Comics Reviews: JLA 209, Legion of Super-Heroes 294, New Teen Titans Annual 1, All-Star Squadron 16

JLA 209 coverJustice League of America #209 – “Let Old Acquaintances Be Forgot …” – Gerry Conway/Don Heck

We open with the three successful teams from last issue returning to the White House to tell Roosevelt they’ve found most of the nukes. But as long as Degaton still has some left, the world still isn’t safe. We then get a quick recap of the overall story so far. There’s also an interesting aside as Roosevelt is shown pondering the ethics of the Manhattan Project. We next see Geneva, Switzerland where Firestorm, Power Girl, and Commander Steel are looking for the last three nukes. They’re confronted by the mayor, who I can only assume came through Degaton’s time machine since he’s dressed like someone from the 1800s. They’re attackedPower Girl gets blasted by some of Degaton’s thugs and Power Girl is pounded by Johnny Quick (the Crime Syndicate guy, not the All-Star). Quick accidentally launches the missiles before Firestorm takes him out and the three heroes have to disable the nukes, which they do, of course. A couple of them are shown exploding, but I’m assuming (hoping!) the nuclear warheads were disabled so half of Europe isn’t covered by fallout. I’m not sure how Power Girl could get into Europe… at this point, Hitler had the Spear of Destiny, which turned any super-powered person into a Nazi (that was Roy’s explanation for the obvious question of why the superheroes didn’t just go to Europe and end WWII within a day or two). Maybe Power Girl wasn’t affected because she’s from the future? It can’t be because she’s Kryptonian (which she still was, trying to stop the missile theftat this point), because the Earth-2 Superman was affected by the Spear in other stories. Anyway, back in Washington the rest of the heroes are relieved that all the nukes are accounted for. But three of the heroes haven’t been seen yet. Zatanna, Green Lantern, and Firebrand are at Professor Zee’s lab, trying to convince him that his bumbling assistant Per Degaton (who’s absent today) will use the Professor’s time machine to wreak havoc in the future. The Professor says his machine isn’t working yet, but GL and Zatanna fire it up and program it to send them to Cuba in 1962 so they can stop the theft of the nukes before it starts… even though it’s already happened. A few issues ago, Superman said something about the timestorm (which Degaton mentioned in All-Star #14) affecting probability, so the heroes would actually be able to change events that had “already happened”. Well, if Superman said it, it must be true. Also, the missiles were stolen from Earth-Prime’s 1962, so I guess the Professor’s time machine can cross dimensions too… or maybe that was part of GL and Zatanna’s programming? I guess inDegaton's men pounded this case, we can truly use “a wizard (witch) did it” as an explanation. The rest of the heroes track Degaton to his hideout, which turns out to be the site where the Pentagon will soon be built. You gotta admit, Degaton’s got style. The heroes make short work of Deggie and his minions, despite the futuristic weapons he’s equipped them with. Owlman—the last Crime Syndicate member—being a master tactician, decides to run away, but Huntress pounds him. In 1962 Earth-Prime Cuba, the three heroes beat the Crime Syndicate quite handily, which harks back to my earlier comment about plot convenience: is this really the same Crime Syndicate that took out (or will take out) five Justice Leaguers, including Superman? Degaton is with the Syndicate and tries to flee, but Zatanna knocks him out. She and GL combine their powers again and send the Syndicate and Degaton back where Degaton beatenthey belong, which instantly reverses everything that happened … and everyone forgets the whole damn story. Arrrrggghhhhh! They did it again! I can see the logic (Degaton didn’t steal the missiles to begin with, so none of it ever happened, so nobody can remember something that didn’t occur), but I hate when they wipe out the whole story like that; it makes me feel like reading it was all just a big waste of time, since none of it “really happened”. That’s my main complaint about Infinity Gauntlet/War/Crusade/Whatever … everyone’s memory is wiped at the end, so what was the point? But at least those stories still happened, even if no one remembers … this story has been retroactively wiped from existence. And who knows what sort of dangerous precedent that might set for DC? We get a few pages of wrap-up, showing everything back to normal. Of course, some characters have “lingering feelings of doubt”, but that’s par for the course with this type of story resolution. We see the full JLA/JSA reunion,quiet reunion where some of the heroes marvel that nothing happened this time around and Batman says another crisis was “against the odds”. It also looks like Firestorm might actually get somewhere with Power Girl (speaking of dangerous precedents). And that’s the end. Overall, it was a pretty good story arc; the plotline got a little convoluted, but it’s not as hard to follow as I remembered—though it comes close in a few places. It was well done in general, with most of the story making sense, though the “everybody forgets because it never really happened” ending still bugs me. The art is good; I always liked Gonzalez/Ordway on All-Star Squadron, and Heck’s stuff looks better than usual here. So, all in all, I’d say the whole arc is worth reading, as long as you don’t mind a few time travel convolutions and a bit of a cheat ending. But if we let things like that bother us, we’d all have given up on comics years ago.

