Comics Reviews: JLA 204, Legion of Super-Heroes 289, New Teen Titans 21, All-Star Squadron 11

JLA 204 coverJustice League of America #204 – “The Cut of the Cards” – Gerry Conway/Don Heck/Romeo Tanghal

Last issue, a new Royal Flush Gang started taking out various Justice Leaguers to establish some quick cred. Firestorm and Aquaman wound up comatose in a Los Angeles hospital and Wonder Woman was knocked out just outside. But the new Jack found out the leader of the Royal Flush (Ace) is actually a robot, reporting to an unseen master called Wild Card. (No, I don’t think it’s George R.R. Martin.) This issue starts with Superman doing what he does best … show off. He’s juggling elephants at a circus and the crowd loves it (one of the elephants seems to have taken a shine to him as well). The Queen of Spades watches, then uses her royal sceptre to change into Lois Lane. “Lois” invites Superman to dinner and as soon as she gets close enough, she whacks himSuperman knocked out by Queen with the sceptre. It must be magical, because it knocks Superman out cold, slamming him through a nearby Ferris wheel and freaking out the crowd. Her mission accomplished, Queen of Spades resumes her normal appearance and flies off on a platform shaped like a playing card. On the JLA Satellite, Ralph (Elongated Man) Dibny is so distracted trying to deal with the recent assaults on his fellow Leaguers, he doesn’t even notice Green Arrow (and Black Canary) arriving to relieve him on monitor duty. Ralph quickly fills them in and he and Black Canary head down to look for Wonder Woman. Of course, Green Arrow wanted to go with his woman, but it’s his turn on monitor duty, so he’s shit out of luck. Meanwhile, Queen returns to the garish Royal Flush headquarters in the Mojave Desert and reports her success to the others. Ralph and Canary find Wonder WomanEveryone celebrates her triumph over Superman, but Jack is still wondering what Ace is planning and who he’s really working for. Ralph and Black Canary find the unconscious Wonder Woman and take her to the hospital where Firestorm and Aquaman are being kept. The doctor says the EEG readings show minimal brain activity, almost as if some outside force was stealing their minds. That would explain the comas, I guess. A different doctor (who I think is the King of Spades in disguise) tells them he recognizes a piece of wrecked electronics Ralph is holding; it’s the same as some of the CAT scanners at the hospital and built by a company called Megaform. Ralph and Black Canary call Green Arrow, who tells them about Superman being defeated. (Arrow is very upset that Superman was beaten by a “femme”.) Ralph and Canary head for Megaform Industries to check things out. Green Arrow is pissed off about being stuck on the Satellite and missing all the action, but he’s about to get more action than he can handle. Ace shows upGreen Arrow fights Ace outside the Satellite and Arrow opens the airlock to let her in. (Apparently she came up in a shuttlecraft of some kind.) She tries to blast Green Arrow and he takes off, leading her through the Satellite until he can grab his bow and Arrows. He hits her with a cocoon arrow, spewing a quick-hardening gel all over her. But she’s not done yet, and ends up blasting Arrow when he gets too close. After climbing out of the gel, we learn she was wearing a transparent oxygen mask; I guess that’s how she breathed while outside the Satellite in space. I wonder how Arrow feels about being taken down by a femme? Ace’s task is finished, so she takes her shuttle back down to Earth. Ralph and Black Canary arrive at Megaform and Canary distracts the guard to Ralph Ralph and Canary sneak into Megaformcan shut off the alarms. They sneak in and mug a couple of executives for disguises. They make their way to the CEO’s office, a guy named Reston. He’s apparently kind of a dick, an entrepreneur who thinks his company is his own personal fiefdom and treats his employees like serfs. Ralph and Canary get into Reston’s office, but he sees through their disguises immediately and attacks, tossing his desk at them. I think he throws the desk telekinetically, although nobody remarks on it; I guess Ralph and Canary have more important matters on their minds, as Reston starts pounding the shit out of Ralph. Canary decks him and gets flattened for her trouble, but when RestonCanary throws Reston out the window claims he sent the Royal Flush Gang to take out the JLA—including Green Arrow—Canary gets pissed out and tosses Reston out the window. Ralph grabs him before he splatters, but Reston’s suddenly back to normal, with no memory of the last few minutes. Ralph and Black Canary have no idea what’s going on, but we see that Reston was being mentally controlled by Hector Hammond, Green Lantern’s old foe. Hammond gloats about the success of his master plan, and says he’s not done with the JLA yet.

