Comics Reviews: JLA 218, Legion of Super-Heroes 303, New Teen Titans Annual 2, All-Star Squadron 25

JLA 218 coverJustice League of America #218 – “The Price of Humanity” – Cary Burkett/Chuck Patton/Romeo Tanghal

This one starts with an epic space battle … sort of. Actually, it’s just Hawkman and Ralph (Elongated Man) Dibny playing 3-D Space Wars on the JLA Satellite computer. Ralph is demolishing Hawkman and they’re so engrossed in the game they don’t notice Wonder Woman arrive on the Satellite. Hawkman is such a stick-in-the-mud he’s embarrassed to be caught having fun. Down on Earth, a number of kidnappings take place across the country: a dude sailing with his girlfriend, a kid playing baseball, a couple of prima ballerinas, a Hollywood stuntman … and Black Canary. Naturally, Canary fights back against her gaudily-dressed attacker, but when her Canary CryHawkman and Black Canary pound a robot is useless, she hits her JLA emergency signal. Hawkman and Wonder Woman come down to help her and manage to get Canary away from her kidnapper. Wonder Woman grabs him with her lasso, but can’t compel the truth from him. He blasts her, leaving Hawkman and Black Canary to take him out with a team effort. The kidnapper turns out to be a robot, but before Hawkman and Canary can ponder that, they’re blasted unconscious by a couple more robots who fly off with Black Canary. Back on the Satellite, Wonder Woman and Hawkman have recovered and called in reinforcements, including Green Arrow who’s freaking out about his woman being kidnapped. Red Tornado actually Red Tornado calms Green Arrowmanages to calm Arrow down and Ralph tells the others he’s found numerous other kidnap victims besides Canary. The one thing they have in common is that they’re all in top physical shape, so Ralph figures the robotic kidnappers might look for more victims at the Metropolis marathon. The others congratulate Ralph on his deduction and he thinks to himself that he’s always been shy about using his detective skills with Batman around, but now that Batman’s gone (to join the Outsiders), maybe it’s Ralph’s time to shine. Hawkman has been examining the robot they brought back and thinks it’s controlled from a base somewhere. He figures he can track the power source to the base and shut it down, neutralizing the robots. Wonder Woman and Aquaman volunteer to accompany him, leaving Superman, Red Tornado, Green Arrow, and Ralph to cover the marathon. Elsewhere, Black CanaryIvo reveals his disfigurement wakes up and finds out her captor is Professor Ivo, the scientist who created Amazo years ago. Canary is confused, since Ivo supposedly reformed (as we saw in Action 483), but Ivo says he needs the life force of people with a certain genetic makeup who are in perfect condition. Turns out the serum Ivo took years ago to extend his lifespan is now mutating him into some kind of freak and he needs to drain these people’s life forces to cure himself. At the marathon, the robots show up to grab some runners and Green Arrow blows one robot up with an explosive arrow. Red Torando gets pounded and Arrow is in trouble until Superman swoops in to smash some more robots. He gets blasted too, leaving Ralph to face the robots on his own. Hawkman’s squad Wonder Woman's jet to the rescuehas tracked the robots’ control signal to a small island off the New England coast. They get jumped by robots and blasted before they can do anything. At the marathon, the robots are taking off with some of the runners, so Green Arrow uses Ralph’s body as a bow and plants a tracking arrow on one of the fleeing robots. On the island, Wonder Woman uses her invisible jet to bust up the robots a bit and tries to get Aquaman to the water to revive him. Unfortunately, she gets blasted before she can reach the ocean. Ivo’s robots bring the marathoners to his secret base, followed by the four JLAers who tracked them. Ivo sends an army of robots against the Leaguers, saying that they’re powered by star energy (including red stars, which explains how the robots can hurt Superman). On the island, the incoming tide revives Aquaman, but he realizes he’s outnumbered by robots. He notices one robot that WonderAquaman smashes the machine Woman took down and calls some sea turtles to carry it into the ocean, reasoning that the robots won’t react to animals on the island. Aquaman dives into the sea and puts on the robot’s costume. When he emerges, the other robots think he’s one of them and don’t stop him from smashing the control room. That deactivates all the robots, including the ones in Ivo’s lair. Red Tornado destroys Ivo’s draining machine and Ivo is despondent about being a freak. Tornado reminds him that looking human isn’t the same as being human, and says that in killing people just to restore his looks Ivo might have lost what really makes him human … his soul.

