Over the last couple of issues, a new Royal Flush Gang has been taking out Justice Leaguers left and right. So far Firestorm, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Superman are all hospitalized in some kind of strange coma, as if their minds are being stolen from afar. Last issue, Ralph (Elongated Man) Dibny and Black Canary tracked some tech to a company called Megaform whose CEO (Reston) attacked them. But after they beat him, he claimed to have amnesia and had no idea what had happened. Green Arrow was taken down by the new Ten on the JLA Satellite and this issue opens with Ralph and Black Canary finding Green Arrow comatose on the Satellite. Ralph finds Ten’s transparent oxygen mask and deduces that Arrow’s attacker might still be aboard the Satellite. He’s right and Ten tries to ambush him, but Canary warns him just in time. Between the two of them, they manage to take Ten down. They bring Green Arrow to the hospital with the others, but the doctors still can’t figure out what’s affecting their minds. Firestorm’s other half (Professor Stein) knows the truth (and so do we, since we saw it last issue) … Hector Hammond is behind everything. He’s been controlling the Royal Flush Gang (through his mental domination of Reston) and is the one draining the JLAers’ minds. He and Stein argue astrally but Hammond soon gets distracted when he sees the doctor pumping truth serum into Ten. She starts answering some of Black Canary’s questions, mumbling about the JLAers’ neurons being affected and saying something about the Mojave Desert. Hammond decides to shut her up and uses his mental powers to basically shut down her mind, putting her into a comatose state too. We get a look at Hammond’s body, which is languishing in prison hooked to a machine that’s supposed to stop him from using his mental powers. But a rat chewed through the power cable a while ago, freeing Hammond to use his mental powers again while pretending to be powerless. Batman, Flash, Ralph, and Black Canary search the Mojave Desert in the Batplane until they find the Royal Flush headquarters (which isn’t exactly inconspicuous). Missiles are fired from the headquarters, so Flash, Ralph, and Canary parachute down while Batman outmaneuvers the rockets. He joins them and they bust into the hideout. Ralph goes in first and finds Sue begging to be rescued. As soon as he kisses her, he knows she isn’t the real deal (which is more than Superman did when the fake Lois kissed him), but it’s too late … Sue turns into the Queen and blasts Ralph, sending him into a coma like the others. Flash takes the Queen down and Black Canary kicks a hole in the wall. They find themselves in a giant maze made of playing cards, so they split up to cover multiple paths. Batman is taken out by the king, using his irresistible will power. Flash dodges razor sharp cards but ends up slamming himself into a wall. Black Canary almost gets crushed between moving walls, but manages to blast her way free with her sonic cry. She collapses from the effort and finds Jack standing over her. Later, the unconscious JLAers are tied to rocket-propelled playing cards and fired into the sky; Ace says the rockets will shut off about six miles up and the heroes will come back down the hard way. But Jack isn’t impressed with Ace’s triumph and accuses him of being a robot and plotting to do away with the rest of them. Ace admits it, since the JLA are already taken care of, and says it’s time to take out the rest of the Royal Flush Gang. But Ace suddenly explodes (yes, he really was a robot) from a sonic cry. Turns out Jack made a deal with Black Canary: she takes out Ace and Jack makes sure nothing happens to her or her teammates. (He sabotaged the rocket-propelled cards, so the other JLAers aren’t plummeting to Earth, although they are still comatose like the first bunch.) Later at the hospital, Jack tells Canary and the doctor what he overheard while spying on Ace: Ace’s contact (Wild Card) was Reston, but Reston was hypnotized by someone else and had no idea what he was doing. Jack says Ace talked about “Z-radiation” affecting the Leaguers’ minds, but he has no idea what it is or how to stop it. The doctors are baffled too and can only watch as the JLA slip closer to death. Hector Hammond is thrilled, since the Z-radiation will allow him to drain the life from the JLA and channel it into his own body. Martin Stein is sick of Hammond’s boasting and manifests a body on the astral plane to challenge Hammond. Hammond isn’t impressed, but soon changes his tune as Stein astrally beats the shit out of him. Hammond retreats back to his own body, allowing the Z-radiation to dissipate just in time. Jack is putting the moves on Black Canary, but Green Arrow wakes up and tells him to get lost. The others all wake up too and Firestorm notices Professor Stein is quite happy with himself. Stein says he’s glad to know he can throw down if he has to and promises to explain everything later. (I hope Stein at least warns them that Hammond is a threat.) The other JLAers wonder why Firestorm is talking to himself.
