Monday, June 29, 2009

JLA #117-118 (Oct.-Early Nov. 2005)

Despero used his mind-controlling third eye to force Manhunter into his natural Martian form, then drew blood when he raked J’Onn’s chest with his claws. J’Onzz knew he was outmatched, and fled the Watchtower under his own power. As I long suspected, Despero too possessed some degree of flight, and trailed the Manhunter to terra firma.

Manhunter was aflame from the friction of reentry, plaintively casting out telepathically, “Are you there...? Can you hear me? I need assistance. He is coming.” J’Onzz struck ground in San Diego with terrific impact. Despero palmed the back of J’Onn’s head and lifted him off the ground. “Why cry for help when you know I’m the only one who can hear you? Even if I weren’t dampening your telepathy, there is no one to answer the call. The League is distracted. Too busy betraying one another and protecting their own to worry about the likes of you.” Despero dug his talons into the flesh of J’Onn’s face, then locked J’Onn’s arm within the vice grip of his other hand. “Face it J’Onn... there is no one left to save you. In response, a metal rod from a construction yard speared Despero’s right shoulder. Aquaman claimed, "That’s funny Despero... I was about to say the same to you."

Despero rent Aquaman’s flesh, but the Sea King hurled him through the bow of a boat into the bay, commanding “Make. Him. Bleed.” Despero was beset by sharks, their visage and ferocity a seeming match for his own. In his element, Aquaman went for Despero’s throat, and slammed the fiend into the midst of Sub Diego. Aquaman remained focused, despite mental communication with the extant Martian Manhunter.
“J’Onn... Where’s the rest of the League?”
“Out of range. I was barely able to contact you. Remember... Despero is a telepath. If he can’t subdue you physically... he will do everything in his power to take over your mind.”
“Let him try.”

As Despero’s third eye energy blast scythed the water, Aquaman pulled his fist back for a blow that sent the destroyer back up to the surface.

The Sea King rejoined the Manhunter. “You all right?”
“I will be, once we’ve disabled Despero.”
“Just tell me how.”
“We have to shut his mind down. That’s why I came to find you. Together, our combined psionic abilities might be enough to overpower him.”
The Destroyer of Worlds challenged, “Let’s find out, shall we?”
Our pair of heroes launched their stratagem, while the Leaguers who had been “distracted” by the Secret Society of Super-Villains returned home to find the Watchtower wrecked.

J’Onn J’Onzz had seen a lot of combat in the panel gutters, which might explain why, when he and Arthur next appeared in the Batcave, they were in thrall to Despero. “I have my king... I have my rook... and now... I have my knight. Let the game begin.”

Catwoman’s claws revealed a “third eye” beneath the cowl of the suddenly adversarial Caped Crusader. “Batman is under my influence. Just like the others. Their conflicting emotions have left their minds fractured and vulnerable. Like yours, Selina Kyle. You’re fighting on the wrong side.”

“Gee, a chance to team up with an alien dictator? As tempting as that sounds-- I think I’ll pass.”
Selina managed to signal the League via the Batcomputer. Meanwhile, “I’m going to have Batman do things to you... that he never knew he was capable of. “

"Crisis of Conscience, Parts Three & Four" by Geoff Johns & Allan Heinberg/Chris Batista & Mark Farmer.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

JLA #115-116 (8-9/2005)

Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana.
Belle Reve Prison.
Frenchwoman Deborah Camille Darnell has lain here in a coma since her short stint as Star Sapphire ended with the Secret Society’s mindwipes. Red eyes appeared in the darkness of her room, a blue-caped figure commanding her, “Wake up.” Her costume and consciousness psychically restored, the villainess had her own demand. “You!?! Tell me! Who did this to us?”

Happy Harbor, Rhode Island. Red Tornado was nearly destroyed by animated plant life.

Opal City, Maryland. Ralph Dibney was pulled from his home before it collapsed in on him.

Gotham City. An invisible Martian inadvertently comes between Batman and a flirtatious Catwoman, in the literal sense. After apologizing, J’Onn explained, “We need to talk.”

