Monday, October 23, 2017

Justice Society of America (vol.3) #7 (2007)


Justice Society of America (vol.3) #7 (September, 2007)
"Indestructible"
Writer - Geoff Johns
Penciller - Dale Eaglesham
Inkers - Ruy Jose & Rodney Ramos
Colorist - Jeromy Cox
Letterer - Rob Leigh
Assistant Editor - Harvey Richards
Editor - Michael Siglain
Cover Price: $2.99

When I was entering the latest Lightning Saga-related Justice Society of America reviews into the Review Index, I discovered that... for whatever reason, when I jumped ahead a couple months back, I also skipped issues #7 and 8!  Haven't the foggiest idea why... I must've thought The Lightning Saga went on far longer than it did (not that it didn't feel overlong at times!).

Welp, we're all about filling in gaps here... and since my Justice Society longbox is one of the few I can actually access without putting holes in the wall (moving is an absolute delight... I recommend it to anyone... ahem), I guess we might as well continue along!

--


We open up with a recap on the life and times of Nate Heywood.  We already know all of this... his grandfather was the original Commander Steel, his cousin Hank was the Steel who ran with the Detroit-era Justice League.  His story went a bit differently, as he chose to pursue athletics... he suffered an injury, which led to a pain-killer dependency... and ultimately to an amputation.  During the most recent Heywood family picnic... the Nazis attacked!


We join Nate in the present as he wakes up from a horrible nightmare.  His peripheral vision picks up a vision of Captain Nazi attacking his young cousin... and pulls himself out of the bed to stop him.  A couple of observations... One: he's hallucinating, and Two: He's also standing... on two feet!


Dr. Mid-Nite enters to inform Nate of everything that has gone down over the past little while.  Turns out, when he pierced Reichsmark's throat... and had that liquid metal ooze vomited onto him, it was absorbed into Nate's own skin... and somehow, while transmuting his normal skin into an organic metal, also regrew him a whole new leg and foot!  It's not all good news, however... he also can no longer feel anything, so there's that.


Body-issues aside, Nate laments the fact that his entire family was killed in the attack while he survived.  Mid-Nite informs him that that's not entirely true.  We zip over to St. Anthony's Hospital... and learn that Nate's niece and couple of nephews got out alive.  He excitedly attempts to enter the room... however, his new stronger/heavier body proves to be quite the menace.  Fearing that he would crush his loved ones should he even try to touch them, he backs off... Mid-Nite suggests that the Justice Society might be able to help him.


We shift over to Opal City to join Starman... and good news, it's Sloppy Joe Day!  He grabs his tray and is about to chow down... when he finds himself joined by Superman!  He's still a bit salty over the Legionnaire's deception during The Lightning Saga, and is looking for some answers.


Next stop, the Justice Society's... refinery?  Mr. Terrific, Dr. Mid-Nite, and Hawkman (in a welding visor!) are coating Nate's new body with an alloy that will restrict his movement enough to help him not to... you know, crush his loved ones.  With a FASSSH, Nate emerges from the vat... in a very patriotic uniform, and he ain't all that pleased.


He proceeds to ream out his new pals... he doesn't see himself as a hero... and having never been in the military, doesn't feel worthy of wearing the uniform of Commander Steel.  He is interrupted by an entering Power Girl, who delivers news of the American Supremacist Party coming out in support of the Fourth Reich... and are currently holding a group of NYU students hostage.


Back in Opal, Starman sorta-kinda fills Superman in on the Legionnaire's plan.  It's still silly Starman, so it doesn't make all that much sense... we get some cryptic commentary on multiple Thoms... and Three Worlds... Superman's inability to help... and future-speedster XS.  Superman's confused... and so am I.  Superman's Legion story will continue in the pages of Action Comics... and maybe we'll get around to them soon.


Back at NYU, the Justice Society gets into place.  Nate is instructed to wait outside... which is probably for the best, as he's leaving great holes in the ground with every heavy step... plus, he really doesn't know what he's doing just yet.  Power Girl lets him know that they'll just throw things (meaning bad dudes) at him.


