Justice League of America Annual #2 (12/84)
Writer - Gerry Conway Editor - Alan Gold
Penciller - Chuck Patton Inker - Dave Hunt
Cover Art – Chuck Patton & Dick Giordano
“... The END of the Justice League!"


Lets deal with that cover first.
I love it!
With the DC Bullet top left, the ANNUAL masthead and the issue indica top right these were perfectly framed books.
This entire cover is a classic one, heroes collected on rooftop but with the old guard in the clouds the sense of batton-passing is so reminicent of the All-New X-Men (Giant-Size X-Men #1) it's bordering on an homage!
What is really nice to see is that the interior artist - Chuck Patton - is given the introductory front cover rather than relying on a perhaps more well-known or popular artist for the 'new-direction'.
This visually interesting cover however completely ruins most of the tension in the storyline, as these things often do, as it shows right from the offset who is going to be in this new team regardless of any red herrings or mis-directions of the plot.
(I cannot let the cover go by without mentioning that the lack of any visible body for Elongated Man irks me!)

The strangest thing of all is perhaps the editorial decision to relaunch the JLA at this point - in the second Annual issue..?
That may not be that difficult to understand once we look a little closer, as this 'relaunch' is embedded deep in recent JLA history and produced very much as a continuation of the current series (indeed this book sits in continuity between #230 and #233. (231-232 being an annoying fill-in)) - no renumbering/new volume here!


The book opens, then with that continuity being addressed in a prologue...
The pre-existing Justice League Satellite has been destroyed and some of the last remaining recent members of the team discuss the chances of rebuilding 'it' (both the Satellite and the League) -- Aquaman announces the title of the book , while we get an instant follow up proclamation indicating the real purpose of this all... "Beginning A NEW Chapter In The 24-Year History of the World's Greatest Heroes!"
(Your mileage may vary.)


We are reminded/informed that it was a recent war between Mars and Earth that, amongst other things, caused the destruction of the Satellite and Aquaman equates that with the end of the League despite positive attitudes from members such as the Green Arrow. (Positive but not on the cover notice.)
Before a planned meeting at the United Nations in a week, Aquaman finds his wife has left him. (She cites his wanting to be with his team rather than his wife in the recent battle as the catalyst for her exit but both accept their strains relates back to the death of their son. (Aquaman. Death of A Prince. - one of the best comicbook stories ever in my opinion.)
This clearly leaves Aquaman available to direct all his attention to any new team, should he feel the need...

That UN Meeting does not trigger a new League however, Aquaman (suprisingly?) disbands the League after reminding everyone that the big-hitter members had been conspicuous by their absence when the team needed them. Most members present don't like the idea but in the shadows J'Onn J'Onnz nods.
Despite Firestorm's anger (I much preferred this original Firestorm meld of Ronnie Raymond and Prof. Stein than any since), Aquaman explains his point of view, "The world needs a committed fighting force -- a team of full-time, active members, living together, training together -- sharing a common purpose, a common duty." - which sounds like he's saying the world needs -- the X-Men.


Aquaman challenges the teammates to commit totally to the team and stalwarts such as Red Tornado, Green Arrow and Black Canary conceed they cannot do so. (I get it with the latter two with their helping the little man on the crime-ridden streets etc, but why not Reddy? His 'family-life' could have worked with the team couldn't it?) Hawkman and Hawkwoman have their allegiance to Thanagar first but even that's a bit thin as an excuse.

Zatanna signs up to this new commitment as does Elongated Man, dragging his wife Sue with him. Firestorm surprises  by announcing he will commit only to be overruled by Prof Stein. (see, he wasn't on that cover either was he?)
As the old guard leave and we are reminded of others having gone before, J'Onn J'Onnz steps forward and joins up. Zatanna nudges Aquaman to lead the team and Ralph announces their foursome as... "We're The NEW Justice League!"


