Comics Reviews: JLA 203, Legion of Super-Heroes 288, New Teen Titans 20, All-Star Squadron 10

JLA 203 coverJustice League of America #203 – “Shuffle and Deal … With Death” – Gerry Conway/Don Heck/Romeo Tanghal

This issue is a bit different because a lot of the story is told from the villains’ points of view. But it starts with a couple of good guys (Aquaman and Firestorm) hanging out in the southern Pacific Ocean (with Aquaman surfing on a couple of dolphins). Aquaman has brought Firestorm there for some training, but he’s also hoping to give the young hothead an attitude adjustment; Firestorm has been acting a bit too cocky lately, jumping into situations before being properly prepared, so Aquaman has decided to give him a lesson in humility. He commands some flying fish to cross Firestorm’s flight path and while he’s dodging them, Firestorm is knocked over by a huge wave. Aquaman points out that Firestorm was too sure of himself and that’s why he got knocked on his ass. The lesson doesn’t seem to sink in though, because when Aquaman gets a telepathic alert from some fish about a fog-shroudedoctopus attack hydrofoil zooming around nearby, Firestorm flies off to check it out himself. Firestorm assumes it’s a scientific research vessel, but Aquaman knows it can’t be because he’s notified of all such vessels before they set out. Firestorm flies into the fog around the hydrofoil and gets knocked out again. Aquaman sends a dolphin to rescue him and commands some octopi to smash the hydrofoil’s engines by tossing rocks at it. When the ship grinds to a halt, Aquaman checks it out but he gets blasted too, and we see the attackers is Jack of Spades from the Royal Flush Gang. More dolphins show up and take Aquaman to safety, leaving Jack to spout gambling clichés. He goes back into the ship where another Royal Flush members is waiting, Ten of Spades. This isn’t the same Ten we’ve seen Ten's originbefore … this one’s a woman. She makes fun of Jack’s targets getting away and tells him to go to hell when he tries to put the moves on her. Turns out the hydrofoil was just a shell around the real vessel, a flying saucer. Ten pilots it (very skillfully … Jack is rather impressed) to the Royal Flush Gang’s secret headquarters in the Mojave Desert. The headquarters is pretty flashy for a secret hideout, but since it’s in the middle of the desert I guess nobody will notice. We find out (if we hadn’t already guessed) that this is a brand new Royal Flush Gang, retaining nothing but the name from the original group. Jack and Ten report to the rest of the Gang, chaired by Ace. Jack thinks they succeeded in killing the two JLAers (to establish some quick street cred), but Ten figures they might still be alive. As she’s making her report, Jack muses about the new group and we get a rundown of their origins. Ten was a test pilot named Wanda Wayland (apparently as good a pilot as Chuck Yeager or Hal Jordan) who was fired when she refused her boss’s advances. It’s funny that Jack seems sympathetic to her situation seeing as how he put the moves on her too. AsQueen's origin she was leaving her job, Wanda was met by Ace, who said he could give her a way to strike back at the system and find some justice. Jack himself was a gigolo who romanced older women to steal from them. One of his marks got wise and he accidentally pushed her off a building. Ace contacted him and offered him a way out, so Jack took it. (And Ace apparently fixed things so Jack wasn’t arrested for the old lady’s death.) Queen was Mona Taylor, famed Broadway actress and drunkard. Her career was in the crapper and her husband had just walked out when Ace got in touch to offer her a better life. King was a hobo named Joe Carny (the King of the Road), who was dying of cancer. Ace promised to extend his life for a while longer if King joined his Royal Flush Gang. Jack reflects that each of them were desperate, backed into a corner by a system they couldn’t control and Ace gave them a way to rise above it. King takes Wonder Woman downBut all Jack’s snooping hasn’t been able to uncover anything about Ace’s background, or his motivations. Ace tells King and Queen the Gang needs to kill some superheroes to make their reputations, so it’s their turn. Meanwhile, Aquaman and Firestorm were dropped by the dolphins on a fishing boat, who called the Coast Guard. The heroes end up at UCLA Medical Center in some kind of strange coma, so Ralph (who’s on monitor duty) calls Wonder Woman for help. She jets out to L.A. But is attacked as she arrives. She lands her jet without crashing, but gets jumped by the King, who uses hypnotic powers to overwhelm her. Wonder Woman is trained to resist hypnotism, but King’s power is more like a force of pure willpower and he manages to confuse her enough to knock her out. It looks like someone is watching from behind a tree in the distance, but I’m not sure who it is. King dousesJack figures out Ace's secret Wonder Woman with some kind of radiation (I-Radiation, whatever that is) and leaves her lying there. He reports his success to Ace, who’s quite pleased. Jack is still curious (or suspicious) about Ace, so he spies on him after Ace gets King’s report. Turns out Jack was right to be suspicious; he sees Ace take off his mask, then peel off another mask to reveal that he’s actually a robot. Ace reports to someone called Wild Card that the first part of the plan is underway. Wild Card is pleased and says they need to think about what comes next after the JLA is eliminated. Wild Card suggests Ace will have to kill the rest of the Royal Flush Gang too. We’ll see how all this turns out next issue.

