This one starts out with a guy named Count Crystal calling up a demon (Azgore) and offering to sacrifice the souls of the Justice League in exchange for power—as you do. Azgore agrees, but says the League has consistently beaten all the other sorcerers who challenged it, and it Count Crystal doesn’t get the JLA’s souls, Azgore will take his instead. We next see Superman waxing philosophic on the Satellite. Crystal shows up and zaps him, knocking him out. Down on Earth, Green Arrow and Hawkman have decided to stop their constant bickering and get hammered. Hawkgirl and Black Canary walk them home and the ladies discuss Hawkgirl joining the League. Apparently the League has the same rule as the Legion about not duplicating powers. Hawkgirl thinks that’s stupid and they talk about the disparity between men and women in the League. They get an emergency signal from the Satellite and head up there to find a seemingly dead Superman. They wonder who sent the emergency signal and Phantom Stranger pops up, saying he called them. Batman and Wonder Woman show up (together—coincidence … or something more?) and Stranger says they can contact Superman. They do a séance and Superman’s voice comes through Phantom Stranger, saying he was murdered by Count Crystal and asking for vengeance. Stranger says they may be able to retrieve Superman’s soul. We see Supes in a Ditko-esque void, looking for Azgore. Phantom Stranger takes the Leaguers to Rutland, Vermont and we get a quick cameo from Tom Fagan. Of course, it’s not Halloween, so there’s not much happening in Rutland, but Stranger leads them into the hills where they find a weird place called the Carnival of Souls. They find Count Crystal and go after him but he kicks their asses pretty easily, absorbing them into some weird cosmic cube-type thing called the Oblivion Block. When Count Crystal tries to claim his reward from Azgore, he finds out the Leaguers are still alive because Phantom Stranger protected them. Stranger tells the Leaguers the whole carnival exists only inside Count Crystal’s mind. Green Arrow is conked out (because the arrow he shot at Crystal was full of sedative and Crystal sent it right back at him) and they end up on a deadly roller coaster that Crystal conjures up. They defeat a monster, but Phantom Stranger takes a swan dive and winds up dead. Count Crystal pops up and abducts Hawkgirl. In the Abyss, Superman confronts Azgore and tries to fight him, but the demon is too strong. He’s about to zap Superman’s spirit when Phantom Stranger shows up and whisks Supes away. Turns out Stranger died on purpose so he could rescue Superman. The Leaguers are almost overwhelmed fighting some weird wax men and Count Crystal says he’ll spare Hawkgirl the same fate if she bangs him. He doesn’t actually say that, but that’s the implication. Hawkgirl pretends to go along, then decks him and calls to her friends. They fight off the waxy dudes and make it to the room where Hawkgirl is waiting. Unfortunately, Count Crystal is there too, and he’s kinda pissed off. He wastes Hawkman, but before he can finish everyone else off, Azgore appears. He can’t find Superman and Phantom Stranger’s souls and doesn’t feel like looking all over Hell for them, so he takes Count Crystal’s soul instead. The carnival disappears and the entire League is standing on a hill. Apparently when Azgore took Count Crystal’s soul to the Abyss, Stranger dragged himself, Superman, and Hawkman back through the hole. So everybody’s alive again. Stranger takes off, but someone else pops up—Red Tornado. I guess that hole to the afterlife was open longer than they thought. We’ll see what’s up with Reddy next issue.
- It’s nice to see the gender imbalance in the League being addressed. It stays unbalanced overall, but Hawkgirl does join and so does Zatanna later on, so at least it’s not quite so lopsided.
- Rutland, Vermont is a real place where they have (had?) a big parade every Halloween featuring floats and people in all sorts of costumes—especially superhero costumes. A lot of comics artists and writers went to the parades and kept setting stories there; they even managed some unofficial Marvel/DC crossovers, where a group of comics creators (including Englehart) would appear in Rutland in one comic (like JLA), then they’d appear in another comic (like Avengers). In fact, Phantom Stranger first met the JLA in a Rutland story, in JLA #103.
