Comics Reviews: JLA 195, Legion of Super-Heroes 20, New Teen Titans 12, All-Star Squadron 2

JLA 195 coverJustice League of America #195 – “Targets on Two Worlds” – Gerry Conway/George Perez/John Beatty

I had this three-parter when I was a kid and it’s one of my favourite JLA stories (actually, it’s one of my favourite comics stories) and definitely my favourite JLA/JSA crossover. Judging by what I’ve heard from other comics fans, I’m not alone. Over half of this issue deals with the “recruitment” process, showing the gathering of two sets of villains, one on each Earth. We start on Earth-2 with the Monocle, now retired from villainy. This scene actually addresses the old question about why super-villains don’t turn their talents toward legitimate ends instead of crime; apparently the Monocle has used his knowledge of laser optics to build a successful company and make a lot of money. But I guess being rich isn’t all it’sSignalman recruited cracked up to be, as we see him complaining (aloud, even though he’s alone) that he’s bored and feeling nostalgic for his life of crime. Conveniently, a mysterious figure has a great way to relieve his boredom … get back into crime! The recruitment drive continues on Earth-1, with Signalman escaping from a hospital. The coincidences really pile up here, as Signalman escapes by climbing down the big neon sign outside, shorting out letters as he goes; luckily for him, the name of the hospital is St. Ignatius Loyola, so he’s able to spell SIGNAL. Anyway, he’s picked up by Killer Frost, who seems to be in charge of recruiting on Earth-1, and invited to join a revamped Secret Society of Super-Villains. The scene shifts back and forth between the two Earths as we see more bad guys join the team. On Earth-2, Psycho Pirate Cheetah wastes her attackersbreaks out of jail (why is he kept in a regular cell, where anyone can see him? Shouldn’t he be kept behind some kind of opaque barrier?). On Earth-1, Cheetah almost gets assaulted by three guys (they said they only wanted a kiss, but the art makes their intentions pretty clear), but she slices them up before joining Killer Frost. Back on Earth-2, Rag Doll robs a bank (after mailing himself to the manager in a box), and gets help with his escape from Psycho Pirate and Monocle, as well as the mysterious figure who’s been assembling the Earth-2 villains. He’s shown to have a hairy paw… now who could that be? On Earth-1, Killer Frost and friends talk Floronic Man into joining them (and he gets an angst-ridden speech about how he’s no longer human but not fully vegetable-matter either, so he feels like a freak). On Earth-2, theMist kills old gang members Mist kills a couple of his old gang members in revenge for letting him go to jail alone. He is asked to join the Secret Society immediately afterward, by a large, furry, apelike… actually, I’m not sure why they’re drawing out the mystery of the new Society’s leader, since it’s revealed in this same issue. I guess Gerry just wanted it to seem more dramatic. Anyway, back on Earth-1, the four villains go to a secret base and meet Brainwave, who’s using his illusion powers to look young and buff instead of his usual short, bald, wrinkly self. They travel through a dimensional transporter to Earth-2 (remember when it used to be difficult to transport between the Earths?) and meet the leader of this little conspiracy, who turns out to be … the Ultra-Humanite! Since Signalman doesn’t know who that is, Mist helpfully recounts to him (and us) Ultra’s history: his longstanding enmity with the Ultra Humanite revealedEarth-2 Superman, his ability to switch his consciousness into other bodies, and the fact that his latest mind-switch was into the body of a gigantic albino ape; (Irwin Donenfeld would be proud.) The newly furry Ultra-Humanite explains that each of the super-villains he’s chosen has a counterpart, a favorite enemy, and if these ten particular superheroes are sent to Limbo, it’ll cause a cosmic imbalance, eliminating ALL superheroes from either Earth-1 or Earth-2. The villains, figuring they have a 50/50 chance of ridding their world of all its superheroes, agree to Ultra’s plan. Finally, we see the stars of the book, the JLA and JSA, at one of their annual reunions. There are a few cool character bits: Earth-1’s Batman tellingJLA and JSA hanging out Huntress she looks more like her mother every year; the two Supermen chatting like old friends; and of course, Firestorm trying to put the moves on Power Girl (and getting nowhere). Some of the heroes express surprise that nothing has happened to disrupt this year’s meeting, which is always a bad omen. After everyone has left (I find it fascinating that the JLA Satellite exists only on Earth-1, but can beam the JSA back to Earth-2; was this ever explained? Maybe Dr. Fate had something to do with it), Black Canary is left alone on monitor duty. The Mist exploits a security bug in the transporter and sneaks aboard the Satellite to attack Canary. He beats her by turning himself intangible, which is a new power for him (he could previously turn transparent, but was still solid.) On Earth-2, Monocle takes out Hawkman with a remote-controlled monocle. And back on Earth-1, Wonder Woman poundedCheetah attacks Wonder Woman near the Washington Monument and really pounds the crap out of her. Apparently Cheetah blames Wonder Woman for (supposedly) leaving her to drown in WW #275, and she’s a little miffed about it… or maybe a little psychotic. So the bad guys have successfully taken down three of the ten superheroes that they’re gunning for. At the end of this issue we see Ultra-Humanite gloating to himself, and we find out that it really isn’t a toss-up as to which Earth will lose it’s superheroes … it’s definitely Earth-2, and Ultra knew that all along. The leader of a group of super-criminals has his own agenda? I’m shocked! We’ll see how his plan proceeds next issue.

