Comics Reviews: JLA 194, Legion of Super-Heroes 279, New Teen Titans 11, All-Star Squadron 1

JLA 194 coverJustice League of America #194 – “Destiny is a Stacked Deck” – Gerry Conway/George Perez/John Beatty

This one starts with a cloaked and hooded figure dealing out some tarot cards and musing on life and death. But six of these tarot cards are a bit different from the others … they hold images of six JLA members. One of those depicted on the card, Clark (Superman) Kent, is at a carnival in Metropolis with Lois. He’s holding a bunch of stuffed animal prizes (all won by Lois) and waits as she tries for another one. Clark’s boredom is interrupted by a fortune-teller who seems to be reading his thoughts. Clark goes into the tent and the fortune-teller introduces himself as the Hermit, the embodiment of dissimulation and corruption. In keeping with that theme, the Hermit blasts Clark’s disguise away, revealingRalph and Flash affected him as Superman, then corrupts his body magically, turning him into an old man. The Hermit says he’s merely preparing Superman for a coming confrontation. In Central City, Barry (Flash) Allen, Ralph (Elongated Man) Dibny, and Sue Dibny are out for a jog, enjoying some quality time together. A weirdo dressed like a court jester rises out of the lake and Ralph and Barry rush to investigate. Flash is intercepted by another personification of the tarot, the Magus, representing skill, diplomacy, loss and suffering. The Magus makes Flash relive the loss of his wife, which practically overwhelms his mind with grief. Ralph tries to help, but the jester (actually the Fool, who represents folly, mania, and delirium) turns Ralph into a gibbering idiot … well, more than usual. Ralph twists around like he’s drunk, babbling a Green Lantern mesmerizedbunch of crap, but he’s not so far gone that he doesn’t pull Flash out of the lake before he drowns. Out in California, Hal (Green Lantern) Jordan is testing a new jet for Ferris Aircraft when he runs into a bank of black smoke. Inside the smoke is the High Priestess, representing wisdom, mystery, and the perfect woman that all men seek. Hal is mesmerized and bails out to catch her. He comes to his senses before splattering on the ground, saving himself by changing to Green Lantern. He also keeps the jet from crashing, but feels no sense of triumph, as he’s still under the High Priestess’s spell and can only lament losing her. In Star City, Green Arrow and Black Canary are on patrol (and having an argument over the state of their relationship) when they’re attacked by the Charioteer. He takes Green Arrow out easily,Zatanna blinded which pisses Canary off enough for her to attack. Since Charioteer represents anger and hostility, Canary is playing right into his hands. He blasts her and takes off, and when Green Arrow tries to talk to Canary, her hostility is turned up to ten. On the JLA Satellite, Zatanna is on monitor duty (kvetching to herself about being single) when she’s attacked by demons sent by the tarot Devil. She tries to fight them off, but they cut right through her defenses and blind her, saying that the Devil represents darkness as well as violence. Zatanna is revived by the other JLAers a short time later and quickly learns what happened to each of them. Being an expert on magic, she has a pretty good idea of what’s going on and how to fight it. Superman punches out DeathElsewhere, we see the master of the tarot cards, Professor Amos Fortune, preparing to play his final card. He’s interrupted by the JLA, who followed the ectoplasmic trail left by his tarot figures. Fortune says he accidentally learned to animate the tarot archetypes while working on his Murphy Machine (in Superman 346), and now the Leaguers have to face his final card … Death. The JLA fight back, half-heartedly at first, but with increasing effectiveness. Zatanna told them the effects from the tarot cards were reflections of their own fears and weaknesses, so by pushing back and trying to overcome those fears, they can get rid of the effects. Superman delivers the final blow—along with one of his trademark speeches—and punches Death into oblivion. I guess the moral is that Death may be inevitable, but it needn’t be embraced; it can be defied, at least temporarily. Before they can grab Fortune, he uses his tarot deck to escape by entering one of the cards. Unfortunately, he picks the wrong one and screams right before disappearing. The JLA assumes he teleported away, but we see Fortune has entered the Tower card, which doesn’t bode well for his soul.