And so, the next several pages consist of Nazi-stomping action.  This isn't just some superficial fight scene though... it also features some great character-building.  This is some very early super-heroics from characters like Cyclone and Wildcat (II), and we get to watch them go through their paces.  Very well done... really adds to what might've been a boilerplate battle scene.


The fight wraps up with Nate standing over a pile of battered Nazis.  He calls out to Power Girl to ask how he did... and she seems quite pleased.


The Society finds themselves swarmed by reporters... and it's here that Power Girl introduces their newest member... Citizen Steel!  We wrap up the issue back at St. Anthony's where Nate is finally able to touch and hold his loved ones.


--

Glad I read this... I was wondering when the whole Citizen Steel issue was addressed, and hadn't the foggiest idea how I missed it!  This provides some really good context for the Gog stories we've already covered as it pertains to Nate's willingness to be faithful.

I didn't dwell on it during the synopsis, but Nate's a rather tragic hero.  It's nothing Earth-shattering... well, I mean, when we walks he does literally shatter the Earth... but, you know what I mean.  He can't feel things... not knowing his own strength, he risks injuring anyone he touches.  He's got a bit of Robotman-esque tragedy in him.  Can't feel the breeze, warmth, all that jazz.  Fair enough... his presence adds a "doomed" wrinkle to this incarnation of the Justice Society.

The Superman/Starman chat is kinda mind-boggling, but fun.  I always think of this issue because it's Eaglesham variant cover features Superman watching Starman chow down on a Sloppy Joe.  That's one variant that I'd actually be interested in tracking down.  We get a decent amount of breadcrumbs here.  I can't remember if I ever made it through the Superman and the Legion story arc in Action Comics, so I can't speak to that... yet.  I just hope it winds up being a bit more satisfying than The Lightning Saga.

Overall, worth a read.  Some nice character beats here... and amazing Eaglesham art.  It is definitely an important chapter that lays a bit of the groundwork for what's to come.

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Sunday, October 22, 2017

Legion of Super-Heroes #274 (1981)


Legion of Super-Heroes #274 (April, 1981)
"The Exaggerated Death of Ultra Boy"
Writer - Gerry Conway
Penciller - Steve Ditko
Inker - Frank Chiaramonte
Letterer - John Costanza
Colorist - Gene D'Angelo
Editor - Jack C. Harris
Cover Price: $0.50

Last week, we witnessed (discussed, even!) the apparent death of Ultra Boy at the hands of Pulsar Stargrave... but c'mon, we know better... right?

--


We open with a decidedly not dead Ultra Boy aimlessly floating through the cosmos.  Elsewhere, the Legion of Super-Heroes are already holding a funeral (before an empty grave)... they sure don't mess around!  Lightning Lad, who we just learned knows a thing or two about dying reads the eulogy, before leading the Legion back to headquarters where Jo's main squeeze Phantom Girl dedicates an Ultra Boy statue in the Legion's Hall of Heroes.


We return to floatin' Jo Nah as he passes through a Sun/solar flare.  He then passes into the view of a yellow spacecraft... which snares him in its tractor-beam and pulls him on board.


Back with the Legion, Saturn Girl approaches Tinya to give her condolences.  Phantom Girl lashes out, calling her concern empty... and even referring to Imra as "the Ice Maiden".   She then recounts the story of Jo's murder while sobbing.  Saturn Girl then helps her by stirring happy memories of her time with Jo... which finally brings her around.


Meanwhile, Jo Nah is splashed in the face with water... quite the rude awakening.  As he pulls himself up, he realizes he's surrounded by quite the gaggle of aliens... and they're looking for a fight.  Ultra Boy lives up to his name, and beats them up but good.


The aliens redouble their efforts and dog-pile the poor lad.  We then meet Captain Frake... the Punky Brewster of space pirates, and she seems to have taken a liking to our handsome Legionnaire.


The next morning, the Legionnaires assemble at their Metropolis headquarters.  Lightning Lad offers Phantom Girl time off if she feels she needs it... she insists she feels okay.  Suddenly a space alarm sounds... there's something going down roundabout the Pluto orbit.


