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Thursday, 31 May 2018

Sword of the Atom 4 - the Atom ends


Strnad and Kane bring Sword of the Atom to a conclusion with issue 4 (Dec 83).


Although he stands a good chance of dying as he leads the rebel attack on the city, the Atom has never felt more alive, or more like himself. He is not missing his life as Ray Palmer in any way.


There was a traitor among the rebels, who had been communicating with the evil advisor plotting to overthrow the king. The idea had been to have the rebels enter the city secretly, then fight on the side of the advisor. The traitor is put to death, but Atom is glad that they will not have to fight their way in.


The advisor has had his plans discovered as well, and the king confronts him about his treachery. The advisor figures its too late to do anything but go forward, so he stabs the king and has his men bring him to the machines. The rebels encounter little resistance, as the people have learned about how the advisor was manipulating the king. Laethwen is brought to her father as he dies.


The advisor turns on the star drive machine, powered by white dwarf star. This threatens to detroy the entire city, and he is not able to safely channel the energy he absorbs from it. Voss kills the advisor with a single shot to the head.


The Atom then steps in to try to stop the machines and save the city. He absorbs the white dwarf star energy, which makes him grow. He loses sight of the city as he grows larger, but hears an explosion before passing out. 


Ray Palmer wakes up in a hospital, alive and well. He wants to get back to Laethwen and her people, but has no idea where in the jungle they are located, or even if they survived. Jean Loring is at the hospital to pick him up and bring him back home, but the art makes clear there is still a gulf between them.

It's a good ending, pretty much begging for a continuation, without actually being a cliffhanger. There was no way the events of this miniseries could simply be ignored going forward. And, indeed, there would be a series of Sword of the Atom Specials, beginning the following year, although even before that the Atom would return in Justice League of America, a couple months down the road.

Sword of the Atom 3 - the Atom takes command


Strnad and Kane give Ray Palmer a new romantic interest in Sword of the Atom 3 (Nov 83).


The rebels are training for their assault on the city, but Voss accuses the Atom of delaying the battle. The Atom concedes that this is true. Teran is having a hard time existing blinded, and everyone expects him to die. The Atom does not want to lead Teran to his death, so is putting off the attack. Laethwen tends to Teran, but is clearly growing fond of the Atom.


We learn in this issue that the golden people are from another planet. They came to Earth generations ago, a prison colony. Over the years they have lost the knowledge of the machines that powered their craft. The evil advisor wants to use the long abandoned machines, to gain power and lead an army. The king is dead set against this, but the advisor keeps his people working on it.


Meanwhile, after banging her new boyfriend, Jean Loring decides that Ray Palmer must still be alive. One might ascribe this to guilt, but Jean doesn't seem very emotional about it. In fact, she seems pissed off by her realization, as if she thinks Ray faked his death intentionally. Nevertheless, she flies to South America and begins to hunt for him.


The rebels get trapped by a horde of ants, and Teran sacrifices himself, throwing himself to the ants to allow the others to escape.


Laethwen mourns his loss, but explains that she began feeling as though Teran was dead from the moment he was blinded, knowing that the end was soon to come. Now, she is already to move on, and she and the Atom become a couple.


With Teran dead, the Atom no longer has any reason to put off the attack on the city, and the issue climaxes as that begins.

Sword of the Atom 2 - the Atom joins the rebels


Strnad and Kane continue to shake things up in Sword of the Atom 2 (Oct 83).


The Atom and Taren manage to survive their encounter with the rats, but still wind up captured by the king's forces. Later, they are sent to the arena to fight each other to the death, but to the shock of the Atom, and the crowd, Teran's eyes had been put out before this. Even the king is upset about this, though the crowd all blame him for it.


As the issue progresses we come to see that the king's main advisor is plotting against him. He had Teran's eyes put out, and enacts other horrible tortures, all the time claiming to be acting, reluctantly, to follow the king's orders. He has his own schemes, hoping to win the people over to his side by making the king look bad, and taking the throne for himself.


Laethwen helps the Atom and Teran escape from the city, and they rejoin the rebels. Voss is one of those, and does not trust the Atom at all. The Atom and Voss fight, and the Atom wins. Teran puts the Atom in charge of the rebels, and he picks Voss as his second in command.


Meanwhile, Jean Loring decides that mourning her husband on her own isn't much fun, and calls the guy she was having an affair with to come on over.