LSH 279 coverLegion of Super-Heroes #279 – “Castle Grimbor Must Fall” – Roy Thomas/Jimmy Janes/Frank Chiaramonte

Last issue, Grimbor wrapped energy chains around the Earth and threatened to constrict them, compressing the atmosphere and killing everyone on the planet if he wasn’t made supreme ruler and given the Legionnaires for execution. Various Legionnaires tried to invade Grimbor’s Arctic stronghold, but were caught by his clever traps. This issue opens with Lightning Lad vowing to get through and defeat Grimbor no matter what it takes. Back in Metropolis, Karate Kid and Projectra (the only two Legionnaires still at headquarters) discuss the hopeless situation and update Earth’s President Marte Allon (who just happens to be Colossal Boy’s mother) on how their fellow heroes are faring. Marte is pissed off thatLightning Lad tries to bust in she can’t do anything and takes out her frustration on her son. Wildfire decides he’s tired of sitting around and flies off to join the assault on Grimbor’s castle. Colossal Boy, Shrinking Violet, and Star Boy follow. Things are getting grim on Earth, with people looting, praying, drinking themselves stupid, and even committing suicide. Karate Kid figures he might as well head into space and try to use his power of finding a target’s weak point to shatter Grimbor’s chain. Projectra wishes him luck, but says she wants to die in her own apartment and takes off. In the Arctic, Cosmic Boy’s group (which includes Bouncing Boy, Duo Damsel, Phantom Girl, and Blok) approach Grimbor’s stronghold, followed by mysterious goofball Reflecto … who seems to have taken quite a shine to Phantom Girl. Lightning Lad tries to blast through Grimbor’s Projectra tries out the Augmatrondefenses but gets trapped just as Cosmic Boy and the others show up. Reflecto makes no secret that he’s only there to protect Phantom Girl, which pisses Cosmic Boy off, but he’s smart enough to know Reflecto’s power could come in handy. Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel speculate about Reflecto’s obsession with Phantom Girl, wondering (as I’m sure most of you have) if he might be someone they know. Cosmic Boy and Blok get inside the castle, but Grimbor uses Blok to crush Cosmic Boy. In Metropolis, we see the real reason Projectra went home; she has a machine called an Augmatron that she’s been working on for a while. The Augmatron is supposed to boost her powers, but she hasn’t tested it. Using it could be dangerous, which is why she didn’t want Karate kid to know, but with the world about to end what’s a littleKarate Kid examines the space chains extra danger? She straps in and turns the machine on, then screams in pain and keels over. In space, Karate Kid crashes his ship into the chains and bails out. He ponders the huge chains, looking for a weak spot and wondering if it’s worth risking his life on one blow to see if he can shatter them. As the atmosphere constricts, people all over Earth start passing out from not being able to breathe properly. At Grimbor’s castle, more Legionnaires attack and are taken down by Grimbor’s traps. When Phantom Girl falls, Reflecto freaks out and goes after Grimbor, but he’s caught too. Grimbor says he has a pretty good idea who Reflecto is, so he’s prepared a special trap for him … one that works against someone who can’t be super-strong and invulnerable at the same time. Hmmmm, I wonder who that Charma distracts Grimborcould be? Grimbor is distracted when his dead lover, Charma, appears and starts putting the moves on him. It’s to avenge Charma’s death that Grimbor is destroying Earth, so he’s definitely thrown off guard. He tells Charma that he’s hooked his stolen energy crystal into an old satellite network around Earth. Grimbor realizes he’s being played and decks Charma, who turns out to be Phantom Girl. Reflecto freaks and busts loose and Phantom Girl tells him Projectra was casting the Charma illusion after contacting her telepathically. Projectra sends Karate Kid a psychic message about the satellites, telling him to smash the main satellite in the network. Grimbor blasts Reflecto, but it doesn’t stop him and he decks the villain. Right before passing out, Grimbor realizes he guessed wrong … Reflecto isn’t Ultra Boy. So who is he? Reflecto says he doesn’t know himself who he really is, then keels over. In space, Karate Kid smashes the satellite which disrupts the power flow and makesReflecto decks Grimbor the chains disappear. He notes that thousands of people have died, but that’s a hell of a lot better than billions. Karate Kid heads to Grimbor’s castle and frees the trapped Legionnaires, who gather with Phantom Girl around the fallen Reflecto. She says she was hoping Reflecto was Ultra Boy, but since he used more than one power simultaneously, it can’t be him. She discovers a mask on Reflecto’s face and peels it off, revealing him to be … Superboy! But Superboy is in trouble, near death from Grimbor’s blast. We’ll have to wait until next issue to see how he recovers, how he got here and how he lost his memory.