Bodies of Justice League members that had arrived on scene to the aforementioned hot spots fell limply from the sky to the trio’s feet. Sapphire, Felix Fault, the Wizard, the Floronic Man, Chronos, and Matter Master had arrived to continue their reunion tour, with a vengeance! Batman shielded a Manhunter set on telepathically reviving his fellows while Catwoman wielded a convenient flamethrower against the Secret Society of Super-Villains. J’Onzz accomplished his task, but between Zatanna’s revelations and attacks from the Society’s warlocks against him and his, the Manhunter proclaimed, “There will be no more magic today,” eyes ablaze. “One last trick,” Felix Faust assured. “Now you see us... now you don’t.” The Society vanished without even a psychic trace. Green Arrow bemoaned the effect of even more magic there, but Manhunter wasn’t so sure.

Batman took off for the Batcave with an injured Catwoman, and was none too pleased when he was followed by a Martian and League set on making things right for the betrayal against the Darknight Detective. Batman was unforgiving, going so far as to slug Hawkman for attempting to vindicate their actions. Clearly failing here, the Leaguers suddenly remembered the threat posed by a team of superhuman criminals who knew their secret identities. “You should all go home to your loved ones. We’ll regroup later at the----Watchtower.” Manhunter’s voice had trailed off, aware of the horror of Red Tornado lying in pieces before him.

Returning to the moon, Manhunter found a terrible, corrupting presence waiting in the Monitor Womb. “J’Onn. I’m so glad you’re here. Someone has given the Secret Society their memories back. I wonder who that could’ve been...”

“I know what you’re thinking. How could the Justice League----the people trusted more than anyone in the world----how could they have altered someone’s mind? Even I’m disappointed. After all these years of trying to destroy the League... the League will end up destroying itself. And this time, you won’t be around to fix it.”

“You underestimate me, Despero. You underestimate the League... You have from the very beginning.”

“...You violated my mind the same way Zatanna did Dr. Light’s.”

“I didn’t alter your mind. I allowed you to see what you wanted to see.”

“No need to be defensive, J’Onn... Don’t bother trying to get inside my head. Or contacting the League telepathically. I’m ready for you this time, J’Onn. And I’ve made sure your friends are otherwise engaged. So, now... it’s just you and me.”

"Crisis of Conscience, Part Two" by Geoff Johns & Allan Heinberg/Chris Batista & Mark Farmer.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

JLA #115 (8/05)



A long time ago, my family--my entire race--was wiped out by a psychokinetic plague. I keep coming back here--searching for some trace, some remnant of my past.”

J’Onn J’Onzz stopped walking the barren red wasteland, knelt down, and scooped up a handful of sand. Rising to his feet, he allowed the granules to slip through his fingers. “But Mars doesn’t feel like home anymore. My home is somewhere else now.”

At the JLA Watchtower, Hawkman and Green Arrow were ready to come to blows. Since the death of Sue Dibney, an increasing number of people were learning of abuses carried out by the Satellite Era league, specifically as it stood from the induction of the sorceress Zatanna until that of the young and naive Firestorm. When a villain knew too much, crossed a certain line, this group would vote on performing magical alterations of personality, or worse, virtual lobotomies and forced comas. Catwoman and Flash villain the Top became “heroes” for a time due to this process. Dr. Light, on the other hand, was turned from a brilliant threat to a bungling idiot. Now, this fact had come back to Light, and by extension members of the now more far reaching Society of evil-doers. Other heroes, like the third generation Flash and Green Lantern, were also becoming accomplices after the fact as they learned the truth about their forebears. The Batman had discovered the conspiracy as it was performed on Dr. Light, and he too fell victim to a “mindwipe” of his knowledge. Wally West, after much consideration, could no longer accept that. He called most of those complicit in this string of human rights violations, and declared “...if you’re not going to tell Batman... I am.”

From the doorway of the meeting room, a Martian queried “Tell Batman what?” Hawkman tersely replied, “Nothing.” Too late, as the Manhunter suspected, “It doesn’t sound like nothing.” Flash relented, “Read our minds, J’Onn. You tell us.” His eyes pinpricks through the shadow cast by his brow, J’Onzz paused, then grimaced. “I can’t. Why?”

