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.!)
Philip Portelli said:
The Homo Magi concept originated in Justice League of America #162-164 (Ja-Ap'79) where Zatanna learns about her true origin and heritage and reunites with her mother Sindella, along side her father Zatara. It's pretty awkward on many levels such as Sindella wearing the same outfit as Zatanna and any Homo Magi falling in love with any normal person they saw which was dropped rather quickly, thank goodness!
That was one of Conway's stories, of course. He developed the idea in DC Comics Presents #18. The two races have mixed, but how much homo magi inheritance ordinary humans have varies, which is why some people are more magically gifted than others. Superman is so vulnerable to magic because he has no homo magi inheritance at all.
Justice League of America #257 (12/86)
Writer - J.M.DeMatteis Penciller - Luke McDonnell
Editor - Andy Helfer Inker - Bob Smith
Cover Art – Luke McDonnell & Bob Smith
Bob Smith returns to cover inking duties but makes little difference - this feels like another time-saving design - only three members present and they have little detail with Zatanna concealing her most headpiece. "Mindgames!" feels very generic.
Inside and the opening splash page looks like it was a thumbnail sketch blown up to fill the page - Pamela looks particularly awful.
Anyway, we are in the 'mindscape' where J'Onn J'Onnz is trying to repair damage done to the psyche of 'Adam' last issue and use him to 'find' Gypsy and Zatanna in all the confusion.
We cut to find Zatanna ourselves, also in this mindscape dragging herself out of a sea of gloop and magic-ing Gypsy out also. Gypsy remains unconscious.
With J'Onn and friends she wakes up having been sent by Zatanna - and they appear to be centred in reality now. (I am having real trouble keeping check of what's going on!) She goes back (?) to save Zatanna.
Zatanna is face to face with Adam who it turns out she fancies big time.
J'Onn shouts "I've Lost Her Again!!" and Zatanna sees Adam for what he really is/what he might be/ - a demon!
That demon disappears and Zatanna thanks her father who seems to be acting as an unseen guide to her.
Gypsy pushes her powers to the limits and beyond as she keeps Adam's illusions at bay to keep things normal around J'Onn while he continues his work.
Zatanna makes her way through a maze-like illusion and finally finds Adam's Ego being eaten by ...
Nope. Sorry. I have no ideas now.
Zatanna fades away in a search for her father(?) and then reappears in the reality with the rest of our cast.
J'Onn is very annoyed at Zatanna and he explains she has allowed Adam's ego to be consumed - effectively killing him. (Wasn't he the bad guy that started all this anyway?)
Zatanna makes the whole thing even more mysterious..."And I saw my father. I saw THE Father. I saw the plan. I Know Now."
Adam wakes seemingly healed and hearty claiming everything happened as it was meant to or somesuch...
Zatanna then fades out with Adam.
"But don't forget me-- because, when you least expect it -- Zatanna...will...be ...back..."
J'Onn sums up my thoughts, "I don't like this."
Later the JLA discuss Zatanna's exit.
Vibe actually throws in a question that harkens to the plight of Ms.Marvel in Avengers#200 (see related thread!) - ""For all we know... Zatanna could be under some kinda Mind-Control!"... but any concerns are pushed asside as last page cliff-hanger looms as battered ex-member Firestorm arrives warning of the threat of " - a lunatic called Brimstone!" - and the title slides into cross-over with mini-series/Event 'Legends'!!
So. What can I say. Again - I have a high opinion of J.M.DeMatteis but I have no idea what was happening here and no - it does not feel like one of those 'take-from-it-what-you-will' spiritual stories- it just feels confused.
If this takes Zatanna out the book, it is a great shame as she is a major reason for my liking the team although I am the first to say she has not been used to the potential I had hoped for when this series began. That's kind of true of all of the team isn't it?
I kept waiting for there to be some revelation or twist in the character of 'Pamela' in this story but alas she seemed to serve no purpose at all- divine or otherwise!.
Same old same old regarding the art but gosh this series needs some work...unfortunately it seems it may be all too late...!
Next Issue The Beginning of..."The End Of The Justice League!"
Firestorm's appearance here happens during Legends #1, which is also the next appearance of the Justice League. They go on to appear briefly in #2 as well before returning to their own book in #258-#261. J'Onn then appears in Legends #6.