Noticeable Things:

  • You can tell this is a Roy Thomas script by some of the smart-ass dialogue and the in jokes (like Projectra’s robot butler, whose name is Raalf 124C4U).

New Teen Titans 11 coverNew Teen Titans #11 – “When Titans Clash” – Marv Wolfman/George Perez/Romeo Tanghal

Last issue, Gar (Changeling) Logan was shot by Terminator. This issue opens with Gar’s teammates rushing him to Wonder Girl’s former home (Paradise Island) so the Amazons can use their Purple Healing Ray to save his life. Since men aren’t allowed on the Island, Wonder Girl, Raven, and Starfire take Gar to the healing chamber while the guys fly off in the Titans’ jet to look for Steve Dayton. It’s their way of doing something constructive to help Gar, since Dayton is Gar’s adoptive father and has been gone for a while. On Paradise Island, Gar is taken to the healing chamber by Hippolyte. Far below, in the bowels of Tartarus, a Titan (in the Classical sense) named Hyperion breaks free from millennia of confinement. Since Hyperion is (or was) the Sun God, he makesHyperion blasts Starfire his way to the surface to drink in the rejuvenating rays of the sun. That interrupts the Healing Ray (which is solar-powered) so Donna goes to investigate and runs into Hyperion. He takes an instant liking to her, and despite her kicking him in the face, declares that he loves her. She’s not interested until he uses his godly power to change her mind; yeah, he basically roofies her with divine power. She starts making out with him in mid-air and Starfire flies up to check things out. She’s no match for a god and gets blasted, so Raven sends her soul-self to talk to Hyperion. He’s in no mood to give up his prize, so he blasts Raven’s soul-self and teleports away with Donna. Hyperion takes Donna back to Tartarus, where he plans to free his fellow Titans. Before he can get started, Donna is blasted by the Wonder Girl pounds a cyclopsCyclopes, guardians of Tartarus. They’re supposed to ensure nobody gets out … thy obviously dropped the ball on that one, but they’re determined not to screw up again. Hyperion wastes one of them, but gets zapped by another. Donna freaks out, smashing the cyclops through a pillar of rock. Hyperion revives in time to burn the last one. He then gives Wonder Girl (and us) a crash course in Greek mythology (which Wonder Girl should already know, so I guess it’s mostly for our edification). Basically, Gaea and Uranus came from primordial Chaos and birthed Cronos and the other Titans. Cronos killed Uranus and the Titans lived in a paradise (which apparently included a lot of free love) until Cronos was told one of his children would overthrow him. He swallowed all his children except Zeus,greek mythic history who hid and eventually freed his brothers and sisters. They overthrew the Titans and trapped them in Tartarus. Hyperion sensed that his wife (and sister) Thia had somehow vanished from Tartarus, so he was left to his boredom. He managed to siphon bits of energy from recently dead people led through Tartarus by Thanatos, until he had enough power to escape. Now he wants to free his fellow Titans and take over Olympus … with Donna at his side as his new wife. She’s still under his spell, so she doesn’t object. Meanwhile, Hippolyte has gathered a volunteer army of Amazons (plus Raven and Starfire) to invade Tartarus and get Donna back. They make their way past guardians, the flaming river Phlegethon, and mystical barriers. In titans freedTartarus, Hyperion has been steadily working to free his fellow Titans and finally succeeds. Before the Elder Gods can get their bearings, the Amazons show up and demand Donna’s return. But Donna’s still under Hyperion’s spell, so she says she wants to stay with the Titans and be his wife. Hippolyte recognizes that Donna is being controlled, but can’t do anything about it. Hyperion teleports Donna and his fellow Titans away and Hippolyte figures they’ve gone to Olympus to challenge Zeus. She assumes Donna is lost to her, but a voice from above corrects her, saying that she and her warriors are needed to stand against the Titans and save humanity. Whose voice is it? Zeus? Athena? Aphrodite? We’ll find out next issue.

