Comics Reviews: JLA 162, Superboy & the Legion 247, Jonah Hex 20

JLA 162 coverJustice League of America #162 – “The Creation Conspiracy” – Gerry Conway/Dick Dillin/Frank McLaughlin

This one starts with some JLA members (Superman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Elongated Man, Green Arrow, and Zatanna) one the scene of a fire at a STAR Labs facility. But this particular facility was so secret that even the JLA didn’t know about it until the scientists called for help. The guy in charge says they have no idea what caused the fire, but it may have something to do with a top-secret chemical named Compound One that they’ve been working on. Compound One allows the user to manipulate the genetic structure of any living thing, but it needs a large amount of delta radiation to activate it. Superman and Wonder Woman hold up a big chunk of rubble so Ralph can squeeze into the wreckage to searchcollapsing rubble for clues. He finds empty containers of Compound One beside a wet footprint. Ralph almost gets squashed when the rubble collapses, but Zatanna saves him. When she tries to “read” the aura of the empty canister, she’s struck catatonic and rushed back to the Satellite by Ralph. When she wakes up, Ralph explains that a weird cloud of smoke came out of the canister and showed the image of a research center in Miami, which has a delta radiation projector. The others headed there while Ralph brought Zatanna to the Satellite. Zatanna says when she touched the canister, it triggered something in her mind and she realized that someone had cast a spell of forgetfulness on her a couple of weeks ago. She can’t even remember where her new costume came from. She says the last thing she remembers is being on tour with her father (Zatara) in Providence. Red Tornado (who’s on duty on the Satellite) points out that Zatara has been retired for quite a while kraken attackand that Batman talked to him not long ago, so Zatanna’s memory must really be fucked up. The other JLAers arrive in Miami and Superman flies ahead to check out the research facility while the rest stop a fake tidal wave. When Green Lantern blocks it with his ring, he’s attacked by a tentacled horror from the ocean. Wonder Woman deals with the kraken, but she and Green Arrow are bowled over by someone moving at super speed. They think it might be Superman, but he comes stumbling back from the lab saying he was attacked with a powerful mental blast. He manages to remember something about a naval lab and the deep-sea probe Proteus. In Providence, Zatanna, Ralph, and Red Tornado find the theatre long-deserted, but they do find an old poster and Zatara’s bags hidden in a storeroom. Zatanna says he never went anywhere without them and they find some photos in the bag. Zatanna reminisces about her mother, but Ralph points out that her mother isn’t actually in the photo, which freaks Zatanna out. She wonders if everything she remembers is a lie, and says they have toShark appears check her old family estate for answers. Superman, Wonder Woman, and Green Arrow check Deep Sea Probe Proteus (Green Lantern was sent back to the Satellite to recover from his ass-kicking by the kraken), which is a research colony on the ocean floor in the Gulf of Mexico. The whole facility seems deserted, although the machinery is still running. Superman spots the researchers imprisoned in a sub-basement and busts through the floor to get at them. They warn the JLAers to get out of the facility, but before they can do anything, they’re attacked by the villain behind all this … the Shark! (Who looks a lot different than he used to.) At Zatanna’s family home, the place is falling apart and Red Tornado detects a magnetic field so strong it could actually warp spacetime. The house comes to life and attacks (it almost chomps Ralph with its big teeth), but Zatanna banishes whatever spirits were animating it. The house collapses, leaving an interdimensional portal floating in mid-air. In the Proteus facility, Shark thrown in delta chamberShark has shackled the Leaguers and brags about how he evolved himself past humanity to something more powerful, using the Compound One and delta radiation. He shows off his other creations, hyper-evolved forms of sea creatures. The JLA trio busts loose and attacks. At first, they have trouble with the evolved creatures and Shark’s brain blasts, but Green Arrow gets the idea to maneuver them all into the delta radiation chamber where the hyper-evolution is accelerated. Apparently, evolution in the DC Universe is circular, so Shark and his minions end up as amoebae. At Zatanna’s estate, she casts a spell on the frozen interdimensional portal and guess who drops out of it? Yup, it’s Zatara, and Zatanna’s got a lot of questions for him … like “why did you summon a banshee spirit to protect the house?” and “why have you been lying to me about my mother for my whole life?” But we’ll have to wait until next issue for the answers.

Noticeable Things:

  • I’m not sure why Zatanna didn’t just use her magic to clear the rubble in the first  place. I like Zatanna, but that’s the problem with putting a magic-user on the team; she should either be able to solve all their problems, or the writer has to come up with reasons why she can’t.
  • I don’t know why Zatanna and the others didn’t look for Zatara in Gotham; that’s where Batman found him last issue … unless that was supposed to be the “family estate” mentioned here. But it seemed to me like Zatara was in a house in the city.
  • Zatanna says her family estate is in “upstate New York near Arkham Asylum”. I think Arkham is right outside Gotham in the post-Crisis stories.
  • Zatanna says the spirit that animated her house was a banshee, but it doesn’t really fit the Celtic banshee or the D&D version.
  • After the fight against Zatanna’s house, Red Tornado is hurt and Ralph tells Zatanna not to get too worked up about it. She points out that he sounds kind of callous and he gives her a speech about soldiering on, but Ralph’s kinda right here; Reddy’s been blown to shit and revived so many times it’s hard to get too worried about him.

