Comics Reviews: JLA 208, All-Star Squadron 15, Legion of Super-Heroes 293, New Teen Titans 25

JLA 208 coverJustice League of America #208 – “The Bomb-Blast Heard Round the World” – Gerry Conway/Don Heck/Sal Trapani

We start off with something we’ve already seen twice—the confrontation between the JLA and the All-Star Squadron in JSA headquarters on Earth-2 in January 1942. We get the usual misunderstanding fight (remember, Gerry and Roy both worked at Marvel for years), but it’s soon settled and the two teams compare notes and recap the previous two parts of this crossover. Firestorm also tries to make time with Firebrand, but things don’t really work out. The Squadron gets a call from President Roosevelt and they all head to the White House to see him. Most of the JLA members are quite impressed; in fact, Zatanna seems very taken with FDR. I’m not sure if Gerry’s trying to write Zatanna as being kind of “man-hungry”, but that’s the way it comes off to me. I know later on he writes her as (almost literally)Per Degaton's ultimatum salivating over Dale Gunn, but this characterization seems a little weird to me. Or maybe I’m reading too much into it. Anyway, the meeting is interrupted by Degaton (on one of those futuristic projection television devices… Japanese-made, no less), and he tells them—and the rest of the world—that he has stolen nukes from the future and intends to demonstrate their devastating potential the next day on some random targets. The heroes realize this is the turning point that leads to the future where Degaton is master of the world, and they vow to stop him and restore history. We now check in with the JSA members in the nuclear devastation of 1982 Earth-Prime. They track some “human” readings with Green Lantern’s ring, but find only mutated freaks. After a short fight, they find a normal (relatively speaking) human and Dr. Fate absorbs his memories, learning about the Cuban missiles disappearing back in 1962, which led to mistrust JSA pop out of thin airand eventually to annihilation. Fate senses a psychic residue and realizes Per Degaton was behind it all. Back on Earth-2 (in 1942), the All-Stars and the JLA watch Degaton’s nuke demonstration in the middle of the ocean. The Squadron members are shocked by the power of the warhead and realize Degaton could potentially destroy the world. Suddenly, the missing JSA members appear in their time-bubble above the ocean. They’re unconscious, but the JLA and All-Stars grab them and take them aboard the observation ship. Speaking of observation, Per Degaton is watching them from a jetliner, which he also stole from the future apparently (along with a communications satellite and whatever else is needed for the plot to advance). Degaton gloats about the stranglehold he now has on the world and plans his conquest, along with the destruction of the All-Star Squadron. Will he succeed? We won’t have to wait long to find out.

All-Star Squadron 15 coverAll-Star Squadron #15 – “Master of Worlds and Time” – Roy Thomas/Adrian Gonzales/Jerry Ordway