All-Star 1 coverAll-Star Squadron #1 – “The World on Fire” – Roy Thomas/Rich Buckler/Jerry Ordway

This one starts with Hawkman winging his way through Manhattan to the meeting room of the Justice Society. The place is deserted … well, almost deserted; Plastic Man is there and he and Hawkman have a brief scuffle before Plas says he’s looking for the JSA on President Roosevelt’s orders. Hawkman tells him that a “friend” named Wesley Dodds was supposed to keep an eye on JSA headquarters, so they head over to Dodds’s penthouse but nobody’s home. While listening to a radio broadcast, the two heroes find out about the attacks on other JSA members by various unknown menaces. (Of course, we already saw that in the All-Star Squadron preview, so we’re ahead of the game.) Hawkman tells Plas about the Monster’s unsuccessful attack on him, Atom, and Dr. Mid-Nite,Hawkman and Plastic Man fight King Bee and how their adversary aged and disappeared right before their eyes after saying the word “Degaton” … which means no more to Plastic Man than it does to Hawkman. Hawkman and Plas now know why no one’s home at Wesley’s place and figure they should head to Washington if FDR wants the JSA. As Hawkman flies across Manhattan (with Plas clinging to him) they’re attacked by another goofball baddie, King Bee. As with the other attacks, King Bee recognizes Hawkman and talks like they’ve fought before, but Hawkman has never even heard of him. Plas takes on some of King Bee’s henchmen (who disappear when defeated) and Hawkman grabs King Bee himself. But the doofus villain blows himself up, sending Hawkman plummeting to the ground. Plas grabs him and forms his body into a parachute, slowing Shining Knight and Danette capturedHawkman enough to keep him from splattering, but the impact still knocks both of them out. Near the Hawaiian Islands, Shining Knight soars over the ocean on his feathery steed, Winged Victory. He notices signs of life on an islet below, as well as a volcano that seems about to erupt, so he flies down to check it out. He meets Danette Reilly, a vulcanologist who’s there to study the strange island, which only emerged from the ocean a short time ago. Shining Knight helps her by chopping through some rock and exposing a cave. When they explore the cavern, they run into Solomon Grundy and Professor Zodiak, who take them both out pretty easily. They’re magically shackled (by Wotan, another baddie) and brought before the leader, Degaton. He introduces his partners in crime (including Sky Pirate) and laments the loss of Monster and King Bee, but says he’ll soon conquer the world. He also mentions that he’s come from the future … 1947, to be precise. Not too far away, Rod Reilly (Danette’s brother, who’s secretly thePearl harbor attack-Rod and Slugger down costumed adventurer Firebrand) and his pal Slugger Dunn are just returning to the naval base at Pearl Harbor on Oahu. They’re heading back to their ship (the Arizona) when the Japanese attack. (It’s December 7, 1941, in case you were wondering.) As chaos erupts all over the base, the two Navy men run for cover but Slugger is wounded and Rod goes back to save him. Unfortunately, Rod gets strafed by a Japanese plane and goes down too. Halfway around the world (well, across the country, anyway) in Washington, Dr. Mid-Nite and Atom are at Griffith Stadium to watch the Redskins-Eagles football game. They hear several pages for various military personnel and politicians and figure something big is up. They talk to an FBI agent who’s in contact with J. Edgar Hoover and Hawaii and learn of the surprise attack. Hoover tells them Robotman carries JSaersFDR wants them at the White House, but before they can leave, they’re joined by another “mystery man” (as Superheroes were called back then) … Robotman. He’s