Thursday, August 28, 2008

Legends #2 (12/86)

Zatanna: Left the team. Missed out on Darkseid minion G. Gordon Godfrey whipping the nation into anti-superhero frenzy. Absent when President Ronald Reagan issued emergency executive order banning super-heroic activity. Nowhere to be seen when League faced a titan on a city street.

Batman: No longer on the team. Blinded during riot before he could save Robin, who was later hospitalized from the severe beating he received from an angry mob.

Sue Dibney: As if.

Vixen: Stood near Vibe, and previously heard the warning of a towering being composed of molten plasma terrorizing the United States, "the fallen angel-- come to purge this frail Earth of false gods and graven idols!"

Steel: Stood near Firestorm, who alerted the Detroit League to the threat of Brimstone.

Gypsy: Stood near Cosmic Boy, the temporally-displaced Legion of Super-Heroes member who tried to help against Brimstone.

Vibe: The only member of the Justice League to launch an offensive against foe. Used vibratory powers to knock Brimstone off its feet.

Elongated Man: "J'Onn-- wait! You're not thinking straight! That monster is composed of living fire-- and fire is a Martian's greatest weakness!"

Martian Manhunter: "If you're looking for a fight, behemoth-- the Martian Manhunter is more than willing to oblige!" Flew at Brimstone, but changed course at the last minute. "I allowed my emotions to overwhelm me for a moment-- and that could have proven disastrous!" Saw Brimstone level a somewhat indirect attack. "He's bringing the entire building down on top of us-- more rubble than even I can handle! Take cover, Justice League!"

Firestorm: "Too late--! Nowhere to hide--! We're all gonna be buried-- alive!!"

The Creators: The Detroit League get the chance to be drawn by John Byrne in his prime, with Karl Kesel on inks, and perspective leaves most of them the size of ants. At least Manhunter and Paco looked good. Plotter John Ostrander gave Vibe a rare spotlight moment, but Len Wein's dialogue was all exposition.

J’Onn J’Onzz’s Nicknames of the Issue: "J'Onn!" -Elongated Man

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: "You are one ugly sucker, amigo-- and too hot to get close to!"

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Legends #1 (11/86)

Darkseid looked down upon the Earth, and saw that it was good. This displeased him, as it should simply be under his thumb. His minion DeSaad showed him images of Earth's most inspiring super-heroes: Martian Manhunter, the Flash, Captain Marvel, Batman, Green Lantern, and Superman. To crush the hearts of mankind, Darkseid sought to destroy their legends.

Brimstone: A flaming giant under the control of Doctor Bedlam that began to terrorize New York.

Firestorm: The Nuclear Man and former member of the Justice League of America called from Pittsburgh to face Brimstone. Took a beating, and realized that he was out of league, so he went to fetch one.

Task Force X: Reformed under Amanda Waller, nicknamed the Wall based on her size and stubbornness. Enlisted Colonel Rick Flag to gather a team of super-villains for her Suicide Squad.

Cosmic Boy: A founding member of the 30th Century's Legion of Super-Heroes, on vacation in his past. The second champion to face Brimstone alone, and though he held up longer than Firestorm, was still the worse for wear.

"Need a helping hand, fella?

"Name's Vibe, Amigo!"
"They call me the Elongated Man!"
"I'm Vixen!"
"J'Onn J'Onzz-- the Martian Manhunter!"
"I answer to Gypsy!"
"My code-name is Steel!"
"And everyone's favorite Nuclear Man makes it an uneven baker's dozen! But, for simplicity's sake, Pinkie-- just call us... Justice League of America"

"Well, you're not exactly the Legion-- but boy, am I glad you're here!!"

The Creators: What's so simple about "Justice League of America?" That's kind of a mouthful, in fact. And how do you say it with a logo in your word balloon, like Firestorm did? Does this mean he's an honorary member of one of the most disreputable super-teams ever? Worse, did he claim it without consent?

