Comics Reviews: JLA 180, Legion of Super-Heroes 265, Jonah Hex 38

JLA 180 coverJustice League of America #180 – “A Beautiful Evil” – Gerry Conway/Dick Dillin/Frank McLaughlin

Last issue Ronnie (Firestorm) Raymond, newest member of the JLA, went with some friends to the penthouse of model Sabrina Sultress to investigate a classmate’s disappearance. Firestorm got inside, but was jumped by Sultress, who has some kind of mesmeric power. He managed to send an emergency signal, so this issue opens with the JLA busting into the penthouse. The place is empty, but Zatanna senses an evil presence and they’re attacked by a fire demon. Superman gets slapped down, so Batman and Black Canary distract the demon long enough for Zatanna to cage it with her magic. Black Canary finds Sabrina Sultress’sanxious guard modeling portfolio and they realize this is her place. Batman reminds them Sabrina’s nickname is the Satin Satan, which seems to fit with the demon attack. They hear someone at the door and brace themselves for a fight, but it turns out to be Ronnie’s friends (Doreen Day, Cal Remington, and Cliff Carmichael) with a security guard who’s shaking worse than a dog shitting razor blades. Green Arrow disarms the guard before he accidentally kills someone and Doreen explains that they (and Ronnie) are looking for Cal’s brother, who left a club with Sabrina Sultress last issue, but now Ronnie’s disappeared too. I don’t think any of the JLA know Ronnie is Firestorm at this point. The JLA search the penthouse, but find nobody, so they try to interrogate the demon. It destroys itself rather than spill any secrets, but its ramblings convince Zatanna that it came from Hell. Carmichael is ready to cut out at this Zatanna reveals Satin Satanpoint, but Doreen threatens him into staying. Zatanna tracks the demonic emanations to a roller-disco called Hell on Wheels, but when Green Arrow tries to get in, he runs into something worse than a velvet rope … a bunch of steel statues come to life. The Leaguers tackle the statues and Zatanna casts a spell that reveals Satin Satan and two steely guards holding a chained Firestorm in the middle of the club. Zatanna focuses moonlight through a magic magnifying glass and that shatters Satin Satan’s protective bubble and melts Firestorm’s chains. Apparently, Satin Satan was intrigued when her kiss didn’t affect Firestorm the way it did other men (probably because of his dual nature with Professor Stein), so she kept him around to study. She’s regretting that impulse now, as he busts loose from her chains and notices that the “steel statues” the JLA are fighting resemble the men who have disappeared from the clubs. He uses his transmutation power to return them to normal, which drives some kind of evil spirits from their bodies. Satin Satan tries to run, but Red TornadoSabrina cured grabs her. She claims to be Sataroth, daughter of Satanni, but Zatanna casts a spell to drive Sataroth out of Sabrina’s body. She thanks them for getting rid of the evil entity and its influence on her, and Zatanna says she’ll cast a spell so Sataroth can never use Sabrina again. The others congratulate Firestorm on a wild first adventure with the League, but Green Arrow isn’t happy to be wasting time on ghosts and demons instead of helping regular people with real problems. Right at the end, Sabrina has a sly smile on her face, hinting that maybe she’s not cured of her possession after all (or wasn’t really possessed to begin with), but this dangling plot thread was never followed up on, and I don’t think Sabrina ever appeared again.

LSH 265 coverLegion of Super-Heroes #265 – “The Brigadoon Syndrome” – Gerry Conway (plot), J.M. DeMatteis/Jim Janes/Dave Hunt

