Saturday, May 31, 2008

Justice League of America #188 - March 1981

sgTwo...two...two stories in one issue!

The Story: "The Metamorph War" by Gerry Conway, Don Heck, and Frank McLaughlin. Continued from last issue, we have the faux-JLA (actually duplicates created by supervillain Proteus) about to rob a bank they are obstensibly hired to protect.

But as they try to get away, they are stopped by...a construction worker, an office worker, a chef, and a waitress!

No...this is not a team-up with the Village People, these are the "regular people" identities that Proteus made the real JLAers believe they are!

The real JLAers quickly discover that their duplicates are faking their powers via machines, so between that and their lack of experience, they are easily defeated.

The Flash manages to take out Proteus, who tells the Scarlet Speedster that the machine he used to do the old switcheroo is damaged due to the Flash's punch, leaving Zatanna stranded in her "other" identity as a bag lady!

He finds Zee, and connects with her emotionally, reflecting their recent romance, which snaps her out of her fog. They both admit that they maybe they work better just as...friends.

Roll Call: Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash, Elongated Man, Zatanna

Second Story: "The Miracle at 22,300 Miles!" by Gerry Conway, Rich Buckler, and Frank McLaughlin

Up at the satellite, the Halls are pining for their home planet, Thanagar:
While they can't return home for now, Carter reassures his wife that maybe someday they'll be able to.

Meanwhile, Ray and Jean Palmer are attending a Hanukkah celebration, where the theme of hope is again celebrated.

No rest for the Batman, however, as we find him and Black Canary busting up a ring of computer thieves! They make quick work of them, when they receive a distress call from the Hawks!

Turns out some sort of small satellite is attacking the JLA HQ, and since it has knocked out their satellite's defense system, Hawkman heads out into space to attack it head on.

Batman, Canary, and the Atom arrive, only to have the JLA's main computer--the one that controls the life support systems and the transporter beam--blow-up! This leaves them with just an hour, or they will all run out of oxygen!

The Atom heads into the system to try and repair the damage, while Hawkgirl heads to the Hawks' orbiting spaceship to get a replacement component. She does, and life support is restored.

But...the Atom reveals he couldn't fix the computer in time. Yet...the life support system continued to work the whole time. How is that possible?

The Atom says they may have witnessed a miracle, like the one that happened in a temple 2,000 years ago...

Roll Call
: Batman, Atom, Hawkman, Black Canary, Hawkgirl

Notable Moments: I really enjoyed the second story--its a neat little holiday piece, and it probably wouldn't have worked as an issue-length tale. Pairing it up with the second half of the Proteus story (another tale that really didn't need to go past its page count) was a nice move.

Our pal Rich Buckler's art for "Miracle" is just great here--I loved Shayera's pensive look on the splash page.

Tomorrow would normally be issue #189, of course, but we have two days of special posts first. Be sure to check 'em out!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Justice League of America #187 - Feb. 1981

sgRomance and shape-changing rock the JLA!

The Story: "All Things Must Change!" by Gerry Conway, Don Heck, and Frank McLaughlin. We open on a pensive Zatanna, staring out into space aboard the JLA satellite.

Her thoughts are interrupted by The Flash, who, admittedly, is in a slightly lonely, nostalgic mood.

He tells Zatanna a bit about the original days of the League, and how much it has changed over the years. He then--gasp!--makes a pass at Zatanna, who seems to respond, and then quickly changes the subject.

Zatanna shows Barry what she's been working on, a new costume! No longer a derivative of either her father or her mother, this new outfit is her own creation.

They then sit down to have dinner, and the things start to heat up, in more ways than one
Meanwhile, down on Earth, we find Superman investigating the cause of an explosion. While underground, he runs across the supervillain Proteus (not seen since Beware The Creeper #'s 4-6!), who quickly zaps the Man of Steel!

Hours later, Superman wakes up...except now he is a normal joe named Bart McLusky! What the?!?

Proteus then does the same to Aquaman and the Elongated Man, and then Wonder Woman. Proteus is on quite a role, you'd think he might stop here.

But no, Proteus has to go for one more notch on his death ray, as he ambushes Zatanna at her home (where Zatanna thinks to herself "I can't believe Barry and I spent the entire night talking!" Uh-huh.).

Back up at the satellite, The Flash answers a distress signal:
Proteus: not detail oriented.

Now the "JLA" arrive at a big ticket jewelry store, along with the Flash, who they tell they are on a mission to guard a big shipment of rare jewels. Before Flash has time to wonder why the JLA is on such a penny-ante mission, they send him to guard the back, where he, too is zapped by Proteus! To be continued!

Roll Call
: Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash, Elongated Man, Zatanna

Notable Moments: No matter what Zatanna said--er, thought--I was always thought that Zee and know, did it. And while they were supposed to be on Monitor Duty, too!

After three issues drawn by George Perez, Don Heck is given a sort of try-out. He, Perez, and (in two issues) Rich Buckler will basically swap JLA art chores back and forth for the next two years or so.

sgThis same month, the JLA gues-starred in The New Teen Titans #4, by the boffo team of Marv Wolfman and George Perez. know, I really can't believe I don't own a copy of this!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Justice League of America #186 - Jan. 1981

sgThe return of the JLA's goofiest foe!

