Black Summer

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Black Summer
Publication information
Publisher Avatar Press
Schedule Monthly
Format Limited series
Publication date May 2007 – July 2008
Number of issues 8
Creative team
Writer(s) Warren Ellis
Artist(s) Juan Jose Ryp
Colorist(s) Mark Sweeney
Editor(s) William A. Christensen
Collected editions
Hardcover ISBN 1-59291-053-X
Softcover ISBN 1592910521

Black Summer is a comic book limited series written by Warren Ellis, illustrated by Juan Jose Ryp, and published by Avatar Press starting in June 2007.

The plot revolves around the consequences of a superhero, John Horus, who kills the President of the United States and several of his advisers.[1] The following seven issues detail the aftermath of the assassination.[2]

Plot synopsis[edit]

The limited series alternates between flashbacks detailing the origin of a superhero team called The Seven Guns, and the present day, where one of their members kills the President of the United States. The Seven Guns are "an association of politically-aware young scientist-inventors" (according to creator Warren Ellis), who create their own superhuman enhancements through extreme body modification experiments supervised by Tom Noir and Frank Blacksmith. Noir is the brains of the team, but by far the most powerful member is John Horus, whose enhancements make him, for all intents and purposes, "unbeatable" "an entirely different class of human being, in fact". Their first public mission had been to free an unspecified West Coast city from a corrupt police force and the criminal city government backing it. Over time, they had gained the public trust. At some point, as yet unknown, Frank Blacksmith had faked his own death so he could start working for the Central Intelligence Agency. He had decided The Seven Guns were dangerous, especially Tom Noir, but a car bomb attack meant to kill Noir had killed his teammate and lover "Laura Torch" instead, costing Tom only his partner and one of his legs. Tom has retired from superheroics and fallen into a life of heavy drink and chain-smoking. Many of his remaining teammates suspect each other of having gone mad with power. Meanwhile, the CIA has secretly continued to experiment with Frank's human enhancement techniques, creating their own super soldiers meant to be more advanced than The Seven Guns (other than Horus, who has managed to keep the science behind his enhancements an impenetrable secret, even for the government and his team mates).

The Seven Guns[edit]

The Seven Guns are posthumans describing themselves as an "extralegal civic defense team," originally united against private security firms and organised criminals dominating their city. Their abilities are somewhat vague, but they appear to have access to a private wireless communication spectrum and network, and an enhanced nervous system. They also each possess a weapon known as a gun, with additional capabilities.

In the present day of the series, relations between the various team members are strained due to divergent political beliefs and other reasons, in spite of shared interests in futurism and body modification.

Issue 0[edit]

In the first published issue (#0), Tom Noir's solitude is shattered when John Horus assassinates the President of the United States. John goes on Television and claims that he did this because he had evidence about criminal actions performed by the president. The litany of charges he describes against the unnamed president are comparable to those claimed by critics of former US president George W. Bush, including: electoral fraud, violating the Geneva Conventions with a recently admitted planned course for torture, the Pentagon's use of retired generals in the employ of defence contractors to sell the American public false reasons for war with Iraq, prior knowledge of the 11 Sep attacks, and leading the United States into an unnecessary war in Iraq to further the interests of oil conglomerates. He says that he did this to save the country from those who he believed were criminals only he could stop.

Issue 1[edit]

As soon as this happens, martial law is declared across the country. Frank Blacksmith comes out of hiding to try to kill The Seven Guns, beginning with Tom Noir. This first attempt is unsuccessful, and brings Noir out of retirement.

Issue 2[edit]

The remaining members of the team – besides Horus – confer electronically and attempt to figure out what to do to stay alive, now that the government is after them. Despite mutual attempts to distance themselves from Horus and his actions, the government is firmly against all of the Guns – a situation exacerbated by certain Guns taking violent action against US troops in what some of them consider to be self-defense, while fleeing to meet up at one of their bases. Once there they argue furiously about tactics and principles. Tom fights with team strongman Dominic who had tried to publicly negotiate a peace between the team and authorities.

Issue 3[edit]

The Guns turn out not to be meeting in an, in fact abandoned, team base which is attacked by the US military; but the attack spurs them into action. Dominic fits Tom Noir with a prosthetic limb and asks Tom about the location of Laura's old gun, commenting "that thing even scared me." Tom refuses to say, and pretends his enhancements are not working but once left alone dons his costume and, employing powers revealed to be "99.3% operational," hooks into media and military networks with his mind, getting a situation overview and locking John Horus out of the Seven Guns database. Finding his way out of the base, he surrenders to a US Military tank which is just approaching, and which, before team speedster Zoe Jump can reach Tom to save him, fires on him, leaving only his gun visible in the rubble. Emerging, the team goes into a killing rage, with Dominic in the lead: they will kill as many of the "little people" as they have to, and then they're going to "kill John."