This one starts with a handful of Legionnaires (Superboy, Phantom Girl, Cosmic Boy, Wildfire, and Invisible Kid) checking out a break-in at the Museum of the Mystic Arts in California. The place is trashed, but nothing is missing. The Museum’s curator (Antonio Stefanacci, who looks like a Doc strange knock-off) tells the Legionnaires that he had removed the most valuable exhibit for study … a Mentachem wand that can change elements in their natural state. As soon as Stefanacci brings in the wand, a strange darkness begins to gather in the ruined museum. A weird looking humanoid busts through the wall; he’s all dark except for a glowing triangle on his chest and claims to be a “Servant of the Darkness”. He’s after the wand and slaps Superboy down easily while going on about how the Darkness will consume everything. The others try to stop him, but he freezes Cosmic Boy where he stands and shrugs off Wildfire’s blasts like they were nothing. When Phantom Girl phases through him, she finds herself chilled to the bone. Servant #1 (there are several Servants of Darkness in this story, so I’ll refer to them in order of appearance unless they’re given names later) goes after Invisible Kid and Stefanacci and Wildfire just gets them out of danger in time. But Stefanacci drops the wand and Servant #1 grabs it, calling out to his Master that he has what he was sent for. A warp opens and Servant #1 steps through, disappearing with the wand before the Legionnaires can stop him. Back at Legion Headquarters, Brainiac 5 is relieved on monitor duty by Blok, who finds it strange that their HQ is part of a guided tour of the city. Brainy heads off to work on a cure for Matter-Eater Lad’s insanity. Elsewhere in the HQ, Timber Wolf is still pissed off at Chameleon Boy for dragging them off on an unsanctioned mission and almost getting them killed. Cham apologizes again and says the United Planets will be disciplining him soon, so Timber Wolf should get in line. As Timber Wolf leaves, he runs into Saturn Girl. Things are still awkward between them because of the weird connection they had last issue while trapped on the asteroid. Nothing happened, but it looked like they might be getting kinda hot for each other … at least until Timber Wolf’s girlfriend (and Saturn Girl’s sister-in-law) Light Lass interrupted them. Like I said, awkward. Superboy’s contingent of Legionnaires have gone to London after Stefanacci told them about a crime wave targeting magical artifacts. Stefanacci said the biggest artifact that hasn’t been stolen is Excalibur, stored in the Tower of London. The Legionnaires aren’t the only ones looking for Excalibur though; as they approach the Tower, part of the wall explodes. Most of the team deals with debris and protects the crowd, but Invisible Kid heads inside to see what’s up. He finds another Servant of Darkness (this one with a small body and over-developed head) about to steal Excalibur, so he turns invisible and grabs the sword. Servant of Darkness #2 blasts out a searing bolt of light (rather ironic, I guess), knocking Invisible Kid out. Servant #2 grabs Excalibur and calls out for his Master, but Wildfire decks him before he can escape. Wildfire wonders why a simple punch could get through the Servant’s defenses when nothing else could. While he’s pondering that, a space warp opens and Servant #2 goes through it with Excalibur. At Legion HQ, Dr. Gym’ll is examining Lightning Lad, who’s had a full-on nervous breakdown since last issue. Light Lass tries to comfort her brother, but thinks only his wife can truly help. Speaking of Saturn Girl, she’s still talking to Timber Wolf about what didn’t happen on the asteroid. They both know they’re innocent, but it looked bad to Light Lass and she’s been telling everyone what she saw. Element Lad comes in to tell Saturn Girl her husband needs her. Element Lad also gets in a dig at Timber Wolf about putting the moves on his friend’s wife. Across the galaxy on a small dark planetoid (which we’ve seen before), Servant #2 delivers Excalibur to its Master, who’s a guy dressed in some pretty funky armour. The Master drains the eldritch energy from the sword, absorbing it into himself. In London, the Legionnaires discuss the recent theft and figure Brainiac 5 might be able to predict the site of the next theft. When he does, Invisible Kid says