This one starts with a very dramatic scene of Ray (Atom) Palmer trying to keep his sanity as he tumbles down into the sub-atomic universe. The scene shifts to Katar (Hawkman) Hol on the JLA Satellite telling his teammates that something bad has happened to Atom. That’s right, it’s flashback time! Hawkman recounts how he wanted to share the good news of Shayera (Hawkgirl) Thal’s return with his old friend Ray, but when he called, Ray’s wife Jean was freaking out. She told Hawkman something was wrong with Ray, so Hawkman headed to Ivy Town to see his old pal. When Ray arrived home, it was obvious he was really out of it … he even gave Hawkman a gut punch before using his size controls to change to Atom and take off. Jean said he was probably heading for his lab at the university and filled Hawkman in on why Ray was acting so weird. Apparently, Ray had always wanted recognition as a scientist, but couldn’t publish his size-changing breakthroughs without exposing his secret identity. Recently, he’d made some big scientific breakthrough and was on the verge of publishing it when another scientist beat him to it. There was nothing nefarious, it was just one of those parallel discoveries, like Newton and Leibniz, but Ray took it badly. He threw himself into his research but ended up being all suspicious and paranoid. Jean recognized he was heading for a nervous breakdown and it turned out she was right. When she and Hawkman went to the lab, Atom was activating a machine and laughing like a maniac … then he just disappeared. Hawkman concludes his story by telling his fellow Leaguers that Atom vanished into the microcosmos, the sub-atomic universe that exists when you shrink beyond the laws of physics. Red Tornado reminds them that the microcosmos is infinitely vast, with each atom representing a world, but Black Canary suggests they check the lab for clues. At Ray’s lab, Batman finds an automatic tracker on Ray’s machine, so they should be able to shrink themselves and follow him to whichever sub-atomic world he ended up on. The JLA (Batman, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Red Tornado, and Hawkman) use the machine to shrink down, but the trip is overwhelming to their minds and by the time they land on a sub-atomic world they’ve all got partial amnesia. They can’t remember their own names, but they retain snippets of information, including the fact that they’re looking for a guy in a red-and-blue costume with the molecule symbol on his chest. When Black Canary draws the symbol in the dirt, a stranger shows up (a woman in a cloak that hides her face) and says the symbol is Goltha’s Mark … the sign of death. After they explain their mission as best they can, the woman (who calls herself the Wanderer) tells them they’re looking for someone bearing the mark of Goltha, who usurped the bands of power in her land of L’arra Sha. The Wanderer says Goltha’s citadel is in a city called Ch’anar, which they should be able to reach tomorrow. They’re interrupted by some huge green soldiers who the Wanderer says are Goltha’s Devil Guard and they’re after her. The JLA takes the monsters down with some help from the Wanderer, who’s pretty handy with the staff she carries. The Wanderer won’t say why Goltha sent his Devil Guard after her, but they have little choice but to follow her. They make their way across a causeway over a sea and notice Egyptian hieroglyphics carved into the stone. Hawkman finds them familiar, as does Batman, and their fragmented memories manage to determine that the writing is Egyptian from Earth’s Middle East, but Hawkman also has memories of another planet, Thanagar. The Wanderer leads them to Ch’anar, a huge city gleaming with golden spires and surrounded by a wall. The Wanderer uses her staff to pull a Jedi mind trick on the gate guards so they’ll let the strangers pass. The Wanderer leads them past Goltha’s citadel, where the atom symbol is carved over the gates. The Wanderer says it represents Goltha’s power, the force that made him ruler and keeps him there. But Goltha has held power for a century, so Black Canary dismisses he symbol as a coincidence, since the guy they’re looking for arrived just before they did. Unfortunately, the JLA doesn’t bother to check inside the citadel; if they did, they’d see a giant-sized Atom (relatively speaking) tied down like Gulliver. I’m thinking maybe time moves differently in the microverse, so Atom could have been around for a hundred years already, but I guess we’ll see next issue.
