Thursday, November 15, 2007

Justice League of America #243 (11/85)

Aquaman: Returned with his wife to an empty Bunker. Took another L.O.S.T. up north to find his team. “Believe me, Mari... I’m sorry. I’ve no excuse for what I did, leaving the League.” Joined Vixen and Martian Manhunter against Amazo. “I failed the League, J’Onn... but I found the woman I love. And in finding her I found myself. I weighed duty and love in the balance. Love won. Under the circumstances, when we return to Detroit... I think there’s nothing else I can do but resign from the Justice League. Maybe then I can rediscover my life... with Mera by my side.”

Vixen: Freed herself from bonds, then shattered the boulder and rescued her friends. Mistook the Aquaman-piloted L.O.S.T. for Dale and J’Onn, only to complain about the Sea King’s tardiness. Met Mera. “Arthur said you were the one who convinced him to seek me. We owe you a debt of thanks I can never repay.” Possibly because she would soon be driven insane by Earth’s polluted oceans, get impaled while trying to murder her husband, and kiss this world goodbye back to her own other-dimensional home. Sucks to be an Aquaman supporting character. Still, Mari was pleased. “Well, how do you like that? Old Arthur’s got a heart after all.” Less pleasing: getting beat on by Amazo some more. But as Vixen noted, “Back when I was a fashion model, I spent a week in Vancouver--lovely town. Let’s keep this creep from flattening it.”

Elongated Man: Limp body used as a rope by Vixen.

Zatanna, Vibe, & Gypsy: Got saved by Vixen.

Steel: Tore up enough that Mera freaked out over the exposed artificial musculature of his right hand. Woke up hot over Amazo and screamed at Mera, “Where is he?” Caught Vixen before she could be smooshed against the side of the L.O.S.T.

Dale Gunn: Mistook a giant key for “that old-fashioned airplane marker.”

Martian Manhunter: J'Onn entered Superman's Fortress of Solitude by using its giant key. Why an intangible wraith would need to do so, I don't know, but at least MM was one of the few characters who could actually lift the key and use it. “Long ago Superman programmed safe passage into the Fortress computers for all members of the original League--“ While J’Onzz was investigating, an innocent trucker (and his truck) was slain by Amazo. J'Onn redeemed himself slightly by using the information he uncovered at the Fortress to defeat the android. “He was created by Professor Ivo solely to obey commands. No sadder, lonelier creature has ever existed. When not driven by outside programming, Amazo has but one desire. Oblivion... Left to his own devices, Amazo would shut himself down instantly. Obviously, the fact that he has not done so indicates he is under the command of a human intelligence." A stray meteor had pierced the Fortress’ defenses, inadvertently reactivating the android and sending it to wander cluelessly until its program absorbed the malevolent consciousness of Slick Jake MacGregor. A constable had found a picture of MacGregor in the wreckage of St. Jude, which was all Manhunter needed to assume his form. This logic trap worked well against the artificial intelligence of Amazo/MacGregor, allowing Aquaman the chance to deliver a knockout blow.

The Creators: Especially under Manhunter’s “leadership,” the character Gerry Conway created to star in her own aborted series continued to prove herself one of, if not the, most effective current Leaguers. I like Vixen though, so I won’t hold that or her Storm-lite bout with claustrophobia in the pit against her. Steel also continued to perform well for his age and status, though maybe getting five issues of “Steel: The Indestructible Man” out before the implosion got some of the excess paternal love out of Conway’s system. George Tuska continued to be graced by Mike Machlan’s inks.

J’Onn J’Onzz’s Nicknames of the Issue: “Big Green.” -Dale Gunn
“JJ” –Dale Gunn, who also just called him "J'Onzz," because he's cool like that.

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: Not a word. Just blissful, accent-free silence.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Justice League of America #242 (9/85)

Aquaman: “For the past six weeks he’s lived for duty and honor. But now he knows duty and honor are not enough. A man must have love in his life... Six weeks ago, his wife left him. For six weeks he tried to bury her memory. He could not. He is determined to find her, or die in the trying.” Checks the sunken city of New Venice off the Florida coast where he used to live, but fishies redirect him to the Place of Dark Currents. There he’s reunited with Mera, and it feels so good. Reunited! Now--it’s understood! “After our son’s death... I thought, if I ever truly acknowledged that I was suffering... that it would destroy me... When I cut off the grief, I cut off the love.” Also, the “do not telepathically manipulate your charges” light.

Zatanna: Left under a rock. No, not figuratively, but I can see how you might take it that way. No, she was literally beaten by Amazo’s use of invisibility, heat vision and super-speed, tied up, dumped in a pit, and covered by a boulder. Oh, and foiled by her one weakness, a gag. You thought fire was lame...

Steel: Same as above, but with elasticity, super-strength, and especially the Canary Cry.

Vibe, Vixen: As above, but just plain beat.

