This one starts soon after last issue left off, with Green Lantern imprisoning four members of the Secret Society of Super-Villains in a diamond cell. But you may remember, these people aren’t really the SSSV, they’re Superman, Green Lantern, Batman, and Wonder Woman in the bodies of Wizard, Reverse Flash, Blockbuster, and Floronic Man, respectively. The villains are currently inhabiting the heroes’ bodies and they’re eager to dispose of the real superheroes before their fellow JLAers can figure out they’ve been switched. Zatanna and Star Sapphire also switched bodies, but Zatanna was weak from using Star Sapphire’s gem so she stayed outside to rest when the others were captured last issue; for some reason, the villains haven’t noticed she’s missing. As the fake GL imprisons the SSSV, Green Arrow’s suspicions grow and he confides them to his teammates, but Hawkman, Elongated Man, and Black Canary don’t seem convinced. Wizard hears Green Arrow’s doubts thanks to Superman’s super-hearing, but he assures his fellow miscreants there’s nothing to worry about. He then tosses the diamond prison into space, aiming it toward the sun. That definitely makes the other JLAers suspicious, but Wizard-Supes tells them the diamond is a time-stasis cell and he put it into orbit around Earth to keep the villains safe until they can be rehabilitated. Most of the Leaguers seem to buy that, but Green Arrow is now certain that Superman isn’t himself. Supes tells the others they have a new assignment, to guard the Nova Jewels. We get a glimpse of Zatanna in Star Sapphire’s body, still unconscious on the rooftop where she passed out last issue. We get an interlude with the mysterious guy from last issue (named Sloane) who found a weird glowing cube in an old lighthouse on the coast of Nova Scotia. Sloane is a civil liberties lawyer and he uses a tuning fork to shatter the cube and release the man imprisoned inside—who turns out to be Ultraa. Sloane says Ultraa is his client, whether Ultraa knows it or not. On the JLA Satellite, we see Red Tornado thawing out from the block on ice Zatanna (using Star Sapphire’s gem) accidentally froze him in last issue. Reddy chastises himself for acting rashly and promises he’ll be more logical in the future, more true to his programming. The teleporter activates and Star Sapphire beams aboard the Satellite. Red Tornado’s first instinct is to attack her, but he decides to wait for all the facts before committing himself. Star Sapphire tries to tell him what happened and mentions her mother’s name was Sindella, which convinces Reddy that she’s really Zatanna. In Mexico City, Superman gives the team some bullshit about the Mexican government asking the JLA to guard the priceless Nova Jewels, which are apparently components from a spaceship that crashed in Mexico 10,000 years ago. Zatanna seems quite taken by the Jewels, which makes the other Leaguers suspicious. They all split up into teams, each “normal” JLAer being shadowed by a mind-swapped SSSV member. Green Lantern tries to put the moves on Black Canary and she lets him know she ain’t down for that (by kneeing him in the balls), then shouts a warning. Green Arrow confronts Zatanna, who tries to blast him with her magic, but he paralyzes her with an arrow so she can’t cast spells. Batman and Wonder Woman go after Flash, who wraps Wonder Woman’s magic lasso around them, rendering them helpless. Superman sees what happened with his x-ray vision, but before he can jump into the fight, he’s knocked on his ass by a magical blast from the Wizard. Supes is shocked to see the SSSV have been rescued from the diamond cell by Red Tornado and Star Sapphire. Back on the Satellite, Star Sapphire uses Wizard’s magic glove to switch the JLA and SSSV’s minds back to their proper bodies. It works and Green Arrow confirms it by asking Superman what was wrong with the villains’ time-stasis-diamond-in-orbit plan; Supes says the JLA already have several prison cubes on the Satellite, so GL didn’t need to construct one. Plus, it would’ve been easier to just send the villains through time instead of letting them languish in stasis for years. Everyone is convinced the switch worked and the JLA prepares to take the villains to prison.
- There are a few unanswered questions about this issue. First, this Star Sapphire (and the one in the SSSV series) isn’t Carol Ferris, the original Star Sapphire. This is actually some alien queen who possessed one of the sapphire gems and came to Earth looking to get Carol Ferris’s gem. Her origin was supposed to be told in SSSV #17, but that book was canceled before they got around to it.
- You may be wondering if the villains were inside the JLAers’ bodies, why didn’t they figure out the Leaguers’ secret identities? Good question. I don’t think it’s ever addressed here, but years later in Identity Crisis, it’s established that Zatanna uses her powers to mindwipe the JLAers’ identities from the Society members’ minds. This puts Star sapphire into some kind of coma, which is why this particular version doesn’t appear again until much later, when she’s summarily killed by the Spectre. Apparently this isn’t the first time Zatanna has mindwiped villains, nor is it the last, because …
- … it’s right around this time that the main flashback of Identity Crisis takes place. Dr. Light breaks into the Satellite, rapes Sue Dibny, and is mindwiped (and has his personality altered) by Zatanna, after a rather narrow vote. Batman walks in on it and he gets mindwiped too; when he eventually remembers, he starts coming up with contingency plans against his fellow heroes, including spying on them. I’ve seen the Sue Dibny rape story set at different times (sometimes later, right before Firestorm joins and Green Arrow leaves), but it fits here. Apparently Superman wasn’t present for the mindwipe vote, but went along with it later … or at least didn’t object too strenuously. Ollie’s decision to quit the League (in #181) and the general shift of Batman stories to a darker tone around this time, while probably due to editorial policy changes originally, can retroactively be assumed to be caused by the whole Identity Crisis mess.
This one starts with a spaceship warping toward Earth at faster-than-light speed. On board are a sextet of people (Lazon, Silver Slasher, Blok, Titania, Neutrax, and Mist Master) who seem to have a grudge against certain members of the Legion. These super-assassins blame six Legionnaires (Superboy, Light Lass, Ultra Boy, Timber Wolf, Phantom Girl, and Colossal Boy) for the destruction of their home planet and they’re eagerly anticipating revenge. They practice on some mannequins and most of them revel in the thought of making the Legionnaires suffer, but Blok thinks a quick death is a better way. In fact, he doesn’t sound entirely convinced that killing the Legionnaires is the right thing to do, but he goes along with the majority opinion. On Earth, a Legion delegation is asking the Earth government for money to rebuild their headquarters and construct a new space cruiser. But Earth is still recovering from the Khund invasion, so they tell the Legion they’ll have to go elsewhere for funds. (Earth to Legion—drop dead!) A bunch of Legionnaires decide to go hit up their benefactor, R.J. Brande, for some money. Of course we know Brande is currently having cash flow problems (i.e. he’s bankrupt), but the Legion doesn’t know that yet, so they head off to beg some cash from him. In a massive coincidence, the six Legionnaires that stay behind just happen to be the six the super-assassins are after—what are the odds? Superboy suggests they go out and have some fun. The super-assassins’ ship approaches Earth and is challenged by the Science Police. Lazon turns to light and blasts through the SP ship, killing most of the crew. Lazon says that’s nothing compared to what’ll happen to the Legionnaires. Speaking of the Legionnaires, they’re enjoying a club-crawl, blissfully unaware they’ve been targeted for destruction. Superboy and Colossal Boy start to feel a bit awkward, since their friends are paired off and getting romantic. It gets worse, as Timber Wolf and Light Lass, and Ultra Boy and Phantom Girl decide to head home for some hot sex. Superboy says he’s heading to the hospital to check on Brainiac 5 and Matter-Eater Lad (who are currently both various shades of insane) and Colossal Boy says he’s heading home. Superboy hesitates as he flies away, as if he forgot something, but we don’t see what his problem is. As Colossal Boy heads home, Mist Master turns into mist and surrounds him, filling his lungs so he can’t breathe. Colossal Boy tries to grow, but Mist Master chokes him and the titanic Legionnaire topples, seemingly dead. At Timber Wolf’s place, he’s going on about how being too comfortable makes people weak. Light Lass asks him if he thinks love makes people weak and it looks like he’s just about to say he loves her, when Silver Slasher and Blok bust in. Silver Slasher and Timber Wolf fight, and Slasher uses her razor-sharp skin to attack him. Light Lass tries to use her power on Blok, but it doesn’t work and he smashes her. Timber Wolf is distracted and Silver Slasher starts spinning like a top, slicing the shit out of him and making him fall out the window—forty stories to the ground. Blok says killing the Legionnaires hasn’t brought their home planet back, but Silver Slasher doesn’t care. At Legion HQ (or what’s left of it), Ultra Boy and Phantom Girl try to come to terms with all the shit that’s been happening lately. Phantom Girl suddenly keels over dead as Neutrax and Titania confront Ultra Boy. Ultra Boy switches on his super-strength (he can only use one power at a time) and fights Titania, but she’s too strong for him. He tries to switch to invulnerability to keep from getting pulped, but Neutrax neutralizes Ultra Boy’s power and Titania smashes him. Apparently, Neutrax killed Phantom Girl by neutralizing her brain waves—or so he claims. The other super-assassins show up and dump the dead Legionnaires on the ground. Lazon says all that remains is to kill Superboy. We’ll have to wait until next issue to see if they succeed.
