Comics Review: JLA 142, Superboy & the Legion 227, All-Star Comics 66

JLA 142 coverJustice League of America #142 – “Return From Forever” – Steve Englehart/Dick Dillin/Frank McLaughlin

This issue basically solves the mystery of why Aquaman, Elongated Man, and Atom didn’t respond to the JLA emergency signal for the last couple of issues. Apparently, they’ve been hanging out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, taking a break from the superhero thing. Atom’s having some kind of existential crisis, complaining that his powers are pretty much useless. Maybe he should move to South America and be a swashbuckler … nah, too crazy. Ralph and Aquaman try to cheer him up, but they’re interrupted by a couple of spaceships shooting at each other. One of the spaceships is hit and crashes and the attacker takes off. Aquaman heads inside the ship to see if anyone’s there and rescues the pilot, a green alien woman named Willow.Willow Marvel fans may find something familiar about this character. Aquaman introduces Willow to the others and she says she was fleeing something called the Construct and they have to all hide out in Atlantis. She happens to have a breathing mask for Ralph (which Atom can ride inside), so they all head down into the depths. We then get a scene of the Construct, a big robot, telling his origin to his robotic underlings. Basically, all the TV, radio, and other electronic signals beaming all over the Earth coalesced into a consciousness and it built a robot body which it now inhabits. It says it wants to destroy humanity (of course … what else do sentient robots want?) but Willow could stop its plans. In Atlantis, Willow gives them some doubletalk about why she’s there and the Construct shows up on one of the monitors saying if they don’t turn her over to him in an hour, he’ll destroy Miami. Willow tells Aquaman and Ralph to go to Miami and says Atom will guard her as she continues her “pilgrimage”. Since Atom was feeling useless before, his friends go along with the idea, though neither of them seems to think he’s up to protecting her. AtomWillow kicks ass and Willow surface for air and are attacked by a couple of spaceships. They head to a nearby island where they’re attacked by robots. Atom gets slapped down, but Willow ends up being a “master of the martial arts” and kicks the shit out of the robots. Of course, that just makes Atom feel even more useless. In Miami, Construct’s robots have already started using a death ray on the citizens. Aquaman gets jumped by robots, but Ralph uses his super power of being annoying to trick the robots into blowing up their own death ray. We check in with the rest of the JLA on the Satellite and we get some more of that great Marvel … er, I mean DC, angst. Some of the members are tired of Wonder Woman’s crappy mood and want her kicked out. Superman says he’ll talk to her … I’m sure that’ll go well. Back in the Atom in constructAtlantic, Atom and Willow reach the island she was looking for, but are attacked by the Construct, who somehow makes a body from metallic ores. He blasts them with his death rays, but Atom shrinks down so small that the rays can’t affect him. He gets inside Construct’s rocky bod and pulls an “Alien”, exploding him from the inside out. Willow says she knew Atom would beAtom busting out the only one who could save her, which cures his melancholy rather handily. She tells him more of her origin and that she’s pregnant with humanity’s next big thing. She asks Ray to keep her location a secret and he promises he will. Back on the Satellite, he keeps his word, though he looks a bit smug about it.

Noticeable Things:

  • Yeah, Willow is basically Mantis from the Marvel comics, right down to the way she talks (constantly referring to herself as “this one” for instance). When we last saw Mantis in Avengers, it was the end of the Celestial Madonna storyline and she was pregnant with the new Galactic Messiah or whatever. She’s pregnant here too, so Englehart seems to be continuing Mantis’s story without missing a beat.
  • When Superman’s trying to figure out what’s up with Wonder Woman, he thinks she might be having trouble with Steve Trevor. Of course! If a woman is upset, it must be man trouble … what else could it be? I’m assuming Englehart did that on purpose, to show that Superman’s not really all that enlightened.
  • Willow’s explanation of her pregnancy follows the Celestial Madonna story pretty closely, though she leaves out the part about her marrying a ghost inhabited by an alien tree.celestial madonna
  • Atom seems quite broken up about leaving Willow, almost like he’s hot for her. Ray’s got a bit of a wandering eye … Willow, Laethwan … no wonder Jean ends up going nuts.