LSH 294 coverLegion of Super-Heroes #294 – “Darkseid” – Paul Levitz/Keith Giffen/Larry Mahlstedt

Last issue, the Legion finally figured out the mastermind behind the recent “Darkness” attacks … Darkseid. Most of the Legionnaires aren’t familiar with Darkseid (since he hasn’t been seen for a thousand years), so Brainiac 5 helpfully explains to them—and us—about Darkseid and his evil ways. Brainy has deduced that the ruined planet they’re on, from which the Servants of Darkness emerged, is what’s left of Apokolips, Darkseid’s home world. Dream Girl called in the reserves last issue, but decides she’d better get some back-up for the back-up and signals the Substitutes, as well as Supergirl and a few others. They’ll need all hands on deck, since last issue Darkseid used the power he’d been draining over the last few issues to switch the locations Apokolips and Daxam, thereby putting Daxam in orbit around a yellow sun. That gave all three million Daxamites super-powers roughly equivalent to Superboy’s … and Darkseid has mental control over every Daxamite. His newly-superSubs fight the Daxamites minions rampage through the galaxy, destroying planets and overwhelming anyone who tries to stop them, like the Science Police and the Thanagarian Hawk Corps. Dev-Em, the Legion’s old friend from Krypton, is almost finished by a passel of Daxamites, but gets rescued at he last minute by the Heroes of Lallor. They take Dev-Em to the edge of United Planets space, to the artificial planet known as Weber’s World. It’s been evacuated, so the Substitutes are using it as a rallying point to try and stop the Daxamites from penetrating further into U.P. Space. They get a hand from Quantum Queen and the Wanderers, but each individual Daxamite has more raw power than all of them put together, so it’s kind of an uphill fight. On Dream Girl’s ship, Light Lass and Blok discuss the child they picked up on Sorcerer’s World. The kid (who’s growing up before their eyes) is supposed to be the key to defeating Sun Boy blasts the servantDarkseid, but nobody’s quite sure how. The power goes out on the ship and a warp opens on the bridge. One of the Servants (the one on the space scooter who Darkseid calls “son”) pops in to grab the kid, whose presence he sensed from afar. Sun Boy drives him back through the portal with a dose of concentrated light, but the Servant calls a bunch of Daxamites to swarm the ship and tear it to pieces. The Servant grabs the child, intending to deliver him to Darkseid. On Takron-Galtos (the prison planet), Chameleon Boy is being chased through the wrecked prison by a pissed-off Daxamite. Cham manages to toss the Daxamite into Validus’s cell, figuring they’ll keep each other occupied. Before Cham can figure out what to do next, he feels feverish and passes out. In the floating ruins of Dream Girl’s ship, White Witch is the only one still conscious and she uses her powers to shield the others from the rigors of space. She feels herself losing control and makes aDarkseid senses conflict coming desperate attempt to summon more magical power before passing out. Evidently it worked, since she wakes up on another Legion Cruiser, having sent some kind of emergency signal. Saturn Girl tells her everyone is fine, but they need White Witch to use her magic to open a space warp to wherever Darkseid is keeping the child. White Witch isn’t sure she can do it, but she gives it a shot and it works, though the trip is a little rough. Darkseid senses them coming and orders the Servant to kill the child and then waste the Legionnaires when they show up. Back on Earth, the female Servant is trying to escape from Legion Headquarters. Colossal Boy and Shrinking Violet are there to stop her, but she’s strong enough to hold her own against Colossal Boy. Violet gets microscopic and goes into the Servant’s bloodstream (or the equivalent) to Shrinking Violet causes a strokeblock an artery to her brain. It works and the Servant has a stroke, keeling over. On Daxam, most of the Legionnaires fight the Daxamites to keep them busy while Light Lass and Shadow Lass sneak in to look for the kid. They find him surrounded by unconscious guards; I guess he’s not quite as helpless as they thought. White Witch is exhausted from creating the warp and wonders where she got the power