LSH 288 coverLegion of Super-Heroes #288 – “The Legionnaire’s Made for Burning” – Paul Levitz/Keith Giffen/Bruce Patterson

A couple issues ago, Projectra’s father died and she was poised to inherit the throne of Orando, a planet that still lives at a medieval tech level. But Projectra’s cousin (Pharoxx) challenged her for the throne and defeated her (and her consort, Karate Kid) because he was immune to Projectra’s illusion powers. Projectra and Karate Kid were tossed in a dungeon to await execution, but they’d already sent out a call for help to the Legion, so they’re now languishing in prison hoping a rescue squad shows up before they’re executed. Karate Kid uses the time to carve out a weapon from a stalagmite with his cool karate chops, but when he and Jeckie try to get past the guards, Pharoxx is waiting to blast them. On Earth, the LegionnairesLightning Lad blames himself have a meeting about Projectra’s situation (they’ve already dispatched a team to help) as well as trying to locate the five missing Legionnaires whose cruiser disappeared after rescuing Chameleon Boy’s team from the Khund homeworld. Lightning Lad still blames himself and seems to be having a nervous breakdown. (His wife, Saturn Girl, is among the missing Legionnaires.) His sister (Light Lass) says there’s plenty of blame to go around, since she’s the one who talked Saturn Girl into mounting a rescue mission to Khundia. There’s been no signal from the missing Legionnaires’ flight rings, so they aren’t sure if the quintet is still alive, but Phantom Girl says they can’t give up hope. On Orando, Mon-El and Shadow Lass show up to join Dream Girl and Ultra Boy outside the castle. A quick look with their Hagga gloatsvision powers tells them it’s time to get inside. In the courtyard, Projectra and Karate Kid (who’s unconscious) have been tied to stakes in preparation for being burned to death. We find out how Pharoxx managed to resist Projectra’s illusions last issue … an old witch named Hagga made him immune. Hagga is Projectra’s grandmother and trained her to use her illusion powers, but got pissed off when Projectra left Orando to join the Legion. Projectra says her trip made her appreciate other cultures and perspectives, but Hagga sees outside influence as a sign of weakness. She says Voxv was a weak king and Projectra would be a weak queen, so she’s backing Pharoxx in his usurpation of the throne. Projectra isn’t impressed and Pharoxx slaps her, but soon gets a taste of his own medicine as Mon-El swoops down and tosses him into a wall. Ultra Boy uses flash vision and super-breath to melt and freeze the knights who come after them. Dream Girl tries to untie Projectra, but Hagga gets impatient with the defenders and blasts theHagga blasts everyone Legionnaires herself. Back on Earth, engineers are erecting a shield around the planet, which bothers Dawnstar. She has no time to dwell on it though, as she’s trying to use her tracking powers to get a fix on the missing Legionnaires. At Legion headquarters, Lightning Lad continues losing his grip, brooding about