Comics Reviews: JLA 144, Superboy & the Legion 229, All-Star Comics 67

JLA 144 coverJustice League of America #144 – “The Origin of the Justice League—Minus One!” – Steve Englehart/Dick Dillin/Frank McLaughlin

This is a retelling of the JLA’s origin. Of course, the JLA’s origin has been retold and rebooted a million times since, but back in 1977, this was kind of a big deal. I’m not sure how well this fits with later JLA origin stories, especially JLA: Year One. A bunch of heroes team up with the JLA in issues 11 and 12 of that maxi-series, but it’s obviously not the same story. Anyway, this one starts (as so many do) with Green Arrow freaking out. He comes busting in yelling about the JLA’s origin being bullshit. Superman and Green Lantern don’t even try to talk their way out of it, they just take him to look at the computer records. The record starts with Martian Manhunter (remember him?) giving a recap of his own origin when he was brought to Earth by Dr. Erdel. After Erdel dies, J’onn takes up his “John Jones” identity and tries to fix Erdel’s machine. But after a fewguy with rifle years, he resigns himself to being stuck on Earth. He’s confronted by Commander Blanx, his archenemy from Mars. J’onn burns the lab down and assumes Blanx and his men fled back to Mars. But a few days later, he gets a report about white-skinned aliens rampaging downtown. He pounds them, but is confronted by Flash. Naturally, they fight, but when J’onn tries to talk, Flash is willing to listen. Unfortunately, some crazy bastard leans out his apartment window with a rifle (!) and is ready to blow J’onn away. Flash stops him and gives the guy shit, but he (and another dimwitted citizen) start whining about Martians, even questioning whether Flash might be an alien. That freaks Flash out, so he promises to hunt down the aliens. Flash can’t find them, since they’re all using their Martian powers to assume human form and the crowd gets restless again. Flash decides to pass the buck and says he’ll bring Superman in. He goes to Metropolis and gets the attention of not only Superman, but Batman and Robin as well. (Though I’m not sure what they were doing hanging around Metropolis.) As the heroes leave to go back to Middletown, a guy who looks like Schneider from One Day at a Time rushes to a phone booth to call in a hot tip to Roy Raymond. In Middletown, a disguised J’onn is looking for the Jonn shotother disguised Martians. He sees some dude almost pass out while walking past a welder and figures it’s the Martians (since fire weakens them). He goes after them, but Blanx changes to match J’onn’s face and his thugs freak everyone out by dropping their disguises. The crowd goes nuts and starts coming after them and Blanx reveals his trap; if the crowd sees two Detective Joneses, that’s it for J’onn’s civilian identity. He tries to take off, but is shot by Blanx (still disguised as John Jones) and changes back to his green alien form. Superman, Batman, Robin, and Flash show up not long after. The captain says “Detective Jones” disappeared after supposedly catching a Martian. The heroes say they’ll search, but before they can, Roy Raymond shows up and wants to splash everything all over TV. He figures the publicity might get them some help … and it does. Next morning, Middletown is inundated with Superheroes: the Blackhawks, the Challengers of the unknown, Plastic Man, Vigilante (the Earth-1 version?), Robotman (another Earth-2 guy), Congo Bill and Congorilla, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Jimmy Olsen, Lois Lane, and let’s not forget, Rex the Wonder Dog. heroesTurns out Green Arrow was away on Starfish island, trying to keep his secret identity a secret (as depicted in Adventure #256), and when he and Speedy finished that, they stayed for a vacation. So that’s why Green Arrow wasn’t there, and why he didn’t know about it. Now, back to the flashbacks. If you’ve ever read a JLA story (or any DC team book, really), you can probably guess what’s going to happen … yup, they’re all gonna split into teams. The Blackhawks, Plastic Man, and Jimmy go … Plas and Blackhawkssomewhere. It’s a house on top of a mountain, but they never say where it is, just that there’s technology too advanced for humans there. They tussle with some blond dude and almost get shot, but when they go inside, no one’s there. We learn (though the Blackhawks don’t) that it was Rip Hunter and his friend Jeff and they escaped in their time machine. In some other mountains somewhere (it kinda looks like a jungle—at least there are palm trees—but Congo Bill calls it a forest; would it kill them to tell us where this shit is happening?) we see the Challs, Congo Bill, Robotman, Vigilante, and Lois talking to a couple of campers (?) who saw a “Martian”. They check it out and see someone standing on a cliff. Everyone goes after him except Lois, who hangs around waiting forCongorilla grabs Adam something to happen. Congorilla grabs the “alien” and we get a good look at his boots. He dumps the ape on Lois’s head (which probably should’ve killed her) and disappears. Of course, it was Adam Strange, but at the time nobody knew that. In some other undisclosed place (I think it’s Cape Canaveral) Supes, Bats, Robin, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Flash meet test pilot Hal Jordan. He says he was shot by a ray gun, so they check out a rocket on the launch pad and Superman uses his heat vision to make the Martians appear. The JLA starts kicking their asses and Batman and Robin rescue an invisible J’onn J’onnz from the rocket. He tells them about the Martian vulnerability to fire and they pound the aliens in no time. J’onn says he wants to stay on Earth, but the Leaguers aren’t sure humanity will accept him. They decide to let things cool off a bit, then stand in solidarity with J’onn, which was the public debut of the JLA. So that ends J’onn’s long computerized tale and for some reason, Arrow gets all choked up about it.last page

