Monday, June 13, 2011

Justice June: It's A Free For All!

Justice League of America #148 (Nov 1977)
"Crisis in Triplicate!"
Script: Martin Pasko (with an assist by Paul Levitz)
Art: Dick Dillin and Frank McLaughlin

Karen: First things first: is that a cool cover or what? Everybody just wailing on everybody else really caught my eye back in the day -it still does! This is the conclusion to our JLA/JSA/Legion extravaganza. So grab your popcorn -and shut off your brain -this is a true summer blockbuster!

Doug: I just love covers with colors that provide great contrast -- white, yellow, and black backgrounds really make a cover pop, and this one's a great example. Rich Buckler does a really solid job here -- while I like Dick Dilli
n's interiors, it would have been nice to have seen Buckler on this full-length slugfest.

Karen: We get a recap from the still captive Green Arrow, who's about to suffocate inside a giant hourglass hung around Mordru's neck. The Legion shows up to put the three demons away, but they're no match for the demons' magic. So far, the Legion have made a pretty poor showing! One of the demons, Abnegazar, decides he likes the world of the the 30th century; he finds its peacefulness appealing. His fellows scoff at him though. Rath wants to enslave humanity and accumulate riches, while Ghast basically just wants to wipe out humans and devastate Earth. They turn on each other but discover that their magic cancels each others out. So of course, they decide to use the Legion, JLA, and JSA as their champions.

Doug: In regard to the Legion, didn't
you think their role in this tale was reduced to their physical powers only? Mentally, strategically, whatever -- they're just not a factor. For having the smartest guy in the story on their team in Brainiac-5, they don't accomplish much in terms of driving this plot. I've been reading out of the Crisis on Multiple Earths, Volume 4 tpb. The book reprints JLA/JSA team-ups with the Fawcett heroes of Earth-S as well as this tale with the Legion. As we'd long before seen the Earth-3 super-baddies, our story here seems a link in a long chain of opportunities to spice up the annual JLA/JSA get-togethers.

Karen: There's a constant downplaying of the Legion's capabilities because o
f their youth, which is really annoying. So what are our teams? From the Legion, Lightning Lad, Shadow Lass, Chameleon Boy, Wildfire and Princess Projectra are chosen by Abnegazar. They agree to help him, since he wants to keep things as they are. Ghast gets JLAers Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, while Rath settles on the JSA and five heroes: Power Girl, Dr. Fate, Green Lantern, Flash, and Hawkman. Ghast and Rath also have to mind control their pawns, seeing as how they want to do some nasty stuff. Suddenly it's a free-for-all!

Doug: The three different worldviews taken by the demons were interesting. I thoug
ht it was odd that Abnegazar saw progress and general goodness in the world and wanted to hold that status quo; that doesn't seem very demon-like to me! And free-for-all? I'm sorry, but I thought this story really degenerated into one big battle after another, with really nothing decided. Last week I mentioned the Avengers/Defenders War -- I thought Marvel made that a lot more interesting. Similarly, Busiek and Perez also made the JLA/Avengers mini-series interesting. This one began to drag for me -- maybe a regular-length story might have helped to tie things up quicker.

Karen: Hey, I just noticed something odd: although this is supposed to be taking place at Legion headquarters, the shots with the big windows showing the stars outside make me think it is the JLA satellite! What do you think? A mix-up on someone's part?

Doug: Yeah, space or some sort of limbo. Good catch, because it certainly doesn't evoke the Legion HQ in my eyes, either.

Karen:In the middle of the fight, Ghast realizes he
only has three warriors while his pals each have five -sharp guy, that Ghast. He then sends Green Lantern to recover Arrow and Canary, who are still stuck in that hourglass around Mordru's neck. The demons had caused another group of Legionnaires to take Mordru's 'spirit-self' back to his body. But when GL frees his two team-mates, the Legion attacks him. But once again, they are quickly thwarted by the JLA. Boy, this still gets me steamed! The same goes for the next scene, which features Superman easily taking out Wildfire. The Legion was just treated like crap in this story.

Doug: In this scene Green Arrow utters the phrase "Freakin'-A". Man, that took me back to those junior high days of the late '70's!! Th
at was a great example of contemporary lingo in comic book dialogue! And as a Legion fan who was very passionate at the time this story was published, I felt like they were dismissed as the Teen Titans would have been. It seemed that age automatically equaled value, and the Legion had nothing to contribute. Don't trust anyone over 30, they probably said to themselves...

Karen: With the Legion out of the way, two of the demons send some of the JLA and JSA off to some generator, and there's a lab deep in the Earth's core...whatever! The important thing is we got more heroes fighting heroes! It also seems that Power Girl is not under the influence of the demons, and the JLA members are also more resistant to their control. Power Girl and the Hal Jordan theorize that this is due to them being younger and having more stamina. Ouch! I guess the Legion aren't the only ones who get mistreated in this tale. Anyway, our two unbrainwashed heroes make it look like they are fighting, but it's all an act. Legionnaires Wildfire and Projectra arrive, and they manage to take down everyone, preventing the generator from being destroyed.

Doug: I cracked up at the cross-section diagram of the Earth with that tunnel running through it. Not too accessible to scientists around the world when there's only one entranc
e and one exit on the whole planet! Guess if you don't live near the equator, you don't go in there! RE: the younger/more stamina argument: what the heck was Marty Pasko trying to say? Is it obvious that DC was still writing for the average 12-year old (I was 11 when this was published, so they definitely hit a home run with me!), and college-aged kids might have seen this as a bit silly?

