Comics Review: JLA 138, Superboy & the Legion 223

JLA 138 coverWelcome to my reviews of JLA #138 and Superboy and the Legion #223. I always gravitated more toward “team” books for DC than “individual” books, so these two titles are favourites from way back. These particular stories are pretty good; I’m a big fan of Mike Grell, so the art on the Superboy comic is the standout for me.

Justice League of America #138 – “Adam Strange—Puppet of Time” – (Cary Bates/Dick Dillin/Frank McLaughlin)

This issue begins with Alanna, Adam Strange’s wife, narrating the story into a recorder. Alanna tells the story which unfolds throughout the rest of the issue; I’m not too fond of that as a storytelling device…why not just have the damn story play out normally? She beams a hologram of herself to the JLA Satellite and says she needs the League to help her husband, Adam Strange. Since their marriage, his zeta-beaming has stopped (though she doesn’t say why exactly … maybe her father cured him?), but recently Adam started beaming away again. On his return, he told her he was beaming through time now, not space; he’d been appearing on the Earth of the future, and apparently things are pretty fucked up. Adam talks about futureBefore his last fadeaway, he told Alanna that all the bad shit going on in the future was his fault; he then beamed away and never reappeared, so Alanna wants the JLA to find him and bring him back. Batman, Flash,  Superman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman head to the future to look for Adam. They mistake harmless future tech for attacks and a future GL tells them Adam has been doing the same. Apparently Adam has been trying to stop them with his ray gun and just making things worse. They use the Green Lantern’s ring to figure out why Adam is acting so weird; that’s another plot device I’m not fond of—the “deus ex annulo” that seems to be used so much in Green Lantern stories. The ring tells them Adam’s screwed in the head and acting on pure instinct, attacking anything he sees as a threat; also, his ray gun is now charged with “infinite power”.  A nearby skyscraper starts spewing water, but the local GL says it’s to cool off the molten rock under the city so there are no earthquakes; you’d think with all their fancy technology, they’d be able to come up with a more permanent solution…or move the damn city.big trouble Adam shows up and stops the waterworks, which means the whole city might be totalled by an earthquake. Batman figures out that Adam’s gun has been getting weaker as he’s been fighting the others, so Bats just dazzles him with footwork and acrobatics until the gun runs out of juice; so much for it having “infinite power”. Once all the excess zeta energy is gone, Adam stops acting crazy and the other Leaguers recover right away. They take Adam back to Rann—and Alanna—and everything’s great. Except Alanna (who’s still narrating the story into the recorder) says that she and Adam have unwittingly condemned the five heroes to a living hell and when they get back to Earth, they’ll wish they were dead. What could all that be about? I guess we’ll find out next issue.

Noticeable Things:

  • When Flash and Batman on the JLA Satellite, Flash wants to play 3-D chess (!), but Batman says he has “something better in mind for fun” … I think that means he’s going back to Earth to get laid.
  • The future looks pretty good at first glance, kinda Fritz Lang art-deco.Look at the future
  • There’s a scene where Superman is sent flying and Flash has to vibrate really fast to avoid getting pulped; Wonder Woman, on the other hand, just lets Supes bounce right off her! She’d make a hell of a defensive tackle.WW is tough
  • I’m not sure why all the helpful devices in the future are constructed to resemble natural disasters like whirlwinds and fireballs.
  • I love Batman, and it’s cool that he’s the “smart one” of the bunch, but I don’t really like it when he hangs back and “observes” everyone else get their asses kicked. Sure Batman’s smart, but he’s not the type to sit back stroking his chin while his friends get pounded; he’s a man of action.

Superboy 223 coverSuperboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #223 – “We Can’t Escape the Trap in Time” – (Jim Shooter/Mike Grell/Bob Wiacek)

This issue starts (as so many Legion issues do) with the team rushing out of their HQ to save the galaxy. But unlike most issues, this time half the team (Superboy, Saturn Girl, Karate Kid, Sun Boy, and Chameleon Boy) get trapped behind an invisible barrier and can’t join their friends. They try to jump back in time to before the barrier was there, but end up getting shanghaied to the Time Trapper’s lair, 3.74 days into the future.

time travel
Time Trapper is really Carlos Castaneda!

He tells them he wants to rule the universe, and after checking all possible timestreams (and you thought your job was boring), he found he can only triumph in a universe where these five Legionnaires are dead. He shows them the mission they were supposed to go on, and their fellow Legionnaires being killed by a breach into an anti-matter universe … oh, and the entire galaxy is destroyed too. As the five Legionnaires individually fight the Trapper, Saturn Girl figures out that he’s actually fighting all of them at the same time, since time is halted in the Trapper’s lair. She realizes the Trapper’s hourglass necklace allows him to manipulate time, so she tells Superboy to smash it. Superboy smashed amuletThey all end up right back where (and when) they started. Superboy tells them he tried to hold onto the Time Trapper, but he was sucked through a warp door into the core of a red sun—a fate he’d been planning for Superboy                                       Superboy red sun warpNow that they’re back where this issue started (sans invisible barrier) they join the others to fix the anti-matter breach and save the galaxy. So this is another of those stories where everything goes back to normal and it’s almost like it never happened … although they at least retain their memories in this one.

Noticeable Things:

Quicksand
Quicksand

–Throughout the comic we see Pulsar Stargrave and his two lackeys (Holdur and Quicksand) watching the Legionnaires fight Time Trapper. He seems to be evaluating them, to see what kind of opponents they’ll make. I get the impression that Stargrave is the one behind the anti-matter breach, though they don’t quite come out and say that.

–Grell’s art is great; some really nice action shots and the way he draws Stargrave’s minion, Quicksand … well, let’s just say she’d fit in quite well in Skartaris.

–So I guess this issue was basically a blip before they fight Stargrave, a storyline we’ll pick up in the next couple of issues.

2 thoughts on “Comics Review: JLA 138, Superboy & the Legion 223”

  1. I vividly recall seeing that JLA cover on the spinner racks, but I never bought the issue. The problem for me is that the books you’re reviewing were coming out right at the time (big chunk of 1977 and 1978) when I was in this major Archie and funny animal phase in my comics reading. Once I returned to my first love, i.e., superheroes, in a big way, I had to play catch up. And I regret missing out on a lot of this stuff, esp. the Mike Grell issues of LoSH (I think I had only one or two of the earlier issues he drew).
    Regardless, I’m enjoying your rundowns.

    1. Thanks, Edo … I’m enjoying doing them! (And I’m basically playing catch up myself, having missed a lot of these as a kid.) If you like Grell, there’s more coming, when I get to Green Lantern and Warlord, which will be in a couple of weeks.

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