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Monday, 19 August 2019

pausing the blog for a bit

Hello dear readers!

For a variety of reasons, I am putting the blog on hold for the next couple of months. Partly this is because of a situation with the reviews I have been doing for, and partly this is because I am working on a play and a book, and the extra time will be put to good use on those.

Now, some of you, Earth-Two in particular, know that I put my column on the history of DC characters on hold a couple of years back, and have yet to get back to it. Believe me, I am aware of my promise, and that will resume at the end of October as well.

The universe confirmed that this was the correct decision to make, when at 7:45 this morning the city started digging up the back alley. They are repaving it, and it's so incredibly loud and annoying, making all writing difficult at best.

So I swear to you, on a stack of Sandman, that at the end of October I will pick up where I left off on both, the Destiny's Hand storyline in Justice League America for the blog, and the Flash in the late 60s for the column.

Thanks for your support, and all the kind messages that I get from readers. They mean a lot to me!



Friday, 9 August 2019

Justice League America 72 - the original League vs the Secret Society of Super-Villains?

Jurgens and Burchett begin a four part story in Justice League America 72 (March 1993) that brings back the original League. Or does it?

This puzzling, but highly enjoyable, story opens with the 70s Secret Society of Super-Villains on the run from the Justice League. The Wizard is wearing the awful outfit he had in those days, although the Star Sapphire in the group is Carol Ferris, not her replacement. Blockbuster and the Floronic Man are among the villains who get defeated by the Martian Manhunter, who has an American shield on his belt. It's clear that something is very different about these heroes when the Manhunter kills Star Sapphire, and even Green Lantern doesn't seem to care.

Sinestro was part of the Society line-up in this story, and he goes on the run, despite having broken arms from his battle. Green Arrow and Black Canary catch up to the villain, but it's Hawkman who takes him down. Green Arrow demands that Hawkman respect the villain's rights. Hawkman agrees, but then chops off Sinestro's arm after the archer has left.

This brutal Justice League has much the same line-up as the group from the late 70/early 80s, although some members, such as the Flash, seem to be wearing different outfits. Green Arrow is still the group's moral compass, but now nobody seems to care about his point of view. The Atom and the Flash deal with China, which is planning to nuke the League's satellite. They do not merely stop them from doing so, but go so far as to detonate the nukes on Chinese territory.

We discover that Green Lantern has become the Vice President of the US, and that the League is well on its way to total domination. Green Lantern more or less forces the President to resign, so he will take power, and Green Arrow wonders if this is the plan, to divide the entire world up between the Leaguers. Certainly none of them seem to mind that notion.

It's a terrifying, but entertaining, story, whose true nature only becomes clear on the final page, which features my favourite enemy of the team, Dr Destiny, who uses dreams as weapons. This is Dr Destiny's first appearance since showing up in Sandman, and that is mildly referenced with the Dr Dee comment, which is how he was called in that book.

The story continues in the next issue.

Justice League America 71 - a new League

Sal Velluto joins Jurgens and Burchett as new members join the Justice League America in issue 71 (Feb 93), to replace those who have been killed, injured, or lost their powers.

As this issue begins, Maxima decides to change her costume for something less interesting. No real reason is given, but I tend to think it has to do with being exiled from her world. Nevertheless, she has made her quarters at the League's base resemble the kind of living she is accustomed to. Maxwell Lord comes to talk to her, asking her help in recruiting some new members for the team, now that Superman is dead, Blue Beetle is in a coma, Fire has lost her powers, and Booster Gold's suit is wrecked.

Guy Gardner has already been sent out, and he recruits the Ray. This works much better than Guy's attempt to recruit Starman a number of issues back, although at first the Ray thinks he is in trouble, and Guy is coming after him.

Bloodwynd is sent to get Black Condor. Black Condor has no interest in doing the hero thing, and is extremely reluctant, although this seems to be a bit of a contrarian thing. Once Bloodwynd gives up and starts to fly away, Condor changes his mind and follows him.

Maxima is sent after Agent Liberty, who at this point is still wanted by the police in connection with the Sons of Liberty stuff from the pages of Superman. Maxima doesn't give the fledgling hero much of a choice, pointing out that the League can arrange to have the charges against him dropped.

While all that is going on, Fire manages to buy and burn every copy of the underwear calendar that Booster Gold had been behind. She tries to rub Booster's nose into this, but he doesn't even care. He digs out Skeets, his old sidekick, who is revealed to have been packed away following the cancellation of Booster's series. He hopes Skeets will be able to repair his costume, but has no luck with that.

