Comics Reviews: JLA 210, Legion of Super-Heroes 295, New Teen Titans 27, All-Star Squadron 17

JLA 210 coverJustice League of America #210 – “When a World Dies Screaming” – Gerry Conway/Rich Buckler/Romeo Tanghal

This one starts with Ray (Atom) Palmer and a colleague named David using a special sub-electron microscope at Ivy Town university. David has postulated the existence of an “X-element”, a sort of catalyst that ties all the atoms in the universe together. David and Ray have finally observed the X-element, but they noticed it’s decaying rapidly which will mean disaster for all life on Earth. The X-element is necessary for atoms to exist, like oxygen is for fire, so if it all decays, matter will start disintegrating all over the place. Judging by the rate of decay, total disaster isn’t far away, so Ray takes off. David assumesRay goes to spread the news Ray is going to tell his wife Jean what’s going on and David figures he should be with his fiancée (Olivia) who’s on a concert tour in Sweden. Ray doesn’t go to see Jean, he changes into Atom and calls an emergency JLA meeting. On their Satellite, the JLA confirms Atom’s findings and they realize once the X-element disappears, it’ll have all kinds of strange effects in various parts of the world, from fires refusing to ignite to water dissolving into vapour. The effects have already begun, as they receive alerts from a bunch of different places on Earth. Naturally, that means they have to split into teams, just like in the old days. As they head for the surface, we see an alien spaceship hiding behind the Moon full of purple aliens. They call themselves Treasurers and it sounds like they’re the ones Superman's lensbehind the sudden loss of the X-element … and it seems this isn’t the first time they’ve done this. Superman and Wonder Woman head for Sweden, where combustion can no longer take place. Wonder Woman saves a jumbo jet from crashing (a jet which just happens to have David’s fiancée Olivia on board), while Superman fashions a lens that lets him redirect sunlight to warm up the city of Stockholm enough so everyone doesn’t freeze. In the Swiss Alps, the lack of X-element has done away with friction, so Flash and Elongated Man have to stop a runaway train. They succeed, although Ralph almost stretches himself to death in the process. In Central Africa, the vegetation has stopped giving off oxygen, causing countless animals to suffocate. Green Lantern uses his ring to re-oxygenate the air and save everyone, but heGL in Africa wonders why the X-element has suddenly started disappearing. Atom shrinks down to sub-molecular size to observe the X-element vanishing and speculates on whether someone could be causing it. In South-East Asia, water has started disappearing, so Batman has Aquaman and the Hawks drop an experimental chemical to reconstitute the water and Aquaman and the Hawks call in sea creatures and birds to redistribute the water with sponges. In the American Mid-West, the opposite has been happening; the water vapour in the air has gathered into a choking fog, blocking out the sun. Red Tornado creates a vortex to gather all the clouds into one huge mass, which Green Arrow seeds with a silver nitrate arrow, causing the clouds to drop all their water content as rain. Black Canary uses her Canary Cry too, but I’m storm in middle americanot sure what good that was, other than to sound like thunder. The alien Treasurers figure they’ve softened Earth up enough and come down to talk business, appearing over the streets of London. The Treasurers say they can stop the decay of the X-element in exchange for compensation, paid in advance. Their demands aren’t all that steep really; they want samples of some Earth wildlife, plus some stranger items like snow from Mount Everest and sand from the Sahara. The JLA thinks it’s weird the aliens just happen to show up now, with a way to help Earth with a problem it didn’t even have until today. But the Army insists the JLA gather the items for the Treasurers, so they go to find them. What he Army didn’t mention, is that the Treasurers’ list of demands includes a human being, a guy named George Arthur Stuart. As fargathering stuff for aliens as the Army can tell, Stuart is a nobody, just a regular schlub with nothing particularly special about him, but they figure if it comes down to Stuart or the entire Earth, Stuart is expendable. Naturally, they didn’t mention that to the JLA, knowing they’d never agree. So, while the JLA are gathering the items (snow, sand, salt from the Indian Ocean, a llama, a chimp, an egret, some sparrows from Paris), the Army goes to Grand Rapids, Michigan to take George Arthur Stuart into custody. We’ll see why the Treasurers want him next issue.

Noticeable Things:

  • When the aliens show up in London, a couple of the onlookers are Andy Capp and his wife Flo.