Time to meet new faces on that cover? A military (old)-man called Heywood hears of this new League and calls for his Grandson...
Model Mari McCabe hears the news and quits her job and an abandoned factory has lights turn on...
The four JLA members and Sue Dibney get to know each other and are, apparently attacked by ... the Vixen (Mari McCabe in a new-look costume than her debuts in Action Comics #521 and DC Comics Presents #68)
"I want to join up, what else?"
"Count me in too." "The name's Steel" Steel arrives and offers a new HQ.
Steel is the grandson we were nudged about earlier and at this point I as a reader had no idea who he may be, had no knowledge of his pedigree or where he was getting all his toys from but that cover kind of let me know he was going to be staying around.
(How did Vixen and Steel know where our heroes were staying by the way?)


Steel ships the team out to (under) Lake Michigan and Detroit to show them around a perfectly purposed building he offers as a new HQ for the team, while remaining secretive about it's origins.
The team is attacked by a mystery man in an armoured suit and Steel shows his abilities while defeating him and revealing the man inside as being like a father figure to him called Dale Gunn, (were we supposed to recognise him or the name? I didn't.) This leads Steel to explain his grandfather General Hank Heywood had the place built preparing for trouble. (we also get an idea that grandfather was behind Steel's abilities too as even Mr Gunn remarks, "How did you get so strong?"
"It boils down to one word Dale: Grandpa".


There are still some unknown faces on that cover right? The action moves to downtown Motown and we see street violence and graffiti artist Paco Ramone (Vibe) who has possibly the worst and most annoying 'accent' ever in comics (other perhaps than Gambit?) "Wha'chu think? Fresh, huh? 'Vibe', That's chill." breaks up the mobs with a kind of vibration-power and some breakdancing moves. (I know - the 80s!).
Steel and Vixen, out of costume, see this Vibe and recommend him as a potential recruit to leader Aquaman who refuses to consider the suggestion opening up potential team-control issues between him and Steel.
Vibe however then arrives anyway and Aquaman reconsiders.
I did like the "Wonderful. Our first day and already our 'secret' headquarters is no secret" comment"

(Anyone notice Aquaman thanking Gunn for his new wet-suit-like, well... wet-suit? I take it this is kind of like Namor's blue-suit - is the 'every hour he needs water' trope gone?)


While we get to know a little more about Vibe and his family (and accent) we meet another local resident coincidentally also with powers, the last one from the cover - Gypsy who appears to be a thief able to turn invisible.

Hank meets Paco's sister and is smitten while Dale Gunn is propositioned by Zatanna "Do you snore in your sleep...?" (Who knew she would be so forward?) while Vixen does warn she is interested in him too!
Gypsy breaks into the HQ, J'Onn can see her although after she spins a yarn she disappears all together - nit quite a member yet then.
The local residents welcome the team as 'good neighbours' and a s apart breaks out the New Justice League begins...
"None of this is working out as I planned."


So there we have it. A new team for a new Era. As much as this resembles the All-New-X-Men it also evokes memories of the 'Cap's Kooky Quartet' days of the Avengers with a depowered team and leadership quibbles.
New members Vibe and Gypsy are awfully generic at this point, Steel not much more interesting but with more planning for a background while Vixen is so-far-so-Tigra.
Old members Elongated Man seems to be likely to be given comedy-lines while Aquaman plays Captain America/Cyclops.
I know I was always in the minority - but I really liked Zatanna's costume here!
Up to this point I knew very little about J'Onn J'Onnz as he really had not been in the spotlight much but I found him somewhat overpowerful and yet a tad dull.
Did we the readers know what we were in for? Could the title survive without the traditional League members?


Has anyone any comments as we launch into a (hopefully) fairly regular read-along of the entire Detroit-Era JLA..?


Next issue -- "The Beginning..." (which is, of course, Justice League of America #233 if you want to get ahead and look it up.!)

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Even though Amazo is a bit addled, he still should have taken this entire team. Plus in his last appearance in Superman Special #3 (?), he did exhibit Zatanna's powers and he already has J'onn's and Ralph's. Also, he should be able to absorb the others' powers, too, not that he would need to!

Justice League of America #243 (10/85)
Writer - Gerry Conway George Tuska - Penciller
Editor - Alan Gold Inker - Mike Machlan
Cover Art – Chuck Patton & Mike Machlan
  “Storm Clouds"


Strangely still absent from the interior pencils, Chuck Patton is still providing the covers and this one, while being a familiar trope, is fine enough, although having the blurb read, "The League is back up to Full Strength!" while not featuring Elongated Man is frustrating. Not 'full strength' at all!