Anyhow, here's "Crisis 2," since the other planned sequel never materialized("Crisis of Souls," I think it was to be called. I couldn't find reference to it on the 'net.) Where "Crisis" was relentlessly grim, Len Wein's scripts for "Legends" gave it an old school feel that everything would turn out okay in the end. This was in direct opposition to John Ostrander's plot, which was arguably darker than "Crisis," seeing as how personal and permanent the punishments were here. The art by John Byrne and Karl Kesel contributed to the lightening of the book, as even the villains seem too clean and neat to mean anyone real harm. In other words, Legends has aged very poorly, but is still hard to hate, especially when offering a two page spread of the kids from Detroit.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Justice League of America #257 (12/86)

Martian Manhunter: Tried to keep Pamela Cross and Adam calm-- one so as not to distract his concentration, the other to stabilize ever-shifting reality that threatened to shatter Pam's mind. "Calm yourself, Pamela. You're beginning to sound... hysterical. Forgive me. That was unnecessarily cold." Dismayed by Gypsy and Zatanna's troubles in Adam's psyche. Detected the presence of Zatanna's father Zatara with her in Adam's being, but continued to declare that "patently im-- possible...?" After demanding the returned Gypsy maintain a constant illusion, she snapped, "Y'know-- sometimes you can be the most hard-hearted--"

"I know. Now concentrate. Please. Don't do it for me, Gypsy. Don't do it for yourself. Do it for Pam. For Zatanna. For Adam." The situation came to its resolution, prompting Manhunter to bemoan, "Being neither a romantic nor a spiritualist-- I remain skeptical. And I remain worried."

Once Manhunter sensed Zee had reached the Godhead, he commanded her to fight, but she would not. He was furious when Zatanna returned to the physical plane. "Damn you woman-- I hope you're happy... Look at Adam... at what you've done... For all intents and purposes-- he no longer exists. Answer me, now-- and honestly, is there some way to reverse this? ...Did Adam hurt you that badly? Are you that hungry for revenge?"

Gypsy: "Dragged down by the demons of [Adam's] subconscious. Devoured by the demons within!" Remembered by Zee once she'd liberated herself. "How simple... to chant an incantation and bring Gypsy to me. But no magic I know can restore her to life! No magic I know can repair the spiritual damage this encounter may have caused her! Why? Why did I insist that she come with me? Was it really because I needed her? Or was it because Gypsy insisted that we help Adam-- despite all the evil he's done-- despite the hell he put me through! Maybe I wanted to put Gypsy's idealism to the test. Well, the test is over now, Zatanna. Are you happy with the results?" Gypsy came around, heard Zee say she was sorry, and was returned to the material plane. Grossed out Pam by being covered in "residual psychic sediment," which dissolved eventually. When Gypsy wondered why Zee was sorry, Manhunter said "I have my suspicions, but it isn't my place to say." Asked J'Onn if he could send her back in. "Even if I could-- I would not... Now please don't distract me, Gypsy." Commanded by Manhunter to cast an illusion of normalcy in Pamela's mind as Adam's condition and Pam's hysterics worsened. When Zatanna returned and Adam lay broken on the floor, Gypsy chastised J'Onn for speaking harshly to the sorceress.

Zatanna: Drug herself out of the morass of Adam's subconscious. "And then, a cold panic spreads out from her chest as she remembers something... someone." Pulled Gypsy loose, as well, and sent her packing. Met her ideal man realized, not dissimilar from Adam's appearance. "He is her desire made flesh. And she wants him." Started making out, until her father's voiced admonished her and made her see Adam's bestial lust given form. More seductive entities entice Zee, but her father's voice compels, "You are my daughter-- you know what to do." Cover her face in a spell of "heartless stone," it seemed. Zee overcame additional challenges until she reached the Godhead, where at her father's suggestion, she gave in rather than fight. The Godhead destroyed Adam's ego, swallowed Zee, and spit her back into reality.

