This one starts with some JLA members (Superman, Zatanna, Flash, Green Lantern, and Green Arrow) observing someone from the roof of a building … someone they’re considering for League membership. Of course, we already know who the mystery candidate is from the cover—Black Lightning. The Leaguers watch as Lightning takes down some guys robbing a pawnshop; he deflects bullets with his electrical force-field, zaps a couple of the thieves with a power-packed punch, and scares the last crook so much that he faints before Lightning can touch him. The JLA are impressed by Lightning’s ability, but when Green Arrow says a black hero is just what the League needs, Flash tosses out the word “token” and things get tense. Superman suggests they learn more about Lightning by testing him under more adverse conditions, to see if he’s really League material and the others agree. Elsewhere, a swarm of rats responds to a telepathic call from some dude in a busted-up tenement. No, it’s not Peter Boyle, it’s some goofball in a weird costume who calls himself the Regulator. He kinda looks like a Marvel villain. At the police station, Inspector Henderson thanks Black Lightning for catching the pawnshop thieves, but warns him hat his high-profile vigilantism might get him in trouble, especially since the city is considering some new law. Lightning says any anti-vigilante laws would get rid of Superman too, so there’s no way in hell that would ever pass in Metropolis. Lightning leaves and as soon as he reaches the street, he’s jumped by a couple of weirdos. One is a female powerhouse and the other some kind of energy being. Lightning pounds the bruiser and uses a fire hydrant to cool off the other attacker. The cops come rushing out and Lightning leaves them to mop up. One of the cops notices something strange about Lightning’s attackers, but we don’t hear what it is. Instead, we get to see more rat action, as the swarm invades a STAR Labs facility, shorting out the gate controls and freaking the shit out of the guard. Regulator waltzes into the facility, ranting about getting revenge on STAR … apparently, he used to work there. Across town, Lightning’s woes continue as he’s attacked by a guy who moves so fast, Lightning can barely see him. His attacker zips around him, pounding the shit out of Lightning and getting him really mad. Then a different foe pops up, a foppish dude dressed like a Musketeer. Lightning takes out his anger on the new guy, slapping him around and almost wasting him. But Lightning stops himself in time and finds out his latest assailant is actually Green Arrow. Arrow explains that he and his fellow Leaguers were Lightning’s attackers, trying to push him to the edge to see if he’d snap. They tell Lightning he passed the test and can join the League, but Lightning (rather anti-climactically) says he has no interest in joining. I guess they should’ve asked him before putting him through all that bullshit. The Leaguers are disappointed, but Superman predicts they’ll see Lightning again before too long … probably next issue when the JLA deal with the threat of the Regulator.
- Green Arrow and Black Lightning met in World’s Finest #256 and Arrow was apparently quite impressed.
- Superman says he’s heard of Black Lightning and interviewed him as Clark Kent, but doesn’t really know much about him. I guess I can accept that their shared adventure in this month’s DC Presents happens after this story, but Supes and Black Lightning met in Black Lightning #4 and 5; Superman must be having memory problems.
- When Flash and Green Arrow start arguing, Zatanna points out that Flash has been more confrontational lately. Green Lantern says it’s fallout from Flash’s wife being killed; I think that’s the first mention of Iris’s death in JLA, even though it happened months ago in Flash’s own mag.
- If the gate controls at STAR Labs are so easy to short out, why did Regulator need the rats to do it? He could’ve just thrown a rock at the controls or something.
- This whole “initiation test” thing reminds me of Amazing Spider-Man Annual #3, when Spidey had to pass a test—capturing the Hulk—to join the Avengers. The difference was, Spidey actually wanted to join but failed the test on purpose because he felt sorry for the Hulk.
