Comics Reviews: JLA 176, Legion of Super-Heroes 261, Jonah Hex 34

JLA 176 coverJustice League of America #176 – “The Dream Factories of Doctor Destiny” – Gerry Conway/Dick Dillin/Frank McLaughlin

Last issue, Dr. Destiny built a new version of his Materioptikon which could bring people’s nightmares to life. The JLA destroyed his infernal machine and are now tracking him to his hideout by homing in on Destiny’s twisted psyche courtesy of Green Lanterns ring. They trace him to an abandoned film studio and bust in, only to face more manifestations of their own darkest fears. Superman and Wonder Woman decide to bypass the usual brawl and head into the main building to look for Destiny, only to find Zatanna has beaten them to it. Superman melts another of Destiny’s dream machines while Zatanna uses her magic to reveal Destiny, who babbles on about his new Materioptikons and his grand plan toSuperman and Hawkgirl face nightmares destroy humanity. Wonder Woman forces him to be slightly more coherent with her magic lasso; Destiny says he built five new Materioptikons (two of which the JLA have now destroyed) and he’s planted them in separate locations around the world: one in the birthplace of freedom: one in a place of enlightenment: and one in a place where a Prince pondered the long sleep. Destiny keels over before he can reveal anything more, but GL uses his ring to glean more information from Destiny’s subconscious. The machines are set to go off at midnight (which will cause living nightmares all over the world and drive everyone crazy) and all three have to be deactivated at precisely the same moment. The JLAers figure they’ve puzzled out Destiny’s cryptic clues, so they split into three teams to find the nightmare machines. Superman and Hawkgirl head for Denmark, specifically Kronborg Castle, which was supposedly the model for Elsinore in Shakespeare’s Hamlet (hence Destiny’s mention of the Prince contemplating a long sleep). Supes and Hawkgirl are confronted by more nightmare creatures and Hawkgirl slips inside the castle while Superman fights them. Hawkgirl is ready to link up with the others, to coordinate the destruction of the Materioptikons, but she gets jumped by another nightmare creature. Zatanna and Red Tornado go to Gaya, in Eastern India, the place where Buddha first attained enlightenment. They’re attacked by the crowd, but smashing dream machinesmanage to fight them off without hurting them since they’re probably under Destiny’s baleful influence. Before they can get inside the shrine, they’re attacked by an animated stone creature. Green Lantern and Wonder Woman are in the birthplace of freedom, Philadelphia, and predictably run into more of Destiny’s nightmare creatures. Back at the studio, Destiny wakes up but finds himself trapped in a force cage left by Green Lantern. Destiny isn’t too worried, since it’s only five minutes to midnight. In the three locales containing the Materioptikons, the various JLAers realize that the dream creatures they’re fighting all stem from their own minds, so all they have to do is disbelieve and the creatures vanish; sounds like a saving throw to disbelieve an illusion in D&D. With the nightmares banished, the three duos coordinate and destroy their respective Materioptikons simultaneously, thus foiling Destiny’s plan. Naturally, Destiny is pissed off to be robbed of his triumph at the last second (literally … it was one second to midnight when the machines were destroyed), but he should be used to it by now.

LSH 261 coverLegion of Super-Heroes #261 – “Space Circus of Death” – Gerry Conway/Ric Estrada/John Calnan

Last issue, a bunch of Legionnaires (Brainiac 5, Phantom Girl, Star Boy, Projectra, Timber Wolf, and Mon-El) joined a space circus at the request of the owner, Aton Gissark. There had been several murders and accidents and since the circus was from Cygnus (a planet colonized by Earth centuries ago but currently not on the best terms diplomatically), Earth’s president asked the Legion to solve the killings before interstellar relations were damaged beyond repair. They thought they’d found the killer (though Brainiac 5 wasn’t convinced), a Cygnus native named Imik, but this issue opens with Imik being electrocuted as the Legionnaires try to confirm his guilt with a truth-scanner. When they look inside the scanner, they find evidence it was sabotaged, but the device used self-destructed, leaving no clues as to who planted it. Brainy points out that whoever did it must have a lot of technical expertise. The person in question is observing them from nearby (though we can’t see his face) and decides he has to killfighting night shark them since they know Imik is innocent. He runs into Clovis, the circus’s second-in-command (and another suspect for the killings) and she recognizes the killer, so he blasts her with a molecular disruptor. The Legionnaires hear her death screams and chase the killer. Timber Wolf catches him, but before he can unmask the assassin, he blasts open a cage containing a deadly Venusian Night Shark. The killer flees, leaving Timber Wolf to get pounded by the monster. Projectra distracts it and Phantom Girl uses her phasing ability to pass through the creature’s head, solidifying slightly as she does. The shock to its nervous system knocks the Night Shark out, but they’re still no closer to knowing who the killer is. Gissark has had enough of his employees getting murdered, so he decides to pack up the show and head back to Cygnus, even if that means damaging diplomatic relations with Earth. Gissark says he has a computer that he designed and built himself that tells him any delay will mean the destruction of the explosionentire circus. Brainy asks if the Legionnaires can come along on the trip back to Cygnus so they can keep working on the mystery; Gissark says he’s fine with that. As the circus convoy zooms through space, the Legionnaires size up their final suspect, a composite clown named Tyrus. Brainy isn’t convinced Tyrus is the killer; in fact, he hints that he knows who the real killer is, but does nothing to stop Star Boy and Mon-El as they trail Tyrus. They follow him out of one ship into space and see him go into another ship. As they approach, it blows up. Brainy hears the explosion and curses himself for not predicting that their enemy would strike so quickly. He tells Projecta, Phantom Girl, and Timber Wolf he knows who the killer is but didn’t expect him to strike until they reached Cygnus, since his aim is to cause a war between Cygnus and Earth. They head into space and find Star Boy and Mon-El floating unconscious but alive, protected by their spacesuit force-fields. As they help their companions, the rest of the convoy prepares to enter hyperspace, which would leave the Legionnaires stranded. Timber Wolf grabs hold of the end of the warp field’s energy chain and the others form a chain of their own behind him. They’re pulled  into hyperspace, but the experience is so overwhelming to their senses that they’re in danger of losing their minds. ProjectraGissark goes nuts creates an illusion of being on an idyllic planet to shield their senses from the mind-warping reality. The real killer comes out after them and it turns out to be … Gissark, the owner of the circus (which most of you probably figured out when he mentioned building his own computer … or maybe you figured it out before that). Phantom Girl decks him (while he’s wearing a space helmet … she must have a hell of a punch!) and he explains that although his ancestors have lived on Cygnus for centuries, the native Cygnians never rally accepted them. Gissark hates Cygnians, so he wanted to start an interstellar war by killing people while the circus was on Earth and framing Imik for it. The Legionnaires think he’s a complete asshole, but he might just be crazy; he tries to run away but ends up falling into the hyperspace trail and losing what’s left of his mind. I assume he dies, though it’s not specified, but he was a ready to start an interstellar war because of his own racism, so fuck him.