- Jean mentions her own nervous breakdown from Atom and Hawkman 45 when talking about Ray’s strange behaviour; talk about foreshadowing!
- Jean says Ray’s new discovery could put him right up there with “Hawkings”; I assume that’s supposed to be (Stephen) Hawking. It seems like the editors were asleep this month, as one panel later the word plagiarism is spelled “plagerism”.
- This story has a Marvel feel to it, with the microcosmos a thinly-veiled retread of the microverse. I wonder if the Fantastic Four will pop up?
This one starts with Wildfire and a contingent of Legionnaires (Dawnstar, Blok, Invisible Kid, and White Witch) on a mission to the Asteroid Archipelago, where various factions mine the asteroids for minerals. Unfortunately, the consul who requested the Legion’s help is now dead, so they’re not quite sure what their mission is. Wildfire “borrows” the consul’s body and takes it to the Legion cruiser so White Witch can determine how he died. On Medicus One, Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl show up to see Dr. Gym’ll, but he’s away so they have to see his stand-in, Dr. Larsh. Not far away, Duplicate Boy races toward Earth to pound Colossal Boy, who’s been banging Shrinking Violet … who’s supposed to be Duplicate Boy’s girlfriend. In the Asteroid Archipelago, White Witch figures out the consul was murdered, but the effort knocks her out. Wildfire and Blok go to check the settlement area and are startled when a quake rumbles through the asteroid. The miners aren’t too worried, saying it happens all the time, but they direct the Legionnaires further in to the source of the trouble. At Legion Headquarters, Element Lad and Shvaughn Erin are playing Pac-Man (after Shvaughn destroyed Element Lad at Dungeons & Dragons) when they get a call about Colossal Boy being attacked in the Himalayas. The only other Legionnaires at HQ are Ultra Boy and Phantom Girl (and Brainiac 5, but he’s still trying to cure Danielle Foccart). As deputy leader, Ultra Boy flies ahead at super-speed to see what’s up and finds Duplicate Boy (who can duplicate other people’s powers) grown to gigantic size and beating the shit out of Colossal Boy. Ultra Boy knows Duplicate Boy can match his powers (or Superboy’s, or Mon-El’s …), so he flies underground and upends Duplicate Boy, knocking him out. In the Asteroid Archipelago, Dawnstar and Invisible Kid have joined their teammates to explore deeper into the asteroids. They find a bubble that turns out to be a Khundish Challenge Court, occupied by a Khund named Kharlak (who faced some different Legionnaires back in issue 287). He’s there to get revenge and he’s been practicing and getting jacked up. He knocks Dawnstar out and sucks Wildfire right out of his containment suit. Blok thinks Wildfire is dead, but Invisible Kid (who can see—and travel too—other dimensions) isn’t so sure. Invisible Kid disappears while Blok does some damage to Kharlak’s battle-suit, which surprises the Khund. Kharlak teleports away to make repairs, but promises to come back and finish the Legionnaires. Dawnstar recovers and asks about Wildfire, but Blok says they’ll just have to trust Invisible Kid to find him. On Earth, Duplicate Boy wakes up and apologizes to the Legion for the trouble he caused, but says he couldn’t help himself when he found out Colossal Boy was banging his woman. Colossal Boy tries to explain, but Duplicate Boy tells him he doesn’t even care anymore, since Shrinking Violet isn’t he same woman he fell In love with. Duplicate Boy takes off and Ultra Boy thinks it’s funny he came all that way just to pound Colossal Boy. Violet and Colossal Boy head back to their Himalayan love nest, leaving Element Lad and Shvaughn to compare notes. Both of them noticed something strange … Shrinking Violet wasn’t worried or unhappy, she was scared. But of what? On R.J. Brande’s planetoid, Brande and his son (Chameleon Boy) are having a serious talk. Chameleon Boy tells his father he’s lost the ability to shapechange. Brande is in the same boat and says at least Cham is stuck in his regular Durlan form instead of the human shape Brande’s been forced to wear for years. Chameleon Boy isn’t quite so accepting of losing his abilities and says he’ll do anything to get them back … even return to Durla. Brande reminds him how dangerous that could be, then offers to go with him.
