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Sunday, 26 February 2017

World History: The Mongols

Mongol Invasion of China
The Mongols have gone down in history as being some of the most fearsome warriors in history building an empire built on fire, blood, and destruction. Incidentally they have also become strangely admired as free nomads with John Wayne in 1956 starring in a movie around Genghis Khan called The Conqueror (incidentally Wayne played Genghis himself). How true is the view that the Mongol Empire was built by savage barbarians raping and murdering their way through Eurasia? Before we look at the Mongols we must first look at the world before the Mongols came onto the scene.

The Pre-Mongol World
Hsiung-nu depicted in the 14th Century
Prior to the rise of the Mongol Empire in what is now Mongolia nomadic herders migrated seasonally around an area of 100 miles. Nomadic herders sent their herds around this area following the seasons and grasses. However, the Mongols were not the first nomadic peoples to raid outside Mongolia. One such group was the Hsiung-nu who would later attack the Roman Empire under the name of the Hun. Mongolian society, according the Owen Lattimore, divided the clans (oboq) into ruling and subordinate clans where subordinated clans were under the protection of the ruling ones. To the south China was divided into three states: the Jin Empire in the North, the Sung Empire in the South, and the Hsi-Hsia in the North-West who were Tanguts from Tibet according to Chinese sources. In Persia a dynasty under 'Ala al-Din Muhammad II was expanding the Khwarazmian Empire. In Europe and the Middle East the Crusades were under way (please see here). In 1162 Temujin was born to Yesugei, leader of the Borjigin clan, but we know little of his early life due to the lack of written sources. According to The Secret History of the Mongols Yesugei was poisoned by Tatars when Temujin was nine. Within the first twenty years of his life he had seen corruption, alliances, hidden dealings, and was briefly captured by his father's enemies. When his father died his mother taught him and upheld the marriage contract with Börte. Women in Mongol society had more rights compared to their counterparts in China and Eurasia. After Börte was captured Temujin won notoriety by defeating his enemies. There began a process of unifying the tribes where he won support among the poorer and weaker clans by implementing a meritocracy in his leadership. By 1206 he had managed to unite or subdue the various warring tribes. He called a Khuruldai (council) to determine if he should be called 'the Great Khan' and those who supported him would go to show their support for him. After getting enough votes Temujin was granted the title 'Great Khan' and was henceforth called Chinggis or Genghis Khan.

Empire under Genghis
Genghis Khan
Conquests. The Mongol conquest began in 1209 when Genghis attacked the Hsi-Hsia and to the benefit of the Mongols the Jin refused to help the smaller kingdom. In the field the Mongols managed to defeat the Hsi-Hsia forces but being nomads they had no siege engines. As a result the Mongols had to resort to luring at fortress garrisons by feigning retreat. In 1210 they managed to subjugate the Hsi-Hsia, (although over ten years later they would return to permanently break them). After defeating the Hsi-Hsia they turned their attention to the Jin who had for generations been overlords of the Mongols. In 1211 the conquest of the Jin began and would end in 1234. The Jin sent a messenger to the Mongol forces who then defected and told the Mongols that the Jin army was waiting for them. During the invasion of the Jin the Mongols would massacre towns and cities which did not surrender, and then brought in Han Chinese soldiers and experts to help them. Despite the stereotype the Mongols would not ruthlessly massacre populations. They would offer them a chance to surrender and if they didn't they would massacre everyone. This would work out in the Mongol's favor as the fear of the massacres helped encourage settlements to surrender. In 1211 a deposed enemy of Genghis called Kuchlug usurped the throne of the Qara Khitai in Central Asia and began a war against the Khwarazmian Empire. Genghis's general Jebe was sent to conquer the region and in 1218 Qara Khitai fell. Wanting the benefits of the Silk Road (see here) a caravan was sent to the Khwarazmian Empire but was massacred leading to the Mongol invasion in 1219. The mobile Mongol forces spread the Khwarazmian army thin causing the Khwarazmian forces being slaughtered. The Muslim population saw this a punishment from God and Genghis reiterated this after conquering Bukhara announcing:
O people, know that you have committed great sins, and that the great ones among you have committed these sins. If you ask me what proof I have for these words, I say it is because I am the punishment of God. If you had not committed great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you.
Muhammad II fled from the Mongol conquests to an island in the Caspian Sea where he died from dysentery in 1220/1, and his son Jala al-Din was forced into exile in India after being defeated at the Indus River in 1221. After the defeat of the Khwarazmians Genghis returned to Mongolia to put down a rebellion several generals were sent west into the Caucasus and Russia. With a contingent of 20,000 the Mongols destroyed the Kingdom of Georgia, sacked a Genoese trade-fortress in Crimea, and attacked the Kievan Rus. At the Battle of Kalka River in 1223 the Mongols defeated a Kievan force which greatly outnumbered the Mongol forces, although they may have been defeated by the Volga Bulgars at the Battle of Samara Bend (it is not known if they were or not). When the Russians surrendered six princes were crushed to death as Genghis's general Subutai ate. When Genghis died in 1227 of a nosebleed in his sleep the Mongol Empire ruled from Kiev in modern Ukraine east China.

Administration and Trade. A big reason why empires fall is that they cannot administer the territory that they've conquered. Unlike later empires, like the British and French, or even earlier empires, like the Roman, conquered peoples were readily brought into the administration and military. For example, Chinese soldiers were used as garrisons and infantry after the conquest of China ended, and Chinese experts were used. Thanks to Chinese experts the Mongols managed to adapt siege equipment and gunpowder, (possibly introducing gunpowder to Europe). Using the Silk Trade domestic and international trade was widely encourage, and the Uyghur script was adopted to help necessitate administration (and trade). The Mongols ruled an area covering 36,200,000 square kilometers, (14 million square miles), so an attempt to divide the empire into easier to rule segments was implemented. In 1206 everyone was placed in units of a thousand (mingan) for military and taxation purposes (which the clergy and poor were exempted from). Although in areas like China and Persia existing administrations were kept in place and re-appropriated for Mongol use. Law was enforced in the Mongol Empire with the kidnap of women being made illegal, and banditry being rigorously suppressed. It was said that one could walk across the Silk Road wearing gold and not be afraid of being attacked. With this came an efficient postal service creating one of the greatest postal services until the rise of industrialized societies.
Mongol Units
Military. In The Secret History of the Mongols (1227) the army was put at 105,000 although chroniclers outside the empire, such as Juzjani, often put this figure as being far higher. Juzjani stated that during the invasion of Khwarazm the army was between 700-800,000. Like with mingan the army was divided along jaghun (hundreds) and arban (tens). The keshik was also created which was a bodyguard. They became a training ground for generals and governors. Mongol tactics could be especially brutal. Some sources state that plague ridden bodies were catapulted over the walls of fortresses in Crimea, although this is debatable. Rape was prevalent. In 1253 Franciscan friar William of Rubruck estimated that Genghis Khan's descendants numbered 20,000 and today around 16 million people are descended from Genghis.