Told you we didn’t have to wait long. We start this issue with Per Degaton still watching the first gathering of the three teams (JLA, JSA, and All-Star Squadron). He’s confident he can take over the world and eliminate all of them in the process. We get a flashback explaining how the JSA just happened to show up here—Dr. Fate, Green Lantern, and Starman combined powers to get off of Earth-Prime and Degaton’s nuclear demonstration drew them to this exact time and place … or something like that. GL refers to “your Earth” when talking to the All-Stars, but aren’t they both from Earth-2? These particular JSAers are from the future, but it’s all Earth-2 as far as I know. Anyway, the three teams tell Roosevelt what’s going on and Degaton broadcasts another threat to the world, saying he has another twofighting Ultraman in space dozen nukes and will use them against any nation that doesn’t turn over supreme power to him. Roosevelt tells the assembled heroes that he’ll do what Degaton asks if they can’t get rid of all the nukes. They split into smaller teams (which is a staple of these crossovers). Superman, Dr. Fate, and Robotman attack Degaton’s satellite up in space. But Degaton left a surprise for Superman—some green kryptonite! Robotman learns not to open unlabeled lead boxes, but before he can remedy his mistake, Ultraman (from the Crime Syndicate) shows up (getcher scorecards, you don’t know the players without a scorecard!). Yes, apparently the Syndicate is working with Degaton again, even though last time we saw them (on Earth-1 in 1982) they were mad at him for double-crossing them. Robotman almost sacrifices himself to save Supes from the green-K, and Supes (after flooding Superwoman and the nukespounding Ultraman) returns the favor by yanking Robotman out of the atmosphere before he burns up. Fate does his usual magical mumbo-jumbo. We next see Aquaman, Starman, and Liberty Belle over the ocean south of Japan. Liberty Belle worries about what would happen if Degaton (or anyone) used nukes. Aquaman and Starman decide not to tell her how WWII is going to end. No spoilers! They track the nukes to an island and get jumped by Superwoman. She’s beating them until Aquaman gets a couple of blue whales to smash into the island, flooding the facility and (I guess?) destroying the missiles. During the fight, Starman warned Superwoman that using his cosmic rod might set off the nukes, but apparently thousands of tons of seawater pouring in on them is just fine. Starman does givefighting Power Ring Liberty Belle a small spoiler by mentioning Jimmy Doolittle’s Tokyo raid, but he covers by saying he was talking about Doctor Doolittle … and Libby apparently buys it; people were so innocent in the 40s. Meanwhile, in the Midwestern United States, Hawkman, Huntress, and Johnny Quick search for more nukes. Huntress steadfastly refuses to give Johnny any clue about what happens in the future, but still manages to slip up a couple of times. They find the missiles hidden in grain silos (of course) and are attacked by Power Ring. He says the Crime Syndicate have been planning to double-cross Degaton the same way he did to them … I think we all saw that one coming, Degaton being bombasticdidn’t we? Huntress knocks out Power Ring quite easily (thus making the parallel between him and Hal Jordan complete), but his ring still launches one of the nukes. Johnny and Hawkman catch it and defuse it, along with the other missiles still in the silos. On the final page, we see Per Degaton freaking out about the Crime Syndicate betraying him (well, I guess someone was surprised by it), but he boasts that the rest of the missiles will never be found … and even if they are, he has an ace up his sleeve. What could it be? We’ll see in the final chapter.

LSH 293 coverLegion of Super-Heroes #293 – “Within the Darkness” – Paul Levitz/Keith Giffen/Larry Mahlstedt