The Story: "Who Can Stop The Shaggy Man?" by Gerry Conway, George Perez, and Frank McLaughlin. We open in the frozen wastes of a remote spot in the Soviet Union, with two lonely guards getting attacked by some sort of giant monster.

One of them is killed, but the other survives to tell his tale to his superiors, who summarily execute him to cover up the story.

Meanwhile, at the JLA satellite, Elongated Man, bored while on Monitor Duty, has his boredom interrupted when a Russian space ship hurtles by! He sends out a JLA distress signal and we watch a few of the team respond, like Black Canary, who ends her exploration of Green Arrow's quiver to answer the call.

The JLA is shocked to see his Cosmonauts in their satellite, but they show the heroes some pictures they took from space....that of The Shaggy Man, rampaging through Russia!

The Flash is downright rude to the Cosmonauts, who shows them that they have The Shaggy Man imprisoned, after their last battle (JLA #104). Even when its brought up that this could be the other Shaggy Man, last thought to be trapped underground (JLA #45), he still calls the Russians bald-faced liars.

Turns out he and Green Lantern fought that second Shaggy Man several months ago, and defeated him, so he now thinks the Russians freed him to use as a secret weapon, except its all gone wrong. "Let them deal with it", Flash says.

The other Leaguers ignore Flash's bitterness and head to Russia to stop the rampaging monster, leading to a wonderful little sequence with Batman
...Perez was always so good at stuff like that, turning what could be a routine sequence into a funny and exciting couple of panels.

While the fight continues, Bats lures the Shaggy Man onto the top of a rocket he has rewired to blast off into space. The Shaggy Man, being none too bright, of course isn't smart enough to let go, even as the rocket hurtles out of the atmosphere.

At first, the JLAers think Batman has just sacrificed himself, but he shows up behind them telling them it was a dummy for the expressed purpose of fooling the Shaggy Man long enough to get him into space. The Dark Knight Detective isn't about to be taken out by the friggin' Shaggy Man.

Roll Call
: Batman, Flash, Atom, Black Canary, Elongated Man

Notable Moments: A fun issue, and after the mammoth JLA/JSA three-parter, a nice change of pace to have the whole story in just one issue.

Gerry Conway definitely amped up Barry Allen's conservative feelings (at least in comparison to his fellow JLAers), but here he is a real jerk. Even when its obvious that--planned or not--the Shaggy Man is on a rampage, killing people all over Russia, he barely cares.

The JLA Mail Room page is filled with contradictory letters regarding Green Arrow's departure. Two comic book reading sisters (sounds like a Maxim photo spread), Karen and Alicia Wu are divided on it, as, it seems, are most of the fans.

On the splash page, it states this issue is dedicated to Dick Dillin.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Justice League of America #185 - Dec. 1980

sgThe conclusion of the universe-shattering JLA/JSA/New Gods team-up!

The Story: "Darkseid Rising!" by Gerry Conway, George Perez, and Frank McLaughlin. We open with the New God Metron, who gives us a nice overview of what has happened so far.

Then we see Batman, Huntress, and Mr. Miracle, having just learned what Darkseid's ultimate plan is, are none too pleased to see that Darkseid himself has arrived, with the Injustice Gang in tow.

The Icicle brags that they have trapped three of the heroes--Firestorm, Power Girl, and Orion--in ice. You'd think Darkseid would be happy, but he's a moody guy. He doesn't take too well to seeing his son humiliated like that, and his blasts the IG, transporting them into a permanent prison chamber!

Meanwhile, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Big Barda make their way into the bowels of Granny Goodness' dungeon, where they see her overseeing a pit of forced child labor!

During the melee, Granny escapes using a secret passageway, but she doesn't quite get away
...that's a great, mean, angry face Perez gives Barda there. *shudder*

In the meantime, the frozen heroes have been freed by Batman, the Huntress, and Mr. Miracle, who then continue on to the prison chamber holding the villains. Since The Fiddler is controlling the people of New Genesis, they need him to free them from their hypnotic trance Darkseid put them under.

Batman and Mr. Miracle are like kids in a candy store, figuring out a death-trap ridden, seemingly-impenetrable prison cell:
Of course, the villains are freed, and made an offer they can't refuse.

The other heroes make their way to Darkseid, and the combined might of Green Lantern, Dr. Fate, and Metron turn the tables on Darkseid, turning the energy in his universe-destroying machine back on him, seemingly destroying him. Yeah, right.

But, for the moment at least, New Genesis is safe.

Roll Call
: Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Firestorm

Notable Moments: As sad as it was to lose Dick Dillin, DC couldn't have found a better, more exciting replacement than George Perez.

Perez had--has--the ability to render wonderfully grand, exciting superhero battles, on a truly cosmic scale, but also could put across quiet little moments of characterization with a staggering amount of detail.

