Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Justice League of America #224 (1984)


Justice League of America #224 (March, 1984)
"The Supremacy Factor!"
Writer - Kurt Busiek
Penciller - Chuck Patton
Inker - Dick Giordano
Letterers - John Costanza & Todd Klein
Colorist - Gene D'Angelo
Editor - Len Wein
Cover Price: $0.75

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend the Phoenix Comicon with a Media pass.  This gave me access to many of the comics creators in attendance, including one of my all time favorites, Kurt Busiek.  While I (and I would imagine many others) usually think of Kurt as a "Marvel guy" he most certainly left his mark on the DC Universe... in fact, his creator-owned masterpiece Astro City is currently being published monthly by DC's Vertigo imprint.

One of the things we discussed (in between bouts of my stammering, and trying to get more information on how he was the brains behind Jean Grey's return in Marvel's X-Factor) was this very issue of Justice League of America.  This is one of those issues, instantly recognizable... striking cover... almost one you'd expect on a Marvel book... point is, you know this book when you see it.

I'm am in the middle of transcribing my interview with Mr. Busiek for DC in the 80's, which will hopefully be completed within the next couple of days, schedule permitting.  Without spoiling too much of it, I will say that this issue purposefully evokes the feeling of a Roy Thomas Avengers story... so, if this feels like a Marvel issue... that's by design!

Before we get to the book, I wanna thank Mr. Kurt Busiek for being so gracious and forthcoming during our half-hour chat.  He was my first ever "professional" interview, and made me feel comfortable, confident and at-ease.  Thanks again, Mr. Busiek!

--


We open at an outdoor beer garden/restaurant.  Clark Kent (club soda with a twist of lemon) and Hal Jordan (beer) await the arrival of their Justice League comrades.  Oliver Queen is the next to arrive, and his pals express surprise that Dinah Lance isn't with him.  Ollie claims she had something to attend to and should be along shortly.


We join Dinah in her Black Canary togs as she watches some would be muggers get beaten down by their would be victim.  She is shocked to see the "victim's" finesse and level of skill... she's also affected by the fact that it seems he's taking this beating a bit too far.


She attempts to intervene, and gets thrown judo style for her troubles.  This trench-coated fella appears to have her number.  In desperation, She lets out a canary-cry... and it has no affect on the man.  Lucky for her, Superman's super-hearing picks up on her cry and the Leaguers hop into action.


They arrive on the scene only to find that they are no match for this individual either.  Superman gets launched into orbit with but a punch (he does manage to tear the baddie's pocket off in the fracas).  During the distraction, the foe flees.  The League realizes that this may be their toughest threat yet, and decides to organize a meeting.


On the satellite, the team goes over the events of the afternoon.  In the pocket that Superman tore off the fella's coat there just happened to be a scrap of paper with a formula on it.  The Leaguers pass the scrap around, and none are able to decipher it... until Firestorm gets his hands on it.  The League is surprised that he's able to do so, as they are unaware that Professor Martin Stein is also part of the Firestorm Matrix.


The code, when popped into the computer pulls up the name Dr. Joel Cochin.  The threesome of Firestorm, Black Canary and Green Arrow quickly set out to get to the bottom of this.  Firestorm carries Dinah and Ollie on something of a superhero-swing set... which is something that's just gotta be seen.

Pump your legs, Dinah!
They arrive at Cochin's home, only to find that there are no doors.  As the three approach, the wall opens and the man behind it appears to be using Firestorm's own power to do so.  The man introduces himself as Paragon... and states "anything you can do, I can do better".

No you can't... Yes, I can...
During a brief melee, Paragon uses both Firestorm's and Black Canary's powers to get the better of the Leaguers.  It is revealed that Paragon takes on the powers of whoever is near him... only he can perform them at a higher level.  He makes short work of them, and mounts them on a wall as though they were butterflies behind glass.