Noticeable Things:

  • In the hospital, Firestorm’s bed has asbestos sheets all around it; I’m sure that’s not dangerous. There’s also a fire extinguisher on the wall right beside him.

LSH 289 coverLegion of Super-Heroes #289 – “A Cold and Lonely Corner of Hell” – Paul Levitz/Keith Giffen/Bruce Patterson

Last issue, a contingent of Legionnaires (Chameleon Boy, Timber Wolf, Shrinking Violet, Saturn Girl, and Colossal Boy) found themselves stranded on an icy asteroid after escaping the Khundish homeworld. Colossal Boy and Saturn Girl came to Khundia to rescue the other three when Chameleon Boy led them on an ill-advised infiltration mission, but the rescue went bad and now they’re stranded on the asteroid, their supplies running low, and their flight rings screwed up by ice crystals in the atmosphere … meaning the rest of the Legion can’t track their location. Chameleon Boy blames himself for their predicament, and Timber Wolf isn’t shy about agreeing. On a more positive note, Colossal Boy’s long-simmering crush on Shrinking Violet has finally been reciprocated (we sawhoneymoon interrupted them making out last issue). On a much warmer planet (Yucatan VII), Blok and Sun Boy are checking into reports of a downed spaceship, hoping it might be their missing teammates. It turns out to be a couple of pliable aliens enjoying the secluded planet for a honeymoon retreat. They’re not too happy at being interrupted—or slapped around—and Sun Boy figures he and Blok will be in shit with the United Planets when they get back to Earth. On Earth, Mon-El, Shadow Lass, Ultra Boy, and Dream Girl return from their mission to Orando last issue and find Lightning Lad wallowing in self-pity. He’s resigned leadership of the Legion and is stagnating in his quarters, blaming himself for losing control of the Legion and for his wife (Saturn Girl) choosing to go on a rescue mission from which she may not return. The others try to comfort him, but Lightning Lad’s depression is too far gone. Timber Wolf and Saturn Girl get closerNear Khund space, Dawnstar is trying to use her tracking power to get a fix on the missing Legionnaires, but she’s having trouble since they traveled through multiple hyper-warps. Light Lass is in the ship, begging Dawnstar to keep trying (Timber Wolf is Light Lass’s boyfriend, which is why she’s so worried … plus she’s the one who talked Saturn Girl into going on the rescue mission). A solar flare erupts, totaling the ship and Dawnstar barely manages to get Light Lass out in time. Both of them are injured, but Light Lass (who’s in a transparent space suit) pleads with Dawnstar to keep looking for Timber Wolf and the others. On the frozen asteroid, Timber Wolf asks Saturn Girl why she came on such a dangerous mission to rescue them. Saturn Girl says Light Lass was so worried about Timber Wolf, and Saturn Girl had never seen that deep a love before … not even between herself and Lightning Lad. Timber Wolf isn’t sure what to say, but Violet interrupts to tell them sheanti-matter explosion found something that might be important in the wreckage of their ship. Across the galaxy, a dark presence stirs on an almost-dead planet, creating five dark servants and sending them forth to bring destruction. This is the same planet Mon-El and Shadow Lass explored in issue 287, and Star Boy and Phantom Girl fly by while searching for their missing friends. They notice a sudden energy burst, but since there are no life readings (and the energy burst was strong enough to obliterate anyone near it), they figure the missing Legionnaires aren’t down there and move on. On the icy asteroid, he Legionnaires have found an anti-matter pod from their wrecked ship and rig it to give off energy in the visible light portion of the EM spectrum. They send out a flare and hope someone sees it, but the anti-photons from the pod react with the ship’s Light Lass gets the wrong ideawreckage and blow the rest of the ship to hell. So now they have no supplies left and they don’t know if anyone saw their flare or not. Chameleon Boy starts blaming himself again and Colossal Boy tells him to shut the hell up. Timber Wolf tends to Saturn Girl, whose wounds were re-opened by the explosion. He’s pretty sure they’re going to die there and he and Saturn Girl get pretty close … in fact, it looks like they’re about to start making out. They’re interrupted by Dawnstar and Light Lass, who saw the flare and followed the trail to the asteroid. Unfortunately, Light Lass saw the display of affection between Timber Wolf and Saturn Girl and she isn’t too happy about it. I’m not sure if we’re supposed to believe Timber Wolf and Saturn Girl would’ve done something if they hadn’t been interrupted; they’ve both been shown as pretty loyal to their respective partners, so I’m assuming nothing would’ve happened. But I guess it’s more about what Light Lass saw than what might’ve happened, so we’ll see what comes of all that next issue.

