Comics Reviews: JLA 150, Superboy & the Legion 235, All-Star Comics 70

JLA 150 coverJLA #150 – “The Key … or Not the Key” – Steve Englehart/Dick Dillin/Frank McLaughlin

This one starts immediately after last issue (and gives us a recap), when he JLA unmasked Star-Tsar and found him to be their old friend Snapper Carr. Of course, they want an explanation, but he basically tells them to go to hell. They’re attacked by his henchmen (the Star Lords) and kind of get their asses kicked. Their weapons draw energy from the stars, so even Superman gets blasted, since the beams contain some red sun energy. Snapper himself delivers the final blast and he and his boys take off. After recovering, the JLA calls in all their members, even Phantom Stranger. They figure out aJLA way to track the energy that’s being drawn from the stars, but four of them (Atom, Green Arrow, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman) decide to dig up what they can on Snapper’s recent history, to see if they can find out why he’s acting like such an asshole. Phantom Stranger gets bored and leaves, but everyone else follows the energy trail. They track the energy to a lighthouse on a remote island, where they’re attacked by flying key weapons. Obviously, the Key is behind it and they get zapped through a hole in space and wind up in key-shaped prisons in Limbo. They’re confronted by the Key, who explains that he didn’t die last time they saw him (In JLA #110), because when John Stewart smothered the concussion of his key-bomb, the energy penetrated the Key’s body and cured his illness, like radiation therapy. JLA imprisoned Hawkman notices the Key is walking like he’s drunk. The Key boasts about working with Snapper Carr aka Star-Tsar. Speaking of him, the other four JLAers are in Happy Harbor to see Snapper’s family. His dad isn’t too thrilled to see them, but his sister (Janet) fills them in on what’s been happening since they last saw him. Snapper’s reason for betraying them to the Joker was that he got tired of being thought of as the JLA mascot, with no identity of his own, but that wasn’t so easy to walk away from. In college, trying to get a job, even trying to cash in on his JLA associations, the mascot label was impossible to shake. As his resentment grew, he blamed the JLA and stopped writing home. Wonder Woman tells Janet Snapper has become the Star-Tsar. Star-Tsar himself shows up and attacks, but is freaked out to see his sister there. Flash traps him, but he manages to get away. He leaves a pretty clear trail and they follow him to the lighthouse. Aquaman finds an underwater entrance, but as soon as they get inside, Star-Tsar shows up and says it’s a trap. Before they can react, everyone gets zappedtrapped in Limbo and wakes up with the others in the key-traps in Limbo. In Washington, we see President Jimmy Carter being accosted by Star-Tsar, who says he’s just used his star energy to wipe out some slums near Union Station. He’ll wipe out the whole city if he’s not paid a million dollars (which seems a bit low, even for 1978, but I guess the country was pretty broke then). The President calls for the JLA, but they’re a little tied up at the moment. In Limbo, the JLA notices that Snapper is imprisoned with them, and he fills them in on how he ended up being Star-Tsar. He was approached by the Key a while back and was still pissed off at the League, so he decided to join the Key, who promised to give him super powers of his own. After they caught him outside Dr. Light’s hideout last issue, he was surprised that they didn’t seem to hate him … they were just worried about him. He treadmillrealized resenting them for his circumstances was stupid, so he left the trail from Happy Harbor on purpose so they could follow. But before he could warn them, the Key caught them all. Ralph comes up with an escape plan, a variation on Flash’s cosmic treadmill using Ralph as the running surface. It frees Flash, who somehow frees the others. They climb up through the lighthouse to confront the Key and Batman knocks his block off—literally! It turns out the energy that cured the Key also fucked up his body so everything except his head shrank … now he’s Mini-Key. That’s why he needed Snapper to play Star-Tsar; because the synthezoid bodies the Key was using to pass as “normal” were too clumsy for any athletic stuff. But when Privater asks if Key and Star-Tsar are one and the same, the Key laughs like a maniac and says no, before passing out. His unconsciousness allows the JLA to get a signal from the Satellite, telling them about Star-Tsar’s threat to the President. Batman reasons the Key couldn’t havePrivateer caught gotten to Washington and back so fast in his clumsy ronot body, and Snapper was with them the whole time, so who the hell is Star-Tsar? Red Tornado figures it out (as I’m sure some of you did a while back) … it’s Privateer! He tries to deny it, but Reddy says his computer circuits can’t be fooled; there were fourteen of them before they set out for the lighthouse and fourteen of them were imprisoned in the key-traps, but Snapper was imprisoned with them … so someone was missing. Reddy asks if anyone remembers Privateer being there after they were captured, or even right before and nobody does. Privateer freaks out and decks Reddy, but he’s slapped down pretty quick by Flash. He admits he was the original Star-Tsar and recruited the Key, thinking he’d take the blame for any crimes Star-Tsar committed. Privater says he never turned away from the Manhunters’ desire to conquer the galaxy. He was just biding his time, trying to head punched offinsinuate himself into the League before making his move, but Reddy fucked it all up. Privateer is hauled away and Snapper figures he’s headed for jail too, but Superman has something else in mind. Red Tornado starts laughing his ass off, weirding everybody out. He explains that he thinks it’s funny that he was jealous of Privateer but ultimately ended up exposing him as a traitor. When Hawkgirl points out that it’s not nice to find humour in other people’s misery, Red Tornado says there may be hope for him yet. Yes, Reddy, you can be just as much of an asshole as a real human … congratulations.