Inside and we open at last without an unnecessary prologue prior to a splash page - is this Tuska flexing his muscles? - although the story title and credits get delayed past a pretty basic opening splash.


Aquaman and his recently reconciled wife Mera (notably not wearing her mermaid outfit from the cover) arrive at the Detroit JLA's HQ to find the team missing. Arthur feels guilty (having spent a while looking for his wife) that something had happened to his team and soon locates the issue in Canada.


There we meet our heroes, tied up and buried underground, where we left them last issue.
Vixen channels through her Tantu Totem the eyesight of a fox to take in the predicament then the strength of a bull to break her bonds, "All right, girl... now for the hard part."
The other League member, J'Onn J'Onnz is in the arctic with Dale Gunn and our favourite Martian utilised Superman's secret key to gain access to the Fortress of Solitude, (That key was always a goofy DC idea wasn't it) in search of the reason behind Amazo's return.


We then catch up with Amazo who is causing havoc while getting vused to his 'slick jake' personality.
Vixen breaks out of the underground cave with a (very Storm-like) "Thank God! I can breathe!" and she uses the Elongated man as rope to free her teammates - see he was there, why didn't he get a cover appearance?
She then watches as a JLA quinjet/ship arrives and she things Gunn and J'Onnz are back but no! -- it's Aquaman and wife.
"I've no excuse for what I did, leaving the League." says Arthur but Mera thanks Mari for nudging Arthur to go off and find her, Mari wonders, "Well, how do you like that? Old Arthur's got a heart after all."
I think this was supposed to settle Aquaman down from his 'angry-jilted-leader' position that he's been held in since this new League began - it remains to be seen how that may affect the team balance.


In Superman's Fortress J'Onn tells Gunn that as a founder member of the JLA the fortress will allow him in and they quickly discover that a massive meteor had crashed into the base and while most of it was destroyed by the defences some did get through and that broke Amazo's prison allowing him to get free. This was not of Amazo's making and not a plan of anyone else - just a freak accident and thus Amazo fled in shock and confusion rather than on a killing spree. (Ahh, we're supposed to feel sorry for the murderous android are we?)
"I get it, find out who's in Amazo's head -- get rid of him -- and Amazo reverts back to his android programming. And as an android all he wants to do is shut down."

There's the plan


Steel has been the most injured and Mari and Mera discuss his cybernetic enhancements that his grandfather was responsible for giving him regardless of the fact that he wasn't ill or needed then. It's a character point we keep hearing so I'm sue it'll form a plot point soon.


The team catches up with Amazo and Aquaman goes off to fight with Mera worried, ""We've only just found each other again. I couldn't bear to lose you once more." - It's overkill frankly.


J'Onn and Gunn learn about Jake MacGregor while Steel shakes off his injuries to help Vixen and Aquaman fight Amazo.
In to that battle leaps... Jake MacGregor who cause Amazo to have a bit of a breakdown and Aquaman uses the opportunity to knock him out.
Jake was (of course!) J'Onn in a shape-shifted shape and the ruse worked. Our heroes are winners.
Instead of celebrating the success though, Arthur wants to apologise, "I failed the League J'Onn..." "Under the circumstances, when we return to Detroit..., I think there's nothing else I can do but resign from the Justice League."
Sound like a cop-out to me.

That's it then the battle's all over and it rattled along fairly well, even if Elongated man was only used as a rope and yet again Zatanna had nothing to do or say.


We close with an epilogue featuring the earlier mentioned grandfather of Steel, who is not too impressed with the line-up of the new League and regrets allowing Steel to join. He believes it is time that he took out of retirement his old costume (that is - Steel's costume) and announces the arrival of "... Commander Steel!"
This links straight into the next issue info but sends us off for a crossover title (that I have to cover) - so..."To be continued ... ... In the pages of Infinity Inc #19" "Then bounce back here next issue for the dramatic conclusion to the Last Annual crossover between the Justice Society of Earth-2, in a tale we had to call: The Final Crisis!"
So - we'll pick up in Infinity Inc #19...


Come Back...

"I failed the League, J'Onn!" 

Sounds more like Aquaman wanted to reconnect with his lovely wife and left J'Onn to babysit the kiddies!

