Comics Reviews: JLA 221, Legion of Super-Heroes 306, Batman & the Outsiders 5, All-Star Squadron 27

JLA 221 coverJustice League of America #221 – “Beasts” – Gerry Conway/Chuck Patton/Pablo Marcos

This one starts with a bunch of rich people going to a very private party. These are people with so much money that they’ve gotten bored with the usual entertainments and decided to look for something unique. They’re all wearing masks, so you might think it’s some kind of Eyes Wide Shut sex party, but they actually end up underground at a large gladiatorial arena. We don’t see the combatants, but judging by the comments they’re animals of some kind. The spectators really get into it; one woman looks like she’s creaming herself when the blood starts flying. Later, in Metropolis harbour, Superman and Wonder Woman pursue some high tech crooks who stole computer chips from STAR Labs. They have no trouble with the thieves, but the criminals have some unanticipated back-up … a huge whale (although it can talk like a person) called Gargantus that comes up from the ocean, slaps Superman down, and slams Wonder WomanSuperman and Wonder Woman pounded into oblivion. She’s revived by Superman giving her mouth-to-mouth (which I’m sure he loved), but Gargantus and the thieves are long gone. Superman retrieved the stolen computer chips and wonders if Gargantus was some kind of robot. Wonder Woman says he was definitely alive and thinks he might be a mutated human, which means they should probably get help from the rest of the JLA. In Central City, Flash takes on some crooks who have attacked an armoured car; these guys are dressed exactly like the thieves in Metropolis, and they also have back-up. A talking rhinoceros charges out of the overturned truck and pounds the shit out of Flash, before fleeing with his Ralph in trouble with birdscohorts. In San Francisco, Ralph (Elongated Man) Dibny follows a thief to a laundromat in Chinatown, where the guy tries to sell some stolen merchandise to an elderly Chinese stereotype. Ralph busts in and the old man summons a flock of birds to attack. Ralph is freaked out when he notices the birds have human eyes. He gets knocked into a steam press and the old man (who apparently works for someone named Rex) puts the squeeze on him as the birds continue their attack. In New York, Firestorm notices someone scaling the Chrysler Building and breaking into an office. He confronts her and is shocked to find she’s a humanoid cat. Her name is Reena and she broke into this office (of a company called Repli-Tech) to check the computers, but when she sees Firestorm she freaks out. Reena says she’ll never go back to Rex and attacks. Firestorm tries to subdue her, but when the guards showFirestorm meets Reena up, they try to shoot both of them. Reena realizes she’s made a mistake and jumps out the window, followed by Firestorm. She surrenders and asks for his protection in exchange for everything she knows. On the JLA Satellite, Superman, Wonder Woman, Zatanna, Hawkgirl, and Aquaman have gathered. Ralph and Flash are in hospital and Hawkman is on an archaeological dig in Egypt. Firestorm shows up with Reena and says she has quite the story to tell. Hawkgirl tries to contact Hawkman, but he’s not wearing his communicator. As Carter Hall, he’s leading a dig at Luxor, where they’ve found some significant artifacts. Carter’s camp is attacked by more of the Hawkman gets stunghigh-tech thieves, this time with mutated scorpion men as allies. Carter changes to Hawkman and pounds the thieves, grounding their chopper, but the scorpions rip through Carter’s allies. Hawkman tackles the scorpions and realizes they’re part human and they work for someone named Rex Maximus. Unfortunately, he gets stung by one of the creatures before he can figure out what to do. Elsewhere, we finally see Rex Maximus, who turns out to be a mutated lion-man. He receives a report (from Dr. Lovecraft!) about Reena breaking into Repli-Tech and Rex freaks out. He says Reena spurned his love and now she has to pay … along with anyone who helps her.

