Going by the cover (and the splash page) this could almost be a Marvel comic, since it depicts Superman and Wonder Woman slugging it out. But this is all DC, though Steve Englehart had left Marvel not long before, so maybe there was some influence there. This issue addresses the tension that’s been brewing between Wonder Woman and the rest of the JLA for the past few issues. Basically, when she rejoined the League she was unsure of herself, so she asked them to monitor her performance to make sure she was up to snuff. They certified her A-OK, but she feels they never stopped second-guessing her, so she’s been getting more and more pissed off about it. I’m not sure if some of it actually her second-guessing herself, but last issue Superman said he’d talk to her about it. Unfortunately, he’s not the diplomat he thinks he is, and Diana quits the League. She beams down to New York, just in time to spot a robbery by Poison ivy, Scarecrow, and some other dude called the Privateer. She tackles them, fighting Privateer first, but soon realizes he was trying to stop the two crooks from getting away. It turns out Privateer is actually Mark Shaw, the erstwhile Manhunter from a couple of issues ago. He’s taken the new identity to be a crime-fighter and try to make amends for the stuff he did as a Manhunter dupe. Wonder Woman feels stupid for jumping him and he invites her to dinner. Elsewhere, we see Poison Ivy and Scarecrow gloating over their successful robbery. They reminisce about the Injustice Gang and suddenly decide that the old Satellite the Gang used as a headquarters would be a perfect hideout. They ponder the idea that the JLA either destroyed it or put some kind of alarm on it, but they dismiss that immediately and go to their old teleport site. I think there may be some mind control going on here, but we’ll have to wait to see who’s doing the controlling. Back on the real Satellite, the Leaguers are pissed off at Green Arrow and Flash since they were the biggest assholes toward Wonder Woman. Of course, they blame her and then they (along with Green Lantern and Black Canary) all walk out, with Green Arrow saying he’s quitting too. The others take off until just Superman and Batman are left. Supes blames himself for the League breaking up, since he’s the chairman. Back on Earth, Wonder Woman and Privateer are talking and she freaks out after he makes an offhand observation. She trashes a restaurant and almost kills Privateer before flying away.
Diana crash lands in an alley, wondering why she’s acting so weird. More mind control, maybe? Almost certainly, since she has the same weird eyes as Poison Ivy did earlier. She goes to the abandoned building that holds the Injustice Gang’s teleport device and heads up to their Satellite—after ditching the bug Privateer planted on her. Privateer finds the JLA teleporter (which is invisible) and screws around with it until Batman shows up to see what’s going on. They team up to look for Wonder Woman. She’s already on the Injustice Gang’s old Satellite with Poison Ivy and Scarecrow, and we learn the mastermind behind all this—the Construct. He coalesced again (or a new version of him did) after being defeated last issue and he wants revenge on the JLA. He’s been mind-controlling Wonder Woman and the villains to help him. Wonder Woman says they should get the entire injustice Gang back together and strike at the JLA Satellite. She says she’ll handle Superman personally. On Earth, Green Arrow, Flash, Black Canary, and Green Lantern run int Mirror Master, but he disappears before they can grab him. Batman and Privateer track Diana to the abandoned building and almost get killed by a laser trap. In New Hampshire, Aquaman and Atom run into Chronos, but he disappears too. Wonder Woman shows up on the JLA Satellite and she and Superman fight. He realizes she’s being mind-controlled, but she subdues him with her magic lasso and tells the Construct she’s secured the Satellite. Back on Earth, Hawkman and Hawkgirl run into Tattooed Man, who (everybody say it with me) disappears before they can catch him. Hawkman calls the other Leaguers, and despite some bickering, they realize they’re all dealing with mysterious disappearances by former members of the Injustice Gang. Wonder Woman forces Superman to call a meeting on the Satellite, but the Construct has rigged the teleporters so the JLA will appear on the Injustice Gang Satellite, where they’re be so disoriented the Gang will be able to kick their asses easily. But the Leaguers figure out it’s a trap and use GL’s ring to go into space and bust into the Gang’s Satellite. They pound the Injustice Gang and destroy the Satellite, but the Gang all (conveniently) get amnesia and can’t remember who they were working for. I guess Construct was in the Satellite circuitry when it blew up, because Wonder Woman is freed of his influence back on the real Satellite.
- The way the Construct controls computers and keeps coming back in new forms is a lot like Ultron over at Marvel. Not surprising, since Englehart always seemed to like Ultron as a bad guy.