he’ll follow the next Servant through a space warp to see where it goes. Brainy’s prediction names Talok VIII as the most likely target, specifically the Institute of Parapsychological Phenomena. Shadow Lass has joined the others (since Talok VIII is her home planet) and leads them to the Institute. Brainy’s prediction is proved accurate, as darkness fills the Institute. Even Superboy and Shadow Lass have trouble seeing in this darkness, but Wildfire lights things up enough that they notice another Servant trying to steal a metallic orb. This one is female and is quite a fighter, knocking the legionnaires around until Superboy blasts her into the wall. Another Servant (this is #4, if you’ve lost count) comes through a space warp riding a weird little flying platform. It looks a lot like the one used by Orion of the New Gods. He blasts Phantom Girl with “astro-force” from a device on the platform and grabs the orb. He retreats through the warp and Servant #3 tries to follow, but Invisible Kid tackles her before she can reach the warp and Superboy knocks her out. They return to Legion HQ with Servant #3 just in time to interrupt a meeting. Element Lad has put his name forward for leader (the Legion votes on leadership annually and elections are coming up soon). Dream Girl and Ultra Boy also throw their names into the ring, but their bickering is halted when Superboy dumps the unconscious Servant on the floor. Saturn Girl points out their number one priority should be finding out who the Servants’ Master is, but since the Servants are so powerful by themselves, they might be better off not knowing. Earth’s President (Marte Allon) calls to tell them Chameleon Boy is being tried for treason, Superboy takes Servant #3 to the holding cells and Shadow Lass says she gets a weird feeling from her, like she should know who the Servant is even though they’ve never met. Superboy says he got the same feeling from Servant #1. They’re startled when the monitors around them start buzzing and Shadow Lass realizes Computo (who’s tied into the HQ computer systems but held in stasis to keep it from doing any harm) is reacting to Servant #3’s presence, almost like Computo’s having a nightmare. On the dark planet across the galaxy, Servant #4 delivers the orb and his Master absorbs its energy, growing bigger and more powerful. He refers to Servant #4 as his son, then tells him he’s gotten all the power he can from inanimate objects … it’s time to go after the living. And so begins the Great Darkness Saga, one of the best-loved Legion storylines; most of you probably already know who the master is, but for those who don’t there are a few clues scattered through this issue, and more to come.
- In case you’re wondering about the new Legionnaire, Invisible Kid, he debuted just before this story in the first Legion Annual, which I haven’t reviewed yet. Basically, his sister got mixed up with Computo and almost died and he ended up joining the Legion. His real name is Jacques Foccart and he’s from Cote D’Ivoire; in addition to his invisibility powers, Jacques can also open space warps, although that aspect of his powers hasn’t been fully explored yet. I’m planning on reviewing the Annual at the end of the year, so I’ll link to it when I get it done.
- In the 20th Century, Matter Master used a Mentachem wand to commit his crimes, but I’m not sure if this is supposed to be the same one; I assume it probably is, but it’s never specified as such.
Last issue, Dick (Robin) Grayson, Donna (Wonder Girl) Troy, Wally (Kid Flash) West, and Raven infiltrated the Church of Brother Blood after their teammate Victor (Cyborg) Stone’s ex-girlfriend was killed trying to flee from the cult. The four heroes were soon found out and Brother Blood himself beat the hell out of them. Raven sent her soul-self to summon the other Titans to help. Brother Blood has three of the vanquished Titans tossed in a pit, but tells his minions to take Robin to the torture chamber. Blood gets a call from a Senator on his payroll, who says he’s been trying to push his fellow Senators to vote to have the Church of Blood officially recognized as a religion, and to have Blood’s homeland (Zandia) recognized diplomatically. The Senator says he’s having trouble getting votes (apparently Abscam made it harder to dispense bribes), so Blood says to tell the