Now Entering Dakota: Blood Syndicate.
(AfroGamers.com) Between 1993 and 1997, Milestone Comics was the major imprint that addressed the lack of characters of colors in mainstream comics. There were other companies around at the time that tackled this such as Big City Comics with Brother Man but Milestone tends to get the kudos since its a part of DC Comics.
The legendary Christopher Priest–best known for Power Man and Iron Fist, Quantum and Woody, and the late 1990s run of Black Panther–was one of the early players in Milestone before he left during the developing stages. The founders include other comics industry veterans such as Dwayne McDuffie, Denys Cowan, Michael Davis, and Derek T. Dingle.
Milestone Comics had several main titles with the most well known being Static which produced the cartoon Static Shock on WB Kids. The other titles included Icon, Hardware, Shadow Cabinet, Kobalt, and Blood Syndicate. All of these series took place in the Dakotaverse, a universe separate from the main DC universe and based in the city of Dakota.
This brings us to Blood Syndicate. It was one of the grittier titles on the imprint along with the early issues of Hardware. Of the Milestone series, it’s my favorite. People gush over Static and honestly, he was better integrated into the DC universe. Sure a better job could be done but he’s in there. As is Icon for that matter. Hardware and the Blood Syndicate? Not so much.
One reason for that could be that Blood Syndicate is distinctly ‘90s. They came in at a time when there was a ton of gang violence in the U.S. There’s still gang violence but Blood Syndicate would need an extreme makeover, reboot, or something. The team just hasn’t been kept in the loop of the DC universe even with retcons and reboots. They weren’t a priority.
Gang War ‘93
The Blood Syndicate was formed in 1993 as a result of the Big Bang on Parish Island. It’s the same event that resulted in Static getting his powers. He turned out to be one of the fortunate ones as many of the others–who were there for a big gang fight–ended up with horrible mutations.
Paris Island was the home of numerous warring gangs. Taking a zero tolerance approach, Dakota’s Mayor Jefferson orders the police to break it up with this untested tear gas. The tear gas was manufactured by the organization S.Y.S.T.E.M. and included a dangerous compound that resulted in many of the flash mutations.
The sole resulting gang was Blood Syndicate made of survivors of Force Syndicate (Wise Son, Fade, Flashback, Dogg, Third Rail, and the initial leader Tech-9), DMZ, Brickhouse, and the sole survivor of the Paris Island Bloods, Holocaust. There is constant internal conflict as they struggle to stick together while attacking drug houses and fighting S.Y.S.T.E.M. They’re not so much a superhero team as a group of superpowered young folks in a hostile environment.
Battle of the Syndicate
Early on in the series, following a particularly disastrous dope spot raid, Holocaust sets an apartment on fire with his powers. Once back at their base, he challenges Tech-9 for leadership of the gang. Tech-9 is a Latino character who can materialize a vast arsenal of weapons. It’s an odd mutation but definitely useful given their work.
Tech-9 is overpowered by Holocaust’s raw strength and pyrokinesis but manages to eek out a win and force his challenger to submit. Holocaust leaves the gang salty and would become a major crime lord in Dakota proper even recruiting Static for a time. Almost immediately following the fight, Tech-9 begins to melt and dies as a result of either the tear gas or his mutation.
This makes some members of Blood Syndicate concerned about their own mortality. They’re not certain how long they have to live. One member, Flashback–Afro-Latino character with the ability to rewind time three seconds and the sister of Fade–takes to drugs. The new leader, Wise Son–who is invulnerable and has super strength–tells them that before they got their powers their lives were never guaranteed to be long since life on Paris Island is cheap.
With Brickhouse–a character who similar to Ben Grimm, The Thing–recovering memories of her past, their attention turn towards S.Y.S.T.E.M. Through the series’ run other bang babies–survivors of the Big Bang–join and leave Blood Syndicate. They would move from being a street gang to being not exactly superheroes but fighting sinister threats.
The series ran for thirty-four issues but the characters have appeared throughout the Milestone titles. It’s definitely worth picking up if you can find the graphic novels in your public library system, Comixology, or possibly DC Comics’ Marvel Unlimited alternative which launched recently. It’s a title that would be cool to see revived.
Perhaps we’ll see it should the Milestone Comics reboot ever gets off the ground.
Staff Writer; M. Swift
This talented writer is also a podcast host, and comic book fan who loves all things old school. One may also find him on Twitter at; metalswift.