Noticeable Things:

  • The animosity between Privateer and Red Tornado is played up again, but this time it actually has a payoff.
  • Privateer kinda puts the moves on  Black Canary and Green Arrow pretends not to care, saying that’s how to handle “these liberated women”. What does she see in him again?
  • When they’re beset by the flying keys, Batman mentions that they’re the Key’s signature weapon. Well, no shit.
  • When Star-Tsar comes into the President’s office, Carter mistakes him for someone named Jody. I assume that’s a reference to Jody Powell, the Press Secretary at the time.
  • I’m not sure how Flash got the others out of their Limbo cages; I guess once he was free he could disable the traps from the outside.
  • In case you’re wondering, the “something else” that Superman had in mind for Snapper was getting him a job at STAR Labs. He appeared in some issues of Superman Family, mainly in the Supergirl stories, I think.
  • There was a lot of exposition in this issue, including what basically amounted to a text page with a close-up of Privateer’s face. Lots of telling instead of showing.
  • If you look at the above page of everyone in Limbo, Privateer is clearly missing.
  • This was Englehart’s last issue as writer. Next issue begins Gerry Conway’s long tenure.

LSH 235 coverSuperboy And the Legion #235 – “The Legion’s Super-Secret” – Paul Levitz/Mike Grell/Vince Colletta

This is another of those stories where it looks like the Legion is treating one of their own like crap, but they’re actually doing in for his own good. We open with Superboy undergoing a psychological exam strapped into a chair. Cosmic Boy, Brainiac 5, Timber Wolf, and Light Lass look on, and by the way they’re talking, Superboy’s not really getting a psych exam, he’s having his memory wiped. Brainy says this particular memory wipe is something they have to do every year (under the guise of a psych exam) and it’s getting harder all the time. The machine starts to overload and they get a distress call about an attack by the Sklarians. Timber Wolf and Light Lass take off and Superboy soon follows. Brainy examines his machines and says the brainwashing didn’t take this time. He and Cosmicfighting Sklarians Boy follow the others to the Life Institute in the middle of the ocean. The Sklarians (who you might remember from two issues ago) are still trying to get United Planets technology that their world lacks. The Legion stops them, although one gets away. Brainy tries to keep Superboy from looking around the Life Institute too much, and the head scientist is surprised Superboy isn’t familiar with their work. In space, Sun Boy, Brainy, and Cosmic Boy look for the Sklarian ships. They discuss the raid on the Life Institute and talk about some secret serum hat the Sklarians must’ve been after, saying that if Superboy ever found out about it, he could destroy the 20th century. So, they have to keep brainwashing him. Superboy is listening from back on Earth with his super-hearing, so now he knows the psych tests are cover for memory wiping. He’s playing some weird ball game with Timber Wolf, big fightLight Lass, and Shadow Lass but takes off as soon as an alert comes in. The Sklarians are attacking Technos, in Earth orbit, some kind of kick-ass research facility. They take on the Sklarians and again, Brainy warns Superboy to stay out of the life sciences section. The Sklarians are all captured, but beg the Legion to help them. They say their planet has received some help from the united Planets, but they need more in order to catch up with other worlds technologically. Brainy says giving a bunch of tech to a world all at once is dangerous and the Sklarians need to figure out how to use what they’ve got before they get more. Cosmic Boy confirms that his world got a shitload of tech after joining the U.P. And it kinda fucked them up. Brainy is eager to get Superboy back to HQ to continue the Psych test”, but Superboy tells him to cut the shit. He’s reasoned out that if they keep steering him away from life sciences, the secret they’re keeping must have to do with creating life artificially. Brainy confirms it, and says Superboy might inadvertently let something slip back in the 20th century. Superboy says the whole “Frankenstein” thing isn’t his scene, so he’ll voluntarily submit to the brainwashing. After he leaves, we learn the Legionnaires lied to him again; the secret they’ve been keeping isn’t about creating artificial life, it’s about extending natural life. They knew Superboy would be tempted to use that secret to keep his friends and family alive, so they lied to him.