Brainiac 5 splash“Once Upon an Insanity” – Paul Levitz/Carmine Infantino/Larry Mahlstedt

This one deals with Brainiac 5 and Element Lad going to the mental institution where Matter-Eater Lad is confined to see about checking him out. Yes, Brainy has finally decided to attempt a cure, and not before time … Matter-Eater Lad lost his mind back in issue 251, so Brainy’s really been dawdling. Supposedly Brainy’s been devoting a big chunk of his time to finding a cure for Matter-Eater Lad, but I don’t think it’s been his top priority. (Or maybe the writers and editors just forgot about Matter-Eater Lad until now?) When they go to see Matter-Eater Lad in the garden, he’s still nuts and attacks them, but Brainy knocks him out with gas. Brainy and Element Lad are then knockedforce projector explodes out in turn when someone uses the same gas against them. Brainiac 5 wakes up inside a force bubble and sees their captor is a former doctor at the facility (R’xalim); he’s pissed off that Brainy reported him for being a detriment to his patients. R’xalim sets the force bubble to contract and takes off. Brainy quickly computes a solution, using a flower to wake Element Lad (he’s allergic) so he can protect them from the constricting force bubble with a metal shield. The feedback blows up the force projector and R’xalim is soon taken into custody. Brainy signs out the still-unconscious Matter-Eater Lad, vowing to cure him back at Legion headquarters.

New Teen Titans 21 coverNew Teen Titans #21 – “Beware the Wrath of Brother Blood” – Marv Wolfman/George Perez/Romeo Tanghal

