Comics Reviews: JLA 161, Superboy & the Legion 246, Warlord 16, Jonah Hex 19

JLA 161 coverJustice League of America #161 – “The Reverse Spells of Zatanna’s Magic” – Gerry Conway/Dick Dillin/Frank McLaughlin

This one starts with the JLA (all 13 of them) taking a vote on electing a new member—Zatanna. Green Arrow is taking it pretty seriously, but Zatanna shows up before they can count the votes and blasts the ballots to ashes. (Any readers paying attention will notice that Zatanna recites her spells normally, instead of backwards like she always has before. That is what’s known as a “clue”.) Zatanna tells them she doesn’t want to join their lousy club and the more they try to reason with her, the snottier she gets. She says one last time (with feeling!) that she doesn’t want anything to do with them … especially Green Lantern. Then she teleports away, still reciting her spells normally instead of backwards. The JLA aren’t sure what to make of Zatanna’s outburst, but theyAtom blasted by GL all go home except Atom. He starts thinking about Zatanna and we get a recap of a bunch of her earlier appearances. Atom realizes Zatanna wasn’t casting her spells in the usual way and gets in touch with Batman to have him check things out. Just as he signs off, Green Lantern materializes on the Satellite and blasts Atom with a blue beam from his ring. Blue beam? Yup, that’s right. And GL then starts asking the Satellite computer about the ring’s power source and where the battery is stored, things Green Lantern should already know. The computer says he battery is kept invisible in an unknown location, which pisses off the fake Green Lantern. By the way he talks about “internal power” and “spells”, he must be someone with sorcerous powers, who’s fought GL (and probably Zatanna) before; I wonder who that could be? He heads down to Angkor Wat, hatching a scheme to recharge his power a different way, since the GL ring didn’t Zatanna fights trollswork. We see Zatanna in Brittany, casting a spell to shunt her into the magical realm of Ys. Once there, she’s attacked by trolls, but drowns them all. She finds a castle and wastes some more trolls, but takes a crossbow bolt in the shoulder. We see a chamber in the castle with someone held is some kind of magical stasis, covered in cobwebs; It’s Green Lantern. Dun dun dun! Back on Earth, Batman talks to Zatanna’s father Zatara, who says Zatanna is just as committed to fighting injustice as she ever was. Batman realizes her whole performance at the JLA meeting was a put on, and that she meant the opposite of everything she said. Back on the Satellite, Batman tells the others what he found out and says Zatanna must be in some kind of trouble that prevents her from doing magic the usual way. Atom tells them about Green Lantern zapping him and they know right away it wasn’t the real GL. They track him to Angkorfake GL blasts JLA Wat (since he used the teleporter), but as soon as they show up, they get blasted by “Green Lantern” with more blue energy, which he’s been soaking up from the surrounding temple. Back in Ys, a bunch of knights and other heroes show up to rescue Zatanna. She uses her magic to destroy the castle and bring Green Lantern down to the ground, where she removes the enchantment on him and passes out. At Angkor Wat, the fake Green Lantern reveals himself to be … everyone together now … the Warlock of Ys! He throws tGL’s ring aside (since it’s useless to him) and blathers on about how he cast a curse last time he fought the real Green Lantern and Zatanna (in GL #42) that slowly switched his persona with Green Lantern’s. So GL ended up real GL decks Warlocktrapped in the castle instead of Warlock, who took GL’s place on Earth, then used his magic on Zatanna so she couldn’t warn her friends or use her own magic properly. Little did he know she’d be able to use magic by reciting spells frontward. As he’s gloating, Green Lantern and Zatanna show up and GL uses the now recharged ring to deck the Warlock. On the Satellite, Zatanna is patched up and thanks everyone for deciphering her reverse bullshit. Green Lantern reveals that he carries the battery invisibly inside the ring (which is how he recharged it at Angkor Wat) and if Warlock had known that, he could’ve recharged the ring himself. The story ends on a happy note, as the JLA offers Zatanna membership again and this time she says yes.

Noticeable Things:

  • Green Arrow gives Zatanna shit for destroying League property when she burns the ballots. What did he expect her to do, replace the slips of paper she burned?
  • Zatanna debuts a new costume in this story. I’ve heard it referred to as her “elf” costume, because it has those goofy boots that curl up at the toes. It covers a lot more of her than the old costume, except for cleavage which is right there on display. I personally prefer the original “magician” outfit, although her later Detroit-era outfit is pretty good too. But this one doesn’t really work for me.
  • The crossbow bolt goes right into Zatanna’s shoulder and the knights later remark on the wound, but the art never depicts any blood, nor even any kind of mark on her skin.
  • The help Zatanna summons seems to be a mixture of heroes from different time periods. Some look like medieval knights, some like cavaliers (or pirates), and one invokes Ahura Mazda, which makes me think he must be Achaemenid or something similar. Apparently, Zatanna freed all these guys from the Warlock’s thrall last time she was in Ys.
  • Zatanna talks about the summoning spell she cast to get the knights there, but never actually see her do it. And she was gagged, so I’m not sure how she did it anyway. She also says she was strong enough for the summoning spell but not to free herself or rescue Green Lantern … but two seconds later, she’s strong enough to blast the castle to pieces.
  • Zatanna says she woke up from her swoon and had just enough power to teleport herself and GL back to Earth (and to Angkor Wat), which seems pretty convenient to me.
  • Zatanna mentions she suspected Green Lantern might be ensorcelled way back in JLA #51, because he accidentally called the Warlock of Ys the Warlock of “Dis”. I’m thinking that was just a typo/editorial mistake, but maybe this whole story is just Gerry Conway’s attempt at a No-Prize.

LSH 246 coverSuperboy & the Legion #246 – “Will the Last one to Leave Mercury Please Close the Planet” – Paul Levitz (plot), Len Wein/Joe Staton/Dick Giordano

A contingent of Legionnaires (Lightning Lad, Cosmic Boy, Chameleon Boy, Sun Boy, and Shadow Lass) show up at the Medivac-Lab on Mercury in answer to a summons from Karate Kid. Medivac is a facility on Mercury where terminally ill beings come from all over the galaxy to (hopefully) get cured. The Legionnaires think Karate Kid might be sick, so they’re pretty worked up, but they should’ve read the message more clearly. Karate Kid brought his friend from the 20th Century, Iris Jacobs, to Medivac to cure her of being Diamondeth. The cure worked, so he’s returning her to the 20th Century, then going to talk to Projectra’s father about something important. I wonder what that might be? The Legionnaires figure they wasted a trip, but one of the doctors (Zebx) says patients and staff have been randomly disappearing from the facility forfighting robot weeks. They can’t go outside (since they’re on Mercury), so he can’t figure out where they went. Naturally, the Legion says they’ll investigate. That night, Cosmic Boy and Lightning Lad hear a scream and investigate. They find a giant robot and smash it (and Cosmic Boy starts sweating bullets during the fight) , but the robot turns out to be a survey android for collecting samples from the surface of Mercury. The scientist that was in the lab with the robot has vanished however, and they have no clue as to what happened to him. The Science Police shut the place down after the latest disappearance and Shadow Lass suddenly feels chilly. The environmental controls are a bit off and that gives Chameleon Boy an idea. He and Sun Boy go to the Legion Cruiser and run some tests on some pseudo-plasm that Chameleon Boy found. Sun Boy subjects it to heat until it reacts, which makes Chameleon Boy think he has the answer to the mystery of the sudden hot and cold spells and the disappearances. They on the surface of Mercurytake Zebx on the Cruiser and land on the surface of Mercury. They put on environmental suits and go exploring. Even with the suits, the heat takes its toll, eventually knocking all of them out except Sun Boy. Zebx gives them shit for taking such a stupid chance, but Sun Boy keeps wandering around, giving off radiation of his own. The unconscious Legionnaires (and Zebx) wake up later (still on the surface, although the heat doesn’t seem to be bothering them now for some reason) and Sun Boy explains everything. Chameleon Boy deduced there must be a native life form on Mercury, different from anything they’ve met before. These beings (called Thermoids) are sentient balls of molecular heat and Sun Boy was using his powers to communicate with them (by changing the wavelength of his radiation until he found the right one). The mysterious deaths were just stupid accidents, people burning up when the Thermoids accidentally came in contact with them. So the Medivac facility is relocated to another planet—hopefully an empty one this time.

Noticeable Things:

  • Why the hell would you put a hospital on Mercury? Maybe the rest of the solar system is full? Why not jut have an orbiting facility, like James White’s Sector General. (I think they do have something like that, but there’s no reason they couldn’t have two.)
  • I never read Karate Kid’s short-lived series set in the 1970s, but Iris is pretty hot. No wonder Projectra was jealous.
  • We get a look at some of the Legionnaires’ choice of sleepwear: Sun Boy has pajamas with suns on them, Chameleon Boy has a weird robe, and Shadow Lass wears … almost nothing. I think I like hers best.sleepwear
  • This whole thing is a bit weird; the disappearances have been going on for weeks (one per night, according to Zebx), but the Science Police didn’t shut the place down, nor did they call in the Legion. But now that the Legion is there, the SP shuts the place down because the Legion can’t solve the mystery in less than a day.

meeting Fatal Five delegates“A World for the Winning” – Len Wein/Joe Staton/Murphy Anderson