Noticeable Things:

  • Throughout this issue, dates are given in “real time”, so Green Lantern’s debut is said to be in 1959, and Martian Manhunter came to Earth in 1955. It’s an interesting (if unsustainable idea), because it lets Englehart set Martian Manhunter’s first years on Earth during the Commie paranoia of the 50s. The whole “aliens amongWertham us” as an allegory of the Red Scare has been done plenty, including back in the 50s (i.e. invasion of the Body Snatchers, or the Twilight Zone episode “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street”).
  • There’s a scene where a disguised J’onn walks by a guy ranting about comics at a rally in the park. I’m assuming it’s a reference to Frederic Wertham.
  • Was Robin even around when the JLA formed? I mean, I know he was a Golden Ager, but later origin stories had Robin’s debut after the JLA, didn’t they? Or am I getting my reboots mixed up?
  • When Blanx and the other Martians are discovered, it’s because there’s a guy just standing in the street welding a big piece of metal. What the hell is he doing there?welder
  • Since J’onn is the one telling the story, how did he know about Rip Hunter … or Adam Strange, for that matter?
  • Lois is dressed like Jackie Kennedy, even though this story isLois supposed to take place in early 1959.
  • If you’re wondering why the Zeta-Beam affected Adam in the Northern Hemisphere when it always arrives below the equator, he tells Alana (on Rann) that Sputnik diverted the beam … but just this once!

 

 

LSH 229 coverSuperboy and the Legion #229 – “Hunt for a Hero-Killer” – Paul Levitz/James Sherman/Jack Abel

This continues from last issue, with the Legion wanting payback for Chemical King’s death. We start on Shanghalla, the cemetery world. There’s an extended flashback covering what happened last issue, culminating in Deregon trying to start World War VII and Chemical King giving his life to stop him. Every Legionnaire wants to go after Deregon, but Wildfire lets the computer choose a team at random. Wildfire, Superboy, Mon-El, Dawnstar, and Timber Wolf are chosen, and everyone else is kinda pissed off … especially Saturn Girl. The chosen team goes after the Dark Circle (who Deregon was found to be working for last issue)Fighting the Dark Circle and they run into a gauntlet of drone ships, troopers, and concussion beams. They make it through and start looking for Deregon. Back on the other Legion cruiser, Saturn Girl’s still mad and seems to think Wildfire used his powers to influence the “random” computer selection. In Dark Circle territory, the team is inundated by robots and lasers, and the cruiser is totalled. On Earth, Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad, Cosmic Boy, and Night Girl are double dating at Galaxyland, the cosmic amusement park. They get a call from Light Lass saying Deregon is still on Earth … shouldn’t they have checked that before taking off into space? I mean, the Earth president knew where Deregon was, how could the Legion not know? Instead of telling Wildfire’s team they’re following a false lead, Saturn Girl says the three of them should catch Deregon. Three of them? Yeah, Night Girl bows out with some lame excuse. The strike team finds the Dark Circle, but the Legionnaires get slapped around and then disappear into thin air. On Earth, the three founding members track down Deregon (who’s scared shitless of the Legion and the Dark Circle) and Saturn Girl goes after him while the others fight robots and shit.Fighting robots Of course, he punches Saturn Girl out even though she’s combat trained Deregon defeatedand he’s not. Lightning Lad scares Deregon with his Lightning and he falls into a bunch of chemical waste. I actually thought he was meant to be dead here, but he’s not. We see him getting led away by the Science Police. We also find out why the strike team disappeared while fighting the Dark Circle … Light Lass used an “experimental warp transport” to beam them back—a device I’m sure was never used or even mentioned again.

