Comics Reviews: JLA 178, Legion of Super-Heroes 263, Jonah Hex 36

JLA 178 coverJustice League of America #178 – “The Chess-Master of Mars” – Gerry Conway/Dick Dillin/Frank McLaughlin

Despite the title, this isn’t an Edgar Rice Burroughs pastiche, Last issue, the JLA were menaced by stylized chess pieces come to life and we found out (although they still haven’t) that it was all caused by Despero playing a cosmic chess match against ex-JLA member Martian Manhunter … except Despero is playing the JLA, so Martian Manhunter has to do his best to destroy his friends. This issue opens with the League gathering for an emergency meeting on the Satellite. Zatanna has figured out the chess angle, but doesn’t know who’s behind it. Green Arrow is skeptical about all the “cosmic gamesmanship” stuff and goes into social justice mode, saying poor people getting mugged in Star City is a more important use of his time. Before he can leave, another chess piece comes through the teleporter andtaking out the bishop attacks. This one (a Bishop) is more powerful than the earlier pieces they faced and pounds the sit out of the JLAers. Atom and Aquaman try a miniature fastball special, but the chessman’s metallic hide is too strong. Zatanna manages to protect herself with a magic force field and the chessman blasts the computer console behind her. She encases her friends in protective fields too and Aquaman manages to bust a hole in the chessman’s super-dense skin. Black Canary exploits the crack in its armour, blowing it to pieces with a Canary Cry. When Atom examines the remains, he concludes that the atomic structure of the piece follows no scientific laws he’s aware of … and since he’s a physicist, he’s pretty much aware of all of them. Zatanna says she sensed a familiar presence around the statue, something that meant them no harm despite the havoc it was wreaking. She says she senses the answer to the chessmen’s attacks lies up In the monitor room. Meanwhile, we check in with the two Atom surprises Desperograndmasters behind this cosmic death match, J’onn J’onzz (aka Martian Manhunter) and Despero. We find out why J’onn is playing this deadly game: Despero has threatened to kill not only him, but all the inhabitants of J’onn’s new home, Mars II, above which they currently orbit in Despero’s ship. Despero also has fire jets in J’onn’s chair (fire being the Martian’s big weakness), so J’onn won’t try to leap across the table and strangle him. Despero has set things up pretty well … if J’onn loses, he and everyone on Mars II dies, and if he wins it can only be by killing his friends in the JLA. J’onn chooses his next piece (a Knight) and Despero teleports the life-sized piece to the Satellite. But the Satellite is empty, a fact Despero confirms telepathically. J’onn points out that if Despero can’t field a team, he loses by default. Despero says there are other Leaguers he can use, but he’s surprised when one of the pieces on the chess board (the Atom) starts moving on his own. He’s even more surprised when Atom punches him in the face. The rest of the pieces grow to normal size, revealing they were shrunk and teleported by Zatanna’s magic to replace the pieces on Despero’sAtom slips inside the statue board. When J’onn had his Bishop destroy the computer console, it did so very selectively, wiping out all the members’ records except his own. That let Zatanna know he needed help and Superman’s telescopic vision confirmed the location. Despero still has a bunch of life-sized chessmen to use against the League, and the pieces prove to be quite a challenge again. Atom gets Superman to do another fastball special, this time at sub-microscopic size. Atom slips between the atoms of the chessmen—no, he doesn’t run into Ant Man—and sets the atoms inside the statues caroming around like pinballs. That starts a chain reaction, blowing the statues to shit. J’onn invites them all to a celebration on Mars Ii, which doesn’t sit well with Green Arrow. Why is he being such a downer? His worldview has been changing lately and he’s not sure the JLA is the right place for him anymore. We’ll get more on that next issue, as well as a brand new member.

LSH 263 coverLegion of Super-Heroes #263 – “Day of Judgment” – Gerry Conway/Jimmy Janes/Dave Hunt

This one starts with five strangers visiting the brand new Legion headquarters. The place is deserted, but they go in and look around, marveling at the statues in the Hall of Honor. We soon learn that these are Ultra Boy’s parents (Crav and Mytra Nah), Shrinking Violet’s father (Arn Digby), and Chameleon Boy and Shadow Lass’s mothers (Ji Daggle and Tarnia Tolarn, respectively). They all received invitations to the new HQ, so they’re surprised nobody is there to greet them. Actually someone is there, just not anyone they expected. A guy calling himself Dagon the Avenger (wearing some really wild green body armour) pops up and says he sent the fake invitations, and lured the Legionnaires away on a wild goose chase so he could grab their parents. The Legion parents try to fight back, but Dagon seems to be able to counter their tech, including communicators and personal force field generators. He takes them out with sleep darts one by one, until only Tarnia mom is left. She proves to be amother hunter formidable fighter and takes Dagon by surprise. She leaves her belt behind her daughter’s statue and runs for the door, but Dagon shoots her down. Later, the Legionnaires who were decoyed away by the fake distress signal (Wildfire, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Shadow Lass, Light Lass, and Tyroc) return to HQ and are pissed off about being called away for no reason. Tyroc is especially worked up, saying his people (on the island of Marzal) need him right now, so he doesn’t have time to gallivant across the galaxy on false trails. The Legionnaires quickly realize something is wrong when their security alarms don’t respond properly. (Also, the shambles in the Hall of Honor may have tipped them off.) Shadow Lass finds her mother’s belt and wonders why she’d come to HQ without any notice. They soon confirm Tarnia’s arrival on Earth, along with the other parents. Also, Wildfire, Colossal Boy, and Sun Boy’s parents (who all live on Dawnstar making friendsEarth) have disappeared too. Lightning Lad realizes they need someone to track the missing parents and Lightning Lass says she’s already made the call. In the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, Dawnstar has tracked some stranded spacefarers to one of the larger asteroids. She flies them home and gets Light Lass’s signal on the way. Speaking of Light Lass, she and Tyroc are in the Pacific Northwest back on Earth, to check with the firm that made the security devices for their new HQ. The head of the company is pissed off that R.J. Brande went bankrupt (for which he blames the Legion, even after Tyroc explains that Earth’s president stole Brande’s money), which caused most of his staff to be laid off. Light Lass figures some of the disgruntled staff might have sabotaged the security devices (including the ones the Legionnaires’ parents were carrying), so she roughs the company head up to get info on his ex-employees. Back in Metropolis, Dawnstar shows up at HQ and she and Wildfire argue a bit; he used to be hotLight Lass gets persuasive for her, but she gave him the brush-off … now she’s trying to be friendly and he’s being a dick. (if that soap opera stuff bothers you, just wait; things get way more intense between these two.) Tyroc and Light Lass return, but Tyroc gets an emergency signal from Marzal and takes off, leaving Wildfire even more pissed off at him. Light Lass says they found three ex-employees of the security company who might hold a grudge. Before they can start narrowing the list, Dagon appears in some kind of weird hologram, saying he wants a billion credits or their parents will all die. We’ll see what happens next issue.