Sword of the Atom 1 - the Atom begins


Jan Strnad and Gil Kane launch the Sword of the Atom, a four issue miniseries that really revitalized the character, with the Sept 83 issue. This followed up on the Green Arrow miniseries, giving the Justice Leaguers who had not had their own books in a while an opportunity to shine, but unlike the GA mini, pulled off some radical changes. The Atom had last been seen a month or so before, the Justice League of America annual.


Ray Palmer's life takes a severe hit right at the start of the story, when he catches his wife, Jean Loring, making out in a car with another man.


This leads to a big fight between the two. Jean is far from apologetic, blaming Ray for spending too much time, and too much of her money, on being the Atom. I kind of wish Ray had pointed out that, as the Atom, he had twice brought Jean back from total insanity, but I guess he is too nice of a guy to play that card. Jean comes off really poorly in the fight, and you can't blame Ray for walking out. The split is mutual, though, and meant to be temporary. Ray heads to South America where he is hunting for some white dwarf star fragments.


He hires a plane to fly him over the Amazon jungle, not realizing that he has hired drug smugglers, nor that he is trying to get them to fly over secret coca fields. His actions are so suspicious to the men that they turn on him and knock him out, intending to kill him. One man steals Ray's wedding ring before he can switch to the Atom and start fighting back. But the fight sends the plane careening out of control, and it crashes in the jungle.


The Atom's costume gets torn and damaged in the crash, but comes out looking a bit cooler. Ray is less concerned with that than with the damage done to his size and weight controls, leaving him trapped at six inches in height. Fortunately, he winds up meeting an entire tribe of six inch golden people, although he gets taken captive by them. They are rebels themselves, and wind up captured. Even though the Atom was their prisoner, this earns him no favour in the city, and he is still a captive.


The main action climaxes with Atom and Taren trying to flee from the king, whose daughter Laethwen is in love with Taren, the rebel leader. They wind up facing a horde of not-six-inch rats.


The actual ending sees the body of the drug smuggler, the guy who stole Ray's wedding ring, mis-identified as Ray Palmer, and Jean Loring gets informed that her husband is dead.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Adventures of the Outsiders 46 - Adventures of the Outsiders ends


Adventures of the Outsiders comes to an end with issue 46 (June 1987). It proved far less successful than Tales of the Teen Titans or Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes, and only winds up reprinting the first 8 issues of The Outsiders.

Adventures of the Outsiders 38 - the Outsiders vs the Marine Marauder, and moving to Los Angeles


Adventures of the Outsiders 38 (Oct 86) is the last issue of the run to feature new material, and contains two stories, both written by Mike W Barr.


The lead story has art by Von Eeden, and conclude the battle against the Marine Marauder. Story-wise it isn't much, but Von Eeden's visual sure make up for that.


Halo and Metamorpho free Looker from the Marauder's base, and between Looker's telepathy and Black Lightning's electricity, they take the villain down. The Marine Marauder returns a few years down the road to battle the Flash.


Then the ship arrives in Los Angeles, and Don Heck illustrates as they get used to their new base of operations.


Turns out that Black Lightning's ex-wife, Lynn Stewart, is living in LA, so that long dormant plot thread looks to be finally picked up.


The offshore platform that will serve as the team's new headquarters, already seen in The Outsiders, gets it's official chronological debut in this story. Dr Jace is already there, getting all her science-y stuff set up.


The story closes on the introduction of the Nuclear Family, which leads directly in to the first issue of The Outsiders, which is reprinted in the following issue of this book.

Adventures of the Outsiders 37 - the new Marine Marauder


Trevor Von Eeden joins Barr in introducing a new Marine Marauder in the pages of Adventures of the Outsiders 37 (Sept 86). The original Marine Marauder had been a one shot villain who faced Aquaman back in the 70s, in the pages of Adventure Comics.


This issue takes place as the Outsiders sail their way to California. Looker keeps getting into conflict with a dark haired woman on the ship, and when she tries to use her telepathic powers to learn more about her, winds up dragged under the water by a giant squid.


The mystery woman is the Marine Marauder, wearing a costume very much like the first one. She talks about getting money from her brother, and we see him communicating with fish in one sequence. Her brother may well have been the original Marine Marauder, but it's not entirely clear. Her costume provides the villain with Aquaman-like powers to mentally command sea life, and she uses this to take the ship hostage.


