Comics Reviews: Flash 259, Wonder Woman 241, Green Lantern 102, Firestorm 1

Flash 259 coverFlash #259 – “Black Hand—the Kill-Proof Criminal” – Cary Bates/Irv Novick/Joe Giella

This one starts with Black Hand doing his annoying “narration” schtick again. It’s even more obnoxious than usual; not only is he breaking the fourth wall, he has home movies too. He recaps last issue, when he stole the aura that protects Flash from burning up at super speed and Flash promptly—well, burned up, leaving nothing behind but his boots. Black Hand has incorporated the aura with his own stolen Green Lantern power and now claims to be indestructible. But Black Hand quickly realizes Flash is still alive, since there’s no mention of his death on TV or in the newspapers. We get a flashback to last issue when Flash startednaked Flash burning up. He knew his aura was gone, so he managed to project his entire body into his ring, instead of just his costume. The ring tumbles along the street until a cat starts playing with it, which makes Barry pop back out, buck-arse naked. He steals some clothes at high speed (saying he’ll come back and pay for them later) and heads home. Since he still lacks his protective aura, he tries to keep his super speed slow enough that he won’t be affected by friction, but when he gets home his clothes are a bit burnt. That’ll teach you to steal, Barry! Barry lets the cops know he’s still alive, then calls Iris (who’s at her parents’ place) and clues her in on what’s happened. We see Black Hand out in the desert, boasting about how he melded Flash’s aura with his own Green Lantern power to make himself indestructible. He proves it by standing at Ground Zero for an H-Bomb test. Barry gives the neighbour kid Barney Sands a lift home with a trunk full of fanzines. On the way, they pass the Moon Dome, a place where a movie company has recreated the lunar surface, including the airless atmosphere. Remember that, as it’ll be important later. Barry hears a report on the radio about a UFO downtown, so he takes off. He finds the UFO sucking money out of a bank and knows Black Hand is behind it. Hand brags about the atomic bombslap down test and how his new aura makes him invincible, which seems to be the case as Flash can’t affect him with super speed punches. Hand turns the tables and slaps the shit out of Flash with energy from his Power Light. Flash tries to get away, but Hand grabs him, and says the H-Bomb that hit him was made with some kind of yellow hydrogen compound, so he doesn’t even have his usual vulnerability to yellow stuff. Flash takes off and Hand pursues, taunting him some more. Flash leads him to the Moon Dome and vibrates inside, followed quickly by the villain, who is startled to find the realistic lunar surface. His aura protects him from the airless vacuum, but Flash attacks right away. Hand uses some holograms to mess with Flash, Hand defeatedbut he’s surprised that Flash isn’t burning up from all the running. Hand hasn’t figured out that the place is airless, which means no friction while Flash runs. Hand sends a deadly bolt at the Scarlet Speedster, but Flash uses his super speed to dodge and bring the bolt back to Hand, knocking him out. Flash reasoned the only thing that could affect Hand’s new “indestructible” force field was energy from that force field. Flash reabsorbs his own protective aura by messing with some doohickey on Hand’s belt and prepares to take the villain in.

Noticeable Things:

  • Black Hand uses the Green Lantern power to disguise himself, but he’s checked into the hotel as William Hand, which isn’t exactly an ironclad alias.
  • Even if Flash isn’t dead, wouldn’t the news at least mention the big fight he had with Black Hand?
  • Most of the issue, Barry is going slower than usual because he no longer has his aura to protect him, but he still seems to be moving at superhuman speeds. He’s going too fast to be seen when he steals the clothes, and he vibrates through the wall of the moon chamber. You can’t tell me vibrating fast enough to pass through solid matter wouldn’t cause a hell of a lot of friction.
  • I get why Iris was being guarded while talking to Barry on the phone (her dad was right there), but why did Barry have to be so circumspect? Does Iris’s dad have super hearing? Or maybe her mom’s a busybody and was listening on the other line?
  • Did they still have Hydrogen Bomb tests inside the U.S. In 1978?
  • So Barney Sands has created his own fanzine, eh? What kind of loser gets his kicks writing about superheroes … oh, wait. Never mind.
  • If a movie company was recreating the moon’s surface to film some scenes, why would they make it airless? Wouldn’t that just make it harder for the actors and the film crew?
  • The whole Moon Dome thing is very fortuitous. They just happened to have a frictionless environment right when friction was anathema to Flash, and he just happened to pass it on his way home? Whatever.