Last issue ended dramatically with a contingent of Legionnaires informing their erstwhile benefactor, R.J. Brande, that the person who stole all his money was the President of Earth. This issue opens with Brande’s incredulous reaction. Wildfire figures they can go after the President with the evidence they’ve acquired, but Superboy reminds him they technically obtained the evidence illegally, since Brande’s building was supposed to be off-limits. In fact, they aren’t even supposed to be in the building, a fact that’s reinforced when a bunch of Science Police bust in. Saturn Girl scans the SP officers and tells Lightning Lad they’re phonies, pretending to be Science Police so they can kill the Legionnaires. Lightning Lad barks out orders and the Legion obey immediately, taking out the fake cops while Shrinking Violet triggers an alarm to call the real Science Police. Meanwhile, at the mental hospital in St. Croix (where Brainiac 5 was recently housed until his cure), a patient cobbles together a bunch of tech and manages to escape his cell. We aren’t told who he is, but he has some kind of grudge against the Legion and figures he can find something in the hospital files to help him get revenge. It seems the Legionnaires all have to take psych tests and the results are on file at this hospital, which doesn’t seem all that secure. We see this guy has some psych problems of his own, as he freaks out and blasts a window (through which the sun was shining) and a fluorescent light. So, this dude doesn’t like light? Anyway, the real Science Police show up at the Brande building and find the Legion surrounded by the fake cops they’ve just finished pounding. Superboy says there’s a good explanation and they head to the Planetary Council Hall. Chameleon Boy shows the Council the evidence and accuses President Kandru of bankrupting R.J. Brande. (Cham doesn’t seem bothered by the evidence being illegally obtained.) Kandru admits he did drain Brande’s accounts, but says he did it to help rebuild Earth after the Khund attack. He says he knew the people of Earth would end up starving and dying, wallowing in despair, so he took Brande’s money to help them, and he’d do it again under the same circumstances. Kandru is taken away and the Council says they’ll give back all the money, but Brande tells them to keep it. He says he’s lived above the people of Earth for too long, and if his fortune can help them, they should keep it and he’ll find a way to make himself a new pile of money. That gets a standing ovation from the Council and Brande leaves with the Legionnaires. On St. Croix, the escaped nutcase finds what he as looking for in the files—information on Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Sun Boy, and Superboy. Guards bust in to recapture him, but he blasts them all (he’s wearing a weapon-packed space-suit that was confiscated when he was first committed) and takes off. At the remains of Legion headquarters, Brande apologizes for not being able to help the Legion rebuild, but Lightning Lad says it’s their turn to help him. If he’s going to recoup his fortune by starting over in the star-creation business (which is how he made his money the first time around), they’ll help him. Before things get too mushy, Sun Boy is attacked by some kind of living darkness that his powers can’t affect and freaks out. His friends realize he must be scared of the dark (wouldn’t that disqualify him from Legion membership?) and by the time Wildfire blasts away the darkness, Sun Boy is in a catatonic state. The attacks continue, with Saturn Girl being overwhelmed by the thoughts of everyone on Earth flooding her brain simultaneously. Chameleon Boy finds a telepathic transceiver that someone attached to Saturn Girl’s head and Lightning Lad has a vision of Saturn Girl crumbling to dust while he’s helpless to do anything. That sends him catatonic as well, making three comatose Legionnaires in a few minutes. Superboy figures out that someone is using the Legionnaires’ deepest fears against them and wonders who the next target will be. We’ll find out next issue.
Last issue left off in the middle of a flashback to how Hex became a bounty hunter. After the Civil War, Hex was harangued into joining a posse and managed to capture a bunch of bank robbers single-handed. The asshole sheriff didn’t give Hex the reward for the robbers, but did mention that Hex would make a good bounty hunter and gave him a Wanted poster for a notorious bandit. Hex as surprised to see the bandit was his old war buddy, Eddie Cantwell. This issue continues straight from there, with Hex wondering if there’s some kind of mistake; Cantwell was kind of a dick, but Hex can’t believe he’d be a murdering thief with a $10,000 reward on his head. As Hex gets back into town, guess who he bumps into? Yup, it’s Eddie Cantwell himself, dressed up real fancy. Cantwell claims to be a prosperous cattle-buyer and when Hex says they need to talk, Cantwell puts him off until later. The sheriff sees them talking to each other, which will come back to haunt Hex presently. Naturally, Cantwell turns out to be the asshole everyone says he is (though why he’d go to a town where they’re handing out Wanted posters of him is beyond me) and he and his crew rob the local bank. Hex slept through it all and is getting ready to go meet Eddie at the saloon when the sheriff busts in to waste Hex. He figures he must be in cahoots with Eddie, since they were talking earlier. Hex makes a quick escape out the window and rides out of town to look for Eddie. The sheriff is about to rustle up another posse, when a big dude (who looks like Danny Trejo) comes in and tells him to forget about tracking down Cantwell because he’s already on the trail. The sheriff practically shits a brick and calls off the posse, explaining to his deputy that the Danny Trejo-looking dude is Arbee Stoneham, the Man Killer. Stoneham has been tracking Cantwell a long way and now he follows Hex, who he seems to have heard of—he says Hex fought like hell at Shiloh and Antietam. Hex finds Cantwell and beats the shit out of his two henchmen, then gives his old pal shit for getting him in trouble with the sheriff. Cantwell says he was just doing his thing, robbing banks, and had no idea he was going to run into Hex in that particular town. Before they can settle anything, Stoneham shows up, and Cantwell recognizes him right away. Stoneham wonders if Hex is thinking about getting into the bounty hunting business, and lays out his three rules: never horn in on another bounty hunter’s prize; never do more work than you have to; and if the reward says “Dead or Alive”, always bring them in dead to avoid complications. Stoneham then demonstrates that last rule by blowing away Cantwell and his two men. Stoneham tells Hex he won’t kill him because he might’ve innocently stumbled onto Cantwell’s trail, but he’ll have to take Hex’s guns and drive off his horse so Hex doesn’t get any ideas about coming after the valuable corpses. The story returns to the present, eight years later (1874) where the framing story left off; Hex is in some shithole town tracking down some bandits. He confronts them in the street and mows them down, but thinking about his past has got him pissed off at Stoneham for making him look stupid eight years ago, so he decides to track the Man Killer down and get a little payback. We’ll see what happens next issue.