LSH 303 coverLegion of Super-Heroes #303 – “Those Emerald Eyes are Shining” – Paul Levitz/Keith Giffen/Larry Mahlstedt

Last issue, Emerald Empress captured five Legionnaires (Sun Boy, Brainiac 5, Supergirl, Colossal Boy, and Shrinking Violet) on Weber’s World with the help of her accomplice, Ontiir (who the Legion believed to be a loyal science Police officer). Turns out Ontiir works for the Dark Circle and was only pretending to be a good guy. Empress revels in her victory, taunting her captives and breaking Sun Boy’s jaw when he gets mouthy. She tells the others she’s cut ties with the Fatal Five and is working for herself now. Back on Earth, the bulk of the active Legionnaires who weren’t already on a mission have left to test a couple of new Cruisers and then to head for Orando to attend Karate Kid and Projectra’s wedding. They’ve left reservists Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel to look after the Headquarters and BouncingLegionnaires bust loose Boy’s in the mood for some lovin’. On Weber’s World, Ontiir and his Dark Circle minions are about to execute the Legionnaires when Supergirl uses super-breath to activate Brainy’s force field. She and Sun Boy then destroy the neutralizer pods keeping everyone helpless and the Legionnaires start pounding the Dark Circle troops. Brainiac 5 wonders why Empress chose Weber’s World to take over and Supergirl points out that the entire world is like one big city or building … or super-weapon. While Colossal Boy, Violet, and Sun Boy search for Ontiir and Emerald Empress, Brainy and Supergirl make their way to the surface to see where Weber’s World is headed. They soon figure out Empress’s plan … she’s going to crash Weber’s World into the United Planets’ main fleet base. At Science Police headquarters, Chief Zendak is giving Gigi Cusimano shit Ultra Boy shares his feelingsfor “borrowing” the file on Durlans to share with Element Lad and Shvaughn Erin. His diatribe is interrupted by Earth’s president calling to say Weber’s World will crash into the main fleet base within an hour. At Legion HQ, Bouncing Boy gets the same news and calls Dream Girl to let her know. Dream Girl’s team is still on Daxam, helping rebuild after Darkseid’s attack (back in issue 293). Dream Girl dispatches Wildfire and Mon-El to Weber’s World, which pisses Ultra Boy off since he’s supposed to be deputy leader. He lets her know what he thinks of her leadership by sculpting “stuff it” in a very Steranko-esque manner. On Weber’s World, the Legionnaires find Emerald Empress in the central data banks, where she’s managed to integrate herself into the computer so she can control everything on Weber’s World. She blasts Shrinking Violet and Ontiir shootsSun Boy gets frozen down Colossal Boy. Sun Boy goes for the Empress but she uses the environmental controls to freeze him solid. The entire planet starts shaking and Emerald Empress wonders what the hell’s going on. Turns out Supergirl is trying to stop Weber’s World from hitting the main fleet, but her efforts only end up carving a hole through the planet’s centre. Brainy gets an idea and tells Supergirl exactly what to do. She zooms out into space and comes back at top speed, deflecting the planet like a pool ball so it misses the fleet base. Emerald Empress freaks out, but before she can use the Emerald Eye to destroy them, Brainy encases it in his force field. Supergirl goes after Empress and Colossal Boy stops Ontiir from shooting Brainy in the back. Empress uses kryptonite to take Violet takes down Emerald EmpressSupergirl down, but Violet knocks Empress out with a Durlan nerve pinch and disposes of the kryptonite. Ontiir tries to escape, but gets his ass kicked by the (slightly late) arrival of Wildfire and Mon-El. In a couple of epilogues, Karate Kid hopes his wedding to Projectra goes smoothly, and Brainiac 5 tells Supergirl he’s hot for her. (Well, he actually says she’s “distracting”, but that’s pretty sweet talk for Brainy.) The Legion Annual featuring the wedding comes before the next issue, but I’m going to wait and review the Annual (along with several others) after I’ve finished the monthly 1983 reviews, just to avoid throwing things out of synch.

