Comics Reviews: JLA 172, Superboy & the Legion 257, Jonah Hex 30

JLA 172 coverJustice League of America #172 – “I Accuse!” – Gerry Conway/Dick Dillin/Frank McLaughlin

You’ll remember last issue Mr. Terrific was killed during the annual JLA/JSA reunion on the Satellite. At first, it looked like an accident—an explosion blew out a wall on the Satellite—but it was determined Mr.Terrific was strangled and the explosion was meant to cover up his murder. Since nobody entered or left, and no one is hiding aboard the Satellite, it looks like one of the superheroes is the killer. Superman comes to that conclusion quickly and asks the two Green Lanterns and Dr. Fate to seal off the Satellite until they figure out who the murderer is. Some of the others are a bit miffed, but Fate points out that Superman is including himself on the suspect list, since a magical barrier will stop him from leaving too. While the Lanterns and Fate go to work, Huntress reviews the facts which is basically just asealing the satellite recap of last issue. The only thing of interest is that Zatanna was knocked out when she tried to investigate the explosion and she’s still unconscious, which explains why she isn’t helping put up the magical barrier. Fate and the Lanterns enclose the Satellite in a mystical shell and Alan (the Earth-2 GL) wonders if they’ll be able to get out once everything is sorted. Batman and Huntress take over the investigation, since they’re the two detectives of the group. They do the usual: ask who talked to Terrific last (it was the two Flashes and they mention Terrific’s rant about someone on the Satellite being a traitor) and examine the scene of the crime. Batman finds a charred piece of metal from the blown out wall with what look like finger impressions on it. Huntress uses the computer to check something at JSA headquarters on Earth-2 and Batman talks to Barry (Flash) Allen again. Batman figures Barry probably remembers more than he thinks because he’s a trained forensic investigator, so he should be Huntress explodesobservant. Batman relaxes Barry, who remembers the conversation with Mr. Terrific verbatim, including the part about Terrific tracking an old enemy (the Spirit King) to the Satellite. Batman finds that significant, but before he can say why, the computer blows up, setting Huntress on fire. Superman doses her and Dr. Fate heals the burns; Huntress tells Batman the person they suspect has fought the Spirit King before, and that Spirit King stole a portable seismograph right before Terrific got on his trail. We now get the drawing room scene, where Batman calls them all together and reveals the killer. He points out the finger impressions (made by super-strength, but too small to be Superman’s) in the debris from the wall, but dismisses Power Girl as “too obvious”. Batman and Huntress realized there was someone else who could char metal and make finger impressions in solid steel, but they needed more. The seismograph theft was the last clue: when the Flashes run they leave a trail of vibrations behind, a trail that could be followed with the right detector. Barry has never fought the Spirit King, but Jay Garrick (the Earth-2 Flash) kicked the shit out of him not that long ago, leaving Spirit King with a thirst for revenge. So, the killer is … Jay Garrick! Well,spirit king revealed actually, it’s the Spirit King who took over Flash’s body and used him to kill Mr. Terrific, thus striking back at two enemies instead of one. Spirit King is pissed off that Batman found him out and admits he’s been controlling Flash’s body after tracking him down with the seismograph and ambushing him. Spirit King became corporeal long enough to strangle Terrific, then re-inhabited Flash’s body, using his super-speed vibrations to cause he explosion … which is also how he blew up the computer when he thought Huntress was getting too close to the truth. Spirit King uses Flash to escape through the transmatter device to Earth-2 (I guess Fate’s magic didn’t seal that off), leaving two pissed off super-teams behind. Superman gives them a hokey speech, saying that they actually beat the Spirit king because they refused to turn against each other and instead ferreted out the truth. I’m sure that’ll make Terrific rest easier, Supes.

