Comics Review: JLA 158, Superboy & the Legion 243, All-Star Comics 74

JLA 158 coverJustice League of America #158 – “The Super-Power of Negative Thinking” – Gerry Conway/Dick Dillin/Frank McLaughlin

This one starts in the middle of the action, as Flash and Wonder Woman battle Poison Ivy and Mirror Master at the Central City Museum. Mirror Master uses one of his devices to put a force bubble around Wonder Woman’s head, blinding her and cutting off her air. Poison ivy shoots poison darts at Flash that are attuned to his vibrational frequency, so he can’t just vibrate through them. It looks bad for Flash, but Ultraa shows up out of nowhere and blocks the poison darts with his invulnerable body. Ultraa’s in a shitty mood and it just gets worse when Mirror Master encases his (and Flash’s) heads in force bubbles. Mirror Master and Poison Ivy teleport away and thethieving heroes soon bust out of the bubbles. Wonder Woman realizes the artifact the villains stole (a small sundial) is worthless, while plenty of valuable relics were ignored. Ultraa says any crime by someone with super powers is bad, since normal humans have no way of protecting themselves from super-powered people. He’s pretty worked up about it, but he has a point … which Flash and Wonder Woman realize when they find the museum staff cowering in a locked room. We see Poison ivy and Mirror Master arrive at their destination (which just happens to be the JLA’s old cave in Happy Harbor), where a few more super-villains await: Tattooed Man, Chronos, and Scarecrow, plus a mysterious, hooded leader. (There’s always a mysterious, hooded leader.) The leader is arrogant as hell and explains that hiding in the JLA’s old headquarters is genius because they’d never think to look there. He says this latest arrivalincarnation of the Injustice Gang will be masters of the world’s energy supplies and asks everyone to present their loot, which turns out to be miniature versions of an oil well, a hydroelectric dam, and a wind vane. The leader zaps the objects and they start to glow. He says they were brought to Earth by aliens thousands of years ago and presented to primitive people. The aliens knew the objects would be useless until humans had progressed technologically, but the objects would gather power over the centuries. When the aliens returned, they could use the objects to steal Earth’s energy resources … or something. The others ask how the leader knows all this and he’s not very forthcoming, though he lets a couple of clues slip: he says his science is so advanced it would seem like magic to them, and he almost says “people of your time”, which Chronos notices. On the Satellite, the JLA are more worried about Ultraa’s testiness than the thefts of worthless crap. We get a recap of Ultraa’s origin (only super-powered being on Earth Prime, was afraid his appearance would herald other super-beings on that planet, so he came to Earth-1.) Ultraa busts into the Satellite, saying thatno confidence vote super-powers are a threat to humanity and have to be removed. The Leaguers protest that they’re the only thing keeping Earth safe against super-villains, but Ultraa says he’ll remove their powers too. He zaps the JLA with a “negative wave”, which makes them all doubt their abilities. So, their powers still exist, they just can’t bring themselves to use them. Ultraa heads to Earth and tracks the Injustice Gang to Happy Harbor. He blasts them with negative energy too, but the effect isn’t the same as it was with the JLA. The villains put their stolen artifacts together and send energy beams flying all over Earth. Not long after, Ultraa gets a coded message and heads for the Satellite. The JLA point out that every source of energy on the planet has been stopped: waterfalls no longer flow, windmills don’t turn even in the strongest wind, the sun has no heat. Ultraa says he blasted the Injustice Gang with his negative waves, but obviously it didn’t stop them. He and the JLA head down to Happy Harbor and bust into their old HQ. The villains’ powers are stronger for some reason and Ultraa gets slapped around. cheer squadRed Tornado says the negative energy sapped the wills of the Leaguers because they have a naturally positive focus, whereas the villains’ attitudes were already negative, so the negative energy ended up enhancing them. Superman says they’re a team, not just individuals, so if they give each other positive reinforcement, they can overcome their negative feelings. That’s right, they’re gonna beat the bad guys with cheerleading. Each Leaguer pounds one of the Injustice Gang as the others stand by and shout reaffirming messages, with Superman taking out the leader, who turns out to be … Abra Kadabra. You all guessed after that “technology so advanced it seems like magic” line, didn’t you? The villains are hauled away, but nobody’s quite sure what to do with Ultraa. He feels stupid for trying to get rid of everyone’s powers but his beliefs haven’t changed, so who’s to say he won’t do it again?