It occurs to me that Amazo was the villain among my first "run" of JLA (#110-112), and he was featured early on in my second (and lengthier) run as well.

Those issues are burned into my memory! Loved those JLA 100 Pagers!

Among the strange things about Amazo's revival was that, though they were on a tight time schedule to retrieve the lost powers of their comrades, Black Canary decided to give Amazo a new outfit! She treated him like an oversized Ken doll! 

And she crafted a new costume for Red Tornado in #110! 

Jeff of Earth-J said:

It occurs to me that Amazo was the villain among my first "run" of JLA (#110-112), and he was featured early on in my second (and lengthier) run as well.

Philip Portelli said:

Among the strange things about Amazo's revival was that, though they were on a tight time schedule to retrieve the lost powers of their comrades, Black Canary decided to give Amazo a new outfit! She treated him like an oversized Ken doll! 

And she crafted a new costume for Red Tornado in #110! 

Ah well, that's because she's a girl, and girls like nothing better than a bit of needlework!

Though bossing the menfolk around while rearranging the furniture comes a close second...

(Or at least, that's the way women are sadly often depicted.)

Infinity Inc #19 (10/85)
Writer - Roy Thomas - Editor Todd McFarlane - Penciller
Inker - Steve Montana Gerry Conway & Alan Gold - Consultants
Cover Art – T McFarlane & Tony DeZungia
So, as promised, we're covering the crossover issues that the Detroit JLA really got involved in - that qualified for the Omnibus - so we're picking up in 'Infinity Inc #19'.
Firstly - I've always loved the '50 Special CRISIS Cross-over' trade dress and above the very classy Infinity Inc logo it works really well. What would have been perfect would have been a small JLA logo instead of the just lettered 'Vs The New Justice League!" as even with the "-Beginning the LAST JLA- JUSTICE SOCIETY Team-Up!" this cover doesn't feel as classic as it could.
The illustration itself is a familiar one of heroes as puppets and I'm sorry but I know this is early Todd McFarlane but this is pretty poor basic stuff.
"Last CRISIS On Earth-Two!"


So, what do we know about Infinity Inc going into this crossover without having collected their series religiously?
Well, I knew they were kind of Legacy heroes/Next Generation of the WWII era Justice Society which takes place on DC Earth-Two and was getting a retread in that WWII time-frame in the All-Star Squadron series.
Brainchild of the cut-me-and-I-bleed-continuity Roy Thomas.

So,(I think) we're in 'present day/JLA Detroit's timeline but POSSIBLY on Earth-Two..?
Anyway, to those that knew the entire story at this point - my apologies- but for those that have never been here...lets readalong...


We open with various members of the public (in a hospital?) remarking about how amazing it is to see certain people arrive... "It's them! "

"Then -- they really exist!?".

Over the page and they're in-your-face! A real two-page close-up spread of 5 heroes demanding attention be given to the 6th who is injured!.
(We are immediately aware also that this must have been one of those 'experimental' Baxter edition speciality series as the art is clear and crisp and there is no framing to the pages. McFarlane's work already excels past his cover!)
Of the 6 heroes we quickly learn that the injured woman is called Jade - "she's GREEN!", that her brother Obsidian has vanished before this issue opened, that the guy who looks like the Star-Spangled Kid is in "a take-charge mode" oh and IS the Star Spangled Kid (same one...?Next Gen..?) while the guy in red (with a mokawk) feels responsible due to his actions in battle with a bad guy.
Either they are different sizes or McFarlane is making strange mistakes - but the nest page shows very different heights so he was trying to convey that in the spread.


Star-Spangled Kid gets put in his place for assuming a female Doctor is a nurse (so is he actually the original out-of-date but still young somehow hero?)
We learn Jade was injured by a 'cyanide-touch' and the blond armoured guy ( called Scarab?) is so annoyed, "--I'm gonna KILL him!" that we have got to believe he fancies this Jade either openly or has a deep secret crush that's obvious now.


(The Doctor is Doctor Chapel -- is Roy Thomas a Star Trek fan as well..?)


We also learn we're in 'adult-comic' collectors only mode here as this Scarab actually swears/curses

"--When I think about what that bastard did to Jade--"
(Ooh-edgy!)


