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.!)
Crisis, as published at the time, did not show us an older Gypsy.
The continuity implant history that we discussed a few pages prior did, however, and it was a nice history to read. It was JLA: Incarnations #5, IIRC.
Despite having a few blatant continuity clashes with the established continuity (most visibly, Aquaman leaving in an scene that does not fit the previous histories and at a time when Steel had already changed to the new costume that shows his hair), it was a heartwarm, respectful history.
Justice League of America #260 (03/87)
Writer - J.M.DeMatteis Penciller - Luke McDonnell
Editor - Andy Helfer Inker - Steve Montano
Cover Art – Luke McDonnell & Bob Smith
"The End of the Justice League of America" "Legends Crossover Chapter 14"
"The End of the Justice League Part Three" "Scars of Steel!"
Looks like Steel's up for his swansong!
Is this the first time we've seen an artistic depiction of his metal skeleton on this cover?
Not a bad cover but a bit simplistic - everything feels rushed these days eh?
Inside and the splash has the Ivo android punching J'Onn J'Onnz straight out of the end of last issue and J'Onn pointing out that the fight is unecessary as the android proved by saving Gypsy that it can think freely and does not need to follow Ivo's programming.
In the struggle J'Onn tries to mind-meld Ivo's location and gets mad over Vibe's murder - smashing the android into pieces!
Elsewhere Vixen and Steel discuss the laws against heroes (see Legends) and the murder of Vibe.
They look very cosy, have I missed a getting-it-together scene?
"Take your hands off me Steel -- or I swear I'll dismantle you."
Steel suits up, Vixen tries to stop him, "Away from the door, Vixen -- or I'll dismantle you."
At his HQ Ivo is having android-therapy highlighting how unhinged he is.
As Steel, in costume, walks down the street the public call the police and a confrontation ends with Steel recognising one of the police is...one of Ivo's androids!
J'Onn convinces Gypsy to stay with her newly reunited family rather than seek revenge for Vibe.
Steel fights the policeman android as the crowd turns against him. The android insults Steel, while shooting him, calling him less human than the android.
Several blasts rip into Steel's synthetic skin (including half his face as per the cover) and indeed Steel cries for help as there is little humanity left of him... and J'Onn arrives.
J'Onn takes Steel 'home' to Detroit where his grandfather stabalises him but it doesn't look good.
With no hope left, the life-support machines are turned off and Steel dies!
Everyone (including Ivo..?) cries.
After Gypsy was spared last issue it was highly possible all the 'New' JLAers were not going to die but Steel seems gone here!
The actual death kind of took a while, no quarter given and was dramatic and raw.
Even so, it all feels somewhat unreal.
I'm not feeling any connection to these dying heroes - are you?
The art is as fine as ever.
The next issue is billed as "The Final Chapter" - is it really going to be as stark as that..?
Next "Final Chapter"
Nearly 20 years earlier, DC had "killed" off the Doom Patrol, although they all eventually got better. Still, these issues were a rather dramatic send off for the newbies to the JLA, that would have been akin to Stan killing off Hawkeye & Pietro and seriously traumatizing Wanda after they'd been with the Avengers about a year. Seems to me that Conway took some inspiration from Lee in having created this incarnation of the JLA, but appears the ultimate edict was, "no, this didn't work, the fans don't like them so let's kill off these new kids, well except the gals -- they're sort of cute and we might do something else with them later. But Vibe & Steel? Toast them!"
As I said elsewhere, this issue impressed me a lot.
Perhaps not so much due to the death of Steel in and of itself as because of the general feeling of helplessness.
J'onn, particularly, felt rather vulnerable and relatable. To some extent I thought of Hank's fate as metatextual. He did his best, as did Conway, but it just was not to be.
Justice League of America #261 (04/87)
Writer - J.M.DeMatteis Penciller - Luke McDonnell
Editor - Andy Helfer Inker - Bob Lewis
Cover Art – Luke McDonnell & Bill Wray
"Justice League of America The Final Chapter"
"Legends Crossover Chapter 21"
"The End of the Justice League Conclusion"
Vixen gets the final cover then and the block logo isn't a bad idea but it is a shame we don't get a recognisable logo for the final bookend issue isn't it?
I guess these last four issues contrast with those four interlocking solo(ish) covers when the book relaunched itself.
It's more going out with a splutter than a bang though.
The issue opens in a padded cell with Ivo or android-Ivo recapping his recent actions - from battling the Original League setting up his quest for revenge, through his murder of Vibe, battle with J'Onn J'onnz and murder of Steel.
We then learn that this cell was only in Ivo's mind as he destroys his android shrink.
It's all a bit glib.
If it's supposed to signify any change in Ivo I'm not seeing it - but all this death, murder and explosions is deminishing the sacrifices of our heroes recently as it's all treated with the same (lack of) tension.
We cut to Vixen on the city rooftops, she gets angry and a little bit feral but she's not Tigra and it's all a bit too late for any characterisation arc isn't it?