New Teen Titans Annual 2 coverNew Teen Titans Annual #2 – “The Murder Machine” – Marv Wolfman/George Perez/Pablo Marcos

This annual fits into the September 1983 slot instead of a regular issue of New Teen Titans and it starts right where last issue left off, with Adrian Chase and his family being rushed to hospital after their apartment blew up. It’s a media circus and only gets worse as Robin arrives at the hospital. He (and the cops) have little to say to the reporters, but Robin is pissed off at their attitudes. Elsewhere, we see the man responsible for the bombing, Anthony Scarapelli, in the hot seat. His fellow mobsters aren’t happy that he decided to waste a district attorney without their okay. The woman in charge (Donna Omicidio, aka the Godmother) gives Scarapelli shit and tells him she wants all his files right away. Scarapelli is freaking out because he figures his fellow mobsters are going to kill him. At the hospital, Chase’s wife and kids are declared dead. Robin tells the cops he went alongat the hospital with Adrian Chase’s invasion of Scarapelli’s mansion because he thought Chase had enough evidence to nail the gangster. It was only later he realizes Chase was using him, but Robin says he didn’t complain much since he’s used to letting others take the lead. The other Titans show up in time to hear that Chase was clinically dead for seven minutes and there’s shrapnel close to his heart … too close to operate. Robin tells the Titans he wants to bring Scarapelli down, no matter what it takes. At his mansion, Scarapelli knows the Godmother will kill him once she reads all his files (I assume he’s been skimming), so he decides to take her out in a preemptive strike. He contacts the Monitor to request some heavy-hitters and Monitor says he can let Robin in the restaurantScarapelli have half-a-dozen trained killers … for the usual price. Some time goes by (we’re not told exactly how long, but I’d say at least a week, maybe more); Chase is taken out of the country to recover and Scarapelli’s preliminary hearings take place. Scarapelli’s lawyer tears Robin apart on the witness stand and gets a restraining order to keep Robin away from the mobster. That doesn’t stop him though, as Robin accosts Scarapelli in a restaurant, roughing up one of his henchmen. Starfire shows up to drag Robin out, but he vows to stick to Scarapelli like glue. Starfire asks Robin why he’s been acting like such a dick lately, but they get sidetracked making out. One of Scarapelli’s men is nearby, about to put a bullet in Robin’s head, when someone else blows the would-be sniper away. The dead goon is delivered to Scarapelli’sdead sniper delivery doorstep and he assumes Robin wasted him, even though Robin isn’t a killer. At Titans’ Tower, Robin shows the others what evidence he has on Scarapelli (which is all circumstantial) and mentions that the mob is pissed off at Scarapelli, so if they lean on him enough, he might do something stupid. Wonder Girl says they’ll help, but they won’t do anything illegal. Everyone agrees, except Raven, who’s absent. Raven has raveled to Azarath (the otherworldly dimension where she was raised) to seek help in ridding her soul of Trigon’s influence. She fears she isn’t strong enough to resist him in the outside world, but the people of Azarath forbid her returning to the city. They say Trigon’s evil is too strong in her, so they can’t let her back in, disrupting Scarapelli's businessespecially since she chose to leave earlier. The Titans carry out a campaign against Scarapelli’s “business” (gambling, arms, drugs), but don’t find any evidence tying back to him. Robin doesn’t mind, since he’s just trying to push Scarapelli’s buttons. it’s working, because Scarapelli is ready to waste the Titans. Wonder Girl tells Robin she doesn’t like these tactics, but he urges her to be patient. We see various assassins being recruited by the Monitor for Scarapelli: Scorcher, a pyromaniac with high-tech flamethrowers; Spear, a Mr. T knock-off who uses his namesake