Noticeable Things:

  • There’s a great centerfold by Perez showing the two teams posing opposite each other. (Click for a larger view.)JLA/JSA centerfold

LSH 280 coverLegion of Super-Heroes #280 – “O Call Back Yesterday” – Roy Thomas/Jimmy Janes/Bruce Patterson

Last issue, the Legion defeated Grimbor and stopped him from killing everyone on Earth, but they wouldn’t have been able to beat him without the help of the powerful but mysterious Reflecto. Going by certain clues (he only seemed to use one power at a time, he’s hung up on Phantom Girl) they assumed he was actually their (supposedly dead) teammate, Ultra Boy. But they discovered Reflecto is actually Superboy, and he’s not in great shape after being blasted by Grimbor’s energy cannon. Phantom Girl is disappointed, since she’d gotten her hopes up thinking Reflecto might be Ultra Boy. But Superboy has some kind of amnesia and insists that he is Ultra Boy, even though everyone can see he’s not. Saturn Girl mentions sensing Ultra Boy’s thoughts while they were fighting the pirates, andColossal Boy and his mom apologizes for not telling Phantom Girl, saying she didn’t want to raise false hope. Mon-El figures out a great way to test who “Reflecto” really is, and decks him. Superboy comes right back at him, which proves he can’t be Ultra Boy, since he uses more than one power simultaneously while attacking Mon-El. That makes Superboy doubt his own mind (which keeps telling him he’s Ultra Boy) and he agrees to go back to Legion Headquarters for testing. The people of Metropolis hail the Legionnaires as heroes for saving them; even Colossal Boy’s mother, (and Earth’s new President) Marte Allon, drops her serious pose and welcomes her son with a hug. At Legion HQ, a meeting of the entire roster is called to figure out what’s going on with Superboy. Saturn Girl mentions the hypnotic suggestion she gave him (in issue 259) so that he’d big meeting of Legionnairesstay in the 20th Century and not visit the future again; that was to protect him from the pain of knowing how Ma and Pa Kent died, which he’d feel over and over every time he came to the future. That doesn’t explain how Superboy got amnesia, nor how Ultra Boy’s mind got superimposed on his. Phantom Girl asks a question she thinks only Ultra Boy would know (about some sexy times they had a while back) and Superboy answers correctly (and offers to supply additional details). Lightning Lad suggests they should check in the 20th Century, since that’s where Superboy was headed last time they saw him. In addition to himself and Superboy, Lightning Lad brings Saturn Girl, Karate Kid, Dawnstar, and Blok (I’m sure those last two will blend in seamlessly), and Phantom Girl invites herself along. The time bubble is set to appear in the 20th Century one second after Superboy left, and in the same place. Unfortunately, it materializes inside a nuclear explosion. Superboy quicklyLegion pounds soldiers creates a vortex that funnels the deadly radiation into space, but he wonders why an atomic bomb test would be taking place above ground. He goes to ask the nearby soldiers, but they start shooting at him, saying he’s the one who brought the nuke above ground before he disappeared. Naturally, Superboy doesn’t remember doing that and Lightning Lad’s not in the mood to play Twenty Questions with the Army, so the Legionnaires pound the soldiers and take off. They go to Clark Kent’s house in Smallville, where (fortuitously) his parents are out of town. On TV, they see Superboy zooming in to disrupt the atomic underground test, bringing the nuke to the surface where it went off, then disappearing and reappearing with the Legion in the time bubble. Superboy doesn’t remember any of that and can’t figure out why he’d endanger grabbed by Time Trapperpeople by bringing a nuke to the surface just as it was about to be detonated. Lightning Lad says they need to head back to the future to get proper clothing and fake IDs so they can move around in the 20th Century without being chased by the Army. But when they try to go back to the future, the time bubble starts shaking apart and Superboy barely manages to toss it into outer space before it explodes. They’re wondering what the hell happened when they’re shanghaied to a nether-realm by their old enemy, the Time Trapper. Time Trapper says he’s taking advantage of their situation to trap them in the 20th Century, so he’ll have an easier time conquering the 30th Century. He sends them back to Smallville before they can attack him. Superboy and Lightning Lad assume Time Trapper isn’t responsible for Superboy’s memory problems, or his strange behaviour at the atomic bomb test, since Trapper said he was just taking advantage of circumstances. But that leaves them no closer to solving the mysteries, plus now they’re stuck in the 20th Century … and with Time Trapper’s manipulations, they probably can’t hope for rescue from any of their fellow Legionnaires from the future. We’ll have to wait to see how they get out of this one, and what’s going on with Superboy. In the meantime, check out the cool Staton/Smith centerfold!(You can click for a larger view, as usual.)Legion centerfold