This one starts with Starfire and Raven interrupting a baseball game at Yankee Stadium. They’ve received warning that a bomb has been planted in the stadium, but before they can even look for it, several gunmen start shooting at them. Apparently, the gunmen were hired to kill the Titans and the bomb is just a way of getting them there. Raven senses the ambush and she and Starfire take down the gunmen. Raven gets the bomb’s location from the leader’s mind and after getting directions to third base (I guess neither Raven nor Starfire are baseball fans), Starfire carves the bomb out of the ground and flies it skyward. She tosses it away, but the bomb explodes, knocking her senseless. Raven teleports to keep her from splattering and uses her empathic power to healmowed down by a train Starfire’s injuries. In Massachusetts, a woman named Marcy (who just happens to be an ex-girlfriend of Victor (Cyborg) Stone) runs through the woods pursued by a woman in a red robe who’s trying to shoot her with a laser gun. When the woman catches Marcy, she says she’s sinned against the Church of Brother Blood and has to pay. Before the woman can blast Marcy, she’s mowed down by a train, giving Marcy the chance to get back to New York, where she calls Victor for help. Victor is at home, talking to Sarah Simms. Vic tries to explain why he’s been keeping his distance from Sarah—he feels guilty she was kidnapped by one of the Titans’ enemies—but Sarah doesn’t blame him and still wants to be friends. Marcy’s call interrupts their Victor finds Marcy deadreunion and Marcy tells Victor Brother Blood is after her and she needs his help. Unfortunately, Blood’s acolytes find Marcy and blow her away. Victor tracks the phone call, but by the time he arrives it’s too late … the place is on fire and Marcy is dead. Back in Massachusetts, another acolyte (Sister Karyn) is brought before Brother Blood himself, who chastises her for bringing Marcy into the Church and for not uncovering the fact that Marcy was once involved with a Teen Titan. Karyn begs for mercy, but gets dumped in a pit and devoured by a giant spider. Brother Blood tells his people to get their followers in the government to lean on the Titans. Meanwhile, Victor has informed the other Titans about what happened and asks Dick (Robin) Grayson to check out Brother Blood. Later, at Marcy’s funeral, her father blames Victor for her death. Apparently, he forced Marcy to break up withinside the Church of Blood Victor and she ended up joining the Church of Blood; maybe he’s really blaming himself. The other Titans show up at the funeral and Raven calms Marcy’s dad long enough to get some info from him about where to find the Church of Blood. Dick, Donna (Wonder Girl) Troy, Raven, and Wally (Kid Flash) West let themselves be “recruited” to join the Church. They end up at Blood’s Massachusetts compound (which looks like a huge cathedral, but with way more rooms) and pretend to be eager to join. But Blood’s people scan everyone who comes in and they detect physical anomalies in three of the new recruits, which I assume refers to their super powers. At a huge meeting Blood addresses his followers, handing out punishments for fighting Brother Bloodtransgressions … you know, like doubting that Brother Blood is the supreme being. After he obliterates a girl who saw through his bullshit, the Titans reveal themselves and attack. But Blood is tougher than they thought; he takes them out one by one, bragging that his Church has already infiltrated the government, the media, big business, and the universities. Raven is the last one standing, but before she can teleport away to get help, she’s blasted too. Blood believes he’s won, but Raven’s soul-self is free and flies off to summon the other Titans … though she fears she may be bringing them to their doom.

Noticeable Things:

  • The guy who points out third base looks a lot like Reggie Jackson, who played for the Yankees at the time.
  • There’s a two panel scene on page 6 of an unseen person in a satellite who’s watching Starfire and Raven. He says the info he’s gatheringMonitor's first appearance will prove valuable to his clients, but this will eventually turn out to be the Monitor, one of the protagonists of the Crisis on infinite Earths. Crisis doesn’t start until 1985 and this is technically the Monitor’s first appearance; obviously Marv hadn’t quite figured out Monitor’s purpose yet.
  • It’s said that Brother blood is 700 years old and that the church has been established on Zandia for at least that long. Zandia is an island nation in the Baltic Sea, though I think it’s said to be in the Mediterranean post-Crisis.
  • There was a Night Force insert in this issue, but I won’t be reviewing it since I never really gave a damn about Night Force.

All-Star Squadron 11 coverAll-Star Squadron #11 – “Star-Smasher’s Secret” – Roy Thomas/Adrian Gonzales/Jerry Ordway

