This one starts with Batman doing some routine maintenance on the outer hull of the JLA Satellite. Hawkman is monitoring him from inside and thinks he should be the one out in space, not Batman. But apparently the Leaguers take turns doing EVA stuff and it was Batman’s turn this time. Hawkman’s worries prove right though, as Batman accidentally drops a tool and shorts out a main power circuit. As the unconscious Batman tumbles into space, hull plates start peeling off the Satellite, causing decompression that’ll lead to complete loss of internal atmosphere in six or seven minutes. With the main power circuit down, automated repair is impossible, so Hawkman calls down to Earth for back-up. We see various Leaguers responding to the emergency signal, after taking care of their own business: Wonder Woman helps rescue some kids from a collapsing building; Zatanna is performing in a magic show (which seems like a waste of her talents); Atom flies a kid’s model plane; and Red Tornado gives some punks an anti-smoking speech. Other Leaguers are too busy or don’t get the emergency call (Flash is in the shower). On the Satellite, the JLAers who answered the call soon get things under control, with Wonder Woman tearing up part of the floor for material which Zatanna welds into place. Hawkman explains what happened and says the computer is tracking Batman, who’s still unconscious but protected in his space suit. Suddenly Batman’s telemetry disappears from the screen, so the Leaguers head out to look for him in their new Interplanetary Shuttlecraft (which looks a lot like a Legion Cruiser). As they near the place where Batman disappeared, Zatanna and Red Tornado get weird vibes, like something’s wrong. The Shuttlecraft pushes through a force field around a gigantic cloaked ship. The ship sends out metal arms to grab the Shuttlecraft and since the atmosphere inside the force field is breathable, the Leaguers abandon ship. They smash the tentacles holding the Shuttlecraft and Wonder Woman defends them from lasers. Atom goes small and slips inside the humongous ship to open the doors, just in time to keep from being blown away by missiles. Inside, they find the control room (with technology that impresses even Hawkman) and an automatic helper drone fills them in on the vessel’s story. On some distant planet, an explorer named Ursak (and yes, he does look like an anthropomorphic bear) went into space to zoom around the stars and see what planets he could find. After charting numerous worlds (including one in the middle of an Ice Age and a desert world with reptilian inhabitants that looks a bit like the Barren Earth), Ursak came to a planet around a G2 star where the inhabitants (who look like proto-humans) attacked and almost killed him. They also managed to wreck his spaceship controls, so Ursak sent a distress call home and put himself in suspended animation. The ship the JLA found is the hospital ship that responded to Ursak’s call and it’s apparently been orbiting Earth for 200,000 years waiting to find Ursak. Hawkman confirms the ship has been there that long and notices something else, but before he can tell his teammates, the medical drone tells them the ship has found Ursak and restored him to full functionality. You can see where this is going … yup, the ship grabbed Batman and genetically modified him, thinking it was healing Ursak. Now Batman has basically been turned into Ursak, bear-like face and all; unfortunately, the experience has driven him insane and he attacks, snarling like a wild animal. He kicks the shit out of the JLA, even knocking Wonder Woman out. The medical drone zaps a couple of the Leaguers too, since they’re trying to injure its “patient”. Hawkman flies off through the ship’s corridors, followed by a feral Batman and the medical drone, which insists Batman is still too sick to be running around. Batman pulls Hawkman’s wing harness off, but Hawkman’s anti-gravity belt keeps him flying and he leads Batman toward the main power center of the ship. Hawkman uses his helmet as a lure, tricking Batman into smashing the main power computer. That knocks Batman out and shuts down the ship’s defenses. Using the ship’s computers, they reverse Batman’s condition and Hawkman reveals what he learned from the hospital ship’s computers … the ship has been waiting for 200 centuries in the wrong place. 200,000 years ago, Earth was in an Ice Age—it was the first world Ursak visited—and his distress call must’ve gotten garbled in transmission, so the hospital ship ended up at the wrong planet. Hawkman reprograms the ship’s navigation systems and it heads off to find the right star and finally restore Ursak to full health. Wonder Woman wonders if the ship can actually find Ursak, and how he’ll react being brought back after all this time.
