Comics Reviews: JLA 154, Superboy & the Legion 239, All-Star Comics 72


JLA 154 coverJustice League of America #154 – “I’ll Kill You in Your Dreams” – Gerry Conway/Dick Dillin/Frank McLaughlin

This issue starts with a skull-faced bad guy melting wax figurines of some JLA members and gloating about how he’s soon going to get revenge on them for real. He’s not identified, but the fact that he has history with the League, and his constant references to “destiny”, means we can make a pretty good guess as to who he is. We see he’s in a faux castle that sits on top of a huge building, which is located on an island in a river. The next day, we see the same building (the Gotham Starscraper Hotel) having its grand opening ceremony. In attendance are Clark (Superman) Kent, Bruce (Batman) Wayne, Barry (Flash) Allen, Ray (Atom) Palmer, Oliver (Green Arrow) Queen, and Dinah (Black Canary) Lance. The hotel is a marvel of mechanization and luxury, with robots and other machinery catering to the needs of the guests Clark is reporting on the opening (as isSuperman's dream Barry’s wife, Iris), Bruce (and Morgan Edge) are on the board of directors, Ray was instrumental in designing some of the fancy features, and Ollie and Dinah are still trying to patch up their shaky relationship. Everyone enjoys the gala, then heads to bed. Mr. Skull-face is watching and sends each JLAer a disturbing dream. Superman dreams of Lex Luthor freezing him solid and when he busts out, the icy shrapnel kills Jimmy Olsen and a couple of cops. When he wakes up, Supes knows it was just a dream, but he’s still freaked out. Batman dreams of being able to fly like a bat, which preys on the fear of him losing his humanity. Apparently, Skull-dude is using the dreams to find the JLA’s biggest fears, then plans to recreate them in real life. Atom dreams of his costume continuing to shrink after he stops and crushing him. Flash dreams of slipping on an atomic banana peel (!) thrown by Trickster and sliding right out into space at super speed. Black Canary dreams of her sonic cry being activated involuntarily and collapsing a building on top of her. And Green Arrow dreams of a magnesium flare arrow boomeranging and blinding him. The next day, everyone leaves, since the gala Flash slipsopening is over. At home in Central City, Flash sees Trickster is causing havoc downtown and goes after him. While they’re fighting, Trickster whips out his atomic banana … uh, I mean, his atomic banana peel … and sure enough, Flash goes slip sliding away right into deep space at super speed. Green Arrow and Black Canary chase someone who was spying on them and both their dreams come true too; Canary is caught in a building collapse caused by her sonic cry, and Green Arrow’s magnesium flare arrow comes back and explodes in front of him. On the way to a hostage situation in Gotham, Batman discovers he can fly and actually seems to be into it. But his joy is short-lived because our Skull-faced friend zaps him with a ruby beam and Batman loses his new-found flight ability, plummeting to the ground. Atom’s nightmare also comes to pass—his costume starts crushing him as he shrinks– and so does Superman’s. Luthor imprisons him in an ice pillar, but Supes is reluctant to bust out for fear of killing bystanders. Of course, this is the Justice League we’re dealing with, so they find ways to escape their dilemmas. Canary uses her cry to blast through the floor and drops into a cellar before the building can crush her. Ollie manages to pull out a blackoutBlack Canary escapes arrow to shield his eyes from the magnesium flare, then he drills into the cellar to get Canary out. Flash proves he’s a Star Trek fan by slingshotting around Jupiter and back toward Earth. Batman uses the airbags in his Batmobile to cushion his fall (after ramming the Batmobile into a lamp post by remote control). Atom rolls into his nearby shrinking beam (which he was using to run some experiments) and the beam cancels out the shrinking of his costume. I’m not sure how that would work, but that’s what the caption says. Superman solves his problem rather easily—for him—by flying into the sun to melt the ice around him. The JLAers realize their troubles are connected to the dreams they had at the Starscraper Hotel, so they all head back there and guess who’s waiting for them? Yup, it’s Mr. Skull-face himself, Dr. Destiny. He recounts his past defeats at their hands and mentions how the destruction of his Dream Destiny wailsMaterioptikon took away his own ability to dream. That’s what changed him into the skull-headed dude he is now. He rebuilt the Materioptikon into his ruby and used it to set the trap at the Hotel and to make their “dreams” come true. He also used it to figure out their civilian identities by invading their dreams. Destiny splits into five separate beings and beats the shit out of the JLA. Five? But weren’t there six JLAers? Yup, they faked him out. Atom shrank as soon as they saw Destiny and hid on the ruby. So, the fight against the JLA was just a figment of Atom’s imagination, I guess. He grabs Destiny’s ruby and takes off and Black Canary decks the villain. Atom uses the ruby Materioptikon to erase Destiny’s knowledge of their identities, and his short-term memory of recent events. I guess Zatanna wasn’t available.