Noticeable Things:

  • Just after Lightning Lad’s team heads into the past, we see a Bat-shaped shadow approaching Legion HQ. That’s Batman about to make an appearance in the 30th Century, which he does in Brave & the Bold 179. That also explains the absence of some Legionnaires during that story.
  • Time Trapper was last seen in the Legion Collector’s Edition (1978) where Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl got married. Trapper was hurled into another dimension in that story, but managed to use his powers to travel through other dimensions until he found one that suited his schemes.

New Teen Titans 12 coverNew Teen Titans #12 – “Clash of the Titans” – Marv Wolfman/George Perez/Romeo Tanghal

Last issue, Hyperion the Titan broke out of his prison in Tartarus and freed his fellow Titans, who want to usurp Zeus and the other Olympians (who are also the Titans’ children). The Titans’ leader, Cronus, says they want to bring about a golden age in Olympus and on Earth, and Donna (Wonder Girl) Troy is helping them. (It’s pretty obvious that Hyperion used his godly powers to make Wonder Girl fall in love with him, but of course she doesn’t know that.) Hippolyte and the other Amazons, aided by Raven and Starfire (who were with Donna on Paradise Island trying to cure Gar Logan’s wounds from his fight with Terminator a couple issues back), oppose the Titans but aren’t sure if they’re strong enough to fight them … or if they even should. As this issue opens, Athena appears and tells the Amazons that the Titans’ time is finished and they can’t bring about a new golden age, they can only cause death and destruction, on Earth as well as in Olympus. The Titans (and Wonder Girl) make their way to Olympus, where they have short preliminary fights with the Seasons and the Furies before gearing up for the main event.godfight It’s quite the Royal Rumble, with gods and goddesses beating the shit out of each other. Wonder Girl contributes too, knocking Ares around and pounding Cerberus, though she still has some doubts about whether she’s doing the right thing. The Titans end up prevailing, with Cronus using his power to encase the Olympian gods in stone. Cronus tells Zeus that heDonna argues for peace and love should’ve ushered in an age of peace and prosperity on Earth, and if humans aren’t willing to embrace that ideal, he’ll “lead them to it” … which sounds like Cronus is going to subjugate humans to make their lives better. Cronus is ready to kill the Olympians to insure they don’t rise up against the Titans again, but Donna argues that they can’t begin an era of peace and love by killing their enemies. The Amazons show up with Athena, who gives them a vision of what Earth would be like under Cronus’s rule … humans would be his subjects, surrounded by peace and beauty but robbed of their free will. Donna isn’t too thrilled about that and gets even more upset when Raven points out that Hyperion is using his powers to compel her love. Cronus gets tired of arguing and the Titans attack. The Amazons fight valiantly, but Raven knows only Zeus can stop the fight for good, so she and Starfire tries to free ZeusStarfire work on Zeus’s stone prison while Donna stops Hyperion from killing Hippolyte. Zeus is freed and tells Cronus it’s time to end the fight. Athena (being the Goddess of Wisdom) lays some wise words on everyone about how the mantle must be passed down the generations. The Titans aren’t thrilled to be going back to Tartarus, but they know they can’t stay in Olympus and there’s really nowhere else for them to go. Starfire suggests they fight to turn Tartarus into the paradise they’ve been imagining. Hyperion is despondent about losing Donna, but Cronus tells him she was never really his to begin with, and that forcing Donna to love him is just as wrong as Cronus forcing human to worship him. Cronus restores Donna’s mortality,Donna restored to normal freeing her from Hyperion’s power. She tells Hyperion that he did inspire love in her, but they can’t be together. After freeing the other Olympians, the Titans head back to Tartarus and the Amazons return to Paradise Island. Donna takes off right away, leaving Raven and Starfire to take care of Gar. The healing ray works and Gar revives, but he seems to be having some very homicidal thoughts. Back in New York, Donna goes to see her boyfriend, Terry Long, needing to be with someone who genuinely loves her.