Last issue, the Brotherhood of Evil attacked Titans’ headquarters trying to kidnap Raven. Four of the Brotherhood (Plasmus, Houngan, Phobia, and Warp) were taken down, but not before Phobia forced Raven to use her powers on Kid Flash. Wally was so freaked out, he called Raven evil and she teleported away to escape his negative emotions. Speedy and Frances Kane (who was visiting the Titans) remind Wally that Raven’s greatest fear is giving in to her father’s evil and that she’s constantly fighting it, but Wally’s too scared to see sense. Frances points out that he’s kinda in the same boat as she is … they both wish they didn’t have powers. She suggests he take some time off and return to Blue Valley with her, which appeals to him. As they’re talking, the Brotherhood recovers and surprises them, taking them all out before warping away to look for Raven. Across town, Terra shows Gar (Changeling) Logan her new costume and asks if she can join the Titans. Logan still has some nagging questions about Terra’s encounter with the terrorists that killed her parents, but he’s all in favour of her joining the team and promises to mention it to the others. Downtown, Robin, Starfire, and Adrian Chase talk to Bethany Snow, the reporter who was involved with Brother Blood and made the Titans look like assholes a few issues back. Snow now claims she didn’t know how bad Brother Blood was and wants to help stop him. She says she’ll go on the record and gives Chase photos of Robin being tortured when he was Blood’s captive. Snow says Blood is trying to get three members of Congress re-elected so they’ll ratify an arms treaty with Zandia, allowing Blood to fight the Brotherhood of Evil. Someone tries to blow Bethany Snow away, but Robin pushes her to safety just in time. The assassin gets away and Snow is so freaked out, she says she’ll do anything to help them as long as they protect her. She tells them the Brotherhood are trying to use Raven to steal Brother Blood’s power, so Starfire and Robin take off to find Raven. Uptown, Victor (Cyborg) Stone drops by Sarah Simms’ place to give her a present for New Years. She’s not home, but Victor meets Mark Wright, a guy who works with Sarah and the handicapped kids … and who just happens to be her fiancé. Victor feels stupid for thinking (or hoping) he and Sarah were more than just friends and when he gets an emergency signal from Robin, he’s glad to leave. Chase drops Bethany Snow at her apartment where one of Blood’s acolytes is waiting … not to kill her, but to congratulate her for feeding the Titans a load of crap. At Titans’ Tower, the team gathers and learns about the Brotherhood’s attack and that they’re after Raven. Robin allows Terra to help, since her powers might come in handy. The whole team is there, except for Raven and Wonder Girl, who’s on a date (at the Rainbow Room) with Terry Long. At St. Peter’s Cathedral, Raven prays for guidance, but she’s interrupted when the Brotherhood shows up. Phobia says she doesn’t want to defile a place of worship and asks Raven to come outside, but Raven teleports away. At Titans’ Tower, the team is scanning the city for Raven, but Logan and Terra (who are watching the ball drop on TV) see more than they bargained for as Raven pops up in Times Square, followed by the Brotherhood. Raven tries to fight them, but the crowd’s emotions overwhelm her. The Titans show up and start pounding the Brotherhood; Cyborg takes out Plasmus and Logan knocks Houngan out, but when Kid Flash tries to get Raven to safety, he runs right into a warp. Frances catches Phobia in some metal pipes and threatens to crush her if she doesn’t tell her where Kid Flash and Raven are. Phobia uses her power to get the crowd worked up enough to attack the Titans. When the heroes are subduing the crowd, the Brotherhood recover and Warp comes back to dump Kid Flash and assure them Raven is locked away securely. They warp away, leaving Kid Flash to admit to himself that he still loves Raven, no matter what evil may be in her soul. Meanwhile, Donna (Wonder Girl) Troy is having a much better night, as Terry proposes to her.