Look at the page above--just before Bats and Mr. Miracle break in to the prison cell, they have Huntress stand guard. Then they climb atop the cell, and in panel seven, we see Huntress doing just that in the background, a nice touch that a lot of other artists might have forgotten about or just not bothered to add.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Justice League of America #184 - Nov. 1980

sgPart 2 of the JLA/JSA/New Gods team-up!

The Story: "Apokolips Now!" by Gerry Conway, George Perez, and Frank McLaughlin. Continued from last issue, our heroes are none too happy to see that the villainous Darkseid, rumored to be dead, seems to have been brought back to life by the Injustice Gang!

Three heroes, Power Girl, Firestorm, and Orion, try and take on the Injustice Gang, consisting of the, er, less than terrifying combo of The Shade, The Fiddler, and The Icicle.

They manage to subdue two of them, until The Fiddler lays some bad tunes on them
...that's a beauty of a page, and an early indication of the genius comic book storytelling George Perez was capable of.

Anyway, we cut to Superman, Wonder Woman, and Big Barda, who have discovered an organized, armed resistance against Darkseid's minion, the creepily-masculine Granny Goodness. Disturbingly though, this band of armed fighters are little more than children.

They use a mutant telepath child named Playto to learn how Darkseid ended up in cahoots with the Injustice Gang (he was less than polite in asking for their help), and then they search for Granny.

Meanwhile, Dr. Fate, Green Lantern, and Oberon rescue Highfather, who tells them he knows what Darkseid's ultimate plan.

Also meanwhile(!), the perfect combo of Batman, Huntress, and Mr. Miracle break into another part of Granny's stronghold, where they learn what the ultimate plan is...transporting Apokolips to Earth-2, and destroying the universe in the process! To be continued!

Roll Call
: Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Firestorm

Notable Moments: The JLA Mail Room page makes the official announcement of Dick Dillin's passing:
The page is filled with tributes by those who knew and worked with the man, like Jack Harris, Paul Levitz, Len Wein, Bob Rozakis, and his nephew, Steven Leary, who tells stories of watching his "Uncle Richard" draw these amazing stories.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Justice League of America #183 - Oct. 1980

sgThe annual JLA/JSA team-up...this time on New Genesis!

The Story: "Crisis on New Genesis" by Gerry Conway, Dick Dillin, and Frank McLaughlin. The annual JLA/JSA meeting is hijacked--again--when the heroes from both Earth-1 and Earth-2 find themselves transported to...New Genesis!

Superman explains to his bewildered pals where they are, since he has been here before. His use of the phrase "New Gods" irks the Earth-2 Wonder Woman, and as they squabble, they notice one of their party is suddenly missing...Firestorm!

Turns out the young hero got bored and went exploring, where he runs into the, er, less-than-even-tempered Orion, who blasts him with a bolt of energy.

The JLA and JSA find Firestorm and go after his attacker, and then they are met by the people that brought them here...Metron, Mr. Miracle, Big Barda, and Oberon of The New Gods!

Metron uses the Mother Box to calm Orion down, and they explain that New Genesis has been enslaved by the evil hordes of Apokolips, with assistance from...The Injustice Society of Earth-2!

The heroes infiltrate the royal palace, where they see the Injustice Gang surrounding some sort of giant cannon, which is pumping energy into someone in the distant sky...Darkseid! To be continued!

Roll Call: Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Firestorm

Notable Moments: A team-up of gargantuan scale, featuring three sets of heroes on a whole other world.

As nice as the team-up is, this issue is most memorable as the final issue--after fourteen years straight--of JLA with Dick Dillin as penciler.

Dillin's run on the book is simply astounding, and to me only gets more impressive with age, since it seems nowadays if artists stay on a book for six months its a miracle. To say nothing of just how tough it must have been to draw all these heroes every month, along with teams of villains, aliens, bizarre weapons, etc.

This was Dick Dillin's last JLA splash page, and it's a doozy. Click on it to take it all in:
Rest in peace, Mr. Dillin.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Justice League of America #182 - Sept. 1980

sgThe return of Felix Faust!

The Story: "Reprise" by Gerry Conway, Dick Dillin, and Frank McLaughlin. This issue opens with Green Arrow, having just resigned from the Justice League, aimlessly wandering the crime-ridden streets of Star City.

As he breaks up a car theft, he doesn't notice a mysterious, shadowy figure nearby--who we can see is the JLA's old villain, Felix Faust!

But no time for love Dr. Jones, since Arrow is then suddenly whisked away by a transporter beam, up to the JLA satellite, where some of the members who only now have heard what happened are demanding an explanation.

Arrow ain't having any of it, refusing to justify his actions further. Unfortunately for him, the JLA has already changed his membership status to "inactive", meaning he cannot beam down to Earth. Stuck there, he takes a seat, seeing who will break first.

Meanwhile, we follow Faust, who has found the secret journal of Nostromus at the Star City library (ha! and fundamentalists think Harry Potter promotes witchcraft!), and as he opens it he is blasted by some sort of energy beam.

Back at the satellite, Black Canary is trying to talk some sense into Green Arrow, when a ghostly vision of Faust appears, warning the JLA that the legendary warlock Nostromus is using Faust's body as a way to return to the land of the living to wreak havoc on the world!