Blind physician Dr.McNider arrives to save the day. Yes. Yes blind. yes, that is.... ok. moving on...


(Neat black and white figure of Dr Midnight holding McNider's introductory panel that serves to explain they are one and the same in short order- I like that. Kind of reminiscent of Ditko and the half-Peter Parker-half-Spider-Man face saying so much).


As everyone settles down a bit we learn via flashback that a strange woman, "blond...dressed all in blue and gold" appeared and disappeared with Obsidian.
- We know this is Harbringer and we know this links to the 'CRISIS' .


We learn the other female hero is called Fury and Scarab calls her 'honey" - so is his interest in Jade just as a colleague..?


The CRISIS link is highlighted by (for our eyes only) ominous black and white figure of the Monitor and the discovery of the sky having turned red, which man-with-wings flies off to investigate - apparently called Norda (is that hero name or real name?)
We learn that the star Spangled Kid is indeed the original , "but I got caught in this time warp, and..." - there is so much backstory crammed in here Thomas must have been acutely aware that many people (like us) were joining this series only via this crossover and needed catching up.

Thankfully.


The guy with that haircut unlocks a door from the other side with ease "-- or did you forget about my density-changing powers?" - so he's like Marvel's android-Vision (I thought he was a size-changer due to his height).


The two sky-watchers return and shout at haircut guy who appears to be called Nuke as two figures shimmer into life behind him - a gold robot-like female called Mechanique (also introduced on the cover) and a man looking like a certain Commander Steel who had been a hero back in WWII when he mysteriously disappeared!!
At last! We the JLA readers have a reason to be here -- this guy looks just like our JLAer Steel and we know he took his look from his grandfather...


This Commander Steel identifies the Norda chap as "Hawkman's boy" and Fury as "Wonder Woman's daughter" for us which is handy.


Commander Steel then begins to explain that he'd been away... for a long time and on...Earth-1....
It appears (as of All-Star Squadron #50) he was switched from Earth-2 to hero-less wartime Earth-1 where he retired and made a fortune in private business as Hank Heywood.
Now this begins to fit with what we JLA readers have learned regarding Steel's grandfather - Hank Heywood who has bankrolled their HQ etc.


Commander Steel goes on to explain that at that time he needed help to "save Earth-One's Justice League" and that Mechanique had helped him thanks to her 'dimension spanning powers'.
(I have read All-Star Squadron #50 and I thought Mechanique had a 'relationship' with Robotman - did I imagine that?)


We then learn the crux of this crossover - Commander Steel perceives the Detroit JLA as a threat!

" A bunch of super-powered young criminals who've taken over from the original crew and now call themselves the 'New' Justice League" he believes Infinity Inc can fight fire with fire and wants Mechanique to take them all back to Earth-1 to defeat this evil new League.
Now we haven't had this put to us very clearly in the JLA, so this comes as a bit of a shock but at least we are getting some forward momentum on the Steel/Commander Steel plotline.


Jade arrives, having been cured of the Cyanide Touch and not wanting to wait around in a hospital bed she votes to help Commander Steel who pushes for immediate action - afraid his world could be taken over while they hesitate, "things were hanging by a thread back there," - that's worryingly exaggerated isn't it?


So five Infinity Inc members, Commander Steel and Mechanique quit Earth-2 leaving the Star Spangled Kid behind.
Elsewhere (in Gotham Earth-2) the Justice Society of America meets and their versions of) Wonder Woman, Hawkman, Flash and Dr Fate discuss the Crisis, "--and it's a tale of Death Without End!"
The other heroes arrive on Earth-1, "why Detroit? I mean-- mom always told me the JLA had a satellite HQ up in orbit."
"Didn't Steel say this bunch was perverse?"

(really!)


Commander Steel gets annoyed with Mechanique as they have not arrived inside the Detroit bunker but wasn't precise enough. Fury breaks them in. Commander Steel only has one condition for the planned fight , "One of the renegades is my nephew., even calls himself Steel... copies my garb and..."
"and?"
"And he's mine!"


Inside the bunker, we at last meet 'our league' watching Vibe practice as the alarms sound (and Elongated Man's nose twitches!)
Jade meets J'Onn J'Onnz - "My god-- a green man!"
"You should talk, young lady!"


