As I knew he soon would, the mailman brought me the next issue of JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA. It’s got a cover that’s a fine composition in theory but which is marred by some weak execution. Those think, sloppy ink lines, the overall stiffness and motionlessness of the characters–it’s a good image, but one that doesn’t really follow through. Even the outer space background seems crude and haphazard.

This was the second part of writer Gerry Conway’s strange experiment where he would do two-part stories where the second part had almost nothing to do with the first, an approach that confused the hell out of me as a kid. So yes, Despero is still the villain here, but rather than getting back to the plight of the aliens who abducted Superman and impersonated the JLA in order to secure his help, the story rather takes a sharp right turn and barely mentions that earlier set-up at all.

We open with the Justice League in Hawkman’s Thanagarian spaceship rocketing towards the ship run by Despero, the League’s old foe. Within that ship, Despero has imprisoned Superman as well as the four aliens who impersonated the JLA last time. But before the two ships can draw close, a pair of aliens in a nearby space citadel teleport both crews to their own environs.

This pair of new aliens, Albon and Nordon are scientists and explorers, but they’ve seen and done so much that all that’s left for them to probe is the human soul. For all that, they seem to have never before come across conflict, which is incredibly strange. Thrilled when the League and Despero are brought into contact with one another and the two begin to fight, the pair teleport Despero away from the League and decide to set up some conditions wherein they can study this phenomenon of thrilling violence more extensively.

Loose on the space station, Despero looks for a means of escape and advantage, while he’s pursued by the Justice Leaguers who have been separated by the aliens. He gets his hands on an alien weapon and uses it to best Batman and Hawkman handily–but it again teleported away before he can kill them. He materializes on a nearby world–Albon and Nordon have determined that the conflict is too dangerous to rage within their station, and so have moved the fight outdoors. Wonder Woman and the Atom materialize nearby, and the battle is joined once again.

But Despero is able to mesmerize Wonder Woman with his telepathic third eye, turning her against the Atom. Using her lasso to create a windstorm, she knocks the Tiny Titan flat. Despero attempts to teleport himself and the enthralled Wonder Woman back to the space station, but the aliens are still in control, and rather than Wonder Woman, he materializes along with Supergirl and the Elongated Man, who immediately jump to the attack.

As the battle continues, the trio determines that they are actually on yet another alien planet. At this point, Despero has had enough–he knows that he’s being manipulated and refuses to continue to battle on for no reason. Immediately his eyes go glassy as the aliens force their will upon him to continue to the conflict, forcing Supergirl and Elongated Man to defend themselves. Realizing what is going on, Supergirl calls out the aliens pulling the strings and they obligingly appear, telling her that they are the last remaining members of the long-lived Krill race, and that they have been bored. Much like the aliens in a Green Lantern back-up I had read previously, they’re forcing the others to fight as a way to liven up things.

Supergirl convinces the Krill that it will be even more exciting if each one of them chooses a side to root for. They take to the idea, and Supergirl immediately throws Despero into orbit and punches him out. This defeat causes Albon to turn on his brother, and as the two aliens fight with one another, the JLA withdraws with Despero and Superman–who is just there with them in the one panel wrap-up. No mention is made of the other aliens who impersonated the JLA nor of the ones back on their planet (who are presumably all right now that Despero has been taken off the board.) It’s all a bit of a sloppy mess, with just enough plot to link a bunch of inconclusive fight scenes and a finger-snap resolution that doesn’t really make a lot of sense–why do the krill allow our heroes to leave? That’s not a deal they made or anything. Still, the Next Issue box revealed that another JLA/JSA team-up was coming –one that would also feature the Marvel Family–and that was something to look forward to.

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