Wonder Woman 241 coverWonder Woman #241 – “Three Roads to Destiny” – Gerry Conway/Joe Staton/Dick Giordano

This story is narrated by the Spectre for some reason. We start in Japan, with a shadowy figure talking to Emperor Hirohito and someone who looks like Tojo. We don’t get to see exactly who this guy is, but they refer to him as “Samurai” and he demonstrates nuclear-type powers, which he uses to fry a flower. Tojo tells him his target is Wonder Woman. Speaking of which, we see Wonder Woman in Washington, dancing with Steve Trevor at a War Bond Ball. Etta is there too, with her shifty French boyfriend. Some weirdo named Bouncer smashes through the window to rob the place and Wonder Woman tackles him. They go outBouncer escapes the window, but Bouncer lives up to his name and bounces between buildings until he lands in the street. Wonder Woman tries to chase him, but she’s surrounded by adoring fans. Bouncer gets away and Wonder Woman is kinda pissed off, especially since a lot of these same people were calling her a traitor just last issue. We see the shadowy Samurai dude watching from nearby, but he decides not to strike since there are too many people around. He also thinks his nuclear powers are waning and he probably has only enough left to kill Wonder Woman before dying himself, so he doesn’t want to use his powers until he’s certain of victory. Etta phones Diana and tells her she’s engaged to Mr. Frenchy. Diana pretends to be happy, but she’s suspicious and resolves to check out Etta’s fiancé. We jump to Bouncer at his hideout and get his origin. As a kid, he was a great Bouncer strikesballet dancer, but all the kids tormented him for being a sissy and his mother was embarrassed in front of her high society friends when he came home beat to shit. So now he’s robbing high society women, of whom he seems to have a pathological hatred. The next day, Wonder Woman is performing at a fair for war orphans when Bouncer attacks again. He again gets mad at the rich women in attendance and when a kid gives him a kick, he grabs her as a hostage. Wonder Woman goes after him in her invisible jet, followed by the Samurai, who’s still stalking her. Wonder Woman tracks Bouncer down and jumps him, but he starts ranting and threatens to throw the kid off the roof. Wonder Woman tries to reason with him, even as Samurai sneaks up the staircase behind Bouncer. Wonder Woman makes a grab at Bouncer with her lasso but misses. Bouncer dangles the kid off the roof and Samurai realizes Bouncer is nuts,Bouncer killed so he uses the last of his power to blast Bouncer, who falls off the roof. Wonder Woman catches the kid and confronts Samurai, who turns out to be her old adversary, Sumo, from he Super vs Wonder Woman Special. He says he was sent to kill her, but he failed and now he dies without honour. Wonder Woman thinks to herself that by saving the kid, he regained his honour, especially since the kid was never in any real danger; Wonder Woman had her invisible jet below the ledge, ready to catch the kid.

Noticeable Things:

  • The Japanese characters in this story speak like pseudo-medieval stereotypes, saying “honourable” every third word.
  • I’m not sure why Bouncer’s hatred fixated on the society women instead of the guys who actually tormented him; maybe it’s a hatred of his mother, since she was presumably a high society dame herself.
  • Wonder Woman says the charity fair was organized by the Manhattan Women’s Society and mentions that they didn’t allow the two Jewish orphans she rescued to attend. I wonder if that’s reference to the DAR, who were pretty restrictive about who they let into their parties back then?
  • I think Gerry Conway was still in Marvel mode here. Bouncer is a very Marvel villain, as are his motivations, and Wonder Woman’s irritation with the crowds is reminiscent of Spider-Man. Having the Spectre narrate was almost like the Watcher. In Fact, I can’t think of any real reason to have Spectre narrating the story, other than maybe to entice Spectre fans to pick it up.