LSH 295 coverLegion of Super-Heroes #295 – “The Origin of the Universe File” – Paul Levitz/Keith Giffen, Howard Bender/Dave Hunt

This is basically a downtime issue (for the characters and creators) after the end of the Great Darkness Saga. It revolves around a framing sequence where Timber Wolf is trying to decide whether to quit the Legion and leave with his girlfriend (Light Lass, who’s already decided to quit), or stay. Blok is watching some tapes of old Legion cases and asks Timber Wolf to watch with him, thinking he might get some insight that’ll help him make a decision. The tape they end up watching is an “untold” (until now) Legion story, about the Green Lantern Corps and their shaky relationship with Earth. The adventure in question takes place quite early in the Legion’s history (as evidenced by their old costumes); they receive an emergency call from the Time Institute on the edge of Metropolis. When the Legionnairestime viewer blasted (Lightning Lad, Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl, Triplicate Girl, and Colossal Boy) get there, the Institute is on fire. They head inside, but it turns out the damage was already contained. They meet the head of the Institute (Circadia Senius, an insectoid alien), who tells them R.J. Brande funds the Time Institute the same way he does the Legion. Senius says they were trying to observe the beginning of the universe and saw a giant hand holding the nascent cosmos, but before they could look farther back in time, a lightning bolt came out of nowhere and destroyed the time-viewer. Senius has the viewer rebuilt and they try to look at the universe’s origin again, but another lightning bolt blasts down toward the machine. Lightning Lad intercepts this one, but the entire Time Institute is uprooted and flies into space. A holographic Guardian of the Universe shows up to tell Senius that the origin of the universe is not for fighting the GLCmortals to know, so they won’t allow anyone to see it. Three Green Lanterns (who apparently haven’t been seen on Earth for centuries) start busting up the Institute, keeping the Legionnaires in a force bubble to protect them. The Legionnaires bust loose and attack the Lanterns, precipitating a brawl. Before things go too far, Saturn Girl sends a telepathic plea to the Guardians, who bring the combatants to Oa. The Guardians tell them the story of Krona, who tried to observe the beginnings of the universe and unleashed a nameless evil. The Guardians order the lanterns to return the Time Institute to Earth and help rebuild it, as long as Senius and the Legion promise not to seek the origins of the universe. Everyone is zapped back to Earth and they cooperate to rebuild the Institute. Two of the Green Lanterns leave, but one (Named Vidar) is acting weird and decides to stick around. The Legionnaires are going to test Senius’s Time Bubble by going back to the 20th Century to meet SuperboyVidar gets pounded and Supergirl. Something goes wrong and they end up dragging a bunch of giant creatures through time with them. They abort the mission and end up back home, where they quickly corral the creatures. (They actually splatter one of the creatures, a giant insect; Senius doesn’t seem too bothered by it.) Lightning Lad realizes Vidar has disappeared and they find him inside the Institute, trying to see the universe’s origins. Another cosmic bolt shoots down, destroying the machine again. Vidar blames the Legionnaires and gets aggressive, but Saturn Girl uses her telepathy to suppress Vidar’s will, giving Cosmic Boy the chance to deck him. They take Vidar back to Oa, where he’s stripped of his ring. The Legionnaires tell the Guardians the Earth government has decided to ban the Lanterns from Earth space because of all this bullshit. The Guardians agree, saying the Legion can protect Earth. While watching the Light Lass leavestape, Timber Wolf suddenly realizes what he has to do. He goes to see Light Lass and tells her the Legion is like a family and he’s not ready to leave his family yet. Light Lass says the good points about the Legion aren’t enough to offset all the pain and loss … not for her. She leaves and Timber Wolf stays. In the video room, Blok has noticed a strange thing; the Green Lantern who tried to look at the origin of the universe (Vidar) has a striking resemblance to Universo, the power-mad scumbag the Legion has fought several times. Universo even has a son named Rond Vidar. Blok ends up assuming his conclusion must be wrong, thinking Brainiac 5 would’ve figured such a thing out years ago and entered it into the database. Of course, it was later confirmed that Universo was Vidar, although I think they may have changed that for one (or more) of the Reboots.

Noticeable Things:

  • Besides the old costumes, the Legionnaires are using flying belts instead of the flying rings that they currently use to fly. Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl aren’t a couple yet, but there’s definitely some mutual interest there.
  • The three Green Lanterns seen here are Vidar, Galt-Re (a Xudarian like Tomar-Re), and a female Durlan.
  • The story of Krona trying to see the origin of the universe was first told way back in Green Lantern 40.