The Mongols were originally Tengrist, a shamanistic and animist religion, which was a rather tolerant religion. Edward Gibbon, author of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, said:
The Catholic Inquisition of Europe who defended nonsense by cruelty, might have been confounded by the example of a barbarian, who anticipated the lessons of philosophy and established by his laws a system of pure theism and perfect toleration.
Genghis and his descendants were tolerant of various religions and often consulted Buddhists, Christians, Taoists, and Muslims. One Taoist sage was Ch'ang Ch'un who became a major adviser for Genghis after he asked the sage about immortality, and he would later give his Taoist sect privileges. However, this tolerance should not be overstated. Genghis referred to Jews and Muslims as 'slaves' as well as forbidding Halal and Kosher slaughter. He also banned circumcision among Jews. Religious leaders were exempted from taxes, and, Genghis's successor, Ögedei, built shrines for several religions in the new capital of Khartoum. Successor states of the khanate adopted local religions. The Yuan Dynasty in China adopted Buddhism as the Golden Horde and Ilkhanate adopted Islam.

Successor States
When Genghis died in 1227 he split the khanate among his sons and grandsons. His second eldest son, Ögedei, inherited the Empire of the Great Khan which comprised East Asia and China. His youngest son inherited the Mongol homeland. Chagatai Khan, the third son, inherited Central Asia and the Middle East. Finally the sons of his eldest son, who died before Genghis, inherited the Blue and White Hordes in Russia which later merged to form the Golden Horde. Now we will look at the Mongols in the Middle East and China.

Middle East
1258 Siege of Baghdad
In 1251 Möngke Khan became the fourth Great Khan after seizing the khanate for himself. In 1252 he organised a council to plan the next conquest, which would be the Middle East. The Islamic judge of Qazwin begged Möngke for aid claiming that his citizens were under attack from Isma'ili Assassins (the same ones from Assassins Creed). He sent his brother, Hulegu, to end the Isma'ili Assassins and either have the 'Abbasid Caliphate submit or have them destroyed. The caliph refused to submit. In 1257 the Mongols destroyed the Assassins' base disbanding the order and the next year they attacked Baghdad. The caliph was wrapped in a carpet and dragged behind Mongol horses until he died (it was seen as a calamity to shed a holy person's blood) and destroyed the city. The House of Wisdom containing some of the greatest Isma'ili and Islamic texts were lost as the building was burnt to the ground. Baghdad had been one of the greatest cities in the world, comparable to Constantinople, Rome or Beijing, and it would not become a wealthy city again until the 1920s. Hulagu would found the Ilkhanate where he even tried to orchestrate a Franco-Mongol alliance. However, here the Mongol Empire showed signs of decline. As he was about to attack the Mamluks in Egypt he warred with the Golden Horde who wanted retribution for his murder of the caliph. In 1260 the Mamluks defeated the Ilkhanate in Syria at the Battle of Ayn Jalut handing the Mongols a major defeat. Thanks to this defeat the Mongols never managed to spread into North Africa. In the fourteenth-century the Ilkhanate collapsed through the population being ravaged thanks to the Black Death and wars against the Mamluks, and a supposed descendant of Genghis called Timur. In 1375 the Ilkhanate collapsed.

Kublai Khan
By 1234 the Jin Dynasty had been conquered and by 1279 the Sung had also been conquered. This conquest had been done by Kublai Khan who in 1271 declared himself Emperor of China. His new dynasty would be called the Yuan Dynasty. Kublai would 'sinicize' the empire by adopting Chinese culture. During this period Chinese ceramics went through a boom and expansion with the famous blue and white design 'Jingdezhan' ware of underglaze becoming widespread. Like the Ilkhanate and Golden Horde the Yuan Dynasty adopted Buddhism as well as Confucian practices. A social order was implemented with the Mongols at the top, then non-Mongols from the west, then 'Han' (Han Chinese, Jurchens, Koreans and Khitans), and at the bottom were the subjects of the Southern Sung dynasty. Marco Polo is supposedly to have visited China during the reign of the Yuan Dynasty, and if his writings are indeed correct (and not elaborate embellishments) he managed to serve in the Yuan court. The Yuan Dynasty continued on the Mongol expansion although they were categorical failures. Invasions of Vietnam and Burma led to massacres of the Mongol armies. Sea invasions also failed with a disastrous attempt to invade Java in 1293, and two to invade Japan in 1274 and 1280. The Japanese invasions failed both times thanks to a typhoon which have been called 'kamikaze' (divine wind). By the time of the Yuan Dynasty's collapse the rest of the Mongol khanates were either collapsing or were abandoned by the khanates as the Yuan Dynasty was seen as being 'too Chinese'. Famines and revolts caused decline of the Yuan Dynasty until 1368 when they were forced to the north when the Ming Dynasty was founded.

Decline of the Mongols
Like the Roman Empire the Mongol Empire declined thanks to overextension and poor administration. Although there was an efficient postal service connecting distant parts of the empire it was difficult for the Mongols to rule territory stretching from Hungary to Korea. The Great Khanate only really had one or two cities, including Karakorum, so this made administration extremely difficult. Decline was sped up by the divisions between the khanates themselves. As shown with the war between the Ilkhanate and the Golden Horde with khanates warring they could not form a stable empire. At one part under the founder of the Timurid Empire in Persia, Tamerlane, did the Mongol Empire seem able to unify. Tamerlane's conquests were bloody as he tried to recreate the unified Mongol Empire with his massacres being seen by some historians as a genocide with around 17 million people, or 5% of the world population, being killed. However, the Timurids never managed to gain much land outside Iran, the Middle East, and Central Asia. Slowly the khanates started to fall one by one. In 1688 the Yuan Dynasty finally collapsed, in 1438 the Golden Horde split into two which was further divided in 1441. Ivan the Terrible conquered two of the khanates that sprung from the Golden Horde in 1552 and 1554. The Crimean Khanate lasted until 1783 when conquered by Catherine the Great. 

