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.!)
Justice League of America #250 (05/86)
Writer - Gerry Conway Penciller - Luke McDonnell
Editor - Andy Helfer Inker - Bill Wray
Cover Art – Luke McDonnell & Bill Wray
“The Return of the Justice League of America"
As I've said before, I've always liked the DC Anniversary banner and while this is fine, it's not quite as prestigious as most - it looks more glow in the dark than gold/bronze gilded. (Actually - with the subject matter glow-in-the-dark would have been a good idea (was it?))
Black background covers are always interesting and this one showcasing the returning old JLA members is great and at first I almost didn't realise that the threatening, grasping arms around them actually belong to the wizzened new JLA heroes. "Featuring the Thriumphant Return of the World's Greatest Heroes!" is blazened on the cover but - is this a temporary return for the Anniversary issue or something more perminant...? (Shame none of the female members are featured.)
This being a larger-than-usual issue, the prologues we've gotten used to are longer also. We open with a reminder that we closed last issue with the JLA Alarm being sounded and we first see Batman breaking up a Terrorist bomb-plot. We then see Superman tackling a Canadian forest fire, Green Lantern enjoying a space flight and Green Arrow and Black Canary being woken in the night, all responding to receiving that old JLA Alarm. (Immediately I'm wondering why Canary wasn't on the cover!?)
We also get a swift panel of other members who cannot respond - Hawkman and Hawkgirl (not sure why) Atom (in his Sword-of-the... days) and Aquaman (off in his own mini-series with that blue camoflagu costume - so that's where he's been).
No update on Firestorm, Red Tornado, Phantom Stranger, let alone Flash or Wonder Woman or even...Snapper Carr!
The fourth (yes! 4!_ prologue brings us back to the JLA Cave HQ and a strange bronze skinned adonis-type (dripping wet?) looms over the wizzened defeated JLA Detroit (is it still right to call them that?) members.
The story itself begins with a two-page spread (painfully free of much detail - again as if one page/panel stretched out but it's a scene-setter I guess) where we meet a 12 year old girl in her suburban hell/heaven. She greets everyone in the neighbourhood and enters her room where she calls a friend and cuts the call short as a poster on her wall strangely changes to Vixen and appears to move. She then gets pulled into the poster by ancient hands in Vixen's costume..!
This is a dream/nightmare and 12 year old Cindy is Gypsy our hero!
Does that mean that is a true accurate background for Gypsy who has played the sassy-street-urchin up until now. It does appear so as she does whimper to herself, "I'm sorry I ran away... I want to come home..." A mystery for later..?
Gypsy fights her nightmare and versions of her friends until she gets shaken out of it by the ex-JLAers we saw get the alarm. Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Green arrow and Black Canary.
Having now seen and been reminded of Black Canary's temporary 1980s look I'm now quite happy they left her off the cover!
We are reminded the other members are having their life-force drained from them and Gypsy recounts how we got to this point for the newly arrived heroes and for anyone who missed the last few issues. Interesting point now is that Gypsy is no longer sick...
Learning of the creature (Junior) loose in the Secret Sanctuary' the heroes split up to search. (Surely that's a rookie mistake? )
"It's always been hard to argue with The Batman..."
We cut to an 'Interlude' and catch up with the only absent Detroit member, Zatanna as she continues searching for her missing friend - this time at a boat Marina.
Zatanna finds it surprisingly easy to fidn her quarry and is directed to a party on a yacht apparently ran by a man called Adam..."Adam always says 'Whatever brings you in matters less than why you stay'"
When face to face with her friend Zatanna finds herself knocked out and everyone at the party gathers round while 'Adam' announces Zatanna is needed to make their dream of a new world a reality..!
This Adam looks exactly like the Adonis type guy at the cave - if that's a coincidence it's annoying!
Back to the (JLA)Cave via a cut-away scene (always like them) and Green lantern falls to the aging sickness leaving Green Arrow confronted by the wet bronze chap.
Ollie fires an arrow at him which strikes home making him shriek with... "--Laughter?"
Black Canary tries to calm Gypsy down who feels guilty for not listening to everyone when they warned her about the microbe-monster Junior.
Dinah says, "Nobody blames you--" which I for one do not agree with(!) and they begin to wonder if Gypsy's powers are the key to this mystery...
