Comics Review: JLA 141, Superboy & the Legion 226, Black Lightning 1

JLA 141 coverJustice League of America #141 – “No World Escapes the Manhunters” – (Steve Englehart/Dick Dillin/Frank McLaughlin)

This one starts with Green Lantern, Green Arrow, and Black Canary still in the Himalayas, trying to get as far from the Manhunter HQ as possible. But no one escapes the Manhunter, so he tracks them down and attacks. This is the Mark Shaw version of Manhunter, for those of you who lost your scorecards. After a protracted fight, Manhunter is finally kayoed by the three heroes. Back on the JLA Satellite, Flash and Wonder Woman are trying to find their missing friends. But the Grandmaster, the head of the Manhunters, puts an impenetrable force field around the Satellite. Flash tries to vibrate through it like he did last time, using the JLA rocket for extra speed instead of Superman. It doesn’t work this time, leaving the Rocket smashed up and Flash half-dead as WW tries to save him. Back in space near the “destroyed” planet Orinda, Superman, Batman, and a Guardian of the Universe are still trying to find Orinda, which Batman is sure has been concealed somehow. The Guardian tells them the history of the Manhunters: they were a pre-Green LanternManhunter history Corps army of androids created by the Guardians to keep peace in the galaxy. But the androids rebelled, were defeated by the Guardians, and condemned to live out their existence without the Guardians’ power behind them. The Guardians next champions were living beings—the predecessors of the GLC—and the Manhunters became intergalactic bounty hunters as they plotted revenge against the Guardians over the Millennia. Now they’re trying to discredit the Guardians by discrediting the Green Lanterns, hence the destruction of Orinda (which the Guardian says is actually the Manhunters’ HQ). On the Satellite, Wonder Woman saves Flash’s life, then destroys the force field by using some weird-looking alien that’s been trapped inside the Satellite computer since issue #150.WW uses alien Mark Shaw is replaced as Manhunter-Prime by his predecessor and they both keep hunting for GL, GA, and Canary. On Orinda, Superman and Batman attack the Manhunter citadel and start pounding everyone. Supes is mugged by the Supermanhunter, a huge bastard wearing Kryptonite armour. Batman leaves him (after some prompting) and heads into the Manhunter base.Batman leaves Superman In the Himalayas, WW and Flash find their friends but are knocked out by the two Manhunters, who have already pounded the other three JLAers into submission. On Orinda, Batman gets into the inner sanctum and destroys the device that’s been hiding Orinda from sight; kinda hard to blame Orinda’s destruction on GL when Orinda’s sitting right there. Back in the Himalayas, the Grandmaster freaks out and tells his two Manhunters to destroy the Leaguers. But it turns out Flash pulled the old super-speed switcheroo on them, and GL followed suit.switcheroo Mark Shaw is feeling disillusioned, so he attacks the Grandmaster and realizes—when the Grandmaster blows up—that he’s been taking orders from an android.manhunter beats Grandmaster Shaw says he wants to be a good guy now, so the League lets him go. The issue ends with everyone wondering why Aquaman, Atom, and Elongated Man didn’t answer the emergency signal for the last couple of issues. We’ll find out why next issue.

Noticeable Things:

  • During the fight in the Himalayas, Black Canary uses her sonic cry to knock Manhunter on his ass, but Manhunter was holding onto Green Arrow at the time, so wouldn’t Ollie have gotten blasted by the canary cry too?Canary cry
  • While saving Flash, we find out why Wonder Woman’s been such an asshole lately; she’s feeling inadequate. The League basically begged her to rejoin, but she wasn’t sure she was up to it, so she asked them to evaluate her. But after she came back, she felt like everyone was still judging her, even though she’d already proven herself, so she lashed out. I’m not sure I follow that logic completely, but I guess it makes sense if you don’t look too closely.WW saves Flash
  • WW says she picked on Flash the most because “After so many years of marriage, you’re so chauvinistic!” Does being married make you more chauvinistic? I would’ve thought the opposite.
  • I’m glad the “Wonder Woman being snotty to everyone” plot is being addressed, but it ain’t over yet.
  • Apparently all the original Manhunters were androids, but their later recruits (like Mark Shaw) were natives of whatever planet they were recruited on. Eventually, it turns out Dan Richards and Paul Kirk (the World War II Manhunters) were recruited by the androids as well, but had no clue who they were actually working for.

Superboy and the legion 226 coverSuperboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #226 – “The Dazzling Debut of Dawnstar” – (Paul Levitz/James T. Sherman/Jack Abel)

This issue starts not long after the last one left off. The Resource Raiders try to bust out of the cells in Legion HQ, but are quickly recaptured. The team is pissed off that they couldn’t glean the location of the Raiders’ base from their minds, only a weird course through space that not even Lightning Lad can follow. But Wildfire (he’s the leader now remember?) brings in a pro from Dover: Dawnstar. A mutant (there’s that word again!) who can track anyone or anything through space, no matter how convoluted the course. The others are skeptical, but soon change their tune when Dawnstar leads them through space so fast their starship can barely keep up. The course leads not to the Raiders’ base, but to their next target, a supply convoy out near Pluto.near Pluto They save the convoy, but most of the Raiders escape through a space-warp. Everyone freaks out at Dawnstar (and Wildfire), but she says she can track the ship even through a space-warp. She tracks them back to Earth, Siberia to be precise, and the Legionnaires attack. Dawnstar again shows her worth, by leading Superboy and Sun Boy past the optical illusions (one of which looks kinda like a D&D magic mouth) into the heart of the Raiders’ lair. The Raiders’ leader turns out to be a brain in a jar; seen it before, you say? No way baby, this brain in a jar has eyes. Once the brain is unhooked from its weapons, the rest is mop-up. Dawnstar is offered membership in the Legion.dawnstar is offered membership

