Comics Reviews: JLA 156, Superboy & the Legion 241, All-Star Comics 73

JLA 156 coverJustice League of America #156 – “The Fiend With Five Faces” – Gerry Conway/Dick Dillin/Frank McLaughlin

This one starts with Aquaman emerging from the ocean in Honolulu and staggering through the streets mumbling about having to warn the JLA about a fiend with five faces. He’s accosted by a couple of muggers (who he quickly slaps down), then finds a cab. The cabbie is really excited to have such a distinguished person in his cab and takes Aquaman to a building where the JLA transporter tube is located. (The joke is that the cabbie thought Aquaman was Steve McQueen—ask your parents.) Aquaman beams to the JLA Satellite where Ralph (Elongated Man) Dibny is on duty. Ralph sends out the emergency signal and we see several Leaguers interrupt their business to respond. Black Canary is pounding some jewel thieves and finishes them offCanary pounding fast. Ray (Atom) Palmer is out walking with his fiancée Jean Loring, contemplating telling her about his secret identity. The emergency call saves him from making a decision and he gives her a lame excuse before taking off. We see Flash and Green Lantern on a mission of their own, exploring a jungle that suddenly grew up in the Pacific Northwest. Flash is knocked out by an animated tree branch and a weirdo pops out of the bushes. He says his name is Tane and he’s restoring the landscape; he talks like an environmentalist, but looks like Ka-zar with green hair. He uses his control over plants to knock Green Lantern out too … but then everyone knocks GL out. On the Satellite, Superman, Batman, Atom, Black Canary, and Red Tornado have answered Ralph and Aquaman’s call. Aquaman tells the others that a couple weeks ago, he almost got pulped by a bunch of whales and other sea  creatures running wild. They GL knocked outwere fleeing some massive volcanic activity in the Pacific, in places where no activity had ever been monitored before. So Aquaman went to check it out and found a Greek-style temple rising from the waves, with a weird statue of a five-headed god on top. But the “statue” came to life and blasted him, damaging his signal device. He spent days recovering and finally made his way to Honolulu so he could warn the League. He keels over and they put him in the recovery room. That’s when Phantom Stranger pops up, which usually means whatever the JLA is facing is really bad. They get another emergency call, this time from a NATO general saying his troops and the Warsaw Pact troops in Europe have suddenly started fighting with a weird combination of futuristic and archaic weapons. Neither he nor the opposing commanders know anything about it, but he needs some help to avert World War III. You know what happens next … yup, the JLA splits into teams. Batman, Atom, Red Tornado, and Phantom Stranger head for the Pacific to check out the temple. Reddy jumps ahead as usual, andmist demon gets his ass kicked … as usual. Some kind of mist-demon was waiting and crushed Reddy in its grip, then slapped Batman down too. Atom shrinks and knocks some glowing nuclei inside the mist-demon’s body around until the demon explodes. Phantom Stranger bypassed the fight and headed right into the temple. In Europe, Superman, Black Canary, and Ralph try to stop the fighting. Canary notices a couple of weirdos watching the fight and guesses they may have something to do with it. Superman goes after one of them (who looks like a Genghis Khan reject), but finds him more powerful than he thought. Ralph and Canary go after the other guy, who’s dressed like a court jester and says his name is Rongo. He turns Ralph into a tree and grabs Canary before she can pound him. Rongo tells her (and us) his origin story: he and four others were the Gods of Oceania, but when a worldwide disaster struck, their leader (Tangora) convinced them to merge into one being with five heads. They realized their time was originending, so they went into suspended animation in the temple which sank beneath the sea. But Rongo and three of the others felt betrayed and fought to return to Earth. Now that the temple has reappeared, Rongo and his colleagues have trapped Tangora inside and are going to wreak havoc on Earth … all in the name of fun, of course. In the Northwestern U.S., Flash and Green Lantern are held captive by trees controlled by Tane, who’s the Oceanian nature god. They devise an escape plan and Flash starts vibrating like crazy trying to bust loose, but Tane’s trees hold him securely. It looks like it was a waste of time, but GL thinks to himself that the plan is working perfectly. In the Pacific temple, they find Tangora imprisoned in some glowing rings of power and Phantom Stranger tries to free him. Stranger gets zapped, but insists he’s the only one who can free Tangora, and gives it another shot. In Europe, Superman challenges Ku (the war god) to a fight and realizes his sword is the magical source of his power. As son as Supes separates it from him, he pounds the war god with ease. Meanwhile, Black Canary pretends to have the hots for Rongo and unleashes her soniccanary cry cry right in his face. Before keeling over, Rongo calls for help. In the States, Tane basks in the rising sun, but it soon burns the strength right out of him. Apparently, Flash’s “escape attempt” was just a distraction so GL could use his ring (which he can control at a distance) to alter Tane’s metabolism, making sunlight poisonous to him. Yeah, it’s one of those “plot convenient” things the ring can do. In the temple, Phantom Stranger is weakening, but Red Tornado helps him break through the eldritch rings, freeing Tangora. Tangora is pissed off about his fellow gods betraying him and instantly summons them to the temple, where he gives them shit for messing with Earth. He merges them back together, then confides to the JLA that this same scenario plays out every 70,000 years or so, but he’s the only one who can remember; the others always think it’s the first time, like “50 First Dates” or something. He joins the others and the temple sinks back into the ocean … see you in 70,000 years then! Back on the Satellite, Atom asks everyone whether or not he should tell Jean his secret identity. Everyone says he should be honest, except Batman and Superman. Atom says he’s made up his mind, but we don’t hear what his decision is until next issue. That’s right, next issue is the wedding, with plenty of guest stars, so don’t miss it.

