Comics Reviews: JLA 153, Superboy & the Legion 238, Black Lightning 8

JLA 153 coverJustice League of America #153 – “Earth’s First and Last Super-Hero” – Gerry Conway/George Tuska/Frank McLaughlin

This issue starts with Green Arrow complaining. I know, what a shock, right? It’s about the JLA not doing enough to help the common people—nothing we haven’t heard from him before. He also manages to insult Red Tornado, but before anything can come of it, Arrow starts vibrating. Superman, Batman, Flash, Green Arrow, and Green Lantern all begin vibrating and suddenly disappear, despite Wonder Woman trying to snag them with her lasso. The five heroes pop back in space above Earth, but Superman quickly sees that it’s not the right Earth. We then see some hunters in the Australian outback trying to waste kangaroos, until some guy in a purple suit with super-powers (calling himself Ultraa) shows up and kicks the crap out ofJLA disappears the hunters. Meanwhile, in Antarctica, a scientist finds a weird glowing pyramid that zaps him in the head with an energy beam. Back on the JLA Satellite, Wonder Woman, Black Canary, and Red Tornado have looked everywhere for their missing friends, but can’t find them. We see the missing heroes in New York City, but Superman tells his friends that there’s no Gotham or Metropolis where they are, leading Flash to realize they’re on Earth Prime—that is to say, our Earth, where super-heroes only exist in comics, TV shows, and movies. Naturally, they attract a lot of attention—positive and negative—and they end up foiling a bank robbery. Flash takes them to the DC comics offices to see Julie Schwartz, who he’s met before. Julie (being an expert on multiple Earths) says they were probably drawn there Julie explainsbecause a bunch of people on Earth Prime were all thinking about them at the same time. Julie pulls out the cosmic treadmill that Flash used to return home before (which he apparently keeps in his closet), but it doesn’t work. Flash says there’s some force keeping them from leaving Earth Prime. In Antarctica, we see a crazy robot blowing away some Russian scientists. We learn the robot is connected to Ultraa and get their origin story. Basically, Ultraa (and a bunch of his people) was on a cryo-ship sent into space to escape the destruction of their planet and the robot (Maxitron) was the artificial intelligence that ran the ship. But the ship was hit by a meteor swarm and just before it blew up, Ultraa was put in an escape pod with Maxitron’s consciousness and ejected. But they were separated, Ultraa landing in the outback to be raised by aborigines, and Maxitron landing in Antarctica andMaxitron attacks slowly going insane from lack of contact with any intelligent beings. When the scientist found Maxitron, the now-crazed computer used his body to build a robotic form for itself and is now looking for Ultraa to destroy him. He detects the five JLAers in New York and concludes they must be Ultraa’s friends, so he heads out to kill them. In New York, Green Lantern detects the energy that’s preventing them from leaving Earth Prime and he and Superman take off to find it. Batman, Green Arrow, and Flash are attacked by Maxitron and pounded. Near Hawaii, Superman and GL find Ultraa mixing it up with some fighter jets who attacked him when he tried to talk to them. GL rescues the pilots and Superman decks Ultraa just as he’s trying to surrender. They take him to an Air Force base and find out he’s not a bad guy, but the general in charge worries that the very existence of super-Ultraa vs Supermanheroes on a world where they never existed before will change things for the worse. Before they can mull that over, they’re interrupted by a flying pyramid outside. Maxitron is aboard and says he’ll kill the three captive JLAers if Ultraa doesn’t surrender. Maxitron analyzes Superman, GL, and Ultraa and computes the best ways to defeat them, but Batman has been playing possum and records Maxitron’s raving. He transmits it by morse code, hoping one of his fellow Leaguers will figure it out. As Supes, GL, and Ultraa attack, Maxitron defends against each of them. Green Lantern is zapped by yellow force beams and attacked by a yellow Tiger-Bear from Csarus, which he punches out. Ultraa is hit with ultra-sonics which knock him out and could even be fatal. Superman is bathed in red sun radiation, knocking him out too. Maxitron gathers the defeated heroesMaxitron defeated in his control room, but Superman jumps up and starts pounding him. Turns out Batman’s message did get through, so Supes and Ultraa switched places. Thus, the things they were most vulnerable to (ultra-sonics and red sun rays) had no effect. Ultraa hits Maxitron’s self-destruct and the robot blows up. Ultraa knows he has to leave Earth Prime so the JLA can go home, but GL says he can always come back afterwards. But Ultraa knows his super powers will alter Earth Prime forever and decides to go to Earth 1 with the others.

