Thursday, November 30, 2017

Justice League of America 1983 Annual

Justice League

Justice League of America 1983 Annual

Say “nighty-night” to the Justice League for a while

Plotter – Paul Levitz
Wordsmith – Len Wein
Penciller – Rick Hoberg
Inker - Dick Giordano
Letters – John Costanza
Colors – Gene D’angelo
Editor – Len Wein
Annual 1983 

If you are looking for a fabulous bedtime story, I’ve got one right here.

It’s the league in action against the villainous Doctor Destiny again, only this time his plot is way more thrilling. This was one of DC’s huge annuals from this era so we’ve got a lot of story to get though.

Let’s get crack’n, shall we?

Our splashpage introduces a chapter title but no story title. No time to worry about that, dear reader. It appears the opening of “If I should DIE before I wake…” begins with these five robot dreadnoughts appearing on the JLA satellite and tearing up the place.

In the League’s corner we find Superman, Red Tornado, Firestorm, Flash and the Elongated Man. The amazing thing is that any of the Dreadnoughts are still standing given this team of greats.

Part of that might have to do with the fact that the silver robots are almost as fast as Flash and near Superman caliber in the strength department. The Leaguers are having a hard time resisting them, with Ralph having the most trouble.

In fact, Ralph feels way out of his (pardon the pun) league here. The fact he isn’t able to do much in this fight works at Ralphs insecurity with his powers and how much help he really brings to the league. I’m not sure why he should be having these feelings though. If these guys give Superman a hard time, they are above pretty much everyone’s level of dangerous robots.

It’s then that Ralph notices one Dreadnought going to smash the space window and kill every leaguer that needs air.

Ralph does his very best to stop or at least delay the automaton…

…but it isn’t enough! The Robot smashes through the window, all the air blows out and possibly two leaguers die including Ralph.

As he floats helpless in the void of airless space…

…Sue Dibney wakes him from his moaning in his sleep. Appears the entire thing was a dream brought on by Ralphs anxieties. Or is it just Ralph’s worries on overdrive that caused this…or someone else?

Well of course it’s someone else: Doctor Destiny, to be exact. The crazy skeletal Doc Dee has recreated his Materioptikon again and is using it against various league members. Appears he is looking for a cure to his appearance, but didn’t find the answer in Ralph’s dreams. He calls Ralph a fool for having insecurities, which is actually pretty normal.

We then learn that Doc Dee runs some kind of sleep clinic, hiding his looks and running studies on test subjects under the guise of research. This is providing him no answers either and he vows to kill all the Justice Leaguers as retribution for his ugly puss.

We move to the following morning at the JLA Headquarters, where Commissioner Gordon has arrived looking for Batman. This occurs during the first two issues of Batman and the Outsiders, so Wonder Woman is forced to disclose that Batman has quit the league and is invading a foreign county.

The League is still interested in Gordon’s problem though and that concern becomes evident when they find out that Doctor Destiny has managed to escape confinement.

The League rushes into action by…

Did you say “splitting up into teams”? Because they totally split up into teams.

And first up we have Hawkman and…Hawkgirl? Did she get demoted or something? I thought Shayera was always Hawkwoman…anyway—the Atom and Firestorm. They are trying to track Doc Dee via a high concentration of delta-wave radiation from orbit, which sounds like a dicey gamble given the size of the Earth and all…

…but you know, comic books…so it totally works in just a bit but first Shayera has to keep Hawkman away from the device because he doesn’t have the best luck with technology…

…why would he be wearing his mask to cook? Or eating food directly from the food processor?

Anyway, they end up at the Atom’s stomping grounds of Ivy University at a campus lab sleep study. Suddenly Doc Destiny sends the sleeping college students’ worst nightmares after the Quadro of superheroes.

Firestorm gets a pair of cute girls harboring STDs, Atom gets knocked around by campus security and the Hawks are tackled by linebackers. After a brief struggle, Firestorm escapes his dates from hell and gets to the root of the problem.