- A lot of comics stories in the 70s addressed “women’s lib”, but since they were pretty much all written by men, we get kind of a
distorted view. Early in the comic, Superman asked Diana if her attitude was because of some women’s lib thing and it came off (to me at least) as sort of condescending. At the end, Wonder Woman, now “liberated” from the Construct’s control, ends up crying in Superman’s arms. I’m not sure if Englehart was trying to make a point there or not—and if he was, I’m not sure if it’s pro- or anti-feminist.
- I’m not 100% sure if the Leaguers bitching at each other and quitting is supposed to be more of the Construct’s influence, or if they’re all just acting like petulant assholes.
As you can probably guess by the cover and the title, a Legionnaire dies in this issue. I guess the morbid “someone dies in this issue” thing didn’t start in the 90s, though it was certainly a lot more prevalent then. Of course, all you Legion fans know who’s going to get snuffed, but for the rest of you, let’s see what happens. We start with a meeting between the President of Earth and Wildfire and Chameleon Boy. The President tells them that Earth’s 200-year peace is about to be shattered by Deregon, the governor of Australia, who seems to be preparing to start a war. The President can’t ask for their help officially, but off the record he hopes they can do something to stop Deregon. Soon after, the Legion mugs a couple of secretaries who work for Deregon and Light Lass and Shadow Lass take their places. Saturn Girl transfers the memories from the secretaries into the Legion spies. The next day, we see Superboy sneaking around Deregon’s HQ, and Timber Wolf and Colossal Boy undercover as members of his army. They’re picked by a drill sergeant to demonstrate their fighting prowess, and manage to beat their opponents without using their super powers. In Deregon’s office, Light Lass and Shadow Lass report to Chameleon Boy that Deregon is in constant communication with someone off-world. Cham records the frequency and gives it to Superboy. Chemical King enhances the transmitter beam somehow so he and Superboy can track it. Chemical King is acting all emo because he thinks his powers are almost useless. Superboy tries to cheer him up by dissing Bouncing Boy, but Chemical King’s not buying it. A near miss by a meteor causes static in the hyperbeam and Deregon gets suspicious. He calls the “secretaries” into his office and Chameleon Boy freaks out, thinking their cover is blown. He transforms into a monster and busts in to rescue them. Deregon calls his guards and they capture the three Legionnaires, which makes Deregon even more war-hungry than he was before. Superboy and Chemical King track the hyperbeam to a planet and discover it’s the HQ of the Dark Circle, a cabal of aliens who tried to conquer Earth before. They realize Deregon’s working with the Dark Circle and head back to Earth. Deregon’s giving a warmongering speech and displaying the captured Legionnaires like prizes at a carnival. When he threatens to execute them, Timber Wolf and Colossal Boy drop their disguises and start fighting like wild men. Deregon takes his prisoners and prepares to use a secret weapon, a cosmic energy sphere that can wipe out the entire planet. The Legionnaires are powerless to stop him, since he’s protected by a force field and the cosmic energy from the sphere is too strong even for Superboy. But Chemical King proves his worth by altering the chemical reaction in the sphere, making it implode instead of explode—and saving Earth from getting blown to hell. Unfortunately, Chemical King absorbs too much radiation and dies.Deregon teleports away at the last second and the Legion swear vengeance on him and the Dark Circle. We’ll find out how that goes next issue.
- I’m not sure why Light Lass and Shadow Lass were picked to infiltrate disguised as the secretaries; wouldn’t it make more sense for Chameleon Boy to shapeshift into one of them? And why not use someone like Shrinking Violet, whose power lends itself to sneaking around and who wouldn’t have to use makeup all over her body just to get a flesh tone?
- When the girls are changing into the secretaries’ clothes in the alley, you can see the secretaries lying there afterwards—still wearing clothes! Where did those come from? And what happened to Ayla and Shady’s costumes?
- Not that I’m complaining, but secretary outfits in the future are pretty skimpy. I’m not sure if that’s meant to represent progress (i.e. post-sexism) or if it’s just the old 70s male sensibilities on display. I choose to believe it’s the former, and the women dress like that because they want to.
- We learn that it’s been 200 years since Earth’s last war—which was World War VI.
- The whole “team member feels useless but proves himself in the end while sacrificing his life” storyline is a bit of a cliché nowadays, but I guess it was still fresh back then.
- The President is called “Kandru” here, but his name is supposed to be Kandro Boltax.
- Chemical King’s death was foreshadowed in Adventure #354; his statue appeared in the Hall of the Dead.