Comics Reviews: JLA 228, Legion of Super-Heroes 313, Tales of the Teen Titans 44, Tales of the Teen Titans Annual 3

JLA 228 coverJustice League of America #228 – “War—of the World?” – Gerry Conway/George Tuska/Alex Nino

This one starts with a familiar character (J’onn J’onzz aka Martian Manhunter) in a spaceship being pursued by other ships sent by someone called the Marshal. The other ships are piloted by green-skinned aliens (presumably Martians like J’onn) and one of them is a woman named J’en, who seems to have feelings for J’onn but knows her duty is to stop him. J’onn flies his ship past the JLA Satellite on the way to Earth, alerting his ex-teammates that something’s up. Aquaman summons his fellow Leaguers (Green Arrow, Black Canary, Zatanna, Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Ralph (Elongated Man) Dibny, Firestorm, and Red Tornado) and they watch as three ships converge on the damaged one. The damaged ship maneuvers two of his pursuers into shooting eachclose encounter between J'onn and Aquaman other and, after a close fly-by of the Satellite, heads down to Earth. The JLA transports down to New York to find the damaged ship, but by the time they get there, the Air Force has blasted the ship out of the sky … or so it seems. Actually, J’onn manages to make it under the ocean before the missiles hit him and Aquaman goes looking for the wreckage. Aquaman is in a shitty mood (he’s recently been ousted as Atlantean King) and is going on about how warlike humans are and how they’re always dumping crap into the oceans. He finds the wrecked ship and almost gets mowed over by J’onn heading for the surface, who he doesn’t recognize. J’onn knows Aquaman and telepathically apologizes for the rough treatment before turning invisible J'onn foundand heading upriver. Aquaman finally realizes who they’re dealing with and tells the others. The flying members head aloft to look for J’onn and Firestorm decides to heat up the entire East River since J’onn is vulnerable to fire. Naturally, that affects all the people on the river too and Hawkgirl gives Firestorm shit, but it works … J’onn comes flying out of the river and collapses on shore. Hawkgirl sees that J’onn is completely exhausted and the JLA take him to the United Nations Building, where they tell the General Secretary about the Martian civil war. J’onn says he was trying to get the JLA’s attention and tells them his story. The Martians have been living on Mars II, a colony world far from Earth, but many of them dream of returning to the real Mars and rebuilding their old civilization there, especially since Mars II is a harshJ'onn escaping the martians place to live. A few weeks ago, a charismatic Martian named the Marshal started a movement called the Red Brotherhood and stirred up a lot of people (including J’onn’s girlfriend J’en), agitating for them to go back to Mars and take it over. One of the Marshal’s men found the Viking lander on Mars, so they believed humans were trying to tale over the planet for themselves. The Marshal got everyone worked up, took over the government, and planned an invasion of Earth. J’onn escaped to come and warn Earth, pursued by the Marshal’s people, including J’en. As J’onn finishes his tale, a Challenger delivers his messageMartian ship shows up outside the UN and the Marshal’s henchman (the Challenger) delivers a message: Earth has one day to surrender and be placed in containment camps for the rest of their lives … or to be wiped out completely. J’onn says humans will never give up their freedom, but Challenger considers J’onn a traitor to the Martian race, so he doesn’t pay much attention to his words. Firestorm is ready to pound Challenger, but Zatanna reminds him that there’s an entire race of Martians waiting to invade; there’s about to be a war between humans and Martians and the world may never be the same.

LSH 313 coverLegion of Super-Heroes #313 – “Death Threat” – Paul Levitz/Keith Giffen/Larry Mahlstedt

