Comics Reviews: JLA 197, Legion of Super-Heroes 282, New Teen Titans 14, All-Star Squadron 4

JLA 197 coverJustice League of America #197 – “Crisis in Limbo” – Gerry Conway/George Perez, Keith Pollard/Romeo Tanghal

Last issue, the new Secret Society of Super-Villains (led by the now apish Ultra-Humanite) managed to capture five JLA and five JSA members. Ultra-Humanite has told his minions that banishing these ten heroes to Limbo will randomly wipe out all the super-heroes on either Earth-1 or Earth-2. What the other villains don’t know is that it’s Earth-2’s heroes that will vanish … and Ultra-Humanite knew that all along. As this issue begins, the superheroes are sent to Limbo and the plan actually works; Earth-2 starts to twist and deform around them before “snapping back” to normal. The Earth-1 villains realize immediately that Ultra-Humanite knew banishing the heroes would eliminate all the remainingKiller Frost takes charge superheroes from Earth-2 only; he’d let them think there was an equal chance to affect Earth-1 because he needed their cooperation. But before they can do anything about it, they’re transported back to Earth-1, and when they try to return, the transporter device blows up. Killer Frost shows some leadership by slapping down Signalman and Floronic Man, and coming up with a plan to get back to Earth-2 to get revenge against Ultra-Humanite for using them (her strength here is undercut somewhat when she reveals her main motive for villainy is “I want power! Power to punish men for spurning me!” Yes, she’s a super-villain because she can’t get a boyfriend. One step forward, two steps back.). Anyway, they go to Coast City and capture Green Lantern (Hal Jordan)… rather easily, I have to say. They also seem to know a lot about the Satellite transporters, including their locations Brainwave uses his powers for evilin various cities. You’d think the JLA might change the locations regularly to avoid something like that. Anyway, they use the unconscious Green Lantern to beam to the Satellite, where they take down Elongated Man (also rather easily, it must be said.) Back on Earth-2, the villains are enjoying a world with no superheroes (I’m wondering if eliminating the superheroes from Earth-2 also got rid of other super-villains? We don’t see any others here… and what about non-powered heroes like Robin or Huntress? Apparently they were eliminated too? I guess it doesn’t pay to examine these things too closely.). Monocle and Rag Doll are having fun messing with the cops, Psycho Pirate and Mist rob a “collector’s convention”. There’s no mention of comics, but there is a shout-out to Star Trek fanzines; the villains steal jewels, which apparently are exhibited at conventions on Earth-2. Brainwave uses his powers to… basically rape an actress? That’s the implication, anyway. And Ultra-Humanite decides tothe heroes pound their rescuers take over the United Nations… no thinking small for him! Meanwhile, the Earth-1 baddies have used the JLA transporter to go to Limbo (which it can do, apparently) and rescue the heroes. That’s right, the heroes only survive this whole mess because they’re rescued by the bad guys; let that sink in for a minute… the only reason these heroes win is because of the villains’ sour grapes. Killer Frost even says: “If we can’t have a world without heroes, neither can anyone else!” Who’d have thought pettiness could come in handy? Of course, the heroes immediately pound their rescuers (there’s gratitude for ya!) and head for Earth-2 to set things right. They somehow take the whirling centrifuge with them (or maybe it stays in Limbo and just Earth-2 villains beatencreates a vortex, I’m not sure) and toss all the bad guys into the dimensional vortex, banishing them to Limbo. Earth-2 reality goes back to normal (without all the weird visual effects, which Superman mentions in passing) and the villains are all banished to Limbo, where they have a few things to discuss with Ultra-Humanite. Apparently banishing these ten villains has no effect on the cosmos, nor do the superheroes seem to care overly much. I liked this three-part arc when I was a kid and still do, although some of the plot holes are more obvious to me now. The villains seem much more competent here than in the usual comics story; in fact, they technically win. If not for the Earth-1 villains rescuing the heroes from Limbo, Earth-2 would’ve been hero-less and taken over by bad guys. That sort of role-reversal blew me away as a kid. One thing that always bothered me was howvillains confront Ultra in limbo the villains defeated the heroes so handily in the first two issues, but were soundly trounced in only a few pages at the conclusion. The way the villains paired off against their “usual” foes was a little strange too (although in Limbo they mixed things up a bit more.) In hindsight, this arc would’ve been perfect for an “Acts of Vengeance” type story, with the villains taking on heroes they weren’t normally used to fighting. But overall, still I love this story; it introduced me to some new villains, the story is different from the usual fare, and the art is great.

