|Number of the Beast|
Cover of the first issue
|Publication date||June - September, 2008|
|Number of issues||8|
|Number of the Beast||ISBN 1-4012-1999-3|
As well as regular Wildstorm characters the series introduced a new team, The Paladins, comprising:
- Aeronaut, a jetpack-user and womanizer.
- Black Anvil, an Afro-American former football-player made of living iron. Considered indestructible.
- Engine Joe, real name Joseph Rotkowski, is a cyborg made from car parts. He is a friend of Mago and Tumbleweed.
- Thrush, an analogue to DC Comics' Hawkgirl.
- Falconette, daughter-sidekick of Thrush.
- Mago, a magician. Gained magical knowledge by 'renting his soul' to various occult powers.
- Midnight Rider, a female motorcycle-riding urban vigilante. She is a lesbian, and an analogue of the Midnighter.
- Neandra, a vigilante who acts like a cavewoman.
- Redeemer, evidently millennia old and eternally young, the leader of the Paladins.
- Tumbleweed, a former US Army lieutenant, turned into a being made of desert flora by radiation testing from the Trinity Site.
- The High, the main antagonist from Warren Ellis' "Change or Die" arc of Stormwatch, was revived for the series.
|This section's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (March 2012)|
The story chronologically happened that in 1945, General Zebulon McCandless, a very pious and dogmatic person, oversaw the American recovery of a crashed daemonite Flying saucer in Nevada's Black Rock Desert. The recovery of the saucer was deliberately buried where it was and turned into a bunker facility. McCandless looked upon the saucer's teleportation, virtual reality and suspended animation technology, and an impossible idea occurred to him. He began drafting a plan to capture this era's heroes and villains, in which some contributed their services in World War II, and train them to fight off the End of Days under the "Number of the Beast" program. McCandless have America's hero team, the Paladins who also known the general very well, sent to observe the Hiroshima bombing, but were teleported into the facility built around the saucer, known as Number of the Beast Bunker #1 (NOTB #1). Eventually the Paladin's allies and enemies were similarly captured and placed in suspended animation, without ever aging, for more than sixty years, in which the Paladins protected "the City" (the name of the simulation) from the portents of Christian eschatology.
By 2008, this all changed when the remains of The High, who was actually alive since colliding with Skywatch due to his self-generating cells, was transported into the NOTB bunker and placed into the simulation. It is during this simulation that the Paladins and their enemies, the Crime Corps, endure the End of Times and have encountered The High's former ally, the Eidolon, a former member of the High's Changers who was also placed into the simulation, had tried and failed to tell the simulation's prisoners of their unbeknown imprisonment. After entering into the simulation, The High encountered his then wounded archenemy Doctor Sin. After helping Dr. Sin and remembering his death during the events of "Change or Die" and his past encounter with Sin, The High 'kills' Dr. Sin and knew that there is something wrong in which he tried to leave The City and realized his situation from The Eidolon. After being 'kill' by The Eidolon, The High wakes up from the simulation with his body fully healed and formed.
The High forced his way out and confronted the bunker's wardens. However, Dr. Sin, who was also awake from suspension and fully armed, blast The High into unconsciousness. At the same time in Washington D.C., the Joint Chiefs headed by General William Somerset, the current overseer of the NOTB Program, were previously alerted to the happening in the NOTB bunker and had sent a special strike team to sort the situation. When the strike team arrived at the bunker, Dr. Sin had The High placed back into the simulation along with a single warden, Sergeant Stringer. Alerted of the strike team's arrival, Dr. Sin killed the team with the bunker's defense system, leaving only the team's leader Lieutenant Welles to survive and enter the bunker.
In the NOTB simulation, The High met and tells two heroes, Johnny Ray-Gun and speedster Hotfoot of their imprisonment with support from Sgt. Stringer, who then reveals to The High that the only way to be free from the simulation was for the prisoners to be 'kill' or 'die'. In the real world, Dr. Sin plans on escaping from the bunker and have fake his death by bringing one of the Paladins, Aeronaut who bears a strong facial resemblance to the villain, in his place and killed by Lt. Welles. In the simulation, The High brought Hotfoot and Johnny Ray-Gun to the Paladins' headquarters where he subsequently 'killed' and freed the said team after they were tricked by The Eidolon's amusement into believing that The High was the "Antichrist" who was responsible for the events of Armageddon. After killing the Paladins and leaving only Hotfoot the only one alive, The High is then contacted by Welles who states to him that she will end the lives of everyone inside the simulation as per order from the American government. Before 'killing' Hotfoot, The High tells him to find Welles as fast as he can once he is awake, while he tries to reason with her. Hotfoot immediately searches through the bunker and finally stops Welles from initializing the 'kill button' by vibro-phasing his hand through her head, inducing brain damage. After this The High then proceeded to destroy the simulation and everyone in it by speeding down into the city from the sky, causing a nuclear explosion.
