Comics Reviews: JLA 152, Superboy & the Legion 237, All-Star Comics 71

JLA 152 coverJustice League of America #152 – “2000 Light Years to Christmas” – Gerry Conway/Dick Dillin/Frank McLaughlin

This issue is a bit strange; it’s supposed to be a Christmas allegory, an updating of the Star of Bethlehem/Three Wise Men story. But it’s a bit heavy-handed and I’m not exactly sure what point Gerry Conway was trying to make. Anyway, it starts with three weird-looking aliens zipping through space. They run into some kind of space warp and crash land on Earth, losing the three “gifts” they’re carrying. One lands in Georgia, one in the Middle East, and one in Canada. On the Satellite, some of the JLA are playing poker when Red Tornado sees three blips on the monitor heading for Earth. He’s worried, but the others analyze the blips and conclude they’re just small meteorites. They go backcard game to their cards and Reddy goes back to worrying. We now find out what happened to the three alien “gifts”. The first one lands in Georgia, near a town called Ajax. It ends up in the river and starts spilling some shit that makes the water bubble and change colour. At a neighbouring chemical plant, some hippie is bitching about the company dumping chemicals in the river. The CEO tells him they’re within guidelines and has him tossed out on his ass. In the Middle East, an orphan girl named Traya is running through a war zone and finds the second “gift”, a golden ball. She can feel its power and thinks it must be magic. In a forest somewhere in Canada, a deer is being pursued by hunters when it comes across the third “gift”, which looks like a loaf of bread. The deer grabs the bread in its mouth right before the hunters show up and try to blow the deer away. In Peru, Macabrewe see a weirdo called Major Macabre, who compares himself to Hitler and wants to rule the world. He detects the three anomalies from space and sets out to find them, but not before needlessly killing one of his own men, just to establish how evil he is. The JLA finally figure out the meteorites were something more dangerous and split into teams to heck them out. Superman and Red Tornado go to the Middle East and stop a few missiles. A couple of giant hands rise up from the city and smash some jets. Supes rescues the crew while Reddy goes to the source, which is Traya. He realizes she’s just a scared kid, but before he can talk to her he gets torpedoed. In Georgia, Batman and Elongated Man check out the town where the chemical plant is located. While Batman muses about theTraya wrecks jet lack of plant growth in a greenhouse, Ralph gets jumped by freaky-looking monsters. Batman rescues him but gets conked out, and Ralph is surrounded by the monsters. Hawkman and Hawkgirl go to Canada and find a pissed off Stag Man chasing hunters. They tackle the anthropomorphic creature and Hawkman gets KOed. Hawkgirl manages to shoot the Stag Man with a sleep dart, but he knocks her out at the same time. In the aftermath, Major Macabre shows up and heads for the enchanted loaf of bread still in the Stag Man’s hands. In the Middle East, Traya gets Superman in a giant vise and starts crushing him. He’s powerless to resist because of his vulnerability to magic, but Red Tornado gives Traya an impassioned Reddy's speechspeech about fear and loneliness which makes her release the Man of Steel. Superman wonders at Reddy’s capacity for empathy, but his musings are interrupted by Major Macabre (grown to giant proportions thanks to the first artifact) who punches Superman out, smashes Red Tornado’s hand, and takes the golden ball. In Georgia, Batman is strapped to a printing press and Ralph is interrogated by some of the monsters. Seems both the hippies and the plant workers were transformed by the tainted water and they’ve been fighting each other. While the transformed hippies try to convince the heroes of the rightness of their cause, Batman signals Ralph to free him. But Ralph fucks up and accidentally hits the on-switch. The distraction lets Ralph punch out his captors and Batman performs a miraculous escape from the printing press—off panel, of course. Batman realizes the people were transformed by tainted water, but before he and Ralph can recover the last artifact from the river, they’re blasted by Major Macabre. On the Satellite,JLA vs Macabre Reddy’s hand is repaired and they realize the artifacts didn’t come from Earth. Reddy suggests they must belong to some aliens and they’d better find them fast. In Peru, Major Macabre prepares to assimilate the artifacts, but the JLA interrupts him. They get slapped around, but it’s just a distraction so Red Tornado can grab the artifacts. Macabre chases him and gets zapped by the three aliens. They drain all the power from him and take back the “gifts”, saying humans are too warlike to receive such blessings … at least, for now. Before they leave, the aliens set things right with the Georgia townsfolk (and the stag) and Reddy makes the comparison between the aliens and the Three Wise Men.