Gypsy: Fended off attacking grizzly bear with her powers of illusion, seeing as it could still smell through her invisibility.

Elongated Man: The master detective failed to notice the above, but was on hand to help Gypsy fall to Amazo.

Dale Gunn: Woke up before J’Onn, complaining of a ringing in his ears and a feeling of helplessness that was worse than his time in ‘Nam. “J’Onzz... you don’t look too good, Big Green.” Dale helped J’Onn to a nearby watering hole, where the Martian uttered Golden Turkey dialogue, “Dale... Water... So much water...Water. Drink. So much water, so rich a land." I still can't figure whether Gerry was writing Hulk or Super Chief there, but I digress. While his team was buried alive in a big ol' hole, J'Onn flew off with Dale in search of the Fortress of Solitude. Dale questioned the move, but J’Onn brushed his concerns aside. “Have no fear for them, Dale Gunn. My orders were clear—they will not engage Amazo in combat, without first consulting me,” who was absentee and incommunicado. Ouch.

Martian Manhunter: Steel ignored Manhunter’s order not to engage Amazo, as the android was in the midst of clobbering Steel and Gypsy. Zatanna held back, followed orders, and tried to contact J’Onn, who was still sleeping off the effects of his attack. So who was in the right, Steel or Zee? There was a half-assed explanation in that J’Onn’s signal ring was busted, but Dale’s worked fine, and scouting the area (especially with night having fallen) should have been first priority. Let's just say J'Onn's not a natural leader, or else he was pulling his “tough love” shtick, and move on. If not, I’m bound to make a pun about J’Onn being green in his role. Oh, dag.

Introduced this issue: Martian Manhunter’s leadership ineptitude. No wait, that was last issue. It was introduced that the signal rings aren’t a good idea, but we knew that already, as well.

The Creators: Gerry Conway & George Tuska w/Mike Machlan.

J’Onn J’Onzz’s Nicknames of the Issue: “J.J.” –Dale Gunn
“Big Green.” Dale & Vibe.

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: While tripping and falling down a slope, “S-serious? AHH-KHEWW! I’ll tell you serious, señora! KHEWWWW! I jus’ figured out... I got... ahahaaa--ahhh----KHEEWWWW----hayfever!”

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Justice League of America #241 (8/85)

Vixen: Goaded Aquaman into considering reconciliation with his estranged wife, despite his protesting her “asinine pop psychology.” Hung out with her fellow Leaguers as they cooked lunch. When Aquaman came up missing just as the team was alerted to the return of an old threat, she kept her knowledge of his likely whereabouts to herself.

Aquaman: Marriage to Mera established at seven years to this point. Aquaman was prideful, evasive, and passive-aggressive in Vixen’s presence, but equivocated in solitude. Arthur questioned the true motivation behind all his recent decisions, and owned up to his transferring his tumultuous emotional state onto the new team he brought into existence. Finally, he jumped off a pier in search of his lost love.

Steel: After dominating most of the previous issues with his presence, Steel backed off a bit here. Had a macho mini-brawl with Vibe over dating his sister; a conflict resolved with Vibe’s blessing the courtship. Beyond that, he coasted this issue.

Zatanna: Continued to be as much, and most likely more, of a non-entity on the team than Sue Dibney this outing. She paired-off on the mission with Steel, and spoke exactly one line of dialogue.

Vibe: Turned his powers against Steel until his old-school protectiveness was sated by Steel’s formally asking permission to date Paco’s sister. Vibe then debuted his new costume. This move advanced his people five years—up from the ten Vibe’s very existence set them back. Sure it was mostly black and red, but with studded belts, a plunging neckline, fingerless gloves, and chunky ankle boots. He might as well have thrown in a sombrero and fringe. He paired-off with Vixen on the mission.

Dale Gunn: Cooked up some Texas-style chili. Flew the L.O.S.T. to the mission site. Pulled a Bones McCoy with his “I’m just a glorified engineer doubling as a pilot... but...” riff. Got knocked out.

Gypsy: Helped Dale make the chili, but slipped and lost her grip on the bowl. Made pointed comments about Ralph and Sue’s sitcom couple marriage, then even less tactfully blew J’Onn J’Onzz off when he questioned her bitter stance. Thought Vibe’s new outfit was “cute,” prompting him to puff-up and rant. Threw Manhunter shade about it being Aquaman’s job to brief the team on missions, not his.

Elongated Man & Sue Dibney: Ralph used his incredible powers to save a bowl of chili and quoted Emily Post. Sue had eighteen times as much dialogue as Zatanna, as she kidded her husband and helped make peace between Vibe and Steel. Ralph paired-off with Gypsy on the mission.