LSH 306 coverLegion of Super-Heroes #306 – “Born Under a Lucky Star” – Paul Levitz/Keith Giffen/Larry Mahlstedt

This is basically just a retelling (and updating) of Star Boy’s life and career as a Legionnaire, set within a framing device of Star Boy and Wildfire waiting for the results of the latest election for Legion leader. Star Boy’s romance with Dream Girl has suffered since she was elected leader, so he hopes she loses … but since she has precognitive powers, he assumes she wouldn’t have run if she hadn’t seen herself winning. Star Boy gets all mopey, talking about how his entire life has been one stroke of bad luck after another, so why should this be any different. This sets up a bunch of flashbacks (illustrated by Curt Swan in vintage Legion style) taking us through Star Boy’s life. His parents are from Xanthu, but he was actuallyStar Boy in the comet born in interstellar space (in a floating observatory) because his parents are astronomers. Being born in that environment somehow gave his the power to make things super-heavy, which almost killed them all when he accidentally used the power on the observatory. They escaped and Star Boy ended up being studied like a lab rat for the next few years, while also learning to control his powers. When he was sixteen, he got sick of being a freak and left Xanthu, but immediately ran into the tail of a comet. The comet’s energy made him lose control and he crash-landed the ship back on Xanthu, surprising himself by walking out of the flaming wreckage without a scratch. Going through the comet had given him super-strength, invulnerability, flying, Science Police on Takron Galtosand even heat-vision … basically he was a lot like Superboy, but even more powerful. He went to join the Legion, but his career didn’t get off to a great start. After his first mission with Superboy (in Adventure Comics 282), he was sent on a special mission to Takron-Galtos. Back then, Takron-Galtos wasn’t yet the prison plant; it was a Science Police training facility with a small prison attached. But the prisoners busted out and took over, forcing the Science Police to stockpile weapons for them. Zendak (who was just a lieutenant then) and Gigi Cusimano (who was a brand-new recruit) were among the Science Police trapped by the prisoners. Gigi was sure the Legion would come to help, but Zendak didn’t hold out much hope. Since Star Boy was so powerful, he was sent in, pretending to crash his ship and staggering out of the wreckage likeStar Boy brings the roof down he was hurt. He was thrown in with the Science Police and when he told them who he was, Zendak told him to secure the arsenal and they’d take care of the rest. Star Boy was dragged off to the head prisoner, who knew he’d faked his crash and assumed the Science Police sent him to infiltrate. But Star Boy’s comet-powers had worn off, so when the prisoners started beating the hell out of him, he knew he was in trouble. He hadn’t used his gravity powers in years, but managed to bring the roof down on everyone … including himself. Zendak and the others took back the base and it was eventually turned into a prison complex. Star Boy was pretty fucked up (in a complete body cast), but Saturn Girl gave him a commendation and told him he’d be welcome in the Star Boy expelledLegion once he recovered and mastered his powers. I guess this is Levitz’s way of explaining why Star Boy didn’t reappear for such a long time after his debut, and why his powers were different. Star Boy then tells Wildfire how he first met Dream Girl (in Adventure 317) and instantly fell in love with her. They kept in touch, but Dream Girl’s ex got pissed off and came after Star Boy, who broke the Legion Code by killing him (in Adventure 342). Brainiac 5 proved he could’ve stopped the guy without killing him, so Star Boy was thrown out of the Legion. At that point, Dream Girl was with the Substitute Legion and invited Star Boy to join as well. They grew even closer in their time with the Subs, and eventually rejoined the Legion in Adventure 351 (filling in for Superboy and Supergirl as two mystery heroes in lead suits called Sir Prize and Miss Terious … hey, I don’t make this stuff up, I just report it). Star BoyStar Boy rejoins mainly rejoined to stay with Dream Girl, who always loved the attention and excitement of being a Legionnaire. Star Boy is worried if she’s elected leader again, it’ll really screw up their relationship, but when the final votes are tallied, Dream Girl loses to Element lad (who was a write-in candidate) and Star Boy wonders if his luck has finally changed. In case you’re wondering about the election drama, at this point in the Legion’s publication, fans were asked to vote on who the leader should be and whoever got the most votes was elected in the story. Element Lad had the most fan votes, so he’s the new leader.

