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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Why am I not surprised we have similar buying habits Jeff?

   I too have the Omnibus and indeed it is that hefty tome I am drawing these reviews from.


Jeff of Earth-J said:

I bought the omnibus edition of the Detroit League two years ago. It includes not only issues #233-239, 241-261 and Annual #2, but JLA Classified #22-25, JSA Classified #14-16, Infinity, Inc. #19 and DC Retroactive: JLA - The ‘80s as well. 

“Why am I not surprised we have similar buying habits Jeff?”

I dunno… “Fools think alike?”

No, no… “Great minds run in the same channel.”

Yeah, that’s it. :)

I was just about to transcribe Gerry Conway’s introduction ("Funny How Things Work Out") to that “Detroit Era” omnibus (it provides much insight into the matters discussed above), but if you’ve got the omni you can just read it!

Justice League of America #233 (12/84)
Writer - Gerry Conway -co-creators- Chuck Patton - Penciller
Editor - Alan Gold Inker - Dave Hunt
Cover Art – Chuck Patton & Dick Giordano
                                                                                                               “Rebirth: One" "Gang War"


The Cover repeats the titles along with a "VIBE! He's Going To Shake Things Up!" blurb.


This is the first of a four part cover illustration spotlighting the 'new' JLA members individually and eventually on the full illustration. This one then fits in the top right of the four quarters and has Vibe front and centre versus a couple of generic gang-members while on an earthy/rocky flooring that will feature more in later covers.
I'm not a great fan of 'floating heads' and it annoys me that in the eventual full illustration, some heroes are featured more than once and it just doesn't work for me!
Also, at this point will anyone know floating-head-Gypsy and isn't Aquaman's face a bit too classic-hero that without his name, logo or costume he might be a tad anonymous?
Lets not get drawn into Vibe's costume again.


I notice this issue has the same publication date as the previous Annual and so would it be likely/possible some readers approached this issue without having read the Annual, with it's status-quo change, first? Would confusion reign?
The issue itself opens with a very vague Prologue about something odd occurring '580 Million Years Ago'. It doesn't work.


The story proper opens with street/breakdancing Vibe in costume with Vixen and Zatanna in civvies quickly catching up those new readers that Vibe is in 'the New League' and that all the neighbours know who he is.
Nasty gang-member threatens Vibe wanting to know which side a a gang-war he'll be on and while they argue the sassy elderly lady 'Mother Windom' tells all sides off before having threats made against her.
Changing to costumes Zatanna and Vixen break things up, exhibiting their powers while initially invisible, Gypsy materialises and helps out too.
An even nastier gang member ramps up the violence by pulling a gun only to be dramatically knocked down by Vibe. This shows off Vibe's powers and well, he was the cover-star remember, every newbie has to have a spotlight.
(Almost) interestingly Vibe's er... vibratory power (is that the right term?) caused the gun to break into pieces - does he keep such control over his powers in later issues..?
Vibe, (predictably) doesn't take his lady-teammates helping him out very well, "I could'a handled this withou'chu, man. It wasn't your fight!"
(Arg. That accent!)


As he storms off Gypsy disappears again and we are reminded it's not very clear if she's in the team yet.
Quite what Gerry Conway was trying to do here is unclear other than the rather familiar 'street-level' 'new-team-member' tropes we have all seen many times before. I know we have to be introduced to the new guys and the set-up but this feels very pedestrian to me.


The story moves into the JLA's new HQ where returning old-guard Aquaman and J'Onn J'Onnz are working with civilian Ben Gunn to test the limits of new member Steel who it seems is just as unaware what he can do as we are. Did we know from the Annual that this Steel was so brand-new ?
J'Onn warns not to push too hard (anyone else finding him a bit too goody-goody nice-guy already or is it just me?) but Aquaman, as leader, is pushing for results. Steel collapses while Gunn and the Sea King argue during which we learn Gunn works for Steel's grandfather who was also his best friend, the JLA are 'borrowing' their new HQ from this grandfather and Gunn is kind of his representative. Should we be asking what happened to Steel's father yet?


Again we are not surprised that by the time Elongated Man and his civilian wife are introduced we're due a comedic relief moment. They've been decorating but J'Onn and Arthur whisper their dispair at their choice of wall colour of..."Chartreuse?" (Now, this ought to be funny but lets face it, of all league members J'Onn and Aquaman shouldn't dislike that colour - Aquaman's costume is half that colour and J'Onn himself is that colour!! It doesn't work).


We get more interaction between Gunn and Steel, now learning that Steel's father is dead and again that his grandfather payrolled his transformation into the young hero. (Is Steel steel like Colossus's steel then or steel like Cyborg steel?)


The team gets a visit from that sassy granny Mother Windom (who they met in the Annual) and they discuss the imminent gang war and how embroiled in it Vibe is.
We then see Vibe's brother, head of one gang, insisting Vibe stays with his roots and the rival gang attacks.
"This is crazy stuff!"
As Vibe gets stabbed in the back the JLA arrive to save the day.


J'Onn exhibits both his invisibility (kind of makes Gypsy redundant doesn't it?) and shape-changing abilities. (See Richard Willis question above!)


Steel displays that he is bullet-proof and strong as he rips up part of the floor. (Was this supposed to refer to the four-cover action? I would have liked it clearer although maybe it's only me that sees the similarity?) while the rest of the team defeat the gangs with ease and even Gypsy helps out - before fading out again.