Superboy 227 coverSuperboy and the Legion #227 – “War at World’s End” – Gerry Conway/Joe Staton/Jack Abel

This one starts with a bang; a Legion cruiser is blown to smithereens by another spaceship in orbit around Colu while Brainiac 5 looks on in triumph. Of course, it’s not the real Brainiac 5 and the Legion ship was empty. The Legionnaires (Superboy, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Shrinking Violet, Colossal Boy, Phantom Girl, Shadow Lass, Wildfire, and Projectra) show up and catch the fake Brainy.fake Brainy punched out They find the real Brainy tied up in another ship and pursue the ambush ship, which turns out to be empty. Brainy tells them that Pulsar Stargrave is really his ancestor, the first Brainiac, and wants to destroy Colu. Of course, Stargrave isn’t really the original Brainiac, but that’s what he told Brainiac 5 a few issues back … oh, and he also said he was Brainiac 5’s father … another lie. But at this point, Brainy seems to believe it. They scan the fake Brainy’s mind and find a couple of locations on Colu that are being targeted by Stargrave. Wildfire, Colossal Boy, Shadow Lass, and Shrinking Violet head for Colu’s north pole, where a gravitron device keeps the planet stable despite the tidal influence of six (!) moons. Robots show up and start blasting the gravitron. While Wildfire and Colossal Boy fight the robots, Violet and Shadow Lass follow Stargrave inside. They’re attacked by Stargrave’s minion, Holdur, and quickly kick his ass, but Stargrave blasts them.Vi and Shadow Lass Elsewhere on Colu, Superboy, Projectra, and Phantom Girl are checking out an air filtration plant and get jumped by a huge robot. Superboy gets decked, but Projectra creates an illusion for the robot to fight; I thought Jeckie’s illusions were intangible? I get the feeling Conway wasn’t a regular reader of the Legion at this point. Phantom Girl heads inside thefake Brainy blasted plant and gets blasted by … Stargrave? But he’s at the north pole! How can that be? Back at the ambush site, Brainy figures out his impostor is a robot and realizes the others are on a wild goose chase. He, Saturn Girl, and Lightning Lad head for the Science Museum and run into Stargrave’s other thug, Quicksand. She traps them in the floor, but Saturn Girl blasts her with her mental powers. Stargrave shows up (again!) and says his plan is to revive the robots who originally built the Brainiac androids. Before he can do that, Superboy and Wildfire show up and punch him into space, where he conveniently falls into the sun.Stargrave punched out The ending’s a bit anti-climactic, with Stargrave taken out in one panel and a glib explanation about how they saw through his ruse (and how Phantom Girl, Shadow Lass, and Violet were completely unharmed by the fake Stargraves’ blasts). I can’t believe this is what Shooter intended when he created Stargrave. It feels like Conway was drafted to wrap this plotline up and did it as quickly as he could, logic be damned.

Noticeable Things:

  • I don’t know if this issue was rushed, or if Conway was working Marvel-style (or maybe NOT working Marvel-style for the first time in years), but there are lots of production mistakes. The first one is on page 2 when Phantom Girl says she’ll free Brainiac 5 from the ship’s cell while the others go after the ambushers, but we clearly see Brainy going with the others to check the ambush ship. I thought maybe PG had freed him faster than anticipated, but on page 3 we see her helping him out of the first ship.
  • There’s another mistake on page 3 where Projectra seems to be having a conversation with herself.
  • There’s a screw up on page 5 where—according to the speech bubble— the fake Brainiac is speaking the real Brainy’s line.Wrong dialogue
  • Vi calls Shadow Lass “Shadow Girl” in one panel.
  • Saturn Girl wonders how she could’ve read a robot’s mind, and Brainy just says his ancestor was smart enough to do anything.