After Ronnie zaps the machines connected to the college students in the sleep study, the monsters vanish as quickly as they appeared. Doctor Dee gloats that he has found a “secret weapon” which will destroy them in their very dreams from his hidden remote monitoring headquarters and we move on to the next team.

And in our third chapter, we find Aquaman, Green Arrow and Black Canary in Greenwich Village tracing some artists who have all gone missing mysteriously.

The trio meet up with Mrs Klein seeking some “clues” but instead all they find the artist had in common was participation in the art show and the fact that the made the three horrible statues you seen in the first panel.

Right about then the statues come to terrifying life, each a little bit of Lovecraftian goodness. Aquaman easily gets rid of his with the help of a few of those ever-present electric eels that are so plentiful in New York Harbor.

However Green Arrow and Black Canary have a bit of a harder go disrupting their playmates, until the realize the key is destroying the statues. Watching from his hideaway, Doc Dee again vows vengeance for how he looks.

On to chapter four, where Wonder Woman and the Flash are racing through the Batman-less Gotham skyline, focusing on finding the missing artists, when they are unexpectedly joined by Green Lantern John Stewart.

With GL’s help, they sniff out the artist in no time, however the trio of sculptors are asleep and strapped to machines. Waking them might mean their deaths.

John isn’t taking that for an answer. His move of destroying the machine frees the artists from sleep but also creates green dream duplicates of JLA enemies Doctor “rapes-a-lot” Light, Amazo and Tornado Tyrant.

While Flash runs rings around Tornado Tyrant before he can give out any blow jobs…

…John Steward shines a light on the Doctor’s sexual predator activities…

…And Wonder Woman wraps up the not-so-Amazo. The trio then go to grab Doc Dee…

…only to have him vanish before they can reach him, seeing to fade INTO his Materioptikon.

Which leads us to chapter five’s team rushing into the dream stream, that team being Zatanna, Red Tornado and the Elongated Man.

As soon as they materialize there, three glowing green Doc Dees appear…

…and attack them, but the league quickly dispatches them, even Ralph who has been doubting his powers since page one.

The swift appearance of the trio of Destinies is enough for Zatanna to call in ALL the Leaguers, drawing them all into the Dream Dimension exactly as Doc Dee planned.

So chapter six find the JLA assembled racing around the dreamscape as one, unknowingly playing right into Destiny’s hands.

And soon they find a glowing yellow building that contains not only the demented dream-doctor…

…but also his prisoner, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby’s version of the Sandman. I didn’t know too much about the character, but from this reading he has magic “sleep dust” (which I think Gaiman linked to his character Dream as well) and a whistle to call monsters from the dream realm to aid him and can enter/leave the Dream realm at will.

But apparently not if he’s trapped in this tube.

Dee uses Sandy’s whistle to send a fleet of monsters after the League…

…but even after battling through them, the leaguers are unable to overcome the sleep dust Doctor Dee also lifted from the captive Sandman.

One by one they get knocked out, exactly as Destiny planned, right up until he’s faced by Ralph…

…who before passing out, releases the Sandman from his captivity.

Doctor Destiny doesn’t even miss him, so intent is he on bottling his new acquisitions and forcing them to become as hideously ugly as he himself. 

Meanwhile the Sandman has fully awoken and proceeds to fill in the gaps as to how he came to be imprisoned. He was distracted by the powerful dreams of one individual, dreams that were truly vivid and unique, when Doctor Destiny snuck up on him and knocked him out.

But now that he’s free and on Earth, he can seek out the dreamer, who somehow holds the power to defeat Doc Dee. How can that be, you might ask? We’ll have to follow Sandman doing a little “B and E” to find out.

There lies his “beautiful dreamer” who ends up being none other than…

…Wait for it! Doc Dee has sent some monsters for Sandman to battle with…

…Holy, spit take! It’s Superman!

