Monday, June 6, 2011
Justice June: Three-way Mayhem!
Justice League of America #147 (October 1977)
"Crisis in the 30th Century!"
Writers: Paul Levitz and Martin Pasko
Artists: Dick Dillin and Frank McLaughlin
Karen: Ah, one of the joys of summer as a youth: the annual JLA/JSA cross-over! Every year, DC would feature these two super-teams joining forces for two or three issues. It was a kid's dream come true -a dozen or so colorfully clad super-heroes, all in one book! But on a few occasions, it got even better, as a third team of do-gooders became involved. Such is the case with the tale we're going to review, as the Legion of Super-Heroes joins the party. To top it all off, this issue was giant-sized! All I need now is a Slurpee and some Hostess cupcakes, and I'd be right back in what my 12 year old self thought was heaven!
Doug: This is one of the comics from my kid-dom that I can recall exactly where I purchased it -- and in fact, I was able to buy both this issue and the conclusion in JLA #148 at the same time. I was a regular reader (as the distribution system would allow) of the Justice Society in All-Star Comics as well as Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes. For whatever reason, I did not follow the Justice League, but knew full well who everyone was and the basic gist of what was going on. Hey, quick comment on the splash page: talk about a memory flooding back to me. As I sat down to read this the shot of Saturn Girl's backside, with her panties just a bit too low, made me feel like a snickering little adolescent again.
Karen: Our story begins with members of the JSA talking to the Earth-One Flash aboard the JLA's satellite. We get two quick panels that explain the concept of parallel worlds, and then we're off. And you know what? As a kid, that was all I needed! It made perfect sense to me. I wasn't at all confused by it, and I'd venture to say that most readers weren't either.
Doug: I certainly don't understand the physics of it all, but if one could accept time travel and the fact that in the Marvel Universe Counter-Earth occupied the same orbit as the Earth, but was on the exact opposite side of the sun, then the DC Multiverse didn't pose a problem for me, either.
Karen: The different heroes are shown interacting with each other; some get along, some don't so much. It's a bit disturbing to see Power Girl hanging all over the Earth One Superman -he seems pretty uncomfortable with it too! Kissin' Krytponian Cousins? Ewww!
Doug: Yeah, her line about Earth-1 having a "much nicer brand of Superman" lead me to believe that she'd been checking out her Earth's Clark. Uh uh.
Karen: Suddenly a giant hand appears and tries to grab Power Girl. Both teams attack and Dr. Fate deduces that the hand is the product of magic. Before they can stop it, the hand scoops up ten of them: from the JLA, it gets Superman, Batman, Green Arrow, Black Canary, and Green Lantern. From the JSA, Dr. Fate, Hawkman, Power Girl, Flash, and Green Lantern are captured. They are all transported across time and space, to one thousand years in the future, where they face long-time Legion villain Mordru!
Doug: Mordru has always been more creepy than scary to me. He's just weird.
Karen: Yeah, and what about his funky hat? It turns out that Mordru wasn't trying to get the heroes at all, but some of the mystical artifacts stored in their headquarters. Looks like he's running out of mystical juice to keep going (kind of reminds me of Galactus and his problems). The heroes break loose and tackle Mordru, but are soon recaptured. He has also captured members of the Legion. Mordru cuts loose with a monologue that would make any super-villain proud.
Doug: Hey, I know this was a giant-sized issue, but wow! Were there ever a lot of words! This seemed more novel than graphic at times, didn't it?
Karen: It may have been wordy, but at least I felt like I got my money's worth! Mordru explains how he needs three artifacts -a bell, a jar, and a wheel - to free three demons. He says that he first went to the Legion and forced them to help him by holding five of their team-mates prisoner. However, the Legion has not returned with his artifacts, so he tried reaching into the past to recover them, and that's how the JLA/JSA wound up in the future. He takes Green Arrow and the Canary as hostages and sends the rest of them off to get his artifacts.
Doug: This divide-and-conquer motif was formulaic throughout these "crisis" team-ups. We saw it, too, during the Avengers/Defenders War.
Karen: I suppose it just makes it more manageable for the writer -and the artist too. The captive Black Canary gets Mordru to talk some more, as he explains the significance of the objects. The three demons, Abnegazar, Rath, and Ghast are imprisoned but can be released by using the artifacts. Mordru says that some time in the past (records are sketchy) the JLA satellite blew up and the objects went hurling through space. But he knows where they wound up.
