Comics Reviews: JLA 196, Legion of Super-Heroes 281, New Teen Titans 13, All-Star Squadron 3

JLA 196 coverJustice League of America #196 – “Countdown to Crisis” – Gerry Conway/George Perez/Romeo Tanghal

Last issue, the JLA and JSA were beset by a new Secret Society of Super-Villains led by Ultra-Humanite. Ultra-Humanite has told his minions (a mix of villains from Earth-1 and Earth-2) that if a certain set of superheroes are sent to Limbo, that’ll result in the disappearance of all super-heroes from one of the Earths. Since the villains figure they have even odds of eliminating heroes from their Earth, they’re all in; what they don’t know is that Ultra-Humanite is lying to them … he knows exactly which Earth will lose its heroes—the one he inhabits. This issue consists mostly of fight scenes showing the villains taking down the superheroes of the two Earths. Psycho Pirate beats Hourman; of course, Hourman is smart enough not to look directly at Psycho Pirate, so PiratePsycho irate captures Hourman needs a little help from one of Ultra-Humanite’s devices, a psycho prism. It reflects Psycho Pirate’s sleepy-face all over the room, so Hourman can’t avoid seeing it, and promptly goes night-night. Signalman uses flashing lights to turn a crowd against Batman (although the post-Crisis Batman might have just pounded them all into submission.) Rag Doll gets Flash (Jay Garrick) with an explosive, while Floronic Man takes out Atom (Ray Palmer) with some soporific pollen. Brainwave takes down Johnny Thunder (and his T-Bolt) by luring him to a clothing store (where Johnny almost updates his look!) and faking him out with an illusion. Firestorm goes after the newly escaped Killer Frost, but gets done in by his own Ultra Humanite surprises Supermanoverconfidence when she brings the ceiling down on his head. Finally, Ultra-Humanite lures the Earth-2 Superman to a zoo, where he surprises Supes by shooting Green Kryptonite spray from a device on his chest. At the end of this issue, the beaten heroes are put in a centrifuge and sent to Limbo, which is supposed to bring about the disappearance of all heroes on one of the Earths. The first time I read this when I was nine, I was surprised the villains’ plan actually worked; I couldn’t wait to see how the heroes got out of this mess. Back then, I had to agonize for a month, but we’ll only have to wait a couple of weeks to see the conclusion of this classic story.

LSH 281 coverLegion of Super-Heroes #281 – “Madness is the Molecule Master” – Roy Thomas (plot), Paul Levitz/Steve Ditko/Bruce Patterson