Senators whatever’s necessary. Blood tells his assistant to get a reporter (who’s a believer in the Church of Blood) to come to the compound that night; Blood has an idea that might sway the votes he needs in the government. Blood visits the torture chamber, where Robin refuses to break. Back at Titans’ headquarters, Victor is in a crappy mood and takes his frustrations out on Gar (Changeling) Logan. Victor wants to go after Blood for what he did to Marcy (Vic’s ex) and Starfire feels the same way, saying she’s tired of holding back all the time. Raven’s soul-self interrupts the argument to tell them the others have been captured. At Blood’s compound, Robin is tortured some more, but still won’t break. He’s flung into the pit with the others and gets a nasty surprise. A door opens and something horrible emerges … no, not the Rancor monster, just a gigantic spider. Robin is half out of it from the torture, but he manages to evade the spider and confirm that his friends are alive, though still unconscious. He gets to Wonder Girl and grabs her lasso, forming a plan in his head to get them out of the pit. Upstairs, Blood is being interviewed live by a reporter named Bethany Snow. He gives her a load of crap about how his Church is a real religion dating back hundreds of years and how Zandia just wants to be a peaceful democratic country like any other. Blood gets word that the Titans’ plane is approaching, so he starts telling Bethany that he’s heard a group of dangerous vigilantes are on the way to exterminate him and his followers. Bethany plays devil’s advocate, but Blood’s suspicions come true when Cyborg and Starfire come crashing through the wall. Cyborg’s pissed off about Marcy’s death and wants to kick Blood’s ass, so he starts tossing the Church members (most of whom are young people duped into joining the Church) aside like nothing. Changeling and Starfire try to be a bit gentler, but they have to defend themselves when the kids pull guns. Bethany makes it look like the Titans are the bad guys and the Church members are the innocent victims. Changeling realizes what she’s doing, but it’s too late to stop now. Cyborg knows it too, but goes after Brother Blood anyway, getting his ass kicked. Robin gets Wonder Girl o safety in the pit, then goes back for Raven. The spider looms up over him and Robin figures he’s done for, but Raven’s soul-self returns and envelops the spider, knocking it out. She returns to her body and teleports away to open the pit door. She runs into Brother Blood and tries to use her empathic powers on him, but she ends up in agony. Blood steps right through her soul-self and tangles with Cyborg again. Since they’re hidden from the TV cameras, Blood uses his full power against Cyborg, blasting him with some kind of energy. Raven opens the pit and the others climb out, now conscious. They team up and pound Blood, but nothing seems to keep him down for long. Blood boasts about being immortal, but he immediately turns and runs down a secret passage. Cyborg chases him, wondering why an immortal “god” would have to run away. Robin sends Wonder Girl after Cyborg as the other Titans try to subdue the crowd. Cyborg emerges from the secret tunnel and sees a plane flying away. He leaps up and grabs the tail, breaking it off and causing the plane to crash. Of course, Blood’s priestess makes a big deal about that for the TV cameras, saying the Titans came there just to kill Blood. Bethany plays along, accusing the Titans of being murderers, but Blood’s priestess says they should be forgiven because that’s what Blood would want. She also says Blood will return, since he’s immortal. The kids lap it all up and are even more committed to the Church than before. The Titans are upset that Cyborg killed Blood, but Raven’s senses tell her it was all a fake-out … Blood is still alive. Turns out she’s right; the plane was a decoy, while Blood escaped in a submarine. He gloats over making the Titans look bad and figures this will sway the votes he needs in the government. Meanwhile, across the solar system, a Gordanian ship flies toward Earth to retrieve an escaped slave (who we know as Starfire). The ship was delayed by some fighting, but is back on course. The Gordanians have a special passenger on board as well, one who’s looking forward to killing Starfire … her sister, Blackfire.
