BHOC: JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #138

In 1976, there wasn’t a more popular or elusive artist in all of comics than Neal Adams. I was only nine years old at the time, but even then I was aware of who he was, information gleaned from assorted letters page praise from awestruck fans. But by this point, it was a rare thing indeed when Neal would do a new comic book story, but for whatever reason–probably is involvement with new DC publisher Jenette Kahn–Neal came back and did a handful of covers at this moment, including this one on my subscription copy of JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA.

And I tell you, apart from that cover, I really didn’t remember anything about this issue until I cracked it open again in preparation for this write-up. I had forgotten, for example, that the story featured the first and only-so-far-as-I-know appearance of the Green Lantern of the 73rd Century. This was the second future GL I had encountered–there was an earlier one from Professor Zoom’s time in FLASH #225. This one also put the lie to the stories of Green Lantern pulled to the future time of 5700 AD in times of crisis, as in those tales the Green Lantern Corps was no more in that era. I guess it made a comeback some time later.

The issue (and the next) also guest-star the always fun Adam Strange. Here, Adam is the driver of events, as the story opens with his wife Alanna appearing on the Justice League’s satellite seeking the team’s aid for her husband. She relates that Adam had begun to vanish as though the Zeta-Beam that once brought him to Rann had worn off, but it turned out instead that he was being drawn into the far future–a pretty typical day in the Strange household. Adam’s time-trip is also strangely connected to the cover of a years-old issue of FLASH in which the artist had, on a whim, drawn Adam in the background. I don’t know if this was writer Cary Bates’ idea or that of editor Julie Schwartz, but it’s one of the most absurd examples of the need for comic book continuity to explain absolutely everything that happens to the characters, sensible or not. Was Adam’s appearance on that old cover really bothering anybody?

Anyway, before he disappeared for good, Adam revealed to Alanna that he had been drawn to the future to battle menaces–but that he’d worked out that the true menace was himself. With that cryptic clue, the Justice Leaguers crash the time barrier, intending to locate their old friend in the future and bring him home. Upon their arrival, they move to intercept a giant fireball, only for Superman to stop them after he is struck by an emerald beam. This beam, a communication from the Green Lantern of the future, lets him know that the fireball is really just a futuristic cleaning device. But suddenly, Adam Strange appears, blasting the fireball with his ray gun and transforming it into an actual menace.

The League and their new ally the 73rd Century Green Lantern take care of the fireball, but are unable to capture Adam. GL tells them that, ever since he started to appear in their time period, Adam has been reacting on instinct, mistaking things that are common to the future world as menaces and inadvertently causing them to become menaces. Worse, Adam’s body has been charged with a super-energy that even Superman is not proof against. When Adam reappears in response to another seeming threat, Batman cautions that the JLA should make a plan before attacking him–but the other dopes instead choose to blindly charge in headfirst. When Batman tells you that you need a plan, dummies, you need a plan!

And, of course, the Caped Crusader is correct, as Adam proves by swiftly mopping the floor with the entire team of heroes and their alien ring-wielding guest-star one by one, until only Batman is left to oppose him. And even Batman himself doesn’t have much of a plan, but he uses his acrobatic skill to dodge Adam’s increasingly aggressive attacks, getting wounded in the process.

But then, in another one of those way-too-short JLA resolutions, Adam comes to his senses and Batman tells him that he’d theorized that he needed to get Adam to burn out all of the super-energy in his body to return him to normal, which he did by doing cartwheels. There’s a reason why Batman is so respected, after all. Adam apologizes for the mess he’s caused, and the team returns to the present day–but the kicker to the issue is delivered by narrator Alanna Strange, who says that this adventure has somehow condemned the JLA to a living hell, one that we’d be hearing about in the very next issue! About that next issue, news was broken on the letters page that JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA was going to become a giant-size monthly book, with twice as many story pages, beginning with the next issue. This was a pretty exciting turn of events for my younger self.

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