Justice League of America #248 (March, 1986)
Writer – Gerry Conway
Pencils – Luke McDonnell
Inks – Bill Wray
Colors – Gene D’Angelo
Letters – John Costanza
Editor – Andy Helfer
Cover Price: $0.75
I was refiling the Crisis on Earth-Prime! issues of Justice League of America we’ve been discussing over the past few days (available on the Collected Editions page), and started flipping through the rest of the run for fun.
Came across this one, and couldn’t recall it for the life of me. The cover just looked completely (pardon the pun) alien to me! Had zero recollection of it. And so, what betta book to take a look at?
We open with Gypsy, Vixen, and Elongated Man… uh, caring for, a tentacled horror. Apparently a baby tentacled horror, for which Gypsy seems to feel a strong maternal urge. They’re not sure what this thing is, or where it came from… and they wish the Martian Manhunter were around to give his two-cents on the issue. Unfortunately for them, J’onn has returned to Tec’ing… and is currently hanging out in Brooklyn Heights on a case.
Turns out, the case he’s investigating involves a young runaway. From inside a building, he hears a scream… and a crash. J’onn rushes into the building to find… a much older woman than he was expecting… and she’d been shot dead!
J’onn (or do we just call him “John” in his human guise?) picks up the gun… just then, a pair of police officers arrive! They, naturally, believe J’onn to be the culprit and begin to treat him as such. He tosses them the presumed murder weapon as a distraction, and vanishes.
He taunts the officers (for some reason… seems kind of a jerky thing to do) before shoving one off the stoop outside the building. The Invisible J’onn reclaims the pistol and flees the scene.
From here, we jump to an interlude. A green crystal spacecraft lands on a distant planet… where the red-skinned passenger is hailed by the sausage-headed aliens who live there. Since this has been a Martian Manhunter story up to this point, I almost assumed this fella was Jemm Son of Saturn (it’s not)… but I don’t think their connection had been made until the late 90’s.
We shift scenes to Zatanna, who has discovered a pile of ashes inside her Greenwich Village apartment. She fears this might be the remains of Sheri Stanley, the girl who she sublet her apartment to. She wonders if one of her enemies mistook Sherri for her, and decided to strike.
She goes to leave the room when she notices, out of the corner of her eye, a note on the wall indicating that something is going down at the Westside Marina at 9:00. She whups up some winds and heads thaddaway.
We next hop over to De Bad Guy… Paco Ramone (hey yo). He’s putting down a deposit on some new digs… and is pretty proud of himself for finally having a home he can call his own. Just then, he is approached by a pair of goons, who try and sell him some “insurance”… if ya know what I mean. When Paco don’t pay, they get rough with him… until he vibes out, and shakes them into the pavement.
Then, Commander Steel… who, in his civilian guise is a Hollywood stuntman. He’s dressed as a barbarian (of sorts) and is filming a scene with… a jackass. Not an actual donkey, just a jerk of an actor who keeps trying to take liberties with the lowly stuntman. Finally, Hank’s had enough, and he bodyslams the geek.
We jump ahead five minutes, and Hank is leaving the set (fully dressed… which really says something about the studio’s makeup department!). Anyhoo, a woman named Robin Flynn calls out to him… she’s the “continuity girl” (heh!), and she just loves what Hank did on set. Fair enough.
We rejoin Gypsy and the rest as they search through the old Justice League Headquarters for a way to conduct tests on their tentacled horror (they’ve named it “Junior”, by the way, and Gypsy is certain it’s a “she”… except on this page where they call it a “he”). Vixen suggests they grab a scalpel and nab a sample of the thing… which freaks it out but good!
Vixen gives chase… but is suddenly overcome by a strange dizziness. Then… there’s something about a newly-mummified possum family in a box? Okay… maybe that’s what “Junior” does? Mummifies rodents? Either way, due to her power set, Vixen is feeling the effects.
Junior makes her way to the entry of the cave… and runs into the returning Martian Manhunter, Vibe, and Commander Steel. Steel approaches… and Junior begins speaking in weird alien tongues. Suddenly, Steel is engulfed in an inky blackness.
Vibe jumps in between Steel and Junior, and gets himself all inked up. J’onn then shapeshifts into a similar tentacled horror… which provides ample distraction for Steel to wallop Junior with a punch.
Gypsy rushes over to the downed beast, and yells at her teammates for being so rough. C’mon lady… really? Were they just supposed to let this thing attack them?!
We wrap up this issue with Vixen stumbling out of the cave. She collapses before the team… and looks as though she’s aged several decades!
Well, not exactly what I was expecting… but not half bad either!
Judging by the cover, I was expecting this to be a John Jones, P.I. spotlight issue… and, I was kinda psyched for it! So, it was a bit of a deflating surprise that much of this story was focused on a tentacled horror named Junior.
But, that’s what we get… so, let’s talk about it. It’s a (presumed baby) tentacled critter… who is rather skittish around scalpels? It’s also a girl… until the heroes (and Gerry) forget and begin referring to it as a boy. It’s got powers… and apparently a glass jaw… and it might mummify rodents? Ehh, who cares…
Personally, if it isn’t abundantly clear by now, I felt like the Junior scenes were the weakest of the issue. I really dug the little vignettes of the Leaguers away from the team. Vibe getting his first apartment was cool. I like that his first instinct was to tell his friends that he did it all on his own.
Steel as a stuntman… well, I can’t say that doesn’t make sense, considering he’s get all’a da mesh underneath his skin. I’m kind of intrigued by the “continuity girl” who approached him after his outburst… and again, thought it as neat that his first instinct was to share that story with his friends.
Zatanna’s discovery of ashes… another very intriguing beat. I like that she followed physical/mundane clues (as obvious as the post-it note might’ve been) to plan her next steps instead of just magicking up an answer/path.
Then… the cover story. John Jones back on the street investigating a runaway, and discovering a corpse. This is definitely the story I wanted to see fleshed out a bit more. Not sure why J’onn acted like such a jerk to the officers (who, really… were just doing their jobs)… but, either way, I certainly enjoyed this (all too brief) scene.
Overall… an interesting issue, to be sure… and one with a lot to dig (your tentacle monster mileage may vary). This issue is not yet available digitally… so, this’ll be a bin dive. Shouldn’t break the bank though!
Letters Page (featuring Beau Smith!):