Justice League of America #109 (1974)

Justice League of America #109 (January-February, 1974)
“The Doom of the Divided Man!”
Writer – Len Wein
Penciller – Dick Dillin
Inker – Dick Giordano
Letterer – Ben Oda
Colorist – Glynis Wein
Editor – Julius Schwartz
Cover Price: $0.20

Another one from the iconic covers collection… surely this issue will feature a shocking betrayal and some great interpersonal drama, right?  Right?

Read on.

We open on board the Justice League Satellite where Hawkman… resigns from the League!  Well, that was a quick reveal… wasn’t expecting that so soon.  He claims that he and Hawkgirl have been summoned back to Thanagar, and interestingly enough, of all people it’s Ollie who reacts the harshest to this, asking if there’s anything that can be done to keep the Hawks around.  The meeting is interrupted by the sudden arrival of a battle-damaged Red Tornado being helped in by… Bruce Gordon?  Uh-oh.

Bruce reveals that… hey, get this… he’s really Eclipso.  He explains to the League that he and “John Smith” (Red Tornado) were working on an experiment concerning controlled-light-transmission, when something went hinky… there was an explosion, and from the fallen body of Bruce Gordon arose… three Eclipsos (Threeclipso?), one of whom blasted Reddy with the black-diamond beam.

JLA Chairman Batman refers to the super-computers, and learns that the Threeclipsos are drawing their power from the Earth itself… and if they were to continue unhindered, the planet will be destroyed within the next six hours!  Wow, that’s some amazingly specific data!  Bruce (Gordon) reflects on some vague memories he has to make some educated guesses as to which corners ofthe globe the baddies may be occupying.  The League then breaks off into smaller teams to divide and conquer the moon-faced menaces.  Ollie makes a special request to be teamed with Hawkman one last time.

The first folks we follow are Black Canary and the Atom… and they’re unduh-da-sea.  They are approaching a submerged craft, from which a trio of frogmen… that is to day, three dudes in scuba gear, not actual “frog” men, attack.  Initially, the heroes attempts at thwarting the baddies is futile, however, it isn’t long before Aquaman arrives to even the odds.

While Aquaman takes care of the minions, Dinah and Ray head inside… where they are greeted by One-Thirdclipso (yeah, that one doesn’t really roll off the tongue).  Dinah hurls a piece of metal junk at a “gizmo” over Eclipso’s head, shattering it into a blazing light.  Surprisingly, the light doesn’t effect our two-toned pal.  Aquaman arrives and… sends a flying fish to knock the black diamond out of Eclipso’s hand.  Can’t make that up!  Amid the distraction, Arthur slugs him in the mush.

Our next visit is with Batman and the Flash as they head to a “G-Lab” which is basically an environmental facility.  When they see an “Eclipso-Type Energy Blast” originate from its antenna, they know they’re on the right track.  Before entering, Batman swings up to dropkick the “death ray”.

Inside, the heroes face off with Thirty-Three-Point-Threeclipso (yeah, that one doesn’t quite work either!).  Batman hurls a light-bursty device… which is deflected by Eclipso’s “personal force field”… which is pretty handy.  At this point, a gaggle of henchmen arrive to tackle the bat.  How did Eclipso gather a crew this quickly?

Either way, this leaves us with Flash and Eclipso, which ends with Flash running circles around Eclipso… force field and all, causing it to implode via the applied pressure of his g-force.  Two down, one to go!

Next we join Hawkman, Green Arrow, and Elongated Man… all soaring through the sky!  Wha–?  Well, Ollie and Ralph are wearing anti-gravity belts, natch.  It looks as though Eclipso is getting the better of the airborne scuffle, when Hawkman takes a page from Aquaman’s book… and proceeds to talk to birds!  They swarm and… well, they kinda annoy the baddie, but don’t do all that much damage.

The conflict comes to a head when Ollie and ‘clips have themselves an old-fashioned shoot-out… wherein Green Arrow proves himself to be the “fastest bow in the west”.  From there, it’s academic.

Back on board the Satellite all Threeclipsos, black diamonds and all are contained.  To the shock of nobody… this was a pretty dumb move, as the trio melds into one giant Eclipso.  Whoops!  Business is about to pick up!

Or not.  Ya see, when Giant Eclipso attempts to use the three black diamonds to defeat the League… one explodes in his face!  The resulting light reverts him back to his Bruce Gordon form.  B-bu-but how did this happen?  Well… as always, Batman thinks of everything.  He figured something like this might happen, and so he treated the black diamond he and Flash retrieved with special chemicals so that it would produce immense light.

That’s the end of Eclipso (for now), but not the issue.  We have ourselves an epilogue wherein Hawkman says his “final” goodbyes to the League.  All but Ollie are present.  Hawkman takes a bit of offense to this… however, elsewhere on the Satellite Green Arrow laments the departure of his friend, colleague, and political sparring partner.

Well, this was not at all what I was expecting!

That cover says a few things to me… and battle with Eclipso isn’t one of them!  I really thought (and hoped) this was going to be a story of betrayal, hurt feelings, and League drama… didn’t see an all-out action tale.  Least it was a good one!

I think if we are looking for a theme here… and, this is me thinking far too hard here… one might be, necessary evils.  The strength of this issue for me is the Green Arrow/Hawkman dynamic (the epilogue is especially strong).  It’s far less contentious than usual… and there’s a melancholy about it.  Ollie doesn’t deal well with loss, even of a fella who he butted heads with more often than not.  I’ve been on a bit of an Office kick of late, and it sorta feels like the Jim/Dwight relationship.  Both solid characters, but never stronger (as part of an ensemble) than when paired up with or against one another.

Keeping with “necessary evils”, we’ve got the duality… or quadruality in this case… of Bruce Gordon/Eclipso.  Is the “other half” a necessary evil in order to produce the “whole”?  I mean, every time we visit with Bruce Gordon, he’s working on some way to rid himself of the Eclipso persona… if he were without Eclipso, what would he do?  Would he still be as productive in the lab?  Would he work as hard?  Hard to say… I’d like to think he’d lose his mind without having anything to strive for, but what do I know?

To the structure of the story… I dunno, it seems like from the smattering of pre-Crisis Justice League I’ve read of late, we get about 18-19 pages of strong build, and a single page of (somewhat contrived?) blow-off… usually featuring Batman outsmarting/outwitting a threat.  It’s not bad or anything, just maybe a bit weak.

This issue is available digitally, and it’s definitely worth checking out.  It has also been reprinted in both SHOWCASE Presents: Justice League of America, Volume Six and Justice League of America: The Bronze-Age Omnibus.

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