Noticeable Things:

  • The aliens seem to be carrying their gifts in leather pouches, like you’d find on Earth.
  • This is one of those stories where the team has to split into three to recover all the objects or fight all the villains. It’s a holdover from the Golden Age, when team books did that all the time, but even in the 70s it was getting a bit stale.
  • They never say where in the Middle East Traya is from, or what nationality she is. That was probably to avoid taking a side and pissing people off, but it could also be taken as a universal thing; it doesn’t matter what “side” Traya comes from (or even what country), her life is fucked up either way.
  • After throwing the hippie dude out, the chemical company exec has a drink of water. If he knows his plant is dumping shit into the river, why would he drink it?
  • Apparently, Major Macabre’s technology is way more advanced than that of the JLA, since he was able  to detect right away that the three “meteorites” were objects of  power and the JLA couldn’t.
  • The Stag Man is compared to Cerunnos, Celtic god of animals and fertility. There’s definitely a resemblance.Cerunnos
  • I’m not sure if Traya speaks English or Reddy speaks her language, but they don’t have any trouble communicating. Maybe he’s programmed with all Earth languages or something.
  • I don’t know why Ralph needed Batman to pull him free from the crowd; why couldn’t he just slip out, or elongate, or whatever?
  • There’s a lot of attention on Red Tornado in this story and how he’s almost human. It’s good Gerry’s trying to give Reddy a real personality, but he kinda hits you over the head with it. It almost seems like he’s trying to make Reddy more like the Vision, though there are certain similarities to Commander Data as well.
  • At the end of this issue, Traya is still with Red Tornado, so I guess he’s basically adopted her.

LSH 237 coverSuperboy & the Legion #237 – “No Price Too High” – Paul Levitz/Walt Simonson/Jack Abel

This one starts with Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl getting kicked out of the Legion. Okay, not really, but also … yeah, kind of. See, they got married and the Legion Code says married members aren’t allowed, so they have to resign. After they leave for their honeymoon, some microdroids show up and total R.J. Brande’s robot bodyguards. The Legionnaires make short work of the microdroids, but they’re not the real threat. A dude called Arma Getten (!) pops in and surrounds himself and Brande with a force field. He says if anyone touches the force field—from either side—it’ll blow up, killing him and Brande. But the field can only hold together for a short time, after which it’ll deteriorate and kill them anyway. In exchange for Brande’s life, Armafighting Khunds Getten wants some very specific items. He sends Superboy, Mon-El, Sun Boy, and Dawnstar to the Starcore mining project we saw last issue. When they get there, they find the Khund ship that Mon-el disabled has recovered and is prepared to attack again. The Khunds use red sun radiation to take Superboy and Mon-El out of the fight. Sun Boy is blasted too, but recovers more quickly. He and Dawnstar total a bunch of Khund ships (Levitz is careful to tell us the Khunds bailed out before the ships blew up), giving the other two Legionnaires time to recover. Dawnstar leads them to the Khund mothership, which Superboy and Mon-El toss right out of the solar system, saying there will be a defensive cordon erected before the Khunds can return. The Legionnaires ask the grateful scientists to loan them a Projectra and Wildfire downpiece of the starcore and the scientists agree. Back at Brande’s estate, Arma Getten conjures up some special restraints to hold Colossal Boy, Star Boy, Brainiac 5, Dream Girl, and Chameleon Boy. Brande tries to jump Getten, but doesn’t get anywhere. At Legion HQ, Wildfire and Projectra are arguing about his leadership when an alarm goes off in the trophy room. Wildfire investigates and finds only Shadow Lass, who uses her feminine wiles to distract him from noticing the Quintile Crystal is missing. Phantom Girl has it and is already outside, heading for a ship. Projectra comes in and notices the missing crystal right away—I guess Shadow Lass isn’t her type? Shrinking Violet pops up and opens Wildfire’s suit, letting his energy out. Shadow Lass blinds Projectra and Violet decks her, then they both join Phantom Girl on the ship and take off. At Brande’s place, Getten is constructing what looks like a spaceship, but he says it’s powerful enough to destroy the solar system. He’s using the starcore as aGraxls power source, the Crystal as a focus, and needs one more piece … the Crown of the Graxls. Who the hell are the Graxls? Glad you asked. We see Cosmic Boy, Timber Wolf, and Light Lass on a Legion cruiser in a far corner of space. They’re surrounded by a conglomeration of derelict ships and Cosmic Boy explains that the Graxls found an artifact (the Crown) which draws all these busted up spaceships together and binds them into a lattice, also providing heat and light. The Graxls—a race of short, weird-looking aliens—mistake the Legionnaires for the “Builders”, the ones who made the Crown in the first place. The Legionnaires play along and pretend they’re there to inspect the Crown, but when the Graxls are distracted Timber Wolf busts in and cuts the Crown loose from its escape attemptmoorings. (Yeah, the Crown is huge.) They steal it with a tractor beam and take off, leaving a bunch of pissed off Graxls behind. At Brande’s place, the captive Legionnaires are planning an escape. Colossal Boy tries to expand out of his shackles, but they conform to his size and hold him regardless of how big he gets. Getten’s microdroids finish him off, but the distraction allows Chameleon Boy to take off. Getten looks for him, but figures he can’t do anything to stop him, so he tells the microdroids to go back to work on the weapon. As the other Legionnaires approach Brande’s asteroid, they notice a strange wobble in the orbit. That tips them off and Superboy and Dawnstar go to confront Getten, leaving the artifacts behind with the others. Getten admits he’s planning to blow up the solar system, but says there’s nothing they can do while he holds Brande inside theBrande jumps Getten explosive sphere. They back down, but Brande decides to play hero and jumps Getten, knocking them both into the sphere. The sphere disappears, but Brande and Getten are still alive. Getten says he wouldn’t mind dying along with the whole solar system, but not just him and Brande. He whips out an electro-knife and tries to stab Brande, but Superboy melts it. Getten tries to use his conjuring power to call up another weapon, but it backfires and he dissolves into nothingness. We find out Chameleon Boy didn’t really escape during Colossal Boy’s distraction; Star Boy escaped and Cham transformed into a duplicate of Star Boy to cover his escape. Getten microdroids couldn’t find Star Boy because they were programmed to search for Cham. The story ends with the Legion returning to Graxl and igniting (reigniting?) their star to make up for stealing their sun Apparently, R.J. Brande made his first billion creating a star, so he does the same for the Graxls.