Last issue, the Legion found out who was masquerading as the mysterious Reflecto … it was Superboy. But for some reason, Superboy has all of Ultra Boy’s memories (and actually believes he is Ultra Boy), which explains why Reflecto was so protective toward Phantom Girl. Superboy and a handful of Legionnaires went back to the 20th Century, since that’s where Superboy was supposed to be. Unfortunately, Superboy’s last act before vanishing was to sabotage an underground nuclear test, almost getting a bunch of soldiers killed. So when he and his friends appeared inSuperboy tests his powers the 20th Century, the Army came after them and they had to fight through the soldiers and seek refuge in Clark Kent’s house in Smallville. If that wasn’t enough, the Legionnaires are now stranded in the 20th Century due to the machinations of the Time Trapper. As this issue opens, Superboy still isn’t convinced of his identity, so he recaps the last couple stories and tests his powers. His use of multiple powers convinces him and he tries to fly through time, but a barrier stops him and Time Trapper briefly materializes to gloat. At the Kents’ house, several Legionnaires (Karate Kid, Lightning Lad, Phantom Girl, and Saturn Girl) prepare to head out to buy groceries. (The Kents are away on vacation, in case you’re wondering.) Lightning Lad and Karate Kid have borrowed some of Clark’s clothes to blend in, but the nosy neighbourgirls are still wearing their costumes; I guess Ma Kent’s style isn’t their thing. Blok and Dawnstar elect to stay behind, being the most conspicuous. A nosy neighbour drops by and they tell her they’re rehearsing for a school play. Clark confirms it and the neighbour leaves, though Clark almost blows it by forgetting to put on his glasses. He’s still thinking like Ultra Boy. They head down to the store and Saturn Girl gets some attention from the local men; with that outfit of hers, I’m not surprised. I don’t know why she and Phantom Girl didn’t stay behind too, since their costumes make it impossible to blend in. The Army rolls through town, still looking for the Legionnaires; strangely, none of them seems to notice Saturn Girl, which doesn’t say much for their powers of observation. Lana Lang shows up and wants to know why Clark is hanging out with the Legion. She immediately suspectsLana gets mad him of being Superboy, but changes her mind because Clark wouldn’t be stupid enough to hang out with the Legion if he was Superboy. She goes from that logic to assuming Clark isn’t really Clark (which is sort of true), then gets pissed off and leaves because they won’t tell her what’s going on. An explosion attracts their attention (and brings Blok and Dawnstar from the Kents’ house) and they’re startled to see their old enemy, the Molecule Master, wreaking havoc in downtown Smallville. The original Molecule Master was an android and Superboy confirms this one is too, but Saturn Girl urges caution. They never figured out who sent the original Molecule Master after them (back in Superboy & the Legion 201), but he was after the Miracle Machine … a device the Time Molecule Master causing troubleTrapper also tried to grab. Since Time Trapper has confined them to the 20th Century, Saturn Girl figures he might be Molecule Master’s creator. Molecule Master starts turning the town upside down, using his powers to animate machinery to attack the Legionnaires. They fight back, but even Superboy’s power can’t overcome the Molecule Master. Lightning Lad figures they can overwhelm the android if they all attack at once. Karate Kid is knocked out right away, but the others attack in unison, pushing Molecule Master to his limits. He implodes, but the shockwave knocks all the Legionnaires out, sending Superboy, Phantom Girl, and Dawnstar flying. The Army takes advantage of the situation, taking the unconscious Legionnaires (Karate Kid, Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad, and Blok) into custody and searching for the missing trio. Phantom Girl wakes up and hears the soldiers searching, but her power wasPhantom Girl fades out with her friends screwed up by the implosion, so she can’t turn intangible. She freaks out, but refuses to fly away and abandon her friends. Apparently, when Phantom Girl becomes immaterial, she’s actually phasing into her homeworld of Bgtzl, which is in a parallel dimension. She concentrates on an artifact her mother gave her and manages to phase herself, Superboy, and Dawnstar away, presumably to Bgtzl. The soldiers don’t find them, so they have to be content with the Legionnaires they did capture. Elsewhere, Time Trapper gloats about how his plan is working; he’s thrown the Legionnaires he trapped in the 20th Century into chaos, and he’s got his sights set on the rest of the Legion in the 30th Century. We’ll see what happens next issue, and maybe we’ll finally find out what happened to Ultra Boy.

New Teen Titans 13 coverNew Teen Titans #13 – “Friends and Foes Alike” – Marv Wolfman/George Perez/Romeo Tanghal

