Now this is a comic that’s near and dear to my heart, so much so that I still have the tattered remains of my original copy. The fact that I had missed the previous issue with its advertised JLA/JSA crossover was mitigated by what awaited me within these pages. Purchased at my local 7-11, as usual.
The opening story was Len Wein’s swansong on the title, which is a shame, because throughout his run he’d been able to effectively meld the vintage Gardner Fox JLA style of story with the modern need for characterization. He also pulled deep from DC’s continuity and publishing history. His JLA was just fun.
In this story, the Justice League is in the middle of a charity telethon, raising money for deserving charities. Watching at home is Snapper Carr, the disgraced former-honorary member of the League, along with his family. Their tranquility is broken, however, when a gun-toting costumed lunatic calling himself Anakronus bursts into their home to take them hostage.
He claims to be an old foe of the League, and recounts a battle with them that happened during their earliest years as a team. The recounting of this story is interspersed with sequences where he attempts to contact the League at the Telethon to demand ransom, but he’s taken for a crank and hung up on.
Snapper tries to keep Anakronus talking, as in a typical hostage situation, to safeguard his family. And so we get deeper and deeper into Anakronus’ tale of his battle with the JLA, including members such as Wonder Woman and J’onn J’onzz, who were no longer with the team.
But in doing so, Anakronus has made a mistake that reveals him–he speaks of the Martian Manhunter combating a fire-breathing dragon, not realizing that J’onn would be vulnerable to any flames. Now confident that his attacker is just a nut, Snapper succeeds in passing a message to the JLA, who turn up to apprehend the unbalanced Anakronus. There’s a nice coda as well that indicates a level of forgiveness on the part of the JLA towards Snapper for his earlier betrayal.
Following the new story, the reprints began with an Eisner-esque piece written and drawn by Howard Bender. JUST A STORY featured no super heroes at all, it was essentially a Warner Brothers B-movie on paper, an odd pick for an issue of JLA. But it’s a great little story about a disparate group of characters whose lives touch one another. I didn’t quite appreciate it as a child, but I do now.
After a few more feature pages, we came to the main event: what I believe was the very best of the many JLA/JSA crossover stories, reprinted in its entirety. It’s got a very simple concept behind it: if there’s an Earth-1 on which the Justice League lives, and an Earth-2 where the older Justice Society lives, then might there be an Earth-3? And, if so, who might live there?
The answer is the Crime Syndicate of America, for Earth-3 is a world of opposites. On this Earth, villainy triumphs and lawlessness is the rule of the land. So much so that the Crime Syndicate, nefarious doppelgangers of the Justice League members, are growing restless and rusty, without any new worlds to conquer.
It is Ultraman, whose powers increase in the presence of Kryptonite, who provides the answer. Discovering Earth-1, he proposes that the Crime Syndicate strike there, for the expressed purpose of challenging the JLA and thus giving themselves a good fight.
The League responds, and in pitched one-on-one combat its members succeed time and again in overcoming their criminal counterparts. But the Crime Syndicate has planned for this–before they can be completely defeated, each member speaks a keyword which transports himself and his opponent back to Earth-3.
On their home ground, the Crime Syndicate mop the floor with their law-loving doppelgangers. But this is unsatisfying to them. Now having a bating average of 1-1, they long to prove their superiority. And so Ultraman seeks out a neutral battlefield for them: Earth 2. But first, the Justice Society must be put out of the way.
The JLA manages to warn the JSA of the impending attack, as well as of the safeguard the Crime Syndicate had taken with them. So armed, the JSA enters into battle with the Crime Syndicate–and like the JLA before them, defeats them. But this time, preventing them from uttering the word that will return them all to Earth-3.
But the Crime Syndicate are still one step ahead. This time, rather than their own keyword, they’ve set things up so that when the JSA declares victory over them, it will trigger the return trip to Earth-3. And so now the playing field is set for a final confrontation between the JLA and the Crime Syndicate on Earth-2.
The League is able to win by turning their foes’ power against themselves, overloading them. But the Syndicate has one final trick left–they’ve booby trapped the JSA’s prison so that, if it is disturbed, both Earth-1 and Earth-2 will be destroyed.
But the JLA suss out the trick, free the JSA, and then the Crime Syndicate are left in a makeshift prison suspended in the void between worlds, where they’ll remain for another 14 years until their next appearance. Even as a kid, I wondered how they were going to eat, or go to the bathroom.