Noticeable Things:

  • It looks like the Oceanian gods used here are at least partially based on real life cosmology. Tane was the Maori nature god, but Rongo was the god od cultivated food and Tangaroa was the god of the sea. I couldn’t fid any references to Mauri (the supposed love goddess) or Ku, the war god. From what I could find, the Maori war god was called Maru. Of course, none of the gods depicted here look remotely Polynesian; they all look pretty white.
  • Green Lantern says telling Carol his secret identity has brought them much closer and that they’re “as good as married”. That’s strange, seeing as how it’s not too long after this when Hal starts messing around with Kari Limbo.

LSH 241 coverSuperboy & the Legion #241 – “Prelude to Earthwar” – Paul Levitz/James Sherman/Bob McLeod

As the title says, this is the beginning of the Earthwar storyline, which runs for the next few issues. It starts in dramatic fashion with Wildfire, Dawnstar, Mon-El, and Ultra Boy streaking skyward, saying they have to prevent a galactic war. They’re so focused on getting off Earth that they (well, Wildfire) almost cause a Science Police cruiser to crash. Mon-El saves the ship, but doesn’t hang around to talk to the good-looking redhead inside. Too bad, because she’s an S.P. Officer and has an urgent message for the Legion. Mon-El gives Wildfire shit for almost causing the S.P. Cruiser to crash, but Wildfire blows it off, saying their diplomatic mission with the Dominators is more important. At Legion headquarters, Brainiac 5 is bitching to Sun Boy about the Legion being short-handed when Element Lad brings in the S.P. Officer that Mon-El rescued. But before she can relay her urgent message, the alarm goes and Brainy orders everyone to scramble for the mission, leaving a very flustered S.P. Officer at HQ. On the Legion shipraider fight (where they’re joined by Shrinking Violet, Chameleon Boy, and Phantom Girl), Element Lad reminds Brainy that he’s the elected leader, so Brainy shouldn’t be giving orders. They reach a gigantic space tanker that’s being attacked by the Resource Raiders (from #225-226). They make short work of the Raiders with a little help from Superboy, who Brainy alerted in the 20th Century. Element Lad says they can question the Raiders and go after them instead of waiting around to see what the next target is. On Weber’s World (an artificial planet where all the bureaucracy of the United Planets takes place), Wildfire’s team talk to Earth ambassador Relnic, who tells them they’re there to guard Earth’s diplomats as well as those from the Dominators. Relnic is afraid someone may try to stop the peace treaty by killing some of the diplomats. He introduces them to the Earth contingent’s head of security, Ontiir, a reptilian dude. On Earth, Element Lad’s team interrupts the Resource Raiders at their Cham's disguiselatest target, a stockpile of rare earth metals in Antarctica. They have a bit more trouble with these Raiders, but finally capture all but two. Turns out letting two ships with some ore escape was part of Brainy’s plan, so they could track them back to their hideout. And as added insurance, Chameleon Boy disguised himself as a piece of ore to hitch a ride on one of the Raider ships. On the Raider ship, Cham takes the form of a Raider but can’t find a way out of the ship. He turns into a huge beast and attacks, but gets zapped. The Raiders surround him and prepare to blast him. On Weber’s World, Wildfire rescues some diplomats from a bomb and wonders who could’ve placed it there. He asks pointed questions of Relnic and Ontiir, practically accusing them of setting the bomb, since they were among the few who knew which room the diplomats would be in. Dawnstar also finds a piece of the bomb that has United Planets Security markings. On the Resource Raider ship, Chameleon Boy is about to be dissected; apparently, the gun they blasted him with was set to freeze his shapechanging powers, not to kill him. Superboy busts in and starts pounding Raiders. He uses the gun to reverse Cham’s status so he can change again and the two of them kick some alien ass. The rest of the team shows up and they defeat all the Raiders and capture them. big fightBrainy examines their computers and finds the Raiders are the advance guard for an invasion of Earth by the Khunds. Begun, the Earthwar has. We’ll see where this goes next issue.