Last issue, Chameleon Boy took it upon himself to order a mission to infiltrate Khund space. As head of the Legion Espionage Squad, that’s technically his right, but he didn’t clear it with the current Legion leader, Lightning Lad. This issue starts with Lightning Lad and his team returning from Brande’s planetoid and Lightning Lad is pretty pissed off that Chameleon Boy just took off without telling anyone where he was going. Speaking of Cham, we see him and his team (Shrinking Violet and Timber Wolf) approaching the Khund homeworld inside a hollowed out asteroid. Chameleon Boy uses his body morphing powers to envelop the entire asteroid, which helps disguise them as a harmless asteroid instead of an infiltration team. The Khund homeworld is known for being lawless and violent, almost anarchic, and Cham has some last minute doubts about his plan, but goes ahead with it anyway. Back on Earth, Lightning Lad really gets mad when he hears where Cham went. He wants to send Mon-El and Ultra Boy to drag Cham and his team back, but they’ve been dispatched to Orando to help Karate Kid and Projectra (who, as we saw last issue, are in danger of being executed). Lightning Lad figures he’ll have to lead a team to retrieve Cham, but Colossal Boy informs him that Khundish space is off-limits to all Legion personnel. Apparently the United Planets have been negotiating with the Khunds over some border disputes, so if the Legion were to violate Khundish space, the diplomats would be in danger. Of course, that makes Cham’s infiltration mission even worse, since it’ll be seen as an act of aggression if he’s caught. Lightning Lad can’t handle all the bullshit anymore and freaks out. He resigns, telling Element Lad he’s the leader now. Light Lass urges Saturn Girl to talk some sense into Lightning lad (who, in case you don’t know, is Saturn Girl’s husband and Light Lass’s brother). Chameleon Boy’s team lands on Khundia near a city called Yagotha, which is shrouded in darkness to save energy. They hide the false asteroid they arrived in and disguise themselves as Khunds, Cham with his morphing power and the other two with a Dystortor (which seems to work like the image inducers used by the X-Men). They head into Yagotha but quickly realize how little they know of Khundish culture. After bumping into someone on the street, Timber Wolf is challenged to a fight and when he refuses, the antagonist (a well-known fighter in the gladiatorial arena) tosses down a device that instantly teleports him and the Legionnaires to the arena. On Earth, Light Lass begs Saturn Girl to change Lightning lad’s mind about rescuing Cham’s team. Light Lass is in love with Timber Wolf and can’t stand to lose him. Saturn Girl assures her they’ll figure something out. Back on Khundia, the Legionnaires face the aggressive Kharlak in the arena, where he’s won so many times the odds are well in his favour. A few Khunds bet against him anyway and are happy when Timber Wolf kicks Kharlak’s ass. Unfortunately, the Legionnaires’ disguises are dropped during the fight, bringing a Khund battle cruiser to blow them away. They manage to evade it for a while, but aren’t sure how to get off the planet. Then the cavalry shows up … Colossal Boy and Saturn Girl in a ship Colossal Boy “borrowed” from his mother’s private shipyard. (His mother is President of Earth, so that comes in handy sometimes.) They take a glancing hit from the warship before warping out of the system, which screws up their navigation computers. So we’ll have to wait to find out why Saturn Girl defied orders to come after them, why Chameleon Boy is acting like such a dick, and where they end up with their wonky navigation system.
“Prologue to Darkness” – Paul Levitz/Pat Broderick/Larry Mahlstedt
This one starts with Mon-El and Shadow Lass interrupting their leave to investigate a rogue planet that suddenly appeared in the space lanes. The planet looks devastated and robots sent to check it out never reported back, so someone called the legion for help. On the burnt out planet, Mon-El and Shady are attacked by automated defenses. The weapons are strong enough to hurt Mon-El, which is pretty hard to do, but when Shadow Lass throws up a screen of darkness to buy a few minutes’ respite, the defenses all shut down. Before they can ponder that, or explore the planet any further, they get a call from HQ telling them to get to Orando as soon as possible. After they leave, we see a ruined city on the other side of the planet, where a dark figure climbs out of an ancient crypt. He’s apparently been confined there for a long time, but now that he’s awakened he vows to spread darkness throughout the galaxy. Yes, this is the start of probably the most famous (and best) Legion storyline of all time … the Great Darkness Saga! But we’ll have to wait a couple issues before it really gets going.