Steel Snr and J'Onn and Dale Gunn (remember him? we thought we'd got rid of him) toast the memory of dead Steel and discuss the next moves.
Dale chips in "Revenge isn't justice, J'Onn, you know that." and J'Onn replies with what we're having to accept - "The League is Dead, Dale-- Or Hadn't you noticed?"
By this point I'm a bit peeved they haven't called in every past member of the League to route Ivo....anyone else?
Vixen (annoyingly still not in costume) steals into Ivo's HQ and ....has tea with him, despite telling him she's there to kill him - while in his mind he's still struggling in his padded cell with the idea of murder.
"How stupid do you think I am?"
Shirtless androids arrive to defend Ivo and Vixen battles them all - a la the cover, which explains who the defeated guys were there.
Just as it seems she is overwhelmed and also likely to die -- J'Onn arrives!
The battle rages until Vixen is revealed to still be alive. J'Onn pulls back from injuring/killing Ivo..."--I can't" leaving it to Vixen herself... "I can!!"
She snaps Ivo's neck...only to have it revealed that even this Ivo was an android! - Which of course, knew all along..?!
The 'real' Ivo is revealed to actually be in a straightjacket and held in the padded cell - he was real after all!
So Ivo was insane and therefore they cannot take out their anger at his murdering of their teammates.
Ah the angst.
J'Onn uses this moment to rededicate the struggle against injustice - "The League Must Continue"
Vixen decides that as she nearly died - she'll quit and find her life as Mari McCabe as her tribute to lives lost.
The end begets a beginning however as J'Onn exclaims "The Emergency Signal! But, WHO--?" and races off into the pages of Legends #6 and a new incarnation of the League but for the JLADetroit...?
--"The Saga of The Justice League of America... ... Ends Here."
And that's it!
No great multi-starred final battle - as I said, more a splutter than a bang. I think the idea and appetite for the JLADetroit died a long while ago - maybe when Conway left maybe even when Aquaman did I'm not sure.
It remains a fascinating study in a comicbook team and title with commendable artwork and pretty stable team throughout.
Never a trendsetter, never a headliner but a good solid interesting book trying to be a great book and for that it does deserve credit.
As for this thread.... we're not actually finished!
There is (who knew?) another major arc featuring these heroes/this team - it ran through JLA Classified and JSA Classified in 2006 (By such a writer as one Steve Englehart no less!).
Does that work as a sequel or a reimagining?
We'll see together if you're still on board?
Next JLA Classified #22 A Game of Chance.
"...more a splutter than a bang."
I would have been disappointed with the lack of closure of the Justice League of America series were it not for Legends #6, into which #261 segues nicely. Legends #6 also serves as a transition between the old Justice League of America and the new Justice League #1. I even have a second copy of Legends #6 filed along with the end of the JLA series.
I liked J'Onn's panel declaring the end of the JLA in Legends #6, but otherwise I felt disappointed by the unceremonious disposal of the team. It deserved better.
It probably does not help that I was no fan of the Giffen / DeMatteis JL/JLI.
That is how I remember it Luis - correct me if I'm wrong Jeff - J'Onn joins up with the burgeoning new/next League for the end of Legends/beginning of the new series with a passing mention that the old JLA is gone. There is no big memorial for the dead second-stringers and no pause in the action from there.
It felt to me like no-one really cared as they were only the Legion of Substitute HeroesHeroes JLADetroit anyway.
In Legends #6, J'Onn declares that the JLA does not exist and there is no follow-up beyond Blue Beetle deciding, several pages later, that their new team "can only be called" the Justice League (no "of America" nor "International" at that point - and frankly, I think of that as a good thing).
After that, in Justice League #1, we have a couple of panels of J'Onn and to a lesser extent Black Canary feeling somber and in grief. Their meeting place is the original JLA headquarters, the same one that we saw in this thread after they left Detroit and presumably the same seen in the last few panels of #261. At one point J'Onn summons up a side-by-side picture of the four new members of the Detroit League to clarify his mourning to those unaware.
The next panel has Black Canary starting to say something, but she is immediately interrupted by Guy Gardner. And that is that. It be years before any further acknowledgement of the Detroit League came.
Batman may deserve a bit of comment here. In real time, his time with the JLA of Detroit coincides almost exactly with the time when he was apart from the Outsiders, down to his rejoining after simply stopping appearing in JLA. He is among the heroes summoned by Doctor Fate in Legends #6 to make a stand against G. Gordon Godfrey, and sees J'Onn join them uninvited just as the conflict truly begins. But from what is in the page you would not even know that he ever even learned that there was a Detroit League. He simply never acknowledges their existence in either the Legends event or the first year or so of the JL/JLI.
I don't think that we ever learned what his secret plans regarding the league, seen in a thought balloon in #250, were.
All in all, he stopped just short of saying outright that he did not care about the Detroit Leaguers beyond J'Onn.
Then again, I personally am not fond of the characterization of that League, least of all when it comes to consistency with other books. Booster Gold in particular was very much at odds with his own book.
My point was that Legends #6 provides more closure to the JLA series than Justice League of America #261.