Last issue, someone set off several bombs around Metropolis and threatened to kill the President of Earth (Marte Allon, who’s also Colossal Boy’s mom) unless he was paid a huge ransom. The Science Police need the Legion’s help protecting President Allon because evidence points to the bomber being someone inside the Police force. Element Lad and Colossal Boy have used image inducers to change their looks so they can go undercover in the Science Police and try to root out the traitor. This issue starts with a handful of Legionnaires (Brainiac 5, Blok, Phantom Girl, and Superboy) telling President Allon what’s up and why she can’t rely on the Science Police. At the spaceport, Element Lad, Colossal Boy, Shvaughn Erin, and Gigi Cusimano find someWhite Witch shrinks smugglers smugglers carrying radioactive weaponry and catch them with a little help from White Witch and Sun Boy. The smugglers have nothing to do with the blackmailer and Element Lad points out they’re no closer to finding the traitor inside the SP. On Ventura, the gambling world, Dream Girl and Star Boy are trying to enjoy a peaceful vacation, but Dream Girl has one of her prophetic dreams … of a Legionnaire dying. At SP headquarters, Element Lad and Colossal Boy learn about the inner workings of the SP and wonder how anyone could possibly infiltrate them, since the officers are mind-scanned every day. On Lallor, Duplicate Boy is helping his Heroes of Lallor teammates put up a hospital Shrinking Violet punches out Duplicate Boywhen his girlfriend Shrinking Violet shows up … and punches him out. Violet’s a little pissed off that Duplicate Boy didn’t bother to tell anyone when he realized she’d been replaced by a Durlan shapeshifter. Violet gives him shit and takes off; I guess she’s his ex-girlfriend now. On Earth, the Legion takes President Allon to the United Planets Council Building, where a crucial vote is to be held. Police Chief Zendak isn’t happy about hr being there since the blackmailer’s deadline (noon) is approaching. The Legionnaires check the building thoroughly, but there’s a bomb hidden on the elevator. Cosmic Boy slows it enough for Brainy to protect President Allon in his force-field and she survives the fall. Zendak wonders how anyone could have sabotaged the elevator right inside the Council Building and remembers that he forgot tofalling elevator have all the off-world SP officers vetted. At SP headquarters, Shvaughn and company check all off-worlders, but come up negative. White Witch considers trying to use her spells on the SP computer again, but without knowing the proper question to ask, there’s no way of getting the answer they need. We get a brief interlude on Daxam, where Mon-El, Shadow Lass, Ultra Boy, Timber Wolf, and Chameleon Boy are helping rebuild the planet. On Earth, president Allon addresses the Council and Brainy notices a robot drone acting strangely. He scans it and sees it’s compromised, so he throws his force-field around President Allon. All the robot drones in the Council Chamber go nuts, attacking other Councilors besides the President. The Legionnaires destroy drones gone wildthe drones and find out President Allon wasn’t the only one the blackmailer contacted. All the Councilors were blackmailed; some paid and some didn’t, but the blackmailer obviously planned to wipe them all out and take whatever money he got. At SP headquarters, Element Lad figures out the right question to ask the computers with White Witch’s magic; it’s a matter of finding out who the computer wouldn’t trace … a civilian programmer hired to service the SP computer. Once they tell Brainy, he traces the culprit easily enough by checking all flights to regions with no extradition treaties with Earth. They track down the blackmailer and White Witch uses her magic to bring him to SP headquarters right when he thinks he’s boarding a flight to Dominion space. Colossal Boy has a few choice words for the guy who threatened to blow up his mother.

Tales of Teen Titans 44 coverTales of the Teen Titans #44 – “There Shall Come a Titan” – Marv Wolfman/George Perez/Mike DeCarlo, Dick Giordano