Noticeable Things:

  • I’m surprised Ollie (Mr. Power-to-the-People) would attend the opening for a shrine to capitalism like this.
  • Ray and his fiancée, Jean, sleep in separate rooms. The way they’re talking, I think we’re supposed to believe they haven’t banged yet. I know that was a convention of comics back then—no sex before marriage—but it was stretching credibility even then. I guarantee you Ollie and Dinah were banging, though they’re shown sleeping separately here, probably because of the tension between them.
  • I know Destiny can see into people’s dreams, but in some parts of the story it almost seems like he can read minds, which is beyond the scope of his powers, as far as I know.
  • The Batmobile is equipped with airbags; Batman (or Gerry Conway) really is ahead of his time.
  • I’m not sure how Destiny pulled off some of his stunts. I know he masqueraded as Trickster and Luthor, but how did he get Atom’s costume to keep shrinking? And how did he fuck up Canary’s sonic cry?
  • In the last panel, it looks like Ollie and Dinah have reconciled … at least, until their next fight.

Superboy & the Legion 239 coverSuperboy & the Legion #239 – “Murder Most Foul” – Paul Levitz/Jim Starlin/Josef Rubinstein

This one starts with Ultra Boy back on his home planet of Rimbor. He heads into a seedy hotel (which looks a bit like the Mos Eisley cantina) to find an ex-girlfriend named An Ryd. She called him for help, sounding desperate, so he came running. He finds her in a room upstairs and she distracts him long enough for some dude in a hood to blast him. But instead of paying An Ryd, hood-dude incinerates her with his blaster. Ultra Boy wakes up in an unfamiliar starship with his Legion flight ring missing and knows he’s not on Rimbor anymore. Before he can figure out what the hell’s going on, he’s confronted by a bunch of his fellow Legionnaires, plus his old mentor, Marla Latham. They tell him he’s on one of Rimbor’s moons and he’s wanted for the murder of An Ryd. Her body was found in the room Ultra-Boy was seen entering, she was killed by an intense heat beam (like from Ultra Boy’s flash vision) and his flight ring was found on her body. Since Ultra Boy blacked out, he has no alibi and agrees to let his friends takeconfrontation him in. Phantom Girl believes he’s innocent and he decides to take off. He starts pounding the other Legionnaires and after almost getting caught by Star Boy, gets off the moon only to find Superboy and Mon-El waiting for him. He leads them on a space chase and makes them crash into each other, then heads back to the moon. He takes the Legion cruiser, leaving his friends with the crappy spaceship in which he woke up. Phantom Girl and Shadow Lass don’t try to stop him, figuring he should have a chance to clear his name. Ultra Boy heads back to Rimbor and disguises himself, then wanders around trying to find clues as to who set him up. He strikes out and heads for a friend’s place to hole up; the friend is off-world and the place is Inertron-shielded, so Ultra Boy figures he’ll be safe there. But it turns out Chameleon Boy is one step ahead of him and is already there—disguised as a couch! Cham says he’s not convinced Ultra Boy is guilty, but he Chameleon couchcan’t be certain he’s innocent either. He speculates that anyone connected with the team could be setting Ultra Boy up. Cham ultimately decides to let Ultra Boy go and leaves to pursue his own suspicions. The other Legionnaires rendezvous with Cosmic Boy and they discuss what to do. Latham seems pretty eager to see ultra Boy get caught, but Superboy says they should be sure he’s guilty before they go too crazy. Wildfire figures Ultra Boy must’ve returned to Rimbor to clear his name, so they head there. Chameleon Boy speculates as he uses a computer to assure him all the Legionnaires are who they claim to be. He decides to forget the computer and follow his gut, which leads him to believe Ultra Boy is being set up by “the most dangerous Legionnaire of all”. Now who could that be? Mon-El and Superboy scan Rimbor and decide to look for places where their vision is blocked. They find an apartment block with heavy shieldingUltra Boy decked and head for it. Ultra Boy sees them coming and escapes by smashing down through multiple floors and out through a lake. But Timber Wolf is waiting and they mix it up. The rest of the Legionnaires catch up and there’s a big brawl, culminating in Ultra Boy getting punched out by Superboy and Mon-El. At Legion HQ, Wildfire and Latham are eager to put Ultra Boy away, but Chameleon Boy shows up and reveals that Wildfire is a robot. They fight the robot and Superboy slags it… all except the head, which Cham needs to prove Ultra Boy’s innocence. Cham explains that there had to be an impostor, but since all the Legionnaires checked out physically, the impostor had to be someone without a physical body. He says the real Wildfire was trapped in an energy field while the robotic one tried to get them to railroad Ultra Boy. Cham says the robot isn’t the one that killed An Ryd, but he knows who did. He won’t tell them until he gets absolute proof, though. We see the hooded guy watching on a monitor and he vows to do a better job of setting up the Legion next time. He walks off while removing his hood and it turns out … holy shit, it’s Norman Osborn! No, wait … never mind. We’ll find out who’s behind the hood in an upcoming issue.

