Saturday, October 8, 2011

DC Retroactive: JLA - The '80s #1 (October, 2011)

Steel: "Guess somebody forgot to tell them we're just the second string." A school bus had pulled up outside the Detroit League's headquarters, the Bunker.

Vibe: "So now we're giving tours to school kids?"

Aquaman: "For years the old JLA orbited the Earth in a satellite, Hank. We looked down on the world-- literally. One of the reasons I accepted your grandfather's offer of this factory was the opportunity it presented to ground our new League-- again, literally. Here in Detroit, the League is part of the community.

Sue Dibny: Back home visiting her mother.

Elongated Man: Loving the tour, and wishing his wife could do the same. "She loves kids. One of these days we're going to have a big family."

Martian Manhunter: "Children are precious among my people as well, Ralph. Still... for reasons I cannot articulate, I feel apprehensive."

Felix Faust: Taking advantage of the deep depression that choked the Motor City once the car manufacturers went elsewhere, the sorcerer used an ancient tablet to cast a spell that turned its citizens into monsters.

Lamont: A jerky kid on the tour who complained about the absence of real heroes from the League. "You guys are nobodies. Just a bunch'a losers."

Geoff: Another kid bearing an uncanny resemblance to a certain future writer/executive who came to the Detroit League's defense.

Zatanna: Offered to break the tension by showing the kids some magic, but they were blown away by the real deal when Faust came calling. The League were tossed around like rag dolls by his beasts.

Dale Gunn: Suggested the medical lab as the best position to retreat to, since it could be hermetically sealed behind a vault door. Ten hours after the start of the tour, and everyone was trapped by monsters.

Vixen: One of the few members to maintain her positive outlook. She had cheered Geoff on, and even when her planned kicking of some ass ended with a dragon's tail sending her flying, she kept it together. While trapped, she checked on the unconscious Elongated Man, Dale Gunn, and Martian Manhunter. She also caught the wounded but defiant Aquaman as he collapsed toward the end of a speech intended to hearten the troops.

Zatanna: Still on her feet to look over the fallen Vibe and Gypsy.

Steel: Tried to hold the line against the monsters, but any effort on his part ended with him flying and the locking vault saving his armored tushie. Hank mocked Aquaman's speech, and once again branded his team "light-weight wannabess. Vibe, Gypsy, me-- even Vixen-- we're not good enough to be part of your precious League."

Aquaman: Argued otherwise, but still called Hank a spoiled brat whose granddaddy's bucks gave him a sense of entitlement. Steel rushed Aquaman, who rolled onto his back and kicked Hank across the room.

Geoff: Convinced the team that heroes helped people rather than fighting amongst themselves.

Aquaman: Ordered Dale, Elongated Man and Gypsy to guide the children out of the Bunker to safety while the rest of the team ran interference. Gypsy protested, but Aquaman explained, "forgive me, but you're just a child. You deserve the chance to grow up. Just like these kids. They need you to do this. I need you to do this."

Zatanna: Determined from something her father told her long ago that Faust must have used the Tablet of Tel El-Amarna, stolen from Iraq, to conjure the monsters out of men. Beyond helping the children, Zee wanted the tablet targeted.

Steel, Aquaman and Martian Manhunter: Caught the vault door when it was finally burst in, and tossed it back at the monsters. The rest of the team fought hard and followed orders... except for Gypsy.

Vibe: Flat on his back as Felix Faust gloated over how his massacre of the Detroit League would serve to bring the real heroes into his murderous clutches. Vibe was playing possum, and spit in Faust's face while telling him "...bite me."

Gypsy: Invisibly swiped the tablet and smashed it to pieces over Faust's noggin. "For a guy wearing a pointy hat, you sure do think a lot of yourself." The monsters vanished, saving everyone's life.

Aquaman: "Gypsy, I told you to go with Ralph and Dale. You disobeyed a direct order... Good job."

Creators: "Siege" was by Gerry Conway and Ron Randall.

Whether you enjoy the team for the kitsch factor of its instantly dated fad jumping or recognize that the team starred in several of the best story arcs ever featured in JLofA volume I, there seems to be enduring affection that keeps readers and creators coming back to revisit this team. A shame then that Conway doesn't seem to share it anymore. Part of the joy of his early issues with the team was its unrelenting, meta-defensive optimism in the face of scrutiny in both the stories and the letter columns. Later writers even used that unmerited self-esteem as a means of generating poetic irony, these poor doomed fools believing they would someday earn a place among titans when most would instead die violently or fade into obscurity. Conway, in an about face, starts this story with the team unanimously agreeing that they suck and their incompetence was going to cost a bunch of innocent lives. Not only is that a downer, but in giving in after all these years, Conway seems as clueless about his team's retroactive appeal today as he was their complete unsuitability while he was writing them the first time.

The characters aren't in character and their powers are downplayed to suit an unimpressive threat. I guess Zatanna is consistent at least, since Conway never wrote her worth a damn. I'll acknowledge Gypsy as well, since she had a few occasions of playing David-out-of-a-box to the Goliath of the month in the original series. The bland art by Ron Randall doesn't do any favors, especially when the only thing keeping his Dale Gunn from being 100% Caucasian is someone failing to tell the colorist that this book would be printed on cheap stock. It was obviously meant for glossy, because the colors are uniformly murky.

DC Retroactive

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