Comics Reviews: JLA 171, Superboy & the Legion 256, Jonah Hex 29

JLA 171 coverJustice League of America #171 – “The Murderer Among Us: Crisis Above Earth One” – Gerry Conway/Dick Dillin/Frank McLaughlin

This issue starts with the annual JLA/JSA meeting being formally adjourned by Zatanna. Afterwards, everyone hangs out and we get to see the more personal sides of the heroes. Hawkman (that’s Carter Hall, the Earth Two Hawkman) praises Zatanna’s running of the meeting and she mentions having doubts about being right for the team. Carter tells her she wouldn’t have been picked for the team if she hadn’t proven herself first, and Zatanna’s so happy with his praise she kisses him … on the cheek. Mr. Terrific tells some of the others about running into his old enemy, the Spirit King, at the university where he works. Spirit King was stealing some fancy gizmo and TerrificTerrific worked up tried to grab him, but Spirit King lived up to his name and faded into thin air. Some of the others offer to help Terrific track down the ghostly thief, but Terrific says he already has tracked the Spirit King … to the JLA Satellite. He won’t give them any details, but says once he figures things out, one of them will be branded a traitor. That doesn’t seem to bother them much, and the seem to think Terrific might be getting senile or something. Batman talks to Huntress about the death of his Earth Two counterpart and Huntress tries to get some comfort from him, almost like she’s using him as a proxy for her dead father. The Earth One Hawkman and Dr. Fate talk about archaeology—since Katar Hol runs a museum and Kent Nelson was an archaeologist—and Hawkman learns that Kent Nelson and Dr. Fate are two entirely separate beings. The conviviality is interrupted by a huge explosion and they soon realize the Satellite has satellite breachbeen breached. The atmosphere inside is rushing out at an alarming rate and the automatic defenses aren’t sealing the breach. I think the decompression would happen almost instantaneously, not over several minutes, but whatever. They find the breach and outside is the dead body of Mr. Terrific floating on some machinery; he’s pretty smashed up. Dr. Fate, Superman, the Hawks, and the Green Lanterns combine their powers to fashion replacement bulkheads from asteroids and repair the breach. Mr. Terrific’s mangled corpse is taken to the med-lab for examination and the Earth One Flash finds a fragment from the wall. He says whatever caused the explosion was nothing he’s seen before. Huntress wonders if it was just metal fatigue, but Flash says the Satellite is made of advanced Kryptonian and Thanagarian technology, so that’s not likely. Zatanna tries to use her magic to read what caused the explosion, but tendrils of smoke come out of the fragment and almost strangle her. Dr. Fate dispels theZatanna attacked smoke, but Zatanna is left in some kind of coma. The two Flashes search the Satellite at super-speed for an intruder, but find no one. Red Tornado checks the computers and says nobody has entered or left the Satellite since the JSA showed up. Superman gets the med-lab report; it says Mr. Terrific was actually strangled, which means the explosion was an attempt to cover up the murder. Superman points out that nobody else is on the Satellite, and nobody has come  or gone, so one of them must be the murderer. We’ll find out who next issue.

Noticeable Things:

  • I like how this story has the two teams almost in parallel; you can see it really well on the splash page with the head shots. Superman lines up with Power Girl, Batman with Huntress, the two Flashes, the two Green Lanterns, the two Hawkmen, Zatanna and Dr. Fate … which leaves Red Tornado as Mr. Terrific’s counterpart. I’m not sure if that’s significant or not …opening page
  • Mr. Terrific’s real name is Terry Sloane, but in one panel Flash refers to him as Jerry.
  • Right before the explosion, Superman notices Power Girl has disappeared. He also mentions that two others are missing and that one of them “worries” him, but he doesn’t say who the missing members are. In a group shot, it looks like Power Girl, Red Tornado, Mr. Terrific, and Zatanna are all absent. I guess that’s meant to be a clue—and several red herrings.

LSH 256 coverSuperboy & the Legion #256 – “This is Your Life—and Death, Brainiac 5” – Gerry Conway/Joe Staton/Dave Hunt

This one starts with Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Cosmic Boy, and Superboy visiting Brainiac 5 at the insane asylum. It seems his recent run of altruism (when he helped the Legion against the League of Super-Assassins) has made his mental condition even worse than before. Now all he does is sit in the dark, refusing to interact with the outside world. The doctor says unless a miracle occurs, Brainy will be crazy for the rest of his life. The Legionnaires leave, wondering why Brainy suddenly took such a bad turn. Saturn Girl speculates that it might be something buried inside Brainy’s psyche, something he’s afraid to acknowledge even to himself. On R.J. Brande’s asteroid headquarters, members of the Legion Espionage Squad (Chameleon Boy, Shrinking Violet, Mon-El, and Shadow Lass) have gathered to help Brande discover who’s responsible for his recent bankruptcy. Brande says he has plenty of enemies , but noneLegion taking over Cosmic World with the resources to pull his off. He’s freaking out, saying he’s too old to start over with nothing. On Earth, Superboy and the others commandeer a huge amusement park called Cosmic World. It’s never quite spelled out, but I assume the park uses a combination of robotics and holograms to create different environments for the patrons. The Legionnaires think it’ll serve their purpose (curing Brainiac 5’s madness), and since the manager won’t let them borrow the place for a few hours, they manhandle him and take over by force, making the patrons think the park is being shut down for repairs. Elsewhere on Earth, more Legionnaires are clearing the rubble that used to be their headquarters. Timber Wolf starts losing his shit, but Lightning Lass talks him down and says the team will rebuild itself somehow. Brainiac 5 is enjoying his solitude when he suddenly finds himself reliving his past, seeing his parents again. He’s understandably Superboy takes out Science Policeshocked. Meanwhile, the manager of Cosmic World has called the cops to deal with the Legion. The Science Police prepare to drop sleep gas on the park, but Superboy smashes their hovercraft before they can deploy the gas and Cosmic Boy saves them from splattering. This pisses off the Science Police captain (who looks like a bit of an “Irish cop” stereotype) and he vows to make the Legionnaires pay. Brainiac 5 keeps reliving his life, including getting punched around by his classmates (for being smarter than them) and getting the shit beat out of him at home (for fighting with his classmates). The Science Police come back for round two, this time using a laser to take out Cosmic Boy and a Kryptonite ray to blast Superboy. Inside the park, Saturn Girl has found the crucial point in Brainy’s past, the incident that eventually leads to his madness. HeBrainy stops being crazy saved a girl who had fallen off a ledge, but instead of being grateful she was scared of him for some reason and that led to his feelings of alienation. This time, Lightning Lad programs the girl to be grateful and it seems to work; Brainy snaps out of it and thanks his friends for their help. Turns out he realized what they were doing part way through, but decided to go along with it since he could see they were trying to help. So I guess Brainy’s still going to be an insufferable know-it-all. Their celebration is cut short as the Science Police bust in and say the other Legionnaires are on their way to prison … and these three are under arrest. We’ll see if the charges stick next issue.