Adam: When Zee fell willingly into the Godhead, "I saw everything... that ever was or will be. And I saw my father. I saw The Father. I saw the plan. I know now. And so does he." Adam saw that everything, even his prior evil, was meant to be in the greater scheme of creation. "The Godhead wanted us, Gypsy. Adam and I have a destiny together. The Godhead did what it had to-- to bring that destiny about." Pamela Cross had suffered a nervous breakdown, but Zee fixed her mind. Adam assured "The full memory will return when her mind is prepared to handle it." Manhunter deadpanned, "How kind of you to allow it." Zee and Adam then disappeared to parts unknown. "I don't like this," said Martian Manhunter. Gypsy replied, "You're always being so negative! Couldn't you feel the love pouring out of them? The joy?"

Steel: "One pizza and two hours later-- at Justice League Headquarters..." Hank had been apprised of these recent events by J'Onn and Gypsy.

Elongated Man: Couldn't understand why Manhunter was so upset while retelling the tale. "Sounds like Zee and Adam came out of that mess in pretty good shape."

Vibe: Called Ralph a "real jerk," thinking Zee might be under mind control. "Y'know-- like a... cosmic moonie!"

Vixen: Figured Zee and Adam just needed time to digest the experience.

Sue Dibney: Stood silently in the background.

Firestorm: Stumbled into the meeting with a warning: "You'd better keep worrying! But not about Zatanna! About the safety of the world-- and a lunatic called... Brimstone!"

The Creators: Those annoying caption boxes encompassing Zatanna and her father's thoughts are back, leading one to suspect DeMatteis may have scripted an earlier issue under a pseudonym. Whether intentional or not, this story allowed Zatanna sideways entry into the "End of the JLofA" arc, as her departure (and Batman's, in the midst of it all) marked the steady dissolution for the team. My understanding is that the dangling Zatanna story was picked up in the 80's Doug Moench Spectre series. It seems the Godhead was a hoax and Adam was killed off, but at least Zatara was finally laid to rest. I've never read the issues in question, myself.

J’Onn J’Onzz’s Nicknames of the Issue: "Manhunter" -Elongated Man
"Big Green" -Firestorm
"Mr. Green Man From Mars" -Pamela Cross
"J.J." -Gypsy

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: "'Authentic mystical experience'? Yeah. I had one o' those once-- when I stuck my finger in an electrical socket!"

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Justice League of America #256 (11/86)

Sue Dibney: Nope

Steel: Uh-uh.

Vibe: Forget it.

Elongated Man: Sorry.

Vixen: Wrong number.

Batman: What, you thought this was a team book? Batman isn't even on this team anymore! Get outta here!

Martian Manhunter: The apartment Detective John Jones was left in became a tinderbox. Reverted to Martian Manhunter form, saw visions of H'ronmeer. Embraced death-- but instead found he'd accepted a mystical invitation to Zatanna's presence. Also in the room was teen runaway Pamela Cross, who observed, "He's green." Her guide Gypsy explained, "He's from Mars, that's all." Manhunter recognized Zatanna's mind "cried out to the depths of our minds... nightmare to nightmare." Gently restored her consciousness telepathically. Had favor returned when he became lost in Adam's mind. Guilted Zatanna with this speech: "Gypsy, please-- I understand your concern... but you must let Zatanna come to this decision herself. She has been with the League far longer than you. She knows full well what we stand for. She'll make the right decision. Zatara's daughter could do no less." Served as a psychic anchor to reality for Zee and Gypsy.

Gypsy: Apologized to Pamela Cross for coming down on her so much she was asked to stop. "Enough, already! For cryin' out loud, you thought I was part of the plot that set up your pal, John Jones." Stopped to give money to an elderly homeless woman, who forcibly grasped her hands and stared at her. "Eyes that run deep with future days; that neither mock nor plead, but simply say: I am you, child. I am what you will be... what you will collapse into. I am loneliness and heartbreak. I am time. I
am Gypsy." The heroine rejected this foretelling, but could not effect the woman with her illusion powers. Gypsy saw a vision of the derelict with demonic features and broke free. Then, a trash can fire erupted into a firestorm, as she and Pamela Cross were transported to a hospital room. Pled Zatanna to aid Adam: "The League's supposed to help people... no matter who they are! No matter what they've done!" Went with Zee into Adam's psyche, because "Your ability to cast illusions... is indicative of a very vibrant... and resilient... mind! Few people alive could make this journey and remain sane." Gypsy asked, "And... I can?" Zee responded, "Let's hope so."