Noticeable Things:

  • The transmatter device that lets the teams cross into each other’s universes can also apparently send information between worlds via computer.
  • There’s no mention of what happens to Flash back on Earth-2. His next appearance is Adventure #466, which is the last issue featuring the JSA. Presumably, Spirit King left Flash’s body shortly after escaping back to Earth-2, but I don’t think it’s referenced anywhere.
  • The JSA vow to track down Spirit King and avenge Mr. Terrific, but I guess everyone at DC promptly forgot about this story, because this plot thread dangled for a couple of decades or so. Terrific was finally avenged in the pages of JSA in 2004.
  • Zatanna wakes up at the end of the issue, none the worse for wear. I get the feeling her unconsciousness was just a way for Gerry to keep her out of the way so she couldn’t use her magic to solve the mystery in two seconds … or to capture the Spirit King.

LSH 257 coverSuperboy & the Legion #257 – “Who Stole the Legion” – Gerry Conway/Joe Staton/Dave Hunt

This one starts with some members of the Legion Espionage Squad (Chameleon Boy, Shadow Lass, Shrinking Violet, and Mon-El) getting ready to break into R.J. Brande’s office building. Someone has been embezzling money from Brande lately, causing him to go bankrupt. The Science Police are investigating, but they’ve declared Brande’s offices off-limits, so the Legionnaires decide to break in to gather information. Shrinking Violet goes in first, almost getting sucked up by an automated vacuum cleaner. She manages to destroy the vacuum by letting it suck up a metal sculpture and heads into the pneumatic mail slot … which is apparently still used in the 30th Century. On Earth, more Science Police are about to arrest a contingent of Legionnaires who tookShrinking Violet attacked by vacuum over a floating amusement park at the Grand Canyon last issue. You’ll remember they did it because they needed the Park’s holo-technology to cure Brainiac 5’s insanity (and it worked), but the Park’s owner called the cops. The Legionnaires are about to explain their actions, but Brainy tells them not to bother, since something’s about to happen that’ll mitigate their actions. Lightning Lad wonders if Brainy is still nuts, but Saturn Girl says she can read his mind and he’s fine. The Science Police captain (who acts like an Irish cop stereotype) is pissed off that the Legionnaires won’t even try to explain themselves. Elsewhere on Earth, R.J. Brande contacts the Legionnaires who are cleaning up the remains of their headquarters to tell them about the Espionage Squad investigating his offices. He wishes he could help the Legion rebuild their HQ, but since he’s bankrupt he can only offer moral support. Light Lass tells him the damage is mostly earthquake fixedabove ground, so the rebuild won’t be as extensive (or expensive) as they’d feared. That’s great, but it’ll still cost a hell of a lot to rebuild even the above-ground parts, and neither Brande nor the United Planets are going to pony up the dough, so where’s it gonna come from? Meanwhile, Shrinking Violet disables the security devices at Brande’s office, letting the other Legion Espionage crew sneak in. At the Grand Canyon, the pissed off S.P. Captain has done an abrupt about-face and is now reluctant to arrest the Legionnaires. That came out of nowhere; he sounded like he was ready to tear them apart earlier. Before he can carry out his duty, the amusement park (and the Grand Canyon) start shaking like crazy. Apparently, years of anti-gravity energy from the floating park has fucked up the substrata of the Canyon, causing a huge earthquake. Brainy predicted it (which is why he told the others to wait before trying to explain themselves) and he now tells them exactly how to fix it. They listen and thethief revealed quake soon stops. It’s nice to see Brainy’s back to being an insufferable know-it-all. The park manager now assumes the Legion commandeered the place because they wanted to save his patrons from the impending quake and the Legionnaires go along with that. The S.P. Captain isn’t stupid enough to believe that, but lets them off with a warning, thus making his complete personality reversal complete. Back in Brande’s office, the Legion spies find out who ripped off all of R.J. Brande’s money … it was the President of Earth! A crooked President? Nah, too unbelievable.

cargo ship in trouble“Once a Legionnaire …” – Gerry Conway/Steve Ditko/Dan Adkins