Karen: Next up, Superman, Batman, Black Canary, and Green
Arrow, who have overheard the conversation between Green Lantern and Power Girl, discuss throwing a fight with the Legion. Of course Green Arrow remarks, "Where's the heroism of lettin' a bunch of punk kids beat up on us?" That's right, the Legion don't get no respect! Canary comes up with an idea that seems utterly ridiculous -basically that if the JSA and Legion were stalemated, the demons would have to fight each other. Now, considering they took champions before, couldn't they just do it again? But let's not think about that, because there's more fighting to do!

Doug: As we went through this, the depowering of the Legion was troublesome. Like I've been saying, Batman was allowed to be the genius w
e think he is, but Brainiac-5 was not. Did you notice, too, that the combination of Legionnaires lent itself to their defeat? Seriously -- Shadow Lass and Princess Projectra make up 40% of their team. Once Ultra Boy was pulled out, and with no Mon-el, this Legion group was not all that formidable. I should have mentioned Imra, too -- she could have been a player, but only had one "star moment". Funny that Paul Levitz got an "assist" on the writing credits -- he might have spoken up louder for his "boys (and girls)". I guess I understand that the title of the book is Justice League of America and they're going to come out smelling like roses in the end, but they just seemed like gods in comparison to the other two teams. As to the JSA, the creative team was also dissing the company's founders.

Karen: Ghast orders the JLA to destroy an ice city, which will melt the polar ice cap and cause a new ice age. But the Legionnaires show up and the JLAers pretty much play possum. Then the JSA arrives and, as Black Canary predicted, they are equally matched. This causes Rath and Abnegazar to go after each other. The heroes charge after them, there's an explosion, apparently wiping out the two demons, and Dr. Fate is imbued with tremendous magical energy. We get another shot of all the heroes attacking Ghast, and then Dr. Fate weaves a spell that gathers metal fragments from across the cosmos, which hurl towards Ghast. It turns out they are pieces of -the JLA satellite, which we were earlier told had blown up some time after the 20th century. The satellite comes together and imprisons Ghast.

Doug: How about that clairvoyance on the part of Superman and Batman, 2000 years in the future, to know that the satellite, of which they had no knowledge of how or when it was destroyed, was floating around out there somewhere in the cosmos? Light bulb went on for both of them at the same time. Again, the Legion is so based on the history of the 20th Century heroes that you don't think Invisible Kid or Brainiac-5 -- or shoot, Superboy himself -- would have ever looked into this issue? It's pretty contrived. I'm not say
ing it's not a good solution to the story, but just the way it came about was sort of dumb. Here was a chance for the youngsters to shine, and the writers whiffed.

Karen: All of our super-teams then get together and fences are mended, before everyone goes back to their proper time and place. You know, I did enjoy this, even though it was a very weak story. Actually, it was just one continuous slug fest. I guess I'm a Marvel snob but I just found this thing to be a huge mess. Too many things happen that co
nveniently move the story along. But really, who cares, it's got about 15 super-heroes in it! It was a nice little trip back to a time when I was much more easily satisfied with my comics!

Doug: Yeah, I'm with you on all counts, and I need to apologize for my curmudgeonliness. It was a nostalgic read, and all of the heroes made for a colorful adventure. But I thought the first chapter had far more pay-off then did the conclusion. I know writing these crossovers can be a pain-in-the-butt, because you just know all of the fans (like us) are going to be looking for "their guy's" moment in the sun. Tough to please everyone. I think, too, that this story fits into the heritage of DC's Silver Age -- we remarked last week about the look of the demons, all of the magic, etc. Not staples of Marvel's Bronze Age, to
be sure -- but it does feel like a DC story, and that's OK for what it is. I'd even go on record here to recommend the fine "Crisis" series of reprint tpbs, of which there are seven or eight volumes. One cannot appreciate the continuity and wonder of the DC multiverse without visiting (or revisiting) these once-a-year gems. Good superhero fun, even if it is a bit silly at times. But then, grown adults running around in colorful spandex is a bit silly in itself, isn't it?


dbutler16 said...

I agree – great cover!
Since DC had a reputation at this time of being stodgy and old school, I think the Legion’s poor showing is because DC felt it was natural for the older heroes to show the young punks how it’s done. I do like the demons fighting amongst themselves. It wasn’t quite what I’d expected. Still in spite of the Legion’s poor showing, I thought this comic was fun. I just love seeing that many heroes together, especially when they’re from different teams.
By the way, I just loved earth-3! Ah, I do miss the original multiverse.

Dougie said...

"Grown adults running around in colorful spandex is a bit silly in itself". I'm currently teaching the top English section of 13-14 year-olds in my school and that's certainly what the majority think. They totally slated "Thor" as "childish and cheesy". I felt I might be better taking down the images of Thor, the FF,X-Men and Avengers in my room!
Anyway. I didn't get to read this issue until it was reprinted in a UK digest in the early 80s. I would like to be able to read comics like this now. Love that Dillin.
(My word is "Azoopy" who should have been one of Fox's demons!)

david_b said...

Having not picked up a JLA (or much of DC comic) since '73, sans an occasional issue of Batman Family or GL/GA, it's.. well, certainly colorful.

The artistry is actually very clean and well done, on par or better than most Marvel artists that year.

david_b said...

By the way.., speaking of JLA, if there's any Hawkman fans out there, here's a funny take on his strive for his own movie..:

"It's not easy to sell yourself with strap-on wings.."

Warning: One or two F*bombs, not for kids.

dbutler16 said...

Thanks for the link, David B. Hilarious!

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