New Teen Titans 27 coverNew Teen Titans #27 – “Runaways Part 2” – Marv Wolfman/George Perez/Romeo Tanghal

This is part two of the Teen Titans after school special. Okay, it’s not quite that bad, but it does get a bit preachy at times. Anyway, last issue the Titans returned to Victor (Cyborg) Stone’s place to find a dude bleeding to death on the floor. Raven uses her empathic power to heal him, but the pain stays with her instead of dissipating like it usually does. She goes into kind of a trance where it seems like her father Trigon is trying to take over her will; Wonder Girl notes that the same thing happened when the Titans were in space. Raven manages to push Trigon’s influence down and wakes up, but refuses to tell the Titans what’s going on. The guy she healed turns out to be Paul Taylor, whose brother Mike was the junkie who got run over outside the theatre last issue (which explains whyRoy Harper shows up Paul was following the Titans). Paul says he came to New York to find Mike after he ran away from home. Robin says Mike had been working as a low-level dope dealer and wonders if Paul knows who his supplier was. Paul says he figured it out after going through Mike’s stuff at the runaway shelter. They all head back to the shelter and run into Adrian Chase, the D.A. who’s been trying to put the drug suppliers out of business. Chase is working with a familiar face … Roy Harper, who’s acting as some kind of liaison between the Feds and the local authorities. Of course, we know Roy is secretly Speedy, ex-Teen Titans member, but Chase doesn’t know that, so everyone pretends they met briefly on another case. (Chase calls Roy an expert on the drug trade, which makes sense since Roy’s a former addict; I’m not sure if Raven talks to LizzieChase knows that or not.) Raven talks with Lizzie, the girl whose dad kicked her out for being pregnant. Raven gives her a pep talk (and maybe uses her powers a bit) to give Lizzie some much-needed confidence. Lizzie heads out and considers going home, but she ends up getting sweet-talked by her pimp into staying. Paul is being a pain in the ass, refusing to tell the Titans when and where the new drug shipment is coming in unless they take him along. Chase is ready to beat the info out of him, but Raven just uses her empathic power to read his mind (which isn’t really how empathy works, but I guess it fit the plot). Roy volunteers to accompany the Titans on the bust and immediately puts the moves on Raven. (Hey, they don’t call him Speedy for nothing.) At the runaway shelter, Paul knocks over the woman who runs the place and takes off for the drug bust, hoping for some revenge on the people he holds responsible for his brother’s death. Chase realizes they need to getStarfire totals the boat going before the whole thing goes to hell in a handbasket. At the docks, Scarapelli (the drug importer) and his men are waiting for the shipment to come in. He has his men pound one of their street hustlers, who was getting delusions of grandeur. Scarapelli addresses the latest crop of runaways who’ve been recruited to work for him. He tells them they can all make a quick hundred bucks just for carrying a package across town. As the dope is unloaded from the boat, the Titans show up and start kicking ass. Starfire and Wonder Girl total the boat while the others pound the gunmen on the docks. One of the crates busts open and a kid decides to make a grab for the drugs, but he’s shot by one of Scarapelli’s men. The killer is taken out by the hustler who received the beating earlier. Raven and Cyborg are trying to get the kids to safety Cyborg tosses the killer into the waterwhen another of Scarapelli’s men takes a shot that kills a thirteen-year-old boy. Even Raven’s power can’t save this one and the gunman takes off, running right into Chase and the cops. Chase tells the cops to waste the guy, but they say they can’t shoot first. Before the gunman can fire on the cops, Cyborg smashes his gun and tosses him into the water. Chase asks if he’s dead and Cyborg says no. Chase is disappointed and Cyborg scares himself by almost agreeing with him. Robin hands Scarapelli over to the cops, but the mobster figures he’ll be out in no time. Raven comforts Lizzie and feels Paul nearby. Paul showed up wanting revenge, but when the fighting started and people started dying, he froze. Raven says everyone faces their own private devils every day; the difference is in how you choose to face your own fears. The story ends with Paul returning home to his worried family, Lizzie trying to return home but being rejected again by her asshole father, and another kid in Virginia having a fight with his mom and running away from home. I guess everything comes full circle and the problem never really ends.