We begin this issue where we left off last time, with Dick trying to come to grips with the fact his entire team has been captured, and trying to figure out whether to trust Adeline or not. He gets belligerent with her son (Joseph), who hasn’t said a word, then learns Joseph’s mute. The caption says Dick feels “awe” when he looks at Joseph; I’m not sure why. I get the feeling Jericho (as Joseph will soon be called) is one of Wolfman’s favourite characters… or maybe Perez’s favourite, since the intro to the trade paperback says Perez came up with the idea to make him mute. Personally, I never saw Jericho’s appeal… I always found him annoying rather than awe-inspiring, but he’ll be around for a looooong time, so we better get used toAdeline impresses Slade him. Adeline starts telling Dick (and us) Terminator’s life story. Slade Wilson lied about his age and fought in the Korean War (I think Marv was trying to do things in somewhat “real time” at this point) and he and Adeline met in the early 60s. She was some kind of highly-trained combat expert, and Slade volunteered for an elite military force. This was just before the Vietnam War really got going. I’m not sure if these are meant to be early Green Berets, or something even more elite. Adeline trained them and Slade impressed her with his skill. Apparently, she impressed him by showing him up on the combat range. Instead of getting pissy about it, he asked her to teach him everything she could. So they fought together, fell in Slade adjusting to civilian lifelove, got married, and he was sent to Vietnam. She was pregnant (with Grant, aka Ravager from issue 2), so she stayed behind. Dick doesn’t believe her story, because Terminator is almost superhuman. Adeline explains that he volunteered for some weird experiment (to resist truth serum) and it heightened all his abilities, but it screwed him up a bit too, making him manic at times, then almost comatose at other times. He was discharged from the Army and became depressed, although not too depressed to knock up his wife again. She gave birth to Joseph and they moved to Africa where Slade became a Great White Hunter. Later he became something of a bon vivant, hosting lavish parties and rubbing elbows with the fancy people. He taughtAdeline fights kidnappers his kids to fight; Grant took to weapons readily, but Joseph was more sensitive, learning to play piano and sing beautifully. (See where this is going?) But their cozy world was shattered one night when some guys showed up to kidnap Joseph. Adeline wasted a couple of them, but they gassed her and took the kid. That’s when she found out her husband was actually Deathstroke the Terminator. They go to get Joseph back from a terrorist called the Jackal; I’m not sure if he’s supposed to represent a real person or not. He doesn’t look much like the real-world Carlos the Jackal and he looks nothing like Edward Fox, so maybe he’s not meant to parallel anyone from real life. Jackal wants the name of whoever hired Terminator Joseph almost diesto kill a friend of his, but Terminator refuses to tell him, saying he gave his word and his word is his bond. Terminator takes out Jackal and all his men, but one of them started to cut Joseph’s throat. He survived, but his vocal cords were severed, rendering him mute. Apparently, Slade never came to the hospital to see Joseph, which pissed Adeline off so much she tried to kill him. His superhuman reflexes saved him, but he lost his right eye. Adeline then filed for divorce. (If you can’t kill ’em, divorce ’em.) She tells Dick she’s been tracking Terminator, but couldn’t get too close while Terra was around, otherwise she might’ve gotten buried under a ton of rock. She says she knows where the Titans are being held, and Dick gives her hell for wasting time with the A&E Biography of Slade Wilson. But she reminds him he’sNightwing and Jericho debut only one man, and he isn’t even Robin anymore, so what can he do? Dick goes upstairs and puts on a new costume while reflecting on his life. He comes back down and says his new name is Nightwing. Adeline announces that her son is a mutant (man, they’re everywhere!), has powers (and got a costume from somewhere, apparently), and is now called Jericho. She says Joseph’s powers were kept secret from Slade. Dick is hesitant to work with him, but Adeline tells Joseph to demonstrate his powers. He does some kind of “eye contact” thing and disappears into Nightwing, taking over his body, although Dick is still aware of what’s going on and can still talk. Jericho Jericho demonstrates his powersthen demonstrates the control he has over Dick by doing the classic “stop hitting yourself” move. He pops back out of Nightwing and Adeline points out that Jericho could’ve just taken Dick over and forced him to do what they wanted. So Dick decides to trust them and he and Jericho jet off to find the Titans. I’m not sure why Adeline stays behind, if she’s such a hotshot combat expert. As they’re flying away, Nightwing says the team already has aliens, witches, shape-changers, and cyborgs, so why not a mutant? He adds, “ ’sides, I hear you guys aren’t half bad.” which I’m sure is meant as an X-Men reference, since New Teen Titans was being endlessly compared to the X-Men back then. Some people thought they were a rip-off of the Marvel mutants, but to me, the styles are quite different. I’d say X-Men has much more in common with the Legion than with the Titans. Anyway, next issue is a biggie (figuratively and literally), and you won’t have to wait for the review … it’s right below.

Tales of Teen titans Annual 3 coverTales of the Teen Titans Annual #3 – “Finale” – Marv Wolfman/George Perez/Mike DeCarlo, Dick Giordano