- According to Who’s Who in the Legion, this issue marks the first appearance of Yera. (Some of you will know exactly who I’m talking about … for the rest, I’m trying not to be spoilery but don’t worry, all will be revealed eventually.) Considering how the stories flow into each other, an argument could be made that Yera actually appeared last issue (or even in 285), but Who’s Who says it’s this issue so I’m mentioning it here. Personally, I’d say last issue makes the most sense, but it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. We know it was somewhere around this time, anyway.
- Light Lass refers to Lightning Lad as her “big brother” even though they’re twins. I guess Garth might have been born first, but it still seems like a weird thing for a twin to say.
This one starts with a series of prologues setting up the main story. Victor (Cyborg) Stone watches Sarah Simms and the kids handicapped she helps as they skate in Central Park. Victor feels guilty for not getting back in touch with Sarah for the last couple months, but figures she’s probably better off without him … and that she’s probably forgotten about him anyway. But Sarah hasn’t forgotten Victor and wishes he’d get back in touch. In prison, Dr. Light is sick of hearing about the Riddler’s success on the outside, so he busts out and starts planning a foolproof heist, hoping to stay away from superheroes. An article in the paper catches his eye: an exhibit on artifacts from India are on display at a museum in New York and Dr. Light figures he can grab them with no problem. At the museum, Carter (Hawkman) Hall—who arranged for the Indian exhibit—checks things over with the curator. They admire a sculpture of Vishnu with his ten avatars which includes crystals so precise they seem to have been machine-cut, even though the sculpture is hundreds of years old. The curator gets a shock from one of the crystals, which Carter assures him is just static, but promises he’ll check. Meanwhile, Donna (Wonder Girl) Troy and Starfire head for Titans’ Tower. Starfire is still hurting over her boyfriend’s death and Donna tells her she can’t lose herself in her grief. She has to look for small reasons to be happy again and get back to living her life. Raven overhears them and wishes she could be so open about her emotions. Dick (Robin) Grayson notices Raven is troubled and tries to talk to her, but as usual she avoids him, even using her mental powers to put him in a trance so she can slip away. In Manhattan, Dr. Light blasts his way into the museum to steal the Vishnu artifacts—which are covered in gold and gems—and Carter Hall quickly changes to Hawkman and goes after him. As they fight, Dr. Light shoots one of his energy beams through the Vishnu sculpture, which really lights up the crystals. Hawkman’s wing catches fire and he goes outside to douse it In the snow. Dr. Light figures he’s home free, but is shocked to see some of the avatars of Vishnu have come to life and grown to gigantic proportions. Dr. Light flees and the avatars come after him, so he decides to lead them to the Titans’ headquarters, thinking the Titans will either save him from the monstrous avatars, or die in he attempt. Dr. Light busts into Titans’ Tower, but they’re expecting him thanks to their proximity alarms. They grab Light right away and he begs them for help. At first, they don’t believe him, but when they see the avatars coming, Robin realizes what they are. They tackle the avatars but can’t make much headway against the magically animated beasts. Dr. light uses the confusion to slip away and head back to pick up his loot at the museum. Hawkman shows up to help and lets the Titans know where the avatars came from. Robin realizes Dr. Light is gone and Hawkman knows where to find him. As Light is hauling his treasure out of the museum, Robin shows up and kicks his ass. Hawkman finds a couple of crystal lenses that were part of the Vishnu sculpture and says Light focusing his beam through them is what brought the avatars to life. Robin insists Light reverse the process, but Light says his weapons were damaged when Robin was wailing on him. He tells them the energy he originally used was solar, so Starfire focuses all her power through the lenses, causing the avatars to crumble into pieces. Dr. light is so scared over what Hawkman might do to him, he faints. Later, when Light is back in prison, he gets some welcome news: Riddler was captured by Batman and is behind bars himself. Meanwhile in New York, Wonder Girl’s boyfriend Terry Long gets a surprise visitor … Sarah Simms. We’ll see what that’s all about next issue.
