Comics Reviews: JLA 198, Legion of Super-Heroes 283, New Teen Titans 15, All-Star Squadron 5

JLA 198 coverJustice League of America #198 – “Once Upon a Time in the Wild, Wild West” – Gerry Conway/Don Heck/Brett Breeding

This one starts out in the Old West, with bounty hunter Jonah Hex tracking someone across a stretch of desert. (No, I didn’t get my reviews mixed up, this is a JLA comic.) Hex notices some vultures circling not far away and thinks it might be the fugitive he’s looking for … or someone in trouble. When Hex finds the unfortunate traveler, he doesn’t recognize him but we do … it’s Green Lantern. He fires a blast from his ring at Hex, but the heat is too much for him and he passes out. Hex takes care of him and when Lantern wakes up, he can’t remember who he is or how he ended up wandering through the desert alone. Lantern does have strange flashes ofZatanna blows away the bad guys memory, visions of a sinister (and vaguely familiar) silhouette taunting him. Lantern apologizes for attacking Hex earlier and says he could use a friend. Nearby, someone with glowing red eyes watches the camp. Not too far away, in Desecration, Arizona, a bunch of scumbags are harassing a woman in a saloon. The woman turns out to be Zatanna, who’s confused about who and where she is. She gets some help from the lady gunslinger named Cinnamon. Before the rowdies can retaliate, Zatanna uses her magic to blow them out the saloon doors into the street, but the effort pretty much knocks her out. Cinnamon takes care of her as another red-eyed stranger watches from the back room. In a forest not far from Desecration, Scalphunter is tracking a mountain lion and almost gets mauled when he finds it. He gets a helping hand from Ralph (Elongated Man) Dibny. Like his fellow JLAers, Ralph helps ScalphunterRalph’s only memory is much the same as Green lantern’s … a sinister figure laughing maniacally. Like GL, Ralph doesn’t know who he is or how he got there, which Scalphunter says sounds like “cannon nerves”, a condition reported by many soldiers in the recent Civil War. Ralph recognizes that as shell-shock, but forgets his self-diagnosis when he realized what Scalphunter just said. Ralph is blown away to find it’s the year 1878; neither he nor Scalphunter notice the red-eyed dude watching from the woods. In Tucson, we see another Old West legend (well, maybe “legend” is a bit strong), Bat Lash, indulging in his favourite pastime, gambling. But Bat Lash’s luck holds true … he wins the card game but almost gets killed when his opponents accuse him of cheating. Bat Lash disarms them with some fancy shooting and takes off, pursued by a mob of angry card players. TheBat Lash disarms his opponents guy who started everything stays behind and is confronted by a familiar-looking guy in a trench coat and cowboy hat. Yup, it’s the Flash and he knows this dude was the one cheating, not Bat Lash. The crooked gambler tries to shoot Flash, but the Speedster runs circles around him and delivers him to the local sheriff. Flash goes after Bat Lash to tell him he’s cleared and Bat Lash says he owes Flash one. Flash confides that he has no idea who he is or why he can run at blinding speeds, so Bat Lash offers to take him to a friend of his … Doc Holliday. Wasn’t Doc Holliday a dentist? Maybe he was a doctor in the DC Universe. As they ride off, we see the ubiquitous red-eyed weirdo watching them. Meanwhile, in the present, Superman is freaking out Superman gets poundedbecause four of his JLA teammates just disappeared while investigating an anomaly in the Grand Canyon. Superman heads down to check it out and is attacked by a gigantic robot. The robot is encased in lead, so Superman can’t see inside it, but it talks like they’ve fought before … more than once. The robot fires missiles that lock on to Superman and follow him. He tricks the missiles into blowing up the robot, but that’s a mistake since it’s filled with Kryptonite. Superman keels over and we see who’s behind all this … the Lord of Time. He says his last encounter with the JLA (in issues 159 and 160) taught him that he can use superheroes for his own ends. Lord of Time references the Tunguska meteor blast, saying it’s been theorized as a chunk of anti-matter that exploded. He says there was another anti-matter strike in the Grand Canyon in 1878 and if he can grab that anti-matter before it explodes, he can use that energy to help him conquer the world. That’s why he’s sent the four JLAers into the past (and has his operatives watching them … that’ll be the red-eyed spies), to manipulate events so he can get his precious anti-matter. We’ll see if he succeeds next issue.