Over the last few issues, the Legion have been fighting the Servants of Darkness (who are freaky clones of people who lived a millennium ago) and their unseen Master, who’s been draining various forms of energy (from people, artifacts, and even planets) to increase his own power. The Legion just confronted the Master and got their asses handed to them. Mon-El actually got a look at the Master close-up, but got pounded for his trouble and is now in a coma. This issue starts with them regrouping and vowing to find the Master and defeat him no matter what. Shadow Lass has an idea of where to look; she recognized the strange feeling the Servants caused in her as the same creepiness she felt when she and Mon-El explored the desertedambushed by servants of darkness planetoid back in Legion 287. The Servants even react the same way to Shadow Lass’s darkness powers as the security devices on the planetoid did. Shadow Lass, Ultra Boy, and Phantom Girl check out the planetoid and it looks like they’re on the right track, as they’re ambushed and blasted by the Servants of Darkness. Elsewhere, Superboy searches for any sign of the Servants or their Master, while wondering who has the power to make a twisted clone of Superman from the 20th Century (which one of the Servants is). At Legion Headquarters, Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel have joined the founding trio of Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, and Cosmic Boy, who are trying to coordinate the search. On Takron-Galtos, the prison planet, Chameleon Cham's prison fightBoy gets into a fight with some other Durlans and kicks their asses. He was convicted of treason for almost starting a war with the Khunds and is forced to wear a dampener to keep him from changing shape. His father (R.J. Brande) comes to visit him and they try to reconcile their differences. Meanwhile, the Master of Darkness visits Daxam (Mon-El’s home planet), saying it’s a perfect source of power for him and freaking out the locals. We get some vignettes of other Legionnaires searching for the Servants: Projectra and Karate Kid, Shrinking Violet and Colossal Boy, and Element Lad (who tells Dream Girl he doesn’t want to serve as deputy leader under her … I’d make a joke about “serving under Dream Girl”, but it’s too obvious). On Dream Girl’s ship, White Witch and Invisible Kid discuss the strange infant theybaby on board found on Sorcerers World; the sorcerers said the kid (who’s aging at a very rapid rate) is the key to defeating the Darkness, but nobody knows exactly how. On Daxam, the Master has enslaved the entire population (3 billion or so), but says he needs to make them more powerful before he can use them. He uses his vast power to switch Daxam’s red sun with the sun from the Master’s long-dead world … which is a yellow sun. Yeah, you know where this is going. Wildfire and Dawnstar (with a Legion Cruiser close behind) arrive at Daxam—or at least where Daxam is supposed to be—but find only a burned out shell of a world and a trio of trashed Legionnaires … Ultra Boy, Phantom Girl, and Shadow Lass. So, the burned-out planetoid Mon-El and Shady visited is where Daxam should be (because the Master switched it with the real fighting the servants againDaxam), but Dawnstar assumes it’s what’s left of Daxam after the Master’s attack. The Servants attack again, pulling Dawnstar into a space warp and smashing the Cruiser to shit. Brainiac 5 anticipated an attack and had everyone come in with their flying rings, using the Cruiser as bait. They engage the Servants and have trouble as usual, but Brainy has an ace up his sleeve … Superboy. How can Superboy operate under a red sun? Brainy whipped up some kind of micro-circuitry which he incorporated into Superboy’s costume, enabling him to keep his powers even under a red sun. On Daxam, all the inhabitants have gained super-powers from the yellow sun and the Master has them incinerate their own planet and reshape it into something more to his liking. Back on the dead planetoid, Superboy’s cloned Servant burns the micro-circuitry off his body and Superboy decks him with his lastTimber Wolf smashes a servant bit of strength. The Servant is ready to kill Superboy, but Element Lad encases Superboy in a lead shield and turns the surrounding rocks to Gold Kryptonite, draining the Servant’s powers (since he’s a clone of Superman). Timber Wolf smashes the Servant to pieces and the other servant (the one who was cloned from a Guardian of the Universe) flees through a space warp. Dream Girl’s ship lands on the planetoid and she congratulates them on making the Servants run away. Wildfire is freaked out about Dawnstar, but Invisible Kid (whose powers seem to have something to do with warping space or possibly dimensional travel) sees Dawnstar hanging in between Darkseid stands revealeddimensions and pulls her out. She says wherever she was, she felt very cold and very alone. Brainy isn’t happy because he realizes that Daxam has been transposed with the planet they’re standing on, which means the 3 billion Daxamites will all gain the equivalent of Superboy’s powers under a yellow sun. Brainy also has a pretty good idea who they’re facing, which scares the hell out of him. On Daxam—or what used to be Daxam—the newly super-powered Daxamites have finished constructing the monument to their new Master. It has a very distinctive profile … yes, the Master of Darkness, who wants to spread evil and destruction over the cosmos, is none other than Darkseid! We’ll see the conclusion of the Great Darkness Saga next issue.

New Teen Titans 25 coverNew Teen Titans #25 – “War” – Marv Wolfman/George Perez/Romeo Tanghal