Noticeable Things:

  • They say they used a truth device to scan the space coordinates from the Raiders’ minds; why didn’t Saturn Girl just read their minds? Maybe the species is immune to telepathy?
  • When the Legionnaires are fighting the Resource Raiders around Pluto and later at the Raiders’ base, they seem to be blowing up the Raiders’ ships indiscriminately. Are they killing these guys? What happened to the Legion Code? Maybe it’s like on the A-Team, where people are in exploding vehicles then you see them climbing out of the wreckage after. But I didn’t see anyone climbing out of wreckage …Legion attacks
  • So, let me get this straight: they track the Raiders to Pluto at (apparently) sub-light speeds, but when the Raiders flee back to Earth, they use a space-warp? Can you use a space-warp inside the solar system? I get the feeling that scene was just to show that Dawny’s tracking abilities work through space-warps.
  • I know Wildfire’s kind of a dick, but everyone’s being really shitty to him here; maybe Levitz is trying to add a little of the “team friction” that Marvel was so famous for, but it sometimes comes off a bit too harsh.
  • The splash page says Dawnstar was created by Mike Grell, and we get a look at his rendition of her on the cover, but Sherman illustrates the main story.

Brainy fighting“Five Against One” – (Paul Levitz/Mike Nasser/Jack Abel)

The second story is a Brainiac 5 solo mission. He’s on Zerox (the Sorceror’s World and home to Mordru) to steal an artifact called the Starstone for Pulsar Stargrave, who told Brainy he was his father last issue. Brainy fights his way past five challenges and finds the Starstone. But it seems to be sentient and tells him the truth: Stargrave isn’t Brainy’s father, he’s the original android Brainiac from the 20th century. Brainy leaves the Starstone and sends the Legion a message saying he’s going to kill Stargrave. His friends vow to stop him.

Noticeable Things:

  • I’m not sure if the whole “Pulsar Stargrave is the original Brainiac” thing was meant to be permanent, but I don’t think it lasts long. in fact, I think Pulsar was eventually said to be a creation of Brainiac 3, sent into the future.

Black Lightning 1 coverBlack Lightning #1 (Tony Isabella/Trevor von Eeden/Frank Springer)

This basically tells Black Lightning’s origin. It’s been tweaked over the years, but I think this rendition is pretty close to canon. This issue uses a storytelling device that I’ve gotten kinda sick of: we get an opening scene, then an extended flashback bringing us up to that scene. It’s not that I hate the idea, but it’s just so overused, especially in late 70s DC comics. Anyway, Black Lightning is in a warehouse, beating the shit out of some dope dealers. He threatens the leader thenBlack Lightning threatens dope dealer takes off. Back at his hideout (such as it is) Black Lightning talks to his confidante, a guy named Peter. This is where we get the long flashback: Jefferson Pierce, ex-Olympic athlete and currently a teacher, returns to his old high school, Garfield High (“Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back”). He sees a dope deal and slaps the dealer around. Later he establishes some street cred by playing basketball with resident “cool dude” Earl Clifford, but they’re interrupted by the dope dealer’s boss and a couple of thugs. Pierce and Clifford run them off and they go to their boss, a guy named Tobias Whale. He runs an outfit called the 100, which controls all the dope trade in that part of Metropolis. I guess Superman can’t be bothered to intervene on the other side of the tracks. Whale tells his men to get at Pierce through his students and they accidentally kill Earl Clifford, then hang him up from the basketball backboard. Pierce freaks out and runs to his old friend Peter, above whose shop Pierce and his mom used to live. Peter seems to be some kind of Eastern Europeanass-kicking montage Jewish tailor-type dude, because we haven’t had enough clichés already. Peter says he’ll help Pierce fight the 100 and makes him a costume to disguise himself. So Pierce calls himself Black Lightning and starts slapping down dope pushers, which leads us back to the start of the comic. Black Lightning’s been watching the school and knows the dope boss he roughed up is waiting for him inside. But we see he’s not alone; there are a bunch of goons with him, including a certain archer (no, not Green Arrow). We’ll have to wait until next issue to see what happens.

Noticeable Things:

  • I generally like Black Lightning, and Tony Isabella’s not a bad writer, but this is pretty clichéd.
  • When we first see Earl Clifford, we know he’s cool ’cause he has two girls hanging off him. One of them is dressed kinda “mature” … maybe she’s a teacher.Earl and his women
  • Pierce refers to himself as a “kid-killer”; we won’t get the full story behind that for a while.
  • Isabella must have a case of Marvelitis; Tobias Whale is basically just an albino Kingpin.
  • When the thugs accidentally run over Earl Clifford, they freak out and say they only wanted to beat on him, but they sure ain’t shy about displaying his corpse in the gym.dead kid

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