to pull it off. A voice in her head says he gave her the power and he’s about to do it again, but on an even larger scale. Element Lad adds some lead to the atmosphere around Daxam, triggering the Daxamites’ vulnerability and knocking them all out simultaneously. White Witch (with a huge power boost from her unknown benefactor) partially reverses Darkseid’s earlier move. She can’t switch planets around like he did, but she does manage to switch the people, sending the Daxamites to the ruins of Apokolips and its red sun. Darkseid gets pissed off at his plansLegionnaires afflicted by their worst fears being undone and strikes out at the Legionnaires in very personal ways: causing Lightning Lad’s artificial arm to crumble; dissipating Wildfire into pure quantum energy; killing one of Duo Damsel’s duplicates; taking Bouncing Boy’s powers away; making Dream Girl ugly; having Ultra Boy devoured by his old nemesis, the Super Moby Dick of space; taking Timber Wolf’s humanity away; and opening Saturn Girl’s mind to a universe of thoughts, driving her crazy. Darkseid decides to finish the child once and for all, since he can tell it’s the source of the power opposing him. Shadow Lass tries to hide the kid in her darkness aura, since that worked against Darkseid’s Servants once before. Darkseid sends his Servant into the darkness aura to get the kid, but when the Servant disappears, a strange ticking noise is heard from within. Darkseid recognizes it as a Mother Box and blows Shadow Lass’s aura away so he can see what he’s up against. Darkseid busts in on Shadow Lass and Light LassIt turns out to be worse than he thought … it’s Highfather and Orion. Turns out the child was Highfather all along, reborn in innocence and sustained by the same power that kept Darkseid from dying for a millennium. Highfather has restored the Servant to its true form, that of Darkseid’s son and eternal Darkseid vs Orionnemesis, Orion. Highfather teleported Shadow Lass and Light Lass to safety and says he has more to do while his time here lasts. He leaves Darkseid and Orion to fight, a fight that has long been prophesied, though Darkseid doesn’t know if this is the ultimate fight (where he’s doomed to lose) or just a precursor like so many of his previous confrontations with Orion. Highfather gathers the Legionnaires and heals them, telling them his power is limited since he’s just a shadow of his true self. He says he’ll do what he can to empower others against Darkseid, then fades away. Orion pounds Darkseid among the fire pits on the ruins of Apokolips and thinks he’s triumphed, but in the end this isn’t really Orion, just a simulacrum created by Darkseid. Darkseid destroys the false Orion, but gets a surprise when Superman and Supergirl show up, empowered by Highfather to ignore the red sun overhead. Darkseid uses his Omega power to send Superman back to theSupergirl decks Darkseid past, but gets a shock when Supergirl powers through his negative energy and decks him. He’s getting ready to kill her when the rest of the Legion shows up to attack. Saturn Girl tells Darkseid he’s miscalculated his chances of winning. He realizes his power isn’t what it was a thousand years ago and he’s lost control over the super-powered Daxamites. The Wanderers, Subs, and Heroes of Lallor are now leading billions of pissed-off Daxamites to fight Darkseid. He realizes he can’t win, so he gives up, but warns that darkness never really dies … it’s always waiting just beyond the dawn to take advantage of people’s fears. Darkseid disappears, taking the remains of Apokolips with him, but leaves a final curse, promising a darkness growing in the Legion Darkseid gives upthat will destroy them from within, “… and that which is purest of you shall be first to go.” Back on Earth, White Witch is inducted into the Legion, while Light Lass tells Timber Wolf she’s had enough of the craziness that comes with being a Legionnaire; she’s quitting and he can come with her or not, whatever he wants. Brainiac 5 asks Supergirl to rejoin, but she declines, saying they don’t really need her. Brainy admits he’s finally gotten over his crush on her and she tells him that’s too bad, as she was starting to find him cute. She heads back to her own time, leaving Brainy to reflect on his crappy sense of timing.