Noticeable Things:

  • Last issue, the Legion was still working on reconstructing their headquarters, but this issue it’s finished and seemingly in pristine condition; I assume there’s a bit of a time gap between issues when everything got finished up.
  • The Legionnaires’ parents look pretty young, but I guess that’s due to all the clean living and extended lifespans in the future.
  • There’s a panel where the dialogue balloon is attributed to the wrong character; Ultra Boy’s mother talks about being from Talok VIII (which is where Shadow Lass and her family are from).
  • I like Jimmy Janes’s art … it’s got a nice line to it and the action scenes are pretty good. I wish he’d done more Legion stuff.

Jonah Hex 36 coverJonah Hex #36 – “Return to Fort Charlotte” – Michael Fleisher/Dick Ayers/Luis Dominguez

This one starts with Hex still in Painted Butte, where he brought in the Carley Brothers (or what was left of them) last issue. You’d think the town would be grateful to Hex for getting rid of scumbags like the Carleys, but the local banker isn’t too thrilled to have a “gunfighter” in town. He gets a couple of thugs to kick the shit out of Hex and toss him off the landing of the hotel. The banker tells Hex to get out of town, but the local “entertainer” (by which I mean prostitute) objects, saying Hex’s ribs are broken. The banker decides to run her out of town too; apparently hookers are just as undesirable as gunfighters in Painted Butte. Hex and the woman ride out of town, where she insists on treating his broken ribs. He’s not too grateful (maybe he doesn’t like being indebted to a woman) and she gets pissed off and tries to ride away, saying she needs to find another town to ply her trade. She rides onto a rickety wooden bridge overrope rescue a gorge that breaks when she’s halfway across. She makes like Indiana Jones and clings to the bridge while Hex tosses a rope across the gap and shinnies to her rescue. But his rope isn’t strong enough for both of them and it snaps, sending them tumbling into the gorge … which is only twenty feet or so below, so they’re not really hurt. Unfortunately, they’ve landed in the midst of the so-called Fort Charlotte Brigade. You’ll remember them from last issue, survivors of the Fort Charlotte Massacre, who blame Hex for the rest of their soldiers being wiped out. We saw the truth last issue, that it wasn’t Hex’s fault, but Quentin Turnbull (whose son was Hex’s best friend and died in the Massacre) blames Hex and organized the Brigade of survivors to seek revenge … oh, and to bring back the Confederacy someday. So now Hex is in their hands (Turnbull’s not with them, he’s back in Richmond at his fancy mansion) and the woman says wherever woman tries to escapeHex goes, she goes too. Hex’s old comrades are fine with that, knocking both of them out and dragging them back to Fort Charlotte, now abandoned. They shut Hex and the woman in the same cell he was in during the war, the one with the escape tunnel. Hex knows exactly what their game is—re-enacting the Massacre with the two of them as the targets—and tells the woman everything that happened a decade ago. Hex knows if they go out the tunnel without weapons, they’ll probably get slaughtered, though if they could make it past the Gatling guns and through the concertina wire, they’d be home free. The woman says Hex is the first man who ever did anything for her (saving her on the bridge) without expecting something in return … so now she’s going to pay him back. She then conks him on the head; hell of a way to show gratitude. Outside, the Brigade are waiting (and we find out they’ve got an extra trick of some kind planned for Hex) and they see movement near the end of the tunnel. They watch as “Hex” crawls through the mud, under the fence, and toward the guns. We soonJonah Hex 036-last page (Copy) see that it’s not Hex, but the woman wearing his clothes. She makes it past the guns and is thrilled to find an old pair of wire-cutters right near the barbed wire (which the Brigade planted there for hex to find). She cuts through the wire, thinking she’s home free, and is blown to shit by the dynamite the ex-soldiers planted on the other side. They assume it was Hex who was blown up and leave in triumph. The blast wakes Hex in his cell, but he’s not sure yet what’s going on. We see Quentin Turnbull receiving word in Richmond of Hex’s demise and thinking his son is finally avenged … though he admits Hex was a formidable adversary and he might even miss him a bit. Back at Fort Charlotte, Hex rides away after burying the woman who gave her life for his.

Noticeable Things:

  • One of the banker’s thugs comments that the hooker charges too much; I’m not surprised that these assholes are hypocrites.
  • We finally get to see Turnbull’s face, which has always been hidden before.
  • Hex gets knocked out three times in this issue; Fleisher should’ve done a story about Post-Concussion Syndrome.
  • We never learn the name of the woman who sacrificed herself—nor does Hex.

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