Friday, November 17, 2017

Justice League #197



Justice League
Justice League #197




These guys look a teensy bit upset

"Crisis in Limbo!”
Writer – Gerry Conway
Storyteller – Keith Pollard
Penciller - George Perez
Inker - Romeo Tanghal
Letters – Ben Oda
Colorist – Carl Gaffod
Editor – Len Wein
December 1981

Will the heroes get to interact this issue? Only time will tell.

We begin with our Secret Society of Super-Villains looking mighty proud of themselves.



And why shouldn’t they? They’ve just captured 10 heroes from the Earth-1 and Earth-2 universes that insure that one group will never have to worry about interference again. All they have to do is engage this reject from a carnival ride and bingo...





But the process takes a bit of time and Ultra-Humanite isn’t the most trustworthy of leaders, so everyone gets a bit antsy when there isn’t immediate gratification. But he spins a good excuse and seconds later…



…as we replay the incidents in the last two issues that led up to this historic moment, a change occurs...





…It actually happens! Everyone on both Earths has a simultaneous acid flashback ending with…



…all the heroes from Earth-2 disappearing. Ultra-Humanite tries the “well, them’s the breaks” approach with his comrades from Earth-1, but when that doesn’t work, he just banishes them back to a hero-filled Earth-1.

It has to be noted here that the villains DID manage to send their most hated arch-enemies into Limbo, never to return. You’d think that’d be enough for most people.

But no. Not for Killer Frost it isn’t.



Hell hath no fury like an ice princess scorned...remember how pissed off that Elsa chick got in Frozen?…and scorned a second time as she tries to teleport back to Earth-2 and the transmatter machine explodes from Ultra-Humanite’s booby trapping.



Nope. She wants revenge, and as soon as she mentions the JLA satellite being overhead, I think she’s going to call in the reserve members from Earth-1 to take out the Society.

I couldn’t be more wrong if I tried.

Her plan is simple…

If by simple you mean exceedingly convoluted. First we have Cheetah attack Green Lantern when he responds to a phony code-one signal initiated by none other than SIGNALMAN. Hey kids, it’s an actual superpower. Somehow. 




Anyway, while taking her down with his bare hands because his ring won’t work on her yellow costume (god, how I loved the old GL weakness)…



…he ends up distracted enough for Frost to turn him into a lime-colored popsicle and use his JLA status to access the satellite teleporter.

Once on the station, they face off against Ralph Dibney, the Elongated Man and second greatest detective in the DC universe. SIGNALMAN again uses his awesome signal-making powers to flash fry Ralph’s mind for a long enough for them to make it to the JLA’s Earth-2 Interdimensional Transmatter Machine and teleport over to…




…you think I’m going to say Earth-2, don’t you. Because I thought upon seeing all this it would be Earth-2. But surprise, they teleport to…

Not gonna tell ya just yet. First, we get to watch Monocle and Rag Doll take out an entire police station. Note the bold large placards placing us firmly on Earth-2 in this and…



…the next two pages. It’s as if they want to make sure we know we’re on the world without heroes, even though that is the topic of the villain’s conversations anyway. Here we have the Mist and Psycho Pirate pocketing loot.



And Brainwave becoming a sexual predator.




And the Ultra-Humanite doing whatever the hell it is he is doing to these UN delegates.



I mean I don’t understand why a hyper-smart being would care about the UN, which acts mostly as a peacekeeping organization and not an actual seat of any real military or political power. They can shame and plead cases, but making the delegate all float around like they’ve imbibed fizzy lifting drinks is not going to make you the leader of the world.

But whatever. And we finally learn where the Earth-1 members made off to: LIMBO. Yes, you heard that right. The villains are going to rescue the heroes.



Once they can get it to stop spinning. Sadly, that’s easier said than done. Limbo doesn’t appear to follow our normal rules of physics and none of them have the raw power to make it stop.



At least it seems that way until Killer Frost convinces Cheetah that she has to kill her enemy Wonder Woman and then that lady cat does the impossible. I’m used to seeing Cheetah in her current incarnation, as a woman altered by the gods to fight against Wonder Woman. Here she’s billed as a normal strength fighter with lots of training, yet she succeeds where everyone else fails. 



Ooookaaaay?

And by succeeding, I mean in breaking Wonder Woman free of her cage and disrupting the spinning carousel of doom. However, it then occurs to Killer Frost that she failed to take anything into account except foiling Ultra-Humanite’s plan. Never dawned on her that these heroes might be miffed at ALL the villains in the society, even former members.



And they most certainly are!



A short time later, after all the Earth-1 Society members are safely tucked away…




…the Society has pretty much taken over Earth-2 and they all meet to answer an urgent summons.

