ALMA MATRIX

Real Name: Alma Zareth

Identity/Class: Human, possibly mutate (see comments);
   uncertain citizenship, possibly Italian, but probably not American

Occupation: Scientist

Group Membership: None

Affiliations: Apparently controlled the possessed Vera Croce security;
    formerly
Edwig CaineGemini (Balance/Deborah Crovi, Front/Gabriel Caine, Grip/Brandon Blake, Mandala/Iman Dashire, Suede/Nicholas Blake), Nosferath

Enemies: Edwig Caine, Lancelot, Gemini

Known Relatives: None

Aliases: "Mother Matrix" (called this by Child One)

Base of Operations: Vera Croce (True Cross) Base, Northern Italy

First Appearance: (As Dr. Alma Zareth) Europa#0 (April 1996);
    (as Alma Matrix) Europa#3 (September 1996)

Powers/Abilities: Alma Matrix was apparently able to interface with technology, controlling and transforming it, allowing her to take over powered armor, killing those inside via their cybernetic interfaces and piloting their suits remotely, and also to make cables and flooring transform into serpentine creations (see comments).

   Alma was a genius scientist and one of the world's top experts in artificial intelligence.

Height: 5'10"" (by approximation; she wore heels, appearing taller)
Weight: 160 lbs. (by approximation)
Eyes: Green
Hair: Red

History:
 (Europa#0 (fb) - BTS) - One of the world's top expert on artificial intelligence, Dr. Alma Zareth joined Professor Edwig Caine's project Gemini, intended to produce superheroes, as Caine's assistant. She knew that he had an additional superhuman entity hidden within Gemini's Vera Croce base, the infant Child One.

(Europa#2 (fb) - BTS) - The true source of the Gemini members' powers, Child One was almost frozen, its heart beating once per six minutes while machines fed its brain oxygen, keeping it asleep but alive. Zareth realized Caine feared it waking, but was unable to destroy it either, and though he wanted to examine the infant and find ways to tap into its vast power, he didn't dare to go too far.

(Europa#0 (fb) - BTS) - Zareth created a virtual reality training program for their EuroMind series supercomputer, enabling the team of young heroes Caine had assembled to practice their combat techniques safely against simulated opponents; accessing the cerebral areas that generated dreams, those inside the simulation believed themselves to be in genuine combat and real danger, thus ensuring realistic responses. Eager to obtain S.H.I.E.L.D. backing for the team, Caine arranged for the team to be officially evaluated, and Zareth programmed their simulation with a standard training program sent to them by S.H.I.E.L.D., processing the compatibility procedures.

(Europa#0) - Caine met American S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Lancelot when he arrived at Vera Croce to carry out the evaluation, and introduced him to Zareth; seeking to be a good host, she offered him fresh made Italian coffee. Together they escorted the new arrival to the simulation room, where the team were already logged into the simulation via their virtual reality helmets. Lancelot and Caine donned interface helmets to watch the team in action, with Zareth logging them into the system so they were effectively electronic ghosts, unseen and incorporeal to the participants. However, one Gemini member, the telepath Balance, sensed Lancelot's presence and his unhappiness with Gemini's performance, so she overrode the system, attacking Lancelot and pulling him fully into the simulation. 

    Realizing something was going wrong, Caine called to Zareth to pull them both out, but Zareth was only able to disengage Caine, noting in confusion that the software seemed to have generated a "parallel variable to the original scheme" and cut her out. Caine swiftly ordered Zareth to disengage Lancelot's helmet, but when she tried to do so, her console violently shorted out, nearly electrocuting her. For the next few tense minutes Lancelot fought against overwhelming odds within the simulation before finally being released just as he was about to be slain. As Zareth watched, Caine tried to apologize, but it was clear the damage had been done, and after Lancelot departed Caine had a tense debrief with Gemini and Zareth. After dismissing the team, Caine and Zareth looked in on Child One, silently sleeping in its containment chamber.

(Europa#2 (fb) - BTS) - Gemini member Front, Caine's adoptive son, seemingly went rogue and murdered Caine (actually a Life Model Decoy/LMD the scientist used to fake his demise). With Caine's seeming demise, S.H.I.E.L.D. stepped in and took charge of Gemini.

(Europa#2) - With Gemini very much in the public eye and seeking to sway Italian public opinion in the team's favor, Caine had been booked for a television interview with investigative journalist Carlo Paci; apparently unaware of Caine's deception, Zareth took his place. Paci raised the prospect that the Italian public was uncomfortable with having foreign powers such as Gemini and S.H.I.E.L.D. operating in their country, but she insisted that she was merely a scientist, not in charge of anything, and insisted that Caine was a great man and scientist whose dream, Gemini, would not die with him.

    She reminded the journalist of Gemini's well-known (and partially faked) origin, that of infant children who had been the sole survivors of a terrorist attack twenty years ago, and who would have died had they not been healed by Caine's life-saving research. Paci challenged whether the children would have chosen to become superheroes had they been given the choice, but Zareth responded that the powers the children had manifested later had not been anticipated, and that each of them had made a free choice to join Gemini out of a sense of responsibility. Speaking directly to the camera, she told the audience not to fear, as Gemini were there to help and protect everyone.

   After the interview Zareth visited Child One's containment vessel with the remains of the Euroadaptoid, a robot Gemini had recently defeated. She pondered Child One's sleeping form, and decided to be bolder than Caine. He had feared trying to tap into Child One's full power, but she did not, and now the salvaged remains of the Euroadaptoid had yielded a microchip based on the same technology as the Cosmic Cube, which she intended to use to enter Child One's dreams and communicate with it.