The duo take the express train into the dream stream and Superman takes out all of Doctor Dee’s best monsters, distracting him…

…so that the JLA can sneak up on the good doctor. You’re nabbed, bad guy! But WAIT, weren’t the JLA no more than a series of test tubes?

So on to the epilogue, where the JLA show via flashback how they escaped to an incredulous Sandman.

And then Firestorm offers him honorary membership in the JLA…

…but Sandman declines, leaving back into the dream dimension to which he must return. He does answer why he was so attracted to Superman’s dream before departing though, and it is a dream all the Leaguers share.

This was epic. So many chapters and the art was great throughout. I’m going to admit that the individual stories weren’t as varied as I hoped nor were the heroes forced to interact much. On the plus side, This was really an "Elongated Man gets to show he is worthy of JLA inclusion" tale and I’m a HUGE Ralph Dibney fan.

Enjoyable and worth the price the Crapbox paid for it.

I’m putting my coverage of the Justice League to bed for now. This will be my last League focused post for a bit. They will still pop in now and again, when the mood strikes, but for the Crapbox, it is time to move on into December.

For most of us December means holidays and presents. For the Crapbox that means looking at some of the best (and worst) toy tie-ins in our annual Kid’s Stuff “run up” to Christmas day and Santa Claus.

(oh, and there might be a few Star Wars related books as well. Heard something about a new movie coming out or something. Hamill actually has a speaking part in it, I think.)

See you tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Justice League #224

Justice League
Justice League #224

From that homage Spider-Man cover it looks like “Justice League, No More!” time

"The Supremacy Factor!”
Writer – Kurt Busiek
Artists – Chuck Patton & Dick Giordano
Letters – Costanza & Klein
Colors – Gene D’angelo
Editor – Len Wein
March 1984

Thought we’d get back to the League beating up on villains instead of each other and found this gem in the middle of a run of multi-issue tales.

One difference between JLA and Avengers books was Marvel’s propensity to sell you not just one or two more books with a multi-issue stories, but to sell a story that incorporated a one page teaser at some point of an upcoming tale. That one page in an ongoing continuity served as a hook to get you to continue to buy a specific book. DC was much less serialized and much more “book” like in their storytelling style. I appreciate the positives of both types of storytelling, but always preferred Marvel’s more continuing storyline heavy style.

What can I say? I like being addicted to a comic series.

This tale was a one-and-done issue written by Kurt Busiek, whom I admire quite a bit for his storytelling aptitude. Here he makes good use of the league while introducing a villain that might be a bit overpowered, but a lot of fun to read.

You see, this villain is like a human version of Amazo.

And therein lies all you need to know. The League has fought Amazo a bunch by this point, so defeating the villain should be a snap. Yet, as it is far too often in these tales, it takes the heroes time to figure out exactly what it is they are fighting.

It might be because the guy interrupts them having lunch.

For the record, Dick Giordano does a marvelous job on Patton’s pencils here. Love the art through-out the book and this opening splash is no exception.

Here we have Oliver Queen (Green Arrow), Clark Kent (Supes, ‘natch) and Hal Jordan (Green Lantern). Hal asks where Diana Lance (Black Canary) is, since she and Ollie are usually show up as a couple.

Ollie checks his watch and says it is no big deal.

Meanwhile, Black Canary finds herself in the middle of something that will turn into a big deal as she starts to thwart an attempted mugging…

…only to have the victim to take a hand in things…

…And thoroughly kick all their butts in a rather… lethal manner. Canary tries to intercede.

And she receive a chilling retort from the mysterious kung fu master. Feeling like she can take this bumb, Canary stands up to him. He quickly turns the tables on her, however.

And since the guy doesn’t have any compunctions about killing, she unleashes her canary cry…and hides her surprise that he appears unaffected (although he does lose a rather nice hat).

The brunch bunch hear her Canary cry and take off in a rush, while Dinah tries desperately to stay alive until they can reach her. 

Lucky for her, one of those friends races speeding bullets. Superman has the perp in his grip…

…But, shock of all SHOCKS! The guy punches Superman into the stratosphere! How?