However, they can’t seem to figure out which of them initiated the summons. It is the darnedest thing. They go around the circle only to find that it is NONE of them…but someone else entirely.



Batman, clearly still mad about having been taken down so easily by a fourth string villain, speaks for everyone.



Let the wild donnybrook begin!




Love that two panel shot of Flash racing up to punch the living snot out of Rag Doll. In fact, all of these action graphics seem a bit vindictive on the part of the heroes. Looks like sending them to Limbo really hacked them off.



Which is proven on the next page as our Earth-1 heroes fix up the Ultra-Humanite’s Dimensional Vortex machine while their Earth-2 buddies get their final licks in. Once they are done it’s “one-way ticket to Limbo” time for the rest of the Society stating with Rag Doll.




Followed by Psych Pirate, Brainwave…



…and the Monocle, stumbles in after Brainwave is pushed into him. Then the still incredulous Ultra-Humanite makes like the eight ball to Superman Earth-2’s pool cue. WHAMMO! (that’s gotta sting a little)

With that we bid goodbye to this “team-up” and our five Earth-1 heroes head back to the satellite to check in on Hal and Ralph’s recovery. And we peek at the contents of Limbo to find Ultra-Humanite being chase by the remnants of the Society under threat of bodily harm.



Great issue in both art and story. I like that it is a departure from the “heroes save the day” standard. I really wasn’t expecting the villains to screw themselves up in this one, even given the double-cross. I firmly believed the heroes would find their way out somehow.

The ending has some great shots, that group shot looking amazing, but if I had one gripe it is that it is over too quickly. We look forward to the villain’s comeuppance for two whole issues and the three pages of sock’um is just too brief. And it would have been good to see more teamwork in play with the physical altercation and not just the overall plan to send them into Limbo.

But all gripes aside, this was LOTS of fun with amazing Perez art.

Hope everyone enjoys the movie! I’ve got my tickets in hand and I’ll see you back here on Monday for some more great Justice League related books

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Justice League #196



Justice League
Justice League #196





Don’t call it a “team-up”

"Countdown to Crisis!”
Writer – Gerry Conway
Artists – George Perez and Romeo Tanghal
Letters – Ben Oda
Colorist – Carl Gafford
Editor – Len Wein
November 1981

Another day, another JLA/JSA team-up three-parter that the Crapbox only gives me the last two chapters to. And this time we can barely call the story a team-up. At least, from the superhero’s side it isn’t.

Last issue Gerry Conway started spinning a tale where he unites villains from Earth-1 and Earth-2 into a new Secret Society of Super-Villains lead by the Ultra-Humanite from Earth-2. Interestingly enough, the original Secret Society of Super-Villains was secretly organized by Darkseid, but those bad guys rebelled when they found out the D-Man was involved. Better a super-smart monkey than a god-like space alien, I suppose?



This time around the band has started capturing supers according to some master plan of the Ultra Humanite’s. So far the dual-dimension devils have a nabbed Earth-2’s Hawkman and Black Canary and Wonder Woman of Earth-1. Let’s listen in as they plan.



The great plan this time involves ridding one world of all its superheroes. First, they have to capture certain heroes and sending them to Limbo. Then one Earth’s heroes all vanish…Ultra-Humanite seems to have a secret agenda here…does that make it a double-secret secret? 



That secret is that he knows exactly which Earth’s heroes will vanish, his own. He’s playing his Earth-1 members as patsies to gather their arch-nemesises (nemesii?) so Earth-2’s heroes go Poof! What a big giant weasel he’s turned out to be. And you’d figure that as big a brain as he has that he’d realize crossing your buds always ends in tragedy. 

But enough about the backstory! On to the main event, which in this case is an endless series of villains besting their heroes in ways that incapacitate them so they can bring them back to the Ultra-Humanite. I’m going to admit that I don’t think this is really much of a “Justice League” story since so much of it involves no team work or even communication between heroes.

However, it is a BUNCH of fun. Let’s begin with the Anti-Monitor’s favorite whipping-boy (I know, not yet, but four years away) Psycho Pirate.




For those who don’t know this second stringer from Earth-2, Psycho Pirate has a very power mask that allows him to make anyone who looks at him feel any emotion he wants. It is an incredible power. He’s here getting the drop on Rex Tyler, secretly known as Hourman.

Hourman is a superhero that would never be made today. His powers are super strength and agility that are provided by a pill he made called Miraclo. The catch is that the pill only works for one hour at a time and I believe he can’t use them in succession.



Rex takes the podium and asks for a movie to be played…but instead he gets Psycho Pirate using his powers to whip everyone up into a frenzy of blind terror. With that, Rex sneaks backstage and…



…pops a pill. Yes, this definitely wouldn’t fly today. I’m really not certain how in the age of Nancy Reagan’s “Just say NO! to drugs” it was allowed. But legacy characters can get away with murder…or at least non-prescription drug use.