LSH 283 coverLegion of Super-Heroes #283 – “The Startling Secret of Wildfire” – Roy Thomas/Howard Bender/Bruce Patterson

This story tells the origin of Wildfire; we’ve seen some of his origin before, but this is an in-depth telling. The framing sequence starts with Wildfire testing three Legion hopefuls (Lamprey, Nightwind, and Crystal Kid). This isn’t their first try at joining the Legion … the trio were rejected for Legion membership back in issue 272. This try-out doesn’t go any better, as Wildfire manages to hold all three of them off. He praises their courage, but says their skills need honing and invites them to try out again after they’ve practiced some more. As a way of thanking him (and as a joke), Lamprey and Nightwind try to kiss him, which freaks him out so much he hurls them away. Wildfire apologizes right away and decides to tell them why he’s so skittish about romantic gestures … something he hasn’t evenDrake meets Zera told his fellow Legionnaires. Back before he was a bundle of sentient energy, Wildfire was a regular human named Drake Burroughs, studying at Metropolis Multiversity. He wasn’t a very conscientious student, only there because of a scholarship he received after his parents died. His astro-engineering professor (Vultan) tried to get through to him, but Drake wasn’t interested, although he certainly found Vultan’s daughter (Zera) appealing. But Drake already had a girlfriend, a total babe named Kerri, and he spent most of his leisure time with her. (I gotta say, women’s fashions in the 30th Century sure are sexy.) Being a goof-off, he was screwing around one day when he was supposed to be working on a rocket (as part of his lab work) and he ignited the anti-matter fuel, which spread all over him, turning his body to anti-matter energy. The Wildfire discovers his powersscientists managed to contain him temporarily, but Professor Vultan saw only one real solution to Drake’s problem … a special containment suit the professor had invented (the ERG suit). Zera convinced her father to lie to the Multiversity, telling them Drake Burroughs was dead so they couldn’t accuse him of testing the ERG suit on a human guinea pig. Naturally, Kerri was devastated to hear about Drake’s “death”. Professor Vultan went ahead and transferred Drake’s negative energy form into the ERG suit. Drake had trouble adjusting, especially when Vultan told him he wasn’t really human anymore and there was no way to change him back. Drake (or ERG-1, as he was designated) did enjoy all the powers the suit gave him: he could alter hisWildfire causes Kerri's accident body to grow, shrink, or pass through walls; he had super-strength and speed; he could fly, and he could even affect chemical changes in elements. Basically he was a one-person Legion. Zera seemed rather taken with him too, but he couldn’t forget about Kerri, so he told Vultan and Zera he needed some time to himself. He went to see Kerri but she was freaked out by his strange outfit and took off. He chased her and she went out of control, her flying car heading straight for a playground full of kids. Drake had to blast the car to save the kids; he rescued Kerri immediately, but she was hurt and spent a while in a coma. Naturally, Drake blamed himself for scaring her with his “monstrous” appearance, so when he tried out for Legion membership (in Superboy & the Legion 195), he didn’t demonstrate his energy-manipulation power because he felt guilty about using it on Kerri. He was rejected but stowed away on a Legion flashback to Wildfire saving the Legionmission to prove himself. He did, by expending all his energy to save the Legionnaires, leaving only the ERG suit behind. The Legion thought he was dead and took his suit back to their HQ, but Drake was back to being a ball of disembodied energy again. He eventually made his way to Earth (in Superboy & the Legion 201) and used the Miracle Machine to reconstitute himself in the ERG suit. (For some reason, he only had certain powers this time around—flight, strength, energy blasts—instead of the full set he’d originally enjoyed from the ERG suit.) After helping defeat the Molecule Master, he joined the Legion as Wildfire, but immediately took a leave of absence. He headed back to Metropolis to see Vultan and Zera, but in the time he’d been gone (about a year) Professor Vultan had died. Zera asked Wildfire to help her in an experiment and strapped him into her father’s monitoring machine. Wildfire remembered he always felt weak after being in the machine andZera decides not to take revenge Zera finally revealed why: her father had some kind of wasting disease and had built the ERG suit to save his life. But when Drake had his accident, Vultan unselfishly let him have the suit. Zera had been draining energy from Drake to keep her father alive, but when Drake left for a year, she could no longer siphon that energy and Vultan died. Zera was ready to drain all Wildfire’s energy in revenge, but he reminded her that her father wouldn’t have approved. She let him go but said she couldn’t stand to be around him anymore, so he left. Wildfire wasn’t to broken up about losing Zera, since his mind had been dwelling on Kerri when he thought he was about to die. He went looking for her and found her with her new boyfriend. Wildfire apologized for freaking her out a year ago Wildfire learns Kerri has moved onand she apologized for acting like a frightened kid. Wildfire thought Kerri might’ve suspected who he really was, but didn’t say anything since they couldn’t have a real relationship now. Back in the present, the Legion wannabes thank Wildfire for confiding in them and say if he can go through all that crap and still make it as a Legionnaire, they aren’t giving up either. As it turns out, Lightning Lad has been hiding nearby, listening to Wildfire’s story—which he (and many other Legionnaires) apparently already knew thanks to their extensive background research. Lightning lad offers to walk back to HQ with Wildfire and Wildfire agrees, saying a guy can always use a bit of company.

