BHOC: JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #137

Summer was winding down when the mailman brought me my subscription copy of JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #137. This was the wrap-up to that year’s epic meeting of the JLA with their counterparts in the Justice Society–and this year, the Fawcett super heroes of the 1940s had been added into the mix. But up until this point, we hadn’t seen anything of the three biggest Fawcett stars, the Marvel Family (for all that their mythos, including villain King Kull, was all over this story.) The cover to JLA #137 promised to remedy that, in the most dramatic fashion possible. 

This was probably my favorite part of the three, if for no other reason than the lion’s share of the action in the first half was devoted to my favorite super heroes, the twin Flashes and the twin Green Lanterns. Having already saved Earths-2 and -S, the combined heroes of three worlds still had to bail out Earth-1, the most important one of all, because that’s where most of the comic were set!

As a part of his attack, King Kull has dispatched the future android Mr. Atom to destroy what amounts to a thinly-disguised version of Disney’s EPCOT Center, a thriving community of the future. Six heroes are sent to prevent this from happening: the twin Flashes and Green Lanterns as previously mentioned as well as Ibis the Invincible of the Earth-S crew, and Mercury, the God from whom Captain Marvel’s speed-derived powers originate. Sadly, Mr. Atom is protected by a strange black aura that reflects the heroes’ powers back on themselves. The Lanterns and Ibis sheathe themselves in similar auras hoping to counteract the effect, but in doing so, they stumble onto its source: a spacecraft high above. The move to investigate, leaving the three speedsters to contend with Mr. Atom directly.

Which isn’t such a great strategy as, without any similar auras, the Flashes can’t make a dent in Mr. Atom. Changing tactics, they move to swiftly evacuate the people from the faux-EPCOT who are in the path of the battle. Meanwhile, the Green lanterns have located the source of the Black Aura, which turns out to be Brainiac’s spacecraft. But before they can attack, they’re befuddled by the appearance of a dozen people being hurled into the air, gravity apparently having stopped working. Ibis and Alan Scott go to rescue the victims while Hal Jordan investigates Brainiac’s craft.

Brainiac isn’t so easy to defeat however, and he transforms Green Lantern into a living skeleton–how this is meant to defeat him is unclear, as apart from the cool visual this doesn’t seem to have any further ill-effect on Hal. But it doesnt’ matter, as Ibis appears, and his Ibistick, being mystical, defies all analysis from Brainiac. Having captured him, the heroes learn that he’s set up an engine to increase the rotation of the Earth–that’s what’s caused those people to fly of into space–and they quickly destroy it. Now only Mr. Atom is left to deal with.

The story pauses here for an ad for a number of oversized specials coming out in the next month, many of which were of interest to me. There’s a whole story behind how I never read that issue of STRANGE SPORTS STORIES until years later; I’ll tell it at the appropriate moment. I was most interested in SUPER HEROES BATTLE SUPER-GORILLAS, mainly because of the promise of a Flash story. 

Now without his protective shielding, Mr. Atom is vulnerable to outside harm. Ibis closes in, but underestimating the robot, gets his block knocked off. Picking up his foe’s mystic Ibistick, Mr. Atom orders it to exile Ibis to a distant star! Oops, bad idea! Because the Ibistick knows its master, and will reverse any command to harm him upon the issuer. Exit, Mr. Atom. Now all that’s left is for the scattered heroes to reunite at the Rock of Eternity and bring down King Kull himself. But Kull has a hole card–he produces a piece of Red Kryptonite that turns Superman into a berzerker, Uh-oh.

The story freezes at this point to turn back the clock some key minutes, to the end of the previous issue where Johnny Thunder had gone to Earth-S to find Billy and Mary Batson and Freddy Freeman. As I’m sure everybody who read my last write-up has already worked out, Johnny’s mystic thunderbolt is able to take the place of their magic lightning, transforming the kids once more into the Marvel Family. They mop up Kull and free Shazam, but the old wizard draws Captain Marvel’s attention to the raging Superman, who is tearing his way through the other heroes. 

This, then, is the main event that has been promised us, the one hat comic book readers have waited to see since the 1940s: Superman versus Captain Marvel! But alas, it’s not to be. For, just as the two mighty heroes close in on one another, Marvel cleverly says his magic word, summoning the mystic lightning–and Superman is shocked back to his senses, in time to save the now-plummeting Billy Batson. It’s a clever moment, one that no doubt inspired the similar beat in KINGDOM COME years later. At this point, everything is over but the shouting, so the heroes all part, returning to their own worlds, the adventure at an end. It wasn’t much on plot, but it was a fun outing regardless. 

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