Last issue, newcomer Commander Steel saved Churchill from a Nazi assassin and the All-Stars learned some of his origin. Steel was sent to Washington with Churchill and the All-Stars to meet President Roosevelt, but little does anyone know that’s part of Baron Blitzkrieg’s master plan to eliminate both world leaders. At the White House, Steel and a number of All-Stars (Firebrand, Robotman, Liberty Belle, Atom, Hawkgirl, Shining Knight, and Johnny Quick) hang out with Roosevelt and Churchill and exchange pleasantries. Atom is due to be shipped out soon (he joined the Tank Corps in his civilian identity) and Hawkgirl is anxiously awaiting a phone call from her hubby, Hawkman. The other All-Stars ask Steel to tell the rest his origin story, which left off last issue with him parachuting into Germany with some commandos to kidnap Hitler, who was supposed to be visiting a certain concentration camp in Poland. Steel recounts how he and a couple of men were attacked before they got to the camp and captured. Steel woke up in the camp surrounded by half-dead prisoners, mostly Jewish, who told him the camp commander (nicknamed the Butcher) was a close friend of Hitler. When he found out the guys he was with were dead, Steel went nuts and tried to bust out but even his enhanced musculature and hardened skin couldn’t get him through all the guards. He was taken to the hospital and examined. The Butcher realized what a boon Steel’s enhancements would be to the Nazis and tried to get info on how Steel became bionic. Steel busted loose and grabbed the first thing he could get his hands on—a vial of acid—before jumping out the window. He was knocked down by a bullet that grazed his head, but remembers one of the prisoners throwing the acid vial in the Butcher’s face. The prisoner was shot down and Hitler showed up to demand what was going on. That’s the last thing Steel remembers until he found himself in Canada last issue, saving Churchill’s life. Elsewhere in Washington, we see Baron Blitzkrieg and his assistant, Zwerg, listening in through a microphone planted in Steel’s body. Blitzkrieg brings Zwerg up to date on Steel’s story. Blitzkrieg himself was the Butcher and Hitler’s best surgeons couldn’t repair his face from the acid damage, though they did manage to restore his eyesight. They also gave him experimental drugs that enabled him to redirect his mental power into his body, giving himself temporary super powers of various types when he concentrates. Blitzkrieg decided not to kill Commander Steel; instead he brainwashed him and sent him to kill Roosevelt and Churchill when he hears a certain code phrase. Steel was taken to Canada so he could save Churchill from the assassin that Blitzkrieg sent. That explains why Blitzkrieg was mad last issue about Kung trying to kill Churchill … that wasn’t part of Blitzkrieg’s plan. At the White House, Hawkgirl gets her phone call, but it’s interrupted by someone asking for Steel. As soon as Steel hears the voice on the phone, he goes into a trance and starts eyeing Roosevelt and Churchill. Liberty Belle figures out what’s happening and tells Johnny Quick to get the two politicians to safety. Johnny takes off with them, but can’t go too fast in the confines of the White House. Steel goes after Johnny, pounding the All-Stars who get in his way. Steel corners the trio and knocks Johnny for a loop. Firebrand throws a protective ring of fire around Roosevelt and Churchill, while Robotman tackles Steel. The two metal men go toe to toe, but Robotman soon realizes Steel is channeling extra power from some outside source. Turns out Baron Blitzkrieg can focus his own will through the tracer in Steel’s body, adding his power to Steel’s and even experiencing events through steel’s senses. Blitzkrieg’s power boost enables Steel to toss Robotman aside and in desperation, Firebrand throws a fireball into Steel’s face. The fire doesn’t harm Steel, but Blitzkrieg experiences the fireball through his mental link and it takes him back to getting the acid in the face. Blitzkrieg goes blind even though the fire didn’t actually touch him, and Steel’s brainwashing is wiped out. Steel comes to his senses, wondering where he is and how he got there. The All-Stars celebrate Steel’s recovery (and New Year’s Day) and Robotman says he’ll check Steel out to make certain he’s free of Blitzkrieg’s influence. Meanwhile Blitzkrieg has hysterical blindness and seems to have lost all his arrogance, begging Zwerg to take care of him. Zwerg promises Blitzkrieg will see again and that they’ll smash the All-Stars.
- This issue is set on New Year’s Eve, 1941 (and runs over into January 1, 1942). Johnny and Liberty Belle share a New Year’s kiss, as do Shining Knight and Firebrand.
- It’s said that Blitzkrieg’s recovery (and thus Steel’s imprisonment before his brainwashing) took almost two years, from 1939 through most of 1941.