This is the second story in this issue. It starts with Superboy, Colossal Boy, and Element Lad meeting a diplomatic delegate from Corvan IV, an isolated world that’s petitioning to join the United Planets. But when the delegates disembark, they turn out to be Persuader and Mano from the Fatal Five. The Legionnaires attack, assuming they’ve kidnapped the delegates, but the two villains actually ARE the delegates. Persuader says they teleported away at the last second when Tharok’s ship blew up (in Superboy & the Legion #231) and wandered aimlessly until they landed on Corvan IV. The inhabitants welcomed them as gods and the Fatal Five have pulled the planet up from its primitive roots and made it a going concern. So they decided to apply for UP membership. The UP understandably doesn’tbig fight with Fatal Five trust the Fatal Five, so they send the Legionnaires to Corvan IV to check things out, while Persuader and Mano stay behind as a guarantee of good faith. On Corvan IV, the trio of Legionnaires are greeted (warmly!) by Tharok, Emerald Empress, and Validus. The Fatal Three take the Legionnaires on a tour to show off all the technological wonders they’ve given the Corvanians. The Legionnaires aren’t impressed, saying that such a rapid jump in technology is causing culture shock on the planet and joining the UP might push them right over the edge. Tharok freaks out and the villains attack, kicking the shit out of the Legionnaires. Superboy manages to get away and vows to get help for his teammates.

Noticeable Things:

  • Persuader’s axe continues to be tantamount to magic as he uses it to cleave through such things as gravity and the yellow sun energy that gives Superboy his powers.
  • I’m not sure if the Fatal Five’s altruism here is meant to be genuine, or if it’s just cover for some scheme, but the fact that their first instinct when being rejected for UP membership is to slaughter the diplomatic delegation is kind of a red flag either way.
  • If you’re wondering how three members of the Fatal Five could give three Legionnaires )including Superboy) such a hard time, remember Superboy is vulnerable to Emerald Empress’s Emerald Eye of Ekron since it’s magical.

Warlord 16 coverWarlord #16 – “Visions in a Crimson Eye” – Mike Grell/Colletta & Co.

This issue begins a multi-part storyline with Morgan and Tara trying to get their kidnapped son Joshua back from Deimos. This issue starts with Morgan drunk and morose, wallowing in his grief at losing a son he never got to know. The palace guards try to rouse him and he kicks the shit out of them. Tara comes in and tells him to stop being such a baby and help her look for their son. He agrees and they head out with Tara’s new war dog accompanying them. They have no idea where to start looking, so Tara leads them to a seer named Saaba (who can turn into a raven); Saaba demands they pay her in advance before she’ll help. Saaba wants the Eye of Shakakhan,jumped by Tree People the God of the Tree People. They head into the depths of the forest and get jumped by the Tree People. Tara is mugged and Morgan and the dog are taken out, Morgan by being hit on the head (forget counting how many bullets he has left in his Automag, we should be counting concussions) and the dog by being wrapped up in a net. When Morgan wakes up, he frees the dog which starts tracking Tara’s abductors. Oh, and the dog can climb trees, apparently. They find the Tree People’s sacred tree and descend under it into a vast cave. As the statue of Shakakhan looks on, Tara is about to be sacrificed on the altar. Morgan and the dog attack and free Tara, who grabs the sacrificial knife and starts slaughtering people. When everyone is dead, Morgan climbs the statue and pries out the Eye of Shakakhan, a large red gem. But Morgan bleeds on the statue, which brings it to life. It swats him like a fly Tara destroys Shakakhanand Tara jams the sacrificial knife into the statue’s leg, which seems to hurt it. She then throws the brazier at it and, since the statue is made of wood, it catches on fire. They take the Eye back to Saaba and she uses it as a crystal ball to show them a vision. They see Deimos in a tower “at the end of the world, a place of half-light, half-shadow”. Deimos is raving about how he’ll raise Joshua as his own son instead of killing him, then use him to kill Morgan someday. Saaba tells Morgan that “the fate of the son is the fate of the father, and the fate of the father is the fate of Skartaris”. She tells them to get lost so she can play with her new bauble, but Morgan blasts the Eye with his Automag before leaving, saying someone like Saaba shouldn’t have that kind of power. And the quest continues!

Noticeable Things:

  • I’m assuming Grell’s use of the name Shakakhan is a joking reference to the singer, Chaka Khan. She was around in the 70s (as part of the band Rufus), so Grell could very well have been familiar with her.
  • There’s a letter from Cat Yronwoode on the Letters Page where she praisesletter the art but says the writing is terrible and asks if they’ve ever considered getting an author for the book. Mike W. Barr responds by saying not every book has to be as plot-heavy as Batman and asks readers to chime in, but I wonder if complaints like that are part of the reason Grell’s wife Sharon started doing the writing later on.