Martian Manhunter: Wearing an apron around his waist as he diced onions for the chili, Manhunter noted “After three decades on your world, I thought I was beyond the possibility of new experiences. It would appear I was mistaken.” When Gypsy almost nullified his culinary effort, J’Onn actually exclaimed “--Gods of Mars--!” Meanwhile Amazo, the android “one-man Justice League,” escaped confinement at the Fortress of Solitude and absorbed the life force/personality of drunken lout Slick Jake MacGregor. The repurposed Amazo then slaughtered the town of St. Jude in the Canadian Yukon, population 200, as revenge for its treatment of MacGregor. This tragedy prompted the Manhunter to call the League together, both to address Amazo and their being short one leader. J’Onzz called the shots, but not without question, and rightly so. When evidence suggested Amazo could have headed off in any of three directions, he splintered the group to follow each lead, quartering their effectiveness. J’Onzz one-upped Gunn’s Bones with his own take off Phil Hartman’s Caveman Lawyer. “I ask myself...Dale Gunn. What would Aquaman have done, I wonder? On Mars, I was thrust into a position of command, but I too am a scientist by nature. Command does not come naturally” Up from under the ground sprang Amazo, who swiftly used his super-breath to blow Dale and the Martian Manhunter up against consciousness-depriving rocks.

Introduced this issue: Justice League signal rings-- gold bands with a gigantic red light/gem that beeped team members and acted as a verbal communicator. Conway was still ignoring J’Onn’s mental powers, and the Legion of Super-Heroes thought we weren’t just cavemen, but tacky cavemen.

The Creators: Gerry Conway, still struggling to balance the mundance with the fantastic, forced poor George Tuska to spend 2 ½ pages on the chili skit. Thanks largely to the rich inks of Mike Machlan, the grizzled old veteran managed to make the rampant inanities of the issue reasonably appealing to the eye. At times, he even invoked Alex Toth and Bob Oksner instead of the usual “Don Heck of DC.”

J’Onn J’Onzz’s Nicknames of the Issue: “The Big Green Guy.”-Gypsy.
“Big Green”-Vibe.

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: “Cute? You call me cute? Do people call the Batman cute? Do people call Superman... cute? With this suit, I’m making a statement. I’m saying, ‘you’d better give me your respect, or I’m gonna bust your head.’”

Monday, November 5, 2007

The New Teen Titans #4 (1/85)

"...or George Pérez was pulling full art chores at his peak along with Marv Wolfman on the highest quality paper in the industry, and all I got was this lousy panel." But hey, by this point Pérez's immaculate inks and experimental wash techniques had made the flagship book in DC's new direct market-only deluxe line very late, imperiling a bold direction that eventually proved ill-fated, and requiring old NTT inker Romeo Tanghal to step in. All things considered, Justice League Detroit were lucky to look this good on a book that saw print while they were still together.

The prophesy of the even more ill-conceived Raven turning evil and drawing her demonic absentee father into our world had come to pass. Think "The Coming of Galactus," but in a 50 foot loincloth and white leather hip boots instead of an armored purple tunic. So basically, Armageddon had never been quite so threatening to irresolute heterosexuality below the Bible Belt... not that there's anything wrong with that. The Titans themselves were "pawns whose minds Trigon had tapped, whose secrets spilled forth, who possessed knowledge of others like themselves with abilities far greater than any ordinary man... Others whose mighty powers can disrupt the course of raging rivers, or fight injustice in this country, and others... Those who live throughout the known world, and in lands beyond mortal ken... those others whose steely determination stands for all that is right and good. Those others... who must be dealt with before this earth can become Trigon's own."

Superman, Batman, and the Justice League were clearly depicted in this sequence, but one featured fantastic figures who could as easily be Amazons as the Norse, or some little known Global Guardians types. I assume they were intentionally vague one-offs (unless they were from another of the mostly under performing deluxe format line, or short series I never read myself. Amethyst?) Through knowledge gleaned from Raven, Trigon sent earth's mightiest heroes through a dark night of the soul. Unlike when the X-Men began trumping A-listers like the Avengers based on sales in the 80's though, the Titans were both responsible for Trigon's success at remaking their world into a fresh flesh hell, and they defeated him through their own weakness. You see, each Titan, like presumably J'Onn J'Onzz and the other heroes, were confronted with a cruel doppelganger of themselves responsible for realizing their worst fears (Nightwing's failure as a soloist leading to Batman's demise, Wonder Girl slaying her unpowered husband, and so on.) One imagines the Manhunter from Mars abandoning both his own people and the neophyte Leaguers to their mutual dooms due to his divided loyalties, though no such thing was depicted here. Eventually, the individual Titans forsook their heroic ideals to murder their grey-toned tormentors, taking on first their glowing red eyes (a masterful effect that resembled spot varnish) and then becoming negative images of themselves ensconced in nefarious crimson. Finally, these wicked Titans were made to kill their own possessed teammate Raven to free themselves. One might guess most of the world's heroes were continuing to fight this slippery slope, though the Titans were additionally influenced by both Raven and Lilith.