From out of nowhere, Hal Jordan’s voice answered, “Magic.” This Green Lantern hadn’t been a member of the Justice League since the Parallax entity had possessed him, launching him on a mass killing spree. At one point, Jordan as Parallax nearly allowed entropy to destroy the known universe as part of his plan to “fix” everything. Now free from the parasite’s influence, Green Lantern had not only returned to his original position against the mindwipes, but reconsidered his part in the conspiracy to keep the practice secret regardless.

For those keeping score, the original vote had Green Arrow, Green Lantern, and Black Canary against; Zatanna, Hawkman, and the Atom for; with Flash Barry Allen breaking the tie in favor. Elongated Man abstained to care for his wife, while latecomer Batman clearly objected with batarang in hand. Retroactive continuity clouds matters a bit, as Wonder Woman would have been involved as a member at the time, but her 1987 “reboot” had the character arrive in “Man’s World” well after the stories took place. Further, in actual publishing history, J’Onn J’Onzz had quit the League (and pretty much all comics appearances) nearly a hundred issues before these events took place, but had “always” been a member Post-Crisis. How to handle the inconsistency? Bless their hearts, Zatanna’s magic kept the Manhunter in the dark and far from blame. She was an established member alongside J’Onn right through to the end of that series. J’Onzz rarely had contact with conspiracy Leaguers for another decade, and the reformed “JLA” consisted of newer or mostly unrelated teammates. High five for all the fans of characters kept clear of this moral boondoggle!

Back to the story, an increasingly agitated Manhunter demanded, “What did you have to do?” Hal told J’Onn everything, including the mass mindwipe of a whole incarnation of the Secret Society of Super-Villains who had discovered the heroes’ secret identities. Zatanna, head hung low, confessed, “But it didn’t end there. Batman tried to stop us...”
“So you did it to him, too. And to me?”
“We knew you’d never read our minds without our consent--“
Hawkman interrupted, “But we couldn’t risk your picking up the stray thoughts of some of our weaker minds...”
“So you hid the memories from me.”
“I didn’t want to disappoint you.”
“And we didn’t want you undoing what we did.”
“I would never alter another person’s mind. There is no greater violation--“
Hawkman offered justification without apology, while Flash noted Batman’s increasing alienation. “We have to tell him before--“
Manhunter grimly asserted, “He knows.”
Canary found her voice to ask, “J’Onn, what are you going to do?”
“Fix it.”

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

DC Challenge #8 (6/1986)

Batman: Finally, after eight issues, said plain exactly what the heck had been going on. "Earth and the planet Rann are under attack by mystical forces... demons inhabiting long-dead human beings, and creatures risen out of ancient mythology. At the same time, Earth is being invaded by aliens from some cosmic organization called the Greater Galaxies... I found three 8-figure numbers scrawled on a wall at a power plant... I ran these numbers through my computer here in the Batcave... and got a result that seemed to spell a formula to bring about the end of the world. The numbers, decoded, are electro-magnetic vibrational frequencies... [if] put into operation... the resulting wave-front could crack the Earth like an eggshell." The Dark Knight Detective knew demons were involved, and headed in his Batplane for their nearest concentration point, Metropolis. In the distance, a warp hole opened. "I'm too late... the Batman has already departed. Pity. I might have been of some assistance."

Unbeknownst to the Dark Knight, his nemesis the Joker had helped orchestrate attacks on Earth's heroes with the Greater Galaxies organization. The Clown Prince of Crime worked under the turbaned alien Kaz with the promise of kingship over Earth. Kaz explained the situation as follows:
"Project X involves the disruption of physical reality... the merging of this reality-plane with that of the netherworld. Bork and his fellow renegades of the Black Council have discovered a weakening of the cosmic fabric here in this locus... on the world you call Earth. A similar, parallel weakening is taking place on the planet Rann, of the star-system Alpha Centauri.

Bork has developed a device known as the Probability Disruptor, which feeds on red sun radiation, relayed to this world from a base on Earth's satellite, Luna. The Disruptor is destroying the protective barrier between realities at this locus. The result is an increase in the manifestation of demons on Earth... manifestations that occur normally at this locus, at periodic intervals related to phases of the moon. Bork's disruptor, however, has increased the number of manifestations a thousandfold.