Batman and Outsiders 5 coverBatman & the Outsiders #5 – “Psimon Says” – Mike W. Barr, Marv Wolfman (co-plotter)/Jim Aparo

In the first half of this tale, the Titans and Outsiders were dumped into the water by Dr. Light (who blew up and sank the island they were on) of the Fearsome Five. This issue opens with them plunging into the depths, resigning themselves to their fate. But Terra’s too stubborn to die, so she uses her earth powers to reassemble the chunks of the island. She passes out from the strain, but her brother (Geo-Force) uses his own earth powers to raise the reconstituted land mass, catching the members of both teams on the way to the surface. Everyone’s okay (though halo almost fries Changeling for pretending to be hurt to get some mouth-to-mouth) and Batman immediately starts barking orders, making Robin feel like a punk kid again. In the Fearsome Five’s hideout, Dr. Light is feeling pretty goodDr. light flees his teammates about (supposedly) killing the heroes and figures he should command the weird army of earth creatures the Five forced Dr. Jace to make. But Psimon has taken mental control of the earth creatures (which he calls the “mudpack” … talk about prescient) and tells Light he’s taking over leadership of the Fearsome Five. The other members agree, and Light takes off when Psimon orders the Earthmen to attack. Psimon goes after Light with the Earthmen in tow. At Katana and Halo’s place, the Titans and Outsiders get to know each other. Batman congratulates Geo-Force for saving them (and almost smiles), while Wonder Girl bonds with Halo over both having Halo and Wonder Girl talkunknown pasts. Black Lightning tells Kid Flash why he quit the hero business and why he came back, and Starfire gets pissed off at the way Batman treats Robin. Dr. Jace figures the Fearsome Five will strike in Manhattan again and Robin intercepts a police report about Psimon and Dr. Light fighting in Central Park. Instead of saying thanks, Batman takes charge again, ordering everyone to head for the Park. Psimon and the Mudmen are attacking Dr. Light when the Titans show up to help. Cyborg blasts Psimon, who manages to zap Dr. Light before leaving. Light survives and tries to run, blasting Starfire and Halo when they come after him. Light’s blast somehow puts Halo under his control, so Raven uses her power to bring Halo back to normal, while Black Lightning knocks out Dr. Light. Psimon rejoins the rest of the Fearsome Five (or Four, I guess) in the Empire State Building, where they take over the big transmitter at the top. At Titans’ Tower, Batman and Dr. Jace cobbleRaven helps Halo and Dr. light is caught together a device that will block Psimon’s mental waves so he can’t dominate the Titans or Outsiders. When the Five use the transmitter to blanket New York with Psimon’s mental powers, the heroes are protected. Dr. Light tells them where to find his traitorous teammates and they head for the Empire State Building. The civilians inside the Building are under Psimon’s control, but Kid Flash knocks them all out. Batman starts giving orders and Robin gives him shit, saying he’s not used to working with a team so he should let Robin take charge. Robin starts giving orders and Batman lays back and watches. Half the team keeps taking out the mind-controlled crowd, while the rest head up to the transmitter. Naturally, the Fearsome Four are waiting, but the heroes attacking Psimon togethercombine their powers to take out Shimmer, Mammoth, and Gizmo without too much trouble. Psimon’s power is greater than the others put together, but a concentrated attack lets the heroes get past him to shut down the transmitter. Psimon tries to escape but Halo’s stasis ray puts him into a deep sleep, releasing all the people he dominated. Back at Titans’ Tower, they find Dr. Light escaped (by knocking out Dr. Jace), but aren’t too worried, since he left his costume behind with a note saying “I quit”. Geo-Force and Terra say their farewells and Terra wonders if her plan to betray the Titans will bring her into conflict with her brother. Batman finally acknowledges that Robin is a good leader and Robin says he learned from the best.