This one starts with Donna (Wonder Girl) Troy pounding the crap out of some thieves breaking into a warehouse … and loving every minute of it. She’s still pissed off at the way Hyperion used his godly power to make her love him last issue and she’s looking for an outlet for that anger. She stops herself before she hurts any of the thieves, but the anger’s still there. She talks to her boyfriend (Terry Long) afterward and he reminds her that gods have been enslaving mortals forever. She still feels bad that for all her power she couldn’t stop Hyperion from usurping her will, or prevent Gar (Changeling) Logan from being hurt. She tells Terry she’s heading back to Paradise Island to check on Gar, who’s being tended to by the Amazons. On Paradise Island,Starfire in the gladiator ring Starfire takes part in some gladiatorial games and enjoys the spirit of combat and triumph (yes, she wins) that remind her of her home planet of Tamaran. Raven reminds her that the Amazons embrace peace, not violence, but Hippolyte says the Amazons are prepared to fight to keep their peaceful lifestyle, unlike Raven’s people in Azarath. An explosion rocks the island and when they see it came from Paula von Gunther’s healing lab, they worry that something might’ve happened to Changeling. In Uganda, the rest of the team (Robin, Kid Flash, and Cyborg) are trekking through the jungle to meet Cliff Steele (aka Robotman). Steele has been tracking Steve Dayton for Changeling; Dayton disappeared a while back, trying to track down Captain finding Robotman in bad shapeZahl and Madame Rouge of the brotherhood of Evil, to bring them to justice for killing the Doom Patrol. But Dayton’s been neglecting his business, so Logan sent Steele to find him. Unfortunately, someone else seems to have found Robotman first; the Titans find him strung up on the side of an old fortress. Cyborg cuts him down and determines that he’s still alive (or functional), so he starts repairing him. Once Steele is able to talk, he can’t shed any light on what happened; he tracked Dayton to the ruined fortress but got blown apart. Back on Paradise Island, the Amazons check the wrecked lab and find out some kind of feedback in the healing ray caused the explosion. Starfire and Raven worry out Logan, but he’s fine; well, let’s say he’s alive at least. But the feedback has driven him nuts and he rises as a brachiosaur, attacking the Amazons. The explosion seems to have made him stronger too, since none of the Amazons’ weapons can affect him. Raven uses herLogan as a crazed dinosaur empathic powers to cure the madness and Logan turns human again, falling into the sea where he’s rescued by Starfire. When he wakes up, Logan thinks he’s died and gone to heaven because of all the beautiful Amazons standing around. It soon turns to hell when he’s told he can’t leave the bed (because if a man sets foot on Paradise Island it means the end of the Amazons). In Uganda, Robotman and the Titans get inside the fortress after finding an underground entrance. They find an entire complex beneath the fortress where a bunch of guys in high-tech armour are training in combat. Madame Rouge addresses the soldiers, telling them there’s been a breach, and Robotman is ready to go after her right away. Robin says they need back-up to fight an fighting Rouge and Zahl's armyentire army, so they’d better find Dayton and get out. Robotman agrees, but vows to come back and settle Madame Rouge for good. Kid Flash (who’s still trying to figure out whether he wants to commit to being a super-hero or not) finds Dayton and Robin jimmies his cell open. Dayton has been drugged and doesn’t even recognize Robotman, but he babbles about his “Mento suit”. Robotman says it’s a special suit Dayton built to help him control his mental powers. The armoured soldiers attack and the Titans deal with them. Kid Flash finds Dayton’s suit and they take off, but Robotman wonders if it was all a little too easy. Turns out he’s right, as we see Madame Rouge gloating to Captain Zahl about how well her plan is going … and how she now has a man on the inside. As the Titans prepare to take off, we see Steve Dayton with a wild look in his eye … is he Rouge’s inside man? We’ll have to wait until next issue to find out.

All-Star Squadron 3 coverAll-Star Squadron #3 – “The Dooms of Dark December” – Roy Thomas/Rich Buckler/Jerry Ordway

