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Saturday, 30 June 2018

Infinity, Inc 6 - the Ultra-Humanite's plan

Al Gordon joins the Thomases and Ordway for Infinity, Inc 6 (Sept 84).

The story opens with the Infinity Inc members escaping from Green Lantern's deathtrap. Obsidian once again shows off his strange powers, imbuing the Green Lantern's creation with hos own blackness, allowing him to take control of it and free his trapped teammates. They realize that their parents and mentors are now out to fulfil their most selfish desires, so Huntress, Jade, Obsidian, Fury, Northwind, Nuklon and Silver Scarab split up to try to stop them.

Power Girl has arrived in Metropolis. She learns from Andrew Vinson that the bubble Superman has placed around the city will not let anyone in, other than Kryptonians. Power Girl enters the city, and confronts her cousin. Superman has decided to conquer the Earth and make human his slaves. Power Girl is not up for that idea, and the two are about to fight when the scene shifts.

We then follow the Huntress and Robin. Robin has broken into a prison to kill Boss Zucco, the man who murdered his parents. Huntress manages to stop him before he does, and is glad she stopped him from killing a dying old man, who no longer recalls anything of the murder so long ago. She is sure that, once he regains his mind, Robin would have been tormented by this forever.

And, you know, that is basically what the Ultra-Humanite wants. He is in a chatty mood, and talks to the Star-Spangled Kid and Brainwave, Jr about the many bodies he has placed his mind into over the years, before taking on the form of a giant albino ape. He lured Superman to Koehaha, knowing he would bring the other Justice Society members later. The Ultra-Humanite's plan is twofold, have the JSAers commit acts that they will regret later, and ruin their reputations in the meantime. 

Once he has finished his explanation he has drones create an avalanche to bury the two heroes alive, and then proceeds to watch the transformed Justice Society members fight their own children. Things are going even better than he had hoped!

Inifnity, Inc 5 - the Justice Society turn ruthless

The Thomases, Ordway and Machlan get the action going in Infinity, Inc 5 (Aug 84), as the team has to fight the Justice Society of America members who have turned ruthless.

At the top of the story Power Girl, Huntress, Jade, Obsidian, Fury, Nuklon, Silver Scarab and Northwind are all feeling down about the deaths of their parents and mentors. They catch a news broadcast by Andrew Vinson about Superman having sealed off Metropolis, and Power Girl heads out to find out what is up with that.

When Nothwind calls Hawkgirl to let her know about Hawkman's death, Dr Mid-Nite figures out what is really going on. He contacts the Flash, who rushes to the town to explain that the Justice Society members are not really dead. He gives a recap of the Stream of Ruthlessness story from 1940s All-Star Comics, telling them about the magical waters that turn those who "drown" in them into selfish, heartless beings.

The Infinity Inc members then rush to stop the autopsies, which will actually kill the heroes, only to find Hawkman, Green Lantern, Atom, Robin and Wonder Woman have already woken up, and are under the spell of the waters of Koehaha. The JSA members quickly defeat the kids, and Green Lantern leaves them all in a deathtrap.

The Star-Spangled Kid and Brainwave Jr headed out to check out the location where the JSA members bodies had been found, and wind up running into the Ultra-Humanite.

Infinity, Inc 4 - the origins of Jade and Obsidian

Most of Infinity, Inc 4 (July 1984) is actually a reprint of a Hawkman story from the 1940s, framed by a tale by the Thomases, Ordway and Machlan.

Jade, Obsidian, and Northwind fly Solomon Grundy up north to the hidden city of Feithera, where Northwind comes from, to keep him a captive there. Along the way, Jade explains how she discovered her powers, when a birthmark on her hand suddenly turned her green. Only at that point did her parents reveal to her that she was adopted.

She made mental contact with her brother, who came to see her. She made his costume, and together they trained to become heroes. Jade is certain that Green Lantern must be her father, due to their similar powers, but Obsidian never understood the source of his.

They arrive in Feithera, meeting Northwind's parents. This leads to the reprint, as Northwind relates how Hawkman first encountered their city

The other members of Infinity Inc only appear at the conclusion of the issue, as they receive the news that Green Lantern, Hawkman, Atom, Robin and Wonder Woman have all been found, dead. The three come back from Feithera to meet up with Star-Spangled Kid, Huntress, Power Girl, Fury, Silver Scarab, Brainwave Jr and Nuklon, and all are very distressed by the dead heroes, vowing to find out who was behind their deaths, and get vengeance. A bit of a filler issue, but the reprint has Kubert art, and had never been reprinted before this, so I didn't mind at all.