LSH 247 coverSuperboy & the Legion #247 – “Savage Sanctuary” – Len Wein/Joe Staton/Jack Abel

This one continues right where last issue left off. In case you forgot, the Fatal Five have been helping (that’s right, helping) the people on a planet called Corvan IV by giving them advanced technology to lift them out of their primitive ways. I guess they’ve never heard of the Prime Directive. Anyway, the Fatal Five petitioned for Corvan IV to join the United Planets and some Legionnaires (Superboy, Element Lad, and Colossal Boy) were sent to check things out, while Mano and Persuader stayed behind as a gesture of good faith. But the Legionnaires decided the Corvanians’ sudden jump into the modern age was detrimental to them and rejected the membership bid … upon which, the Fatal Five immediately attacked them, proving they were not cut out to be diplomats. Superboy took off to get reinforcements and this issue opens with him streaking throughmeteor billiards space trying to contact some other Legionnaires. Tharok sends a telepathic distress call to Earth and Mano and Persuader promptly bust loose and head for Corvan IV. Superboy can’t contact anyone and feels shitty for leaving his friends, so he turns around and heads back to Corvan IV as well. He realizes Emerald Empress’s Emerald Eye is the biggest threat to him, but also remembers the Eye being vulnerable to kryptonite. He (conveniently) locates some kryptonite in a nearby meteor swarm, but has to play some fancy “meteor billiards” since he can’t get too close to the kryptonite. His super calculations pay off and he blasts the Eye away which almost knocks Emerald Empress out and sends her into a rage. Superboy takes her down, but Validus goes all murdery and tries to waste him. Their fight is so titanic, it causes planetquakes, bringing Tharok to investigate. The quakes also short out the power in Tharok’s headquarters, freeing Element Lad and Colossal Boy. Validus finds the kryptonite meteor Legion vs Fatal Fiveand threatens Superboy with it, while the Emerald Eye returns and Tharok shows up. They’re about to triple-team Superboy when the green K turns to water … yup, Element Lad and Colossal Boy are there to even the odds. But that doesn’t last, as Mano and Persuader return to tip the balance In the Fatal Five’s favour again. They’re brawling like MMA fighters when one of the Corvanians freaks out and tells them all to stop before they destroy the whole damn planet. Tharok says the Fatal Five are fighting for the Corvanians, but the alien says the Corvanians never really cared about joining the U.P.; they just went along with it to make the Fatal Five happy. Tharok says they were just trying to repay the Corvanians for letting them stay there, but the alien dude says it was too much too soon and it would be better if they made their own way. The Fatal Five were apparently sincere in their altruism and they teleport away, leaving the Corvanians to find their own path to the future.

“Celebration” – Paul Levitz/Joe Staton/Dave Hunt

The second story is kind of goofy. It deals with the election of a new leader. Brainiac 5 and Wildfire both want to win and have been campaigning vigorously. But every timejoke revealed they try to count the votes, something happens: the computer blows up, the old computer is dumped into the water, there’s a fire, and when they go into space to count the votes, there’s a fuel leak. Chameleon Boy goes into detective mode, trying to figure out who’s behind the sabotage and finally catches the culprit … it’s Superboy. He’s playing a joke on them, reminding them of when he first joined the Legion and they kept sabotaging his efforts (with an explosion, a sunken statue, a fire and a fuel leak). So, they finally count the votes and Lightning Lad wins; yeah, he was running too, which Brainy and Wildfire apparently forgot … but the rest of the Legionnaires didn’t.

Noticeable Things:

  • This is referred to as the Legion’s “247th anniversary”, which is a reference to their first appearance in Adventure #247.
  • At first, I thought this was going to tie in with Chameleon Boy’s investigation of who framed Ultra Boy and whether there was someone nefarious inside the Legion, but it just turned out to be Superboy fucking around. The “inside threat” storyline will be continued though … quite soon, in fact.

Jonah Hex 20 coverJonah Hex #20 – “Phantom Stage to Willow Bend” – Michael Fleisher/Vicente Alcazar

This one starts with Hex witnessing some bandits robbing a stagecoach. He blows some of them away and the others take off. Hex gets a shock when the stagecoach driver turns out to be his father, Woodson Hex. We get a flashback of Hex’s father selling him to the Comanches as a slave, which we already saw back in issue #7. In the nearby town of Willow Bend, Hex meets Mr. Barton, the owner of the stagecoach. He says the bandits have been striking more frequently lately and hires Hex (and his father) to protect the next shipment: $250,000 in gold Double Eagles. Hex decides to work a little subterfuge, so when the bandits ambush the stage in a canyon, they shoot a dummy driver while Hex and his father control the horses from inside. But, proving you shouldn’t trust anyone who sells you into slavery, Pa Hex turns out to be in cahoots with the bandits and knocks Hex out. Woodson and the bandits steal the gold and set the stagestagecoach crash on fire, with Hex still unconscious inside … naturally, it was Woodson’s idea. Hex wakes up and busts through the roof of the stagecoach, but can’t stop the panicked horses. They plunge over a cliff and Hex jumps off just in time. He buys a horse from a farmer and tracks down the bandits, who have already hidden the money. Hex blows them away, with a little help from his father, who keels over clutching his heart. Hex rushes him to a doctor, who says the old man had a massive heart attack and won’t last long. Woodson apologizes for being a lousy father, then asks Hex to give him a fine send-off. Before he can reveal were the stolen gold is hidden, he dies. Hex goes to inform Barton that his gold is gone, leaving the doctor to make funeral arrangements. After Hex is gone, we find out that Woodson isn’t really dead; he paid off the doctor to lie to Hex and he heads out into the desert to dig up the stolen gold. Like I said, you can’t trust someone who sells you into slavery. But I don’t think this is the last we’ll see of old Woodson Hex. Hopefully, Jonah will be smarter next time.

Noticeable Things:

  • The doctor asks Hex if he loved his father and Hex says he hated him (and says “I guess a man ain’t got but only one pa”), but I think at the very least Hex has a blind spot when it comes to his father. Why else would he trust him so readily when they first meet, especially considering how things were the last time they saw each other?

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