The Mongols were an empire of paradoxes. Bringing religious toleration, an efficient postal service, and aiding in the return of the Silk Road the Mongols brought great benefits, but paradoxically they orchestrated massacres which can be considered genocides, helped spread the Black Death through the Silk Road and expansion, and saw the mass rape of women. They built few cities and buildings meaning they left little architectural legacies but their empire left a profound result regardless. Historian Hidehiro Okada argued that the greatest legacy of the Mongols in China was creating a unified state. Since the Mongol conquest with the exception of civil wars and foreign occupation China remained a unified state. Meanwhile, in eastern Europe their meritocratic system briefly spelled an end to feudalism. Mongols are just another paradox in history. Thank you for reading and next World History will be about the origins of Russia.

The sources I have used are as follows:
-The Mongols by David Morgan
-The Mongol Empire and its Legacy edited by Reuvan Amitai-Preiss and David O. Morgan
-'Central Asia: The Mongols 1206-1405' by Timothy May in The Great Empires of Asia edited by Jim Masselos

For a full list of the World History posts please see here

Sunday, 19 February 2017

World History: Great Zimbabwe

Great Zimbabwe from above
Around 30 km away from the town of Masvingo in Zimbabwe lies a large stone ruin. This magnificent monument first appeared in European records at the start of the sixteenth-century. In 1506 Portuguese explorer Diogo de Alcáçova described the monument in a letter to the Portuguese king that the ruins were part of the Kingdom of Ucalanga. Later, in the book Da Asia by João de Barros, (published in 1552), we get a good description of the monument based on his correspondence with Moorish traders who had seen the site:
In the opinion of the Moors who saw it, it is very ancient, and was built there to keep possession of the mines, which are very old, and no gold has been extracted them for years, because of the wars. 
In 1871 explorer Karl Mauch started looking at the ruins, and later archaeologists started excavating the site. However, until the mid-twentieth century people had argued that the local peoples did not build this site. As the Shona did not build using stone the Portuguese argued that they could not have built the site, while nineteenth and early twentieth-century explorers tried to argue that the Phoenicians or the biblical Queen of Sheba built the monument based on racist ideas. Through carbon dating and archaeology we now know that the site, called Great Zimbabwe, was founded in the eleventh-century by the ancestral Shona. Such important is this site that when the racist government of Rhodesia came to an end in 1980 the country was named Zimbabwe after the monument. Before we can understand why this monument was built, what is was used for, and why it was eventually abandoned we have to look at the site itself.

Great Zimbabwe: The Monument
The Site
Great Zimbabwe is a huge monument extending over 800 hectares. In comparison the Celtic town of Manching in Germany was only 380 hectares. Many estimates have placed the population of the site at around 10,000 showing the colossal size of this site. Great Zimbabwe is split into three sections: the Hill Ruins, the Great Enclosure, and the Valley Ruins.
The Hill Ruins
The Hill Ruins. These ruins are the oldest section of Great Zimbabwe and has been used continuously by people dating back before the construction of the ruins themselves, to around the ninth-century. The Hill Ruins are made of huge granite rubble-stone blocks on a spur facing the north-east/south-west. These granite blocks form distinct enclosures accessed via fairly narrow passages, and the walls are made of gravel mixed with clay. This is called daga, which is a puddled, clayey soil binding together fine gravel and is common throughout Africa as a building material. Often referred to as an 'acropolis' many believe that these enclosures were a 'royal city'. The west enclosure being thought to have been the home for the successive rulers whereas the eastern enclosure being thought to have a ritual purpose.
The Great Enclosure
The Great Enclosure. This section of Great Zimbabwe was occupied from the thirteenth to the fifteenth-centuries. Like the Hill Ruins it was made from granite blocks, but here there are various daga-hut living quarters, communal areas, and a stone passage leading a high conical tower (in the photo above). The tower was a staggering 9 meters high (30 foot) and 5.5 meters in diamater (18 foot). The daga-huts were built inside the walls of the enclosure itself while in the community area there were even smaller walls marking out living areas for each family. Each family area had a kitchen, a court and two daga-huts. 
Part of the Valley Ruins
The Valley Ruins. These ruins were the last to be occupied being occupied since the fourteenth-century until the final abandonment of the site in the sixteenth-century. However, people in some form or another continued to live in the Valley Complex all the way into the nineteenth-century. Unlike the other two complexes the Valley Ruins is split further into the Upper and Lower Valley representing when they were occupied although T.N. Huffman in the 1990s argued the Lower Valley was where wives of leaders lived. Throughout the Valley Ruins are brick ensembles with dry stone walling for insulation. Many of these ensembles show highly skilled craftsmanship, such as having chequered wall designs. 

Purpose of Great Zimbabwe
Great Zimbabwe is a staggering site showing unique art, architecture, and goods from across the world. Why though was it built? Through carbon dating and recent archaeological excavations we know that Great Zimbabwe was built by the Gokomere culture who are the ancestors to modern Shona, of which in present day Zimbabwe 70% of the people speak Shona. Since the fourth-century various people farmed and mined the nearby area before Great Zimbabwe was built. Archaeologists believe that Great Zimbabwe was the political center for the Kingdom of Zimbabwe, as well as being a major trading center (something often associated with major political centers). It is believed that Great Zimbabwe was founded and became the location of political authority after the site of Mapungubwe was abandoned around 1220. Although we know that the kings did live at Great Zimbabwe the big question is where in Great Zimbabwe did the king live? Here archaeologists are split. Some argue that when a new ruler took over they built a new residence with the focus of power shifting from the Hill Complex, to the Great Enclosure, to the Upper Valley, and finally to the Lower Valley. Thomas Huffman believed that Great Zimbabwe was a town with a palace, a ceremonial center in the Great Enclosure, a wives' area in the Lower Valley, and in between was an area for men. Across Zimbabwe they have found many important artifacts indicating it was a huge area for trade which we shall now talk about.