The JLA follows Faust's signal to a small village outside Zurich, where they take on Nostromus' demon forms, to no avail. Luckily, the Nostromus-controlled body of Faust is stopped in mid-resurrection, thanks to a well-timed arrow which skewers the book, destroying it, and the warlock's chance of returning.

The JLA all congratulate Green Arrow for his fine work, and Superman welcomes him back to the JLA. But
Roll Call: Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Hawkman, Black Canary, Zatanna

Notable Moments: Wow, is Ollie a major league a-hole on that last page. It doesn't even really make sense, since being in the League doesn't mean you live at JLA HQ full-time (although Aquaman obviously liked the sound of that idea), so why does Green Arrow act like he has to break up with Dinah? And...have you seen those fishnets, Ollie? Are you nuts?

There's also a back-up tale, a solo Elongated Man story titled "The Sun Queen Snatch!", a cute little mystery by my pal Paul Kupperberg, with art by Rodin Rodriguez and Vince Colletta.

It involves the Dibnys and the Halls taking a vacation cruise together, and Ralph stumbles onto an attempted kidnapping, foiling the plot in the time it takes Carter Hall to suit up as Hawkman, in a goofy last panel that makes me laugh every time I see it:
I just love how silly Hawkman looks, popping into the last panel like that, while Ralph relaxes with as stiff drink. Well played, Mssrs. Kupperberg and Rodriguez.

I'm assuming DC needed their regular books' artists to get up to speed with the longer page count (since DCs were now 50 cents), so they slotted in this back-up for this month only. Too bad, since I thought this was a lot of fun, and it might've been interesting to see other back-ups featuring JLAers who didn't have their own books.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Justice League of America #181 - Aug. 1980

sgGreen Arrow leaves the Justice League!

The Story: "The Stellar Crimes of the Star-Tasr!" by Gerry Conway, Dick Dillin, and Frank McLaughlin. The story opens with Green Arrow, alone, relating this case into a tape recorder.

The story opens with Black Canary and Green Arrow transporting down to Star City, and they are discussing his increasingly uncomfortable presence in the JLA. He feels out of place and not doing the kind of work he really wants to do.

Suddenly they hear an explosion a few miles away, so Arrow fires a rocket arrow which carries them both to the scene of the melee.

Meanwhile, Arrow's presence in the team is also the subject of discussion at the JLA satellite. They all mention they've noticed a change in his demeanor, and it's Aquaman who seems to have the least sympathy for the Emerald Archer:

Anyway, this talk is interrupted by a distress signal, and the JLA heads own to Star City, just in time to see Arrow caring for a nearly-dead Black Canary, having been attacked by...the Star-Tsar!

At the hospital, Snapper Carr shows up, but Green Arrow nearly belts him before he can explain. Turns out Snapper's old costume was stolen from the Metropolis Police Department (way to go, MPD), so obviously someone else has assumed the role.

The JLA splits up, and both Superman and Green Arrow find the Star-Tsar simultaneously, at a concert at the Star City Stadium. But Arrow's stealth plan is ruined when the entire JLA busts in, in the middle of the Tsar's attempted kidnapping of the singer.

While the concert crowd nearly riots from panic, Arrow shoots some sort of smog arrow over him, blocking the light from the stars that gives him his powers.

Arrow then wraps up his report, finally realizing what all this had led to, his resignation from the Justice League of America:
Roll Call: Superman, Aquaman, Flash, Green Arrow, Atom, Black Canary, Elongated Man, Hawkgirl

Notable Moments: A big, momentus issue--the League's oldest "new" member leaves. As a kid, I was blown away by this turn of events.

Looking back on it now, you can see that the Green Arrow had become a bit of a jerk over these past dozen issues or so--something he ramps up to "11" next issue--so Gerry Conway was definitely stacking the deck.


Friday, May 23, 2008

Justice League of America #180 - July 1980

sgFirestorm's first case with the Justice League may be his last!

The Story: "A Beautiful Evil" by Gerry Conway, Dick Dillin, and Frank McLaughlin. Continued from last issue, the JLA, having received a distress call from Firestorm, arrives at the Satin Satan's apartment, only to find a fire demon waiting for them!

They defeat it, and then they find Ronnie Raymond's friend held prisoner in a small room. The JLA finds out from them what has happened, and they go on a search for Satin and Firestorm.

They don't turn up anything, but Zatanna learns from the demon they captured that the two of them might be in...Hell!

The JLA then heads to the discotheque where all this started, Zatanna following the mystical trail of the Satin Satan. Here they find her and her prisoners, including Firestorm, inside a giant, magically-created globe.

She frees Firestorm, and the JLA fights her demonic minions until they are defeated. They then turn their attention to Satin, and it is revealed she has been possessed by Sataroth, daughter of Satanni(?), who wanted to use Satin to round up a few cheap souls. Zatanna casts Sataroth out, and casts another spell to keep her out forever.