Green Lantern 102 coverGreen Lantern #102 – “Sign Up … and See the Universe” – Denny O’Neil/Alex Saviuk/Vince Colletta

This one starts with a space battle. Two ships are trying to blast each other and Green Lantern is close behind, attempting to stop the fight. Green Lantern gets blasted, followed closely by one of the ships. Everyone on the stricken ship is dead except one former slave named Taupin (no idea if his first name is Bernie or not). He takes over the ship and teleports it to Earth, and we see that the dead Green Lantern is some alien GL, not the Hal Jordan version. After appearing on Earth, the spaceship crashes into a dam and the authorities send out an emergency call. Hal Jordan is nearby in his big rig and changes to Green Lantern to come help. He seals up the dam, but Taupin attacks him with the spaceship. GL getsGL zapped blasted and falls into the water, nearly paralyzed. We get a couple of quick interludes: first, Oliver and Dinah are fighting again (big surprise) and she gets fed up and walks out, saying they need some time apart. And on Oa, the Guardians detect a time-null near Earth and try to warn Green Lantern that he has to stay on the planet. But they can’t get through, so after he charges his ring, GL heads into space to look for the ship that blasted him and blunders right into the time-null, where he’s frozen in time. On Earth a few weeks later, Taupin is offering Earthlings the chance to leave Earth and serve on a spaceship. He talks like an Army recruiter and seems to be targeting disaffected people who feel no ties to their home lives and want a radical change. Dinah is apparently one of those people and goes to the recruiting centre. Taupin puts a helmet on each person’s head and Dinah pounds Ollieends up rejecting most of them, but Dinah and a few others are chosen to go on the spaceship. Oliver shows up to try and stop her, but he’s rejected too. He changes to Green Arrow and sneaks aboard the ship. Dinah and the other recruits are given weird helmets to wear and soon find out their brain waves are being used to power the ship. The helmets sap their resistance and Taupin says once their mental energy is all used up they’ll die and he’ll have to find a new crew. Green Arrow comes busting in and starts pounding Taupin, but Taupin uses the enthralled crew to fight Arrow. He pounds them too, but Dinah kicks his ass. The others seize him and Taupin prepares to throw him out the airlock.

Noticeable Things:

  • When Hal goes to help, it looks like he leaves his truck on the road, but turns it invisible. He better hope nobody comes barreling along and smashes into it.
  • That’s quite the crop top Dinah’s wearing.Dinah's shirt

Firestorm 1 cover Firestorm #1 – “Make Way for Firestorm” – Gerry Conway/Al Milgrom/Klaus Janson, Joe Rubinstein