As the Miraclo-enhanced ‘Roid raging Hourman starts slapping Psycho Pirate around using his cape to shield himself from the villain’s mask powers…



It looks very much like P. Pirate is headed to the brig. At least it seems that way until he pulls out this little UH provided toy.




And with that, Hourman is sleeping like a babe.


On to our next hero, a guy that we just know won’t go down easily: Earth-1’s own Batman. This is going to have to be ONE Tough ENEMeee….




WTF? Who is this loser?



The SIGNALMAN! Uh, Joker guys. The Batman needs to be taken out by the Joker. *sigh*

Okay so Signalman’s powers are light bursts that can pretty much do whatever the heck the writer decides is necessary at the time, so here he is hypnotizing the crowd to attack Batman.




And here is Batman being taken down by a bunch of unskilled, mesmerized over the hill businessmen and ladies instead of…you know…how that really works out in Batman comics. As an added bonus we get to look up Signalman’s nose as we fade out…



…and fade in to one of my favorite characters, Jay Garrick, the silver-age Earth-2 Flash. Jay always has such style, even when the colorist messes up his shirt color.

On the menu today we have Rag Doll, a fourth or fifth rung villain I encountered in the “Secret Six” series. That person was a bit more twisted that this fella, who is a triple jointed contortionist who can fit in any space…



…and that can’t be physically hurt by anything, apparently.



Also, not sure that would knock Jay out for any real length of time given the Flash’s connection to the speed force gave them ultra-fast healing abilities…oh, not yet eh? That doesn’t come until later. Well, darn it.

NEXT!

We have Atom facing off against Plantmaster, or as we all know him: Jason Woodrue – the Floronic Man. Everyone knows him from Moore’s Swamp Thing epic and if you don’t, then you need to get on that right away.




Before he served as the narrator to the tale that changed how we think of the muck monster (no, that’s Man Thing.)…er, “Green” guardian (Better!), Woodrue would spend his time fighting the Atom and trying to figure out if he was human or plant. My thought is wouldn’t it be cool if he decided he was a plant, rooted in a park somewhere and that was the last we heard of him.

Instead we get “biff – bop – pow!” fest like this one, as Atom tries to save people in giant venus fly traps. 



Atom get some good licks in (better than Batman got on his ‘enemy’)…



But in the end it all comes down to the pint-sized powerhouse not taking a dose of Benadryl. 



As Woodrue fishes Atom from the drink lets skip back over to Earth-2. 



This time we find Johnny Thunder, who the last incarnation I saw in comics was made out to be mentally “slow”, heading to a men’s clothing store where he won a free suit. Here Conway has a bit of fun with us.



Adolph Mejou was an actor from the 1930’s who played in dozens of popular movies. This guy sounds more like Frank Nelson, a favorite on Jack Benny and other TV shows.




Especially that EEYesss! bit.




And maybe this Johnny isn’t “challenged” but he does accidentally speak the word that calls his Thunderbolt, the genie only he can control. This guy seeks out his master…



…and finds disaster, being caught by Johnny’s foe Brainwave.



Thus, when Johnny needs the assist, it isn’t there and he is easily captured after a brief chase…



…and a mental projection making him believe his Thunderbolt is being kept in a jar of cleaning fluid.



Also I found out that Brainwave looks a bit like Dr. Silvana’s more handsome brother.

Then off we go to Earth-1, where Ronnie Raymon’s date and…



…Professor’s Stein’s dinner are abruptly interrupted by the pressing appearance of Killer Frost in New York. Firestorm does get a good first lick in…




And “yes”, Ronnie has learned how to defrost himself. However, neither of these things prepares him to deal with a falling ceiling full of heavy ice…



…Leaving Firestorm under wraps and only one superhero left to bag.



That hero being the first version of Superman from Earth-2. And as Clark Kent approaches the Metropolis zoo, he finds a curious message scrawled in the ape enclosure.



Ultra-Humanite uses everything he can against the silver-age man of steel, first his own blows and then the blows of three mind-controlled apes…



…but it’s all for naught as Supes counters every move, right up until the point that UH douses our over-the-hill alien with a fine mist of green Kryptonite.




…rendering the last hero needed for Ultra-Humanite’s insane plot captured. And as the curtain falls on part II, it looks very much like it is curtains for our heroes.



I LOVED this so much, more than I have a right to. It isn’t a Justice League story at all, at this point. In fact, I’ll let you in on a secret: the heroes are mainly reactive throughout the entire story. BUT it is tons of fun to see Perez put these characters through their paces and the action sequences are really great.

Tomorrow we’ll see how these guys survive Limbo and wrap up this three-part plot.