Adam: Driven mad by his absorption of the Homo Magi gene pattern, began altering reality. M.C. Escher, giant props, Dante's Inferno, infinite space and more psychedelic trips were represented. Sweating and unsteady, Adam begged for the Leaguers' help. "Creation... is so vast! And, I-- I'm so very, very small. So small... So very, very small..." Gypsy ignored Zee's warning and comforted the fool. Martian Manhunter followed with a mind probe, to which Zee whined, "Why won't anyone believe me?" J'Onzz was cast through nebulous space, "lonely beyond words," and learned Adam's ego had been sundered when he "touched the force that molded the universe! We touched the Godhead! ...Everything is so magnificent... full of wonder... and terror! But... we cannot feel the way we once felt... We cannot see the way we once saw! So vast... Give us back our self..."

Zatanna: Found writhing on the checkerboard floor, where she was cradled and revived by J'Onn J'Onzz. Reflexively flung the Martian against a wall for his trouble. Believed the ghost of her father Zatara brought the two Leaguers to help, but Manhunter doubted, saying "You are understandably confused by your ordeal." Had to force the Manhunter to break his maddening psychic connection to Adam. Zee acknowledged that touching the Godhead is the ultimate goal of mystics, but without preparation, they'd end up like Adam. Zee argued with Manhunter against helping Adam, to serve as both punishment for his crimes against her and foreshadowing of the revelations of her conduct years before in "Identity Crisis." Took Gypsy with her into Adam's very being, where they were drowned in a psychic abyss.

The Creators: Zatanna playing a pivotal role in the action? You know Gerry Conway's gone now! J. M. DeMatteis revels in his trademark transcendental mumbo-jumbo, but it works perfectly for this story, as a solution for the corner others had written him into. Worth noting that as soon as J. Marc made the scene, he invented a god for J'Onn and expanded his "screen time" considerably. The love was there from the very beginning. Bob Smith proved a poor replacement for the embellishments of Bill Wray. Luke McDonnell's pencils were revealed as too loose for this type of book, though the effects on display in this issue were very nice.

J’Onn J’Onzz’s Nicknames of the Issue: "John Jones" -Pamela Cross
"J.J." -Gypsy, Zatanna

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Zatanna Pin-Up by Jeff Parker

Here's another piece from Martian Manhunter Special #1, a.k.a. the Justice League Quarterly dumping ground. Still, a nice piece by a fellow best known for his writing on Marvel titles like "Agents of Atlas" and "Marvel Adventures: Avengers."

Monday, August 4, 2008

The All-New Conglomerate Pin-Up

Okay, what we have here is an oddity. Published as a two-page spread in the 1996 Martian Manhunter Special, it seems likely this was excised for space from 1993's Justice League Quarterly #12. The credited artists on the JLQ story were Dan Rodriguez, Antonio Daniel, Ken Branch, and Frank Percy, but none were developed enough at that time for me to be able to tell them apart with confidence in assigning credit to this piece. The All-New Conglomerate made only one appearance, and consisted of Nuklon (formerly of Infinity Inc., later of the JLA and "Atom Smasher" of the JSA,) Templar, Jesse Quick (later "Liberty Belle" of the JSA,) Echo, and most importantly Hardline (formerly "Reverb," brother of Vibe.) Gypsy had also been a member of a prior incarnation, forming a solid bridge to the Detroit League. Mostly though, this image appears because I wanted new material to greet anyone crossing over from the Tuesday post at the Idol-Head of Diabolu. Since my synopsis for JLofA #255 debuted here two months ago, I needed space filler.