Last issue, Brainwave lured the All-Stars to the old World’s Fair site, where he showed off the captured JSA (and Wonder Woman), who have been suffering from very realistic (and bloody) dreams. The JSA all ended up dying in the dream and Brainwave told the All-Stars that if even one of the heroes succumbed to his illusions and actually died, the entire JSA would die too. Brainwave gives the All-Stars (Liberty Belle, Firebrand, Johnny Quick, Tarantula, Robotman, and Commander Steel) the chance to save the JSA by entering his illusory dream-state. But the same dangers apply … if the All-Stars fail and even one of them dies, everyone will. Of course, the All-Stars jump in to save their friends and find themselves in Japan, They fight the Japanese soldiers they encounter but are soon overwhelmed and “killed” one by one just as the JSA were. Brainwave gloats at his impending triumph and we get a recap of his origin. He’s Henry King, and as a kid he found out he could summon images from his own imagination. He went to college and trained himself to affect other people’s minds, causing mass illusions. But King wanted money and decided to brainwash a guy named Professor Able to be his pawn. When the JSA defeated Able, King implanted a post-hypnotic suggestion in their heads (after decoying the Spectre away with a phony crisis) so they’d be compelled to come when he sent them a mental summons. (He did the same to Wonder Woman later on.) King (or Brainwave, as he now calls himself) sent that summons just recently, luring the JSA to the Perisphere where he captured them. Brainwave can’t help wondering about some of the JSAers who didn’t respond to his summons because he didn’t have a chance to implant the post-hypnotic suggestion. We see that the other JSA members and associates are all busy with their own cases, so Brainwave decides to put more pressure on the captured JSA, trying to push them over the edge into death using a machine to enhance his mental powers. He figures Johnny Thunder will be the easiest to manipulate, but before he can start, Green lantern shows up, having heard on the news that the All-Stars were in trouble and following the strong mental emanations to the Perisphere. Lantern finds the JSA and All-Stars unconscious and held in stasis and soon ends up being pulled into Brainwave’s dreamscape. Lantern finds all his friends lying comatose in a Japanese city and freaks out. He starts wasting Japanese soldiers left and right, and Brainwave realizes Green Lantern’s will power is strong, so he sends more Japanese forces to kill him. But Lantern is so pissed off he ends up going nuclear, wiping out the entire city and causing Brainwave’s machines to backfire. Brainwave barely survives and his lab is destroyed, so he takes off, vowing to crush the JSA when he’s stronger. Lantern is still inside the dreamscape and his guilt at wiping out the whole city drives him to consider killing himself and destroying his power ring. The All-Stars mentally beg him to stop and he thinks he’s going nuts, but they convince him that it’s all one of Brainwave’s tricks and that he’s the only one who can save them. Green Lantern finally believes them and uses the ring to revive everyone. They break loose from Brainwave’s machine, but Green Lantern is in bad shape; not physically, but mentally, after seeing himself capable of mass murder. He wakes up and anticipates Oppenheimer’s quote from three years in the future: “I am become death, shatterer of worlds.”
- Brainwave’s origin was first told in All-Star Comics 15 from 1943, which is still in the future as far as the internal chronology of All-Star Squadron goes. Dr. Able’s fight against the JSA was in All-Star Comics 8, although there was no hint Able was working for anyone in the original story.
- The other JSAers shown include: Spectre confronting Kulak, a fight that’s apparently been going on for a week; Superman fighting a giant-sized Luthor (from Superman 17); Batman saving Robin from the Joker (from Batman 11); Flash traveling back in time (from All-Flash 4); and GL hanging out with Doiby Dickles (from GL 4) right before hearing the news that the All-Stars were in trouble.