Noticeable Things:

  • Last issue, Phantom Girl was shown in a pretty sexy two-piece outfit, but she’s back to her usual costume this issue. Jeckie's T&AOn the other hand, there are several close-up shots of Projectra and half the time she looks like her tits are about to bust out of her costume; I’m thinking Estrada is a Jeckie fan.

Jonah Hex 34 coverJonah Hex #34 – “Christmas in an Outlaw Town” – Michael Fleisher/Dan Spiegle

This one starts with Hex tracking a gang of outlaws called the Boley Boys through a wintry landscape. The outlaws in question are about forty miles ahead of him, robbing a rich old dude named Dooley. Dooley is dressed like Santa Claus to give presents to kids at a nearby orphanage (something he does every year) when the Boleys invade his house. He gives them a pile of money from his safe, but they shoot him anyway. By the time Hex shows up, Dooley is being buried, but a nun tells Hex about how generous Dooley was and that his valet confirmed it was the Boleys that killed him. Hex resumes tracking the killers and finds himself approaching a ghost town called Willow Creek where he figures he can rest and water his horse. But Willow Creek is no longer a ghost town; it’s been turned into a haven for outlaws, several of whom Hex recognizes.Hex and father reunited He heads for the saloon and finds the Boley boys drinking and gambling like they haven’t a care in the world. Hex tries to bag them and starts a big brawl. Turns out carrying guns in the saloon is against the local law (probably to keep all the desperadoes from killing each other) and when the sheriff shows up, it turns out to be Jonah’s asshole father, Woodson Hex. Woodson says Jonah has broken a bunch of local laws by starting trouble and has his goofy-looking deputy (Dudley) bring Jonah to the sheriff’s office. Jonah finds out Woodson basically runs the whole town, collecting rent from outlaws to protect them from real lawmen. Besides sheriff, Woodson is also mayor, judge, and city council. He sentences Jonah to thirty days in jail for stirring shit up and when Jonah goes for his throat, Dudley conks him out. Jonah wakes up in the jail and Woodson tells him he’s got a side deal going with the Boley Boys; they’re going to rob the Transcontinental Limited train of its gold shipment. After Woodson leaves, Hex Hex blasts train robberspulls out the Bowie knife he hides in his collar and threatens to skewer Dudley if he doesn’t let him out. Dudley’s such a doofus that he trips and busts his own head open before he can get the keys. Luckily, he’s near enough for Jonah to drag him closer and use his pistol to shoot the keys off the wall. Jonah then uses his belt to snag the keys and unlock his cell. He retrieves his own pistols and heads out to stop the train robbery. When Woodson and the Boley Boys stop the train, they force the conductor to open the boxcar and the safe. But they get a shock as Jonah steps out of the safe and starts blasting. He kills all the Boleys, but Woodson begs to be spared. Jonah agrees, but says there’s a condition. Later, we see Jonah talking to the nun at the orphanage while Woodson sits surrounded by children, dressed as Santa Claus; makes sense … he already had the beard. He begs Jonah to get him out of there, but Jonah leaves him to “entertain” the kids and rides off. Poetic justice, I guess.

Noticeable Things:

  • I’m surprised none of the outlaws in the streets of Willow Creek recognized Hex; he certainly knew a lot of them on sight, and he’s a pretty well-known bounty hunter, so you’d think they would’ve recognized him and blown him away ten seconds after he rode into town.
  • When Woodson is taking Hex to the jail, they pass a couple more outlaws, one of whom Woodson addresses as “Wes”; I wonder if that’s a reference to John Wesley Hardin?
  • Wouldn’t Woodson know about Hex’s hidden Bowie knife? I’m sure he’s seen him use it before. Maybe all the booze has fucked up his memory.
  • I guess I can get why Hex doesn’t want to just kill his own father (even though he deserves it), but you’d think he’d at least throw the old man’s ass in jail.

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