Doug: It's funny how in the mid-'80's, it was this series of team-ups, the Earth-1/2/3 business, etc. that led to the Crisis on Infinite Earths. Yet Mordru's admission that he didn't know what happened seemed to me to be an effort to stay away from pigeon-holing the destruction of the JLA satellite and putting a burden on future writers and editors. As Mordru had previously been to our century (Adventure Comics #'s 369-370, June-July 1968), I guess I'm not buying that this particular event was "lost to history".
Karen: We cut to Antares-II, where Legionnaires Sun Boy and Wildfire have been caught by some very silly-looking aliens. Turns out the two teens could easily escape, but not without killing their silly captors (really? That's the only way?) so they are playing along with them. Luckily, Superman, Hawkman, and Dr. Fate show up and free them. The older heroes easily obtain the silver wheel, making the two Legionnaires feel like chumps. It doesn't help that Superman says, "It took a pair of older and wiser heads to figure out how to snare the wheel!"
Doug: Really, all of the aliens in this story hearkened back to the DC sci-fi stories of the 1950's. Visually, these segments of the story looked pretty dumb. And chumps? Great choice of words. I thought Wildfire was right to be upset at the way they were treated. Superman basically acted in a manner such that "don't trust anyone over 30" seemed to be a true statement! I liked the shot Wildfire got in about knowing some mistakes that Superboy had made...
Karen: Next up is the planet Vaxon, where Batman, and the two Green Lanterns arrive, looking for the bell. They fight off some space dragons and run into Brainiac 5 and Princess Projectra, who are trying to persuade the natives to give up the bell. But the bell keeps the space dragons from attacking them, so they're more than a little reluctant to part with it. Brainiac 5 and Batman talk a bit about deductions, and then old Bats takes Brainy to school, once again making the Legionnaires look like idiots. Batman says they need a scarecrow, and the GLs go about carving the uninhabited parts of Vaxon to look like the dragon's most feared predator -a gigantic beast that eats dragons! Of course, the natives give Batman the bell out of gratitude.
Doug: I rather like the abrasive, jerk-like Brainiac of late, as opposed to this milksop. I just couldn't believe that Batman's solution was a better option. Of course, I suppose the fact that his accomplices were wielding the two most-powerful weapons in the universe may have had something to do with it. Also, I would think that carving up the surface of even an uninhabited part of a planet would cause undue and unlimited geological harm.
Karen: The last team is Flash and Power Girl, and they're off to another dimension. Seems the Legionnaires put the Jar in a vault there to keep it safe. The two heroes encounter some frog-like creatures there, and there's some stuff about mothers and eggs but honestly it didn't make a lot of sense -at least to me. Maybe my partner thought better of it. Anyway, they wind up getting the jar with little fuss.
Doug: As your partner, no -- I did not think better of it. Did you think it was funny what Jay Garrick said about no one in the 30th Century possessing the power to open a vibrational portal? XS hadn't been introduced yet, and the whole convoluted notion of the Speed Force had yet to be retconned. But still.
Karen: I guess he didn't know about the Tornado Twins either! Well, Mordru has taken all the other heroes captive again, but Power Girl and Flash have something up their sleeves -she remains in limbo with the jar while Flash cuts a deal -the release of all the hostages for the jar. Mordru angrily agrees. Of course, he double crosses them and keeps Arrow and Canary trapped. He then conjures up the three demons, and sends the JLA/JSA back to their own time. However, the demons turn on Mordru (duh!) and knock him out, declaring that once they destroy the artifacts, they will (dum dum dum!!!) take over the world!!
Doug: Those demons were a bit less than threatening-looking, weren't they? But they did put a beatdown on Mordru, yes. Hey, closing comment from me -- I thought it was dumb that some of the JSAers referred to themselves as being from "Earth-2"; why would the older guys defer to the folks from our Earth?
Karen: You know, that never made sense to me either. It seems like the older guys' world should be called Earth 1. But apparently it's the team that has its own book that gets the privilege of being Earth 1!
Karen: OK, sure this was a hokey story, but you know what? I had fun. It was a blast to see all these characters together, and the art was pretty solid if not outstanding. It's been so long since I read this series that I can't recall what happens next -and I'm kind of glad! I'm looking forward to reading the next issue. Will the older heroes still condescend to the Legion? Will Power Girl keep hitting on Superman? Stay tuned!