Issue 4[edit]

The remaining Guns complete, unharmed, a devastatingly lethal attack on the military, massacring countless soldiers and destroying much of their own home city in the process. High in the atmosphere, John Horus survives a fighter jet squadron, a nuclear missile attack, and the broadcast footage of his friend Tom's demise. Americans rush to flee the country as John considers "mak[ing] a chunk of this country go away" to bring it around to his point of view. Frank Blacksmith is given approval to unleash his covert "Tactical Stream" of super soldiers.

Issue 5[edit]

The remaining Guns decide to visit one of their old bases to re-arm, only to find Frank Blacksmith's Tactical Stream waiting for them. Meanwhile, at an emergency military base elsewhere in the Guns' home city, the general of the massacred troops denounces the government response to the crisis, both too little and too much, likening it to the prosecution of the two US wars with Iraq. His colonel reports evidence that when it fired, Tom had already taken remote control of the tank which killed him, controlling it so as to frame the government for what was, in fact, a suicide. John arrives cataclysmically at their base, announcing "take me to your leader."

Issue 6[edit]

The battle between the remaining Four Guns and Frank Blacksmith's Tactical Stream is underway. One of them strikes down Dom and kills him, saying "Frank Blacksmith says hello, you piece of shit". Meanwhile, John starts razing the base but the general stands down his troops in order both to save their lives and to get John talking. He convinces John that Tom had died by suicide and not at the hands of his troops. He and his troops are then killed in a massive surprise Tactical Stream attack on John which destroys even more of the city. Zoe, Kathryn and Angela have managed to dispose of their assailants and witness the mushroom cloud explosion of the attack on John.

Issue 7[edit]

John Horus fends off his attackers despite the loss of several of his "eyes". The three women of the team interrupt them, telling both John and the Tactical Stream that they're banished from the city when done fighting. They then resolve to stay out of any further conflict but devote themselves to saving the lives of survivors in the largely ruined city. John eliminates the remainder his attackers and leaves to find Blacksmith at Laura Tarrant's grave, which has been disturbed. They argue over which of them disturbed it and over which is the true hero before Tom Noir reveals himself, alive and well ("I'm not as fast as Zoe, but I'm still pretty fast") taking both men to task for "fucking it up" and ruining the original dream of the Seven Guns. He reveals that he dug up Laura's grave for her gun and activates a failsafe which he had included in it at Laura's request, killing them all in a massive blast. As the smoke clears a prerecorded message, one which Tom Noir had set to broadcast while waiting for the meeting ("waiting here to kill my oldest friend"), airs over every radio in the country, giving Tom's version of events, exonerating (as much as possible) the surviving Guns and promising, as the book ends, to elaborate on Frank Blacksmith's story and give comprehensive evidence of unspecified "war crimes committed by our government." Before proceeding with these, Tom closes the book out with his explanation that John had to be killed "because he cared too much about saving the day."

Main characters[edit]

Kathryn Artemis[edit]

Before her enhancements, Kathryn was a world-class athlete and marksman. She customised her enhancements by incorporating her motorcycle into the transformation, becoming an armoured motorcyclist. Unlike the other members, her background was in history rather than science, and she felt no qualms about killing criminals. Her Gun appears capable of firing scattered bursts that destroy multiple targets. Her keyword, Miyamoto, is the Japanese surname of Miyamoto Musashi.

John Horus[edit]

The most well known and publicly active member of the Seven Guns, Horus is also the most powerful. Until he killed the president and everyone in the Oval Office, he was the most publicly trusted member of the team, and was often a guest of the President. John benefits from the enhancements pioneered by the other Guns: Blacksmith's offensive gun, Angela's flight system, and Tom Noir's baseline augmentations. John's personal contribution was a customisation of his Gun. Instead of a handgun-shaped weapon attachment, his Gun is a swarm of eye-shaped floating devices that function as an offensive and defensive weapons platform, making him virtually invincible. The eyes have shown the capacity to withstand several nuclear payloads, and Tom Noir says that Horus "could build cities out of mud" with his enhancements. He dresses in white clothes that resemble an officer's outfit from the US Civil War, but with Masonic symbols, or Eye of Ra sigils. He also carries on an Ellis trademark, a reluctant hero who wears all white (see Jenny Sparks and Elijah Snow). Keyword unknown.

