Comics Reviews: JLA 160, Superboy & the Legion 245, Jonah Hex 18

JusticeLeagueofAmerica_160_cover (Copy)Justice League of America #160 – “Crisis From Tomorrow” – Gerry Conway/Dick Dillin/Frank McLaughlin

This one continues from last issue, which was pretty wild. Apparently the Lord of Time built a kick-ass computer that’s so powerful it can actually stop time; unfortunately, he didn’t realize what a monumentally stupid idea that was until after he built the computer. Now he wants to shut down (or destroy) the computer, but he’s afraid it’ll go all 2001 and kill him if he tries, so he’s worked out some convoluted plot to have the JLA and JSA do it for him. He’s calculated that if the JLA/JSA are defeated by five heroes from the past (Jonah Hex, Miss Liberty, Enemy Ace, Black Pirate, and Viking Prince) they’ll come back stronger and more determined and be able to smash his time-threatening computer. So far, things are on schedule: the five time-plucked heroes attacked the JLA/JSA at their annual meeting and kicked their asses (their weapons having been advanced in power), leaving a bunch of them in a weird comatose state. The remaining team members are pissed off and ready to track down their adversaries. Superman spots a chronal energydino attack trail into the future and quickly realizes they’re dealing with the Lord of Time. Speaking of Lord of Time, we see him at his fancy base in the distant future and get a recap of his motivations. The five time-displaced heroes show up and attack the time fortress, so Lord of Time’s computer defends the place by pulling a Tyrannosaurus Rex out of the past. Enemy Ace uses his powered-up tri-plane to blast the T-Rex—good practice for him if he ever goes to Dinosaur Island. Before the others can help, a bunch of mutated lizard-men from the future pop in and attack. Between them and the T-Rex, they make short work of the heroes. Lord of Time muses that he was just testing the computer to see if it was still powerful enough to defeat his modified champions. He’s now resting all his hopes on the JLA and JSA. It’s weird to read a story where the villain wants to lose, but it’s an interesting change from the usual. Back in the present, we hospitalsee the downed JLA and JSA members lined up in a hospital ward like something out of Gone With the Wind. Aquaman has come down from monitor duty to kvetch about his fallen teammates. The doctor in charge tells Aquaman that there’s some kind of weird radiation keeping the heroes comatose, but she can’t figure out the source. She also tells him the remaining heroes have time-traveled somewhere to find out what’s going on. Aquaman is ecstatic (he thought the missing heroes were dead) and promises the doctor she can have access to whatever advanced medical tech the League has at its disposal. Speaking of the other heroes, they (Superman, Flash, Hawkman, and Elongated Man from Earth-1 and Wonder Woman, Dr. Mid-Nite, Huntress, and Star Spangled Kid from Earth-2) run into some weird energy barrier as they arrive in the future. Superman says its made of energy from a white dwarf star, so strong that neither his strength nor SSK’s Cosmic