Vibe will, of course, survive and it doesn't pass without notice that his silly accent slipped, "Hey... what chu want, I'm sick." (Why does it feel like his 'big' revelation is done now?)


We close with an epilogue where the leader of the nasty-gang is approached in his prison cell by a bright light, introducing itself as "I/We are the Overmaster" which it seems was what was being shown in the prologue and he is either transported, transformed or destroyed all the while having it claimed...

"... This Is Your Destiny."


So that's it, the first full issue of the new-direction JLA and it's nicely if simplistically drawn, with the new status-quo pretty much laid out and the new guys spotlighted with the old heroes playing supporting ast for the moment.
I think this would work fairly well without the Annual but the lack of familiar JLA heroes may have been wrench for many readers.
While this new atmosphere and direction is clear - it really does feel very obvious. There are clearly reveals to be built up to involving Steel and Gypsy but I don't feel that hooked into caring for them at the moment as this issue centred on Vibe and it already feels like we've had his entire story in this one issue!.
I missed the flirty-rivalry of Zatanna and Vixen from the Annual.
I have zero interest in Gypsy.
This may not feel like the traditional JLA but neither does it feel like the All-New X-Men or the New Teen Titans. (Does it?)
It is clear now that these opening four-issues are going to spotlight the newbies, one-at-a-time and I guess that has to be done but the rest of the team need to be given some characterisation too and although the 'street-level' idea of this new JLA has to be established can we have a bit more ….gritty realism?


Next issue : The Vixen Is A Lady Fox.


(Thanks for your time people- anyone agree/disagree?)

Here is the quadtych(?) Richard is commenting upon.

That's brilliant Richard thankyou.

I guess it works better as a whole. I am even more surprised that they went with Aquaman as the ' Old guard ' representative on the first cover though, J'Onn may have worked better..?

I for one would love a glimpse on Gerry Conway's thoughts on the JLA of Detroit nearly 30 years after the fact.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

“Why am I not surprised we have similar buying habits Jeff?”

I dunno… “Fools think alike?”

No, no… “Great minds run in the same channel.”

Yeah, that’s it. :)

I was just about to transcribe Gerry Conway’s introduction ("Funny How Things Work Out") to that “Detroit Era” omnibus (it provides much insight into the matters discussed above), but if you’ve got the omni you can just read it!

The four panel picture is functional and logical enough, but in retrospect feels a bit too busy.

They did however take care to spotlight a newcomer in each cover, and feature a classic JLA member and a different newcomer on the side.

@Richard Mantle - We naturally think of J'Onn as the natural choice to represent the classic JLA these days, since those were the first days of a very impressive reemergence of the character, one that continues to the present.

But trying to see things from the perspective of the time, J'Onn was almost as much of a newcomer as, say, Changeling was in the 1980's New Titans by Wolfman and Perez.  The character had been seen about as often as the wild west characters in the last 20 years or so.

Meanwhile, Aquaman had been kept in the spotlight but failed to make much of an impact for quite a while.  There are indications that DC was hoping to change that during this time period.  Gerry Conway, of course, emphasized Arthur quite a lot from the close of the Mars invasion story up until #243.  Immediately after he got the blue costume mini-series, which was quite good and got a fair bit of promotion. And in the meantime he had arguably as much spotlight in Crisis as the whole of the new JLA.

All things considered, it is a bit odd that Aquaman was dropped so completely from #244 on.  After that he made a few guest appearances here and there later but was mostly dormant until 1989.

I'm afraid that I must disagree about J'onn J'onzz's profile during the Bronze Age. While Beast Boy (the future Changeling) made only one BA appearance in Teen Titans #50-52 prior to the New Teen Titans and if he made another one, please let me know, but the Martian Manhunter made several BA appearances. 

I can't list them all accurately right now but he was in World's Finest #212 and #245, had the backup feature in Adventure Comics #449-451, made at least five returns to Justice League (#115, 144, 177-178, 200 and 228-230) not to mention numerous reprints both solo and with the JLA. 

While not a regular part of the then DCU, he certainly wasn't an unknown commodity. 

They've always had problems writing Aquaman in super-group stories. Today's version is probably easier to write as he seems to be very strong even out of water. Writing a character who become weak out of water constricts the story options.

Aquaman was, however, consistently well-known by the wider public at least since the early 1970s thanks to the Filmation cartoons and later the various incarnations of the Superfriends.

Martian Manhunter may have reached comparable diffusion at some point during or after his first regular appearances in the Cartoon Netrwork Justice League cartoon of 2005 or so, but I think that even that is pushing it.

Martian Manhunter's 1984 return did get him his own action figure in the second wave of the SUPER POWERS line (Martian breath not included) though it didn't get him on the show but neither did Green Arrow, Red Tornado or Doctor Fate.

Excluded from the line were his fellow JLDers Elongated Man and Zatanna as well as the Atom, Black Canary, Phantom Stranger and Hawkgirl/woman.



Luis Olavo de Moura Dantas said:

Aquaman was, however, consistently well-known by the wider public at least since the early 1970s thanks to the Filmation cartoons and later the various incarnations of the Superfriends.

Martian Manhunter may have reached comparable diffusion at some point during or after his first regular appearances in the Cartoon Netrwork Justice League cartoon of 2005 or so, but I think that even that is pushing it.


 What about this one Philip...?

...AND she's wearing the costume she wears in this Detroit series!


Philip Portelli said:

Excluded from the line were his fellow JLDers Elongated Man and Zatanna as well as the Atom, Black Canary, Phantom Stranger and Hawkgirl/woman.

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