This one opens in the HIVE complex where we see the Titans held powerless in the enervator, a gigantic Kirbyesque machine that drains (or dampens) their powers. Terminator gloats (and kinda makes a skeevy pass at Starfire) while the HIVE minions gather. Terminator tells them about finishing Ravager’s contract and introduces his helper, Terra. They can’t believe she betrayed them, especially Changeling, who assumes she’s been brainwashed and urges her to fight it. Outside, Nightwing and Jericho find the base and start sneakingWintergreen's story in. Terminator tells the HIVE leader that he’s fulfilled his son’s contract, but the HIVE dude reminds him they don’t have Kid Flash or Robin. Terminator says Kid Flash quit and says his associate, Wintergreen, is tracking down Robin as they speak. When Terminator contacts Wintergreen, he says he hasn’t found Robin yet but he’s getting close. We see Adeline holding a gun on Wintergreen—I guess that’s why she stayed behind. We then get some more backstory, about how Wintergreen saved Slade Wilson’s life in Korea and Slade returned the favour in Vietnam. Wintergreen says he’s been worried all along about Slade taking the HIVE contract, and worried about Nightwing and Jericho sneak into HIVE baseTerra’s instability. At the HIVE base, Nightwing and Jericho conk out a couple of guards and disguise themselves; well, Nightwing disguises himself, but Jericho takes over the guard’s unconscious body. We learn that if the person he takes over is unconscious, Jericho can animate their body and even speak, although only in the other person’s voice. They infiltrate the main chamber where the Titans are being held, but the guy Jericho took over starts regaining consciousness, which means he’ll be able to use his own voice and warn the other HIVE members. So Nightwing and Jericho come out punching. Jericho hops from person to person, adding to the confusion. Nightwing tosses some gas grenades and they beat the hell out of some more HIVE goons. But they run into Terra and she buries themTerra realizes Slade's secret … literally. In his quarters, Terminator seems to be having some sort of mid-life crisis. He’s called to the main chamber and learns Terra captured Nightwing (or Robin as they all keep calling him). Terra says he can thank her later “if you got the stamina”; yeah, they were definitely banging. Jericho is brought in and strapped to the enervator with the Titans. Terminator recognizes him right away and demands he be released, but HIVE says that since he was helping the Titans, he’ll die with them. Terra recognizes Jericho from the photos Terminator was looking at and announces that Jericho is his son. HIVE realizes how valuable Jericho is and tries to make a deal with Terra freaks outTerminator. As he goes to look at his son, they make eye contact and Jericho takes him over. Terminator is aware of what’s happening, but can’t stop himself from decking Terra and freeing the Titans, who quickly take advantage and attack HIVE. Not knowing that Terminator is being controlled, Terra thinks he turned on her and really loses her shit. She goes nuts and tries to kill him. Even after everything, some of the Titans (notably Starfire and Changeling) still can’t accept Terra as an enemy. The Titans cut a swath through the HIVE goons and start destroying the complex. Terra is still trying to kill Terminator and drops him into a chasm. Nightwing realizes how crazy she is and bops her with a stun disc. Before he can reach her, Terminator sucker punches him and triesTerminator cuts off Cyborg's hands to reason with Terra. But she’s too far gone and is ready to kill him. Changeling takes that as a sign that she’s still on their side, but she quickly gives him the facts: she never cared about the Titans, has always been filled with hate, and all her friendliness (including the smooching with Gar) was fake. She admits the Statue of Liberty terrorists were working for Terminator and the whole attack was just a way of getting them to trust her. She covers Changeling and Nightwing in mud, almost smothering them. Raven tries to use her empathic abilities to reason with her, while Cyborg pins Terminator and tries to get him to call Terra off, but Terminator says she’s too crazy … then Terra brings the whole place downhe cuts Vic’s hands off. He threatens to cut Vic’s head off next, but Jericho zaps him before he can. Terra freaks out and decks Raven, then goes nuts and pulls lava from underground to destroy the whole complex. Changeling flies into her eye and she goes completely off the deep end, bringing half the complex down on top of herself, though none of the Titans are hurt. Gar and Wonder Girl search through the rubble, and Gar is still convinced (or trying to convince himself) that Terminator somehow turned Terra evil. Jericho and Terminator (who’s tied up) are both upset at the circumstances of their “reunion” and both end up crying. Speaking of which, Gar finds Terra’s body and is devastated. Later we see Terra’s funeral, with all theGar grieving for Terra Titans and the Outsiders, including Batman. Terra’s brother, Geo-Force, gives a speech about nobility and sacrifice and all that. Watching from nearby, Adeline and Joseph realize the Titans didn’t tell Terra’s brother (or anyone else) that she was a raving, hate-filled lunatic. Adeline says the Titans are very noble and Joseph will fit in well with them, but his mind is elsewhere. So, that’s the end of the classic Judas Contract storyline. In the intro to the trade paperback, Wolfman and Perez admit that they created Terra with this story in mind; they always knew she was a spy working for Terminator, and they always knew she was going to die. Talk about playing the long game. So I guess all the little moments where it looked like Terra might be having second thoughts were just red herrings. In fact, during the final fight, just before her death, Wolfman’s captions say that Terra was too full of hate, too far off the deep end to ever Terra's funeralbe rehabilitated. Maybe that was his way of silencing all the fans who were going to say “Did she have to die? Wasn’t there some way she could’ve been saved?”, questions the Titans will be asking themselves too. Apparently she couldn’t be saved. But I think that makes the story better, because it makes the wound deeper, and it affects the way the Titans look at the world. It could make them less open, more suspicious, but overall I don’t think it does. The art is spectacular, of course, and Wolfman’s writing is great too. He shows subtlety, humour, and a real grasp of the characters. I know a lot of people find Changeling annoying (and he is!), but I can’t help feeling bad for him here. Terra’s betrayal hurt him more than anyone, and he keeps blaming Terminator for it. I think this arc is where Gar grows up a bit, andJericho decides to join the Titans even though he doesn’t lose his sense of humour (such as it is), Wolfman writes him as more mature from here on out. If I remember right, when the Titans break up, it’s Gar and Victor that rally to get them back together. And there’s the follow-up to this story, where Gar gets the chance to exact revenge on Terminator for Terra’s death, but chooses not to; we’ll get to those stories as we go along. It’s also great to see Dick finally getting out of Batman’s long shadow and becoming his own man. At this point, Jason Todd is already acting as Robin, so there’s no need for two of them. But we also see Batman’s continuing influence when Dick uses his deductive abilities to figure out what’s going on. That’s already become something of a trademark (like when he investigated Donna’s past) and we’ll see more of it as the series goes on.

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