Justice League of America #190 (1981)

Justice League of America #190 (May, 1981)
“Our Friends, Our Enemies”
Writer – Gerry Conway
Pencils – Rich Buckler
Inks – Bob Smith & Larry Malstedt
Letters – John Costanza
Colors – Gene D’Angelo
Editor – Len Wein
Cover Price: $0.50

Full disclosure… I decided to discuss this little Starro story simply because of this cover.  I mean, just look at it?  That’s some pretty great stuff, ain’t it?

Can the inside even hope to live up to the the greatness of the cover?  Let’s find out…

We pick up right where we left off last issue… the other half of the Justice League is still on that aircraft carrier trying to process the threat of Starro.  Worth noting, Zatanna is here as well… didn’t notice her yesterday!  Just checked again, and nope… we didn’t see her yesterday!  Anyhoo, a Naval Officer claims that he’d just spoken to the President of the United States, who is totally on board with the absolute decimation of New York City in order to neutralize the Starro situation.  The League is aghast… and pleads for a few hours reprieve.  The Officer, knowing he doesn’t have a whole heckuva lot to lose grants them until nightfall.

We next head into the city and find the Starro-controlled League going about the business of directing as much of the city’s electricity into Grand Central Station, so that their Star-shaped ruler can feed off the, um, protein in the electricity?  Is that a thing that happens?  Well, I’ll be a sonuvagun… it kinda is!  Not sure it was a thing in 1981… but, whattayagonnado?

At this point, we find Red Tornado… who, being an android isn’t being mind-controlled… he’s just playing along.  He tears the starfish off his mug, and heads off to try and find a way to shut Starro down.  Unfortunately for him, he runs into Wonder Woman… unfortunately for her, she’s being written like a complete pushover here.  Reddy heads north, into the Bronx.

At that same time, the other half of the League descends on Manhattan.  They’re all wearing repellor-disks, usually used as insect repellent by Hawkman, on their chests to keep the Starro-spawn away.  Batman wonders why they can’t just use a really big disk to drive Starro away… Hawkman says that won’t work, and we might as well believe him.  I mean, he’s got no reason to lie to us.  The team splits up and gets to work.

We shift over to a fruit and vegetable market on the Lower East Side where we meet up with our old friends, the Watsons.  Ya remember, they’re that family who are kinda responsible for this mess in the first place.  Young Terry wanders into the shop’s freezer… and wakes up from his Starro-induced daze.  Suddenly, memories come rushing back to him.  He decides to hide out in the freezer for a bit.

We rejoin Aquaman as he’s receiving word from his fishy friends about a fleet of ships coming down the East River.  He deduces from this that Starro is sending his spawns out of New York City… likely to seek out another place to feed and conquer.  Aquaman commands the fish to gather seaweed with which they can gunk up the ships’ propellers.  He then hops out of the drink, and socks the Starro-controlled sailors but good.

Next stop, somewhere in the Subway.  Batman, Elongated Man, Flash and Zatanna are scoping out the scene.  It’s eluded to that Zee and Barry might’ve shared a somewhat intimate moment not too long ago, which has left them both sorta-kinda uncomfortable working so closely.  Maybe we’ll take a look at that issue soon.

While Zatanna is making goo-goo eyes in Barry’s direction, the gang is attacked by a swarm’a Starro-spawns!  The heroes struggle to get the situation under control… and are only able to by the grace of Zatanna casting a freezing spell on the starfish (this will be important later on).  Worth noting, the spell sure seems to have taken it out of her.  Ralph notices her fatigue, but promises to keep it between the two of them.

Heading up to the Bronx, Red Tornado has infiltrated a power station, with the express goal of shutting the thing down.  He breaks through the Starro-controlled defenses, and makes his way to the master switch.  Imagine there being a single switch you could pull to shut off electricity to New York City?  That just doesn’t seem like the best idea, does it?  Anyhoo, Reddy goes to pull the lever, but is struck silly by some sparks of feedback.

Back in Manhattan, the Hawks spy a helicopter full’a Starro-spawns trying to leave the city.  They put a stop to that with the quickness.  They nearly kill the passengers, but… hey, whattayagonnado?  Gotta keep that Starro-strain centralized.

After safely lowering the chopper to the ground, Hawkgirl hears a bit of sobbing.  They follow their ears into that fruit and veggie stand, and discover Terry Watson huddled in the freezer, crying.  At that same time elsewhere, Batman comes across Black Canary… and they engage in some hand-to-hand.