- We don’t learn much about the super-assassins’ home planet, except that it was supposedly destroyed by these six Legionnaires. The super-assassins claim to all be from the same planet (and address each other as “cousin”), but they all look different and have different powers. We’ll earn more about them next issue.
- The Legionnaires go to a club where they dance in some kind of fluid chamber, and to a holographic show where hallucinogens are pumped into the air to heighten the illusion of the holograms. Funky!
- Colossal Boy is shown pining for Shrinking Violet here; I’m not sure if this is the first time we’ve seen his unrequited crush on her depicted, but I don’t remember it being this obvious before. Violet is still dating Duplicate Boy as far as I know, but eventually Colossal Boy will get his chance … though things don’t exactly go the way he planned.
- There’s a panel during the Timber Wolf/Titania fight where Titania’s hair is suddenly blonde.
This one starts with Jonah Hex stumbling onto a bunch of guys chasing down a well-dressed dude on horseback. Hex normally wouldn’t interfere, but figures these guys might have bounties on their heads … or maybe he’s just saying that to hide his natural altruistic streak. He guns down the scumbags, but their victim—who turns out to be a doctor—is beyond help. He says he’s taking some serum to Comanche Bend because of a cholera outbreak there and makes Hex promise to deliver it for him. Another guy rides up and says he’s the doctor’s assistant, Roy Jameson. Jameson had horse trouble and fell behind, and he freaks out when he sees the doctor is dead. He mentions that the serum is worth its weight in gold in the cholera-infested town of Comanche Bend; I’m calling it right now—this dude is in on it. His horse problem kept him back just as the doctor was ambushed and his breakdown at the doc’s death was over the top. Anyway, he and Hex head for a stage depot by the Gila River and find the depot has been taken over by three more of the bandit gang. Hex blows them away and decides they better head straight for the ferry before more bandits show up. But the river is running high and rough (hence the cholera outbreak) and the ferryman doesn’t want to cross. He changes his mind when the bandits attack and gets shot partway across. Hex and Jameson try to steer the ferry across the river, but the serum falls into the water. Hex ties himself to the raft and jumps in, retrieving the serum. But before he can get back on, the ferry smashes on some rocks and he and Jameson barely make it to shore. The bandits show up and it turns out Jameson is their leader (Ha! I knew it!); he apparently wanted to cash in on the cholera outbreak, but the doctor wouldn’t go along with him, so he hired the bandits to ambush the doc. They take Hex up a cliff and shot him, but he twists at the last second and the bullets just hit his arm; he does go over the cliff though. Jameson shows his true colours by blowing away the two bandits; he obviously isn’t good with sharing. At Comanche Bend, Jameson charges $100 a dose for the cholera serum; the townspeople are pissed off, but they’re also desperate, so Jameson sells every vial. (I’m not sure where a bunch of small town hicks got that kind of money, but whatever.) After he’s sold all the serum, Jameson realizes he’s come down with cholera himself. Hex walks in with his arm in a sling—he met some friendly farmers that patched him up—and pulls out one last vial of serum. He stashed it in his shirt back on the ferry, thinking he might need it when he was surrounded by cholera victims. Jameson is desperate and Hex says he’ll sell him what’s in the vial for all the money he bilked from the townspeople. Jameson agrees, but before he can take the serum, Hex says he only agreed to sell what was in the vial, not the vial itself. He shoots the vial out of Jameson’s hand, breaking it and spilling the precious serum, thus delivering some poetic justice to the greedy bastard.