Noticeable Things:

  • During the fight on Olympus, Starfire says she’s tired of getting her ass kicked and that she needs to return to Tamaran for more training with the Warlords of Okaara. Sounds like a set-up for a future storyline.

All-Star Squadron 2 coverAll-Star Squadron #2 – “The Tyrant Out of Time” – Roy Thomas/Rich Buckler/Jerry Ordway

Last issue, President Franklin Roosevelt told a number of mystery men (as super-heroes were known in the 1940s) to form an All-Star Squadron after Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese. Roosevelt wants every costumed hero to join the Squadron, including all the members of the Justice Society, but so far it’s just the seven heroes who happened to show up at the White House: Hawkman, Dr. Mid-Nite, Atom, Liberty Belle, Johnny Quick, Robotman, and Plastic Man. They’re all ready to go look for the JSA members who were kidnapped (also last issue) by various super-villains, but Roosevelt asks them to head to the West Coast in case the Japanese try to attack the mainland. The heroes leave, being mistaken forstopping robbers in Washington the JSA by some reporters, and head for a nearby air base. On the way, they run into a gang of armed thieves trying to take advantage of the confusion and chaos sown across the country by Pearl Harbor. The super-heroes make short work of the crooks; I’m thinking this was just Roy’s way of showing the powers and abilities of these particular characters. They take off for the West Coast in a military transport, with Hawkman and Liberty Belle at the controls. They start chatting and decide to reveal their identities to each other; seems a bit quick, but is wartime, so I guess trust is a more precious commodity than ever. It also gives Roy a chance to go over each hero’s origin story for younger readers who weren’t so well-versed in Robotman and Atom originsthese vintage heroes; I’ll just recap each briefly. Hawkman goes first, revealing he’s actually Carter Hall, wealthy socialite and antique collector. He became Hawkman after finding out he was the reincarnation of ancient Egyptian Prince Khufu and developing a special anti-gravity metal that allows him to fly. Liberty Belle tells everyone that she’s Libby Lawrence, famous newswoman, and that she adopted her costumed identity after her father was killed in Poland in the early days of the war. She used to get vibrations through a device on her belt from the actual Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, which her friend Tom Revere would ring to let her know she was needed. But on a whim she called Tom before leaving the White House to have him ring the Bell and its vibrations have amped up herJohnny Quick and Dr Mid-Nite origins adrenaline somehow, making her faster and stronger than usual. Plastic Man admits he used to be a crook named Eel O’Brien, but when a robbery at a chemical plant went bad, he ended up recuperating in a monastery. The monks healed his wound (which had been splashed with some kind of acid) and convinced him to leave his life of crime behind, but the acid in his wound gave him stretching powers. He’s been acting as a hero for a while now and recently became the FBI liaison with the White House … and now with the All-Star Squadron. Robotman goes next, telling everyone how he was scientist Robert Crane, whose brain was put into a robot body he’d invented after Crane was shot by thieves. Atom tells everyone that he’s really Al Pratt, who doesn’t have any super-powers but trained and worked his ass off to go from being a 98-pound weakling to a fighting dynamo. Johnny Per Degaton taunts Danette and Shining KnightQuick reveals that he’s Johnny Chambers, newsreel photographer, and his super-speed comes from a formula discovered by a professor friend. Dr. Mid-Nite rounds things out, telling the others that he’s really Charles MacNider, a physician who was blinded in an attack but ended up being able to see perfectly in the dark … and thanks to some special goggles, he can see during the day too. As they reach San Francisco, they see that Roosevelt was right, the Japanese are attacking the mainland. Obviously, that’s not what happened in the history that we all know, but our history didn’t have Per Degaton interfering with it. We see Degaton on what looks like a cross between a submarine and an aircraft carrier sending a fleet of Japanese planes to bomb San Francisco. On the sub-carrier, Degaton holds Shining Knight and a civilian