his missing wife and planning how he’s going to kick Chameleon Boy’s ass when he gets back. On Orando, Hagga has used her magic to bind all the Legionnaires to stakes and kindles fire beneath their feet. Dream Girl notices that the magical fire burns without heat, but consumes objects like normal flames do. Dream Girl’s sister (White Witch) is a sorceress, so she gets an idea; she focuses all her will into her Legion Flight Ring, breaking loose from Hagga’s bonds and rising into the air. Dreamy Shadow Lass freaks Hagga outsays she’s a much more powerful sorceress than Hagga and promises to blot out the light of Orando’s sun. Shadow Lass realizes that’s her cue and uses her darkness powers to envelop the castle. Everyone freaks out, thinking Dream Girl is using magic, but Hagga figures it’s one of Projectra’s illusions. She knocks Projectra out but the darkness remains, so Hagga says she’ll see what happens when she kills Dream Girl. In an asteroid belt near Khund space, we finally get a look at the five missing Legionnaires (Saturn Girl, Timber Wolf, Colossal Boy, Shrinking Violet, and Chameleon Boy), who’ve managed to crash land on an icy asteroid with a barely breathable atmosphere. Saturn Girl’s leg is busted but she’s wearing a restorative splint; that’s about the only good news … the ship is wrecked, their supplies are limited, and the icy air has screwed up their Flight Rings, so they can’t be tracked. Everyone’s blaming Chameleon Boy and he agrees with them; heChameleon Boy sees Violet and Colossal Boy making out knows it’s his fault they’re in this mess. Timber Wolf takes Saturn Girl (who’s not wearing her sexy costume anymore because of the cold, she’s now dressed in a variation on her original outfit) to a quiet spot where they talk. Cham sits in the wrecked ship and ponders all the shapes he can change into, none of which can fly back to Earth. He heads back to the camp and sees Colossal By and Shrinking Violet making out; Cham knows Colossal Boy has had a thing for Violet for years, but hasn’t had the guts to act on it until now. On Orando, Hagga tries to blast Dream Girl with her magic. The guards prevent Pharoxx from helping, saying he’s the King not the executioner. Shadow Lass manages to hit Hagga with a piece of rock, giving Dreamy the Projectra's coronationopening she needs to deck the witch. That frees the other Legionnaires and Pharoxx attacks, telling the guards he doesn’t give a damn about their laws and admitting he would’ve killed King Voxv is the old man hadn’t died of natural causes. The legionnaires fight Pharoxx’s illusions and Karate Kid gets through Pharoxx’s defenses and kicks his ass. The Orandians hail Projectra as their new Queen, since she and her friends won the fight. That overwhelms Jeckie and she faints. Later, Karate Kid tells the others he’s staying on Orando with Projectra as her official consort (and bodyguard). They attend Projectra’s coronation before saying their farewells.

New Teen Titans 20 coverNew Teen Titans #20 – “Dear Mom and Dad” – Marv Wolfman/George Perez/Romeo Tanghal