The Outsiders notice that Looker has gone missing, and Halo and Metamorpho hunt for her, finding the Marine Marauder's underwater base. The villain doesn't realize this is happening, though. She is in it for the bucks, and doesn't seem really that prepared to take on a super hero team on her own. She doesn't even notice that, by the end of the issue, she is only dealing with Geo-Force, Black Lighting and Katana.

The story concludes in the next issue.

Adventures of the Outsiders 36 - a royal wedding


Relationships are at the core of the Barr, Davis and Neary story from Adventures of the Outsiders 36 (Aug 86).


The Outsiders are still in Markovia at the top of the tale. King Gregor gives them all medals, and offers to provide backing for the team, making them all Markovian operatives, though they will still continue to operate out of the United States, though out of Los Angeles. The team are all keen on this, except for Looker, who wants to head back to her husband in Gotham. But she is not really part of the team yet, so no one cares.


Windfall pays a visit to the now-imprisoned Masters of Disaster. Cold Snap and Heat Wave still just pine for each other, and Shockwave is handling his captivity pretty well, but New Wave is furious with her sister, and makes it clear she intends to kill her eventually. Halo repeats her offer to have Windfall join the team, but the girl chooses to run away on her own instead. She'll be back in the Outsiders deluxe format book.


Then it's time for the big royal wedding between Gregor and Ilona, with the Outsiders in attendance. Very nicely rendered.


The team heads back to the US to prepare for their move out west. Sapphire Stagg doesn't mind, content to be wherever Metamorpho is. Funny, when reading his original book in the late 60s I always thought it was California based anyway. I think just because it always seemed sort of tropical, and Sapphire drove around in a convertible.


Things do not go so well between Looker and her husband. He does not like her new body, or her new attitude, and after a fight, the pair decide to separate for a while. So the story closes on Looker joining the Outsiders as they prepare to take a ship to Los Angeles. Clearly they are in no rush to get there, as sailing from the east to west coasts of the US requires a trip through the Panama Canal.

Adventures of the Outsiders 35 - New Wave vs Windfall


Barr, Davis and Neary conclude the Markovian storyline in Adventures of the Outsiders 35 (July 1986).


Looker has freed Black Lightning, Geo-Force and Katana, and Windfall joins up with the group, bringing them to where she has been keeping Halo. They also stop off at Metamorpho's damaged body, and Black Lightning sparks it back to life. The team does not entirely trust Windfall, and Halo takes a quick dislike to Looker.


But still they come togethe to take on Baron Bedlam's armies. The Hitler clone never speaks in this story, but spends a lot of time remembering the events of the war, while being tended to by a young Jewish girl he is meant to kill. The girl winds up saving his life, and the Hitler clone kills himself rather than relive his life.


The Outsiders go another round against the Masters of Disaster. New Wave is so angry with her sister for betraying the team that she actively tries to kill Windfall. Halo takes down New Wave, and tries to reassure Windfall that things will be ok, and she can join the Outsiders.


The climax of the story has Geo-Force fighting Baron Bedlam. He beheads the Baron using a Nazi shield. Despite this, we will see Baron Bedlam again a couple of years down the road.

Adventures of the Outsiders 34 - Madame Ovary


Paul Neary joins Barr and Davis as the team deals with rebellion and regeneration in Adventures of the Outsiders 34 (June 1986).


Picking up from the end of the previous issue, the Masters of Disaster, who are working for Baron Bedlam, have taken down the Outsiders, and are intending to kill them. Windfall does not want Halo killed, so she is keeping her drugged and locked away, while telling the rest of her group that she killed the hero.


In this issue we learn how Baron Bedlam survived being thrown to an angry mob at the end of the first story arc in Batman and the Outsiders, He was rescued and tended to by a scientist, Madame Ovarin, who he has nicknamed Madame Ovary. We learn that Hitler made a secret visit to Markovia shortly before the end of the war, and hid left cells behind, which Bedlam found, and Madame Ovary has cloned. 


While Madame Ovary brings the clone to active life, the Masters of Disaster ravage the Markovian countryside. Baron Bedlam captures King Gregor, and triumph is in his hands.


But then Looker shows up, and everything falls apart. She manages to defeat the Masters of Disaster single handedly, and frees the Outsides from their bonds.


It turns out cells weren't the only thing Hitler left behind, and Baron Bedlam pulls out a secret weapon, a deadly kind of cannon, and uses it on the Soviet observer when he tries to take Madame Ovary away.