Noticeable Things:

  • The Legion first met Dev-Em way back in Adventure Comics 320.

New Teen Titans Annual 1 coverNew Teen Titans Annual #1 – “Final Conflict” – Marv Wolfman/George Perez/Romeo Tanghal

This is the final part of the story arc featuring the Omega Men and Blackfire. (Don’t worry, I didn’t forget about New Teen Titans 26; I’ll be reviewing that a week from today.) Starfire was kidnapped by Gordanians led by her jealous sister Blackfire and taken back to the Vegan system, from which she escaped way back when she first met the Titans. Blackfire was going to use Starfire’s capture to impress the Citadel leader (Lord Damyn), who managed to gain control over the local goddess, X’hal. But after some of the the Titans (Robin, Cyborg, and Changeling) attacked Damyn’s base, Blackfire decided to take over for herself and blew Damyn away. Now she wants to take Starfire back to their home planet of Tamaran, so she can kill their parents right in front of Starfire before finishing her off. Starfire has had enough of her sister’s crap and goes wild,Starfire goes wild blasting Blackfire and vowing to kill her. The Titans have their hands full fighting the Branx warriors and Gordanians who are part of the Citadel, so they can’t even try to curb Starfire’s bloodlust. The renegade Psion who’s been working for Damyn tries to order the various troops to organize a defense, but the different factions don’t trust each other, and none of them trust the Psion since his people once tried to conquer the whole system. Demonia (who betrayed her fellow Omega Men last issue to join the Citadel forces, though none of the Omega Men know that yet) tries to figure out a way to turn the chaos to her advantage. Starfire keeps hammering at Blackfire, knocking her through the wall out onto the frozen surface of the planet. Blackfire tries to muster Changeling disintegratedher strength, but Starfire’s anger makes her relentless. It also makes her careless, giving Blackfire a chance to fight back. Robin and Cyborg are overwhelmed by Branx warriors and Changeling is apparently disintegrated by Gordanians. Demonia gets an idea of what to do as she watches the renegade Psion try to take command. He finally gains the cooperation of most of the Citadel forces and they halt the fight between Starfire and Blackfire. The Psion proposes they continue the fight on their home planet of Tamaran, a fight which will be broadcast to all the Vegan worlds. If Blackfire wins, she’ll be the new Citadel leader, and if Starfire wins, she and her planet will be spared. The sisters aren’t happy about being manipulated, but they agree to the fight. Elsewhere in the Vegan system, the Omega Men and the rest of the TitansOmega Men's fleet approaching are heading for the Citadel headquarters to rescue their friends. Wonder Girl points out to Primus (the Omega Men leader) that he’s more likely there to rescue X’hal than the Titans, but Primus says the result is the same no matter his motivations. Wonder Girl asks about X’hal, the goddess whom the Omega Men both revere and fear. Primus says she’s the embodiment of all that’s good, but also all that can be corrupted. He gives Wonder Girl (and us) X’hal’s origin: she was once a mortal warrior who led the fight against the Psion invasion. After leading them to victory, she became Empress and presided over a long period of peace. But that left their defenses lax and the Psions attacked again, this time killing X’hal. But the Psions are masters of X'hal's origingenetic manipulation, so they pulled X’hal’s lifeless body apart then reassembled it, all in the name of science. They tried to revive her by charging her with the energy of a star, but that experiment worked too well and she was reborn as a goddess of pure energy, destroying the planet where the Psions had their lab. But X’hal was now a vengeful goddess and didn’t stop at wiping out the Psion fleet … she began attacking her own people. After obliterating three planets in the system, she was finally captured and contained on Okaara, a dead world that was turned into a prison for X’hal and a training ground for the warriors who would watch over her. (Okaara is where Starfire and the Omega Men received their combat training.) Primus tells Wonder Girl that X’hal is now both feared and worshipped. Their ship