Rod can affect it. During all of this, Ralph (Elongated Man) Dibny is having an identity crisis, wondering if he’s powerful enough to hang with thebarrier crash big dogs and face cosmic threats like the Lord of Time. Gee, I wonder if that’ll be significant later? SSK imbues Superman with star-energy from his Cosmic Rod (get your minds out of the gutter!) and Wonder Woman pulls the old fastball-special—though she likens it to a javelin throw. Superman crashes through the barrier but ends up in the same coma-like state as the Leaguers back in the present. The teams decide to go ahead, since there’s really nothing else for them to do. They attack Lord of Time’s citadel and his computer defends the place, blasting Hawkman into a coma with laser beams. Wonder Woman plays beams and bracelets with the lasers, getting them through to the citadel but getting blasted by the last beam … naturally. Flash smashes through the wall and finds the time-lost heroes who defeated them unconscious. He’s attacked by pteranodons and knocked out—or maybe killed, judging by the way the others act when Flash downthey find him. SSK blasts the pteranodons with cosmic energy and the others resolve to keep going until they find the Lord of Time. Meanwhile, he’s sitting in his inner sanctum, hoping they succeed, since there’s only nine minutes until his computer stops time forever. The remaining heroes run into some kind of reincarnated robot from the future, which quickly pounds Huntress, Mid-Nite, and SSK. So Ralph’s the last one standing and he has another crisis of faith, wondering how he can win when all his more powerful teammates got their asses kicked. But Ralph decides the only thing to do, even after defeat, is to get up and keep trying; that’s the overarching theme of this issue, which has been alluded to at every speed bump along the way. Ralph totals the robot, then heads into the inner sanctum. The computer conveniently believes everyone was killed when the reincarnation robot blew up (seriously, wouldn’t a computer that’s almost omniscient check to make sure?), so Ralph is undetected. He sees Lord of Time standing next to the time-stopping machine (he’s actually trying to deactivate it, but Ralph doesn’t know that) and figures the best way toRalph saves the day take him out is to short-circuit the machine. Ralph uses his own pliable body to fuck up the machine, which explodes, and then … everything is wrapped up in one page. Yeah, it’s one of those stories. We see the assembled JLA and JSA—all perfectly fine—and get a bunch of exposition about what happened. Basically, Aquaman and the doctor found out the energy that was keeping the fallen heroes comatose was blocking nerve-impulses so they used GL’s ring to remove the energy (“like using a magnet”), then headed into the future, cured the fallen heroes there, sent Hex and the others back to their proper times, imprisoned Lord of Time, and came back. And that’s only the first half of the page! They’re worried about Ralph, but the doctor says his rubbery body saved him from any injury and we see him playing up his bravery to Sue, obviously in an attempt to get some hot sex.

