Comics Reviews: JLA 165, Superboy & the Legion 250, Jonah Hex 23

JLA 165 coverJustice League of America #165 – “A Mother of Magic” – Gerry Conway/Dick Dillin/Frank McLaughlin

This one starts right where last issue left off. You may remember, Zatanna and the JLA tracked down her mother Sindella—who she’d previously believed dead—to a hidden magical city in Turkey. But it turns out Sindella has something inside her head called a Medulla Jewel, that powers the magical city. The Jewel is nearly exhausted, which will mean Sindella’s death, so the Highlord of the city wants to transfer the Jewel to Zatanna. The rest of the JLA isn’t about to let that happen, so they spring into action and attack the Highlord’s soldiers. But the Highlord uses his magic to set Superman on fire (!) and to conjure up some creatures to help his soldiers. The JLA are close to being overwhelmed by sheer numbers,Flash fight but Flash zips around and helps each of them out of trouble; unfortunately, that leaves him vulnerable and the Highlord blasts him, then zaps the rest of the League (including Zatanna and her father, Zatara). Wonder Woman and Hawkgirl had previously split off to pound some other soldiers around the corner, but they end up getting blasted too. On the JLA Satellite, Green Arrow and Red Tornado (who stayed behind because of injuries) prepare to head down to Earth. Red Tornado has been doing some research and found out the history of Sindella’s people. Basically, they’re an offshoot of Homo Sapiens with natural magical abilities called Homo Magi. They might have taken over the Earth except there were far fewer of them than Homo Sapiens. More importantly, whenever a Homo Sapiens and a Homo Magi of the opposite sex meet, they’re immediately attracted to each other, which explains why Zatara and Sindella fell in love so easily. But only the first generation from such a union (i.e. Sindella and ZatannaZatanna) has magical abilities; subsequent generations don’t. So the Homo Magi isolated themselves from humans (because the irrevocable attraction would lead to them breeding themselves out of existence) and their numbers dwindled over the centuries. Red Tornado concludes his story by mentioning a strange black cloud that appeared in Turkey years ago, and another black cloud that caused the car crash that supposedly killed Sindella. In the magic city, Zatanna and Zatara try to talk to Sindella, but she’s in some kind of trance and doesn’t respond. Zatanna pours her heart out and Sindella sheds a single tear, which tells Zatanna her mother is at least aware of what she’s saying. Zatanna uses her magic to break her mother’s trance and bring her back to normal. Elsewhere in the city, the rest of the JLA are trapped inside a stone prison with no doors or windows. Superman can’t see through it and when Flash tries to vibrate through, he almost gets killed. Obviously, the prison is magical, so physical laws won’t help them get out. Outside the city, Red Tornado and Green Arrow tunnel their way in, reasoning that the Homo Magi won’t have defenses under the mystic barrier sinceReddy and Arrow in trouble digging technology wasn’t very advanced when the city was built. The duo pop up in the midst of a bunch of soldiers and have to fight. Reddy gets conked out and Green Arrow takes off but runs into a woman while he’s fleeing. Elsewhere, Sindella tells Zatanna that every generation has someone with a Medulla Jewel. Sindella was the “lucky” recipient in her generation, and Zatanna is the next one. Sindella says the Jewel powers everything in the city (since they have no fossil fuels or even water power), but it drains electrical energy from the host’s brain, eventually killing them. Sindella says even though Zatanna revived her temporarily, she has no hope of recovery. She’d tried to keep Zatanna’s existence from the Highlord and tried to warn her by changing Zatanna’s costume to match her own. I’m not sure how that’s supposed to be a escapewarning, but whatever. Zatara and Sindella reaffirm their love (or lust) for each other. Red Tornado is tossed into the JLA’s prison cell—right through the wall. They realize that a magical barrier might be vulnerable to Wonder Woman’s lasso, so she throws it through the wall and drags the guard inside. They use his key to escape and start fighting the soldiers. Green Arrow shows up and tells the others the troops they’re fighting aren’t the Homo Magi. The real Homo Magi are supposed to instantly fall in love with humans, but none of the soldiers have, so they’re just minions of some sort. (The woman Green Arrow ran into earlier is a genuine Homo Magus and she can’t keep her hands off him, much to Black Canary’s chagrin.) Sindella decides she’s had enough of being a pawn, sofake enemies she casts one last spell with her remaining power, which knocks out all the power in the city and turns the “soldiers” fighting the JLA back to their original forms … stone, metal, wood, water. Zatanna emerges from the citadel with her mother’s body in her arms and explains that the Homo Magi couldn’t fight the League in person because of the “fatal attraction” between their species, so they animated the soldiers and sent them. When Sindella realized her Medulla Jewel was powering the fake army, she cast a spell to destroy the Jewel and deny its power to the Magi. Zatanna is despondent at losing the mother she just found.

Noticeable Things:

  • When the Highlord is preparing to blast the JLA, he says they “flaunted” the laws of the city; I assume Gerry meant “flouted”.
  • The Homo Magi are said to have gone to their hidden city almost 2000 years ago, in the days of the Romans.
  • Sindella says her changing of Zatanna’s costume was meant as a warning to stay away, but that was the catalyst that caused Zatanna to look for her mother, so it’s kinda Sindella’s fault Zatanna was in danger.
  • The “fatal attraction” between the Homo Magi and humans is supposed to be mutual, but Green Arrow doesn’t seem like he’s that into the Magus woman he met.

LSH 250 coverSuperboy & the Legion #250 – “This Is the Day the Universe Dies” – Paul Levitz/Jim Starlin/Dave Hunt

This one starts with Chameleon Boy brooding by himself at Legion headquarters about a shocking discovery; one of the Legionnaires has turned traitor. Cham muses that he had to reprogram the Legion computer to confirm his suspicions and thinks that the traitorous Legionnaire is insane and his evil schemes could endanger the entire universe. The traitor comes in (wearing a jumpsuit and hood) and shoots Cham, leaving him for dead after erasing all the hard-won evidence from the computer. Chameleon Boy is found later by Wildfire, who’s been working with Cham to uncover the traitor. Wildfire retrieves a back-up recording device from Cham’s flight ring with all the proof on it. He then calls on every Legionnaire to return to headquarters for an emergency meeting. After they’ve assembled, Wildfire recaps the investigation, staring with the murder of An Ryd back in issue 239. He reminds everyone (and us) that Chameleon Boy suspected an insider of being behind the murder but didn’t want to actOmega the rip-off until he had absolute proof. He didn’t tell Wildfire who he suspected, but did say the Legionnaire completely insane. The hooded guy pops up again to torment them, but this time it’s just a hologram. The holographic asshole tells them they’re all pawns in his game of cosmic proportions; they’ll have to face the ultimate evil and when they lose, the universe will end. They get an alarm from deep space and Superboy and Mon-El go to check it out. They encounter a space monster called Omega, supposedly the living embodiment of destruction and hate. Mon-El attacks but gets pounded and Superboy realizes he’s outclassed so he grabs Mon-El and takes off, leaving Omega to advance inexorably toward Earth. At headquarters, Mon-El is said to be concussed and out of action. The Legionnaires wonder about Omega’s motives and Wildfire reveals he decoded Cham’s back-up recorder and the traitor within the Legion is … Brainiac 5! Brainy doesn’t even try to deny it; he says after years of saving the traitor revealeduniverse, he’s taking payment by destroying the universe. Wildfire says he’s nuts, but Brainy says what he’s feeling isn’t insanity it’s pure, raw hatred. He says that hatred is what spawned Omega and explains that there’s something at Legion HQ that keeps hatred from winning the cosmic battle, something that balances all the hate in the universe with love. As soon as Omega finds that and destroys it, hate will triumph. Now everyone knows Brainy is crazy and Wildfire has him locked up as he prepares to send contingents of Legionnaires out to fight Omega. Dream Girl warns Wildfire she saw a vision of him fighting Omega alone in Legion HQ, but Wildfire doesn’t seem worried. He tells her to figure out Brainy’s plan and sends everyone to meet Omega before he gets to Earth. Then Wildfire vows to pry the truth about whatever Omega is after out of Brainiac 5 no matter what. We’ll see if he succeeds next issue.

Noticeable Things:

  • This issue is plotted and penciled by Jim Starlin, but credited to Steve Apollo for some reason. I assume Starlin didn’t like something about the finished product and elected to use a pseudonym.
  • This whole Omega thing reminds me of stuff Starlin did over at Marvel. Omega looks a bit like Lord Chaos and he gives off a real Thanos vibe, with the whole “destroying the universe with hate” schtick.

Jonah Hex 23 coverJonah Hex #23 – “The Massacre of the Celestials” – Michael Fleisher/Dick Ayers/Romeo Tanghal

This one starts with Hex watching a bunch of labourers laying railway track and musing about progress. He heads to a nearby town, looking for an outlaw named Dan Wallis, who tangled with Hex back in Santa Fe. Hex finds Wallis in the saloon and almost gets blown away, but fakes Wallis out with a phony dynamite stick and blasts him. A Chinese dude is sweeping the floor and the bartender tells him to drag the corpse out. We see a bunch more Chinese workers on the railway, one of whom makes the mistake of asking their foreman (a stereotypical Irishman named O’Malley) when the workers are getting paid. O’Malley responds with a racist tirade and tells him to get back to work, but the labourer is so pissed off he tries to brain O’Malley with a hammer. O’Malley kills him and tells the other workers he changed his mind and is going to pay them right away. He tells his right-hand man Shaughnessy to go get “Mr. Gatlin” to takeGatling gun salute care of the workers, which is a bad sign if you know anything about guns. Apparently the Chinese workers don’t, because they head into a railway shed and get mowed down by a Gatling gun. O’Malley says they can hire new workers and nobody will question a bunch of missing Chinese. But another worker (whose name is Wing) sees the massacre and runs to tell some old Chinese dude and his daughter, Mei-Ling. The old man says the souls of the dead have to be avenged or they’ll haunt the living—I’m not sure if that’s genuine Chinese theology or not. The guy from the saloon mentions Hex and says he’s the kind of guy who avenges wrongs, so the old man goes to se him that night. Hex says he doesn’t work for free and the old man gives him thirty dollars, which is all the workers could come up with. Hex turns him down and the old man leaves. Mei-Ling is waiting for him outside, but so are Shaughnessy and his men. Shaughnessy gives the old man a gun and says he should face them himself instead of street fighttrying to hire Hex. The old man agrees but the gun Shaughnessy gave him is empty and he gets blown away. Mei-Ling freaks out and the scumbags are getting ready to have some fun with her when Hex shows up. He blows Shaughnessy and one of the others away and the last guy tosses his gun down and begs Hex not to kill him. Hex puts one through his head. Mei-Ling freaks out on Hex, blaming him for her father’s death. She’s going wild, so he decks her and takes into the hotel, where he threatens to throw the desk clerk off the roof if he doesn’t arrange a room for her. Back in his own room, Hex smashes the mirror, disgusted with himself for not helping when the old man asked. Hex goes to see Mei-Ling the next day and she apologizes for blaming him for her father’s death, but he says she was right. She starts asking him questions about himself and they end up spending a lot of time together. One of O’Malley’s men sees them and tells his boss, so they decide to grab Mei-Ling before Hex can come after them. They send Hex a note telling him where they have Mei-Ling. Ofcanyon fight course, Hex knows it’s an ambush and sneaks up on one of the hidden gunmen. O’Malley and the other guy are waiting and when they see Hex riding into the canyon, they blast him, despite Mei-Ling trying to warn him. But when thy check, it turns out to be the gunman Hex jumped. Hex jumps out and blows them away and unties Mei-Ling. He’s just about to tell her he loves her when she stops him. She says he doesn’t really love her, it’s the gentleness inside himself that he sees mirrored in her, a gentleness he’s afraid to acknowledge. She says he has to find a way to love that hidden part of himself before he can love someone else. Kind of a downer ending but don’t worry … this isn’t the last we’ll see of Mei-Ling.

Noticeable Things:

  • The title of this story refers to the fact that Chinese people were called “Celestials” in the Old West, supposedly because the Chinese Emperor was considered a “Son of Heaven”.
  • I know a lot of Chinese labour was used in Canada to build the railways, especially the trans-continental; I guess the same was true in the U.S. as well. Americans seemed to like the Chinese as cheap labour, but resented the fact that they got involved in the gold and silver rushes, so the prejudice in this story definitely rings true.
  • Some of the colouring on the Chinese characters is a bit off; I’m assuming that’s due to limitations in comic book colouring technology back then (Master of Kung Fu had the same problems). At least, I hope they didn’t colour Chinese people yellow on purpose.

One thought on “Comics Reviews: JLA 165, Superboy & the Legion 250, Jonah Hex 23”

  1. As explained by Jim Starlin in the book The Legion Companion, the story in LSH #250 and #251 was originally supposed to be A) printed as a single 64 page special issue and B) inked / finished by Joe Rubinstein, who Starlin specifically had in mind when he did the layouts for this story. For some reason (possibly the DC Implosion) after Starlin penciled the story it sat on a shelf for a while. When DC finally decided to print it, it was split up into two parts, over 20 pages were cut out so it would fit into two regular issues, and Rubinstein was unavailable so it was inked by Dave Hunt. All of this resulted in Starlin asking for his name to be removed.

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