approaches the Citadel homeworld, which is ringed with orbiting fortresses built on the remains of a shattered moon. On Tamaran, Starfire and Blackfire square off with theStarfire and Blackfire square off on Tamaran entire Vegan system watching. The Psion tells them this is a physical contest only—no starbolt powers allowed. They have bladed weapons that kinda remind me of the ones the skiff guards carried in Return of the Jedi. The two sisters start brawling, beating each other through the jungles of Tamaran. They’re pretty evenly matched, but Blackfire distracts Starfire by telling her their parents are dead, murdered by their brother in a mad rage. She claims their brother is now a hunted fugitive and if Starfire kills her, she’ll be all alone. Starfire doesn’t want to believe her, but can’t help wondering if it’s true. The Psion and some Citadel warriors watch the fight, arguing about who’ll win. The Psion lets it slip that the outcome isn’t really in doubt and the warriors think he’s clever for rigging the fight. But the Psion has deeper plans; while the entire sister fightsystem is watching the fight, other Psions are planting explosives all over the system. Once the fight ends, all the Citadel fortresses will be blown up, paving the way for another Psion invasion. Starfire overcomes her fear and starts pounding her sister, but of course Blackfire cheats and uses her starbolt powers. Before she can fry Starfire’s brain, the Titan flies up into the air with Blackfire clinging to her for dear life. It seems Blackfire lacks her sister’s flying ability. Meanwhile, the Omega Men’s ship attacks the Citadel homeworld, where Demonia is trying to figure out how to turn things to her advantage. She’s discovered by Changeling (who avoided disintegration by turning into a spider and crawling to safety), and agrees to take him to his friends, who are due to be executed. Robin and Cyborg are held in stasis cages, but Changeling and Demonia come smashing in and bust them loose. The Omega Men are inKid Flash runs the gauntlet orbit, stalled by the ring of defenses around the planet. But Kid Flash’s super-speed reflexes allow him to dodge through the gauntlet of lasers in a one-man fighter and destroy the shields. As the Omega Men start bombarding the planet, Robin and company are fighting their way out of Citadel headquarters. On Tamaran, Blackfire begs her sister not to drop her, so Starfire finally flies down into a river near a waterfall, where they start fighting again. Blackfire uses her starbolt powers, which makes the water around them boil and explode. They both tumble over the falls, but only Starfire emerges at the bottom. The Psion informs the Citadel guards with him that both Starfire and Blackfire had special triggers implanted in them, so that if either of them died it would set off explosions all over the system. As the quake bombs X'hal saves the entire systembegin to go off, the Titans and Omega Men fight their way into the Citadel headquarters where Auron frees his mother, X’hal. She senses the imminent destruction of her home and her people and exerts her divine powers to the utmost, sacrificing herself to locate and destroy every Psion bomb on all the planets in the system. The renegade Psion is dealt with by his pissed off Citadel cohorts … possibly being eaten alive. Demonia manages to avoid any recriminations for her betrayal, pointing out how she helped free Robin and Cyborg. The reunited Titans head to Tamaran and Raven heals Starfire with her empathic powers. Starfire is surprised to find her brother was watching her fight with Blackfire from the jungle. She’s thrilled to see him and becomes ecstatic when she finds out their parents are still alive too. After a tearfulStarfire decides to go back to Earth reunion, the Titan assume Starfire will be staying with her family on Tamaran, but her father reminds her of the agreement they made with the Citadel (Starfire was given to them in exchange for sparing her parents and Tamaran). If Starfire stays, Tamaran will be in peril, so the Titans ask her to return to Earth with them, saying they’re also her family. The Starfire/Blackfire jealousy stuff reminds me of Lilandra and Deathbird from X-Men, though the resolution is somewhat different. I’m sure this won’t be the last we see of Blackfire, though.