Noticeable Things:

  • Superman considers the Time Trapper as a possible adversary, but rejects that because he has no grudge against the rest of the JLA. Yeah, because Time Trapper is always logical in his megalomania.
  • When the T-Rex appears, Jonah Hex refers to it as a “toad-frog outta hell”, but dinosaurs were certainly known in Hex’s time. In fact, there were the so-called Bone Wars going on in the late 1800s, where rival paleontologists would sabotage each other to get headlines. Hex should know what a dinosaur is.
  • The doctor in charge of the fallen heroes isn’t named, but she kinda looks like the early version of Marla Madison from Amazing Spider-Man.
  • Seriously, what’s with the stories that have a huge build-up to the climax, then cram the denouement onto the last page? I know comics have limited space, but they could pace it out a little better. It reminds me of those cartoons where the sign says “Always Plan Ahead” and the words are scrunched down along the side because whoever wrote the sign ran out of room.

LSH 245 coverSuperboy & the Legion #245 – “Mordru, Master of Earth” – Paul Levitz/Joe Staton/Murphy Anderson

To quote the caption on the splash page: “Earth has been conquered! Only four Legionnaires are still free and conscious! And their deadliest enemy has just made himself Mordru, Master of Earth! What more do you need to know?” Well, maybe you need a little more. Basically, the Khunds attacked (and took over) Earth, but were being manipulated by some one on Weber’s World, where a peace conference between the United Planets and the Dominion was taking place. But someone was trying to sabotage the conference and the suspects included Earth Ambassador Relnic, Ontiir, Earth’s head of security, and other members of the diplomatic corps. But Relnic turned out to be with the Dark Circle and captured most of the Legionnaires, threatening to kill them if the remaining few didn’t surrender. They attacked and Relnic turned out to be Mordru in disguise, which brings us up to date. Mordru attacks, enclosing the remainingunderground escape Legionnaires (Superboy, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, and Karate Kid) in a force bubble that threatens to crush them. Saturn Girl manages to affect Mordru’s mind so he lets up on the lethal force for a moment, long enough for the Legionnaires to break out of the force bubble and disappear in a flash of lightning. They go underground—literally, with Superboy tunneling through bedrock and towing the others behind him. Saturn Girl says Mordru won’t think to look for them underground, since his own vulnerability to losing his powers while buried makes him assume nobody else would use it as an escape route. They wind up at an emergency hideout (which looks like a beach cabana) as Mordru searches the world for them. We learn that the Dark Circle revived Mordru to use against the Legion, but he quickly made them his slaves and used them (and the Resource Raiders) as proxies to invade Earth. Mordru has the Khunds on the attackscour Earth, but they can’t find the Legionnaires, so Mordru does a mental search using his magic to compel the Legionnaires to return. Saturn Girl shields them from Mordru’s magical compulsion, but too late—Superboy turns into a zombie because of his vulnerability to magic. He tries to head back to Mordru, but Karate Kid uses his advanced martial arts to subdue Superboy long enough to resist Mordru’s siren call. They know Mordru will find them sooner or later, so Lightning Lad decides their best option is to go on the offensive and free the other Legionnaires. Superboy fashions a glass bubble from beach sand and they zip back to United Planets HQ to attack Mordru. Superboy manages to expand the glass bubble at super speed to encompass all the captured Legionnaires (who are trapped in glassine tubes of their own) and get out of the HQ before Mordru can blast him. The others free their trapped teammates, but Superboy is blasted by one of Mordru’s magic bolts. The newly freed Legionnaires combine their powers to blast Mordru, but he blasts them right back andmindlink the battle moves up into space. It’s a stalemate; Saturn Girl links everyone’s minds so they can instantly communicate. Mordru traps them in another bubble, but Element Lad uses the mind-link to get the proper formula from Brainiac 5’s mind for the earth that can imprison Mordru. He transmutes the free hydrogen in space into the earth and wraps it around Mordru, imprisoning him once more and ending his threat. We get an epilogue where we’re told that the Dark Circle and Khundish forces collapsed as soon as Mordru was defeated; I guess once his mental domination was removed, the forces weren’t properly coordinated for a counter-attack. So, in a remarkably short time, the Kunds are kicked out of UP space—and off of Earth—helped by the Legion, of course. The UP and Dominators sign the peace treaty and everything is all sweetness and light (except for the massive collateral damage and loss of life from the invasion, but that’s not mentioned.) Oh, and the Legion Constitution is amended to allow married members to serve, so Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl return to the team.happy ending And that’s the end of the Earth War story. Where can things go from here? We’ll have to wait and see.

Noticeable Things:

  • You’d think Mordru’s susceptibility to being buried would make him instantly think of it as the Legionnaires’ escape route, but Saturn Girl says his vulnerability gives him a mental block that causes him to assume no one would voluntarily go underground.
  • In case you’re wondering about some of the other characters, we do see the real Ambassador Relnic (none he worse for wear) and Ontiir at the end. They’re both free of Mordru’s domination and back to being good guys. So, I guess Ontiir was acting like an asshole because of Mordru? Or maybe he’s just an asshole?
  • After the amendment about married members, Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel have the option of returning too, but they say they’re going to stay as reserve members and try to build a life outside the team. I get the feeling Levitz didn’t like them much; remember, last time we saw them, they were being left unconscious inside a Legion tank by Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl.

Jonah Hex 18 coverJonah Hex #18 – “Amazon Treasure … Amazon Death” – Michael Fleisher/Val Mayerik/Danny Bulanadi