This is the second story of the issue, about reserve Legionnaires Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel. After leaving the Legion they decided to become colonists on some icy frontier planet, which apparently is their life-long dream. Wow, way to aim high, guys. They’re on Hoth—I mean, Wondil IX—when an automated cargo sled goes out of control. The ex-Legionnaires save the cargo, but expose their powers in the process, which they were trying to avoid. I guess they just wanted to blend in and be anonymous, but the other colonists see them rescue the supplies and get all starstruck. The lead colonist (or just the one with the biggest mouth), a guy named Norsk, decides the Legionnaires are just what the colony needs. He says they can accompanyBouncing Boy and Duo Damsel about to get it on him north to scout for valuable ore, something he was leery of doing before. Later, Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel discuss things, and Bouncing Boy isn’t happy about their secret being exposed. He thinks the colonists depending on the Legionnaires to help them all the time might become dangerous. He also wants to get away from being heroes and just live like normal people for once. Duo Damsel doesn’t care, she’s in the mood for some sex. I bet Bouncing Boy doesn’t complain about the nightly threesomes he gets. Despite their reluctance, the Legionnaires accompany the ore expedition to the ice caves up north. Norsk sees something on the scanner that he thinks is an ore deposit, but Duo Damsel believes it may be something else. Before she can say anything, Bouncing Boy dragon slainstops her, saying the colonists need to learn to depend on themselves. When they reach the ice caves, the “ore deposit” turns out to be an ice dragon and Bouncing Boy’s fears are realized: the colonists immediately look to the heroes to save them. But Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel get pounded by the dragon and exhort Norsk to smash it with his axe. He does and the dragoon shatters, giving Norsk and the other colonists some much-needed self-confidence. It turns out Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel both recognized the scanner blip as an ice dragon (because they read the survey reports—you’d think the miners would’ve done that too) and threw the fight so Norsk could play hero. Apparently, ice dragons are about as dangerous as crystal goblets, but Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel decide to keep that to themselves.

 

Jonah Hex 30 coverJonah Hex #30 – “Birth of a Bounty Hunter” – Michael Fleisher/Luis Dominguez

This one starts with Jonah Hex about to bring in some outlaws in his usual bloody fashion. A couple of bystanders talk about Hex, wondering how he got into this line of work; Hex overhears them and we get an extended flashback of his early life. The flashback starts in the Civil War, where Hex fought for the South. Hex took it upon himself to go after a Union pay-wagon and was captured. The Union soldiers were beating the shit out of him, trying to learn about the Confederate forces nearby, but Hex was rescued by his friend, Eddie Cantwell. Eddie used the old “bullets in the fire” trick (plus some dynamite) to make the Northern soldiers think they were being attacked by a whole regiment. Eddie strolled in and took everyone prisoner, releasing Hex before mowing all the Union soldiers down with a Gatling gun. Hex is pissed off, but Eddie says there’s no way their platoon could’ve dragged all those prisoners around—plus, he wantsgatling gunning to steal the Union payroll and bury it until after the War. Hex refuses, saying the captured payroll belongs to the Confederate Army; Eddie toys with the idea of shooting Hex and taking all the money, but decides not to. They load up the payroll and deliver it as the spoils of war. But the war is almost over and the South surrenders a short time later. Hex and his platoon turn themselves in and are eventually discharged. Hex and Eddie go their separate ways and Hex ends up back with the Apache tribe he used to live with, where he kills his “brother” Noh-Tante and is branded with the mark of the demon. (A story we already saw back in Jonah Hex #8.) About a year after the War, Hex is in some shithole town when a sheriff forces him to ride with a posse to track down some local bank robbers. Hex doesn’t care about a bank where he doesn’t keep any money, but the sheriff leaves him no choice. When they track down the Hex gets the robbersrobbers, they’re holed up in a box canyon with great cover and a sheer wall behind them. The sheriff wants to starve them out, but Hex is already sick of riding with the asshole lawman and decides to speed things up. He lets himself down the canyon wall, surprising the robbers and blowing some of them away. The rest surrender and the sheriff is impressed—though not impressed enough to tell Hex about the thousand dollar-a-head reward on the robbers. The sheriff hangs the thieves in a cottonwood grove and tells Hex he ought to think about bounty hunting as a career. Hex isn’t interested, but the sheriff mentions there’s one particularly slippery outlaw who has a $10,000 price tag on his head. That gets Hex’s attention, but he’s in for a shock when he sees who the notorious outlaw is; I’m sure none of you will be shocked to learn it’s Hex’s old Army pal, Eddie Cantwell. We’ll see if Hex brings him in next issue.

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