Elsewhere... perhaps roundabout the Pluto orbit... we rejoin Captain Frake as she welcomes a new-look Ultra Boy, complete with a sorta-kinda Puffy Shirt!  He shares with her as much as he can remember about being blasted to atoms at the hands of a certain green-skinned fella... and how he knows the ring that he wears is very important to him... even though it's (conveniently) been melted to slag.  Frake decides to test Jo's invulnerability by blasting him square in the chest with her ray gun... and wouldn'tcha know it, he's pretty invulnerable!


She then asks him to test his strength by punching a stone bust (of herself).  Bada-bing bada-boom... he pulverizes it to powder.  Then... they make out!


We rejoin the Legion as they approach... roundabouts Pluto.  They find a freighter about to be attacked by space pirates, and so Cosmic Boy takes aim and fires off a salvo at a certain yellow spacecraft.  Frake instructs Jo to don a space pirate outfit (which looks like something a radioactive Jimmy Olsen might wear), and take care of their assailants.


On board the Legion ship, Karate Kid responds to the breach... and finds Cosmic Boy has already been kayoed.  He then walks directly into Space Pirate Ultra Boy's fist.  At command, Lightning Lad issues an order for Phantom Girl to intervene... while Saturn Girl stands by, with a rather shocked look on her face.


Tinya responds, suiting up in a pink spacesuit.  She phases through the hull and sneaks up behind the invading space pirate.  She then phases her hands into the "baddie's" back... but gets back-handed before she can fully solidify.


Jo turns and gets a good look at his would-be attacker, and... hmm... maybe some memories begin to stir?  He leaves her laying, and zips back to Frake's ship.


Some time passes, and we join the Legionnaires in the medic beds... seems like they spend a lot of time there!  While her teammates convalesce, Saturn Girl can't shake the feeling that she recognized that invader from earlier.  We wrap up with Ultra Boy laying in Captain Frake's lap... still unsure of who or what he was.


--

Being a long-time Soap Opera fan viewer guy whose wife watches them... ahem... this felt very much like a cosmic version of same.  Having Ultra Boy... an amnesiac Ultra Boy, floating through the cosmos while his friends mourn his passing... that's something straight out of Days of Our Lives... minus the cosmos, of course...

We get the "near-miss" of Jo and Tinya here... which I really dug.  Also, Saturn Girl sorta-kinda knowing what's going down... but her relationship with Phantom Girl is kinda strained... so, is it her place to say anything and risk getting her hopes up?  Really good stuff here!

The S.S. Punky Brewster bunch was pretty fun.  Having Jo take down the crew of geeks was neat... and his unconscious (?) ability to use his "one superpower at a time" when needed was cool to see.  I mean, he doesn't know what his powers are at this point, right?  It's just lucky for him he was able to become invulnerable when Frake blasted him in the chest!

Overall... I'm having a lot of fun checking out this era of Legion.  If I were to pick nits... the Ditko art leaves a bit to be desired.  Reaction shots here felt a bit sterile and unfeeling... I can't help but to think that certain scenes here would have come across far better with added facial-emotion.

Still, though... I'd say this is definitely worth a read!  This issue has been collected as part of the Steve Ditko Omnibus, Volume 2 (2012) and is also available digitally.

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Letters Page:


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Saturday, October 21, 2017

Justice League of America (vol.2) #10 (2007)


Justice League of America (vol.2) #10 (August, 2007)
"The Lightning Saga, Final Chapter: The Villain is the Hero in His Own Story"
Writer - Brad Meltzer
Penciller - Ed Benes
Inker - Sandra Hope
Letterer - Rob Leigh
Colorist - Alex Sinclair
Assistant Editor - Adam Schlagman
Editor - Eddie Berganza
Cover Price: $2.99

Okay, we finally made it...

If you need/want to catch up:
Chapter One: Justice League of America (vol.2) #8
Chapter Two: Justice Society of America (vol.3) #5
Chapter Three: Justice League of America (vol.2) #9
Chapter Four: Justice Society of America (vol.3) #6

--


We pick up back during the Computo fight.  While Superman and Power Girl realize they've been duped, the rest of the amalgamated Justice League-Society continues the battle.  Spotting Sensor Girl, and assuming she's behind the illusion, Superman zips across the battlefield to question her.  He grabs her by the shoulder... shattering it?  Well, no... turns out, Sensor Girl is also an illusion!