Last issue, Dawnstar and Shadow Lass went to see Tyroc on the island of Marzal to ask for his help. He freaked out and told them to leave before it was too late, but Marzal disappeared into another dimension, stranding Tyroc and the two Legionnaires for a couple of centuries. Tyroc plucks them from the dimensional ether before they get blasted and uses his power to teleport down to Marzal. He then proceeds to tell them Marzal’s origin story; it’s pretty goofy (and somewhat racist in the end), but I’ll try to sum it up for you. Tyroc’s ancestors lived on Earth during the time of the Slave Trade. One slaver ship ran into a storm and had trouble getting through and one of the slaves (St’balla) used the confusion to lead a revolt. The slaves killed all the slavers and took over the ship, which ended up on a tropical island. They decided to settle there, butMarzal's story begins were startled not long after when the entire island slipped through a dimensional rift to some kind of netherworld. The slaves figured it was their gods’ way of protecting them from the white devil, so they called the place Marzal (meaning “freedom”) and lived there peacefully. Their society seems to have developed much as Earth’s did—some kind of parallel social evolution or something—but 200 years later, Marzal popped back through the rift into the real world. It stayed there for thirty years, then went back to the netherworld for another two centuries, and so on, repeating the cycle over and over like the mythical town of Brigadoon in the stage musical. Tyroc was born on Marzal while it was still in the nether-realm and he was some kind of mutant,  developing his weird sonic powers as he grew up and becoming Marzal’s champion. When Marzal Marzal returns to realitypopped back to Earth the latest time, Tyroc (and many other Marzalians) grew to love living in the “real world”, and Tyroc enjoyed the acceptance and friendship he found in the Legion. Dawnstar points out that it can’t have been thirty years since Marzal appeared on Earth, so why has it gone back to the nether-dimension? Tyroc speculates that his power must draw energy from somewhere and he figures it’s probably from the space-time barrier between dimensions. So by using his power, he’s weakened the barrier and caused Marzal to go back prematurely. He’s worried if he uses his power any more, he might destroy Marzal completely. Dawnstar says he could destroy the barrier permanently, allowing Marzal to remain in Earth’s dimension forever, but Tyroc says his people wouldn’t want to give up their nether-realm for good. He figures he might be able to rip a hole in the barrier so Dawnstar could find her way back, though. He gets them into inter-dimensional space and worries he might not be able to open aTyroc sends Dawnstar and Shadow Lass home rift, but Shadow Lass gives him a pep talk and he does it. Dawnstar leads Shady through the breach and back to Earth, where they pop up in Legion headquarters. Dawnstar prepares to explain what happened to Tyroc, but speculates that they haven’t seen the last of him. But other than a brief appearance in Secrets of the Legion, this is it for Tyroc, at least pre-Crisis. It’s probably for the best; I know DC was trying to be progressive when they created him, but their attempt at inclusivity was clumsy at best. Between the costume, the name, and the fact that the citizens of Marzal were living (by choice!) in the 30th Century version of a ghetto, the whole concept was flawed from the start. No wonder Tyroc hardly got any appearances. Probably better to get rid of him until they can come up with something less offensive.

Jonah Hex 38 coverJonah Hex #38 – “Iron Dog’s Gold” – Michael Fleisher/Dan Spiegle

This one starts with Hex seeing an old Native American man being shot and falling off a cliff into the lake. Hex rescues the old man (who he recognizes as Iron Dog, Cree chief), but it’s too late. Iron Dog dies, after giving Hex a piece of elkskin and telling him to destroy it. Hex sees there’s a stylized map drawn on the elkskin and recognizes some of the features, but before he can study it too closely, he’s held up by the guys who shot Iron Dog. Turns out Iron Dog’s killer is an old nemesis of Hex’s named Hoby Callender. Callender is looking for a fabled Indian burial ground that’s simply chock full of gold nuggets. He even has a blind old prospector (who looks like Gabby Hayes) who claims to have seen the burial ground before going blind. Hex realizes the map must lead to the gold, so he grabs one of Callender’s men as a shield and tosses the map in the lake.Hex takes out ambushers Now Callender has to keep Hex alive, since he’s the only one who’s seen the map. Callender’s not happy (and takes out his frustration by shooting one of his own men), but sees the wisdom in keeping Hex alive—without his guns, of course. As they move on, the old prospector tells Hex his story: he was looking for gold and chased his runaway mule across a rope bridge into a hidden canyon where gold nuggets were lying all over the place. But the Indians caught him, put his eyes out, and chased him out of the valley. He’s been trying to find it ever since (with help from his grandson) and finally fell in with Callender, who offered to split the gold 50/50 with him. Hex says he’s an idiot if he thinks Callender will give up half the gold; look how he dealt with Iron Dog when he refused to sell his map. A couple of Indians ambush the party, killing several of Callender’s men. Hex volunteers to circle around the mesa and deal with hem, but Callender won’t give him a gun, telling him to use the Bowie knife he always keeps in his collar. Hex manages to kill the two ambushers, but his luck runs bad as one of them takes his rifle with him when Hex tosses him off the cliff and the other guy’s rifle is Callender shotempty. Hex leads them to the rope bridge, which tells Callender and the prospector they must be on the right trail. More Indians show up to attack so Hex’s party lead their horses over the bridge as fast as they can. Callender gets impatient and cuts the bridge when some of his men are still on it, sending them and the Indians down to their deaths. Now it’s just Callender, Hex, the prospector, and his grandson. They scale a wall with footholds cut into the rock and descend into the hidden canyon, where the prospector’s story turns out to be true; there really are gold nuggets lying all over the place. Callender shows his true colours and shoots the old man and the grandkid, but his shots start a rockslide. He and Hex scramble up the canyon wall and Callender is about to blow Hex away when the prospector’s grandson shoots Callender with his dying breath. Hex climbs out of the canyon, leaving iron Dog’s gold buried under the rocks, and rides off (though I’m not sure where he went since the rope bridge wasn’t there anymore).

Noticeable Things:

  • Would the elkskin map perish when Hex threw it in the water? It should be durable enough to stand a soaking, and anyway, wouldn’t it float? Maybe the water destroyed the markings painted on the map.
  • It’s said that Iron Dog is a Cree chief. Most Cree lived (and still do) in Canada, but there were some in the northern states, so this story presumably takes place in Montana, the Dakotas, or Minnesota.
  • The whole thing with the lost valley of Indian gold and the blind prospector is reminiscent of many Old West legends, especially the Lost Dutchman’s Mine, though that was in California as far as I know.

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