LSH 282 coverLegion of Super-Heroes #282 – “If Answers There Be” – Roy Thomas (plot), Paul Levitz/Jimmy Janes/Bruce Patterson

Last issue, a contingent of Legionnaires (Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Karate Kid, Blok, Phantom Girl, Dawnstar, and Superboy) went to the 20th Century to figure out why Superboy seems to possess the mind and memories of supposedly-dead Legionnaire Ultra Boy. The Legionnaires ran afoul of the U.S. Army, who accused Superboy of sabotaging a nuclear bomb test. If that wasn’t enough, the Time Trapper put up a time barrier to keep them from leaving the 20th Century so he could attack the rest of the Legion a thousand years later. Time Trapper also sent his minion (an android called the Molecule Master) to attack the Legionnaires and when he self-destructed, three of them (Phantom Girl, Superboy, and Dawnstar) werehelping fight terrorists on Bgtzl blasted away. Time Trapper thinks they died, but Phantom Girl actually used her phasing power to take the others to her home dimension of Bgtzl. The rest of the Legionnaires were captured by the Army, and are being held in prison with power-dampeners on to prevent their escape. As this issue opens, Chief Parker says he believes the Legion is innocent since they’re friends of Superboy, but Major Crowell isn’t convinced. In Bgtzl, Superboy is more confused than ever; he’s back to normal and doesn’t remember having Ultra Boy’s memories and personality. The last thing Superboy remembers is that he did pull the Army’s nuke above ground just before it detonated, but he can’t recall why he’d do such a thing. The trio get sidetracked when Bgtzl is attacked by some goofball villains in a weird airship. The Legionnaires Ultra Boy foundpound some of the attackers, but Phantom Girl says they shouldn’t interfere with the timeline; this was a time of troubles on Bgtzl, but they got through it on their own, so interfering now might screw things up. Dawnstar asks Phantom Girl to phase them back to Earth, but to go slowly through inter-dimensional space because Dawnstar sensed a presence on the first trip through. Sure enough, on their return trip Dawnstar’s tracking ability leads her to Ultra Boy, who’s floating unconscious in the void. Back in 1960s Smallville, Lana Lang tries to get in to see the captive Legionnaires, but gets turned away. She uses her bio-ring to become Insect Queen and pounds the soldiers on guard. Between dimensions, Ultra Boy is surrounded by some kind of energy aura and warns his friends not to break it. Dawnstar goes for hep while Ultra Boy tells Superboy and Phantom Girl (and us) what’s happened since he “died”. Afterflashback to Ultra Boy as Superboy supposedly being blown away by the crystal Ultra Boy found he was only mostly dead; his body had been blown into interdimensional space, leaving some kind of astral form on Earth that could hear and see everything but couldn’t communicate. He realized he was moving backward in time, so he decided to go all the way back to Superboy’s time for help. But he still couldn’t communicate properly and his efforts to insinuate himself into Superboy’s mind just caused a headache. After a supreme effort, Ultra Boy’s astral self took up residence inside Superboy, but the melding of their psyches was confusing, leaving both of them with partial amnesia. Ultra Boy sensed that he needed power to return to his material form, so he grabbed the nuclear bomb and tossed it above ground as it went off. Unfortunately, the blast just made things Ultra Boy helps Lanaworse, causing almost total amnesia. He knew he had to get back to the future, but after arriving in 2981 he couldn’t remember who he was or why he felt compelled to contact the Legion. He came up with the Reflecto identity to protect himself until he figured things out, but Ultra Boy’s buried personality meant he was drawn to Phantom Girl. After fighting Grimbor, Ultra Boy was still confused, but when Superboy entered the inter-dimensional space, Ultra Boy’s mind returned to his own body and he tried to attract their attention … which must be what Dawnstar sensed. Superboy wonders if Ultra Boy’s nuclear explosion idea might still work, so he smashes some radioactive asteroids together to generate some power. Back in Smallville, Lana is about to get pounded by a soldier when Ultra Boy shows up out of nowhere to save her. Phantom Girl rescues Saturn Girl (who’s been unconscious the whole time, in case you’re wondering why she didn’t use her powers to escape) and Superboy frees theTime Trapper banished others. Now that they can travel to Bgtzl with Phantom Girl, they can go there and travel forward in time, thus bypassing Time Trapper’s barrier. They surprise him in his hideout and when he tries to blast them into limbo, Phantom Girl turns the cannon back on him. Of course none of them believe Time Trapper is gone for good, but the immediate threat is ended. Back at Legion Headquarters, Saturn Girl removes all Superboy’s memories of the case where he found out about his parents’ deaths (in LSH 259); I don’t know why she didn’t just do that in the first place instead of screwing around with post-hypnotic suggestions and all that shit. Superboy heads back to his own time to clear his name and Ultra Boy’s statue in the Hall of Heroes (honouring dead Legionnaires) is changed to a statue of Reflecto. Ultra Boy and Phantom Girl head off to have some “back from the dead” sex, which I assume is way better than make-up sex.