weapons; Bazooka, a racist hick who likes to blow shit up; Slasher, a knife expert who looks like an evil version of Misty Knight; Tanker, a dude in armor who kinda reminds me of Bonebreaker, but without the mohawk; and last but definitely not least,Cheshire shows her stuff Cheshire, a seductive Asian assassin who is the only one of these characters that’ll have any shelf life. The assassins lure the Titans to a deserted warehouse and surprise them. The Titans are taken off guard and kinda get their asses kicked to start with. Changeling is wounded by one of Slasher’s blades, Cyborg gets burned by Scorcher, Cheshire tosses Starfire around like a rag doll, and Wonder Girl gets pounded by Tanker. Before Slasher can finish off Changeling, someone (apparently the same guy who saved Robin from the sniper) blows her head off. The Titans start fighting back, with Terra using her earth powers to douse the fire around them. Cyborg takes Bazooka down by causing his weapon to backfire and Wonder Girl rallies her strength to smash Tanker’s armour to shit. Kid Flash decks Spear and the Titans’ Wonder Girl smashes Tankerguardian angel (who we only catch a glimpse of) takes Scorcher down with a nunchaku. Cheshire is still too fast for Starfire, but Kid Flash zooms in to grab the assassin. She scratches him with her poison-tipped fingernails and avoids getting blown away by the mystery sniper, escaping into the night. Cheshire’s poison hits Kid Flash hard, but Raven has sensed his plight and shows up to save him. Wonder Girl worries that using her powers might give Trigon a chance to break free, but Raven says she can’t let Kid Flash die. Kid Flash and Changeling recover and Wonder Girl gives Robin shit for his vendetta against Scarapelli. Robin plays a tape Adrian Chase sent him. The tape says Scarapelli is in trouble with the mob and plans to double-cross them when he delivers his files. Chase also mentions that Scarapelli knowsbig mob fight he’s onto him so he might try to kill him … and he’s sending a special hit team after the Titans. After hearing that, everyone decides to help Robin. When Scarapelli shows up at the rendezvous (which seems to be out in the desert somewhere, so I guess it’s not too close to New York), he’s not afraid at all. The Godmother wonders what he’s up to and Raven confirms her suspicions by teleporting in to warn her that Scarapelli is planning to kill her and all her men. Scarapelli’s secret weapons (goons in high-tech armour supplied by the Monitor) attack and it turns into a bloodbath. The Titans try to stop both sides from killing each other and Raven begs Godmother to call off her men (since the violence makes it hard for Raven to keep control over her Chase reveals himselfemotions), but both sides are too invested to stop. Back at Scarapelli’s mansion, he’s ready to clear out and has enough evidence to keep the rest of the mob off his back. But the mysterious do-gooder (calling himself Vigilante) shows up, stalking Scarapelli through the house. Scarapelli is freaking out, wondering who this weirdo is who’s stalking him. I’m sure all of you know exactly who it is … Adrian Chase. But Scarapelli is surprised when Chase takes his mask off. Robin shows up to stop Chase from killing Scaapelli and Robin wasn’t a all surprised. He knew Chase’s tape had to have been made after his family was wiped out, since the mob had no reason to go after Scarapelli before that. Robin tries to convince Chase to let Scarapelli face justice, butChase wastes Scarapelli when Scarapelli pulls a gun, Chase blows him away. Robin is knocked out when one of Scarapelli’s bullets grazes his head, but Chase calls an ambulance before taking off with Scarapelli’s files. The files are sent to the cops and when reporters ask Robin who killed Scarapelli, he (truthfully) says he was unconscious when it happened, so he has no idea. This isn’t the last we’ll see of Vigilante and his new mission to wipe out crime; in fact, he gets his own series in a couple months, which I’ll be adding to my reviews.