Last issue, a freaky-looking alien named Akhet landed on the White House lawn in a spaceship that looks like a giant eye. Akhet says he’s from Proxima Centauri and represents something called the Binary Brotherhood and he’s staking a claim to Earth in the Brotherhood’s name. Akhet says the World War that’s been raging for the last couple years proves humans are too primitive to govern themselves, so the Brotherhood will take over Earth and rule it as a united planet, with no more internal conflicts. Akhet gives them a day to decide and says any country that resists will be wiped out. Roosevelt and Churchill are in the White House, but aren’t sure if they should risk having the All-Stars attack. The decision is taken out of their hands as Robotman, Commander Steel, Johnny Quick, and Hawkgirl go after Akhet.fighting Akhet He hits them with some kind of force that knocks Hawkgirl and Johnny out and causes Steel and Robotman’s mechanical parts to fail, just as the Flying Eye did last issue. Liberty Belle, Firebrand, Atom, and Shining Knight leap to help their friends, but Akhet blinds Firebrand and the Knight with a burst of light. He grabs Steel and Hawkgirl and carries them up to his Flying Eye spaceship on a tractor beam. Liberty Belle and Atom drag him back, but he knocks them aside easily and ends up taking Atom and Robotman up to the ship as well. A few soldiers fire at him, but the bullets have no effect. Akhet melts their weapons and Roosevelt wonders why he didn’t just kill them. The Eye zooms off, pursued by American fighter planes, but the pilots are forced to bail out when the Eye causes their engines to fail. The Eye zips Akhet's ultimatumacross the Atlantic, scaring the shit out of people in London, Paris, and Berlin. Hitler is at Wolfsschanze, in Poland, bitching to his generals about why they haven’t beaten the Russians yet. The Eye swoops down and knocks out all the German soldiers as a show of power, freaking Hitler out. Akhet delivers the same ultimatum he gave in Washington, then moves on to repeat the message to Stalin, Chiang Kai-Shek, Mussolini, and Tojo. Later, Roosevelt and Churchill discuss what to do with the All-Stars and General George C. Marshall. The Axis powers have agreed to band together with the Allies to fight Akhet, but only if the Allies let them keep all the territory they’ve already gained. Chiang will join the effort only if the Chinese communists do too, and Stalin is playing his cards close to his vest. The meeting is interrupted by soldiers outside shooting at someone flying toward the White House. It turns out to be Hawkman, with news from the West Coast.Hawkgirl flashes back to the museum Hawkman ran into the Flying eye last issue and caught a body that was thrown from the spaceship; he recognized the corpse as Garrett Owens, a leading biochemist who’s been missing for almost a decade after disappearing outside his home. Hawkman mentions the alchemical symbol for the “Spirit of the World” was on Owens’ collar and Roosevelt points out the same symbol was on Akhet’s flag. Meanwhile, Atom and Hawkgirl wake up on Akhet’s ship and Atom uses a glass-like dagger Hawkgirl’s carrying to jimmy the door on their cell. Hawkgirl says she took the dagger on a whim when she was looking for her husband at the museum where he works. Back on the ground, Johnny Quick has combed through FBI files at top speed to check on missing scientists and found a disturbing trend; a bunch of scientists who worked in the same “brain trust” back in the early finding the missing scientists30s have been going missing ever since, about one every six months like clockwork. The latest disappearance was that of Elwood Napier, so the All-Stars go to check out his mansion. The place is deserted, but they find photos of Napier with the other missing scientists. Hawkman thinks he recognizes a face in the photos, but before he can look too closely, the photos all spontaneously ignite and burn up. Hawkman thinks he might know why. On the Flying Eye, Hawkgirl and Atom find Akhet and he addresses her as Shiera Sanders. They take Akhet out easily before realizing he was just a robot. They check out the main chamber on the ship and find a row of glassine tubes, each of which holds someone in suspended animation, including Steel and Robotman. Hawkgirl realizes the prisoners—including Steel and Robotman—are all top scientists. Their true captor finally reveals himself and it’s someone Hawkgirl knows … Anton Hastor, the first foe Hawkman ever fought, except Hastor is supposed to be dead. We’ll see what Hastor’s master plan is next issue.

Noticeable Things:

  • In Hawkgirl’s flashback to her visit to the museum, we see a row of various Hawkman masks; I guess that’s Roy’s way of explaining the ways different artists drew the mask over the years. The last mask is the simple cloth one that Hawkman wore late in his career, and Hawkgirl says he told her, “The day I start wearing that one, you’ll know I’m about ready to retire.” Hawkgirl’s new mask came from that collection … with a few modifications.
  • The captured scientists are a pretty varied bunch; there seem to be several nationalities represented (though no African-Americans that I can see) and at least two of them are women.

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