a relative newcomer to the game, so Atom is surprised by Robotman’s power when he busts down a steel door. (I don’t know why there was a locked steel door under a football stadium … probably just so Roy and Rich could show us Robotman’s powers.) Robotman carries Atom and Mid-Nite to the White House. At the White House, two journalists (Libby Lawrence and Johnny Chambers) literally run into each other while trying to chase down a story. The guards keep them out of the White House grounds, but they know something’s up when they see Robotman vault the fence with his two passengers and moments later, Hawkman fly in with Plastic Man. Johnny and Libby both duck into the bushes to change into their respective superhero identities, Johnny Quick and Liberty Belle. But the guards won’tLiberty Belle gets a hand from Johnny Quick let Belle in, since their name isn’t on the guest list, so Johnny speeds them past so fast the guards assume he’s the Flash, since they assume nobody else can move that fast. Johnny and Liberty Belle get on each other’s nerves immediately (which you know means they’ll end up getting it on), and they both figure out each other’s secret identities. (Given the circumstances, they’d have to be stupid not to.) Plastic Man vouches for Johnny Quick and Liberty Belle, saying the FBI cleared them a while ago; knowing Hoover, I guess that means they’re not Socialists. The heroes go in to meet FDR, who tells them about Pearl Harbor and says more attacks in the Pacific may be imminent. The heroes are ready to attack Japan, but the President says he wants all the mystery men in America to form one organization, an All-Star Liberty Belle powers upSquadron, that takes orders only from him. The heroes agree (somewhat reluctantly, since they’d rather go on the attack) and FDR says he wants them to head out to California in case the Japanese decide to attack the mainland. Before leaving, Liberty Belle calls her friend Tom Revere in Philadelphia and asks him to ring the actual Liberty Bell. The peals ring through the phone, making her belt buckle glow and imbuing her with some kind of power. That night in San Francisco, Per Degaton launches Japanese Zeros from a high-tech submarine toward the mainland. Degaton tells the captive Shining Knight and Danette Reilly that December 7, 1941 will live in infamy not just because of Pearl Harbor, but because he’s going to conquer the world just as he’s already conquered time itself. We’ll see if he succeeds next issue.

Noticeable Things:

  • Plastic Man realizes Wesley Dodds must be the civilian identity of a JSA member, but Hawkman plays dumb and doesn’t let him know that Dodds is Sandman.
  • Plastic Man makes a comment on how rich Wes Dodds must be to afford “one of those new-fangled television sets”.
  • Roy throws in numerous topical references, as usual: Danette compares Shining Knight to Douglas Fairbanks; we see Sammy Baugh at the football game; Libby says Johnny is no Cary Grant; and Atom equates Robotman with Karel Capek’s robots from R.U.R..
  • In 1941 Hawaii was an extra half hour behind the standard time zones, so when the Pearl Harbor attacks started just before 8:00 AM local time, it was almost 1:30 in the afternoon on the East Coast.
  • When Johnny and Libby first meet, he thinks back about her personal history, much of which is public knowledge; Libby is a famous reporter who was in Poland when the Germans attacked (and where her father was killed by a bomb) and she escaped, keeping one step ahead of the Nazis as they pushed west and sending reports the whole time. She finally escaped from Dunkirk by swimming the English Channel, which made her an instant celebrity and got her a radio show in addition to her newspaper column.

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