Dominic Atlas Hyde[edit]

The muscle of the team. At the time of the events of the series, Dominic has assumed the duties of mechanic, maintaining the team's equipment. Dominic possesses various implants allowing him to remotely control the team's computer equipment in addition to the baseline augmentations. When activated, his enhancements utilise "smart fullerene" to cover his body in massive black body armour and artificial muscle mass. His keyword, Herakles, refers to the legendary demigod.

Zoe Jump[edit]

Zoe uses the Millis Bias Field to distort physical laws, giving her superhuman speed. Zoe theorised that if she could mentally encompass, in one instant, the complex mathematical equations describing such a Field, she could project such a field around herself. With help from Tom Noir, she created and installed cybernetic eye implants to project the information onto her field of vision. She is able to extend the field around herself to a limited degree, so that a single person running in tandem with her can achieve the same speed. Zoe shows serious misgivings regarding the use of lethal force.

Tom Noir[edit]

Real Name: Tom Watson. Considered the "brains" of the Seven Guns, Tom Noir helped theorise the Gun technology that would empower the group. He worked closely with Frank Blacksmith to develop the Guns. Tom's Gun enhancements include a "supercortex" that allows him to perceive and process all available information streams, including decryption, and very precise ultrasound imaging technology. He is able to see directly into any target with surgical precision through outer layers of clothing, weapons, devices, as well as bones and internal organs. This vision also allows him to find vital points and weaknesses. His Gun is named Inquiry, and fires surgical tungsten rounds that can penetrate a tank. Tom also covers his right arm in some kind of techno-organic looking armour while fighting the government assassin sent to kill him. Keyword: Bakerstreet. The keyword is an allusion to Sherlock Holmes, the fictional "Great Detective" whose (real life) address is 221b Baker Street, London. His Gun, Inquiry, also follows in this motif, alluding to Holmes's inquisitive mind, and fitting of Watson's role as the "brains" of the group.

More than a year ago, Tom lost part of his left leg below the knee in the explosion that killed Laura Tarrant. After her death, Tom quit the group and became an alcoholic shut-in, living in a squalid apartment and drinking himself to death. Despite this, he was targeted first for termination after Horus' execution of the President. Frank Blacksmith believes that his genius-level intellect, which helped create the Gun technology Blacksmith now uses to empower his government agents, makes him, out of all his teammates, the most dangerous potential asset for John Horus.

Angel One[edit]

Angel One, real name Angela, can levitate and 'fly' by superconductor based magnetic levitation using systems surgically implanted in her legs, and possibly other parts of her torso. The effect works better in highly metallic environments, so better in urban areas than rural or wilderness. A Keyword, Daedalus, which refers to the Greek myth of Daedalus the inventor who constructed, among other things, wings of wood and wax to escape imprisonment on Crete with his son Icarus (who die, flying to close of the sun, melting the wax of his wings).

Laura Torch[edit]

In civilian life, her name was Laura Tarrant. Although deceased by the time of the story's events, Laura has played a pivotal role in the current state of the team. A caring and compassionate person, she had worried that the power which the group wielded would one day be misused, and had asked her boyfriend, Tom Noir, to make sure her gun never fell into the wrong hands, and also to make it powerful enough to destroy her and her teammates if needed for the general good. Laura was killed by the same car bomb that destroyed Tom's leg, driving Tom to leave the team and hit the bottle. Unlike the other team members Laura does not appear even in flashbacks, and there is no description of her enhancements, save that early in the story Dominic mentions that the sheer power of her gun, which Noir has in fact hidden in her grave, scares even him. Her Gun reappears in the story's climax, functioning in the story as a Chekov's gun, and "Laura" is Noir's last word before activating it to kill himself, John Horus, and Frank Blacksmith. Her keyword is never revealed.

Supporting characters[edit]

Frank Blacksmith[edit]

Mentor to the Seven Guns and designer of the external gun attachment that the group utilised in their crime-fighting. The team witnessed Frank's apparent death at the hands of crooked cops years earlier. However, John Horus' actions have brought Frank out of hiding. Struck by the danger the team could pose, he had faked his own death to work on countermeasures for the government. He is convinced he is saving the world from them. In the intervening years, he has improved upon the technology within the Seven Guns and assembled both operational and covert-ops tactical teams of new model gun soldiers, the latter in secret. Assigning a soldier to kill Tom, he comes along personally to apologise for the necessity of the killing, and for the unintended murder, during an earlier attempted hit on Tom, of Laura Tarrant for whom Frank had felt sincere fondness.

Collected editions[edit]

The series has been collected into softcover and hardcover volumes:

Film adaptation[edit]

The series has been optioned by Vigilante Entertainment, a newly created organisation started by Hicham Benkirane, who had previously developed comic books for other media at Les Humanoïdes Associés.[3]



External links[edit]