Infinity, Inc 3 - Solomon Grundy vs Infinity, Inc

Solomon Grundy, last seen in the Huntress back-up series in Wonder Woman four years earlier, makes a return in the Thomas, Thomas, Ordway, Machlan, Rick Magyar and Bill Collins story from Infinity, Inc 3 (June 1984).

The issue opens by recapping the events from the All-Star Squadron tale that introduced Infinity, Inc, as Brainwave Jr, Fury, Nuklon, Silver Scarab, Jade, Northwind and Obsidian return to the present. They wonder why the Justice Society heroes do not seem to recall these events, and theorize, correctly, that Green Lantern used his rung to wipe their memories of it. Star-Spangled Kid, Huntress and Power Girl were all knocked out and left by the Ultra-Humanite, but wake up to learn about the time shifting events that took place.

Then the gang all head to the Hall mansion. Hawkgirl is there, along with Dr Mid-Nite, and Nuklon phones his mother to check in. Fury calls her father, and learns that he has no idea where Wonder Woman has gone. Hawkgirl backs this up, stating that Hawkman is missing as well. They all took off to answer an emergency summons from Superman.

Then the group heads west, coming to Los Angeles where the Star-Spangled Kid shows them their new base, Stellar Studios. The film studio had appeared in a Justice Society story from the late 40s, and was part of the Pemberton fortune the Kid inherited after defeating his evil cousin in the Strike Force tale from the All-Star Comics revival in the 70s.

As they poke around the studio they find Solomon Grundy hanging out in a horror movie castle set, an appropriate location for him.

The team battles and defeats Grundy, with Northwind using his globlass gun to seal him up in a bubble. I like the page in which the battle is done to the lines of the poem. 

Then we catch up with the JSA. Hawkman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Robin and the Atom enter a cave that Superman has summoned them to, but instead of finding him wind up getting overcome by a rushing steam, and apparently drown.

This was Superman's plan all along, and he gloats over their dead bodies in a very un-Superman way.

Infinity, Inc 2 - Star Spangled Kid forms Infinity, Inc

The Thomases, Ordway and Machlan tie the new series of Infinity, Inc in with their debut tale in All-Star Squadron in Infinity, Inc 2 (May 1984).

Picking up from the end of the previous issue, Fury, Silver Scarab, Nuklon, Northwind, Jade and Obsidian head off to grab lunch at MacTavish's. I think this is the final appearance of this stand-in for McDonald's, which had appeared in a number of Superman stories, as well as an issue of The Joker, back in the 70s. There is some nice comedic interplay and characterization for the heroes, before the scene turns more violent. We get to see another aspect of Obsidian's powers, using his shadow self to force a person to confront the darker side of their personality. Huntress and Power Girl show up at the end, and they all leave together, to go to Power Girl's apartment.

Meanwhile, back at Justice Society headquarters, Brainwave Jr alters his appearance from that of his evil father to himself. The Justice Society members don't really care, and attack him anyway. Why Brainwave Jr thought that by breaking through the wall in the form of one of their greatest foes would be a good way to get the team to listen to him is beyond me. At any rate, only the Star-Spangled Kid is willing to stand up for the guy, and after the fight ends, Brainwave Jr will only talk to the Kid.

So Star-Spangled Kid brings Brainwave Jr to Power Girl's apartment, to meet up with the rest of the group. The Kid has his own plans, and invites all of them to join a new team he is putting together, Infinity, Inc. The newbies all agree, while Huntress and Power Girl are not certain they want to join, but decide to give it a shot.

Then Brainwave Jr reveals that he has knowledge of the whereabouts of the villains who had been thrust into limbo at the end of the JLA/JSA/ Secret Society of Super-Villains team up, which includes his father. The Justice Society had been meeting about that exact thing in the previous issue of this book. They had been unable to retrieve the bad guys from limbo. Brainwave Jr starts talking about the Ultra-Humanite, but just as he does so the villain manifests mentally, taking control of the new heroes and sending them back in time. Brainwave Jr follows, and the end of this issue leads directly into the All-Star Squadron story from the previous year, which introduced them all. 

