Monday, June 30, 2008

Swamp Thing #49-50 (June-July 1986)

John Constantine began gathering sorcerers to help deal with a primordial terror from beyond and feared by Hell itself. Among those visited were Zatanna and her father, John Zatara. "John? Can you slow down a little? This is difficult to follow... You say the Brujeria are destroyed, but their plan is still going on?" Zee father explained just how terrible this coming darkness would be, but also failed to see what use any of them could be against such a threat. "I've got it all planned out. There's a way we can channel our collective energies through to the higher territories, aiding the struggle. If you and Zatanna could help, I'd be obliged."

Zatara continued to be dismissive, but Zee agreed, to her father's chagrin. The pair had a row over her being an adult capable of her own decisions, though Zatara agreed to the soiree to watch over her. Zee then saw the Hellblazer out. "Ahhh, he's never trusted me, not since he found out we were attending that tantric studies group together." Zee had forgotten that romp in San Francisco, back when she wore a top hat and tails. "Yeah, well, I liked it," presumably meaning both the suit she'd abandoned and the sex. "Hahaha. Come on... get out before Dad changes you into something lower than you already are." The pair shared a kiss, and Zee said, "Good-bye John. You haven't changed. You've still got a hell of a nerve."

Later, Zatanna, her father, and John joined Mento, Baron Winter, Dr. Occult and Sargon the Sorcerer in lending their energies to the good fight. While the mages sat in Winter's home, their energies were bestowed upon heroes confronting the primordial darkness in Hell. The Demon Etrigan was defeated on one plane, causing Sargon to spontaneously combust on ours. The Sorcerer took his immenent demise poorly, until Zatara instilled some backbone in his final moments. "Sargon, you are upsetting my daughter. For the honor of our profession, be silent and die like a sorcerer." In the infernal, Dr. Fate was beaten, and Zee began to feel awfully warm. "No! No, I will not allow it! Not my daughter! Ssenkrad ekat em daetsni!" Zatanna demanded her father take his spell back as he began to burn. "Too late, my love. Too late. Constantine... If you do not deliver my daughter safely from this place, my shade shall hound you through eternity. Is that understood?" Zatanna cried to her father as his body erupted into flames, forcing her to hold the smoldering hand of his corpse to maintain their mystic circle.

Constantine tried to assure Zee he knew how she felt, but, "No, you don't! If you knew how I was feeling, you'd run as far as you could and crawl under a stone and hide! You involved us in this! My father's dead and it's on your hands!" Constantine agreed, "Yeah, they always are. I'm sorry Zatanna. Really I am." The Spectre was humbled next, before a meeting between the Darkness and Swamp Thing gave it perspective. The Darkness was met by some form of divinity, and the terror passed, but not before driving Mento mad. Various magical types claimed nothing would ever be quite the same again, but that's the DC status quo in a nutshell. Zatanna wept for her father, and his sacrifice didn't seem to amount to much.

Creators included Alan Moore, Stan Woch, Alfredo Alcala, Stephen Bissette, Rick Veitch and John Totleben.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Blue Devil #5 (10/84)

Previously, in Blue Devil #4 (9/84)

Elongated Man: Only a one page cameo for Ralph this time, as he interrupted Blue Devil and Zatanna's mutual self-incrimination to announce, "Let's save the postmortem till after the game is over, people! You goofed-- but you can still clean up your mess!" Satellite sensors detected Nebiros in the Sierra Madre range, so Ralph teleported the pair to investigate. "Good luck, heroes! I'll stay up here to monitor developments... just in case-- much as I wish I could tag along!" Sounds kind of bogus to me, but Yellow Devil obscured that bit of cowardice by offering to swap places with Elongated Man!

Zatanna: Her hand at the small of Blue Devil's back, Zee demanded of Dan when he tried to bow out of the mission, "Not a chance, sport! Beam us down, Ralph!" Desperate much since the Barry Allen hit & run?

The pair arrived in Mexico, where Nebiros had created two new volcanoes through power channeled into Blue Devil's trident. At Zee's urging, Dan tried to summon the staff, but was hit by an energy backlash for his trouble. Nebiros unearthed another of his ancient temples, which was fired upon to modest effect by the Mexican military. Nebiros retaliated by calling forth a legion of demons, while simultaneously disassembling the military machinery through magic. Blue Devil finally stepped-up: "You were right, Zatanna-- it's up to us!"

The heroic couple charged into the misbegotten mass, filmed by Dan's cameraman friend Norm Paxton (under orders from their producer boss, Marla Bloom, looking for movie footage.) Zatanna cast a spell to help protect Norm, who refused to flee the scene. "You're as stubborn as your friend! I won't waste time arguing!" Zatanna continued to focus her attention on the monstrous throng, while Blue Devil confronted Nebiros. Zee had to save Dan at one point, before the tide turned upon Blue Devil's regaining his trident. Dan used its partially-infernal power to destroy Nebiron's temple, and in turn his demons. Zatanna then created a vortex to drag Nebiron through his own portal, sealing it from our side.

Zatanna congratulated Blue Devil's heroic accomplishment: "You saved the world... I suspect there's more in your future than just filmmaking, Dan... you are going to make one terrific super-hero!" Zee then grabbed BD by his horns and kissed him firmly! "Time for me to get going now... Dliw sdniw wolb dna tfil em yawa! Call me sometime, handsome!"