Last issue, Hawkgirl, Atom, Robotman, and Commander Steel were captured by an alien called Akhet, who supposedly came to Earth to stop World War Two and rule the planet peacefully. Hawkgirl and Atom found out Akhet was a robot, controlled by Hawkman’s old foe, Dr. Anton Hastor. Hawkman was on the same trail (along with Firebrand, Shining Knight, Liberty Belle, and Johnny Quick), investigating the disappearances of a number of scientists over the past decade. At one of their houses, Hawkman saw a photograph and recognized Hastor, even though he’s supposed to be dead. This issue opens with Hawkman and his team heading back to Washington. On the way, Hawkman tells them about seeing Hastor in the photo and gives his teammates (and us) a rundown of his origin. Basically, he’s Carter Hall, archaeologist and museum curator. A few years back, he received a knife from a dig in Egypt and had a weird dream about being Prince Khufu back in Ancient Egypt, where he and his wife were murdered by evil priest Hath-Set. Carter realized he was the reincarnation of Khufu and wondered if his wife had been reincarnated too. He soon found out, as there was a strange disturbance in the subway a few days later; a huge electrical charge swept through the subway, starting fires and knocking people out. Carter tried to help and ran into Shiera Sanders, who he recognized as the reincarnation of Khufu’s wife. Turns out Shiera had been having weird dreams of Ancient Egypt too, though she found the whole reincarnation thing hard to believe. Carter left her alone and went to the museum, where he put on a hawk mask and wings made of a new element he’d discovered (or remembered from a past life) called Ninth Metal. He started flying around and headed out to the estate of Dr. Anton Hastor. He suspected Hastor might be behind the electrical attack, since he was an authority on electricity, but something else drew him there … Hastor turned out to be the reincarnation of Hath-Set. After their first clash, Hastor realized Khufu’s wife had been reincarnated and he kidnapped Shiera. Hawkman fought him and ended up putting a crossbow bolt in his chest, seemingly killing him. Now Hawkman wonders if Hastor is somehow behind the whole “Flying Eye spaceship” from the last couple issues. After all, the spaceship does shoot out electrical surges that affect mechanical systems, and the guy Hawkman caught falling from the Eye a couple issues ago was no alien but one of the missing scientists. Hawkman’s story finishes as they reach their destination, where Roosevelt and Churchill announce they’ve decided not to ally with the Axis powers against Akhet. They figure everyone should fight the alien invader on their own. I bet if was a giant space squid that would’ve convinced them. Meanwhile, aboard the Flying Eye, Hastor goads Atom and Hawkgirl and Atom attacks him. Hastor uses some kind of psychic wave from his brain to throw Atom around. Hawkgirl tries to free Robotman and Steel with the dagger she brought from the museum, but Hastor throws Atom into her, knocking them both down. Hawkgirl tries the old stall tactic of getting the villain to expound upon his plans and recent history … and it works. I guess it wasn’t such a cliché back then. We get some more flashbacks as Hastor tells his story. He was a scientist specializing in electricity when he first met Dr. Napier a decade or so ago. Napier had invented a way to predict the future; Hastor thought he was full of shit, but as the years went by Napier’s predictions came true. Hastor tried to blackmail the government with his electrical weapon and ended up skewered on Hawkman’s crossbow bolt. But Hastor survived and noticed that top scientists had been disappearing for years, including Napier. Hastor tracked Napier (an the others) to a hidden base in a valley where he found out they’d all disappeared willingly. Napier had predicted World War Two, so the scientists banded together to create the Flying Eye (and the Akhet robot) to use as a way of uniting humanity against the “extra-terrestrial threat”. Hastor pretended to join them, but had plans of his own. The scientists devised a way to link their brains together to control the Flying Eye, but Hastor rewired his own stasis tube and got out after the Eye took off. He took control of the helpless scientists (though one managed to escape, the one Hawkman caught after Hastor killed and dumped him) and plans to use the Eye to take over the world for himself. Hastor brings the Eye to Washington and starts blasting, easily fighting off the Army on the ground and in the air. He’s so busy he doesn’t notice a balloon hovering above the Eye. Hawkman, Johnny Quick, Liberty Belle, and Firebrand jump from the balloon onto the Eye. Hastor opens a hatch and they fall inside, but they can’t touch Hastor because he’s surrounded by a psychic force field. Hawkgirl mentions the knife she brought from the museum and Hawkman picks it up. It’s the same knife Hath-Set used to kill Khufu ages ago and Hawkman uses it to manifest an astral projection of his soul. He challenges Hastor to a psychic battle and their astral forms start grappling. Hastor’s psychic power is stronger than Hawkman’s, but Hawkgirl adds her own psyche to the mix and the two of them kick Hastor’s astral ass. Hastor goes catatonic and the Eye starts falling from the sky, right toward the building where the President is. Liberty Belle manages to get through to Robotman (still encased in a stasis tube), and he uses the scientist brain-link to stop the Eye and land it safely. Roosevelt and Churchill congratulate the All-Stars for letting them continue with their bloody war.
- Hawkman’s origin was first told in Flash Comics #1, back in 1940. Most of the origin scenes in this issue are from that story. The origin has been embellished and tweaked many times since then, and the post-Crisis origin has some major differences, especially about the whole Ninth Metal stuff (although a lot of that happens behind the scenes, so it could kinda fit here).