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
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.
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.