The Creators: The team of Paris Cullins and Gary Martin were on fire here, rendering ornate temples and hordes of varied hellspawn that seemed to anticipate the glory of Art Adams. In my admittedly biased opinion, this was among the best depictions of Zee, both in art and writing, that I've ever read. People seem to have trouble making Zatana work in a super-hero universe, but tales like this reveal it isn't the character at fault, but her scripters. Gary Cohn and Dan Mishkin had no such issues, and rereading this tale has reminded me of how much I loved their work on Blue Devil. I owned quite a few of these back in the day, often available on the cheap at flea markets. Now I have a hankering to hunt a run down on eBay...

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Blue Devil #4 (9/84)

Martian Manhunter: Had not yet returned to Earth, as this story took place prior to Justice League of America #228-230, which was being published at around the same time. This is basically the next-to-last Satellite Era story.

Elongated Man: Was hanging out on the Justice League Satellite in orbit 22,300 miles above the Earth. Superman brought Blue Devil up for a visit after the new but reluctant hero defeated Metallo, the man with the Kryptonite heart, while at S.T.A.R. Labs in Metropolis. Ralph Dibney shook hands with Dan Cassidy, then defended Superman when he proved less cavalier about his secret identity. "Buddy boy, you've got a lot to learn about this business! Most super-heroes never reveal their names!" Blue Devil thought Superman just sounded paranoid, then wanted to test his strength against the Man of Steel in an arm-wrestling match. Ralph had to convince him: "Oh, come on, don't be so serious all the time... it'll be lots of fun!" Dan couldn't budge an inch with both arms and legs leveraged against the table, then was taken way over the top with a wrist flick! "I like that guy! He's a barrel of laughs! ...That's lesson number one, pal o' mine: You don't want to mess with the Big Red S!" Trailed off with Superman after Cassidy moved on to investigate magical means of removing the Blue Devil costume he'd been bonded with.

Zatanna: The reason Blue Devil had been taken up to the Satellite in the first place, though he seemed to forget his problems while flirting with the receptive enchantress! "Y'know, there aren't many women who could get away with wearing a bug on their head... but on you it looks terrific." Zee tried to get Dan out of his suit (*ahem*) but he had been permanently merged with it, its circuits having become inextricable and organic.

Zee cast a spell to retrieve a book called "The Demonography" in order to reference the monster that cast the binding spell on Dan, Nebiros. Zee believed Dan should try to request Nebiros remove the spell, so the pair teleported to Île du Diable. Zee reconstituted a mystical key in order to access Nebiros' dimension through an Earthly temple. With a peck on the cheek, Zatanna sent Blue Devil through the portal, while she remained to prevent any demons from escaping to Earth.

Nebiros was too presumptuous and Blue Devil too intemperate to come to an agreement, as the elder demon seized Dan and carried him back to the portal. Zee mistook Dan's presence as her cue to open the portal, releasing both devils. Zatanna was anxious to make amends by thwarting Nebiros, but Blue Devil felt it was more than they could handle. He grabbed Zee under his arm and carried her out of the temple with his enhanced agility. Zee continued to argue, but was finally convinced to request help from the Justice League. Zatanna knew from the Demonography that Nebiros' weakness was water, and hoped to contain him on the island. However, the demon used a jet-propelled trident "given" to him by Dan to escape to the Mexican coast. Zee cast a teleportation spell to transport herself and Blue Devil ahead of Nebiros.

The Creators: Ralph called it earlier-- this book was a fun break from too much seriousness. Gary Cohn and Dan Mishkin were clearly having a ball with the characters and premise, which were dynamically depicted by Paris Cullins and Gary Martin. This was the first Zatanna story I ever read, and I was struck by how nice she was. To my mind, that's still her best feature. I like when she's shown to be powerful and capable, but if she doesn't have that girl-next-door sweetness that shone through the thigh high boots and Necronomicon, it just isn't Zee to me!

Continue to Blue Devil #5

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Whatever Happened to the Negro League?

Click To Expand

New solicitation art in making George upset! I could have sworn just a few months ago I expressed my pleasant surprise at seeing not just a person of color on the League, but multiple blacks under the writing of a very talented African-American. Christopher Priest's career is spinning in its grave over the sheer audacity of Dwayne McDuffie to pull this shit off-- for all of five minutes. Look at that cover!

Now, picking apart the faults in Ed Benes' work is pretty much always like taking candy from a babe, but this is ridiculous! Here's the 25th issue of the new JLofA, in a story focused on the Nubian Princess Vixen, and she'd need Brother Eagle to lend her his eyes in order to see the DCU Trinity from where she's sitting. Green Lantern John Stewart looks like he's being gut punched by Hal Jordan for being uppity enough to serve in his stead of late. Not only is Firestorm at the furthest back of the JLA bus, but you just know he'll be wiped out completely by the logo come publication. The only black member that doesn't look like they're from a separate regiment bringing up the rear is Black Lightning, but he's almost entirely obscured by Batman and the extremely prominent Zatanna, who I wasn't aware was even a current teammate. Even from 22,300 miles up, you should be able to hear Sharpton going off about the Hall of No Justice!

Written by Dwayne McDuffie
Art by Ed Benes
Cover by Ed Benes
Vixen and Animal Man journey into the sacred Tantu Totem to solve the mystery of their altered powers. But Anansi, the African spider god responsible for these changes, has only begun reshaping the powers and histories of the Justice League, as eight-year-old Bruce Wayne shoots the burglar who killed his parents, Wonder Woman retires from the JLA after the tragic death of her husband, Superman, and The Green Lantern Corps quarantines Earth after one of their number destroys an American city. With the team’s history changing before Vixen’s eyes, is the JLA we now know gone forever?
On sale September 17 • 48 pg, FC, $3.99 US

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Who's Who Vol.I: Amazo (3/85)

Sorry I've neglected the Detroit blog, but by this weekend, we'll see Elongated Man and Zatanna in action right here...