New Teen Titans 15 coverNew Teen Titans #15 – “The Brotherhood of Evil Lives Again” – Marv Wolfman/George Perez/Romeo Tanghal

Last issue, the Titans (and their ally, Robotman) were captured by Captain Zahl and Madame Rouge. Zahl and Rouge have invaded a small island country named Zandia with an army of armoured mercenaries. Rouge directs the invasion from a flying fortress encased in a glass bubble; she knows Zandia will receive no help from outside, since the country is a haven for criminals, run by mercenaries and warlords. Zahl is amusing himself by subjecting the Titans to a protoplasm that devolves them into Neanderthals. Robotman is immune, but Zahl figures the others will tear him apart once they become feral enough. Elsewhere, Gar (Changeling) Logan was rescued last issue by a new version of the Brotherhood of Evil, led by the Brain (andLogan meets the new Brotherhood his ever-present majordomo, Monsieur Mallah). Logan tries to attack his rescuers but they use their powers to slap him around, giving us a rundown of who they are and what they can do: Warp can create warps through space to transport people; Phobia causes fear; Houngan uses electronic voodoo dolls to cause pain (or kill); and Plasmus can reshape his body like Play-Doh. All the new Brotherhood members have grudges against Zahl and Rouge, not least Brain and Mallah, since Rouge tried to blow them away. Brain suggests Logan join them to get revenge on Rouge and Zahl and to rescue the Titans. Logan isn’t thrilled about working with killers like Brain and Mallah, but figures they’re his only shot. He agrees to a temporary truce, but says if they meet again later, all bets are off. In the flying fortress, Brotherhood attacks Zahl's soldiersZahl’s protoplasm is really screwing up the Titans and Rouge’s armoured goons have pretty much conquered Zandia. Warp pops in with Logan and the other new Brotherhood members, but Rouge threatens to blow the Titans up if Logan gets too close. While she’s distracted, Mallah shows up and shoots the detonator from her hand. Rouge realizes Mallah and Brain are still alive and that she and Zahl might be in deep shit. Zahl brings a bunch of armoured goons in to fight the Brotherhood, but Rouge takes off. The Brotherhood wade into the fight eagerly, using lethal methods to fight the soldiers. Logan catches up to Madame Rouge and turns into a bear, which freaks her out. Inside the Titans’ prison bubble, they start to pound Robotman to pieces, but he uses Cyborg’s white noise generator to destroy the bubble and the protoplasm. The Titans revert to normal and start pounding Zahl’s armoured soldiers. Raven helps Mallah, who was wounded,Titans fight back and he pays her back by saving her from some soldiers. His altruism doesn’t do her much good, since him killing the soldiers takes a toll on Raven because of her empathic abilities. She teleports away and notes that the Brotherhood are killing their opponents while the Titans are only subduing them. But Starfire is barely holding herself back, wanting to kill her foes, and even Cyborg feels guilty at the pleasure he takes in pounding the armoured warriors. Zahl finally realizes his army can’t protect him and takes off, followed by Robotman who still hates Zahl for killing his Doom Patrol teammates. Logan’s anger toward Madame Rouge is mounting too, as he chases her through the fortress, changing into bigger and more dangerous forms, including a dinosaur. Robotman corners Zahl, who tries to shoot Madame Rouge electrocutedhim. The inevitable happens and the bullets ricochet back, killing Zahl. Robotman can’t bring himself to feel any happiness at the death of his hated enemy. Logan’s anger is out of control and he’s changing into creatures that don’t even exist (like a sea serpent); Rouge tries to destroy the fortress and Logan smacks her into some machinery, which electrocutes her. That brings Logan back to his senses and he feels guilty for causing Rouge’s death. The shock seems to have taken the evil out of Madame Rouge’s soul and she warns Logan the fortress is set to explode. She dies with Niles Caulder’s name on her lips. Logan feels crappy for killing her, but says no one else will die because of him and runs to warn everybody. He runs into the Brain, who’s moving the fortress away from Zandia before it explodes; Brain apparently has plans of his own for Zandia and doesn’t want it destroyed. He and Logan warn the others of the fortress’s imminent destruction andflying fortress explodes they all escape thanks to Warp. Warp comes back t get Brain and Logan just before the fortress explodes. Logan explains to his friends the deal he made with the Brain, that they could go free for now. Brain congratulates Logan for killing Madame Rouge and Logan says that’s the difference between their teams … the Brotherhood think killing their opponents accomplishes something, but the Titans know better. After the Brotherhood leaves, Steve Dayton shows up and he and Logan reconcile. Logan says now that his hatred for Zahl and Rouge is gone, his memories of the Doom Patrol are clearer—and happier. Dayton and Robotman agree.

