Monday, December 20, 2010
Justice League of America #178 (May, 1980)
The Atom and Aquaman arrived aboard the Justice League Satellite via an instantaneous transporter tube. They were met by Zatanna, Batman, Green Arrow, Black Canary and Superman. “How come everyone looks so glum?” Aquaman replied, “I think ‘grim’ is a more appropriate word, Atom… and I expect your expressions reflect the reason for this emergency meeting!”
Zatanna explained that through her monitor duty, she realized the various attacks on League members by giant animated chess pieces had to be connected. “Isn’t it obvious what’s happening? You were in the opening gambit of some cosmic chess game, manipulated by some unseen force! A force that can attack again, at any moment, without warning!”
Ollie Queen, self-important boob that he was, denied that any of this affected his role as Star City’s “ordinary folk” protector. The bishop that materialized in a transporter whose high-density plastisteel booth was shattered by a staff that subsequently put Green Arrow on his sorry ass made a convincing counter argument. Superman and Batman were subsequently struck by eyebeams of kryptonite and lightning, respectively. Black Canary tried to kick the bishop, which sounds like a naughty game, but nothing came of it. The Atom shrunk into Aquaman’s palm, then was tossed into the bishop’s featureless face for a two-fisted atomic punch. The bishop then showed the Mighty Mite the backswing of his pimp staff.
As the bishop fired eyebeams at Zatanna, the Heiress of Magic stood firm with her arms crossed. “Dleihs mrof-- tcetorp em morf sih syar!” The star-shaped shield held. “Dleihs hcaer tuo-- tcetorp ym sdneirf-- tel meht thgif tuohtiw raef…” Aquaman benefited from the protection, as he ran up and slugged the bishop. “I may be an Atlantean out of water, Black Canary, but I was born to endure the pressures of the ocean depths-- and few things, living or unloving, can stand a blow that might well stun a whale!” Sure enough, the sea king cracked the chessman in half, with Black Canary delivering a sonic “coup d’grace” that blew the bishop to pieces.
The Atom studied the debris, and concluded it was of extra-terrestrial origin and “That chesspiece was more powerful than all of us combined. It let us win… but don’t ask me why!”
A silence fell over the room. Green Arrow then broke it with the accusation that new member Zatanna froze up in battle, which he would only know from hearsay since his bitch ass was down before the first round. “I… sensed a presence surrounding that ‘chesspiece’ …an identity… familiar, but unknown… and somehow I knew… it meant us no real harm…” Ollie was dyspeptic over Zee’s reply, but she had no time for his bull, sensing something important was waiting to be found in the monitor room that may “unlock this entire mystery…”
In a spaceship hovering over Mars II, Despero had forced J'onn J'onzz into a deadly game of chess against his Justice League friends, with the lives of his surviving Martian people hanging in the balance. “I knew you could see reason, J’onn! That’s why I chose you for this little enterprise, after I finally managed to escape from the Krill… Now… shall we begin again? Just pick your piece, and I’ll use my third eye to teleport its larger counterpart into the Justice League’s presence…" However, the knight that was teleported found an empty Satellite, seemingly costing Despero the game by default. Despero protested, until he was attacked by one of his own Justice League chess pieces, which turned out to be the actual Atom.
As it turned out, the Justice League had arrived through the magic of Zatanna, who had disguised the heroes as Despero’s gameplay replicas. The Martian Manhunter explained, “I hoped you’d notice-- I had my ‘bishop’ destroy the memory bank record for every Justice League member-- active or inactive-- except my own!” The League got the message, then began fighting all of Despero’s pieces en masse, without the benefit of J’onzz’s benevolent guiding hand. The heroes began to falter, until the Atom called, “Superman! We’re in trouble-- but we’ve got maybe one small chance! And when I say small, I mean me! Remember I said these chess pieces were made up of independent atoms? Well, maybe I can knock those atoms into a series of chain collisions-- if I hit them small enough, and fast enough! I tried something similar with Aquaman-- but he didn’t have your speed!” Superman feared the move might be suicidal, but went along, casting the Mighty Mite at another bishop. In a microcosmic game of billiards, the Atom managed to set off a reaction that destabilized all of the chessmen, causing them to explode. Despero called out no’s while Atom recited yeses at this turn of events. “Face facts, Despero, you’ve just been hustled-- courtesy of the master chessman of Mars!”
Under the moons of Mars II, Despero was escorted away in chains by two Martians in heavy blue robes. “I-- and my people-- owe much to your sensitivity, Zatanna,” as well as the League’s might. Zee had caught the Martian Manhunter’s clue, which prompted Superman to scan Mars II with his telescopic vision, and the Heiress of Magic did the rest. “Simple matter or not, the deed deserves a reward, and you all shall have it… a celebration at the palace of heroes… as my ever-honored guests!” Of course, in the midst of this revelry, Green Arrow had to make it all about hi m by whining to Black Canary that he was far from Star City and the people who actually needed his worthless self. Ollie walked in the opposite direction from his fellows to mope as Dinah looked on...