Last issue, Starfire was taken to the Vegan system by her sister, Blackfire, who has a long-standing grudge against her. Blaxckfire has been working with the Citadel forces, who have conquered the entire system and rule with an iron fist. The Titans hitched a ride with the Omega Men (freedom fighters against the Citadel) and promised to help them fight the Citadel if the Omega Men helped rescue Starfire. The Omega Men led them to X’hal, a woman they worship as a goddess, but keep confined on the Okaara to prevent her from bringing destruction to the system. (X’hal is one of those vengeful goddesses.) X’hal’s son Auron is with the Omega Men and can’t help carrying out hiscapturing a guard mother’s violent wishes because of their connection. Citadel soldiers tried to abduct X’hal and the Titans and Omega Men ended up fighting them, which is where we come in. The fight is violent and bloody and Raven’s empathic powers are affected by the strong negative emotions at play. X’hal asks to be released so she can start wasting Citadel soldiers, but Primus (the Omega Men’s leader) won’t allow it. Auron is already blowing Citadel ships away on his mother’s behalf, so she’s probably not needed anyway. Meanwhile, Robin, Cyborg, and Changeling have taken over a Citadel ship by having Changeling impersonate a Gordanian and treat the other two like prisoners. But Changeling’s bluff backfires and some guards pull weapons. Raven fights to control her dark sideBefore they can ventilate him, Robin and Cyborg attack, pounding the Okaarans. Changeling ends up taking one of them prisoner and says he better cooperate if he wants to live. On Okaara, Raven tries to use her powers to help the fallen, but the sheer violence around her overwhelms her, breaking through her soul-self and awakening the evil side of her that she inherited from Trigon. Trigon’s evil actually begins to manifest (causing shockwaves and fear, even for the godling Auron), but Raven manages to fight it off, subsuming it back into herself. X’hal finally calls a halt to the bloody battle, saying she’ll go willingly to the Citadel homeworld. Auron protests, recalling how much destruction she caused years ago before being subdued, but X’hal says Okaara will be destroyed ifStarfire tortured this fight continues and she can’t have that. Robin, Changeling, and Cyborg have made it to the Citadel homeworld with their prisoner, who’s been cooperative so far. Robin is suspicious and warns the others to be careful. He’s right, the captured guard betrays them, but they manage to take him and the other guards down. Robin sends Changeling to look for Starfire. Inside Citadel headquarters, Starfire is being tortured but has so far refused to break despite the incredible pain inflicted on her. Lord Damyn (the Citadel ruler) wants to kill (and eat) Starfire, but Blackfire reminds him he promised she could kill her sister, and she wants Starfire to beg for mercy first. The renegade Psion who’s been working for Damyn tells Blackfire infiltrating the HQshe’s too emotional, but Blackfire says he’s missing out, not feeling things like hatred, or triumph at vanquishing his enemies. Demonia, one of the Omega Men, comes in to offer her services to Damyn in exchange for making her ruler of one of his planets. Damyn is about to eat her face when she tells him Starfire’s friends have infiltrated the headquarters already. Robin, Changeling, and Cyborg have trouble finding their way through Citadel headquarters without being seen, so Cyborg takes matters into his own hands, decking a guard to clear the way. Back on Okaara, the others are hanging around doing nothing because X’hal ordered the Omega Men not to follow her. Wonder Girl asks Primus how they can worship a destructive goddess like X’hal. Primus explains that X’hal was only captured becauseRobin goes wild she saved their lives, so they can’t work against her now. Wonder Girl reminds him he promised to help rescue Starfire. At Citadel headquarters, Robin’s team have found Blackfire and Damyn. They’ve encased X’hal in a stasis field and Blackfire says they can use her as a hostage to force the rebels to surrender. If the rebels refuse, they can just release X’hal and let her rampage through the system; either way, the rebels lose. Sarfire is brought in to be executed, having refused to break under torture. When Robin sees her all beat to shit, he realizes how strong his feelings are for her and goes nuts. He busts into the room, taking out numerous guards. Cyborg and Changeling quickly back him up and he makes it to Starfire, who’s in bad shape but still Blackfire blows Damyn awayalive. Blackfire threatens to release X’hal, but Cyborg grabs Damyn and threatens to blow his head off if Blackfire doesn’t back down. But they’ve underestimated Blackfire, who’d been planning all along to betray Damyn. She seizes the opportunity, incinerating Damyn and proclaiming herself the new ruler of the Citadel. Robin asks her to let them take Starfire and return to Earth since they’re no threat to her. Blackfire says it’s prudent to eliminate one’s enemies, but before she kills them, she’s going to force Starfire to watch as she destroys their home planet of Tamaran and kills their parents. Starfire says she won’t let her sister do that, even if she has to kill her. So, it looks like the conclusion of this story will be epic; join me in two weeks as I review the final chapter of this storyline in New Teen Titans Annual #1. (That’s right, the story’s so big it couldn’t be contained in a regular comic; don’t worry, I’ll be reviewing New Teen Titans #26 two weeks after the Annual, so you won’t miss anything.)

Noticeable Things:

  • While stalling with the Okaaran guards, Changeling references several TV and movie characters from Earth, including Captain Kirk, Flash Gordon, Luke Skywalker. He also mentions Rocky Jones (a short-lived sci-fii show from the 50s) and Ruby Begonia (a character from Amos n’ Andy); those last two seem like pretty anachronistic references for the teenaged Changeling (and Ruby Begonia seems like an inappropriate reference, since Cyborg is African-American).

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