Another month brought another subscription copy of JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA to my mailbox. I know I keep harping on this point, but boy that’s a weird-looking Ernie Chua/Chan cover. Neither Green Arrow nor Aquaman have legs, and the scratchboard technique on the background is a bit overpowering. Ernie was the regular cover artist for pretty much the entire DC super hero line at this point, and I really didn’t like his stuff all that much, especially as compared to his predecessor, Nick Cardy, who was and is a master.
Like issue #122, this issue has Marty Pasko delving into the recent past to clear up some hanging continuity which was glossed over as it happened–namely, how the Justice League migrated to their new Satellite headquarters after their tried-and-true Happy Harbor digs were compromised by Snapper Carr. In doing so, Marty crafts a tale–accidentally, I think–that makes the League look absolutely awful. Even as a kid, this one rubbed me the wrong way–and I’ll tell you all about it.
The issue opens with the Flash meeting up with Hawkman atop a building in New York City, and almost colliding with an invisible object on the rooftop. This is the ground unit of the JLA’s new teleport system, the only way to access the new Satellite headquarters. Hawkman tells Flash that the system scans retinal patterns and brain waves before allowing access. Unfortunately, several floors below in a S.T.A.R. Labs office, a chunk of moon rock cracks open, releasing a gaseous alien entity from within. This entity heads to the roof, where it enters the cylinder just as Hawkman and Flash beam out.
And before you can say Holy Star Trek Teleporter Accident, three figures emerge onto the JLA Satellite and begin to attack their fellow heroes–each one a mixed-up mess of aspects of the Flash, Hawkman and the alien entity.Despite this, the trio of intruders barrel their way through the assembled League and then disappear deeper into the Satellite.
It doesn’t take the League long to dope out what happened, and to realize that their security on the teleporter isn’t working properly. But now the three alien amalgams are reprogramming the Satellite systems, and despite our heroes’ best efforts, the JLA is getting trounced left and right. It’s a sad day for the home team, folks!
Incidentally, here’s the house ad for that issue of AMAZING WORLD OF DC COMICS that I covered a little while ago. I said at the time that I didn’t quite understand why my younger self thought that this Fanzine would be reprinting the first Flash story from SHOWCASE within its pages–but looking at this ad now, the prominence of the Flash and his name in the blurb, I can completely see what bamboozled me.
Back at the ranch, the JLA are helpless to prevent the alien trio from fitting the Satellite with a Warp Drive capable of reaching far-off star systems–their new Headquarters is being hijacked! Aquaman has come into telepathic contact with the creature during the battle, though, and he tells the others that it’s called a Dharlu, and indicating that it’s trying to make its way home, across the universe. But none of this helps Hawkman or Flash, or the other Leaguers for that matter.
Working out that the Dharlu is sensitive to cold, Superman uses his super-breath to force the trio back into the teleporter, where the team can separate their friends from the alien. But by this point, the Dharlu has gotten into the computer system, changing the life support conditions to replicate those of a Red Sun planet, thus neutralizing Superman’s powers, and then quickly putting the kibosh on Green Lantern as well.
But even though powerless, Superman is able to neutralize the Dharlu in the computer, forcing it to short itself out rather than answering the League’s query about how to stop it. And with the Dharlu dormant, it’s a simple matter for the League to restore the Satellite to its proper place. And now comes the asshole part: having learned that the Dharlu is pregnant and was essentially swimming upstream in order to spawn, does the JLA take it back to its natural home to reproduce? Hell no! While it was inhabiting the Satellite computer, the Dharlu corrected the flaws in the system–so in order to keep their Satellite running nicely, the league instead chooses to trap this intelligent and pregnant being within it permanently–despite the fact that none of its actions were specifically malevolent. Assholes! It’s difficult to fathom how nobody working on this story realized what an absolute miscarriage of justice this represented. But as I said at the top, it did not get past me even at 9 years old, and I did not like it.
Finally, the letters page this issue is shortened in order to fit in the yearly Statement of Ownership. From this, we can see that JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA was selling 173,117 copies on a print run of 412,543, or just under 42% of its print run. That’s not a really healthy figure, and I wonder just how on the bubble JLA might have been at this point.