You may remember, last issue Hex was shanghaied into making a transatlantic balloon crossing by some publicity-hungry adventurer (who soon wound up dead), but drifted south and ended up off the Brazilian coast. He freed some slaves from a transport ship, then narrowly escaped being eaten by cannibals. Now he’s paddling his dugout canoe along a tributary of the Amazon, wondering how he’ll get back home. He hears a disturbance and finds some thugs slapping around an indigenous kid, who they’ve tied to a tree. Hex rescues the kid, blasting all the thugs with one of their own guns, but one of the kid’s fellow tribe members puts a poisoned blowdart into Hex’s shoulder. He stumbles back to his dugout, drifts downstream over a cataract, and ends up unconscious beside the river. He’s found by some men and taken to the mansion of a rubber plantation, where he’s tended to by a woman named Vanessa. He hoversbandit shootout between life and death for “weeks”, then finally recovers. Vanessa turns out to be the sister of the plantation owner, Paul Vénal. Paul shows Hex around the plantation and lends him some guns. On the way back, they’re accosted by bandits and Hex blows them all away. Paul is impressed by that and wants to use Hex to wipe out the local indigenous tribe (the Kre-Ena-Krore) and get his hands on some fabulous golden treasure they’ve supposedly been hoarding for years. Paul tells Hex that the Kre-Ena-Krore kidnapped five of his men and asks Hex to get them back. He sends Vanessa along to keep an eye on him. Of curse, Hex isn’t stupid and instantly thinks of the five guys he killed who were torturing the indigenous kid. That makes him suspicious of Paul’s “kidnapping” story, but he goes along with it anyway. He saves Vanessa from an anaconda and of course she wants to do him afterward; she almost tells making outhim the truth, but can’t because she suddenly has too many tongues in her mouth. Hex steers the expedition around some quicksand, but one of the men falls in a pit trap with stakes at the bottom. Hex makes them sink the body in the quicksand and restore the tap so the Kre-Ena-Krore won’t know anyone was there. Tha night, one of the guards lights a match (despite Hex’s warning not to) and gets skewered by an arrow. Hex kills one attacker, but the other one—unbeknownst to him—gets away to warn their village. Vanessa tells Hex Paul lied about the kidnapping and that he’s really after the Kre-Ena-Krore treasure. Paul found a map to the native village, but couldn’t find anyone studly enough to go in until Hex showed up. Paul is following them, waiting for Hex to massacre the natives so he can come in and get the treasure—oh, and kill Hex of course. Vanessa says she doesn’t care about the treasure, she just wants to bang Hex. But while they’re making out, the Kre-Ena-Krore sneak up, take out the other guards, and knock hex and Vanessa out. Hex wakes up in the nativejustice village, tied to a stake. The other survivors are being used for spear practice, but when Hex’s turn comes, the kid he saved earlier recognizes him and he’s set free. The chief leads him to a hut and gives him a very valuable item—Vanessa’s newly-shrunken head. Apparently, it’s quite a prize, being the only Caucasian head they have. Hex takes it (to avoid offending the chief) and leaves. Hex waits back by the pit trap for Paul to show up and lures his henchmen into it. Paul doesn’t fall for Hex’s ruse, but does end up in the quicksand when Hex tosses the “treasure bag” he got from the Kre-Ena-Krore into the middle of it. As Paul sinks, he opens the bag to find his sister’s shrunken head inside. Hex leaves Paul to his fate, screaming for help.

Noticeable Things:

  • It’s said the dart that knocked Hex out contained curare, which is usually fatal. No wonder it took him so long to recover.
  • I’m not sure if Paul and Vanessa are meant to be Brazilians; their name sounds French but they speak perfect English, so who knows?
  • I don’t know much about rubber plantations, but I always thought the trees weren’t uprooted and transplanted in rows like an orchard, but just left in the jungle and tapped in their wild state. Paul’s plantation seems to be more orderly than that. Also, most plantations used slave labour—either from Africa or local indigenous people—who were treated like garbage, abused, and worked to death. None of that is depicted here, just Paul’s wanting to steal their treasure.
  • Hex communicates with the Kre-Ena-Krore by sign language, which he says is remarkably similar to that used by the Plains Native Americans. But at that point, North American and South American indigenous peoples had been separated for centuries (or millennia, or longer), so I’m not sure if their sign languages would still be analogous.
  • Hex is still a long way from home, but next issue shows him back in North America again. I’m not sure if there’s an explanation for how he got there, or if it’s just glossed over. We’ll have to wait and see.

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