All-Star Squadron 16 coverAll-Star Squadron #16 – “The Magnetic Marauder” – Roy Thomas/Adrian Gonzales/Rick Hoberg

This one starts with five members of the All-Star Squadron (Liberty Belle, Firebrand, Commander Steel, Robotman, and Johnny Quick) rushing to JSA headquarters after a short fight with a weirdo called Nuclear (a fight we saw in issue 14). When they burst into the JSA meeting room, we get a slight case of déja vu as they react to someone in the room. But this time it isn’t the JLA from the future, it’s just the Earth-2 Wonder Woman (although Liberty Belle thinks she sees a bunch of strangers for a second). Wonder Woman is in bad shape, mumbling about Steve Trevor being in danger from Nuclear. The All-Stars relate their own fight with Nuclear and Wonder Woman gets all worked up, saying she has to fight Nuclear alone. She starts tossing the All-Stars around and tries to take off,Wonder Woman freaks out but Commander Steel blocks her path and she comes to her senses. Apparently she’s such a patriot—despite not actually being American—that the mere sight of someone in a vaguely flag-themed costume is enough to bring her to her senses. Wonder Woman recounts her own troubles with Nuclear and we get an extended flashback sequence. As Diana Prince, she was sailing on a warship with Steve from Norfolk when Nuclear showed up and used his powers of magnetism to direct the ship toward some rocks. Steve admitted he’d been expecting some kind of attack, but had no idea how to counter Nuclear’s magnetic mastery. Diana slipped away to change to Wonder Woman and lassoed the ship to pull it away from the rocks. She succeeded, but Steve fell Wonder Woman saves the battleshipoverboard and she jumped in the water to save him. Nuclear used his power to pull Steve up to the cliff top, then tried to do the same to Wonder Woman. She resisted, but Nuclear used his power to stick her bracelets together, rendering her powerless, then pounded the shit out of her. She heard a submarine surface and Nuclear escaped with Steve. Wonder Woman managed to direct her invisible jet back to New York and stumbled into JSA headquarters, which is where we came in. Robotman speculates that Nuclear would need a fully equipped lab with lots of machinery to generate the power he was using. They head down the coast to search for a likely spot near where the ship was attacked. Meanwhile out West, Carter (Hawkman) Hall has passed his pilot’s test for the Army Air Force; I should hope so, otherwise he’d never be able to show his face again. The All-Stars find a mansion near the site of the ship attack and land to check it out. They’re greeted by a womanRobotman gets in trouble named Joye Playboy, who says she lives there with her brother Percival, who just happens to have a lab under the mansion. Both Joye and Percy say they know nothing about Nuclear, but the All-Stars aren’t convinced. Meanwhile, Robotman felt a magnetic tingle from under the house, so he climbed down the cliffs and found a secret entrance to the underground lab. Inside, he finds the generators he was expecting, as well as the tied-up Steve Trevor. Robotman frees Steve, but Nuclear shows up and starts tossing Robotman around like a rag doll. Steve falls in the water and the other All-Stars bust in, having heard the commotion from upstairs. Nuclear uses his Nuclear unveils the fire pitpower to throw the All-Stars around, chaining Wonder Woman’s bracelets again and pinning Commander Steel beside Robotman. Liberty Belle and Johnny Quick attack, but Nuclear detaches one of Robotman’s arms and uses it to pound them. He pulls the metal floor out from under Firebrand, exposing a fire pit underneath, into which he plans to throw the All-Stars. During all this, Joye keeps asking where her brother is and Nuclear says he forced Percy to let him use the lab, then killed him. Joye is actually stupid enough to believe him, never suspecting that Nuclear actually is Percy. Wonder Woman wakes Firebrand in time for her to absorb some of he flames from the pit, whichNuclear falls in the pit she uses to free Robotman and Steel. They trash the place and Nuclear tries to flee, but Steve crawls out of the water and shoots him in the leg. Nuclear falls into the fire pit and the All-Stars decide not to tell Joye the obvious truth about her brother. Instead, they say Percy’s inventions can never be used for evil again, leaving Joye to think of her brother as kind of a hero.

Noticeable Things:

  • Apparently Nuclear wasn’t a Nazi spy or anything, he was just an asshole who threatened to cripple America’s war effort unless he was paid off.
  • Wonder Woman mentions she just concluded an adventure with some other All-Stars, which we’ll see next week in All-Star Squadron Annual #1.

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