Green Arrow muses whatever happened to the simple bad guys they used to fight, and Firestorm tells him its a new day, and answer that Reddy notices doesn't sit well:
Roll Call: Superman, Batman, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Red Tornado, Zatanna, Firestorm

Notable Moments: This issue has an odd ending, with Conway letting the reader wonder if Satin's story of possession is true. He never followed it up in JLA, maybe he did in Firestorm's solo feature?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Justice League of America #179 - June 1980

sgAnother new member for the Justice League!

The Story: "The Siren Song of the Satin Satan!" by Gerry Conway, Dick Dillin, and Frank McLaughlin. We open in a discotheque, where an exotic beauty known as the Satin Satan seems to be able to command men to do whatever she wants...

Meanwhile, there's a celebration happening at the JLA satellite, where the august group of heroes has just inducted a new member...Firestorm, the Nuclear Man!

It blasts Superman with Kryptonite eyes, and hits Batman with a lightning bolt-type ray, leaving the rest of the JLA to take it on!

After the initial exuberance, the JLA gets down to the nitty-gritty, teaching Firestorm all the details he must master to be a member of the team. Firestorm's younger side--teenager Ronnie Raymond--is bored to tears, but is snapped out of his fog by Black Canary. Green Arrow notices, and doesn't like that one bit.

Red Tornado notices Arrow's unhappiness, recalling his disappointment over Black Lightning turning the JLA down (in #173), and recalls the evolution of the team:
...nice page, but where's Hawkgirl? Who built Reddy's android brain, Texas Instruments?

Anyway, after the initial training session is over, the team beams down to Earth, going their own ways. Superman reminds Firestorm he is now part of a group of friends, and just to call if he needs them. After you've been inducted into the Justice League of America, what do you do for an encore?

Firestorm changes back into his two identities, Ronnie and Prof. Martin Stein. Ronny goes out with his friends to a dance club, where a mutual friend tells them what happened earlier, with the mysterious woman.

Ronnie leaves his friends, changes back to Firestorm, and investigates. Once inside another club people saw Satin go into, he finds her, but she is able to control his actions!

She plants one on Firestorm, and as he turns to stone(!), he has just enough energy left to hit his JLA signal device.
To be continued!

Roll Call
: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Atom, Hawkman, Black Canary, Elongated Man, Red Tornado, Hawkgirl, Zatanna, and new member Firestorm!

Notable Moments: This is depending on your point of view of course, but to me Firestorm is the last new member of the "classic" JLA. There would be more members to come of course, but by then the JLA would be a very, very different book of characters.

Firestorm was a creation of Gerry Conway, and the character was a month or two away from having a back-up series in The Flash. (He would get his own book again in a year or two, The Fury of Firestorm, that would become one of DC's biggest sellers)

You could argue Conway was showing clear favoritism towards his own creation, putting this new hero in the League ahead of other, more established heroes. But I liked Firestorm on the team--his relative youth and experience was a nice counterpoint to the rest of the JLA, and having the same writer write Firestorm's solo book and JLA offered the opportunity to do character development within JLA, something Conway rarely got to do, but was obviously something he wanted to explore, and eventually got to do, big-time.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Justice League of America #178 - May 1980

sgMan, does this cover look familiar...

The Story: "The Chess-Master of Mars!" by Gerry Conway, Dick Dillin, and Frank McLaughlin. Continued from last issue, the JLA members, having experienced weird phenomena involving ordinary crooks turning into chess piece-like statues, meet up at the JLA satellite.

As they talk, another chess piece--the bishop--beams into the JLA satellite via the transporter!

It blasts Superman with Kryptonite eyes, and hits Batman with a lightning bolt-type ray, leaving the rest of the JLA to take it on!

The fight appears to be a standstill, until Zatanna casts a spell to encase Aquaman and Black Canary in an impenetrable protective shield. Aquaman then lands a blow, cracking the being in half, which allows Black Canary to use her Sonic Cry to finish it off.

The Atom examines the wreckage, and tells his teammates that this thing could've easily defeated them all--it let them win! This tips off Zatanna, who begins to investigate her theory.

Turns out that bishop was under the control of the Martian Manhunter, who is imprisoned by Despero. Despero wonders if Manhunter isn't throwing the game?

We learn that Manhunter is in an impossible situation--if he loses the game, he and his people on Mars II will die, but if he wins, that means he has killed his JLA friends!

Manhunter next calls up a knight, but suddenly none of Despero's "players"--the JLA--can be found! And, as Manhunter points out, by the rules of the game, Despero loses because he cannot field his players!

Despero, not a sore loser, tries to play other JLAers not yet participating, but then suddenly the Atom appears, knocking Despero to the ground. Then all the JLAers show up, via a spell by Zatanna, and they fight Despero's killer chess pieces. Superman hurls the Atom with super-strength into them, exploding them from the inside.

What Zatanna figured out what that Manhunter had his bishop destroy the JLA membership file, as a clue for them to discover. Everyone is happy to see their old friend again, except for one...

To be continued!

Roll Call
: Superman, Batman, Aquaman, Green Arrow, Atom, Black Canary, Zatanna

Notable Moments: Zatanna's spells got the JLA out of a lot of jams.