Noticeable Things:

  • Cosmic World is apparently built to hover on an island above the Grand Canyon.
  • The manager of Cosmic World says two million people per day come o the park; no wonder he’s pissed off about it being shut down. (Although I thought the Legion’s future was supposed to be a post-economic type future … at least, it’s sometimes depicted as being run without money, so why do blatant capitalists like this guy still exist?)
  • So, Brainy’s whole insanity was rooted in some kid who was snotty to him after he rescued her years ago? That seems like a stretch. I guess tiny things can cause big problems later, and the brain is a strange organ, but that seems a bit much. Why was the kid so ungrateful anyway? Brainy did save her life; you’d thin she’d have been ecstatic. It’s not like Brainy looked weird or anything; he looked like a regular Coluan, just like the girl he saved so I don’t know what the hell her problem was.
  • Saturn Girl says the amusement park holograms did a better job of digging into Brainy’s mind than Projectra could have; I’m not so sure about that …

Jonah Hex 29 coverJonah Hex #29 – “The Innocent” – Michael Fleisher/E. R. Cruz

This one starts with Hex attending a funeral. He’d come to town to see an old friend named Jensen, who he’d known back in his Army days, but Jensen had died just a few days before Hex showed up. He meets the rest of Jensen’s family: his brother, George; his daughter, Melissa; and his second wife (Melissa’s stepmother), Ruth. They tell Hex that Jensen was out riding along a seaside cliff and the path started to crumble, which panicked the horse and Jensen ended up falling off the cliff to his death. George invites Hex to supper and he gratefully accepts. Not far away, we see a band of outlaws (the Curly Wilson gang) who are on Hex’s wanted list; they’ve decided to turn the tables and hunt him down instead. George invites Hex to stay over and Melissa sneaks into his room in the middle of the night to ask for his help. She’s sure her father didn’t accidentally fall off the cliff (since he was an excellent rider), and that he was murdered. Hex says he’ll look into it just as Melissa’s stepmother comesMelissa asks Hex for help in to order her back to bed. Ruth tells George that she found Melissa in Hex’s room and they worry she might’ve told him something about Jensen’s death. Ruth wishes they could get rid of Hex somehow, and Curly Wilson and his gang pop out of the shadows and offer to take care of Hex—in exchange for a small “reward” of $10,000. George and Ruth agree and Curly starts making plans. The next day, Hex checks out the cliff where Jensen supposedly fell. He finds the path is all solid rock, with no crumbled edges anywhere. That makes him suspicious, but he can’t figure out who would want to kill Jensen, especially since George already has lots of money. Hex figures the non-evidence on the cliff isn’t enough, so he waits until nightfall and digs up Jensen’s coffin. He finds Jensen has a bullet hole in his head … obviously he didn’t die accidentally. Hex is so distracted, Curly and his boys take him by surprise and knock him out. They shove him Hex busts out of his coffinin the coffin with Jensen’s corpse and bury him alive. Luckily for Hex, the grave is shallow (due to the graveyard being so close to the sea) and Hex uses his Bowie knife and some good old-fashioned muscle to dig his way out (scaring a wandering drunk into taking the Pledge). Curly and his boys are back at George’s house, getting wasted and acting like assholes after getting paid; you just can’t trust those outlaws. Hex comes in and blows them away, then asks George what really happened to Jensen. Turns out Melissa is the one who shot her father because she was pissed off at him for remarrying after her mother died. She walks into the room with a gun and tells Hex she asked for his help because she felt guilty and wanted to be punished, but now she’s changed her mind. She’s going to kill Hex, then George and Ruth as well. She does wing Hex in the arm, but he gets the gun away from her and practices a little child therapy—with a swift backhand to the face. George says he and Ruth didn’t want Melissa to go to prison (or theMelissa vs Hex nuthouse) for what she did, so they decided to lie about Jensen’s death and keep Melissa confined in the house … probably for the rest of her life. They might want to start by restricting her access to firearms. Melissa will grow up a virtual prisoner, not having friends or any kind of life outside the home, which George says is punishment enough. Apparently, Hex agrees, because he rides off without turning her in. He even says he’s not mad at her, which seems a little out of character for him. But Melissa seems like some kind of psychopath, swinging between sweet little girl and homicidal maniac, so maybe Hex just wants to stay on her good side.

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