Noticeable Things:

  • The bad guy on the cover looks a bit like Time Trapper, but it’s not him.
  • The cemetery world apparently has no atmosphere, since most of the Legionnaires are wearing breathing helmets.
  • I didn’t think it was possible for Saturn Girl to wear a skimpiersexy outfit than her Legion costume, but her civilian attire is barely there. And Cosmic Boy and Night Girl are showing a lot of skin too; I guess Lightning Lad’s just a big prude.
  • At the end, Saturn Girl talks about wishing she could change the Legion Constitution so they could waste Deregon and Lightning Lad says there are some other Constitution laws he’d like to change. What’s he talking about? We’ll see in upcoming issues.

All Star 67 coverAll-Star Comics #67 – “The Attack of the Underlord” – Paul Levitz/Joe Staton/Bob Layton

This one continues directly from last issue, with Power Girl, Star-Spangled Kid, and Wildcat standing around a big hole in the ground in Alaska. They found the hole next to the Alaskan Pipeline and they’re arguing about what to do. Unfortunately, nobody’s standing guard and some weird amphibian-looking dudes come out of the hole and jump them. Wildcat gets conked out and SSK tries to get him back. But Power Girl has already decided she wants to see what’s in the hole, so she decks the Kid and surrenders—right after sending out an emergency signal to the rest of the JSA. In Gotham, we see police commissioner Bruce WaynePG busting loose checking out the destruction at Gotham Broadcasting Studios, which was caused by Green Lantern. Bruce tells the new owners (who forced Alan Scott out a couple issues back) that he doesn’t really give a shit about their profits and he’s not going to get half his police force slaughtered going after GL. Later, he sends a telegram to Dick Grayson that a few of the JSAers have been acting weird lately, and he’s going to look into it. In South Africa, we see Dick Grayson (as Robin) at a hospital with Flash, Dr. Fate, and Hawkman. Hourman is being operated on (after his injuries last issue) and Robin wonders what happened. Before he can get an explanation, they all get Power Girl’s emergency signal. The other three take off, leaving Robin to watch over Hourman and brood about why they won’t tell him what happened. The telegram from Bruce only exacerbates his suspicion. At the bottom of the bottomless hole, the three JSAers are restrained by high tech machines. Power Girl busts loose and frees the others. They fight the frog dudes, but the leader, Ayrn, shows up and kicks all their asses. He says he wants to stop the surface world’s ruining his underworld, so that’s why he allied with the Injustice Society. Up top, Flash, Hawkman, and Dr. Fate arrive and prepare to head into the hole. But fate suddenly decides he’s Bruce and Fateneeded elsewhere and fucks off, leaving the other two to go into the hole and confront Ayrn. We see Fate show up at Bruce Wayne’s office in Gotham and Bruce grills him about the JSA. Fate gives him some mystic bullshit and leaves, so Bruce puts out an APB on the JSA and says he doesn’t care how they’re brought in. Bruce is acting really weird and paranoid here … maybe this is where Miller got the idea. Underground, the JSA wakes up in a cell and everyone’s pissed off at Power Girl since she basically got them caught on purpose—well, the first three, anyway. Instead of listening to their bullshit, she pounds through the wall and confronts Ayrn again. SSK and Wildcat want to help her, but Flash and Hawkman say they should just sit back and watch her get her ass kicked. Not very heroic of them. The Kid and Wildcat go to help PG, while Flash and Hawkman are jumped in their cell by guards. PG does better against Ayrn this time (using the power of her mighty breasts to bust loose from his weird weapon), so he turns his attention to Wildcat and SSK.PG busts loose He blasts SSK and it looks like he falls to his death, so Power Girl goes nuts and decks Ayrn with one shot. She’s all freaked out, but it turns out Flash and Hawkman caught the Kid before he splattered. Seriously, didn’t she even look before she started freaking out? Anyway, they all hug and everyone’s happy … for the moment. But it’s comics, so we know it ain’t gonna last. We’ll see what happens to tear the team apart again next issue.last page

Noticeable Things:

  • Apparently, the weird frog men taught the captured JSAers their language while they were unconscious … or something.
  • I know Wildcat’s supposed to be a galoot, but his Marty Allen “hello dere” dialogue kinda gets on my nerves after a while.
  • Power Girl gets all worked up because she thinks Star-Spangled Kid fell to his death, but he wasn’t really that high in the air to begin with, as far as I could see.
  • I generally like Staton’s art, but some of his poses for Power Girl are pretty funky … basically anatomically impossible.

    Power Girl
    What the hell’s going on with her right arm?

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