All-Star Squadron 17 coverAll-Star Squadron #17 – “To Slay the Body Electric” – Roy Thomas/Adrian Gonzales/Rick Hoberg

This one starts with Wonder Woman dropping off some fellow All-Stars (Robotman, Commander Steel, Johnny Quick, Liberty Belle, and Firebrand) at Robotman’s lab in Queens after last issue’s adventure. They’re surprised to find Robotman’s friend Chuck Grayson with a visitor … Joan Carter (who was Robert Crane’s girlfriend before he was killed and had his brain transplanted into Robotman’s metal body … something Joan is unaware of). Joan has heard that the slimy lawyer Sam Slattery is trying to get Robotman declared a public menace and she wants to help clear his name. Before Robotman can thank her, the cops show up outside with Slattery, who has some paperwork from Robert Crane’s heirs claiming Robotman is their property. The cops aren’t happy about taking in a superhero for an asshole like Slattery, but they don’t have much choice.Johnny disarms the cops Robotman wants to clear everything up legally, so he agrees to come in quietly. But Johnny Quick (as usual) gets pissed off and disarms the cops, with a little help from Firebrand. Liberty Belle orders them to stand down, since the All-Stars can’t help anyone if they’re arrested for assaulting cops. Robotman thanks them, but repeats that he’ll go willingly into custody, even allowing himself to be chained up. Joan gets a strange feeling, like Robotman reminds her of someone. Johnny still wants to help Robotman, even though he said he’d handle things on his own, so Johnny and and Liberty Belle have a big argument and he storms off. The newspapers sensationalize the whole thing and people on the streets are debating Robotman’s humanity, or lack thereof. Turns out Slattery talked a distant relative of Robert Crane into Robotman leaves his jail cellclaiming ownership so Slattery could figure out what makes Robotman tick and duplicate it, getting rich in the process. Slattery is stacking the deck, paying witnesses to lie about Robotman’s character. Meanwhile Robotman has donned his “Paul Dennis” disguise and walked right out of jail, after bending the bars to get out of his cell. He goes to a meeting with the lawyer Chuck Grayson hired and says he needs to prove his humanity once and for all. Liberty Belle helps out in her civilian identity of Libby Lawrence, famous reporter, by broadcasting pleas on the radio for people to reserve judgment until the trial is over. Johnny Quick (in his civilian identity of Johnny Chambers) and Tubby Watts are in a bar listening to Libby’s newscast when a drunk starts mouthing off. Johnny switches to his costumed identity so fast nobody can see and kicks the guy’s ass. Johnny wonders how fair Robotman’s trial will be and vows to help his friend, no matter what. At theRobotman at the courthouse trial, there are a bunch of protesters outside (probably hired by Slattery) throwing stuff and calling Robotman names. The All-Stars testify to Robotman’s character and plenty of affadavits are sent from other heroes like Superman and Wonder Woman. But Slattery says testimony from people who hide behind masks is unreliable and he judge agrees, striking all the heroes’ testimony. Johnny can’t help wondering if Slattery might target the All-Stars if he wins this case. Joan Carter and Chuck Grayson testify too and it’s Chuck who does Robotman the most good by telling everyone the truth about him having Robert Crane’s brain. Grayson tells Robotman’s origin and Joan freaks out, wondering why Bob never told her the truth. Slattery isn’t impressed, but the judge seems somewhat moved and allows Robotman to Robotman busts loose and holds up the ceilingtestify on his own behalf. Johnny Chambers slips out of the courtroom and moments later the whole place starts falling apart. Commander Steel is knocked out and Robotman busts loose from his chains to hold up the ceiling while the other All-Stars evacuate everyone. Slattery is unconscious on the floor and a doctor tells Robotman he had a heart attack. Robotman rushes Slattery to the hospital and returns to find the crowd cheering him. The judge says anyone who would risk himself to help an enemy definitely qualifies as human and dismisses the case. Afterwards, Johnny Quick admits he noticed the ceiling start to collapse in the dilapidated courtroom and decided to give Robotman a chance to shine, so he zoomed in at super-speed and knocked Commander Steel out. As they’re heading home for some relaxation, the All-Stars are asked for help by a little bald guy named Henry King. They brush him off, but it turns out King is the JSA’s old enemy Brain Wave and he’s got plans for the All-Stars.

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