It's a bit awkward and jarring, but it works.

Infinity, Inc 1 - Infinity, Inc begins

Although the characters in Infinity, Inc had already been introduced the previous year in All-Star Squadron, for most of the team, Infinity, Inc. 1 (March 1984) marks their earliest chronological appearances. Set on Earth-2, Roy and Dannette Thomas, Jerry Ordway and Mike Machlan launch this book about the next generation of heroes, the children of the Justice Society of America. I loved this book when it came out, and still love it now.

I have to admit, though, there are some strange moments in it. The debut issue opens as Fury, Silver Scarab, Nuklon and Northwind burst into a Justice Society meeting. The actions and speech really indicate they are there for a fight, although we find out shortly they have actually come to apply for membership in the team. Hawkman, Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Starman, Johnny Thunder, Wonder Woman, Dr Fate, Dr Mid-Nite, Wildcat, the Atom, Robin, Star-Spangled Kid, Huntress and Power Girl are all in attendance, and most wind up getting into a quick battle with the newcomers. I also want to point out a couple of pictures on the wall. On the page preceding this one there is a picture which is essentially the cover of All-Star Comics 3, the first appearance of the Justice Society, and on the page I took a clip from you can see a picture of the Atom with Franklin Roosevelt, a reference to the origin story for the JSA.

The fight doesn't last long, and the kids are revealed to be related, in various fashions, to the Justice Society members. Fury is the daughter of Wonder Woman, and she had been introduced already in Wonder Woman 300. Nuklon is the godson of the Atom, while Silver Scarab and Northwind are the son and godson of Hawkman, respectively. None of the kids relations seem pleased with their actions.

So although the Justice Society agrees to vote on whether to admit them, they know they don't have much of a chance. They actually fare better than expected, with a tie vote, leaving chairman Hawkman to deliver the final decision. The door slam makes it clear which way he will go.

As the young heroes wait to find out the results of the vote, they discuss their backgrounds. Hector Hall, the son of Hawkman, has worked for years developing his Silver Scarab armour, which allows him to fly and emit power blasts, while Lyta Trevor has inherited her mother's powers, to a degree. I love the panel of Lyta being shown around Paradise Island by Hippolyta, while Wonder Woman gets Steve Trevor to take pictures. Lyta and Hector met as children, and re-united in university, where they started dating.

Nuklon's origin is a bit more complex, having inherited his powers from his mother, even though she never seems to have manifested them herself. She was the daughter of Terri Curtis, who fought the All-Star Squadron as Cyclotron, a pawn of the Ultra-Humanite. Terri married a fighter pilot, who died, and Albert Rothstein grew up with his mother, eventually manifesting his abilities to grow and control his density.

Northwind, whose real name is Norda, is the son of a human and a bird-woman from the land of Feithera, a place Hawkman visited in an adventure in 1940s Flash Comics. Both Northwind and Nuklon dropped by the Hall mansion for Christmas, which is where they got the idea to adopt costumed identities and try to join the JSA.

As the team informs the kids that they do not want them as members, two more show up, Jenni-lynn Hayden and Todd Rice, Jade and Obsidian. They insist that they are the children of Green Lantern, though he doesn't remember having kids, and they don't know who their mother is. Dejected, the kids all leave together. Huntress and Power Girl are not happy about the situation, and decide to go off and help the kids.

This first issue ends as what appears to be Brainwave, but is actually his son, bursts through the wall to confront the remaining JSA members.

Friday, 29 June 2018

Nathaniel Dusk 4 - Nathaniel Dusk ends

McGregor and Colan bring Nathaniel Dusk's first miniseries to an end with issue 4 (May 1984).

Dusk survives his plunge into the freezing waters and makes it back to shore. But he is in a foul mood when he heads back to his office. He has realized the one and only person who could have been alerting the bad guys to when he was in his office, and where he was going whenever he left it, is the friendly newspaper vendor. Sure enough, the guy admits, after some beating, to having sold out his friend. He explains that he had no choice, that he has to pay off the goons who control the streets. We also learn that the comic book guy had been refusing to pay off to have his comics sold, and that's why he was killed.