Noticeable Things:

  • Gerry Conway keeps bringing Ultraa back. He co-created Ultraa and I think he was trying to make him into the next big thing, but it didn’t quite work out that way.
  • I’m not sure why Mirror Master thought his bubbles would suffocate Flash and Wonder Woman; as soon as the villains leave, the heroes escape the bubbles with no problem.
  • Ultraa is shown to have a tracker that leads him to super-powered people, which is how he zooms in on Happy Harbor. But there are dozens (or hundreds) of super-beings in the States, especially on the East Coast, so his device should’ve been lit up like a Christmas tree.poll
  • The Letters Page has the result of a reader poll asking who should be out of the League and who should take their places. The top three vote-getters for being tossed are Phantom Stranger (who’s not much of a member anyway), Batman (who does leave eventually), and Aquaman. The top three replacements are Zatanna (who’ll be joining very soon), Captain Comet (who won’t) and Black Lightning (who I think is offered membership next year but turns it down).

LSH 243 coverSuperboy & the Legion #243 – “Earth’s Last Stand” – Paul Levitz/Joe Staton/Jack Abel

You may remember last issue we left the Legion in quite a mess. One contingent is on Weber’s World for a peace conference with the Dominators, but someone—possibly the Earth ambassador or security head—wants to sabotage the conference before it even starts, which would mean war. But a different war has already started, with Earth being attacked by the Khunds. Another Legion team learned the Khundish leader was being controlled by a hyper-beam, which has its origin on … you guessed it, Weber’s World. At Legion HQ, we see Science Police officer Shvaughn Erin, who came to deliver an urgent message last issue, alone at the monitor. All the Legionnaires are already occupied and Shvaughn gets tired of watching things happen on the monitors. She heads up to the battle around Earth, just missing an emergency signal from someone. On Weber’s World, the Dominators arrive and are attacked with rockets.fade out Mon-El and Ultra Boy deflect the rockets while Wildfire and Dawnstar go after the snipers. But when Dawnstar tries to grab them, they disappear. Their weapons are conveniently left behind though, and seem to be United Planets issue. The Legionnaires explain to he Domiators that someone is trying to sabotage the peace talks. Superboy and his team show up and tell everyone about the attack on Earth and tracing the hyper-beam used to control the Khundish chief back here to Weber’s World. Obviously, someone currently on Weber’s World is trying to start a three-way war between the Khunds, The UP, and the Dominators. But there are countless worlds who’d benefit from such a conflict, so the perpetrators are still unknown. The Dominators say they trust the Legion, but not the UP representatives, so the only way they’ll go ahead with the peace conference is if the Legionnaires act as security. That puts a bit of a crimp in their Legion poundedinvestigating. Near Earth, the Khunds are really pouring it on, making their way through the last of Earth’s space defenses. But before they can land, a Legion cruiser shows up to fight them. The cruiser (containing Shrinking Violet, Dream Girl, Projectra, Chameleon Boy, Cosmic Boy, Phantom Girl, Light Lass, and Star Boy) had gone to another planet to ask for help, but couldn’t get any. So they returned to fight the Khunds themselves. Unfortunately, through some bad luck and the Khunds’ superior technology, the Legionnaires all get taken down. Brainiac 5 is on his way to Weber’s World, tracing the hyper-beam, but before he reaches the planetoid, he’s drawn into a black hole that opens right in front of him. Superboy and Mon-El scan for him, but can find no trace of Brainy, his ship, or any kind of teleport beam. It’s like he was whisked away by magic. On Weber’s World, the Legionnaires have traced the hyper-beam to the conference room where Ambassador Relnic is meeting with the Dominators. Ontiir (UP security chief) tries to prevent them from entering the chamber, but theySub fight skrag his security robots and go in anyway. They’re startled to find all the delegates gone, disappeared without a trace just like Brainiac 5. On Earth, the Khunds land and start taking over the planet. The Science Police fight them, with help from the Substitute Legion, but the Khunds outnumber them. The Subs are all stunned and the Khunds take over the Presidential Palace, seat of the UP government. The Khunds try to crack Legion headquarters, but are stopped by an energy shield that’s stronger than Inertron. They figure they can crack it if they keep at it long enough. On the Khund homeworld, the new warlord learns that Earth has been taken, and we learn that he works for the Dark Circle, not the Khundish Empire. In Earth orbit, a small spaceship slips unnoticed between the large Khundish warships, heading for Earth. On board are Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Bouncing Boy, and Duo Damsel, pretty much all that remains of the Legion. Will they be enough to turn the tide? We’ll find out next issue, as the Earthwar concludes.

Noticeable Things:

  • We find out Shvaughn’s message has to do with an old Legion enemy escaping prison. Shvaughn wonders at the timing—the old enemy escapes and all the war stuff starts with the Khunds and Dominators—but we have to wait till next issue to see what that’s all about.
  • It’s said that the rockets the snipers fired at the Dominators were nukes, but weren’t nukes outlawed years ago? And who uses a nuke to assassinate people? Wouldn’t they take out half the city? Although the fact the rockets didn’t explode when they hit Ultra Boy makes me think the whole thing was a bluff, just to make the Dominators distrust the United Planets.
  • Since when do the Dominators trust the Legion? I thought they hated the Legion.
  • There are a few Legionnaires who don’t appear in this arc. They’re said to be on “detached duty”.