Confusion reigns until " We're retribution boy -- retribution for the bloody revolution you and your kind are planning!
"G-Grandfather? That's you, isn't it?"
They fight.
It's a good old fashioned team vs team with each member gradually learning about each other (the Scarab guy is referred to as Hawkman's son - I must have misunderstood earlier..?)
The JLA lose out to the Infinity Inc (well, we are in their title at this point) but the Martian Manhunter literally blows his team out of the way (no honestly!) and everyone wants to find Commander Steel and Steel who Mechanique has teleported away. It's a cliff-hanger crossing over into JLA #244!


Ok, so it's one of those 'if-only-we-spoke-to-each-other-instead-of-fighting' set-ups but we love them don't we?
The art and design of the issue is strangely complicated, from that in-your-face opening to short small confused panels during the fight and setting up the cliff-hanger - the pacing is all over the place and although clean and dynamic this bears little comparison with Jim McFarlane's later work, I'm seeing a strong Jerry Ordway influence. (?).


Not a bad cross-over issue despite all the heroes involved, many not very well known and I must give Roy Thomas credit for the way he writes the JLA here, every member is featured and gets something to do and say! (Thankfully we do not see either Sue Dibney or Dale Gunn!) -which shows Gerry Conway it can be done!.


Not sure if it's had the same effect on anyone else but I now really want to read the Infinity Inc series (which is disappointingly short on collected editions!).


Next Issue - "The Justice Society joins the fight -- in the pages of JLA #244 -"


Come Back...

I understand that your collected editions do not include the letters pages. 

That is perhaps a misfortune, for they are often very revealing.  To this day I remember that #245's included a letter praising the presence of Dale and Sue, the "only two non-powered members of the otherwise Super League". 

That letter was printed without any effort from the creative team at correcting that statement, IIRC. Meanwhile, the same pages went through the trouble of stating that Superman, Firestorm and others would be seem only as sporadic guest stars.  That, to me, provided significant indications of the perception that those creators had of the JLA at the time, as well as of how solidified they were or failed to be.

We are approaching the second half of this team's existence.  It will involve a lot of sudden changes, and perhaps a couple of gradual, even unstated ones.

Thankyou for commenting Luis,

 I don't have anything against civilians like Dale and Sue - I just don't like them artificially classed as full members of the super-group.

Later (around the JLI/JLE IIRC) Sue takes a leadership role which I wasn't happy with whereas I felt a little better in Alpha Flight when Guardian's civilian wife became their leader - as she adopted a super-hero identity to fulfil that role.

Luis Olavo de Moura Dantas said:

I understand that your collected editions do not include the letters pages. 

That is perhaps a misfortune, for they are often very revealing.  To this day I remember that #245's included a letter praising the presence of Dale and Sue, the "only two non-powered members of the otherwise Super League". 

"Not sure if it's had the same effect on anyone else but I now really want to read the Infinity Inc series (which is disappointingly short on collected editions!)."

Don't even get me started! A couple of years ago, DC planned to release the "Generations Saga" (plus the lead-in All-Star Squadron issues) in a set of two hardcovedr editions, although the material would have fit quite nicely into one. Presumably the first didn't sell to expectations because the second was never solicited. Arrgh! I have a similar complaint about DC breaking George Perez's JLA work into two volumes, although both of those [slim] volumes were published.

The only good thing about Infinity Inc not being popular enough to sustain reprints is that the original comics are easily available and won't break the bank. As I mentioned previously, I finally went ahead and bought the first 25 issues of their title, plus the first annual and their earlier All-Star Squadron appearances. I had wanted to read the series since I "met" Fury in Sandman and Jade in Green Lantern. I've read almost of the ones I bought and will soon buy another chunk of their title. McFarlane is easier to take with a good inker. Early on, he had a tendency to plop a fan service posed cheesecake picture in the middle of a story, which I thought was an odd choice.  

Infinity Inc. put Roy Thomas' love for the JSA and for continuity to very good use.  It also had a lot of surprising twists and turns.

Come to think of it, it reminds me of how much I loved his Avengers back in the late 1960 and early 1970s.

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