This one starts with a broken down dude named Joe Parry reminiscing along the Atlantic City Boardwalk. Parry once found an alien artifact (way back in JLA 31) that made his wishes come true, but he got greedy and ended up getting his ass kicked by the Justice League. Now that he’s out of prison, he’s cursing himself for not doing more with the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity he had. Parry notices a guy sweeping along the Boardwalk who lifts up some boards like they were nothing. He follows the guy back to the restaurant where he works and finds out he’s really Ultraa, the super-powered dude from another world who fought the JLA a couple of times (the most recent being JLA 170). Ultraa says he’s just trying to have a quiet life now, but Parry sees an opportunity to make a name for himself and convinces Ultraa to listen to what he has to say. On the JLA Satellite, Green Arrow and Black Canary are working out in the gym. Arrow is kvetching about rejoining the League, wondering if he did the right thing. Canary cuts the artificial gravity to lighten the mood (yeah, I said it). They get an emergency call and go to check the monitors. Superman and Flash teleport up in time to learn what the emergency is about; Atom is calling from New York and plays them a security tape of Ultraa busting up a bank and stealing a pile of money. They all feel guilty that they couldn’t help Ultraa more and wonder if his turning to crime is partly their fault. Superman recognizes Joe Parry with Ultraa right before the robbery, so Flash tells Atom to track down Parry’s current address. Flash heads down to Midway City to ask Hawkman for help, since he was there the first time they fought Joe Parry years ago. Hawkman’s been in a shitty mood lately because his wife Shayera (aka Hawkgirl) has gone off on a dangerous mission somewhere. (Apparently that happened in World’s Finest, but I don’t know the details.) Flash explains about Parry and convinces Hawkman to join them instead of moping around worrying about Shayera. In Atlantic City, Green Arrow gives Atom a rundown on Ultraa: basically he was the only person with super-powers on a parallel Earth (Earth-Prime, which I think is supposed to represent our real-life Earth) raised by Aborigines in Australia. Ultraa knew other super-powered beings would pop up on his Earth (as they did on Earth-1 after Superman’s debut) so he exiled himself to Earth-1 to keep his own world from being irrevocably changed. At Parry’s place, Green Arrow sends a concussion arrow through the window and when they check the wrecked apartment, they find Joe Parry unconscious. A mere concussion can’t hurt Ultraa and he jumps them, sending Superman flying out the window with one punch. The shockwave from the punch knocks Green Arrow, Atom, and Black Canary out and sends them flying over the ocean. Superman recovers and rescues them, landing outside Parry’s now-empty apartment just as Flash and Hawkman show up. Some dude comes running down the Boardwalk, yelling about somebody wrecking a casino. Superman, Flash, and Hawkman check it out and find Ultraa trashing the place, screaming about wanting to be left alone. He slaps the JLAers (including Superman) around a bit and tells the still-unconscious Joe Parry that he never should’ve listened to him. Hawkman—who understands loss pretty well at the moment—tells Ultraa it’s not too late to make amends. Later, Joe Parry is sent back to prison and the prosecutor asks the JLA why Ultraa wasn’t there to testify. They tell him Ultraa wasn’t really a criminal, he was just lonely and Parry took advantage of that. We see that Ultraa is now in the Australian outback, having found acceptance among the Aborigines there. I’m not a big Ultraa fan (certainly not as big a fan as Gerry), so I hope this is his last appearance; I think the Crisis wipes him out of continuity. Don Heck’s art here looks really good … I don’t now if it’s the inking or what, but it’s much better than some of his work.