Jonah Hex 19 coverJonah Hex #19 – “The Duke of Zarkania” – Michael Fleisher/Vicente Alcazar

This one starts with Hex bathing in a pond. When he gets out, a grizzly bear attacks him and his horse runs off. Before the bear can waste him, it’s shot by a good Samaritan with a rifle. The guy introduces himself as Jacques Lefevre, an artist who’d been painting nearby when he heard the commotion. Hex retrieves his pistols (which he took off for his bath) and thanks Lefevre, then goes on his way—on foot, since his horse is long gone. Soon after, Hex sees a stagecoach coming and tries to flag it down, but the guy in the stage tells the driver to run him down. Hex doesn’t like that much, so he jumps on the back of the stage as it passes and climbs over the top. He punches out the driver and stops the rig, which causes the Lord in back to freak out. Hex pounds the Lord’s bodyguard (and throws him off a cliff!) and the Lord is so impressed he hires HexHex kills ambushers to be his new bodyguard. He introduces himself as Ivan Veston, Grand Duke of Ruritania … er, I mean Zarkania. He says his cousin Lucien has been trying to assassinate him so he can take over Zarkania and turn it into a brutal dictatorship. The stagecoach is attacked by guys dressed like European peasants and the driver is killed. Hex slips around behind them and wastes them before they can blow up the stagecoach with a homemade bomb. In town, Hex runs into the painter, Lefvre, again and buys him dinner. Lefevre asks if Hex will put in a good word with Ivan; Lefevre wants to paint his portrait. Later, Ivan is gambling like crazy and losing thousands of dollars. He sends Hex to get more cash from his room. While Hex is gone, some old drunk asks Ivan for some small change and Ivan tells him to fuck off. The drunk spits on him and Ivan blows him away.  The next day, Ivan takes part in a buffalo hunt from a train (more like a buffalo slaughter, actually) and before he boards, he agrees to let Lefevre paint his buffalo slaughterportrait. On the “hunt”, Ivan wastes a bunch of buffalo and asks Hex to butcher the biggest one so he can have its head as a trophy. The rest of the buffalo herd stampedes back toward them and Hex shoots down a bunch of them until the rest of the herd scatters. Hex suspects something’s fishy, so he gets his horse (which is riding in a boxcar) and checks the lay of the land. He finds horse tracks mixed with the buffalo, meaning someone deliberately stampeded the herd toward them. Hex follows the tracks to an old barn, where he gets conked on the head. He wakes up trussed to the rafters and finds out Lefevre is actually Ivan’s cousin Lucien. Lucien says Ivan was a brutal ruler and was finally overthrown by a glorious revolution, but Ivan stole a bunch of royal gems and fled. Now, Ivan is trying to take back the throne, so Lucien wants to capture him and recover the gems. He leaves some men to watch Hex, who manages to get his Bowie knife out of his collar and cut himself loose. He pounds the guards and rides back toward town. At the hotel, Ivan is sitting for his portrait when Lucien handcuffs him to the chair.boom goes the dynamite He pulls out some dynamite and asks Ivan where the gems are, but Ivan just laughs and says he recognized Lucien from the start. Ivan calls in his henchman and he and Lucien shoot each other; Lucien manages to light the dynamite fuse before dying. Hex shows up and gets the frantic Ivan to admit he was bullshitting about everything and that the guys Hex killed were just patriots fighting for their country. Ivan says Hex is a mercenary who works for the highest bidder and offers him all the gems if he snuffs the dynamite fuse. Hex says the fuse is too short and Ivan tells him to shoot it out, since Hex is such a great marksman. Hex takes a shot and misses the fuse, which blows Ivan (and the hotel room) to shit. Hex wonders if his sights were a bit off …

Noticeable Things:

  • There’s no mention of how Hex got back from South America after last issue.
  • I’m not sure where Hex is at the beginning of the story. He’s bathing in a pool beside a waterfall, surrounded by trees (conifers, I think, with a lot of the branches pruned off) and there’s a grizzly bear. But not long after, he’s walking in the middle of a wide open desert, complete with saguaros and prickly pear.
  • Grand Duke Ivan looks kind of like Baron von Strucker from Marvel … or maybe a bit like Blofeld from James Bond.
  • There’s a scene in James Michener’s Centennial about European royalty shooting buffalo from a train; I’m not sure if it’s based on a real event or not, but Ivan’s slaughter of the buffalo reminded me of it.
  • Hex contemplates leaving Ivan to his fate, but decides that’s not his style. I guess he just likes to be where the action is.
  • I don’t know how Hex avoided getting blown up by the dynamite. It took out the whole room and should’ve had some effect on Hex even if he was out in the hall when it went off.
  • The cover to this issue (by Luis Dominguez) reminds me of the old EC covers, especially the terrified expression on the Grand Duke’s face.

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