All-Star Squadron 27 coverAll-Star Squadron #27 – “A Spectre is Haunting the Multiverse” – Roy Thomas/Richard Howell/Larry Houston

If you’re wondering why this has a November cover date, my review of the Annual shifted things by a month. I’ll get to the December issue in a couple of weeks. This issue starts soon after the Annual, with all the heroes returning to New York after defeating the Ultra-Humanite and her minions. Everyone is still wondering about Infinity Inc (and Roy gets in a plug for their upcoming mag), but the heroes head their separate ways and try to get back to normal. Atom and Firebrand take baby Terri Curtis (daughter of Firebrand’s ex, Cyclotron, who died heroically fighting Ultra-Humanite) to a hospital to have her checked. Atom is feeling a bit under the weather too, running a high fever since his fight with Cyclotron. Terri is found to be free of whatever radiation was affecting her, but Atom passesAll-Stars visit Atom out. In Washington, another group of All-Stars (Wonder Woman, Starman, Sandman, Hawkman, Dr. Mid-Nite, and Johnny Thunder) watch Atom’s plight on Wonder Woman’s magic sphere. They’re supposed to wait in Washington until the Army locates some Black Dragon agents operating in the States, but they all decide to zip up to New York to visit Atom. Hawkman promises General Brody they’ll be back soon and they all hitch a ride on Wonder Woman’s invisible plane. Atom is glad to see them (although the hospital staff is kinda freaked out) and Dr. Mid-Nite finds out Atom will be fine, but whatever radiation he was exposed to may have long term effects. Atom asks about Dr. Fate (who left to find Spectre in issue 24), but nobody’s heard from him. Wonder Woman hooks her magic sphere up to Atom and tells him to Corrigan shows Dr. Fate the wayconcentrate on Dr. Fate. The sphere (which can only reveal events of the recent past) shows Fate going to Cliffland, where Jim Corrigan (the Spectre’s mortal host) lives. Fate finds Corrigan in a trance under the lake and channels his power through Corrigan to find Spectre. A portal to another dimension opens and Fate heads through, knowing Corrigan will die if he’s not reunited with Spectre soon, and that will mean Spectre will be lost forever. Fate encounters mystic barriers in the Ditko-esque dimension, but he’s now wearing the original Helm of Nabu, so he gets through easily. Fate finds Spectre in front of a mystical tower, but Spectre’s in a shitty mood and gets belligerent. Fate distracts him and gets inside the tower, where he finds Spectre’s old enemySpectre attacks Dr. Fate Kulak in some kind of eldritch sleep. Fate probes his subconscious and finds that Kulak is giving off waves of evil, that could spell doom for countless dimensions. Spectre defeated Kulak years ago and disintegrated him with the Ring of Life, but Fate notices Kulak is now wearing the Ring, which obviously gives him power over Spectre. Before Fate can retrieve the Ring, Spectre grabs him in an enormous hand and threatens to pulp him if he doesn’t leave. Fate wonders if Spectre is really being controlled or if he’s guarding Kulak’s body of his own free will. Spectre prepares to kill him, so Fate fights back, summoning a C’thulhuesque creature which Spectre quickly banishes, but not before it smashes the tower in which Kulak lies. Spectre uses his gaze to hands of Kulaksend Fate hurtling through countless dimensions to the end of time, assuming he’ll never find his way back. But the damage done by the creature has breached the walls of Kulak’s tomb, allowing him to escape. He encases Spectre in a spell of Eternal Containment and makes plans to destroy Earth and everyone on it. As the All-Stars finish watching this grim tableau, they’re startled by the sound of thunder outside, and shocked to see a tear in the fabric of space, through which Kulak’s hands reach to fulfill his vow to end humanity.

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