This one starts on R.J. Brande’s private planetoid with some Legionnaires having a fun game of volleyball. It’s supposed to be a “no powers” game, but Colossal Boy gets carried away, which pisses Phantom Girl off. Superboy shows up to settle things, offering to referee the game. Brande welcomes Superboy, saying it’s good for the Legionnaires to take some time off and relax in a safe place. But the planetoid isn’t as secure as Brande thinks; we see Dr. Zaxton Regulus slipping through Brande’s orbital defenses in a specially-built ship. As usual, Regulus is looking for revenge against Sun Boy, but this time he’s ready to wipe out the entire planetoid to achieve it … and he’s accumulated enough power to make that happen. Meanwhile, Brande tries to connect with Chameleon Boy (who was recently revealed to be his son), but Cham’s having a hard time accepting a father after being alone his whole life. Chameleon Boy takes off, leaving Brande—who can’t change form like most Durlans do because of a disease trapping him in his present form—to wish he’d told Cham the truth sooner. The planetoid starts shaking and the Legionnaires come to ask Brande what’s going on. He realizes someone is messing with his fusion dome; Brande’s vocation is creating stars and the fusion dome houses a proto-star that he’s been keeping there for years. But now the star is expanding and if it grows to full size, it’ll destroy not only the planetoid but Earth as well. As they approach the fusion dome, they see Dr. Regulus outside waiting for them. Regulus blasts Sun Boy and taunts the Legionnaires, reminding them how he can absorb solar energy and pointing out that the expansion of the proto-star will wipe out Earth. Even Superboy can’t stand up to Regulus’s power (since he can emit red sun radiation), but Phantom Girl slips right through him and into the reactor to try and shut down the fusion reaction. Regulus isn’t worried, since she’ll have to become solid to use the controls and he radiation will kill her instantly. On Earth, another contingent of Legionnaires is discussing the recent aggressive moves by the Khund Empire. Star Boy suggests checking out the Khund homeworld and Chameleon Boy struts in and says that’s exactly what they’re going to do. He orders Shrinking Violet and Timber Wolf to prepare to join him on a covert mission to the Khund homeworld. Since Cham is head of the Legion Espionage Squad they have no choice but to obey him. Back on Brande’s World, Sun Boy has challenged Regulus and the two of them are blasting each other with intense amounts of energy as the fusion dome melts behind them. Sun Boy manages to stun Regulus and heads into the dome. His powers protect him from the radiation and he hopes his knowledge of nuclear reactors will allow him to shut it down. Regulus is certain no one can shut the reactor down now, so he jumps in his ship and takes off. Brande says he’s the only one with the knowledge to shut off the reactor, so Superboy has Saturn Girl create a psychic link between himself and Brande. Superboy heads into the reactor, hoping he can get to the controls before the red sun radiation kills him. He passes Phantom Girl but the radiation takes its toll; he passes out right after arriving in the control room, where Sun Boy is already trying to shut things down. Saturn Girl establishes a new link with Sun Boy and Brande tells him how to shut the reactor down. Not far away, Regulus is waiting to see the planetoid explode but when it doesn’t he realizes his pans are off the rails. Dawnstar and Lightning lad distract him long enough for Colossal Boy to smash his ship and capture him. Later, Brande tells the others that Cham took off for Earth and Lightning Lad is mad he didn’t tell anyone. He’ll be even more pissed off when he finds out Cham led an unauthorized mission against the Khunds, but we’ll have to wait until next issue to see that.
“A Crown for the Princess” – Paul Levitz/Keith Giffen/Bruce Patterson
Last issue, Projectra and Karate Kid went to Orando to get her father’s blessing for their relationship. But her father (King Voxv) died suddenly, leaving Projectra as the nominal Queen. After Voxv’s funeral, Projectra’s cousin Pharoxx shows up and accuses her of complicity in Voxv’s death. By Orando’s laws, Pharoxx has the right to challenge Projectra for the throne and he asks for trial by combat. Pharoxx and Projectra fight and he beats her by using a special helmet to block her illusion powers. As her second, Karate Kid faces Pharoxx too, but is overcome when Pharoxx uses his own magic powers to knock Karate Kid out. Pharoxx claims the throne as his own and says his first act as King will be to execute Projectra and Karate Kid as traitors.