Noticeable Things:

  • In this story, the Monitor seems like a middleman for criminals, passing on jobs for a cut of the action. That was the original concept for the character, but of course he later turns out to be a cosmic entity trying to prevent the destruction of the multiverse. I think Marv later said the criminal job-broker schtick was just a way for monitor to learn about Earth’s superheroes and villains.
  • Cheshire turns out to be a recurring character over the years and we’ll certainly see more of her in future Titans stories. Her mentor is named Wen Ch’ang, who was a freedom fighter in World War II. I thought this might actually be Weng Chan, aka Chop Chop from the Blackhawks, but I don’t think it is.
  • Vigilante gets his own series in a couple months, although he seems pretty close to the Punisher in concept (or Mack Bolan, the Executioner), and I’m curious as to what new spin Marv can put on the character.
  • There’s a running theme in this issue about the media being vultures, always clamoring for a story (and constantly throwing the newscast to a commercial). The news being more interested in ratings than just reportage is normal nowadays, but I guess it was starting to turn in that direction even back then.

All-Star Squadron 25 coverAll-Star Squadron #25 – “The Infinity Syndrome” – Roy Thomas/Jerry Ordway/Mike Machlan

This one starts with a group of All-Stars (Starman, Sandman, Wonder Woman, Johnny Thunder, Dr. Mid-Nite, and Hawkman) cooling their heels in Washington. They’ve heard Ultra-Humanite’s threats to attack defense plants in Brooklyn, Detroit, and Los Angeles, as well as her challenge to the All-Stars themselves. They’re ready to go after Ultra immediately, but some top Army brass comes in to tell them they have to stay put for now. Army Intelligence has reports of the Black Dragon Society operating on American soil and they need these All-Stars to wait until more info comes in so they can go after them. The other All-Stars will have to handle Ultra-Humanite and her minions. Speaking of which, Batman,fighting Amazing Man Robin, Green Lantern, Atom, Commander Steel, Tarantula, and Liberty Belle are tangling with Ultra’s henchman Amazing Man back in New York. Amazing Man has turned his body to metal using his absorption power and gives the All-Stars quite a fight. Green Lantern manages to grab him with his ring (which Amazing Man can’t absorb), but Atom screws things up by hitting Amazing Man with a tree branch. Amazing Man turns himself to wood, which GL’s ring can’t effect, and starts kicking ass again. Commander steel grabs him and Amazing Man turns his body to steel again, but when Liberty Belle mentions Ultra’s threats against Detroit, Amazing Man stops fighting. He Cyclotron talks to Firebrandsays Ultra was supposed to spare Detroit as a condition of Amazing Man helping her (since his family lives there), but GL reminds him that Ultra’s word isn’t worth much. Amazing man agrees to help them save Detroit, though he doesn’t seem to care much if any other cities get wiped out. Liberty Belle figures he’s a decent guy down deep and agrees to let him help. GL, Atom, and Amazing Man head for Detroit, leaving Batman, Robin, and Tarantula to go to Los Angeles by Batmobile (with a supersonic boost from GL’s ring). Liberty Belle and steel are Brooklyn bound. In Ultra-Humanite’s hideout, she tells Deathbolt that the deadline for the government to pay her ransom demand has passed, but she’s not too worried about it. She’s recruited some new talent, and once they strike the government will be eager to pay. Firebrand again begs Cyclotron (her ex) to release her and her friends, but he refuses.Nuklon and Silver Scarab attack Apparently Cyclotron isn’t just worried about himself; he’s afraid for the person who means the most in the world to him, and I don’t think it’s Firebrand. At the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Guardian is on the scene, waiting for Ultra to strike. The Newsboy Legion are there too and they distract Guardian enough that he’s taken off guard when a couple of dudes in