Aquaman gets another nice moment, where his sheer strength is highlighted, when he cracks the bishop piece almost in two with one punch. Damn straight.

This issue's cover, by Jim Starlin, is a nice tribute to the very first issue of the book:
...nowadays it seems like half the covers on comics are "tributes" to some previous cover, but this was pretty rare at this time. And, tribute or no, its well done and works all on its own.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Justice League of America #177 - Apr. 1980

sgAfter the nifty, uber-exciting cover by Rich Buckler, is a story of the return of the JLA's oldest and most deadly foes!

The Story: "The Graveyard Gambit!" by Gerry Conway, Dick Dillin, and Frank McLaughlin. This issue begins in a way very few issues of the book ever did--with Aquaman!

After many, many months of not being in on the fun, we have a perfect setting for the King of the Seven Seas: open with a group of fisherman who are gloating over their catch, a school of dolphins.

This does less than please the Aquatic Avenger, and I really enjoy the fury with which Gerry Conway has Aquaman express himself:
...even though he is enraged, his instructs his dolphin friends to save the fisherman that have fallen unconscious into the water. While there, he sees something bizarre--the fisherman begin to glow and change shape, and turn into giant, statue-looking beings!

Meanwhile, the same exact thing happens to the Atom, and then again with Green Arrow and Black Canary, and Superman and Batman. In the last case, the strange beings don't even look remotely human, instead taking the form of...castles?

They all share their info with Zatanna, who is on Monitor Duty. She calls an emergency JLA meeting.

Meanwhile, we see who is behind this strange plot, as well as an old friend...
To be continued!

Roll Call
: Superman, Batman, Aquaman, Green Arrow, Atom, Black Canary, Zatanna

Notable Moments: Nice to see Aquaman back after being absent from so many issues (how many times have I written that over the course of this blog?), and gets such a nice shot at the action.

This issue features another JLA subscription ad, tying the book in with three of its members' solo titles:
Those Neal Adams heads never get old!

As of this issue, classic JLA writer Len Wein returns to the book, this time as Editor (having replaced Ross Andru, who replaced the legendary Julie Schwartz). Under Wein's tenure, the book would see (IMO) some of its finest we'll see!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Justice League of America #176 - March 1980

sgPart Two featuring the evil Dr. Destiny!

The Story: "The Dream Factories of Doctor Destiny!" by Gerry Conway, Dick Dillin, and Frank McLaughlin. Continued from last issue, the JLA tracks down their old foe, Dr. Destiny, to an abandoned movie studio.

Once the JLA gets there, they encounter a horde of nightmarish creatures, but soon realize they are just illusions created by Destiny, keeping them from finding him.

They head inside, where Zatanna casts a spell, revealing Destiny's presence. Superman destroys Destiny's "Dream Machine", but he informs them that they sealed their own doom:
...I love Destiny's Mr.Burns-esque "I wash my hands of the whole thing" response.

Turns out he set off something called The Omega Program ahead of time, which now can't be stopped because the JLA destoyed his machine.

Green Lantern's ring determines the only way to stop it is to shut down Destiny's three satellite machines, located in different spots on the globe, at the same time. So the JLA splits up and searches for them.

Superman and Hawkgirl find one in Denmark, Zatanna and Red Tornado do the same in India, and Wonder Woman and Green Lantern head to Philadelphia. They each face their own private nightmares via Destiny's machines, but overcome them to stop the Omega Program.

Roll Call
: Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Red Tornado, Hawkgirl, Zatanna

Notable Moments: Wonder Woman and Lantern were in Philadelphia around the end of 1979? I was living right across the river at the time, I don't remember reading that in the papers.

Hawkgirl got a chance to shine here, sans her husband, and she acquits herself well. Considering how many times she got gipped in the book (missing from a lot of JLA group shots, etc.), I'd say this was owed to her.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Justice League of America #175 - Feb. 1980

sgThe return of the villainous Dr. Destiny!

The Story: "But Can An Android Dream?" by Gerry Conway, Dick Dillin, and Frank McLaughlin. We open with a bunch of JLAers begging someone not to resign from the JLA. But its no use...Red Tornado is leaving the JLA!

He tells his friends that he finds himself to be the least reliable member of the JLA, and he can risk his friends' lives no more. So matter how much they try to talk him out of it, he feels he has no choice to leave.

He beams himself back to Earth, landing in Central Park. Here he transforms himself back into his civilian identity of John Smith, where the male half of a couple on a picnic can't believe his eyes when he sees Reddy. The girl he's making out with thinks she's the cause of his hallucinations, so she takes it upon herself to ramp the picnic up a notch:
sg that's a fun date!

Anyway, Reddy goes to visit his orphan charge, Traya. Meanwhile, Dr. Destiny is safely tucked away in Arkham Asylum...or is he?

Turns out the Dr. Destiny the guards see is in fact a hallucination, and its actually his Arkham psychiatrist in there, but the guards think its Destiny in there. He is, of course, planning a scheme that involves a machine he's created that turns people's dreams into living nightmares.

Meanwhile, we find Red Tornado, as John Smith, revealing to his love Kathy Sutton that he is, in fact, the android The Red Tornado! Traya tells Kathy she loves him, flesh or no, and after a few moments, Kathy says she loves him, too.