Superman and Batman fit together the origin of Junior- from the spore Superman brought back from a previous adventure -remember? - then wet-Adonis-Junior attacks and runs off.
Everyone works out that Junior is 'A telepathic Vampire' and Batman therefore has a plan.
As for why Junior now looks human..? "You know the saying...'You Are What You Eat'?"
Later, the fightback begins. Canary screams her cry and Junior pursues her, Arrow shoots him again and Junior pursues him - not seeing the Gypsy-camoflaged Canary and Gypsy.
Junior looks for Green Arrow and finds Batman, "Remember me?" - he leaps after Bats who dodges and he falls into an elevator shaft where open wires have been set to shock him with massive amounts of energy. This causes Junior to release all his stored energy which Superman, acting as a conduit, directs back into the afflicted heroes, "It'll rejuvenate the dying Justice Leaguers." - and indeed... it does.
Did I miss the explanation of how Gypsy's powers helped her recover at the beginning of the issue..?
There is the customary celebration afterwards during which Elongated Man wonders... "Think there's a chance...?" referring to a return to glory days for the JLA.
J'Onn J'Onnz then addresses Batman, lamenting how Batman felt he had to leave the old League (And form the Outsiders) and adding, "You should lead the League, Not I."
Vibe laughs this off and gets that Batman stare.
Batman refuses, "Sorry, I'm a loner I've no desire to repeat my experience with the Outsiders." but Gypsy reminds him he's an orphan and "So are we, sorta." causing an instant change of Bat-mind,
"We'll give it a year."
"You'll do it?"
"That's what I said. Let's rebuild the League."
The celebrations are worthy of the Anniversary issue but Batman ends the scene with a typical hidden motive..."Gypsy thinks she convinced me......but I have my own reasons for rejoining the League. And when I reveal those reasons, she'll be very surprised..."
So, a kind of celebration of both this new(ish) League and it's place in the history of the JLA in it's entirety moving forward into a new era under the leadership of Batman!
I actually never knew he played such a role with this group. Indeed when he was heavilly featured on the cover of the Omnibus I'm reading from I thought it was a bit cheeky of DC to add him to sell books as I didn't think he was in the actual issues. Wrong!
I'm therefore really looking forward to this new dynamic and hopefully because of his detective qualities we/Batman will get to the bottom of the long-running sub-plots that have been meandering since this concept began.
It's a soft reboot (again) of the JLADetroit concept which smacks of almost desperation by Conway/DC but it might work to lift the book which it still needs.
Artwise this has been a fine issue again and it si still so nice and rare to have the art-team continuing for such a long period of time...and I must give them credit for how they are depicting Batman- always in the shadows, always set apart, they're really thinking about composition. I love it.
Of course the issue ends with an Epilogue - we return to the planet Kalanor, where we've been following that pink-guy with the wired headress recently - (come on - play the game, don't all shout out his name until the reveal...!)\
That pink chap has it seems, walked into 'the cleansing transforming Flame of Py'Tor' and emerged - declaring his desire to destroy the JLA..."Despero, The Reborn! Despero, The Destroyer!" - It's a full page end-spread that may not have surprised many but the look is a powerful one and so the threat a good one to end on.
All in all an enjoyable Anniversary Issue which does actually change the status quo while referencing history.
Is this an undervalued issue/series?
Next- "To Be Continued...!" (Of course it is!)
Hawman and Hawkwoman, at this point, where still involved in the "Shadow War" plotline that forced them away from working with other JLA members.
This issue being #250 and this series having ended with #261, we are now indeed in the last full year of issues. The "giving it a year" line is therefore quite meta.
"Gypsy thinks she convinced me......but I have my own reasons for rejoining the League. And when I reveal those reasons, she'll be very surprised..."
Foreshadowing with no payoff, unfortunately, as Legends took the team in a different (and more successful) direction.
"Artwise this has been a fine issue again..."
I didn't appreciate Luke McDonnell at the time (especially on Dreadstar!), but I came to appreciate him before his run was through. (It was his Iron Man that one me over.)
"Is this an undervalued issue/series?"
I have always thpought so.
Honestly, changing the direction of the fin on Despero's head WAS shocking, at least to me. He suddenly looked like a very dangerous menace, not a chess-playing goof.