Noticeable Things:

  • The spaceship in which Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl take off has tin cans tied behind it; I guess some traditions never die.just married
  • This is another of those “let’s split the team into three parts” stories. I guess Levitz must’ve read that month’s JLA comic.
  • I’m not sure why Shrinking Violet and the others didn’t just tell Wildfire and Jeckie why they needed the Quintile Crystal; it would’ve saved a lot of fucking around.
  • If Getten’s shackles were specially adapted for each Legionnaire, I’m not sure how Chameleon Boy and Star Boy got out of theirs.

All-Star Comics 71 coverAll-Star Comics #71 – “The Deadliest Game in Town” – Paul Levitz/Joe Staton/Bob Layton

This one starts right where we left off, with the Strike Force about to blast Wildcat, Huntress, and Star-Spangled Kid. Naturally the heroes fight back and do okay, but the Strike Force goons manage to zap SSK. They bring out some heavier artillery and SSK tells the others he can hold the goons off with his cosmic belt, but not for long. Huntress convinces Wildcat they have to get the hell out of there and get reinforcements. Wildcat finally agrees, but when he mentions the cops, Huntress is very reluctant to get them involved. Wildcat sends out an emergency signal to the rest of JSA and we get a couple of vignettes showing us where some of them are—and why they aren’t answering. Flash and Green Lantern are working in a lab at Flash’s company (where he’s just gotten GL a job) in their civilian identities, andHuntress revealed Dr. Fate is hanging around his tower, being mysterious, and freaking out his wife—as usual. At JSA headquarters, Wildcat asks how Huntress knows how to work the signal board and why she doesn’t want cops involved. She tells him she’s really Helena Wayne, Bruce Wayne’s daughter. Bruce still blames himself for Helena’s mother (aka Catwoman) dying, so she doesn’t want her dad to know she’s taken up the mantle of the Huntress to fight crime and try to “strike a balance” for what happened to her mom. Wildcat agrees to keep her secret and they attempt to contact more JSAers. We get some more vignettes: Power Girl is imprisoned in her own spaceship (in Showcase #98); Hawkman and Hawkgirl are on an archaeological dig in Egypt; Dr. Mid-Nite is swamped at the hospital; and Superman is dealing with some kind of alien invasion in Metropolis. At fighting Strike ForceGotham Stadium, the Strike Force have Star-Spangled Kid chained up and take a ransom photo. The leader reveals himself to be Arthur Pemberton, SSK’s nephew. He’s been using the Pemberton fortune to finance the Strike Force, which explains why they used Gotham Stadium as a hideout, since the rebuilding was financed by the Pemberton millions. Sylvester feels like an idiot for not realizing who was behind it, and for losing control of his fortune after returning from being stuck in the past. The Strike Force take SSK and leave the stadium. Later, when Huntress and Wildcat show up, they find a newspaper with SSK’s photo on the front. I’m not sure if it’s meant to be a real paper or just something the Strike Force gimmicked up to let the JSA know what they want for Sylvester. Huntress shows her detective skills by finding a piece of astroturf and realizing that Gotham Stadium has real grass. Wildcat checks with someSSK finishes Arthur sportswriter friend of his and finds he only place in the city that uses astroturf is the Meadowlands Track and Stables. Huntress and Wildcat head over there and gain entry in their civilian identities. Inside, Arthur is planning his uncle’s ransom, but gets interrupted when Huntress and Wildcat show up and start kicking ass. They free Sylvester and the three of them make short work of the Strike Force, with Sylvester delivering the final knock-out punch to his corrupt nephew. Sylvester thanks them, but says he’s taking a leave of absence from the team to put his life back in order … whatever that means. In Egypt, we see Carter and Shiera have found some tablet with crazy hieroglyphics on it, and they’re about to get jumped by a shadow. I wonder who that could be? We’ll find out next issue.

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