They then attend Halloween Parade, where suddenly people are attacked by giant, nightmarish(!) monsters! He tries to stop them but is fought off by a dream-like duplicate of himself!

But Reddy finds the machine that these visions seem to be coming from, and destroys it, just as some of the JLA arrive to help. Red Tornado, now filled with confidence and love and support, is ready to come back to the JLA.

Roll Call
: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Red Tornado, Hawkgirl, Zatanna

Notable Moments: The opening splash page is filled with the JLA begging an as-yet-unknown person not to leave the team. Each member gets to say something, except for Batman, who remains stone-faced. Batman doesn't have time for this crap.

Red Tornado gets a nice chance to shine here, and Kathy deciding she loves this "man" is genuinely touching.

Even though the story seems to end here, it is in fact continued, as we'll see tomorrow:

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Justice League of America #174 - Jan. 1980

sgInteresting, having a super-villain warning the super-heroes to save themselves. Well, The Regulator was new at this...

The Story: "A Plague of Monsters" by Gerry Conway, Dick Dillin, and Frank McLaughlin. Continued from last issue, we see The Regulator and his rat army taking over S.T.A.R. Labs.

He punches out a scientist, telling him he is exacting revenge against the people who had him committed to a mental hospital, who he believes were jealous of his genius!

Back at the JLA satellite, Green Arrow is telling the other JLAers what happened and just why they aren't inducting Black Lightning. He gets so worked up he gets convinced that the others didn't really want him to join!

Arrow then storms off, off to find Lightning and ask him again, with Elongated Man and Zatanna tagging along.

While at the Metropolis Police HQ, they get an emergency call at S.T.A.R. Labs, and when the three JLAers and the police arrive, they are met by a horde of giant vermin! Ewww!

Some other JLAers arrive to help, as does Black Lightning, and they learn who this Regulator nutjob is. Soon, his hordes of vermin start filling the streets, and the JLA attempts to fight them off.

Meanwhile, Lightning makes a move towards The Regulator, atop a smokestack. In the ensuing battle, The Regulator is careless, and he slips, falling to his death inside the smokestack.

The JLA round up all the creatures, put them into a container of Zatanna's crafting, and Wonder Woman sends it hurtling into space(!), "to the outer reaches of the solar system."

sgGreen Arrow tries one more time to talk Black Lightning into joining, but he remains steadfast to being a loner.

Roll Call
: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Elongated Man, Zatanna

Notable Moments: I know the universe is a big place, but over the years superheroes have thrown so much crazy crap "to the outer reaches of the solar system" that it must look like a junkyard out there.

Also, it was kinda cruel, what the JLA did to the Regulator's creatures. Its not their fault, exactly, because they would normally be regular-sized rats and insects had the Regulator not messed with them.

Putting them all in a box, with no food or light, hurtling through space for however long, means that, in short work, that box will become a real chamber of horrors, as the creatures start killing and eating each other to survive.

Sorry to end this on such a downer.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Justice League of America #173 - Dec. 1979

sgI dunno, I think Black Lightning is being a little tough on that Cavalier-type guy. He looks kinda cool to me.

The Story: "Testing of A Hero" by Gerry Conway, Dick Dillin, and Frank McLaughlin. We open on a rooftop in Metropolis, with several members of the JLA following the exploits of a new hero, Black Lightning!

Lightning makes quick work of some bank robbers, and as he carts them off, Green Arrow stresses that Black Lightning is JLA material.

When he mentions that Lightning is "cool, smart, brave...and black!", The Flash objects suggesting that Green Arrow was saying they admit a "token black." Uh-oh!

This leads to Barry and Ollie squaring off, with The Flash taking a particularly hard stand on Green Arrow's political leanings:
Superman calls an end to the nonsense, and moves forward with the plan to test Lightning's mettle.

Meanwhile, a costumed baddie named The Regulator, who seems to be able to control--eww--rats, swears vengeance on society and all those who have wronged him!

Back at Metropolis Police HQ, Lightning laughs at the suggestion that there might be an "anti-vigilante" law passed soon, since of course that would affect Superman, too. He heads out, but is soon attacked by two bizarre beings, one an energy being, the other a type of she-ape!

Lightning defeats them both, and calls the cops to pick them up. He leaves before he sees what they do, that something is happening to these weirdos...Meanwhile, the Regulator's army of rats start to attack S.T.A.R. Labs.

Lightning is attacked again, by another strange being, a sort of invisible man. No sooner does he defeat this foe then he is attacked by yet another costumed stranger, this one dressed like your typical swashbuckler. He almost ends up killing this guy, before he calms down, and the swashbuckler reveals himself to be...Green Arrow!

Suddenly all the JLA show up, telling him they were testing him, and he passed with flying colors. Welcome to the Justice League, Black Lightning!:

Meanwhile, we see that S.T.A.R. Labs has been taken over by The Regulator. To be continued!

Roll Call
: Superman, Flash, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Zatanna

Notable Moments: Black Lightning would've made a fine addition to the JLA, at the same time Conway gives us a plausible reason as to why he doesn't.