This one starts in the Soviet Union, where a low-level staffer (Marek Slavik) at the Scientific Research Bureau learns his son has died fighting in El Salvador, killed by American advisory troops. Slavik’s wife died in a bombing in Saigon and his brother was killed during World War II through American negligence, so he really has reason to hate Americans. Slavik goes through some archives and finds a canceled project that he decides to revive for his own purposes. A few days later, Slavik sends an innocent secretary (Maladi Malanova) to get some files from the archives. While there, she’s secretly irradiated with something and Slavik tells her she has to deliver the files in person to America. Maladi is engaged and wants to be back before her wedding; Slavik tells her not to worry, but thinks to himself that she won’t be coming back. A week later in New York, government agent King Faraday calls a covert meeting with Robin and Wonder Girl. Faraday says his contacts inside Russia have warned him about some kind of plague carrier who might be heading for the States. Faraday also found out that an old acquaintance of the Titans, the Soviet super-hero named Leonid Kovar (aka Starfire), is heading to the U.S. And the Russians are trying to keep it quiet. Faraday asks Robin if the Titans can follow Kovar and see what he’s up to. Meanwhile, Maladi (who’s obviously the plague carrier Faraday heard about) has arrived and is infecting everyone she comes into contact with. The symptoms don’t appear right away though, so when Kovar arrives a week later the first victim (at the airport) keels over from the disease. Kovar knows he’s on the right track and knows the incubation period of the disease, so he knows he’s not far behind Maladi. Gar (Changeling) Logan has been watching Kovar disguised as a fly and reports the airport guy’s sudden affliction just as Kovar showed up. The others figure Kovar could be the plague carrier, but not all of them agree. Wonder Girl thinks they should give Kovar the benefit of the doubt, while Kid Flash figures Kovar is an asshole because he’s Russian. Apparently Kid Flash distrusts Russians in general … he describes himself as a Mid-West Conservative, and his anti-Soviet rhetoric fits pretty well with the political climate in 1982. The Titans follow Kovar to a hospital where Raven sneaks in and overhears him talking to a doctor about the airport victim. The doctor says the guy has advanced radiation poisoning and if they can’t find a cure within a few days, he’ll die. Over the next couple of days, the Titans learn about other radiation sickness victims—almost a hundred of them—but they’ve been following Kovar and he wasn’t near any of them. It’s obvious Kovar is looking for someone, since he’s searching every hotel in town. He finally finds his quarry in a hotel downtown and blasts through the lobby to get at her. Maladi leaves in a cab, unaware that she’s being pursued. Before Kovar can go after her, the Titans jump him and they start a big brawl in the street. Kovar does pretty well against superior numbers until Raven manages to knock him out with her powers. At Titans’ headquarters, Kovar tells hem about Slavik’s vendetta and how he’s using Maladi to deliver a radiation-induced plague bacillus. Kovar says his government sent him in secret because they didn’t want a panic or an international incident. The plague victims can be cured if the antidote reaches them within a couple of weeks, but Maladi will eventually succumb to the disease. Kid Flash still thinks Kovar’s lying (or his superiors lied to him) and Kovar’s tired of being interrogated so he decks Kid Flash and takes off. Gar goes after him but Kovar gets away. Meanwhile, Maladi has started feeling like shit so she goes to see a doctor, who tells her she should be in a hospital. Maladi refuses, saying she has to complete her mission and go home to be married. By calling every doctor in New York, the Titans track down the one Maladi saw. She heads to the Cloisters in Upper Manhattan, where she’s supposed to deliver the files Slavik gave her. Kovar catches up to her and says Slavik lied, the files were just a fake-out. Maladi has started to suspect the whole thing was bullshit when she got sick, but didn’t want to believe it. She asks why they sent Kovar, of all people, and he says he was sent to kill her before she can infect too many people. The Titans show up and attack Kovar, saying they won’t let him kill Maladi. While they fight, Raven tries to use her empathic powers on Maladi, but it’s too late. Kovar does pretty well, but the Titans get the upper hand. He’s not ready to give up, but Robin says they can’t let him kill Maladi. Kovar finally agrees to take her to a hospital to die peacefully. Maladi dies (she’s happy to know the people she infected were cured) and Kovar tells the Titans he volunteered for the mission to kill her. Kid Flash wonders why the hell he would do that and Kovar reveals that he was Maladi’s fiancé … and today was supposed to be their wedding day.
- The Titans first met Kovar back in issue 18 of the original Teen Titans series, where they worked together to stop a jewel thief in Sweden. Kovar told them he got his powers from the Tunguska meteorite, which would make him a hell of a lot older than he looks. Kovar later takes the code name Red Star.