All-Star Comics 66 coverAll-Star Comics #66 – “Injustice Strikes Twice” – Paul Levitz/Joe Staton/Bob Layton

This one starts with my favourite (arggghhhh!) device; showing an action scene, then having an extended flashback to catch up to what we just saw. Until I started doing these reviews, I never noticed how often that storytelling device was used, but I’m already sick of it. Maybe the writers got a bonus every time they used it or something. Anyway, this one starts with Flash, Power Girl, Star-Spangled Kid, and Hawkman confronting Icicle, Thinker, Wizard, and Brainwave in JSA headquarters. fight at JSA HQThey mix it up a bit, then the villains take off, saying they’ve kidnapped Hourman and Wildcat and challenging the JSAers to rescue them. During the fight we get some more of the usual stuff, with SSK having the hots for Power Girl, Power Girl complaining about men, and Hawkman leading with his face. We then get the flashback, which apparently happened only a few minutes ago. We see the JSA returning from Camelot without Shining Knight, who decided to stay there; PG’s really broken up about it too: “Who cares cousin, that’s just one less male superhero for me to compete with.” I think this is how men actually saw feminists in the 70s … loud, aggressive, man-haters, which means Levitz is actually trying to be kind of progressive here, I guess. Superman takes off (as he said he was doing a couple of issues ago) and when they go into their HQ, they run into the Injustice Society, which brings us back to where we started. They fight with Societyfigure out Hourman and Wildcat are being held in the United Arab Emirates and Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, so SSK grabs Power Girl and heads north. She’s … not too happy about it. Instead of witnessing Sylvester’s beating, we go to Dr. Fate’s tower where Inza is about to brain Kent Nelson with a crystal ball. Were women really that aggressive in the 70s? Maybe it’s a good thing I was just a kid back then. Fate says he’s going to fight some evil (as usual), but Inza’s worried he’ll get killed. Of course, he leaves anyway. In the UAE, Flash and Hawkman run into Fate and they find Hourman tied to one of those flame-jet things that the oil wells have. Icicle and Thinker attack, but weren’t expecting Doc Fate to be there. They mix it up (and Thinker fights hand to hand, belying his name). Hawkman pounds him though, and they take an injured Hourman to South Africa, since Dick Grayson is the Ambassador to South Africa. We next see Green Lantern destroying his own broadcasting building in Gotham, controlled by Psycho Pirate. The police commissioner wonders what’s up with GL and receives a telegram from Robin. Did I mention the commissioner is Bruce Wayne?Bruce Wayne Yeah, they’re setting up a Batman appearance (or paving the way for Huntress). In Alaska, Power Girl and SSK find Wildcat strapped to the pipeline, half-frozen. They’re attacked by the Wizard (riding a giant bird) and Brainwave (wearing an exoskeleton). They handle the villains easily—PG knocking Wizard out with one finger—and free Wildcat.Power Girl fights Wizard They find a huge pit with oil being siphoned into it and PG says they’ll follow it to the center of the Earth if they have to. Does that mean we’ll see Power Girl in Skartaris? Interesting idea, but it’ll have to wait a decade or so.

Noticeable Things:

  • If Hourman’s condition was that bad, wouldn’t South Africa be a bit far to take him? I know it’s just Levitz’s way of getting Robin involved, but it seems a bit strange to me.
  • On Earth-2, South Africa already has majority rule by 1977; more progressive than Earth-1 (or our Earth), that’s for sure.
  • Would a telegram really be the quickest way for Robin to get in touch with Bruce? Shouldn’t they have some kind of fancy, high-tech radio or something?
  • Power Girl seemed worried about pounding Wizard’s giant birds until she found out they were conjured by magic; so she’s supposedly conscientious about nature, but she didn’t seem to have a problem with busting open the pipeline and spilling a shitload of oil all over the place.

5 thoughts on “Comics Review: JLA 142, Superboy & the Legion 227, All-Star Comics 66”

  1. Fun reviews. They make me want to read the issues. But curse you OCD, I must…keep…reading… Spectacular Spider-Man…to the end…

    1. I know what you mean, Colin. I have that “completist” instinct too, where I can’t start partway through something, I have to start at the beginning and go all the way through. What issue of Spectacular are you up to?

      1. #80. I don’t have all the issues but a good number.

        Next on the block is a seriously heavy rotation of Daredevil followed by a DC flavoring sometime in 2018. Possibly JLA.

        That’s the next two years of my life taken care of.

        It isn’t really OCD, I don’t think, but with a huge reading backlog one has to have a system…

        Thanks for these reviews, they are a delight.

      2. Well, thanks for reading 🙂

        Spectacular #80, wasn’t that the beginning of the Punisher/Kingpin/Cloak & Dagger story? I had those as a kid–good stuff.

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