The menacing roles the JLAers assume are hilarious, and their super-silly names (Primak, The Trans-Visible Man) seem like a very subtle dig on Conway's part on how the JLAers see themselves.

The little moment Black Lightning has with the police inspector about not worrying about any law that would also affect Superman is nice, and used again by Alan Moore during his brilliant Swamp Thing run. It's a moment that relies upon the readers familiarity with just how beloved Superman is in this universe.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Justice League of America #172 - Nov. 1979

sgHey, what's Wonder Woman doing there? And since the murderer is standing behind Batman right now, who the heck is he pointing at?

The Story: "I Accuse..." by Gerry Conway, Dick Dillin, and Frank McLaughlin. Continued from last issue, tensions are running high on the satellite following the murder of Mr. Terrific.

Superman asks that Dr. Fate and the Lanterns create a force shield around the satellite so powerful that not even he can break it, to make sure the murderer doesn't escape.

The two teams start an investigation, starting off with Huntress suggesting maybe Mr. Terrific was going senile, a suggestion Green Lantern doesn't take too well to.

Batman, who of course is leading the investigation, asks Flash a few questions:
...I love this sequence, mainly because Batman doesn't explain what he's getting at to the Flash. That seems very Batman to me.

While the Huntress is working the JLA computer, it suddenly explodes, leaving her with terrible burns. Luckily, Dr. Fate uses his amazing abilities to heal her, and with great effort she tells Batman that their suspect is, in fact, who they think it is. She then drifts into sleep.

Batman then reveals what happened--there's only a handful of heroes who could warp the satellite's hull, and who leaves a "seismic trail" that could be tracked by the machine the Spirit King recently stole...and that is Jay Garrick, The Flash!

It turns out that not too long ago, the Flash beat King so badly that he was chosen for a special revenge, to be used an instrument of murder! The Spirit King then uses The Flash's body to escape via the transporter tube, escaping the heroes.

And before the JSA departs to track him down, they take a moment to reflect that the main element of the Spirit King's plan--to turn the heroes against each other--failed, because the heroes refused to believe the worst about one another.

Roll Call
: Superman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Red Tornado, Zatanna

Notable Moments: I always though the Spirit King was in fact an old DC villain, turns out Gerry Conway just made him up! He didn't even rate a listing in Who's Who a few years later, even though he took out a long-running DC hero.

There is a bit of a cheat here, where King reveals that he didn't use the Flash's body to strangle Mr. Terrific--which would've been a creepy, unsettling touch--but instead became corporeal just long enough to do the deed himself. Like I did a few issues ago, I call shenanigans.

This issue features a spiffy ad for, well, itself:
...I like the varied bits of stock art you've got here. A bunch of Neal Adams heads, Power Girl from the cover of All-Star Comics #58, Green Lantern from the back cover of the JLA treasury comic, a real smorgasbord.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Justice League of America #171 - Oct. 1979

sgThe JLA and the JSA's annual team-up this time involves a murder...committed by one of them!

The Story: "The Murderer Among Us: Crisis Above Earth-One!" by Gerry Conway, Dick Dillin, and Frank McLaughlin. Zatanna is chairing the monthly JLA meeting, which happens to coincide with the annual get together with the JSA.

The JSAers this time around include Hawkman, Green Lantern, Power Girl, Huntress, Mr. Terrific, Flash, and Dr. Fate. No points as to which one of these heroes doesn't make it to the end of the issue.

Anyway, the two teams of heroes are participating in chit-chat, and Zatanna mentions to Hawkman and Power Girl that she still feels a bit nervous about working with a team, because she wanted to prove she could make it on her own. Hawkman reassures Zee:
...Carter Hall, ladies man.

Anyway, over in another group, Mr. Terrific is telling a story about running into one of his old foes, The Spirit King, who was in the middle of some nefarious scheme when he was discovered by Mr. Terrific, but...:
...After a few awkward moments, Superman notices some of the heroes suddenly aren't around. Hmm...

But before he can look into it, a huge explosion rips open the satellite! While Dr. Fate and the Lanterns help build a patch for the hull, Superman discovers a casualty on a piece of wreckage...Mr. Terrific.

The Flash discovers another piece of wreckage, but with strange markings on it. Zatanna takes it and tries to use her powers to determine what happened to it, when she is hit by some burst of energy from it, which sends her into shock!

The Flashes search the satellite, and no one else is aboard. Red Tornado checks the records and sees that no one else has beamed off or on the satellite in the last hour. Which of them is a murderer! To be continued!

Roll Call
: Superman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Red Tornado, Zatanna

Notable Moments: This is one of those stories that I think works depending on when you read it. I think if I had read a comic like this now, when an old-time hero is brought out of retirement just to be killed off, I wouldn't like it.

But since I this comic came out pretty much right when I was first reading comics, I accepted it, and it was a shocking turn of events. Major changes are more easily accepted if they happened long before you came around.

That said, I like the murder mystery concept, and I still think the story works fairly well. Let's see how it wraps up tomorrow.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...