In the photo album Dusk found the address of Joyce's mother, and he pays the woman a visit, telling her of her daughter's death. He learns about the man she had been married to, although the woman is reluctant at first to speak his name. Joyce had run away from him, and was not the widow she claimed to be, after the man started cheating on her.

Then Dusk gets grabbed by the bad guys again, who had been staking out the mother's place. They drag him to a slum building, beat him up, and inject him with rat poison. Dusk cuts his arm open and tries to suck the poison out, then smashes a window and jumps to the ground to escape. He is brought to a hospital, and the doctor is impressed with his ingenuity, but Dusk only survives thanks to medical treatment. His cop friend shows up, and Dusk fills him in on everything except the name of Joyce's former husband.

Dusk goes to confront the man. He is the one with syphilis, which is why Joyce left him, and the one running the street vendors and forcing them and the publishers to pay him off. He doesn't get to do too much. The blond hitman winds up killing his boss, because he is more concerned with trying to kill Dusk.

The blond killer gets a suitably grisly death, and the series ends on a fairly up note for a film noir, with Joyce's daughter being taken to live with her grandmother.

The series was a large success, and a second Nathaniel Dusk miniseries came out the following year.

Nathaniel Dusk 3 - the cab ride

McGregor and Colan continue to unfold the story in Nathaniel Dusk 3 (April 1984).

The subway fight ends with Dusk getting rid of one of the men who had been causing him troubles for the last couple of issues, although the other one, with the more interesting name of Cadaver, is still around and out to kill him.

Dusk returns to Joyce's house to look for some clues as to who would want to kill her. Joyce's daughter had mentioned that her grandmother was still alive, contradicting information Joyce had told Dusk. He finds a photo album filled with torn pictures, showing Joyce in younger days living in a much better place than she is now. Dusk's cop friend shows up, and tries to arrest him for the murder of the comic book guy, but Dusk is able to talk his way out of this.

Dusk heads back to his office, where he gets a phone call from a mysterious woman, arranging a meeting on a ferry, and then attacked by hoods once again. He rushes to catch the ferry, taking a cab there, but winds up stuck in the middle of a fight between the cabbies who are accepting the five cent increase, and the independent ones who refuse to.

Dusk does reach the ferry on time, and meets a beaten woman who tells him about a rich man with syphilis, the one who pays the hit men who are causing Dusk so much trouble. It's not hugely useful information, but does provide enough to begin to tie things together. Then one of the hit men pops up, trying to kill both Dusk and the woman. He admits to having been the one who killed Joyce. Dusk lunges towards him, but proves not to be terribly skilled at fighting on a moving ferryboat, and falls overboard, landing in the icy waters.

Nathaniel Dusk 2 - the murder

Things get more violent ii Nathaniel Dusk 2 (March 1984), by McGregor and Colan.

The story picks up from the cliffhanger. Or, I guess, Empire State Buildinghanger. Dusk pulls off a pretty superhuman feat, grabbing the snow covered edge of the building and hanging on, managing to get himself back up and then taking on the bad guys. For a film noir, this comic uses an awful lot of white, but I find the colour palette is very striking. Makes a lot of it look like watercolour paintings.

Dusk then catches a cab to Joyce's place. There is some discussion about the mayor forcing a five cent increase in the price of a cab ride, which will pay off in the next issue. I assume this cab stuff is all accurate, although I know absolutely nothing about the politics of cabbies in 1930s New York.

It's not too much of a surprise to find out that Joyce has been murdered, though Dusk is shocked by it. Someone had to die by this point, and things seemed to be centred around her. Even so, neither Dusk nor the police have any idea why someone might want to kill her, and for a while the assumption is that she was killed because she was seeing Dusk, rather than Dusk being attacked and almost killed because he was seeing her.

The comic book publisher shows up at Joyce's funeral, and gets beaten by Dusk. He seems like a good suspect, largely because of the lack of any other kind of suspect, but the police pull Dusk off of the guy and let him go.

It's a maudlin and moody issue, and once again Colan's art captures and evokes this perfectly. Dusk gets a phone call from the comic book guy, inviting him to his house, but by the time Dusk arrives the man has already been murdered.

The killers then try to take out Dusk, but fail, and this leads to a chase and a cliffhanger fight sequence on the subway system.