Paragon offers that he's been working on a machine.  This machine would seek to eliminate 90% of the world's population... leaving only 10% of the best and brightest, all answering to him.  As luck (for him) would have it, now that Firestorm is his captive, he can simply materialize the parts he needs rather than seek them out.


During his ranting and raving the rest of the League (Superman, Wonder Woman, Red Tornado, Green Lantern) arrives on the scene.  A battle rages on, with Paragon really relying on the powers of Firestorm.  He materializes a kryptonite chain around Superman, and just decimates the rest of the team.  In all his rage, he gives Firestorm the ol' "bang, zoom, straight to the moon" punch.  As he's about to give Ollie the killing blow... he comes to find he sent Firestorm too far out of range to draw upon his powers.


In the confusion, Canary comes up with a plan and begins directing traffic.  She puts Red Tornado and Green Lantern on the offense... which makes perfect sense.  Reddy and Hal's powers are artificial, therefore not mimickable by Paragon.


With Paragon on the ropes, Ollie fires off a gas-arrow which takes it's toll on the villain.  The League takes turns beating on this yahoo, ultimately wrapping up with Black Canary giving him a kick square to the face.


The League are victorious, and stand around their fallen foe.  It is a conditional victory... they may have won this day... but where in the world is there a prison that will hold Paragon?


--

What a fun one off issue!  It seems that issues that boast a guest-writer, especially during this vintage were just inventory stories... nothing that really felt as though it mattered.  This issue, while a one-and-done actually felt like it advanced the characters.

I enjoyed that (all too brief) secret identity get together that opened the issue.  It's so rare we see these characters out of costume, and just taking in the day.  The Justice League book(s) until the Giffen/DeMatteis era seem more heavy on the non-stop action and lighter on characterization... which is to be understood, I suppose... as many of the team members have their own solo book(s) where they can be shown in their day to day life.  I really thought this was a nice touch.

The character of Paragon is a strange one.  I really like the concept, but he feels like one of those foes where the heroes will have to either work out some convoluted plan to stop him each time.  This is likely why he's appeared so few times.  Still an interesting dude, though.  Could definitely serve as a big bad anytime DC needs, would be interested in seeing him show up again.

I know I've reviewed books with Chuck Patton art before, but wow... he is truly incredible.  Don't know why I'm noticing that just now, but he's great!  The faces he draws (Black Canary especially) are fantastic!

As for Kurt Busiek's writing?  Well, I'm a bit biased (Mr. Busiek is definitely in my top 5)... so, if you'll indulge dome gushing... this was wonderfully written, and makes me wish he'd spent more time with these characters during this vintage.  He did do a post-Infinite Crisis run with Superman and Action Comics (including the awesome "Up, Up, and Away!" story arc), an Injustice League story in JLA, and he was the writer on DC's weekly Trinity series with art by Mark Bagley (doesn't get much more Marvel than that!)... and of course, JLA/Avengers with the legendary George Perez.

All told, a really good book and a really good time.  It's too bad we don't get a one-off every now and again these days... after all, how would they get collected in TPB form?  It's sad that that's the way we think in contemporary comics fandom... but it is what it is.

Recommended for certain.  Lots of fun, and can be read on it's own without missing anything.  Before I wrap up... just one more big thanks to Kurt for cutting out a half-hour of his day to chat with me.  It was one of those times where I kept having to remind myself that it was "real"... such a strange sensation!

--

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1 comment:

  1. Paragon shows up in Busiek's Superman run, iirc.

    You're right. This is a great issue and Paragon's power set means that the writer really has to be on his A game to make the story work. It's amusing to think that Busiek presents more JLA teamwork in this single issue than a certain other artist-turned-writer has managed in ten times as many issues of the current book. I'd have loved to have seen an extended run from Busiek but he did do a few fill-in issues during the Detroit era. They're not quite on a par with this issue, but they're a fun read all the same.

    Btw, if you haven't checked out The Autumnlands yet, you really should. I've only read the first trade but it's very *very* good. :)

    Once again, a great review!

    ReplyDelete

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