Noticeable Things:

  • Superboy (and Supergirl) voluntarily gave themselves post-hypnotic suggestions which kick in every time they return to their own time, so they don’t retain any memory of the future. Originally, Supergirl also gave Superboy a post-hypnotic suggestion of her own, so he forgets her secret identity back in the present, although I think that changed later on.
  • When Superboy strays too close to Life Sciences on Technos, Sun Boy zaps him to get him to back off; I suspect Sun Boy just wanted all those hot Sklarian babes for himself.Sun Boy zaps Superboy
  • I get the feeling this story was just a way of answering the fan question “Why do these people still refer to themselves as ‘X-Boy’ and ‘Y-Girl’ when they’re clearly in their twenties?” So I guess the answer is “Because human lifespans are extended, they retain their young longer” … or something like that. I’m not sure if that means they still have teen-aged bodies but older minds. That’s actually a bit creepy.
  • If you’re wondering what happened to Wildfire after last issue’s dramatic finale … read on!

trial“The Trial of the Legion Five” – Gerry Conway/George Tuska/Vince Colletta

This one starts with Marko Chang, a member of the Earth Council, accusing five Legionnaires of murdering his son. Chameleon Boy and Superboy do the old “As you know, Bob” thing to fill us in: Chang was already pissed off at the Legion because of some political bullshit, but now he’s accused five of them (Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad, Timber Wolf, Shadow Lass, and Brainiac 5, who’s missing from the trial) of killing his son and managed to convene a trial. Outside, a lot of people are protesting the Legion, though I’m not sure if it’s because they think they’re guilty or if they’re just the sort of people who aren’t happy unless they’re bitching about something. Chang testifies (in a truth chamber) that his son had something called Synapse Syndrome, which fucks up the electrical impulses in the nervous system. Chang searched everywhere for a cure and finally, just a couple of days ago, heard of a mythical beast that lives on Titan called the Titanian Psycho-Beast. When the beast dies, it emits energy that repairs electrical pathways, so it would cure Chang’s son. The kid didn’t want to kill a  creature just to save himself (especially since it’s the last one), but Chang insisted and headed off for Titan. But when he got there, the Legion was there already, trying to get the beast for themselves. Chang pleaded with them, but they wouldn’t give in. HeChang vs Legion claims they attacked him and when he woke up they were gone and his son was dead; the machine shows he’s telling the truth … as he sees it. (Gerry made sure to add that last part.) Saturn Girl testifies next. She tells the court about Wildfire sacrificing himself to save them at the end of last issue and how they rushed him back to HQ to save his life. Nothing worked because his energy matrix was disrupted (much like the Synapse Syndrome suffered by Chang’s son), but Saturn Girl remembered the legend of the Psycho-Beast. So they headed to Titan. Shadow Lass offers to testify next, since she saw what happened, even in darkness. Outside, the protesters are getting more intense and we see a couple of shadowy figures sneaking past them and looking for a way into the court. They find a side door, but are jumped by guards and are soon fighting like crazy. In the trial, Shadow Lass tells how they got to Titan and found the Beast, then she got zapped by it right away. Lightning Lad takes over and tells how they fought the beast until Timber Wolf finally subdued it. Meanwhile the two shadowy figures have fought their way past the guards and into the courtroom. Naturally, it’s Chang chastenedBrainiac 5 and Wildfire, and Wildfire uses his energy to revive Chang’s son. The judge is freaking out and Brainiac 5 explains that he knew Wildfire would retain enough of the Psycho-Beast’s energy to revive Chang’s son, but that meant Wildfire had to receive the Beast’s energy first. He says Chang only believed what he wanted, so they had to take matters into their own hands. Chang is happy his son is alive, but feels like an asshole for everything he did. I think Gerry was trying to make a point about truth and subjectivity here, and he succeeded, I guess … though the message was hardly subtle.