This one starts with some dynamic action, as we see brand new hero Firestorm flying around like a maniac. We get some exposition about his powers (he can fly and transmute matter from one form to another) and the current situation (he’s on his way to a nuclear plant to stop a scumbag named Eddie Earhart (who’s responsible for turning him into Firestorm) from blowing the plant up. When he gets to the plant, he phases through the wall and attacks Earhart and his henchmen. We also learn that Firestorm has another “presence” inside his head, someone he calls Professor. We then get an extended flashback to see how we got toRonnie Cliff and Doreen this point … my favourite literary device—not! We go back twelve hours to a pickup game of football outside a high school. Ronnie Raymond makes a great catch and scores a touchdown, which impresses new student Doreen Day. But local brainiac Cliff Carmichael taunts Ronnie, trying to make him look (and feel) stupid. Ronnie threatens to kick Cliff’s ass, but that just makes him look worse. In class, Cliff keeps answering questions before Ronnie can and when Ronnie tries to jump in front, the teacher gives him shit. Jocks just don’t get no respect, am I right? We find out Ronnie’s not really stupid, he’s just average and Doreen suggests Carmichael might be jealous of his athleticism. (He should probably be jealous of his grooming habits; I know it was 1978, but what the fuck is up with those sideburns, Doreen madCliff?) When Carmichael taunts him some more, Ronnie gets pissed off and spills food on Doreen. He leaves and Doreen gives Carmichael shit. We learn that Ronnie has moved around a lot and his dad finally got a job at a newspaper. The principal (who’s an old friend of Ronnie’s dad) watches him and thinks he might need a friendly ear. At the Hudson Nuclear Power Plant, we see protesters outside and inside we see Professor Martin Stein ruminating about how he’s managed to build the first perfectly safe, fully automated nuclear plant. But his joy is short-lived as a dude named Danton Black shows up with some lawyers to serve an injunction. Black claims Stein stole his patents for the machinery in the plant, but Stein says he caught Black stealing and fired him. The lawyers say it’s a matter for the courts and the plant will remain offline in the meantime. Stein isMartin Stein pissed off because he knows any delays in opening the plant will cause the public to assume it’s unsafe. He vows to put the plant online that night, injunction or not. We see Ronnie at home, getting a call from his absentee dad (his mom is dead, apparently). He sees a news report on TV about the protest at the nuclear plant, led by a guy named Eddie Earhart, and decides to go join the protest to prove to Doreen that he’s not just a dumb jock. He even calls her to let her know, but she doesn’t care about him proving anything, she’s worried he might get in trouble. Ronnie finds Earhart’s headquarters—which is a real shithole—and volunteers to join the cause. Eddie’s friends are wary, but Eddie says Ronnie will be the perfect patsy for when they blow up the nuclear plant. They head over to Firestorm transformationthe plant and break in, and Ronnie finally figures there might be something wrong, but he gets punched out. Stein is inside, bringing the nuclear pile up to full power and sees the fight on the security monitors. He goes out to confront Earhart and his thugs, but gets decked too. He and Ronnie are tied up inside the plant as Earhart and his men lay explosives all over the place. Earhart and his men leave, just as Danton Black shows up to steal more of Stein’s work. Ronnie wakes up and sees the bomb. He tries to move Stein, but the bomb goes off, knocking Danton Black out and causing Stein and Ronnie to merge into a weird new persona. Ronnie realizes he’s smarter than he was and that he has the power to affect molecules. He uses the power to repair the ruptured power plant (and whip up a new costume) and hears Professor Stein’s voice inside his head. Stein explains that the explosion merged the two of them into one being (who Ronnie decides to call Firestorm) and since Ronnie was awake when they merged, he’s the “dominant” personality. Firestorm splash pageFirestorm remembers hearing Earhart brag about blowing up another power plant in New Jersey and flies off to stop him. We see Danton Black, still alive, but glowing from the explosion. And that’s where we came in, with Firestorm beating the shit out of Earhart and his men at the Jersey nuclear plant. He uses his transmutation powers to stop the thugs (and change Earhart’s gun into a cucumber), but whenabsorbing explosion the cops show up, Earhart freaks and tries to blow the plant with all of them in it. Firestorm absorbs the explosion somehow and decks Earhart. He’s excited to show his dad his new identity, but on the way home he catches sight of his reflection and freaks at how weird he looks. His freak-out causes him and Professor Stein to split into their regular bodies (not naked this time, lucky for them). Stein has no memory of Ronnie or of them being merged, but Ronnie says he’s a friend.

Noticeable Things:

  • It almost seems like Conway is trying to recreate the magic of Spider-Man here, with Ronnie being a high school kid who gets unexpected powers and all that. It’s been tried before, with limited success (Marv Wolfman’s Nova comes to mind), but Conway at least tries to reverse some of the tropes. This time the protagonist is the jock and Cliff Carmichael (the brain) is in the Flash Thompson role. I’m not sure who Doreen corresponds to … maybe an amalgam of Liz, Gwen, and MJ. And the dual personality thing with Stein is new, and pretty cool. I’ve never been a huge Firestorm fan, but this isn’t bad for a first issue, considering they had to shoehorn a lot of info in and have some kind of plot as well.
  • When Carmichael is answering questions in class, it looks like he’s doing a Nazi salute.
  • Ronnie’s principal looks kind of sinister to me. Maybe it’s the beard.
  • I have to admit, when I first saw Martin Stein, I was disappointed that he didn’t look like Victor Garber.
  • After Black leaves, Stein is so mad he slams his hand down on a console. Probably not the best thing to do in a nuclear plant.
  • I can’t figure out if Eddie Earhart and his gang are sincere in their No Nukes stance or what. If so, I’d say blowing up a nuclear plant and scattering radioactive shit all over is hardly the best way to protest the dangers of nuclear energy.
  • I know the plant was under injunction and supposed to be shut down, but I can’t believe there’d be no guards there. You’d think they’d have extra guards, considering the protests.
  • I’m not sure why Stein didn’t call the cops before confronting Earhart and his gang.
  • It looks like Earhart and his boys are using old-fashioned dynamite to blow up the plant, which seems a bit strange. Maybe C-4 was too hard to get.

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