Noticeable Things:

  • The Science Police officer Shvaughn Erin introduced in this issue will play a pretty big supporting role in Legion issues for years to come.Shvaughn Erin
  • When Sun Boy is talking to Brainy, it looks like he’s whittling a small statue of some kind. On closer examination, it looks like some weird, vaguely pornographic horse.
  • I like the transition from Chameleon Boy getting blasted by the Resource Raiders leads right into Wildfire rescuing the diplomats from the bomb blast.
  • The Resource Raiders leader is the giant-floating-brain-with-eyeballs that the Legion encountered before, except that one was a robot controlled by the real leader, who we see here.
  • I like these political stories that combine intrigue and planetary action. Levitz continues in this vein for a while and I think the series is better for it.

“My Brother’s Keeper” – Paul Levitz (plot), Paul Kupperberg/Arvell Jones/Danny Bulanadi

The back-up is a story about Timber Wolf and Light Lass answering an emergency call to Winath (Light Lass’s home planet) where her brother Lightning Lord has been causing all kinds of shit. The cop in charge gives them a hard time and says if they interfere he’ll throw them in jail. They pretend to comply, but go off to investigate on their own. Timber Wolf gets into a bar brawl while trying to dig up info, but Light Lass gets Light Lass rescuedmugged; seems she was the target all along. Timber Wolf gets pissed off, but the bar is raided and he’s thrown in jail by the hard-nosed cop. He promptly busts out and threatens the cop into helping him find Light Lass. She being held captive by her brother, who wants to use Winath’s advanced communications technology to broadcast a call across the galaxy for super criminals to join him. Timber Wolf and the cops bust in (having used the weather controls on Winath to shut down lightning all over the planet so they could home in on Lightning Lord) and Timber Wolf kicks Lightning Lord’s ass and rescues Light Lass. This is mostly filler, though it does establish that Lightning Lord has some brotherly feelings for his little sister (he kills one of his henchmen who suggests getting rid of her). The “interfering cop” thing was straight out of the movies (or TV) and kind of overdone, and it would’ve been nice if Light Lass got to kick her brother’s ass instead of having to be saved by her boyfriend.

All-Star Comics 73 coverAll-Star Comics #73 – “Be It Ever So Deadly …” – Paul Levitz/Joe Staton/Joe Giella

This one starts right where last issue left off, with Huntress (Helena Wayne) in JSA headquarters surrounded by traps set by her villainous namesake, the original Huntress. To avoid confusion, I’ll refer to the villain as Huntress and the JSAer as Helena. Helena s at HQ trying to retrieve Icicle’s cold gun because a doctor thinks it might help bring Wildcat out of a  coma caused by Thorn’s poison. But Huntress is working with Thorn and was lying in wait. Huntress is pissed off because Helena “stole” her name and she tries to unleash her traps on the hero. Helena evades them and attacks, almost rendering Huntress unconscious, but falling for the old “I surrender” trick. Huntress shuts her in a glass cage that looks like a china cabinet. Back at the hospital, the others are getting worried and Green Lantern uses his ring to see what’s taking Helena so long. When they see Huntress at their HQ, GL heads over there to help as Flash and Power Girl go lookingSportsmaster and Thorn vs Flash and Power Girl for Thorn. Elsewhere, we see Dr. Fate and Hawkman being brought before a strange pyramid. An unearthly voice says they’ve been called by the Master Summoner, which seems to freak out Dr. Fate. Back in Keystone City, Flash and Power Girl figure out Thorn is going after Flash’s wife, Joan Garrick. They’re attacked by Sportsmaster, but Flash busts out of his net and rescues Joan just in time, while Power Girl sends Sportsy’s explosive soccer ball right back at him. At HQ, Green Lantern rescues Helena from her cage and tells her to go to the hospital while he handles Huntress. But GL is soon knocked out and Helena confronts her namesake one on one. At Flash’s place, Sportsmaster tries to keep Power Girl at bay, but she uses a rock to conk him out. Inside, Thorn is whirling around, getting her poisoned thorns close to Flash and Joan, but Flash uses a counter-whirlwind to take her down. At HQ, Helena maneuvers Huntress under one of her own net traps and drops it on her by using a crossbow she had hidden in her boot.Huntress caught She rushes the cold gun to the hospital and everything is really tense, but of course Wildcat lives and everything’s fine. But there’s some major shit coming up next issue, as the Master Summoner threatens the entire world. Don’t miss it!

Noticeable Things:

  • Sportsmaster and Huntress are a married couple, so it makes sense they’d both show up here. You know the old saying, the villains who play together, stay together.
  • Sportsmaster uses razor-edged playing cards against Power Girl and she seems worried about them hitting her, but isn’t she almost invulnerable? If bullets can’t hurt her, cards shouldn’t be able to, no matter how sharp they are.

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