Noticeable Things:

  • Why were the people of Earth Prime thinking of these five JLAers? Because they were the winners of the (real life) fan poll to find the most popular JLA members.
  • The running theme in this issue is that superheroes are fun to read about, but in real life they’d be destructive and dangerous. Ultraa left Earth Prime because he thought his existence might herald the coming of other super beings (kind of like how Superman’s did on Earth 1) and he was afraid that might be too much for Earth Prime to handle. He’s probably right; if superheroes really existed, they’d be both the ultimate celebrities and the ultimate scapegoats for everything wrong in the world.
  • This won’t be the last time we hear Green Arrow’s rant out not helping the “little people”.
  • There’s a scene during the mayhem in New York with someone who I think is supposed to be Mary Tyler Moore … or Mary Richards, at least.MTM

explanationSuperboy & the Legion #238

This issue reprints Adventure #359 and 360, a two-part story about a group of Legionnaires in a space POW camp. It’s a pretty good story, but I don’t really review reprinted stuff, so I won’t go into detail. Editor Al Milgrom gives a long-winded explanation for why this issue is a reprint, but there were actually quite a few reprints in 1978, which I think is an indication of the chaos behind the scenes at DC before and during the so-called DC Implosion. But at least we got a cool wrap-around cover by Jim Starlin!LSH 238 cover

 

Black Lightning 8 coverBlack Lightning #8 – “Deadly Aftermath” – Tony Isabella/Trevor von Eeden/Vince Colletta

This is kind of a “mopping up” issue after all the craziness of last ish. If you recall, Black Lightning found out his friend and mentor Peter Gambi was responsible for the death of Lightning’s father, but Gambi ended up sacrificing himself to save Lightning’s life. And Tobias Whale (head of crime syndicate The 100) and all his goons were captured by the police,led by Inspector Henderson. But Henderson figured out that his son was working for Whale and had been tipping off the crime boss to the cops’ plans all along. This issue starts with Tobias Whale busting out of custody at the court where he’s being charged. He grabs Inspector Henderson as a hostage and escapes with help from his few remaining goons. Elsewhere, Jefferson (Black Lightning) Pierce is at Peter Gambi’s funeral, thinking of how Peter mentored him and saved his life. Pierce’s ex, Lynn Stewart is there and for once, he’s notfuneral a dick to her. She tells him she can cover his classes at school if he wants some time off. Two-Bits Tanner is at the funeral too and wonders what happened between Pierce and Lynn, but Pierce ain’t talking. Tanner gives him a letter from Peter Gambi that’ll supposedly give Pierce answers to all the questions he has. But Pierce tears it up and throws it in Gambi’s grave. Later that night, we see Tobias Whale and his last eight or nine henchmen hiding in a warehouse with Inspector Henderson tied up. Black Lightning and Tanner observe from the roof and Lightning heads inside to whittle down the odds a bit. He takes out a few of Whale’s men, then busts in on the crime lord. Whale says he’s going to beat the shit out of Lightning and Lightning pounds Whaletells his last three goons to shoot Henderson if Lightning starts winning. Lightning lets Whale kick the crap out of him for a while until Henderson tips over his own chair. One of Whale’s goons accidentally shoots another and the distraction lets Lightning fight back. Tanner shows up and gets the drop on the other goons, so Lightning can finish pounding Whale. Henderson apologizes for thinking Lightning was a crook, but Lightning says they’re cool. Henderson is ready to retire now that the 100 are out of commission, but Lightning says the people still need a champion so he’s not going anywhere. Lightning takes off and vows to keep fighting as long as he’s needed.

Noticeable Things:

  • Tony Isabella gives a couple of summations, one in Black Lightning’s voice and one in his own on the Letter Page. It almost seems like Isabella was wrapping everything up; I get the feeling that once the whole extended story about the 100 was finished, Isabella wasn’t exactly sure where to go next. He promises more Black Lightning adventures for “years to come”, but there are only three more issues before the comic is canceled. Of course, the character does stick around for the long haul, but the DC Implosion brings his first run to a fast halt.

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