrote about how the Primortals differed from what his late wife, who scripted issue #1, had originally envisioned for them. "[T]he whole idiotic depressing package" he called those "Guys with animal heads…superheroes in clever chrome disguise". It's close to what I sat down and wrote to Techno about, my disappointment in doing the same beef-cake superhero routine all over again. Every medium has it's rules and Tekno seems to have applied the formula thought to make the product sellable in the mass market. Would the Primortals have been more of a success if their physical design had been different? Who knows. Visually the comics appear geared to the boys from "The Big Bang Theory" and for one not part of the target audience, that might present an obstacle to getting into the gist of the story and finding out that some serious thought went into crafting it's central moral dilemma. This is what happened to me and, back in 1995, I found the first four issues offending my expectations and my intellect enough to not continue reading the comics. In this case an apology for judging the book by it's cover, and not trusting the man in bold letters on it with a sensible plot, is well in order.
(1) Primortals is about ideas, but the packaging at first glance suggests otherwise, loosing another part of the potential audience that were not repelled but roped in by the "superheroes in clever chrome disguise", as this review suggests:
"I hesitate to sum it up this way, but imagine if Transformers wasn’t about cool transforming robots and was, instead, about humanoid animals evolved from creatures taken from Earth prior to that meteor that killed the dinosaurs. Now, imagine that Optimus Prime was a pacifist that did everything to avoid violence? And that the humans, instead of being mechanics, were the people at SETI, searching for proof of extraterrestrial life. And imagine all of the cool parts of Transformers were also muted under horrible dialogue and scenes that lack any sense of drama, clearly acting as means to move characters from one point to another.
Far be it for me to jump on a character for choosing peace, but, I bought this comic in 1995 because Primaster looks badass on that cover. Instead, he’s a whiny leader afraid that someone will get a papercut, which results in the bad guys escaping and taking hostages — the head bad guy heading towards Earth. Optimus Prime wouldn’t have put up with that shit."