All-Star Squadron 5 coverAll-Star Squadron #5 – “Never Step on a Feathered Serpent” – Roy Thomas/Rich Buckler/Jerry Ordway

This one starts with a meeting of the Justice Society where Hawkman makes a stunning announcement … he’s quitting the JSA to join the Army. He’s worried how his teammates will take the news, but it turns out they’ve all been discussing doing the same thing, but were afraid to mention it to him. Since they’re all of one mind, Hawkman officially dissolves the JSA “for the duration” and he and his teammates prepare to join the Army in their civilian identities … except Johnny Thunder, who’s joining the Navy, and Spectre, who isn’t really human anymore and decides to take a leave of absence. Before Hawkman officially enlists, he wants to head down to Mexico to check on his fiancée, Shiera Sanders, who’s been missing for aKukulkan makes plans with Nazis few days. Atom and Dr. Mid-Nite offer to go along, but Mid-Nite wants to make a quick stop first. In Mexico, we see some Nazis (led by a guy named Saukel) hanging out with a guy who claims to be the reincarnation of Kukulkan (or Quetzalcoatl, if you prefer) and leads a group of Neo-Mayans called the Cult of the Feathered Serpent. Saukel wants an alliance with Kukulkan so Germany will have a base close to the United States, from which they can attack when the nations declare war on each other. Kukulkan has promised he can help the Nazis—though he refuses to be their puppets—but has his own timetable. He has to do everything according to the Mayan calendar, so he can’t perform his sacrifice until tomorrow night. I bet you can guess who the sacrificial victim is … yup, it’s Shiera Sanders. In New York, Johnny saving Statue of LibertyQuick and Robotman are on their way to check on Danette Reilly (the vulcanologist who almost got burned to death in the Squadron’s first adventure) when the cops tell them there are a couple of German saboteurs threatening to blow up the Statue of Liberty. Johnny and Robbie head out to the Statue and pound the saboteurs; Johnny shows off by running up the side of the Statue and dismantling the bomb at super-speed. But on of the Nazis has a grenade that almost brings down the already-weakened arm of the statue. Robotman gets inside and braces the arm until Johnny can shore it up, then they turn the Nazis over to the cops. They head over to Danette’s place, where they find Hawkman, Atom, and Dr. Mid-Nite already there, along with Liberty Belle and Shining Knight. Danette is in bed, running a fever, so the All-Stars chat about the JSA quitting to join the military. Liberty Belle tells them everyone is proud of them, but hates to see the All-Firebrand discovers her powersStar ranks depleted. Hawkman says Shiera will gladly join as soon as he brings her back from Mexico. In the bedroom, Danette remembers visiting her brother Rod after Pearl Harbor (where he was wounded pretty badly) and his friend Slugger Dunn giving her a key to some hidden stash in Rod’s apartment. She gets up and finds the hidden compartment in the closet. Inside she finds a red costume and realizes her brother had a secret life. (I thought maybe she’d find photos of Rod and Slugger in flagrante, but I guess those are hidden elsewhere.) The costume belonged to the mystery man known as Firebrand and Danette