All-Star Comics 74 coverAll-Star Comics #74 – “World on the Edge of Ending” – Paul Levitz/Joe Staton/Joe Giella

This one starts with some gigantic Egyptian-looking guy telling Hawkman and Dr. Fate the world is going to end soon. How many times have we heard that before? We jump to Gotham where Helena (Huntress) Wayne and Karen (Power Girl) Starr are having lunch. Power Girl is new to the whole “secret identity” thing, so Helena’s trying to coach her. They get emergency signals and head for HQ, where they find Green Lantern, Flash, Hawkman, and Dr. Fate already there. Fate and Hawkman say they were mugged and taken to a “higher plane of existence” by the Master Summoner. He said the cosmos s in some kind of weird conjunction that only happens every zillion years or so, and while the stars are lined up this way, Earth is vulnerable. The planet will come apart at the seams if it’s not held together through the critical time. Now what do youno war think the JSA will do? Yup, they’re splitting into teams! Green Lantern, Power Girl, and Hawkman go to the Amur River, where Soviet and Chinese soldiers are shooting at each other. They’re not sure if this is part of the mystic conjunction they were warned about, but since World War III would be bad for Earth in general, GL decides to break up the fight. He separates the soldiers and almost gets blasted by a missile, but Power Girl saves him. He uses his ring to save a young soldier’s life and the JSAers leave, after slapping the combatants around a bit more. But the soldier GL saved suddenly starts manifesting green energy which is well beyond his control. In Montreal, Dr. Fate, Huntress, and Flash check out the International Women’s Conference, where they find terrorist gunmen holding the entire Conference hostage. They pound the terrorists and talk to the guest speaker, who tells them she was going to debut a “universal translator” device that would enable people all over to world to communicate women's conferencewith each other. But the device doesn’t work. Dr. Fate says it will be perfected someday and thus will change the world for the better. The JSAers leave and the translator device suddenly starts working, but opposite of how it should … it makes everyone’s speech mutually unintelligible. The Master Summoner grabs all the JSAers and brings them to his nether-realm, where they see that the critical time he warned them of has now begun. He tries to kill them and Fate realizes they’ve been played for suckers. They escape back to the real world, but Master Summoner boasts to himself that the JSAers powers caused the critical time on Earth and the more they use their powers, the worse it’ll get. On Earth, things are going crazy around the globe, with natural and mystical disasters occurring by the shitload. The entire JSA is called out to fight and they try to stop all the weird phenomena.JSA fights disasters Dr. Fate finally realizes their own powers are feeding the disasters and calls everyone together. He says their own powers are the catalyst that’s driving the cosmic disaster, so the only way to stop it is to do nothing. So, they all sit around the table, not moving for a while, and Master Summoner pops in to say the critical time has passed. By not using their powers, they gave him nothing to work with and so defeated him. He curses them and fades away. So, yeah, they won doing fuck all. If only every threat could be defeated so easily.

Noticeable Things:

  • The Women’s Conference takes place in Montreal, which on Earth-2 is the capital of the independent nation of Quebec. Yup, the Separatists won on Earth-2. The history must’ve been somewhat different too, as the Chateau Frontenac is shown to be in Montreal instead of Quebec City like it is in our world.
  • When they find the terrorists at the Women’s Conference, Flash wonders what they want and says maybe they’re trying to “free Hawaii”. I wonder if that’s an oblique reference to the Puerto Rican independence movement that was big in the 70s?
  • I assume the “Ms. Milem” that the JSAers speak to at the Conference is meant to be a stand-in for Gloria Steinem; she even looks a bit like Steinem, though her glasses are different.
  • There’s a “next issue” blurb at the end that promises the death of a JSAer. But this is the last issue of All-Star, cancelled because of the Implosion. The “death of a JSAer” story does see print as a two-parter in Adventure Comics #462-463. I won’t be reviewing those issues, so I’ll just say that it’s Batman who dies, killed by a guy name Bill Jensen who had inexplicably gained enormous power. Jensen claimed Bruce Wayne had framed him for a crime and started wreaking havoc in Gotham, even defeating the JSA. Bruce confronted Jensen as Batman, who burned his cowl away and realized Batman and Bruce Wayne were one and the same, whereupon he incinerated himself and Bruce. In the next issue, it was revealed that Jensen was given his power by a sorcerer who hated the JSA. Dr. Fate later used his own magic to make the general public believe that Batman and Bruce Wayne both died the same day, but in separate incidents. Still sounds suspicious to me.

 

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