Trade and Artifacts
Zimbabwe Bird
Across Great Zimbabwe there have been many interesting artifacts discovered. Among the artifacts are the Zimbabwe Birds (as pictured above) found only at Great Zimbabwe. These birds, almost half a meter tall, stood on meter tall columns were made of soapstone. A likely theory for the creation of these birds was that they represent totemic or sacred animals, either the bateleur eagle which was the messenger of Mwari (God) and ancestors, or the fish eagle. These eagles are seen now a symbol of Zimbabwe with them appearing on the Zimbabwean flag. Archaeological evidence has found a large scale economy going through Great Zimbabwe. Coming from Zimbabwe were three main goods: gold, ivory and cattle. The gold mines near Zimbabwe were thought to have had 20 million ounces of gold taken from them over the period of time that the site was occupied. Great Zimbabwe had links with Kilwa Kisiwani, an island off of the coast of Tanzania, which opened Zimbabwean goods tothe markets of the Indian Ocean, and likewise managed to get Indian Ocean trade. Thanks to Kilwa Arabic coins and glass beads, Chinese pottery, and Persian gold and pottery reached Great Zimbabwe. Domestically the kings oversaw a vibrant cattle trade which was organised to visit every area of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe. 

Great Zimbabwe was an amazing site home to trade with Asia and some of the greatest architecture in pre-colonial southern Africa. Around 1450 the site was largely abandoned. Several reasons have been put forward for the decline and abandonment. One is climate change. From the fourteenth-century until the Industrial Revolution the planet underwent a period of much colder weather called the Little Ice Age. Due to the Kingdom of Zimbabwe being an agricultural society climate change would wreck havoc on the economy. Famines and water shortages have also been cited for the decline, but this can also be attributed to climate change. Another reason put forward is political instability. We have no written sources from Great Zimbabwe but Innocent Pikirayi and Shadreck Chirikure have stated that inheritance was likely brother-to-brother instead of father-to-son. However, climate change caused major political upheavals in Mesoamerica, Europe, and China so Great Zimbabwe may have seen climate change causing political upheaval. As Great Zimbabwe went into decline another Shona kingdom rose to the north called Mutapa. In oral tradition the first Mwene (king) of Mutapa was Prince Mutota who had left Zimbabwe to escape hunger, or went to find salt, and then founded a new kingdom. It is likely the political rulers of Zimbabwe abandoned the poor environment of Great Zimbabwe and founded a new kingdom to the north.

Great Zimbabwe shows how important the past is to the contemporary world. Racists in the nineteenth and twentieth-centuries tried to assert that people other than Africans built such an impressive monument. When white oppression was ousted the new regime chose to change the name of the country from Rhodesia to Zimbabwe, and placed the eagle on the flag, to honor this site. The lives of our ancestors and the past heavily influences the way we think about the modern world. Great Zimbabwe also disproves the notion that Africa has no history after Ancient Egypt. This great monument highlights a vibrant culture with a rich history that lasted for centuries. Thank you for reading and next time we will go to Eurasia to look at the Mongols to see how nomadic warriors built one of the largest empires in history.

The sources I have used are as follow:
-Great Zimbabwe by P.S. Garlake
-Thomas N.Huffman, 'Revisiting Great Zimbabwe', Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa, 2010, 45:3, pp.321-328
-Innocent Pikirayi and Shadreck Chirikuwe, 'Debating Great Zimbabwe', Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa, 2011, 46:2, pp.221-231

For a full list of the World History posts please see here

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Comics Explained: Injustice: Gods Among Us: Year One (Part 2)

The War Begins
Last time with Injustice the Joker using a mix of kryptonite and Scarecrow's fear toxin tricked Superman into killing Lois Lane and their unborn child. However, the Joker had a trigger to an atomic bomb connected to Lois's heart so when her heart stopped Metropolis was destroyed. Broken Superman murdered Joker and announced an enforced worldwide ceasefire splitting the Justice League. When Aquaman ignored the ceasefire Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and Shazam picked Atlantis up from the bottom of the Mediterranean and placed it in the Sahara. Now this time we shall look at how the war between the heroes began.

Australia and Arkham
Chapter 13 of Injustice begins with Barry Allen, the Flash, running along Nullarbor, Australia which is the longest strip of land in the world and 'nirvana' for a speedster. His inner monologue reveals that the Flash often comes here to run and think but today he's only here to run. Two hours earlier, Barry accompanied Supeman and Wonder Woman to Melbourne, Australia where a protest to Superman's growing rule is happening. As the heroes attempt to get the crowd to peacefully disperse on man comes out of the crowd crying 'I'm sorry but we have the right to protest in our own country'.
A hero in Australia
In a mechanical suit the young man challenges the Justice League members. Realizing he's outmatched Barry just helplessly watches Wonder Woman and Superman smash the prospective hero into the ground shattering his spine. Wonder Woman simply tells the crowd to depart and they acquiesce. Horrified the Flash runs to get an ambulance. As the Flash is running Batman contacts him despite Superman revoking his access to the Justice League's communications after he refused to aid in the fight with Atlantis. As Batman designed the system it was not a difficult task to get back online and he tells Barry to go to the Advanced Science and Genetics Testing Laboratory in Canberra. When he arrives at the lab Batman informs him that he is on the wrong side as the Flash is met by Doctor Norris. Norris revealed that the man who the League fought was Mitchell Davis who had taken some experimental steroids, tampered with his genetics, and took an advanced suit to adopt the identity of Galaxor. Barry is guided to Davis' office full of photos of the League and even a signed photo of the Flash himself. Distraught he ignores Batman's questions about how Mitchell must have felt being crushed by his idols, removes his communicator and starts running. Back at Nullarbor he just runs trying not to think.