This one starts on December 30, 1941, with Winston Churchill giving a speech in Ottawa before the Canadian parliament. A Nazi assassin (appropriately named Black Assassin) pops up and takes a shot at Churchill with what looks like a laser rifle. Liberty Belle and Shining Knight are there to protect Churchill and tackle the assassin. Shining Knight goes down from a laser shot and Belle is tangled in a flag, but before the assassin can take another shot at Churchill, a new player enters the scene. This guy is dressed very patriotically (if you’re American) and smashes the Nazi’s rifle with his bare hands. He decks the assassin, who tries to set off a bomb strapped to his chest. The newcomer covers the assassin with his own body, muffling the explosion. The Nazi is obliterated, but the new hero is relatively unharmed, though he is quite stunned and burned. Churchill recognizes him as a mystery man named Steel, who was thought dead a couple of years ago. Steel is half out of it, but manages to hand Churchill a book before passing out. Shining Knight carries the unconscious Steel (who’s a lot heavier than he looks) to a hospital. Liberty Belle calls Washington about Steel and is told to return with him as soon as possible. Churchill and the heroes take Steel on a train and head for the States. A doctor on the train tells them Steel is partly mechanical … his skeleton has been reinforced with metal and certain parts of him (including his skin) are artificial, which explains how he weathered the explosion so well. Churchill tells Liberty Belle the book Steel gave him was a journal and urges her to read it. We get an extended rundown of Steel’s origin. Basically he was a guy named Hank Heywood who enlisted in the Marines and was almost blown up stopping some saboteurs at a base. Heywood and a scientist named Giles (who was also the father of Heywood’s fiancée, Gloria) developed a bio-retardant formula to help replace lost body parts, including skin. Giles used the bio-retardant and extensive surgery to rebuild Heywood’s shattered body, basically turning him into a cyborg. Heywood became a costumed operative named Steel, but Giles was a pacifist so when he read about Steel’s adventures (and realized Steel was Heywood) he had a heart attack. Steel gave the doctors the bio-retardant to save Giles’s life, but Giles insisted Heywood either give up being Steel or drop Gloria. Steel chose the latter and headed over to England to forget her. He ended up saving Churchill from the Black Assassin and Churchill asked Steel to perform a special mission for him … kidnapping Hitler. But the infiltration didn’t go well and the plane was shot down. Steel survived but his journal ends there, giving no clue as to why he disappeared for almost two years or how he ended up in Canada tonight. Elsewhere, Baron Blitzkrieg is tracking Churchill’s train, hoping to get another chance to kill him after being thwarted last issue. Outside the train, a bald eagle lands on one of the cars and transforms into a man. But this is not just any man, it’s the Japanese assassin known as Kung. He somehow puts everyone in the cars below into a deep sleep, then turns into a tiger and starts tearing through the roof. He’s surprised by Hawkgirl, who’s been watching the train as it nears Washington, with Firebrand flying in a plane nearby with a couple of special passengers. Kung knocks Hawkgirl off the train but she’s saved by Johnny Quick. Johnny’s partner, Robotman, attacks Kung on top of the train but Kung fakes him into falling off. Kung heads inside and grabs Churchill, deciding not to change into an animal but to just choke him to death. Before Kung can finish off the Prime Minister, Steel revives enough to grab the assassin by the throat and almost breaks his neck. Kung changes to a bird and flees, leaving Churchill grateful to Steel for saving him again. Liberty Belle wonders if Kung’s attack was at the behest of Baron Blitzkrieg, but we soon learn otherwise. Blitzkrieg is actually pissed off that Kung tried to kill Churchill; the Black Assassin’s attack was meant to fail so Steel would be sent to the white House with Churchill … where Blitzkrieg says he’ll kill the Prime Minister and President Roosevelt. Sounds like some Manchurian Candidate stuff coming up next issue.
- Churchill actually did give a speech to the Canadian House of Commons on that date, parts of which are excerpted here (notably the “some chicken, some neck” phrase).
- Steel originally appeared in a short-lived series in 1978 written by Gerry Conway that was canceled because of the Implosion. Some of the flashback stuff here was taken right out of those issues.