Guy Gardner assumes that he will finally be taking leadership of the League, but Maxwell Lord has already offered that position to Wonder Woman. Diana displays her diplomatic skills immediately, making Guy Gardner feel important, telling him she will require his knowledge and experience after all the time he has spent on the team.

Ice, though still with her powers and not that injured, decides that the League really isn't for her. She resigns, and heads back home to her people. Fire and Booster Gold watch the new team on the monitor, accepting that their time with the League is over.

Justice League America 70 - the heroes mourn

Justice League America 70 (Jan 93) takes place immediately after the Death of Superman, with the hero still lying on the pavement, although the Jurgens and Burchett story then follows the Leaguers, and other heroes, rather than the Superman cast. As with the previous issue, this is a very good chapter of the larger Funeral for a Friend storyline.

The issue opens on the dead Superman, being held by Lois Lane. Bloodwynd and Ice, the only two members of the League who were present for his death, are there. Ice is the one to place Superman's cape over his face, and then Bloodwynd carries her off to the hospital, as Ice has a broken arm and broken ribs.

The issue basically consists of various heroes mourning the death of Superman, and is all the more effective for limiting itself that way. At first, it deals with members of the League. The swelling on Guy Gardner's face has gone down enough that he can see again, and he and Maxima start to bicker. Booster Gold calms them down, but grief makes tensions run high.

Booster has his own issues. Blue Beetle is still in a coma, and Booster's costume was shredded by Doomsday. Without it, he has no powers, and the costume operated on future technology. He is not certain it can even be repaired.

Other heroes then start to show up to share their grief over Superman's death, beginning with Flash and Aquaman. I don't quite get why Aquaman starts talking about the death of his son, and that being the greatest pain a person can experience. It's like a one upmanship.

More and more heroes gather, including Green Lantern and Hawkman, Nightwing and Starfire from the New Titans, and Justice Society members Flash and Green Lantern, arriving with some of the Justice League Europe crew.

Oberon has been busy, it seems, creating arm bands with Superman's symbol on them, a way for them to show the pain they are all feeling.

Most of the heroes in the story appear in the two page spread as the don the armbands, but the Demon is not, despite being pictured earlier, and Black Condor is shown flying above the others, but not approaching the heroes or getting involved.

The story closes on Booster Gold at Blue Beetle's bedside, pleading with his friend to stay alive, and on the verge of falling apart. I think I like Booster's parts of this story the best, as the emotion and distress feel genuine, and he has lost pretty much everything.

Justice League America 69 - Doomsday takes down the Justice League

Justice League America 69 (Dec 92) is a crossover with the Death of Superman storyline, as Jurgens and Burchett pit the League against Doomsday, who gets named at the end of this issue.

The story continues from the last issue of Superman - The Man of Steel, in which Doomsday began his rampage. The Justice League fly out to stop the creature, who at this point is still all covered in his drab looking outfit, and with one arm still bound behind his back. Guy Gardner, Fire, Ice, Blue Beetle, Booster Gold and Bloodwynd answer the call, but Superman is otherwise engaged, being interviewed on television by Cat Grant.

For  much of the issue the interview with Superman runs along the top of the page, while the rest is devoted to the battle against Doomsday. At first the Leaguers have to find the creature. Blue Beetle tries to test Bloodwynd's powers by asking him to locate Doomsday. Maxima offers to use her psionic powers to help, though. Beetle fears that Blooodwynd will allow Maxima to be the first to locate the creature, to keep himself a mystery, and indeed that is what happens.

The interview with Cat Grant is pretty good, and she brings up the notion that the League are merely back-up for Superman, a statement he does not accept. Neither does the story itself, as we see their determination and courage. They locate Doomsday, who brings down the Bug by throwing a tree through it.

The fight is brutal, and Guy Gardner gets severely pummelled right off the bat. Mitch, the boy whose house gets wrecked by Doomsday, and who will later become the hero Outburst, makes a cameo in this, watching the interview along with his classmates in school.

Despite their bravery, none of the League members are able to do much to even slow down Doomsday. Bloodwynd gets thrown right through an oil storage vat, setting the hero ablaze. Blue Beetle rushes to his aid, and discovers that Bloodwynd is someone that he knows. But before Beetle can identify Bloodwynd, he gets grabbed by Doomsday and severely beaten.