Batman gets the better of the physical exchange… and when he goes to tear the Starro spawn from Dinah’s face, realizes that the li’l sucker’s on so tight, that removing it would kill her!  He figures there’s just got to be another way.

Next, we rejoin Red Tornado… who, after being shocked silly, struggles to his feet.  Realizing that there’s no other option, he throws himself into the massive circuit board… sacrificing himself to shut down all power to the city.  Thankfully, this works!  Couldja imagine what a bummer it would’ve been if it hadn’t?

Back in Grand Central, Starro wonders what just happened.  His mood is further dampened when he is confronted by the entire Justice League (minus, Red Tornado of course)!  Remember how Zee was able to down those Starro-spawns with her freeze spell?  Well, the same sorta thing happened to Terry Watson… when he entered the freezer, the effects of Starro’s mind-control went away.  Sooo, Zatanna just froze all of the li’l buggers to free the League.

Firestorm and Hal blast the heck out of Starro into a starfish-cicle, thanks to Ronnie’s atomic restructuring hoo-doo… and before we know it, the Conqueror is suffering the same frozen fate as Aquaman’s Silver-Age Cat-Dragon pal Myron who we met the other day.  Ralph makes a joke about “frozen starfish on a stick”, but… nobody laughs… including me!  Rather abrupt ending… but, it’s the only one we get!

A pretty good, if not a little bit rushed and abrupt, ending to the Starro story!

Let’s talk about some of the “good”.  Just like yesterday, when we saw Hal Jordan working “defensively” trying to stop the Starro-spawn rather than taking on the big fish head on… I really appreciate how “tactical” the League went about neutralizing the threat here.  Having Aquaman and the Hawks watch the air and sky to ensure no Starro-spawns spread out of New York City was really cool… more of that attention to detail and “plot-hole-plugging” that I feel is usually ignored.

Red Tornado’s sacrifice and “death” here was a pretty great scene.  Of course, he’ll get “better” (pretty quickly, if I recall right), but nevertheless, a very strong scene.  I gotta wonder though, if he wasn’t affected by the Starro spawn, what would’ve been the harm in keeping the li’l bugger on his face?  I mean, it would have allowed him to “fit in” with the others… and probably would have facilitated his access into the power station, right?  Oh well.

I’m intrigued about the Zatanna/Barry romance subplot… really wanna dig through the longbox to nab the issue where it began!  It feels like such a “Marvel” thing to have teammates do the “will-they/won’t-they okeydoke”… it seems so strange for Barry Allen to be part of a story thread like this.  Really gotta check it out!

I’d say my only misgiving about this issue is… the same as most other times we discuss a pre-Crisis Justice League adventure… just how quickly it all wrapped up.  I’m not sure if it’s a “DC thing”, a “JLA thing” or a “Conway thing”, but it feels like every time we look at a League book of this vintage, we get twenty pages of build, and two pages where it’s all abruptly wrapped up.  We get no closure, and no “relief”… it’s like when you interrupt a yawn.

Overall though, a neat little two-parter… with some awesome Brian Bolland covers, well deserving of a spot in your comics library.  As with last issue, this hasn’t been collected… nor has it been made available digitally.  It’s gonna be a bin-dive, but one that shouldn’t cost ya much…

Letters Page:

Interesting Ads:


4 thoughts on “Justice League of America #190 (1981)


    That ending killed me, what a cop out! I still love this era of the JLA

    • Chris

      Totally agree… it feels like any time I pick up a JLA book of this vintage, I have a great time with it… until the ending. Everything just "stops"

  • NdrwFrnkln

    I was very amused to read that this issues cover is what sparked you to read this two parter. I love this cover so much I framed it and put it on my wall! (I sent a pic to you on Twitter:) ) Great early Bolland work, it’s so creepy!

    Surprising that Starro had so few appearances at this point. He is kinda goofy, but stories like this show that he can be a credible threat. I think using him more like a Lovecraftian Elder Horror would be interesting, having human Starro cults worshipping him, trying to bring about a blessed state of total assimilation.

    • Chris

      Haha, it's true… the cover really drew me in! Writing a review every day, sometimes I gotta just let inspiration "strike"!

      I gotta say, finding out that Starro *wasn't* a regularly recurring villain made me do a double-take. I just assumed that he showed up every couple of years to try and take over… this one was definitely an education for me!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *