Superhero vs Superhero
Justice League of America #244
Steel vs. Steel?
Part 6 of “Stop Hitting Yourself!”
“The Final Crisis”
Writer – Gerry Conway
Penciler – Joe Staton
Inkers – Mike Machlan
Letters – Albert De Guzman
Colorist – Gene D’Angelo
Editor – Alan Gold
Editorial Consultant – Roy Thomas
When is a hero fighting himself not a hero fighting himself?
Justice League of America number 244 seeks to answer that. Heck, JLA #244 seeks to be all things to all people.
First off, it seeks to be a Justice League story, however one featuring a recent lineup of green newbies and second-stringers. It tries hard to capture the JLA magic but never quite succeeds. Most people would like to forget this “Detroit Era.” Here we are at the eleventh issue of their run and they are still just a group of random personalities, not a true “team.” Even with a great like Gerry Conway behind the wheel and villains like Amazo and Despero to fight, these are considered some of the weakest stories in JLA history.
Secondly, the book is the annual meetup with the Earth-Two Justice Society of America (JSA), an event that typically generated fun and inventive story arcs as the two teams got to compare notes and mingle their villain-bashing. Instead this one is a muddle, mainly because…
…the book is actually a crossover with Infinity, Inc. number 19. Infinity, Inc was a prestige format book that starred the grown children of the members of the JSA from Earth-Two. They began as a sort of Teen Titans analogy with their adventures occurring after four of them were denied entry into the JSA. This is the first cross-over between the two groups and as usual there was lots of punching each other upon first meetup.
I’m unsure why the All-Star Squadron book wasn’t chosen for the crossover, but Roy Thomas was writer of that one and “Editorial Consultant” over this one, so go figure.
Fourthly, the book as meant to be a Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover book, something to serve as a last-time-you'll-see-it kind of thing for the Justice Society, since Crisis would erase all these other Earths out there and send the JSA off to fight some battle against Ragnarok we’d never see, their place in continuity being taken over by another team, the Young All-Stars. That makes this book sort of a send off as well as a “red skies” event.
And don’t be fooled, the Crisis happens in this book to everyone but our lead heroes. If there is anything more upsetting than watching heroes ignore people in peril to deal with their own internal issues, I don’t know what is.
It’s also a wrap-up to the backstory of who has been pulling the strings to setup this new Justice League, a guy from Earth-Two by the name of Hank Haywood. Haywood was the original hero called Steel (NOT the black guy) in the Justice Society, a guy who after an explosion destroyed his body, underwent a super-science procedure that replaced his bones and skin with metal and servo-motors. It is later revealed that the metal in his skull made him go a bit psycho-crazy.
And by that, I mean that he decided that the JLA he financed just didn’t fit his narrow ideals and had to be replaced. Thus, he enlisted Infinity, Inc from his world, sold them on some crazy story, and, with the help of his female C-3PO stand-in Mekanique, had them attack Justice League Detroit. In the process, the JLA was driven from their own headquarters (for like the second time in this run) and forced to look for new digs.
In the process, Haywood captured his grandson, Hank Haywood III, who is the CURRENT hero called Steel (also not the guy you are thinking of) serving in the JLA. Haywood the grandfather, from here on out noted as GrandpaSteel, decided he needed to straighten his grandson out. It also comes to light that he performed unnecessary operations on his grandson to grant him the same steel skin and plate in his head that GrandpaSteel has without his grandson’s permission. Now later that would be retconned out and Steel would have some undisclosed physical condition that made this necessary, but for the purposes of THIS story, GrandpaSteel is a raging crazy psychopath who cut his grandson to pieces just to live out some fantasy of his.
But for now we should deal with just this issue and after such a long intro, why don't we just hop right in, shall we?
We begin with the Justice League trying to gain physical access and reactivate their abandoned satellite from a space shuttle that I’m pretty sure they stole from the American government. We see floating heads of both Infinity Inc and the JSA as is traditional in these crossover stories, however it is noteworthy that usually there are a handful of JLA personages mixed in. Here there are none, making it seem like the guest stars are getting top billing in the JLA’s own book. Perhaps that’s for the best given this JLA’s roster.
Joe Staton is on pencils for this one and while I love his E-Man stuff, I’m not quite as thrilled with his JLA. Something about the lantern jawline that he gives everyone seems a bit…off, or something.
I’ll try to overlook it and continue on. Our Leaguers scale the Elongated Man’s body to the shattered remains of the prior League’s former HQ. It’s all a mess, but so are these folks. Last issue Infinity, Inc, a group of wet-behind the ears heroes, cleaned their clocks. Not that this is any surprise given that out of the current roster there aren’t many standout talents. Martian Manhunter, maybe. Zatanna can be effective. Elongated Man works better when teamed with his wife while solving mysteries.
But the rest don’t belong here. I mean, you could sub Snapper Carr in for any one of them and it would make no difference storywise.
Which is kind of the point of taking back over the station, as J'onn plans on using it to call in some big name help from a very unusual source. But first he has to lecture Vibe on the importance of picking the right fights in order to win instead of trying to take all comers.
Which is followed by the Elongated Man schooling our streetwise Hispanic friend. It is interesting that when I look up Paco Ramone in the various wiki, none of them know what type of latino he is. It should make a difference if he is Spanish, Puerto Rican, South American or Mexican. So…half point for diversity? I mean, there is a difference between these types and all.
It’s funny to me to watch Ralph tell Vibe about the multiverse when his TV character “Cisco” Ramon on WB’s hit show The Flash is pretty much one of the most knowledgeable about the theories and applications of inter-dimensional travel. So, I get tickled by these panels in a way that others might not.
And Vibe comes off like a jerk in this book so much for his lip and tough macho attitude that you end up hoping he gets tossed out an airlock sans oxygen helmet.
And speaking of those, Staton really goes all 1960-70’s Adam Strange on the look of the JLA’s bubble-domed headgear. It seems freakishly out of date for a book popping in mid 80’s.
As for Infinity Inc, how are they doing at JL-lame’s headquarters in good old Detroit? They are slowly beginning to mistrust GrampaSteel’s story that the JLA were planning on taking over the world. At least that’s the way Northwind sees things. Fury? She sees things differently…
At least she does until, hearing a low moan, she wanders down the medical corridor…
…And comes upon GrandpaSteel and his robotic assistant Mekanique apparently torturing Steel from the JLA. She steps in to make them stop but gets zzzzak-fried for her compassion.
Followed by a nice punch to the head to really lay her out by GrandpaSteel. He has changed his mind about needing the Infinitors, having gotten a hold of his grandson.
Meanwhile, the JLA can’t seem to get the teleporter to Earth-2 to work. They mention this in an exchange to Dale Gunn, who I suppose is the Snapper Carr of this era, and also bring up that they “borrowed” the space shuttle they are using. I wonder if that really means borrowed or if that means the JLA stole it?
J’onn also tells Gunn that the problem with the transporter is that they don’t have enough power. Without warning, Zatanna starts her backward magic crap and causes a huge sunbeam to target the JLA satellite’s power batteries.
Which nearly fries her teammates where they stand. Vibe handles this the worst, since the light flash-blubs his vision and he can’t see.
Zatanna tries to make it better, explaining her powers as “magic,” which I gotta say if your teammates don’t even know what everybody’s powers are eleven issues in, you're doing superheroing wrong. Then in a flash (no, he’s not in this) they are off to Earth-2.
Also meanwhile, a page about the Crisis on Infinite Earth and red skies and lightning and people dying. But who cares?
Not Infinity, Inc’s Northwind and Silver Scarab. They’ve got other problems to deal with, beginning with someone zzzzaaking their teammates. Don’t tell me! Let me guess!
GrandpaSteel and his sexy metal companion, who knock out all of Infinity, Inc team members while he prattles on about how he had to walk five miles to school in blistering snow uphill both ways and kids today got it too easy or some screwed up crazy justification for dicking on good guys all the time.
But while he may have Infinity, Inc under his grip, trouble is fast a’coming.
So while the JLA and the JSA beam their way into their Detroit warehouse headquarters, we realize that GrandpaSteel isn’t just recently gone off his rocker. Oh, no. He caused his own grandson’s flesh and bones to be replaced with the same cybernetic parts that he has, meaning he’s been off his rocker for a long, LONG time.
Not only that, but he’s been manipulating this new version of the Justice League since their inception, all so he could force his grandson to make tough sacrifices and be the kind of man that would make him proud. But the Justice League wasn’t “justicey” enough for GrandpaSteel, so he had to destroy them…and boy, this guy is loony!
Which is the cue for the Justice Society to show up…
…but Mekanique appears to hold them off while GrandpaSteel gets away. If they destroy her, I guess he’ll have to make himself another sex toy. That doesn't seem to bother him while making his escape after first picking up his grandson.
While the battle rages above, GrandpaSteel learns that Steel has been liberated by his teammates in the JLA (who also cloth him in his costume too).
Oh, and the world outside is going to Hell and it don’t even need a handbasket. Should the JLA step out and help? NAAWWW!
Especially not when what we have here is the fight we’ve been waiting since opening the cover to see. GrandpaSteel starts to have second thoughts about how much his grandson doesn’t measure up, too.
And in one hit, GrandpaSteel goes down. (also the JSA start getting the upper hand on Female C-3PO too)
While Doc Fate zaps Mekanique back to the scrapyard, the JLA just stands around while Steel beats up his grandfather. Think I’m kidding, right?
Well, I’m not. And then they decide to leave him to it while they finally investigate what is going on outside.
The JSA see to the conked out Infinitors and Fury rejoins them as the JLA, sans Steel, go see what the commotion is outside. Vibe is so “street”.
As our amalgamation of heroes rush to finally act like heroes…
…Steel keeps on punching Grandpa while crying about it like a big wussy.
The Detroit era really epitomized weak storytelling and I’ve a few in this run that shows this wasn’t the bottom of its barrel of terrible. But it definitely came close.