Noticeable Things:

  • This whole story is a bit strange. The Titanian psycho-beastSaturn Girl reminds me of Greek mythology, and a lot of Tuska’s art has a Ditko-esque look to it. Tuska’s art isn’t as good as Grell’s or Sherman’s … in some places, Saturn Girl looks like a completely different character.
  • The body of Chang’s son is in stasis in the courtroom through the trial. Can you imagine if victim’s bodies were allowed in real-life courtrooms? There’d be a 100% conviction rate.
  • Gerry goes out of his way to keep Brainy and Wildfire’s identities secret, even having them address each other as “friend” through their whole side adventure. It was pretty obvious one of them was Brainiac 5, since he kept talking about “calculations” and stuff … and he was absent from the trial.
  • Why couldn’t Brainy and Wildfire just walk into the building? They had crucial evidence—why the hell did they have to fight their way in?
  • Supposedly the revivifying energy was given off by the Psycho-Beast’s death, and Brainy even said he used the Beast’s dying energy to revive Wildfire … so does that mean he killed the Beast? Wouldn’t that go against the Legion Code? Or did the Beast just happen to conveniently die right when they needed it to?

All-Star Comics 70 coverAll-Star Comics #70 – “A Parting of the Ways” – Paul Levitz/Joe Staton/Bob Layton

This one starts with a meeting of the JSA just being adjourned. It looks like everyone is in attendance, even Bruce Wayne. As the meeting breaks up, everyone goes their separate ways. Even Hawkman (who’s the chairperson) says it’s time for a break and the city can take care of itself until the next weekly meeting. Green Lantern takes Flash up on his job offer, since Alan Scott destroyed Gotham Broadcasting while under the influence of Psycho Pirate. At the end, only Power Girl, Wildcat, and Star-Spangled Kid are left, and after Power Girl throws a tantrum and walks off in a huff, it’s just Wildcat and the Kid. Sylvester turns the monitors off just in time to miss a bank robbery and suggests to Wildcat they play checkers. At the bank, a crew ofJSA HQ almost empty costumed dudes called Strike Force are robbing the place with sophisticated equipment and precise timing. Outside, Jim Corrigan (now there’s a familiar name) sends in a highly-trained Tactical Squad after regular cops get wasted. At JSA HQ, Wildcat gets tired of losing to Sylvester and decides to leave. Sylvester tags along, though he doesn’t know where they’re going. After they leave, someone with a bat-like silhouette enters and reactivates the monitors. (No, it’s not Batman.) At the bank, the Tactical Squad gets mowed down by Strike Force, who escape in high-tech plexiglass assault spheres. We see Ted (Wildcat) Grant and Sylvester (Star-Spangled Kid) Pemberton pounding a couple of beers in Duffy’s tavern (wasn’t that an old radio show?) Ted says it’s the only place he feels at home outside of JSA HQ and starts talking about himself in the third person, saying he’s a bar brawlwashed up loser. Some drunk (who looks like he stole Sandman’s shirt and dyed it purple) overhears him talking shit about Ted Grant and tries to pound him, which starts a big brawl. Of course Ted is thrilled, but Sylvester sees the bank robbery on TV and drags Ted out, using his cosmic belt to change them into their costumes. Near the bank, they jump the Strike Force and SSK uses the cosmic belt to bounce their escape spheres around like pinballs. Wildcat jumps in and starts swinging and the Kid disables their weapons. But the Kid ends up getting zapped and Wildcat is overwhelmed. They’re taken by Strike Force in the remaining escape spheres just before the cops show up. In Salem, at Dr. Fate’s tower, the Doc returns and Inza is fight against Strike Forcefreaking out. She says she’s been trapped inside the tower since he left and some scary monster manifested. We don’t get to see it yet, though. Strike Force has taken Wildcat and SSK to their secret hideout under the new Gotham Stadium. The Kid still has his belt, but before they can do anything, Huntress shows up and introduces herself. She says she tracked them there and can help them escape, but Wildcat thinks she might be working for the bad guys. His big mouth brings some Strike Force goons, who say they were going to use the JSAers for ransom, but now they’ve decided to just kill them instead. We’ll find out what happens with that (and what’s in Fate’s tower) next issue.

Noticeable Things:

  • Before Flash and GL left, Power Girl was excited because there were five of them, which she said was the “perfect number for …” something. She never completed her sentence, so I’m not sure what five is the perfect number for. A game of Monopoly? But when Sylvester suggests Monopoly a few minutes later, Power Girl calls him juvenile and takes off.
  • Detective Jim Corrigan is the human host for the Spectre … or was, anyway; there’s no mention of his ghostly alter-ego here.
  • The drunk in the tavern says Ted Grant is his hero, so shouldn’t he recognize him? Maybe Ted doesn’t do interviews?
  • I’ve never been a big follower of Dr. Fate, but this version of Inza doesn’t look right to me; didn’t she originally have dark hair? And she looks too young here, as well.Inza

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