Project X is upsetting the natural cosmic balance... a balance we of Molanto have worked long and hard to maintain. To save reality, Molanto, in conjunction with the Greater Galaxies organization, have invaded Earth. We have done this for the simple reason of expedience. Bork must be found. Project X must be halted. The fastest, simplest way to accomplish this is through the conquest of Earth."

Martian Manhunter: Earth's super-heroes were likely to interfere, so Kaz engaged the Joker to assist in distracting them. The Joker stated, "Capturing all the heroes who'd been born off world, like Superman and J'onn J'onzz, among others-- and threatening to execute them as traitors to the Greater Galaxies-- that was my lovely idea. See, it's what we call a red herring. Now all the other heroes will be wondering what the alien heroes have to do with the alien invaders. It'll drive 'em nuts, giving us time to strike! Which brings me, oddly enough, to my final plan... I need three million tons of rubber cement, Kaz..." The Joker wanted to gum up the works in Washington. D.C., but Kaz was done with this insanity, and had the Joker locked away.

Batman: The Batplane flew over Metropolis, which by this point looked, as Batman put it, "like something out of Fantasia's 'Night On Bald Mountain!' Demons everywhere... as if a doorway had opened between our world and Hell!" The pandemonium led to the destruction of the Batplane, but the Caped Crusader still managed to reach the Galaxy Broadcasting Building, now aware thanks to the infernal beings he had been inadvertently helping this "Kaz" person.

The Dark Knight was met by Dr. Terrence Thirteen, Ghostbreaker and Floyd Perkins, the kid who started this all in the first issue. Perkins had told Dr. 13 about finding a floor in the building that shouldn't exist, and bumping into an undead Humphrey Bogart. Dr. 13 in turn told Batman about his and Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen's running into the alien invasion, and through a space-warp into the Plane of Holes, where they met Darwin Jones and Bobo the Detective Chimp, among others. Dr. 13's memory was fuzzy after that, recalling that he had been returned to Earth by Albert Einstein, but decided to pick up the investigation again. Doctor 13 had brought a radiation detector with him, and when Batman had a look at the frequencies emitted from the GBS antennae, he recognized them from the earlier inscriptions! Dr. 13 had backtracked his detector's readings to their source, the moon...

Batman called on the Outsiders, but they stopped short of the Galaxy Building to address the demons running rampant throughout Metropolis in Superman's absence. Batman predicted the end of the world as the signal from the moon began shaking Earth apart, and a whole building began to fall on the Outsiders...

"If This Is Love, Why Do My Teeth Hurt" was by Gerry Conway, Rick Hoberg, Dick Giordano and Arnie Starr. This was the tidiest, most descriptive issue to date, and even managed to work its gonzo title into the narrative (lovers kissing as the world begins to vibrate violently.) Detroit co-creator Conway missed writing the rest of his team in the next issue...

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Where Justice Resides Signed Fine Art Giclee On Canvas

Characters not mentioned in the solicitation text: Black Canary, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, the usurper Red Tornado, Geo-Force (understandably,) and our own Vixen. Normally I'd gripe about the oversight, but given the quality of names omitted and peculiar heroes that were noted, there was clearly a nut loose on the poor copy writer's keyboard.

Taken from the cover art for Justice League of America #12 painted by renowned artist Alex Ross, 'Where Justice Resides' introduces readers to the newest members of the Justice League and the more modern world in which they live. With characters like Hawkgirl, Superman, Black Lightning, Batman, Red Arrow, The Flash, and more, Alex Ross's expansive painting demonstrates the Justice League's importance in represting, upholding, and protecting justice for all humanity. Each giclee print on canvas in this edition of 100 is hand-signed by Ross.

Ships August, 2009
MSRP: $1,250.00

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Zatanna Single Figure Art by Bob Layton

Click To Enlarge

Here's a great commission from famed Iron Man artist Bob Layton. For a full gallery view, visit here.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Ryan Schrodt's Custom Ralph and Sue Dibney Wedding Centerpieces

You know you're marrying a woman who accepts your geekery, and thus a keeper, when something like this shows up for the reception. According to Ryan Schrodt, "My fiancee and I decided to make a theme for our wedding centerpieces that centered on comic book couples. All of the centerpieces are hand-decoupaged by us using pages from actual comics." You can see them all here!