The next chapter opens with Batman remembering the night that his parents died and with regret overwhelming him he only can think 'He's gone. I'm abandoned again. My son is dead.' Earlier that night Gotham's news channel was broadcasting a story with twin broadcasters about how the nation was divided over Superman's actions as Nightwing watches on the Batcomputer. Suddenly the news is interrupted by Two-Face who was drawn to the channel. Two-Face is obsessed with the number two so twins and a story about the nation split in two would be perfect for him. As he flipped his coin it is suddenly vaporized by Superman who suddenly arrives on the scene. Angry Two-Face demands to know which side it landed on. Two-Face in comics needs to know how his coin landed with him urinating himself in Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth when he can't find the answer. When Superman won't tell him he drawed a gun which Superman easily destroyed, and the Man of Steel subdues him. He quickly saw to the anchors with one remembering meeting him and Lois at the Pulitzers. She asked Superman if Lois would approve of what he was doing to which he replied that he hopes that she would. Superman began a speech declaring that Gotham is sick and that he will remove the dangerous inmates from Arkham Asylum like Killer Croc, Poison Ivy, and the Riddler. Batman ordered Nightwing and Robin to prepare the Batwing as Robin questioned why this is a bad thing.
The League and Two-Face at Arkham
As the trio flew off Nightwing asked Batman if he understood Robin's point of view to which Batman simply responded that Dick was never as stubborn as Damien. In turn Batman asked Dick if he could understand where Superman was coming from to which Dick said that he does but Batman has had longer to indoctrinate him. Robin, Damien Wayne, spent his early life with Talia al Ghul and the League of Assassins where murder was not frowned upon but, in fact, encouraged. As a result when Damien went to live with his father he has had difficulty adapting to the 'no-kill rule' of Batman. Meanwhile, at Arkham the League tells the head doctor that Arkham has lost the right to oversee the patients. The doctor protested just as Batman arrived standing between the League and the patients. Robin yelled why Batman is siding with monsters instead of the League. Annoyed and wanting attention Calendar Man (yes there is a villain called Calendar Man) gets even more frustrated when Wonder Woman can't remember capturing him on Easter.
I am not making this up
Superman told Batman that he knows that Batman won't stand aside but he won't stop him from removing the inmates. In his cell Victor Zsasz taunts Superman about enjoying his 'release of murder', (Zsasz is obsessed with murder and creates a tally on his body for everyone that he has killed). Wonder Woman got Cyborg to access Arkham's security and suddenly Zsasz's cell opened only for the murderer to immediately vanish. Mad Hatter soon vanished and Batman realized that the Flash was moving the inmates. Batman demanded to know where the inmates were being taken for Superman to respond that they were being taken to a far securer facility. When Cyborg went to release Riddler despite Batman's threat the Dark Knight activated a virus which he had put into Cyborg's system causing him to become incapacitated. Trying to prevent the situation from escalating further Nightwing deactivated the virus to release his former Teen Titan friend. As this is happening Green Arrow arrived with Harley Quinn because she set fire to the Arrowcave so he thought Arkham would be safe for her. However, they were met by an orderly revealing that Superman and Batman were at the asylum. When Arrow raced off to help Harley managed to escape, release all the inmates including a huge figure at the bottom of the asylum. This figure turned out to be Solomon Grundy who burst from the ground and dragged Robin down but before Batman can try and save his son he is tackled by Killer Croc.

Over the intercom Harley asked the inmates to leave Arrow alone citing Stockholm Syndrome. Croc and Calendar Man held down Batman as Riddler grabbed a rock to cave in Batman's skull, but Riddler is knocked out by Arrow giving Batman a chance to escape. In the basement Grundy held Robin with one hand as he fought Wonder Woman with another. Easily he backhanded Diana through a wall leaving Nightwing and Superman to fight Grundy. Grundy is a zombie and cannot die so Nightwing informed Superman of this. Not holding back Superman used his heat vision to slice off Grundy's hand and burst through the zombie's body. Batman soon descended down the hole wanting help from the two to recapture the inmates. However, Robin refuses to do so. Batman ordered him to help catch the inmates as he planned to personally use explosives to deal with Grundy before he can regenerate. Just as the zombie starts getting up Batman planted the explosives in Grundy's head which exploded. Superman actually complimented Batman on this and they began planning on how to move Grundy to his cell where his dampeners can keep the zombie under control. Up top Robin started to brutally beat Riddler and Nightwing chastised him for being so vicious. As Dick turned around an angry Robin threw his kali stick at the other's head. However, this time the stick hit Dick on the head causing him to fall over and break his neck on a piece of rubble. The rest of the League arrived and Batman shoved a crying Robin off of Dick's body. Surrounded by inmates and the League Batman cradled Dick's body saying 'My son is dead'.
Death of Nightwing
Sides Align
Catwoman is in Gotham after seeing the corpse of a purse-snatcher called Joey Gutton. Through her inner monologue we find out that Joey became a purse-snatcher when his family fell on hard times, and she believed that Joey was killed by a vigilante. However, Joey was not killed by a traditional masked vigilante but by a regular member of the public. After Superman killed Joker without any repercussions many had started killing common criminals as well. Catwoman then broke into a rich apartment thinking that the owner was the true criminal as when the owner's company was failing he bailed out making himself much more money as his employees became jobless. As she found his jewels she realized that she was not alone and that Superman was with her. The owner soon arrived but Catwoman jumped out of the window with Superman following and grabbing hold of her. However, he soon became dizzy allowing Catwoman to escape into the sewer. We find out that during one of her trips to the Batcave she stole some kryptonite and made an earring out of it. Despite escaping Superman he soon caught up where he forced her to remove the earring with his heat vision. Selina accused Superman of wanting to kill her but he revealed that he only wanted to talk; he told her about Nightwing's death causing her to become upset. When he said that he couldn't talk to Bruce she told him that both he and Bruce are too stubborn. She agreed to go see Bruce but asked Superman to punish the heads of greedy corporations as well as the traditional evil. Upon arriving at Wayne Manor she found Alfred in a drunken stupor thanks to his grief over Nightwing's death. Despite being drunk Alfred tried to look after Selina but she responded that tonight she would look after him. Down in the Batcave Selina finds Bruce punching a training pole until his hands were bloody. She made him hug her.
Batman and Catwoman
Batman and Catwoman are summoned to the GCPD via the Bat Symbol (something which Catwoman is reluctant to do) but instead of being greeted by Commissioner Gordon they are met by the president. The president took them to a room impervious to Superman's senses and told them that currently Green Lantern and Superman were downing Russian satellites. Also, he revealed that in the week after the events at Arkham the League had been forcibly bringing peace to the world: Superman forced a peace between Israel and Palestine, Wonder Woman repelled an invasion of Myanmar, Green Lantern and Shazam had protected Syria from a missile barrage, and Raven (of the Teen Titans) used an image of her demonic father Trigon to scare Sudan into peace. Catwoman questions why this is a bad thing but both the president and Batman inform her that what the League is doing is only temporary. The reasons why they have fought have not been addressed so the peace will have to be continuously enforced. Giving a few real life examples the Troubles in Northern Ireland started in the 1960s and ended around 2004, the Sri Lankan Civil War lasted for over twenty years, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has existed in its current form since 1948. The president was worried if Superman is capable of world conquest and if Batman can prevent this. Batman responded that he could but he would need a team. The two of them condemn the president as well saying that if he was a better leader people would not be turning to Superman. Batman and Catwoman begin recruiting heroes not aligned to Superman. The two recruit Black Canary, Captain Atom, Aquaman, Huntress, Black Lightning, Batwoman, and Green Arrow (although he stated that he is only there to listen at the moment).