realizes that Rod was Firebrand and his whole “playboy dilettante” routine was just cover. She puts the costume on, altering it with a spare bathing suit she kept there for some reason. As she gets used to the outfit, she’s startled when an idle gesture sets half the investigating in Mexicoroom on fire. The All-Stars bust in and pull her to safety as Johnny extinguishes the fire. Danette explains about finding her brother’s costume, but can’t explain how she can shoot fire from her hands. (Of course, we know t has something to do with falling into the volcano while surrounded by Wotan’s magic, but since Danette and the All-Stars have forgotten that whole adventure, they have no idea why she suddenly has fire-based powers.) Hawkman is ready to leave for Mexico and everyone offers to come along, including Danette. Shining Knight says there’s no way a “damsel” like her is coming … so of course she ends up going along. When they get to Mexico, there’s no sign of Shiera at her hotel, but Hawkman notices a guy wearing Shiera’s scarf. The guy says he got from a friend who bought it from an American woman out at an archaeological site. The guy offers to take Hawkman to the site, so Hawkman and Shining Knight fly off with him. Of course, the whole thingfighting Nazis with flamethrower smells like a set-up, but Hawkman’s so worried about Shiera he’s willing to take the chance. Speaking of set-ups, the others are approached by a local kid who says he has a message from Shiera Sanders. They follow him to a warehouse where Nazis are holding the kid’s father hostage. The All-Stars pound the Nazis, but one of them has a flamethrower and sets the place on fire. Danette finds out she can not only project fire but absorb it too and saves the place from burning down (plus she decks the Nazi with the flamethrower); she decides to call herself Firebrand, like her brother. The All-Stars are ready to beat some answers out of the Nazis about why (and how) they were set up. Meanwhile, Hawkman and Shining Knight are led to a Mayan temple in the jungle. They suspect a trap, but are surprised by an electrified net and knocked out. They wake up inside the temple where Kukulkan (surrounded by Nazi henchmen) is about to sacrifice Shiera on an altar to achieve his dreams of ultimate power. We’ll see how that turns out next issue.

Noticeable Things:

  • Hawkman says it’s two days since Pearl Harbor, making this December 9, 1941. There’s a mention of a story that took place in Green Lantern (way back in 1942) about a German attack on the Eastern U.S. On December 8th. GL foiled the attack and the public was unaware of it, which I guess explains why the United States didn’t declare war on Germany.
  • In real history, Germany actually declared war on the States first, on December 11th. Hitler apparently was hoping Japan would return the favour and attack Russia from the east, giving Germany some help against the Soviets. But Japan had a separate treaty with Russia (and didn’t really care about getting any Russian territory) so they didn’t return Hitler’s “favour”. If Hitler hadn’t declared war on the States, they would’ve concentrated all their efforts against Japan (at least for a while), possibly giving Germany more time to wrap things up in Europe.

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