Noticeable Things:

  • Since the Legion returned to Superboy’s era, this story isn’t set in 1981, it takes place earlier. The time mentioned is the early 60s (Karate Kid needles Major Crowell about the Vietnam War), which means Superman must be in his early 30s in contemporary stories from this time.
  • It’s said that Phantom Girl’s phasing power works by sending her into Bgtzl, which is just out of phase with Earth. I always thought Bgtzl was a planet, but maybe this is a Phantom Girl origin that didn’t take. Here Bgtzl looks like an exact copy of Earth, with cars, policemen, and bystanders dressed in Earth-style clothing. Phantom Girl says it’s a parallel dimension, but it seems like an exact copy. I get the feeling the only reason for the “dimensional parallel” stuff in this story was as a plot device to get them around Time Trapper’s time barrier.
  • Lana got the bio-ring from the Legion way back in Adventure 356.

New Teen Titans 14 coverNew Teen Titans #14 – “Revolution” – Marv Wolfman/George Perez/Romeo Tanghal

Last issue, Dick (Robin) Grayson, Victor (Cyborg) Stone, and Wally (Kid Flash) West tracked down Cliff (Robotman) Steele, who’d been looking for Steve Dayton in Africa. They found Dayton (really out of it) being held captive by Madame Rouge and Captain Zahl, villains who were responsible for the deaths of the original Doom Patrol. They rescued Dayton, but it turns out Rouge and Zahl planned it that way since they’ve done something to Dayton that makes him dangerous. This issue starts with the rest of the Titans—Donna (Wonder Girl) Troy, Raven, Starfire, and Gar (Changeling) Logan—arriving in he jungle to reunite with their teammates after saving Logan’s life on Paradise Island. Vic and Logan are glad to see each other and Starfire is very glad to see Robin. Raven apologizes to Wally again for screwing with his emotionsTitans reunited but tells him she has to get her own shit together before she can even think about any kind of relationship. Cliff and Logan exchange quips and Dayton snaps out of his weird trance to ask for his Mento costume like he did last issue. Logan points out that Mento was a real loser (a “nowhere jerk” as Logan puts it), but Dayton takes off into the jungle, mumbling about the Mento costume. Raven tries to calm him and finds some strange mental blockage in his mind, along with a compulsion to ask for the costume. Raven can’t break through the mental blockage, but Kid Flash recovered Mento’s costume last issue, so he gives it to Dayton. Nobody’s impressed by the outfit, but once he has it on Dayton gets a bit more focused. Unfortunately, Dayton tries to kill Gar and Cliffhis focus is on wasting the Titans and he lets loose with a telekinetic blast that sends them flying. Wally’s speed allows him to dodge the blast and recover Robin, and Wally speculates that Madame Rouge must be controlling Dayton somehow. Logan tries to get through to Dayton (who’s Gar’s adoptive father, although they’ve never been a model family), but Dayton can’t break free from Rouge’s control. He starts to crush Logan and when Cliff tries to stop him, he heats up Cliff’s metallic body so much it starts melting. Raven senses that splitting his powers has left him vulnerable, so she delves into his mind and comes up with the image of Rita (Elasti-Girl) Farr, Dayton’s dead wife. Raven makes him think he’s burning Rita instead of Cliff and that gives Dayton the will to break free from Rouge’s control. Madame Rouge and Captain Zahl have been monitoring the situation and Rouge is pissed offflashback to Madame Rouge capturing Dayton that Dayton is no longer her puppet. She says nothing must go wrong with their ultimate plan, to take over a place called Zandia. We see a guy in Zandia reporting to Madame Rouge that everything is prepared for the takeover, but right after he signs off he’s killed by a shadowy figure … with a French accent. In the jungle, Dayton goes over how he was captured (and we get a history of the Doom Patrol); he’d tracked Rouge and Zahl all over the world, ending up in this jungle. Elasti-Girl showed up out of nowhere and told him she’d survived the explosion that killed the Doom Patrol, much like Cliff did. But it was just Rouge pretending to be Rita so she could get Logan gets madclose enough to grab Dayton. She kept him imprisoned and broke down his willpower so she could control him. They start talking about what they should do next, but Logan freaks out, saying he wants Rouge and Zahl to pay for killing the Doom Patrol. Logan says the Doom Patrol was the second family he lost (after his own parents) and now the Titans treat him like a kid, like they’re his surrogate parents too. But he needs to prove himself against Rouge and Zahl or he’ll always just be thought of as a smart-ass kid. He takes off and Robin thinks they should let him go, but Victor reminds them that Logan could get killed trying to “prove himself”, and if they hadn’t always treated him like a joke maybe he wouldn’t be acting like this.Logan catches up to the flying base The Titans take off after Logan, but an earth tremor rips through the area, sending trees flying all over. Raven and Wally find the epicentre, which is now just a huge hole in the ground right where Madame Rouge’s underground base was. We see that Rouge has caused her entire base to fly up into the air, enclosed in a protective bubble like something out of a James Blish story. Logan flies after the soaring base and manages to grab hold, where he’s forced to hang on for dear life. The others follow in the Titans’ Jet and Vic predicts Rouge is heading for Zandia. When she gets there, she sends her armoured goons down to start killing citizens and blowing the shit out of the parliament buildings. Logan can’t hang on any longer and slips off the Titans taken downflying base into mid-air; too bad none of his friends notice his predicament. Starfire, Wonder Girl, and Raven head down to fight the attackers, but it’s almost like they were expected. All three of them are taken down in various ways, leaving the others trying to breach the dome over Rouge’s base while still searching for Logan. Vic spots him, but it turns out to be Rouge in disguise again. She blasts the jet out of the sky, leaving everyone aboard unconscious and easily captured. Elsewhere, Logan wakes up with an aching head only to realize he’s in deep shit; he’s been captured by a new version of the Brotherhood of Evil. We’ll see where this goes next issue.