As the title suggests, this issue is Wally (Kid Flash) West writing a letter home to his parents about some of the stuff that’s happened to him and the other Titans lately. Wally has always been the “normal” member of the Titans … loving parents still alive, well-adjusted college kid; if it weren’t for his speed powers, Wally would just be a regular guy. He’s always had his doubts about whether he should stick with his costumed career or try to go back to being a civilian. At the moment he’s trying to find a balance between the two, but a lot has happened lately and Wally’s letter home is his way of sorting out his feelings. His narrative starts with Gar (Changeling) Logan and Victor (Cyborg) Stone searching the sewers forCyborg and Changeling in the sewer anew villain called Disruptor. Disruptor is young—around the Titans’ age—but he’s pretty vicious and his power is to disrupt the natural flow of things. Gar finds out what that means when he locates Disruptor; the villain uses his power to disrupt Gar’s blood circulation, causing agonizing pain. Vic comes running, but gets his mechanial parts disrupted in turn. Disruptor opens a water sluice, leaving the Titans to drown, but Gar manages to overcome his pain and save himself and Victor. Back at Titans’ headquarters, Dick (Robin) Grayson is pissed off at himself for not being able to outguess Disruptor. Dick says he’s usually a better strategist but spending time with Batman lately has made him feel like a stupid kid again. Wally is surprised, since Dick always came off as so sure of himself. Later, Cyborg's birthday partythe Titans throw a surprise party for Vic’s birthday; Gar acts like a goof and Raven is emotionally detached … so just like normal. Donna (Wonder Girl) Troy is feeling down and confides In her boyfriend (Terry Long) that birthdays bother her, since she has no idea who her parents were or when her birthday is. Victor gets a present from Sarah Simms (and Terry tells him Sarah came to see him last issue), but Victor just ignores it. Apparently he still blames himself for putting Sarah in danger back in issue 10. Wally overhears Starfire telling Raven about how she misses her home planet and Wally reflects on all the crap Starfire’s been through: kidnapped and turned into a warrior and a slave, then forced to hide out on Earth not knowing if she’ll ever see her family again. Wally watches Donna glide over the river and sees her grab her side and plunge into the water. Wally spots Disruptor nearbyDisruptor takes Donna down and zooms out to confront him, but Disruptor’s power throws Wally’s whirlwind back at him, knocking him into the river too. Disruptor is very proud of himself, thinking he’s killed four Titans now. He heads back to a limo parked nearby and brags to his father about his triumph. His father (Brains Beldon, an old foe of Batman) is a real prick, belittling his son and telling him that you can’t assume a superhero is dead unless you see a body. Beldon is right about that; Wally survives and pulls Donna out of the river too, before trailing Beldon’s limo back to his mansion. He eavesdrops on Beldon, who turns out to be a prospective member of HIVE. Apparently, the upper echelon of HIVE is made up of scientists who have been beaten by superheroes and banded together to gain power. Beldon wants the seventh Wally gets taken downseat among HIVE’s leadership, so he’s browbeaten his son into using the Disruptor suit to waste the Titans. Wally busts in but before he can grab Beldon, Disruptor freezes him in place and beats the shit out of him. Wally wakes up tied to a chair with Disruptor preventing him from breaking free. Disruptor’s control isn’t complete though, so Wally vibrates his hand at super-speed to send a localized sonic boom distress call to the Titans. They bust in and attack but Disruptor (who’s still trying to please his father)lets loose and turns their powers against them, almost killing them. Raven finally stops him by using her empathic powers to show Disruptor where his current life path will take him. Apparently it’s a pretty dark place, because the kid freaks out like he’d stared into the mouth of Hell. Wally actually feels sorry for him until Raven says she had to turn Disruptor awayRaven blows Disruptor's mind from the path he was on or he’d end up becoming a thing of pure evil, all just to please his father. Raven compares Disruptor to herself and her own father (Trigon) and Wally wonders what it’s like to know you were spawned by a force of evil like that. Disruptor ends up going to prison and his father disowns him, blaming him for his not getting into HIVE. Wally wraps up his letter by acknowledging how he’d never really noticed all the problems his friends deal with in their personal lives, then thanking his parents for always being there for him, giving him a stable foundation that he sometimes takes for granted. Instead of mailing the letter, he decides to zip back to Blue Valley to deliver it in person.

Noticeable Things:

  • Wonder Girl says she doesn’t know how old she is, but when Victor said he was nineteen, she said, “Welcome to the club”, so she must have some idea of when she was born even if she doesn’t know the exact day.
  • It’s mentioned that Terry Long is 29; I wonder if that was thrown in for all the fans who thought he was way too old for Donna?
  • Brains Beldon claims to have fought Batman to a standstill way back in Detective 301.