The Leaguers have rescued Black Canary, but come up empty handed. Except for Clark, who snagged a pocket off his overcoat as he got struck. 

And come on! You have to kind of love that “I’m Back and happy to report that the ozone layer is still there.” line. Busiek can really write great dialogue. He makes Ollie sound concerned and Black Canary sound like the tough woman who loves him. He works well with giving the characters unique voices that differentiate them and tell a good story. It’s easy to see why his Astro City stuff is so popular.

The pocket contains some highly advanced chemical equations that even resident computer Red Tornado can’t decipher. Leave it to Firestorm’s Dr. Stein to come in handy.

Lantern’s search brings up a Joel Cochin being the author of said note. Ollie is ready to jump up and put a boot in his butt over what he did to Canary, but Diana and Dinah both intervene.

Great stuff here in both art and story and note that we aren’t in some pitched battle or even dealing with more than just some mug shots. Yet each picture tells a story about the character that jibs with the narrative. Great storytelling going on here.

So Firestorm, Canary and Arrow approach Dr. Cochin’s secret hidden lab. What do you think will happen?

Whatever you’re thinking, I bet it wasn’t that Cochin would emerge by blasting a hole in his wall using something like Firestorm’s power, announcing he’s going by the handle Paragon, and stating “anything you can do, I can do better!” like a schoolyard taunt.

Now we’ve got a handle on Paragon’s powers: he can mimic the powers of anyone within range. Not only that, he can do so better than the person he is mimicking.

As he takes down Firestorm all I can think of is man this is going to be an impossible villain to defeat. 

And that proves right as he next knocks out Canary (again!)…

And then proceeds to use Firestorm’s powers to stop Green Arrow’s fusillade and Canary’s vocal powers on Ollie…

…and then on a resuscitated Firestorm. By the time he’s done, all three of them are trussed up like Thanksgiving turkeys.

And, he’s now moving along on improving his powers even more thanks to being able to use Firestorm’s powers. 

Would seem like the kid would separate into Ronnie and Doctor Stein and deny him that luxury. However, the worst part is listening to him prattle on about himself.

Paragon is THE MOST self-absorbed supervillain ever. He doesn’t even deny how great he is. Man, he’s asking to be taken down a peg.

Oh, and he’s also about to kill 90% of the world’s population. That’s also not so cool.

Sadly, things are about to get worse as the rest of the league shows up…

…meaning Paragon now has an upper level of power that is unfathomable.

He even beats GL by boosting his own strength beyond Superman’s and willpower so it is greater than Hal’s. This guy might be truly unstoppable. 

He takes out heroes left and right. It is a massacre!

Until the Justice League starts using their heads. First Firestorm gets out of range of his powers…

…then Reddy gives him a blast while Wonder Woman removes Superman from the playing field and out of his range.

And now it’s Reddy and GL who are taking him on, two leaguers without natural abilities. If only Booster Gold and Blue Beetle were here for this.

Lucky for us, there’s one more guy in the mix. Ollie hits him with a gas arrow and that’s all she wrote. Once he loses his concentration, his powers go bye-bye and Paragon gets the smackdown we’ve been waiting to see him receive.

He lands appropriately at Canary’s feet and she strikes the knock-out blow. As Paragon sleeps off his battle wounds we have to ponder Firestorm’s words…

Where indeed?

They must have found a spot because Paragon didn't show back up until Superman 675, after an almost two-decade absence. He had brief recurring appearances in that title but then vanished once again.

I loved this issue and it has quickly become one of my favorite Justice League tales. The art is clean and has a Mark Bright appeal to it, the villain is suitably menacing and formidable, yet his vulnerability understandable. The action is quick and has you on the edge of your seat through most panel progressions. The banter works and I loved how Busiek got the voices of the characters right. Just a great issue.

Chris did a write up of this issue too and even spoke to Kurt Busiek! Check his thoughts out HERE!