Noticeable Things:

  • Zandia is said to be an island right in the middle of the Baltic Sea, with a population of 3,769 (that was before Rouge showed up and started wasting people). We’re also told that Zandia has absolutely no trade with any other nation; how does it survive as a country? We’ll find out in future issues.
  • The Brotherhood of Evil is the group (including Madame Rouge and Captain Zahl) that killed the original Doom Patrol. The new version shown on the last page includes original members Brain and Monsieur Mallah, but instead of Rouge and Zahl there are four new members (Phobia, Warp, Houngan, and Plasmus); we’ll learn more about them next issue, but it seems like they’re not working with Rouge and Zahl. (Remember, Rouge’s mole in Zandia was killed by someone with a French accent, likely Monsieur Mallah or the Brain.)

All-Star Squadron 4 coverAll-Star Squadron #4 – “Day of the Dragon King” – Roy Thomas/Rich Buckler/Jerry Ordway

Last issue the newly-formed All-Star Squadron defeated Per Degaton’s attempt to alter history, but due to the vagaries of time travel they forgot everything that happened. This issue opens with nineteen Squadron members heading for Pearl Harbor in Hawaii to assess the damage from the Japanese attack first-hand. Along the way, we get a few character moments from the various heroes: Liberty Belle asks Dr. Midnight about her weird energy surges, but the Doc thinks that might involve magic not medicine; Johnny Quick and Flash talk and Johnny hints that they should race sometime; Johnny Thunder suggests Wonder Woman should join the JSA; Atom whines about not having super-powers; Hawkman worries about his fiancée, Shiera Sanders, who’s on an archaeological dig in Mexico; and Superman muses on all the mystery men who’ve popped upsurveying the devastation since his debut, only three years ago. When they get to Pearl Harbor, everyone is appalled at the damage and can hardly wrap their heads around it. The soldiers stationed below are understandably jumpy and start firing, but the heroes soon identify themselves and go to see the base commander. The Squadron are all worked up and ready to go after the Japanese, even though President Roosevelt asked them to protect the home-front for now. The heroes aren’t in the mood to sit around (and there’s not much the base commander can do to stop them), so they vote to go look for the Japanese carrier fleet that launched the attack. A dozen All-Stars (Superman, Spectre, Dr. Fate, Johnny Thunder, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Hawkman, Robotman, Dr. Mid-Nite, Liberty Belle, Johnny Quick, and Atom) head out after the Japanese, leaving Danette visits her brotherbehind a few All-Stars who can’t fly (plus Starman) to protect the base from saboteurs or another attack. Meanwhile, Shining Knight takes Danette Reilly to Wheeler Field to see her brother rod, who was injured during the attack. Danette tries to be strong and puts on a brave face for Rod’s best friend, Slugger Dunn, but when she sees her brother in a coma she loses it. The dozen All-Stars head north and west, searching for the Japanese carriers and support craft that must’ve been involved in the Pearl Harbor attack, but they can’t find any trace of them. Hawkman suggests they check out Wake Island (another American base targeted by the Japanese) and then head to Japan itself. On a tiny island between the All-Stars and Wake, we see some Japanese soldiers receiving a special visitor, a