All-Star Squadron 10 coverAll-Star Squadron #10 – “If an Eye Offend Thee …” – Roy Thomas/Adrian Gonzales/Jerry Ordway

This one starts with Hawkman flying around over San Francisco, where (as Carter Hall) he’s been taking his flight training for the Army Air Corps. Hawkman watches a fleet of B-17s head off for Hawaii, but gets a shock when a weird aircraft shows up out of nowhere. The ship is shaped like a giant eye and runs silently, but shoots out a beam of energy that knocks out the engines on one of the B-17s. The plane is too heavy for Hawkman to hold up, but luckily help is nearby; Ted (Starman) Knight is in one of the other bombers and quickly changes into costume, using his gravity rod toHawkman and Starman confront the Flying Eye hold up the B-17 until it can restart its engines. Starman and Hawkman go to check out the Flying Eye and are startled to see a body fall out of it. Another energy blast screws up their flight for a few seconds, but as soon as the Eye takes off, the heroes get their flying powers back. Hawkman catches the falling body (it’s a guy in a silver flight suit) and determines he’s already dead. Starman has to get back to his plane (and admits he got through flight training so fast because he had President Roosevelt grease the skids), leaving Hawkman to take the dead guy back to San Francisco. Hawkman thinks he recognizes the guy, which freaks him out even more than the Flying Eye did. In Washington, D.C., Johnny Quick, Shining Knight, Johnny Quick disposes of bombsand Hawkgirl check out the Washington Monument and find some German saboteurs trying to blow it up. Johnny Quick gets bashed on the head but still manages to disarm the bombs while his teammates pound the saboteurs. On a remote Pacific island, Dr. Charles McNider (aka Dr, Mid-Nite) is researching a cure for tropical fever when some Japanese planes come in for a bombing run. American planes go up to meet them but the fight is interrupted by the Flying Eye, which disrupts engines on both sides, causing the pilots to bail out. After briefly becoming Dr. Mid-Nite to capture some downed Japanese pilots, McNider gets back to his research, wondering what the hell the Flying Eye is. In Washington, President Roosevelt (escorted by Atom and Liberty Belle) goes to see Churchill (interrupting his bath, whichChurchill in a towel doesn’t bother him but seems to embarrass Liberty Belle) about forming a “United Nations”; I can’t imagine something like that ever working. On the Crimean Front, the Flying Eye interrupts a bitter winter battle between German and Russian tanks. The Eye conks out a bunch of tanks—and destroys one that fires on it—before moving on. Back in Washington, Commander Steel is given a clean bill of health (mechanically, at least) by Robotman, who says whatever device Baron Blitzkrieg used to control Steel is now gone. As Steel and Robotman leave with Firebrand, all the lights go out in the hospital and the two mechanical men hit the floor, their circuits and servo-mechanical problemsmotors disrupted by something. When they recover and head outside, they see the Flying Eye heading for the White House, so they follow. Apparently the Eye only disrupts mechanical devices that are right underneath it, so Steel and Robotman can follow at a safe distance; the trail of conked out cars helps keep them on the right path. They follow the Eye until it stops near the White House, where Shining Knight, Johnny Quick, Hawkgirl, Liberty Belle, and Atom are waiting to greet them. The Eye doesn’t do anything, it just hovers near the White House, but everyone’s pretty freaked out. Finally, a beam shoots out from the Eye and a being coalesces nearby … a being at least seven feet tall with purplish skin. Johnny proves he’s the resident hothead when he tries to tackle the newcomer and gets slapped down for his troubles. Firebrand’s flames don’t do any better, since the strange visitor is surrounded by some kind of force field. The weirdo finally speaks, announcing that he is Akhet from Proxima Centauri and he’s claiming Earth in the name of the Binary Brotherhood. We’ll see how that works out next issue.

 

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