Beetle winds up in a coma, and by that point the news has cut in to the interview, and Superman learns about the fight.

Booster Gold tried to face Doomsday, but gets thrown through the air. Superman intercepts him as the issue ends, and Booster comments that it is "like Doomsday is here." Given that he is from the future, and knows about Superman's death, Booster's naming of Doomsday is kind of self-referential, since he must be using the name that he learned from history.

I really like this chapter of the Death of Superman. It ties in the League quite tidily, and gives us a sense of just how powerful Doomsday is, as he is able to defeat them all so easily.

The story continues in the next issue of Superman.

Justice League America 68 - owning the Earth

Jurgens and Burchett conclude the League's adventure with the alien who claims to own the Earth in Justice League America 68 (Nov 92).

The story picks up shortly after the end of the previous issue. The Leaguers are concerned when their teammates do not return from the shuttle mission. Guy Gardner, Maxima, and Ice head to Metropolis, looking for Superman. Guy creates a giant yellow image of himself, calling out for the hero, while Maxima uses her psionic powers to try to track him.

Superman shows up, pissed off at Gardner for making such a scene. It's great to see Ice actually calling down Superman, stating that they shouldn't need to waste time looking for him when he is needed. Even better is Superman's clearly reluctant agreement with this. They head out to follow their teammates' trail.

Back at the headquarters, Maxwell Lord talks to Oberon about Superman refusing to wear a signal device. He makes an offhand comment about using his persuasion powers to force Superman to do so. It's a nothing comment, in the context of the story, but given how things would develop years down the road, it seems to be the first time Lord considered mind controlling Superman.

Ice also gets a nice moment, while the others are out searching for their comrades. She wonders whether her crush on Superman has any point, since he doesn't seem to care about her, and feels crappy that the only man interested in her is Guy Gardner, who treats her like dirt.

The other find the alien ship, grab Ice, and head into it, finding Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Bloodwynd, and Fire all encased in pods. 

They meet the alien behind all this, who once again claims ownership of the solar system, and everyone and everything in it. Maxima is able to read the deed, and verifies that such sales were done hundreds of thousands of years in the past, and that it is valid. It just took the alien all that time to reach Earth. He is not really a villain, he made a legal purchase, and is just looking to profit from it.

Superman is prepared to fight it out, but it's really Maxima who saves the day here, telepathically relating her plan to Guy Gardner. Guy uses his ring to create lots of sentees, an alien currency, and then Maxima offers to buy the deed from the alien. It's actually Guy who receives the deed, though. The alien happily departs, and even though the money will vanish when the ring's charge wears off, it will take the alien hundreds of thousands of years in suspended animation to get back home and discover this. Superman doesn't seem entirely pleased that the League won through deception, but he goes along with it, although he does use his heat vision to destroy the deed.

Justice League America 67 - a quick departure

Jurgens, Burchett, and Marzan begin a two part story in Justice League America 67 (Oct 92).

The issue opens on Fire posing in her underwear for a catalogue. Ice is shocked to see this, but Fire basically just views it as a job, and isn't concerned about what the Tomorrow Corporation has planned for it. She ought to have. Later in the issue, Fire discovers that Booster Gold is behind the Tomorrow Corporation, and is not very happy about that.

The Atom meets with Maxwell Lord, expressing his concerns about the behaviour of some members of the League. Primarily, but not exclusively, Guy Gardner. He then chats with Bloodwynd about the old League, and talks about how heroes have changed, using Green Arrow as an example of a left wing hero who has now gone all violent. The Atom has already decided this group is not for him, and departs. That was fast.

Blue Beetle and Booster Gold take some time out from discussing their concerns about Bloodwynd to pull a prank on Justice League Europe. And it is sort of clever, as they pretend to have gotten body parts switched during teleportation. Power Girl and the Flash decide to turn the tables on them.

The Flash strips the men at super speed, and send them back to the JLA compound. Fire adopts a new costume, definitely better than the one she had for the last few issues.

Then we finally get some action, as the League responds to an alert from NASA, which has lost one of their space shuttles. Beetle, Booster, Bloodwynd, and Fire head out. They find the shuttle, but no one is aboard, and its filled with green slime.

They discover a huge alien craft above the shuttle, and head on in to check it out. They find the shuttle crew in pods, and an alien claiming ownership of the entire solar system.

The story concludes in the next issue.