vulcanologist named Danette Reilly hostage. ShiningPer Degaton origin Knight wonders why Degaton is doing all this and the villain (rather obligingly) recounts his story. Earlier that year (1941), the JSA had saved a group of scientists from being kidnapped and learned they were working on a way to visit the future to find the formula for a shield that would be impenetrable to all explosives. Degaton worked with the scientists, but they always treated him with disdain (or so he thought), so when the JSA brought the formula back from the future, Degaton sabotaged the bomb shield, making sure it was never adopted by the military. Degaton stayed on as assistant to Professor Zee, who was working on another time machine. Zee knew that altering events in the past could have repercussions in the present, and more of Degaton's past machinationsDegaton knew that too, so he shot Zee and used the time machine to go back and alter history so he could return and rule Earth in the present. The JSA beat him (with help from Professor Zee, who survived the shooting) and because of time-travel paradoxes, everyone forgot what had happened. But Degaton began having dreams about time travel and eventually his memory returned. He beat Zee to death this time (taking no chances, I guess) and went a few decades into the future, where he saw wonders he’d never dreamed of. He figured trying to conquer that time period would be pointless, so he returned to 1947 and tried to think up a way to alter the course of World War II to suit his own ends. He kept running up against obstacles (Hitler just wouldn’t see sense, imagine that), and a time storm between 1939 and 1941 meant he couldn’t change events leading up to theDanette and Shining Knight get loose War, so he finally calculated his optimal move … getting Japan to attack the mainland so the Americans concentrate their early war efforts on Japan instead of in Europe, as it played out in real history. If Degaton can force U.S./Japan and England/Russia/Germany stalemates, he can rule the world (with a little help from his future tech) by 1947. And to make sure the JSA can’t stop him again, he’s brought some of their foes from the future (Solomon Grundy, Wotan, Professor Zodiak, and the others we saw last issue) to take the heroes down. Danette uses Shining Knight’s enchanted sword to free herself from Wotan’s mystic bonds, then frees Shining Knight who prepares to fight a Phantom lady helps fight looterspissed off Solomon Grundy. In San Francisco, the approach of the Japanese planes (led by another of Degaton’s time-lost minions, Sky Pirate) causes panic and all the lights are doused. Debutante Sandra Knight is with her father (a senator) but quickly ducks away to change to her costumed identity of Phantom Lady. The All-Star Squadron’s plane shows up during the raid and Sky Pirate figures it’ll make a hell of a bang if he can down it in San Francisco. The Squadron has other ideas, abandoning the plane to drop into the Bay and splitting into two groups. Atom, Plastic Man, Liberty Belle, and Dr. Mid-Nite glide to the darkened streets (with Plas as the glider), while Hawkman, Robotman, and Johnny Quick go after the attacking planes. The contingent on the ground stops some looters taking advantage of theHawkman, Robotman, and Johnny Quick fight planes blackout (with a little help from Phantom Lady). The airborne squad destroys the Japanese planes, though all the Japanese pilots seem to be in some kind of trance. Robotman finds Sky Pirate and threatens to let him fall unless he tells Robotman what the hell’s going on. Sky Pirate spills his guts but ends up going into the Bay with his plane as Hawkman plucks Robotman off just before impact. Per Degaton is watching on a monitor and realizes his attack on the JSA hasn’t eliminated all opposition to his plans. He doesn’t seem worried though, and punches a button labeled “Volcanic Isle Detonator”. What does it do? We’ll have to wait until next issue to find out.

Noticeable Things:

  • Per Degaton’s first meeting with the JSA when they went to the future to get the bomb shield formula took place in All Star Comics # 10, in 1941.
  • Degaton’s attempt to rule the present by altering the past was in All Star Comics #35, in 1947.
  • Degaton mentions catching a glimpse of an alternate world where the Axis powers won WW II, which is a reference to the Earth-X story in JLA 107-108.

 

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