(Europa#3 - BTS) - Zareth's experiment woke Child One, and more importantly the demonic entity within it, Nosferath, which took over the scientist and transformed her into its newest minion, Alma Matrix. Promising to deliver the Gemini members so it could reclaim the portions of its power contained within them, Alma Matrix used her new power to control technology (see comments) to take over both the Vera Croce base, and the base's security guards via their armor's cybernetic interfaces, killing them and piloting their corpses remotely, sending them to attack the members of Gemini.

    Sensing something to be wrong, Suede headed towards his female teammates' quarters, while Grip and Lancelot remained in the base's control room, fighting the possessed guards. Confronted by Alma Matrix and Child One, Grip fought a rearguard action while Lancelot escaped. Alma Matrix overpowered Grip, and launched Vera Croce into orbit.

(Europa#3 - BTS) - Elsewhere in the base, Mandala and Balance were confronted by a technological serpent of cables and flooring that arose to attack them. The pair fled into the corridor to see Suede battling the security guards. He took them down with an explosion, and tried to reassure Mandala and Balance, who were unsure whether he or the guards were the threat. As the ground began shaking, Suede urged them that they needed to leave, quickly, but his plea came too late, as the entire building lifted off into the air.

   Suede, Mandala and Balance fought their way through the base, overpowering more security guards and discovering to their horror that the men inside the armor were dead, slain and then piloted by cables which had extruded from the helmets. Reaching the main control area, the trio blasted the door open, and were momentarily relieved to see Grip standing amidst the swirling smoke...until he collapsed. 

(Europa#3) - Behind Grip was Alma Matrix, carrying Child One. The eldritch babe identified the Gemini members as the superhumans Alma had promised it and stated that if she delivered them to it, it would give her permission to nurture it (see comments). She responded that they belonged to it, but apologetically noted that their leader (Front) was missing; Child One reassured her that it sensed another of its minions (Mr. Illusion) who would bring it Front.

(Europa#4 (fb) - BTS) - Alma Matrix and Child One captured the remaining members of Gemini and Caine.

(Europa#4) - Alma Matrix transformed the interior of the base into a Gigeresque-nightmare, binding the captive members of Gemini to the walls and holding Caine to a throne-like protusion. Caine begged to know why she was doing this, appealing to her as a scientist, but she responded that though he was a genius he was limited, and that what was happening now stood far beyond science. She asked him rhetorically when a researcher had ever stopped before horror, asking him why she shouldn't finish what he had begun? As he protested, she pronounced Gemini's members cursed, saying they always had been, and she explained to the other captives how Caine had made a pact with Nosferath, an entity that had escaped from Hell, to bring them back to life after they had died as infants, sharing its eldritch power with them, only for Caine to betray and imprison it.

   Mr. Illusion, Front and Lancelot soon arrived, and, after seeing through Mr. Illusion's deceptions, the new arrivals were confronted by the captured Caine and Gemini, held prisoner by Alma Matrix and the floating form of Child One. The entity praised Mr. Illusion for being a good slave, then turned to Matrix. Apparently realizing what was about to happen, she pleaded that it had allowed her to feed it, stating that was its meal, but Child One corrected her, saying that it wasn't, and that it would allow her to feed it again. Ignoring her protests and screams, Child One drained her lifeforce, initiating its transformation into its true Nosferath form, and apparently killing her.

   Nosferath was subsequently defeated, and Lancelot and the Gemini members returned to Earth, where the media coverage of their return attributed the loss of Vera Croce base, Caine and Zareth to another terrorist attack.

Comments: Created by Giorgio Lavagna, Francesco Mio, Luca Poli and Carmine Di Giandomenico.
   Poli and Di Giandomenico did the character designs for the Gemini characters, while
Fabrizio Ugolini and Giampaolo Frizzi drew and inked the actual series.

   The story doesn't explicitly reveal Alma Matrix's powers; however, the way the technology in the base acts once she wakes Child One resembles to some extent the way the Euroadaptoid attacked and absorbed people, and since Zareth used technology salvaged from the Euroadaptoid in her experiment to tap into Child One's power, and had a preexisting affinity for technology via her chosen scientific field, it seems reasonable to assume that she was the one who took over the base, turned the guards into armor-zombies and transformed parts of the building into robotic serpents.

   The story isn't entirely clear on the exact relationship between Alma Matrix and Child One. Though the creature was said to be sleeping, it was still aware enough of things to influence Mr. Illusion, so it might have been whispering in her mind for a while too. Was she bad even before she made contact, or did it corrupt her with promises of power once she made contact, or did it outright control her? I'm guessing the middle option, but it could be any of them. Before she made contact she did think to herself that unlike Caine she wasn't scared to try and tap into its full power, but that might be in a purely scientific sense, not a "get power for myself personally" sense. The comments both she and the child made about her feeding/nurturing it only make it more confusing - it seemingly wasn't influencing her with promises of giving her power, and sounds more like it was promising to let her mother it. So did it tap into some maternal instinct within Zareth?

Profile by Loki, with invaluable aid from comic translator Angelo Mammone.

CLARIFICATIONS:
Alma Matrix has no known connections to:


images: (without ads)

Europa#3, p16, pan1 (main image)
Europa#2, p18, pan4 (headshot)
Europa#2, p17, pan1 (civilian clothes, TV interview)
Europa#3, p6, pan1 (serpentine cable thing)
Europa#4, p15, pan4 (death)


Appearances:
Europa #0-5 (April-October, 1996) - Giorgio Lavagna and Francesco Mio (writers), Fabrizio Ugolini (pencils), Giampaolo Frizzi (inks), Enrico Fornaroli; Marco M. Lupoi; Miguel Carrasco (editors)


First Posted: 10/05/2020
Last updated:
10/05/2020

Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.

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