In the first two issues of All-Star Squadron, Per Degaton showed up in 1941 (after traveling to the future to pick up some weapons) and tried to alter the course of World War II by forcing the United States to concentrate on Japan instead of Europe right after Pearl harbor. He sent a squadron of Japanese planes to attack San Francisco and had some super-villains (also brought from the future) capture the Justice Society so they couldn’t interfere. But there are plenty of other super-heroes (or mystery men, as they were called back then) around and they’ve answered the call. Some of them have already intercepted the Japanese attack on the mainland and others are patrolling a blacked-out San Francisco to keep citizens from panicking. Degaton also captured Shining Knight and vulcanologist DanetteShining Knight and Danette escape the sub Reilly, who stumbled across the cave where the JSA were being held. Shining Knight and Danette got loose aboard Degaton’s submarine, so he sent his minions (Solomon Grundy, Wotan, and Professor Zodiak) after them. Shining Knight uses his enchanted sword to block Wotan’s spells and cleaves a hole in the submarine. He and Danette make for the surface as Wotan seals the breech behind them. Shining Knight just makes it to the surface, where his horse (Winged Victory) is waiting for him. They fly off toward the volcanic isle where the JSA are being held, followed by Wotan and Zodiak in a plane. On the sub, Degaton is left with Grundy, who still hates Green Lantern with a passion and wants to know when he can smash him. Degaton notices the an Francisco contingent of heroes (Plastic Man, Atom, Dr. Mid-All-Stars fight Degaton's crewNite, Liberty Belle, and Phantom Lady) heading for the sub. Apparently they got a tip about Japanese Zeroes emerging from the water around that area and came to check it out. They spot the sub and Plastic Man takes them under water, drilling through the hull of the sub. Plas is exhausted, but the others engage with Grundy and Degaton’s hypnotized soldiers (most of whom he also brought from the future). The heroes do pretty well against the entranced troops (and Phantom Lady calls Atom out on his sexism), but Grundy is a bit tougher to handle. Back on shore, near Monterey, Hawkman, Johnny Quick, and Robotman go after another squadron of Japanese planes (whose pilots are also hypnotized). Johnny gets a fastball special from Robotman to reach the planes, then Robbie heaves cannonballsfighting Wotan and Zodiak from an old Spanish fort at the incoming Zeroes. Shining Knight and Danette find the volcanic isle, but it’s thousands of miles from where it should be, so they figure Degaton must have moved it somehow. They find the JSA members, but can’t release them from Wotan’s enchanted sleep. Wotan and Zodiak show up and Knight tells Danette to run while he holds them off. He gets blasted by Wotan, but not before knocking Zodiak’s Universal Solvent out of his hands. The villains follow Danette into the volcanic interior of the mountain and knock her into the lava. The island starts shaking and the villains realize Degaton is about to blow it up to finish off the JSA. The Atom almost gets smashedvillains disappear back to their own times, but Degaton (watching from his submarine) is shocked to see Spectre rising above the island, stopping the destruction, and freeing his fellow JSAers. Apparently, Zodiak’s Solvent landed on the Spectre when it fell from the villain’s hands, freeing him. Degaton knows he heroes will find him and kick his ass right away, so he gives up on his scheme and sends himself back to 1947, where he forgets everything that happened, thinking it was all just a dream. The heroes on the sub finish off Degaton’s men and Grundy almost pulverizes the Atom before going toe-to-toe with Robotman. Before that fight gets too wild, Grundy disappears back to the future, though not exactly where Degaton got him from. Since Degaton has returned to his own time, everything starts returning to normal; all his henchmen and even the futuristic weapons he broughtEleanor Roosevelt speech disappear, including the submarine. The heroes swim to the surface and use Plastic Man as a rubber raft until the JSA shows up and Spectre transports them all to San Francisco … including Danette Reilly, who miraculously survived her fall into the lava. Apparently Wotan’s magic protected her even as it knocked her into the lava (at least, that’s the explanation we’re given). As usual in these sorts of stories, the heroes quickly forget who Degaton was and everything that happened during their fight against him. But they’ve got enough to worry about, with Pearl Harbor and the United States now in a state of war. After hearing a rousing speech from Eleanor Roosevelt over the radio, they’re ready to do whatever is asked of them. We’ll see what their subsequent adventure entails next issue.

Noticeable Things:

  • When Robotman is throwing cannonballs at the Japanese planes, he compares himself to Bob Feller, famous pitcher for the Cleveland Indians.
  • Shining Knight compares himself to Horatius at the Bridge when preparing to hold off Wotan and Zodiak. I assume he’s referring to the historical Horatius, since the poem would be way after Sir Justin’s time.
  • Grundy rematerializes in the future on the moon, even though he was buried underground when Degaton brought him back. I think this is Roy’s way of explaining a continuity glitch, since Grundy’s next appearance after the 1940s was in 1965 … when he was on the moon.
  • After surviving her dip in the lava, Danette seems pretty out of it and she’s kind of … glowing. We’ll get more on that in upcoming issues.
  • Superman makes the obvious joke about being careful with the abbreviation of All-Star Squadron.

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