Noticeable Things:

  • Judging by the way she’s dressed and some of the stuff she says, I’m pretty sure An Ryd is a space hooker
  • Phantom Girl’s belief in Ultra Boy’s innocence is a callback to when they first fell in love, back in Adventure #316. Phantom Girl even alludes to that story.
  • I’m not sure why Ultra Boy agreed to be taken in, then immediately turned around and tried to escape. If was gonna flee, it would’ve been easier before he was cuffed.
  • It’s nice to see Chameleon Boy being used as a super-spy. His powers lend themselves to that role, and I was tired of him being just some goofball who changes shape constantly. He’s much more serious here.
  • If you’re wondering why Dawnstar couldn’t track Ultra Boy, it’s because he used a “nerve block” on her that left her unconscious for a whole day, giving him a head start. The technique was taught to him by Timber Wolf.
  • There’s a panel where Superboy looks really weird … like a young Jack Soo or something.Jack Soo
  • It’s mentioned that Marla Latham has been undergoing rejuvenation treatments, which is why he looks younger than he used to.
  • Chameleon Boy says he has dossiers on every Legionnaire, which seems a bit … disturbing.
  • It seems like Levitz was using Latham as a red herring, to make us think he’s the one who framed Ultra Boy.

All-Star Comics 72 coverAll-Star Comics #72 – “A Thorn By Any Other Name” – Paul Levitz/Joe Staton/Bob Layton

This one starts with Flash, Green Lantern, Wildcat, Power Girl, and Huntress in Keystone City, checking out the body of a dead cop. He was killed by Thorn, a schizophrenic villain who manifests a dark personality. Apparently, she hasn’t been seen in years but she’s back now and she’s been on a bit of a crime spree lately: dope, vice, murder-for-hire. Knocking off a cop was just “free advertising” to the rest of the underworld. They get a call that Thorn and her crew are at the courthouse, trying to kill the judge that put her away when Flash caught her years ago. The JSA heads over to stop her. We next see Hawkman and Hawkgirl in Egypt. Hawkman (who’s sporting a funky new mask and costume) is preparing to return to the States to check on the JSA, but before he can leave, he’s surrounded by a weird shadow. This is the same shadow that attacked Dr. Fate a couple issues back. In Keystone, the JSA get the judge out of harm’s way, but not before Thorn hits him with one of her poisoned thorns. The JSA tackle herWildcat slashed men and Green Lantern tries to blast her, but her wood thorns deflect his power beam (which is ineffectual against anything made of wood). Wildcat goes after her and gets scratched with a poisoned thorn. Thorn and her men get away as Wildcat is rushed to hospital. His teammates are worried—Huntress is really losing it—and the doctor says the judge died but Wildcat is in a coma. Apparently he had a previous brain injury and the damage is what’s shutting down his brain, keeping the poison from killing him. Power Girl realizes the damage must’ve come in All-Star #66, when Icicle used his cold gun to take over Wildcat’s mind. The doctor says if they can get a sample of Thorn’s poison and Icicle cold gun, he might be able to save Wildcat. Green Lantern uses his ring to send Huntress flying to Gotham—against her will—to retrieve Icicle’s cold gun from JSA headquarters, while the others prepare to go find Thorn. Unfortunately, Thorn’s other personality, Rose Canton, is working in the hospital as a nurse, so she knows what their plans are. Huntress arrives at JSA HQ, pissed off at GL Huntress's trapstreating her like an amateur, but she finds someone waiting for her in the meeting room. At the hospital, the JSA are jumped by Thorn and her men as they’re leaving. She’s joined by another villain, Sportsmaster, who starts tossing exploding baseballs and shit like that. GL gets knocked out—just like the Earth-1 Lantern—and Thorn and Sportsy take off. But the doctor realizes he can use one of Thorn’s weapons to analyze the poison, so as soon as Huntress returns with the cold gun, he can try to save Wildcat. But Huntress has been delayed; we see her hiding in the HQ, saying that the whole place is full of traps. Who could have done such a thing? It’s her criminal counterpart, the first Huntress, and she’s not happy that a superhero has taken her name. She calls Helena to come out and face her … and that’s where we leave things. We’ll see what happens next issue.

Noticeable Things:

  • There’s one-panel flashback showing Huntress being formally inducted into the JSA.
  • I’m not sure why GL sent Huntress to get Icicle’s gun. Couldn’t Flash have run to Gotham and back in a couple minutes?
  • It’s mentioned that when the prison psychiatrists tried to cure Thorn’s split personality, they actually made both personalities aware of each other. Apparently, it made both of them assholes too, since the Rose Canton persona used to be a nice person.
  • I’m not sure how GL expects Huntress to return from Gotham. He says it’s too far for him to retrieve the cold gun with his ring, so presumably it’s also too far for him to retrieve her. Since time is of the essence, you’d think he’d have planned things out a little better.
  • Huntress’s traps at the end are laughably big; even I could avoid those.

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