We shift to the Legionnaires and find that they are all in position... Dawnstar is in Tokyo, Timber Wolf is in Central City, Sensor Girl is in Smallville, Wildfire is in San Francisco, Starman is in Gotham City, and Dream Girl is in Keystone City... where she is joined by an inquisitive Jay Garrick.  He knows that she knows how this is all going to roll out... but she ain't talkin'.  In fact, she hints that her placement was simply to pull the present-heroes' resident speedster off the scent.


Jay smiles... because, well... he's always smiling.  At that moment we can see that each of the Legionniares we just mentioned have been joined by a member of the Justice League.  In Smallville, Sensor Girl finds herself in the company of Superman.  She is crying, knowing that this time around we won't just be losing a "Proty".  He asks if he can see the Lightning Rod.


In Gotham, Batman is joined by Mr. Terrific so they can have a discussion/debate on suicide... which, I suppose is relevant at this juncture but still comes across as somewhat forced.  While across the globe the League members try and talk the Legionnaires out of their suicide mission, we see that Batman and Green Lantern are in very familiar locales.  Batman is where he was during Crisis on Infinite Earths when Barry Allen appeared before him... Hal is in Barry's police lab.  Really cool visual.


We find ourselves around twenty seconds from "impact", and the waiting Legionnaires activate their force fields.  Jay radios in to Black Canary, who immediately deactivates the Legion Flight rings... unfortunately for the League/Society, the Legionnaires Rings are able to override the command.  Welp, that was a good use of a page!


The seconds continue to tick down, and we shift to Blue Valley, USA where Karate Kid (remember him?) is stationed.  The League/Society were unable to follow him as he removed his tracer.  Hmm, perhaps the Legion did already know who was going to be zapped today!


He looks to the skies, says "Lightning Lad" and is struck by a... sorta iconic looking... lightning bolt!


Moments later, the remaining Legionnaires begin to fade away... being drawn to the Fortress of Solitude so they can go back to the future.  In the smoldering crater where the lightning struck in Blue Valley we see... Wally, Linda, Iris, and Jai West?  Well, there's some folks I wasn't expecting to see.


While the Legionnaires continue to fade away, Starman removes his flight ring to remain in the present with his new team.


The Legionnaires arrive at the Fortress, and as they proceed through the time-portal thingie... Karate Kid is told that he's got to stay behind... a story thread that will be picked up in the pages of Countdown.  Fate worse than death?  Oh and if you're wondering, he survived the lightning bolt by "ducking".


We follow the remaining Legionnaires into the future, where Brainiac-5 is a bit surprised about the lightning bringing the Wests back.  Ya see, they weren't inside the lightning bolt... they simply rode it back.  Back in the present, Superman looks a bit betrayed... and wants to talk to Starman.  Batman looks disappointed... suggesting that he might've been expecting, I dunno, a different speedster? 


We wrap up with Wally accepting an invitation to rejoin the Justice League... and Brainiac-5 revealing that the Lightning Rod gambit was successful, and they get exactly who they were looking for.


--

Well... that was moderately unsatisfying.  Feels like a whole lot of buildup for not much of a result.  We discuss the whole "decompression" thing here from time to time... and we're about to do so again!

I feel like the second-half of this story could have easily filled a single issue.  Hell, this entire story would've made for a great annual or something.  There just doesn't feel like nearly enough "meat" to satisfyingly fill five whole issues.  Chapter Four was basically just the fight with not-Computo, and this was just waiting for lightning to strike.

I'm a pretty big Wally West fan, but the result here even felt like a bit of a letdown.  I guess that's a problem we face when we read things out of context.  I'd actually forgotten the era we were reading about, and the fact that Wally and Family had vamoosed for a bit there.  Made the entire thing feel anticlimactic.

As for who the Legion were hoping to bring back... well, we'd have to wait about a year and a half to find out what that's all about.  So, if you were a Legion fan hoping for some follow-up, you're gonna have to exercise some patience.  Nothing new for Legion fans though, right?  Especially nowadays...

Overall... I found The Lightning Saga disappointing.  To be fair, I'm coming at this from a position of not knowing a whole helluva lot about the Legion of Super-Heroes... and having little investment in the characters, disparate reboots, and stories which may or may not have happened.

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