#257 reminds me of a few other DeMatteis stories, particularly in Doctor Fate a few years in the future. He sometimes writes these stories where we basically have to take it on faith that the bad guy had a powerful insight and turned a new leaf.
Justice League of America #8 (01/87)
Writer - J.M.DeMatteis Penciller - Luke McDonnell
Editor - Andy Helfer Inker - Bob Smith
Cover Art – Luke McDonnell & Bob Smith
"Part One of Four" ominously seems to foreshadow the end of the (Detroit)JLA with the four 'new' members spotlight behind that 'shadow' in the 'foreground'.
The cover is fine enough - if, as they all have been really, a tad simplistic- with a different JLA logo which seems strange at the close of it's run and what's up with Vibe? I guess he's supposed to look exhausted but he looks kinda mobster-mean..?
As a chapter title, 'Saving Face' may well be an insider 'joke' as whoever in the DC offices that first thought up the DetroitJLA experiment is having to admit it failed but hoping to go out on at least a memorable note..?
We open with a deformed scientist telling his story to a psychiatrist - how he is actually immortal and how the JLA don't like it.
He's 'Professor Ivo' and although I'm not familiar with him (and presumably neither are the rest of us 'new-JLA readers') but I do like the fact that he dislikes the old JLA- and I want a set of the JLA figures he throws around the room!
We then learn that Ivo actually created his doctor - and turns him off. So this is the Ivo that had a hand in Red Tornado's creation was it?
Back at the JLA HQ our team are discussing their failure to help Firestorm - who crashed in last issue and this refers to the epic-crossover-series (I'm not covering) 'Legends' which is happening alongside these stories.
Apparently the team were useless against bad-guy/monster Brimstone and Batman would be embarrased. Tensions are high and Elongated Man actually fights Vibe blaming each other for their failures.
"is that the best you can do, Paco? I've seen vibrators that can do better!" - (Honestly! This really is said!! Holy Comics Code Batman!)
J'Onn calms things down and informs that the President has instructed all super-heroes stand down (Shades of Civil War..?) and so...disbands the JLA! (But then that has been happening a lot recently hasn't it?)
E-Man tries to make up with Vibe who rejects the attempt and so Ralph just walks away...
J'Onn calls the remaining team his friends and says they should stay in touch before he too walks away...
Zatanna was gone before remember and presumably Batman's bunkered down in Gotham where he fights most crossovers from.
Steel gets mad and leaves... Gypsy and Vixen leave together and Vibe...is left on his own.
It's all over!
Although... that cover did say 'Part One of Four' didn't it...?
Crazy Professor Ivo rants about getting his revenge on the JLA by murdering the replacement/children of the team by using android versions f himself - his children. He sets one of them off after our heroes that he claims will be easy to find as he's had them sprayed by a radioactive mist.
We catch up with Vibe as he mopes his way through town and meets a young teen who has drawn his hero - Superman. Vibe wonders if he may have a more down to earth hero - but he's never heard of Vibe, "Vibe? Never heard of him."
Android Ivo attacks Vibe who does impress the young lad with his fighting spirit but looks to be facing insurmountable odds,
"I'm not Batman... or the Martian Manhunter... I'm just Vibe! I'm just a joke! I'm, Gonna DIE!"
Vibe does actually seem to have defeated the android and the youngster leaves praising the JLAer...but the android is not defeated and it's disembodied hands...choke Vibe...to death!
The last page cliff-hanger shows the android walking off to tell it's 'father' and Vibe lying dead on the sidewalk!
Vibe is dead!
Is this the most downbeat, senseless, emotionless murders of a super-hero ever?
It feels so....pointless.
So - chapter one kills off Vibe...three more chapters and three more 'new' JLA members... are they all doomed?
I'm quite choked, I don't really know what to say...
Next Issue "Gypsy and the Killer's Kiss!"
This was poignant. After disabling the Ivo android, Vibe improves his mood and restores his faith in the JLA for just a few seconds. Then he loses his life without as much as a witness.
I don't think that we ever had a comparable moment in this book before. But this storyline is not over yet, and next issue will indeed focus on Gypsy, although not exclusively.