Shazam and Luthor
Shazam is actually a child called Billy Batson but he becomes the hero Shazam when he yells the word 'Shazam!'. As Batson and the guise of doing a school project he asked people how they felt about the League's actions with some being afraid and others glad that Superman killed Joker. We then cut to the day before. In a destroyed city Wonder Woman finds Green Lantern unconscious and finds out from Cyborg that the Flash is evacuating civilians. Wonder Woman tried to contact Superman only to find out that he's gone down as well. Suddenly Cyborg picked up a signal coming towards them for us to find out that the destroyer of the city was Black Adam. Adam is a Shazam villain and has the exact same powers as Shazam. Adam ripped off Cyborg's arm. Back in the present, Billy asked two people about the League. The first, an American, wanted Superman to sort out the corrupt politicians in America, whereas the other person, a foreign woman, said that she had seen good people take power to do good but became corrupted, and that she came to the USA to escape that. Back in the past, Adam taunted Cyborg for interfering in his 'retribution'. Shazam soon arrived ordering Adam to stop, however, Adam said that someone fired missiles into the state which he ruled, Kahndaq, killing innocents and that as Kahndaq's protector he would not rest until they were safe. Superman and Shazam held Adam down as Wonder Woman prepared to use the Lasso of Truth, wrapping it around his neck. However, Shazam warned if Adam spoke the magic word, ('Shazam') and returned to mortal form they could accidentally break his neck. Billy asked Adam if there was anyway to not kill him to which Adam said that he would happily slaughter entire countries if he could protect Kahndaq, and that the League is going down the same route that he went down. Although they will bring peace they will be feared.
Interrogating Black Adam
Adam asked Shazam to protect Kahndaq to which Billy promised to do so. After Wonder Woman got Adam to say 'Shazam!' and he transformed into a decrepit old man. Shazam saw a man and his sons huddling so Shazam told them that they were safe now. However, the man said that they were surrounded by angry gods and that they should return to the skies instead of trying to understand mortals. Back in the present, Billy decides to talk to Shazam himself (he can talk to the Shazam part of him) to see what Shazam thought. They debate concluding that the League can bring peace but were becoming violent with Black Adam and Atlantis. Billy decides that the events will deeply affect someone as young as he is.

A month after the destruction of Metropolis from the ruins a signal is detected saying 'I'm alive'. On the Watchtower Cyborg, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman try to deter Superman from going seen as how he has made many enemies and that it could be a trap. However, Superman ignores them. This is quite a turning point in Superman's character as he is now ignoring the advise of his friends. We're seeing Superman becoming increasingly distant from the people he's supposed to care about. In Metropolis they find a bunker and inside is Lex Luthor... Upon seeing Luthor Clark hugs him declaring it a miracle. In contrast to the mainstream comic reality in this reality Superman and Luthor are friends rather than foe. Somewhere, Batman questioned his unknown ally about how Luthor got to his bunker before the blast. We find out that Luthor had hired a speedster to rescue him but she had died trying to save civilians. This is an interesting part as we do know now that Luthor has the same cunning streak as his mainstream self. However, we do not know who that speedster was. Quite possibly she was Lady Flash or Jessie Quick. Before his ally could leave Batman warned them about Wonder Woman. On the Watchtower Luthor announced that he wanted to join them and that he supported them but Diana is suspicious. To prove himself he listed off all their secret identities and announced how he had secretly been protecting them for years.
Luthor and the League
In Somalia Hawkgirl abducted the Somalian president as he was touring through Mogadishu. However, Batman had expected this. Immediately, Captain Atom grabbed the president, Black Lighting knocked Hawkgirl from the sky, and Huntress knocked her out with a knockout arrow. Dryly Catwoman laughed 'Well we're in it now'. Meanwhile, elsewhere in Somalia Wonder Woman arrived at a refugee camp frustrated that war and famine had displaced these refugees, and that the soldiers had been taking advantage of the refugee women. At the camp she prevented a general from attacking a woman promising them that she will have him replaced. However, they replied that someone just as bad would replace him. Diana agreed and crushed the general's head in her hands. She gave the women the guns of the soldiers and she left to the sound of gunfire.
Diana in the Camp
This is perhaps my personal favorite part of Year One. This one scene shows how much Wonder Woman has been pushed to the edge by not interfering for years on end. It also plays with the idea discussed earlier about the League not solving the issues, and ideas of 'an eye for an eye'. Arriving back at the Watchtower Diana discovered that Hawkgirl had been captured by Captain Atom, Huntress, and Black Lightning with Diana immediately blaming the US thanks to Atom's involvement. Luthor, however, responds with 'It's Batman'. When Green Lantern said that Batman had not been seen Luthor replied that it proved his point. Lex advised that he needs to recruit some more people so the League cannot be picked off by being spread too thinly. In Batman's lair, Batman and Catwoman are looking over the unconscious Hawkgirl with Selina wondering how Batman knew that Hawkgirl would be in Mogadishu. Catwoman also stated that they would come looking for Hawkgirl. However, on the Watchtower when the League are debating Lex's offer Hawkgirl came in...

That is the end of part two of Year One. Our third part of Year One will see a civil war between the Justice League...

Friday, 3 February 2017

Comics Explained: Injustice Gods Among Us: Year One (Part 1)

Year One
Several years ago the video game Injustice Gods Among Us was released and, has become one of the most popular and influential DC comics video games. There are even several scenes in 2016's Batman v Superman referencing, or possibly foreshadowing, Injustice. A comic book series was released showing the five years before the events of the video game take place. With the new game being released in May I thought it would be a good idea to go over each year until the game is released. Now let's see how Superman took over the world...