This one begins with five Legionnaires (Superboy, Sun Boy, Dream Girl, Brainiac 5, and Element Lad) being honored on a planet (Remor) full of tiny people. Of course, something goes wrong and the planet starts exploding all over the place. As the Legion rescues the Remorians, Element Lad says the planet is stable, so earthquakes and volcanoes shouldn’t be possible. The Remorians have no idea what’s going on either. Some weird-looking creature shows up and the Legion goes after him until he says he’s there to help. His name is Sden and he’s some kind of sorcerer who’s been tracking a mystic crystal that’s trying to destroy inhabited worlds. Sden says his magic is too weak to stop the crystal, but if the Legionnaires capture it he can return it to its own dimension … or something. They head off to a nearby volcano the get the crystal, but Dream Girl has a feeling something’s wrong. We find out she’s right, as we’re privy to Sden’s thoughts—he caused the quakes to trick the Legion into retrieving the crystal, which will give him ultimate power. The Legionnaires go into the volcano and Element Lad finds the crystal. But Dream Girl is still suspicious of Sden, so she comes up with a way to hedge their bets. They return the crystal to Sden and he shows his true colours, starting another quake. But when he opens the box with the crystal it explodes in his face and the fire weakens him. Dream Girl reasoned he must be susceptible to fire or he’d have gotten the crystal from the volcano himself, so she had Element Lad put phosphorus around the crystal, which burst into flames on contact with air. They capture Sden and Superboy takes the crystal back to 20th century Earth so Sden can’t find it again.
- It’s nice to see Dream Girl using her brains to solve the puzzle. It foreshadows her later tenure as leader of the team. Though it’s mitigated somewhat by the way the guys constantly call her “beautiful” as if that’s her given name or something. But, she doesn’t seem to mind, so who am I to complain?
- Is 20th century Earth really the best place for a dangerous space artifact like the crystal? I notice Superboy does that a lot, taking shit from the 30th century back to his time.
“The Day Bouncing Boy Bounced Back” – Paul Levitz/Mike Nasser/Jack Abel
The second story of this issue focuses on Bouncing Boy. It’s set a few weeks ago when all the other Legionnaires were on the cemetery world burying Chemical King. I guess Bouncing Boy drew the short straw and had to monitor things back at HQ—or maybe because he has no powers, they figured he may as well stay behind. An alarm goes off and Bouncing Boy goes to check it out. He runs into someone dressed like a member of the Science Police skulking around and jumps him. They both get knocked out by the HQ’s defenses and wake up inside energy spheres. Turns out the guy really is with the Science Police and came to check on Legion HQ (though there’s no explanation for why he attacked Bouncing Boy). Bouncing Boy doesn’t want to be a laughingstock (well, moreso) when the other Legionnaires come back, so he starts pounding the energy sphere. His hand swells up and he realizes the energy can reactivate his bouncing power. He bounces against the sphere until he pops right through, his bouncing powers restored. He asks the Science Police dude not to tell anyone; he says if Duo Damsel (his wife) knew he had his powers back, she’d be worried about him “sneaking off for some action”. Jesus, Bouncy, two women not enough for you?
This one starts with Machiste showing his cool new mace hand to Morgan and Mariah. Their admiration is interrupted by attacking pterosaurs. They fight and Mariah is grabbed and carried off. Morgan jumps on another pterosaur’s back to follow Mariah back to wherever they came from, and Machiste jumps on too, after hesitating for a moment. The pterosaur takes them to a huge sky city where they run into some robot guards. They scrap the robots and head inside to look for Mariah. They find her enjoying a glass of wine with a dude named Tragg. He says the pterosaur kidnapping Mariah was a mistake and tells them the ancient Atlanteans built the city (called Skyra) as a mobile guard post of sorts. The city is millennia old and is starting to fall apart, but Tragg is pretty good shape. Yup, you guessed it … he’s a cyborg. He demonstrates the city’s power by blasting a dinosaur on the surface and Morgan’s not too impressed. He’s ready to leave, but Tragg tricks him and Machiste into entering a cold room full of human corpse-sicles. Another robot tries to freeze them, but Machiste smashes ice on Morgan’s pistol and he blasts the freeze robot. They bust loose and go after Tragg. Before confronting him, Morgan grabs some curtains and he and Machiste slap together some hang gliders—eat your heart out, MacGyver! Even though he’s a cyborg, Tragg still wants to bang Mariah for some reason (although in that outfit, I’m not sure I can blame him). Morgan and Machiste interrupt his plans, but he activates the fire ducts, trapping them. Morgan drops his AutoMag, but Mariah scoops it up and blasts Tragg right between the eyes. Skyra crashes as Morgan, Machiste, and Mariah hang glide to safety—well, maybe safety isn’t quite the right word. They seem to be landing in a frozen hellscape. We’ll see what happens to them next issue.
- Machiste schools Morgan on race relations when Morgan asks about Kiro not being a “black kingdom”. Machiste says there are lots of races represented there and he just happens to be king.
- Pterosaurs couldn’t actually fly as far as I know, just glide. I don’t think these were robot pterosaurs, because Tragg said they needed meat, so maybe science is just different in Skartaris?
- Grell’s art continues to be amazing.