Once awakening in the real world, many of the awakened heroes and villains are confused of what has happened in which at first few of the Paladins believed that it is still The High's fault until he is awakened and clearly informed them, with coercion from an awakened Sgt. Stringer, of their sixty-year long term imprisonment much to everyone's shock. After the prisoners recovered their belongings and costumes and regroup with Engine Joe, who reports that he saw Dr. Sin having already escape from the bunker, The High questioned Stringer as to why they, the government, kept their belongings. Stringer state that the military have been expecting on using the heroes and villains as "military assets" if a major threat ever happens. The prisoners then leave the bunker. The High decides to find more answers and flies to the rebuilt StormWatch satellite base Skywatch III where he settles a truce between him and Jackson King.
The High and King mentally explore The High's mind to learn what has happened to him after he was supposedly killed from crashing into Skywatch I and why he was placed in the NOTB program. It is revealed that The High's remains were gathered by the American government and used his cells to clone super soldiers. Initially the early clones of The High were "unsuccessful", and eventually the American military succeed in mass-creating imperfect High clones, and weaponized them as superpowered payloads known as the "Reaper Ballistic Missile Arsenal", shorten as Reapers. And after this, The High's remain were purposely contained in the NOTB program as nuclear waste. At this moment The High sensed that the Reapers are being launched by the Pentagon at the order of General Somerset to kill the NOTB's prisoners.
The Authority were first to arrive at the NOTB bunker after having scanned the superhumans' presence and came into a misunderstanding battle with the Paladins who mistaken The Authority as government assassins.
The High immediately speeds away from Skywatch towards the airborne clones in an attempt to destroy the Reapers, but realized from a telepathic communication with Jackson King that the only way to stop all of his clones is by finding the "shooter". As the fight between The Authority and the NOTB's prisoners continues, Authority members, Jenny Quarx and the Doctor learned of the Reapers and have everyone teleported back to the Authority's The Carrier residing in The Bleed just before they arrive. However, the Reapers managed to reach to the Carrier by having one of the Reapers turn into a dimensional gateway. A battle ensues between the Reapers, The Authority, and the Paladins in which one of the Reapers breached into the Carrier's engine core and causing its miniature universe on the brink of destroying the universe. This forces Jenny Quarx to shunt the miniature into her body in saving the universe right before kissing the Doctor goodbye. As a result the Carrier "dies" and crashes into London, England. Despite the efforts of the Doctor from preventing the Carrier's crash landing, he teleports away the Reapers and the Paladins across the globe from causing any further damages to the vessel, but allowing the Reapers to bring their destruction across the world.
The High arrive at the Pentagon where he confronted General Somerset and demanded him to stop the Reapers. Unfortunately, Somerset explains to him that the Reapers are totally compromised from their original programming and are out of their control due from entering into the realm of The Bleed and posing a threat to the world. Once learning albeit from Somerset that he could do nothing to stop the Reapers, he is approach by Slyxx, a Daemonite scientist who was the sole survivor of the crash in 1945 and giving "amenity" in working with the Americans in the NOTB program, implicitly informs him that the Reapers are programmed to kill and destroy all posthumans, and that if they couldn't kill them all then they will "take them all with [them]". Having heard enough of the Daemonite's information and swearing to Somerset that he and the others involved in the Number of the Beast program will pay for their crimes, The High leaves to fight his clones as they are prepared to destroy the world. Somerset tries to rally his people of the situation but find them murdered by Slyxx, who then informs the general that he had just contact his (Daemonite) high-command with the words, "mission accomplished."
In space StormWatch witnessed the Reapers encircling the Earth and one of the clones is attacked by The High (in the process shattering Earth's Moon). Despite this The High is too late in saving the Earth as the Reapers explodes and causing to tilting Earth's axis and turning the planet into a post-apocalyptic wasteland (the World's End).
Following this great catastrophe, the superhero teams Stormwatch and the Wildcats prepare to save what is left of their devastated world. In Iowa, Paladin members Engine Joe, Mago, and Tumbleweed traces the retired Zebulon McCandless informing him that he and those involved with the Number of the Beast will be held accountable for the world's devastation. Meanwhile, The High watches a burning New York City engulf by the sea from on top of the Statue of Liberty. He is then met by The Eidolon which the two talk. High ponders if his actions with the Changers actually brought the World's End from the beginning. The Eidolon alludes that despite the Earth's doomed condition, its heroes and villains will still continue to influence the world. The miniseries ends with The High, after hearing enough of The Eidolon, throws him across the horizon.
The series was brought together into a trade paperback:
- Number of the Beast (192 pages, September 2008, ISBN 1-4012-1999-3)
- NYCC '08: LIVING IN THE RUINS: WS Editor Ben Abernathy on 'Worlds End', Newsarama, April 19, 2008
- Days of the Beast I: Aeronaut, Newsarama, March 26, 2008
- Days of the Beast II: Black Anvil, Newsarama
- Days of the Beast III: Engine Joe, Newsarama
- Days of the Beast IV: Thrush, Newsarama
- Days of the Beast V: Falconette, Newsarama
- Days of the Beast VI: Mago, Newsarama
- Days of the Beast VII: Midnight Rider, Newsarama
- Number of the Beast at the Comic Book DB
- Ben Abernathy on Wildstorm's: Number of the Beast , Newsarama, January 22, 2008
- Scott Beatty: Exploring The Wildstorm Universe, Newsarama, February 13, 2008