Fall of a Hero
Clark Kent wakes up in the middle of the night and hears two heartbeats coming from his wife Lois Lane. He smiles as he realizes that he is going to become a father. Lois soon gets a text concerning a tip-off about a corrupt Senator taking bribes which the Daily Planet is currently covering as a story. Clark starts acting worried but Lois jokes that he's more worried about the baby. He looks out over Metropolis and Lois says 'Go save the world'. We soon cut to Batman easily beating a gang of thugs as Superman watches wondering why his friend is in Metropolis instead of Gotham.
Superman meets Batman
Batman explains that someone has stolen something from S.T.A.R Labs and that the thugs have some relation to it. After he beats the thugs he meets Superman on the roof. Just as Superman is about to tell Batman that Lois is pregnant he already deduces that they are going to be parents. Superman catches Batman off guard by asking him to be godfather causing the Dark Knight to give a small smile. Meanwhile, at the docks Lois and Jimmy Olson to see the corrupt Senator. Jimmy manages to spot someone but it turns out not to be the Senator. Jimmy is killed by the unknown figure who turns out to be the Joker and Harley Quinn... The next day Superman finds Jimmy's body next to a joker card as Batman is interviewing the scientists at S.T.A.R Labs. The scientists confess that the reason why they didn't go to Superman about the robber was because they were experimenting with kryptonite. Several of the corpses in the labs have demonic grins on their faces from the Joker's toxins. Suddenly Superman bursts in begging Batman for help in finding Lois. Batman contacts the Justice League to enlist them in finding the Joker and Lois. Barry Allen, the Flash, informs Batman that he's found the body of Scarecrow (a Batman villain who uses fear toxin to send people mad) in S.T.A.R Labs. As this is happening Wonder Woman manages to find a witness to the kidnapping/murder and using the Lasso of Truth she finds out that the Joker has hijacked a submarine. Immediately Superman scans Metropolis Harbor and finds the submarine. Enraged he takes it onto the land before tearing through the hull to find, to his horror, that Joker and Harley are operating on Lois. The Joker gasses him and suddenly from nowhere the monster Doomsday appears. Fearful that the beast would kill Lois and his unborn child he tackles Doomsday and flies into space with the beast. Harley and Joker are captured by the Justice League just as they leave the submarine (nicknamed 'Gunter' by Harley). However, as Batman searches the sub for Lois he finds evidence of Scarecrow's fear toxin. The Joker starts taunting the Justice League saying that when Lois's heart stops so will Metropolis. Desperately Batman tries to contact Superman who has taken Doomsday into space. However, Doomsday turns into Lois...
Superman kills Lois
Joker had used Scarecrow's fear toxin laced with kryptonite so he would see his wife as Doomsday. He also had the detonator to a nuclear bomb linked to Lois's heart so when her heart stopped the bomb would detonate. Within a day Lois, his unborn child, and Metropolis had been taken from him and he has to know that he was the one who did it. Batman begins interrogating Joker in Gotham asking why he did this to which Joker replies that he was tired of losing to Batman and wanted to 'Try it on easy'. Cradling his wife in the ruins of Metropolis Superman has been broken. As Wonder Woman tries to console him by saying it was really the Joker's fault Superman heads off to Gotham (even defeating Green Lantern on the way to get to the Joker). In Gotham Joker says to Batman that because someone took something away from him he became what he is today and questions what will happen to Superman seeing as he was already a god he deluded himself into thinking he was a man. Suddenly Superman bursts in as the Joker starts taunting Superman that he destroyed Metropolis, and killed his unborn child and Lois. Enraged Superman grabs Joker by the throat and swats Batman out of the way as he tries to stop the Man of Steel. The Joker continues to taunt Superman saying things like 'First Krypton, the Metropolis. Things you love tend to blow up' and 'I know it's soon but do you ever think you'll love again? Maybe, next time you won't kill your family'. Superman, angered, punches through the Joker's body as the Clown Prince of Crime laughs.
The Joker's Final Laugh
Dawn of the New Regime
A despondent Harley broken after Superman's murder of the Joker kills the guards escorting her to Arkham Asylum. Green Arrow arrives on the scene to recapture her laughing gleefully as he fires an arrow into the barrel of her gun causing it to discharge. He ensnares her with a net arrow and takes her to the Arrowcar as Harley questions him if he's going to take her to Superman. Arrow responds by saying that he's doing what he's doing to save Superman from himself. With a trick arrow he knocks Harley out after being annoyed by her incessant questions. Harley wakes up in the Arrowcave which she makes fun of saying it is not as good as the Batcave, and says that 'the Quiver' would be a better name (which Arrow agrees with). Harley uses a fake mustache to make Arrow laugh after he questions her about using a fake hand to escape.

Meanwhile, in the Fortress of Solitude Superman grieves over his family and the destruction of Metropolis surrounded by monitors reporting on the city's destruction. One monitor starts reporting on a communications blackout and bombing in a war-torn country called Biayla. Standing up he cries 'No more!'. He flies to the a city and protects a boy from being killed by a shell before destroying several more with his heat vision and apologizes to the civilians for not acting sooner. Easily he flies to the capital, ignores the presidential guard, and kidnaps the president declaring his presidency over. Wonder Woman arrives at the same time as the press and asks Superman not to announce his aims here. He agrees and calls a press conference outside the UN (taking the Biayla president with him). With Wonder Woman at his side he announces to the world that he is actually Clark Kent, that he is sorry for not acting before and that an event like Metropolis would never happen again. No matter who challenged him, no matter how politically powerful they are he would not allow any more innocent blood to be shed. Superman declares a worldwide ceasefire and if people don't do it voluntarily he will make them. A U.S. drone is going to bomb a village which a terrorist leader is hiding in until Superman destroys it. He has now made an enemy of the United States...
Mirror Master
A leading general gives the U.S. president a plan to counteract Superman. The plan isn't to go after Superman though but instead his parents. Armed mercenaries led by Mirror Master (a Flash villain able to take people into another dimension via mirrors) arrive at the Kent farm to kidnap the Kents. Jonathan is injured trying to defend Martha but both are taken into a mirror shard just as Clark arrives. Mirror Master taunts Superman that Jonathan has been injured in the safety of a mirror shard. At the Justice League Watchtower Wonder Woman gives a speech reaffirming her solidarity with Superman's course of actions and how they would prevent further tragedies like Metropolis. After Cyborg steps forward to volunteer to help find the Kents other members of the Justice League follow with the Flash suggesting that they should track down his Rogue's Gallery in the hope that they find Mirror Master. The Flash and Wonder Woman track Mirror Master to a bar in Keystone City where he is captured by Raven, and after being beaten by Wonder Woman he reveals that the Kents are being held at Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia (home to the world's largest mirror). As Superman rescues his parents the President is worrying about how to deal with an even angrier Superman. Batman has sneakily entered the Oval Office and informs him that his plan to kidnap the Kents was the most foolish thing that he could have done. Batman vows not to tell the League that the U.S. government was actually behind the kidnapping but if he did almost the entire League (now united behind Superman thanks to the kidnapping) would go after him. When the President responds that the League wouldn't go after him Batman simply replies that no one would find his body on Saturn.
Wonder Woman ending wars
Meanwhile, Wonder Woman is in Qurac easily battling armed forces there, (including destroying a tank with one headbutt). After the battle the Greek God of War Ares arrives to question if she is really devoted to Superman's cause (he remains strong if there is war so has a reason to destabilize Superman's enforced peace project). As Wonder Woman refuses to kill the soldiers that she is fighting Ares chastises her for being too merciful, and then uses Wonder Woman's secret affections for Superman to undermine her by asking if she will 'Take her place? Will you lie in his bed?'. Wonder Woman replies by saying she will let him grieve and that Superman is the greatest man that she has ever known. When Wonder Woman mocks Ares about losing his power when war has been eradicated he attacks her, but Superman arrives knocking him over easily with one punch. Wonder Woman cuts off his hand and leaves him bleeding (much to Superman's shock) in the Qurac desert. Ares has to ponder if Diana will strip away Superman's restraints.