guy called Dragon King, who wears a COBRA Commander-type mask. Dragon King tells them the isletDragon King explains about the Holy Grail holds the key to defeating the All-Stars—at least, the most powerful ones. Dragon King tells them that Hitler has the Spear of Destiny and Tojo has the Holy Grail, allowing each of those Axis leaders to throw up a magical barrier to protect their territories from incursion by super-powered beings, especially ones whose powers are affected by magic. Dragon King has built special dynamos on this little island to enhance the power and extend the range of the Holy Grail’s magical barrier. But he says the barrier won’t just turn the heroes back … it’ll turn them against their fellow All-Stars. Green Lantern brings his teammates down to the island where they’re attacked by Japanese soldiers. Dr. Fate goes after Hawkman and Johnny Thunder orders his T-Bolt to fly to Wake Island to help the Japanese attack.

Liberty Belle takes out GL
Liberty Belle gives Green Lantern some wood.

So far, Superman, Spectre, and Wonder Woman haven’t turned evil, but they can feel the effects of the Grail on their minds. On the island, Liberty Belle takes out Green Lantern with a hunk of wood (are we sure this isn’t Hal Jordan?), to which his ring is vulnerable. That lets her fellow All-Stars pound the Japanese soldiers. While trying to get away from Dr. Fate, Hawkman accidentally leads him out the Grail’s sphere of influence and Fate immediately goes back to normal. Hawkman realizes what happened and flies back to the island, taunting a recovered Green Lantern into scooping up the other All-Stars and chasing Hawkman. Superman and Spectre have finally succumbed o the Grail’s influence and chase Hawkman too, and Hawkman’s flight path takes him past Johnny Thunder andHawkman leads the affected heroes out of the danger area Wonder Woman, who join the pursuit. Hawkman manages to make it outside the Grail’s sphere of influence before all the heavy hitters catch him, and they all go back to normal once they’re out of the Grail’s range. But they now know they can’t get too close to Japan or they’ll turn into super-powered weapons for the Axis. Dragon King is content that his plan protects Japan from super-powered invasion, even though the range can’t be extended far enough to affect the heroes in the continental United States. Meanwhile, Hawkman is ready to go look for Shiera in Mexico, but has a surprise for the All-Stars … and it sounds like a doozy. We’ll see what it is next issue.

Noticeable Things:

  • If you’re wondering what happened to Phantom Lady and Plastic Man, it’s mentioned that they both took off in San Francisco; Plas had to get back to his job as FBI liaison and Phantom Lady had to show up in her civilian identity before she was missed.
  • One of the soldiers with Dragon King mentions the Black Dragon Society, which pisses Dragon King off. In real life, the Black Dragon Society was an ultra-nationalist right-wing group whose personnel included cabinet members, military leaders, and spies. They evolved from an earlier organization with ties to organized crime, but by the 30s and 40s were mostly concerned with opposing liberal or left-wing ideas and promoting the right-wing military government in Japan.
  • Dragon King mentions that his colleague (Daka) has somehow shielded the Japanese fleet from detection. We’ll see more on that in future issues.

 

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