costume come barreling through. Silver Scarab (a guy in a silver suit that has energy powers) and Nuklon (a seven-and-a-half foot powerhouse) proceed to smash up the warships currently under construction. Liberty Belle and steel show up to stop them, but the newcomers are tougher than they look. As they’re fighting, Liberty Belle and Steel start fading out (which takes Scarab and Nuklon by surprise) and Fury and Northwind attackare replaced by … well, we don’t see who pops up in their place, but whoever it is sure freaks Guardian out. In Los Angeles, Batman, Robin, and Tarantula are at the aircraft factory Ultra has promised to attack. Senator Henry Knight is there too, with his daughter Sandra (who we know is Phantom Lady). The plant is attacked by a couple more new characters, Fury (a female powerhouse) and Northwind (a half-bird hybrid who controls birds like Hawkman). The two newcomers start busting up planes, ranting about the All-Stars being warmongers and fascists. Batman and Robin tackle Fury but Tarantula gets mobbed by Northwind’s feathered friends. Phantom Lady shows up (and Tarantula immediately guesses she’s Sandra Knight) and uses her blackout ray to blind Northwind, causing him to crash land. Fury busts loose and Batman grabs her, but Batman and Tarantula start fading out just like Liberty Belle and Steel did earlier. Again their places areJade and Obsidian attack taken by someone else, and again we’ll have to wait to see who it is. In Detroit, GL, Atom, and Amazing Man show up at a tank factory to find it already under attack by Jade (a girl with powers similar to GL’s, except she has no ring) and Obsidian (a guy who can fade into darkness and become a living shadow). Jade and Obsidian seem to think the All-Stars (and America in general) are the bad guys in the War. Ultra-Humanite obviously told them a load of crap, but I’m wondering if she brainwashed them too, since they should know what World War II was all about if they come from the future. By now, you can predict what happens … Atom decks Obsidian and fades out and GL does the same as soon as he Brainwave Jr. recoversgrabs Jade (who was expecting GL to fade away, so this must be some booby trap Ultra set up). Someone else appears to take their places again and we still don’t see who, but Amazing Man is pretty freaked out by whoever it is. Back in New York, Brainwave Jr. wakes up in Tarantula’s apartment, where he was knocked out by Olga the maid last issue. Brainwave Jr. hears about the attacks in Brooklyn, Detroit, and L.A. And realizes that whatever he came back in time to prevent (he’s from 1983) is happening. Olga gives him the note Tarantula left and Brainwave Jr. says he has to organize the All-Stars before it’s too late.

Noticeable Things:

  • The All-Stars’ briefing is given by Henry Stimson (Secretary of War), plus General George C. Marshall and General Brody, the guy who convinced the JSA members to re-organize as the Justice Battalion.
  • When Starman mentions Ultra (referring to Ultra-Humanite), Stimson gets paranoid, thinking Starman has somehow found out about the secret program that broke the German codes, which was code-named ULTRA.
  • The Black Dragon Society was a real organization in Japan before (and during) the war, but I’m not sure if they ever operated on American soil.
  • When Liberty Belle and Commander Steel start hitchhiking to Brooklyn, a car stops right away and Steel compares Belle to Claudette Colbert. That’s a reference to It Happened One Night, where Colbert and Clark Gable are hitchhiking and no cars stop until Colbert lifts her skirt and shows some thigh, which causes a car to come to an immediate screeching halt.
  • Phantom Lady calls Tarantula “Spider-Man”; I’m not sure if she’s being snarky, or if she just wasn’t sure who he was.
  • I assume Jade (and by association, the other new characters) is probably from the future—specifically the early 80s—because she says “grody to the max” and references the Zappas; obviously she’s talking about the song Valley Girl.

 

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