War with Atlantis
In the Batcave Dick Grayson (Nightwing and the first Robin) and Damien Wayne (Robin) are sparring with Dick chiding Damien for going for the killing blow. Angry Damien throws a kali stick at Dick's head only to be caught by Superman. Damien tells Superman that Bruce Wayne has been 'broodier than usual' and secretly thanks him for murdering Joker. At the Batcomputer Superman asks why Batman did not help him find his parents or for not supporting his toppling of dictators. Batman replies that Superman is going too far and that people no longer feel that he is a symbol of hope, he's turned into a symbol of fear. Angry Superman rips off Batman's cowl yelling 'GOOD!'. He wants people to be scared so they will never hurt the innocent again and that by letting the Joker live Batman caused the deaths of everyone who Joker killed. Superman questions him if he ever felt guilty every time the Joker killed someone and Batman says that he did every time. When Superman justifies his actions by saying that by killing one person he can save the lives of thousands which Batman says just blurs the lines between right and wrong as he tries to justify his actions. Meanwhile, off the coast of Japan Aquaman is consoling a dying whale which sends him into a rage and he tips over a whaling ship. A distress call from the ship is sent to the Justice League who realizes that the attack is not simply a country ignoring Superman's ceasefire. Aquaman rises out of the ocean with his army to attack the whaling ship so Wonder Woman tries to reason with him. Aquaman simply says that the oceans are his domain and he shall defend the oceans. Unexpectedly Wonder Woman is shot in the face by one of Aquaman's soldiers as she approaches Aquaman. Angrily Aquaman reprimands his soldier and goes to see if his friend is alright, but Diana blames Aquaman for the attack and backhands him while saying she is tired of words. 
Justice League vs. the Ocean
Despite being bloodied and falling into unconsciousness Aquaman is reawakened by whales to lead the Atlanteans against the Justice League. Back in the Batcave Superman accuses Batman of not killing Joker as he would have lost his arch-nemesis and that he is mourning the Joker over Metropolis. Batman furiously denies this only for Superman's eyes to glow red demanding why he didn't end the Joker sooner, and why he let the Joker do this to him. He yells that Batman would never understand what the Joker took away from him, that he was now truly the Last Son of Krypton, and that Bruce is a poor excuse of a father for not consoling Dick and Damien over the death of their friends in Metropolis (we later find out that Beast Boy and Kid Flash were killed in Metropolis). Furious Batman punches Superman in the jaw but the Man of Steel is unfazed by this. Superman uses his x-ray vision to see that Batman has a hairline fracture and advises him not to punch anything for a week. This would be the last time Batman and Superman had anything friendly to say between the two of them. The alarms in the Batcave go off as a giant tidal wave created by Aquaman is threatening the ships. Superman asks Batman to come with him but Bruce refuses stating that Superman is better than this. On his way out Alfred offers 'Master Kent' some tea. Superman tells Alfred that he doesn't have to call him 'master' but Alfred dryly responds 'Good. Let's remember that.' In the Pacific Shazam and Wonder Woman find out that Aquaman has brought the kraken to battle.
Superman and Aquaman
Batman accesses the communications to the Justice League and the Atlanteans warning them that Superman is coming. In an instant Superman flies through the kraken's tentacles and grabs him by the throat demanding that Aquaman calls off the kraken. He obliges but starts criticizing Superman (despite Batman's warnings) that Superman is becoming a dictator, that the rule of Superman is coming but he will never rule the seas. Wonder Woman informs Superman that Atlantean forces have invaded major ports across the world as Aquaman states that he is not a simple land government easily bullied. Superman vows to show Aquaman his strength and orders for Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and Shazam to follow him. They fly to the Mediterranean where they lift Atlantis from the sea and place it in the Sahara.
Atlantis in the Sahara
Batman tries to contact Superman but he kicks Batman from the Justice League. Wonder Woman goes to meet Aquaman on the shore of Algeria to talk. Aquaman says that he will call his forces back terrified not realizing that Superman was capable of his actions. He tells Diana to keep Superman on the right course of action, that he is scaring millions of people, and that he should seek his council. He also asks her to asks her to tell Clark that he is sorry about Lois. Later, Wonder Woman informs Superman of Aquaman's surrender and, pleased Superman asks Shazam and Green Lantern to return Atlantis to the sea. In private he informs Wonder Woman that Shazam and Green Lantern did not like moving Atlantis to the Sahara but Diana reassures him that it was the right thing to do. When Superman asks Diana if Aquaman had anything else to say after a brief hesitation she replies no.

That's the end of the first section of Injustice: Year One. In part two we will see the rift between Batman and Superman widening, war with Black Adam, and a death close to Batman's heart...

Year One Part 1
Year One Part 2: