Back when I was nine years old, I would have loved the idea of a JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA movie. I was a regular subscriber to the series and had been for a few years by this point. But this latest issue was extra-special–it was literally like getting two issues at once. For during this period, JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA (along with SUPERBOY AND THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES) became a regular double-sized comic. This change clearly came about a certain way through the production process, as the two stories in this issue were each clearly meant to be a full issue on their own; beginning next time, the whole comic would be a single story, to better showcase the enormous cast. It opens with a nice-though-slightly-confusing Neal Adams cover that I’d already seen often in house ads touting this change.
Of the two stories, it’s the second one that i remember more readily, though I enjoyed them both. The lead tale follows up on the events of the previous adventure, in which both guest hero Adam Strange and the members of the JLA battled a menace in the future. Returning to the present, the JLA departed Rann for Earth–and the last image was Adam realizing that he’d inadvertently doomed them all. But what could that mean?
At the Justice League satellite, the remaining Leaguers are searching for their missing teammates–Green lantern focuses all of his willpower to scan for them throughout the solar system. But unbeknownst to the team, their fellow heroes are right in front of them, albeit immaterial, unseen, unheard and undetected. Adam Strange arrives and tells the corporeal heroes what has happened–that their old enemy Kanjar Ro tainted the Zeta-Beam energy they had absorbed from Adam to put them into this immaterial state. Now, only Adam can see or hear them.
Or at least that’s the case until an exploding power grid endangers Green Lantern. Forgetting that GL’s power ring would protect him from mortal harm, the Flash leaps forward to save his friend, and somehow becomes corporeal in time to pull Hal out of the range of the blast. The team theorizes that responding to a fellow member in peril was what allowed the transformation to occur rather than any of Flash’s vibratory tricks–so now they’ve got a methodology to restore the rest of their members. Kanjar Ro appears on the monitor to taunt the JLA, resulting in Green Lantern power-beaming the entire JLA satellite through time to the future era where last month’s adventure took place.
The League is jumped by the mesmerized citizens of this future era, but they’re confident–if any of them get in real trouble, one of their dematerialized comrades will rematerialize to help them. But Adam suddenly isn’t so certain, and he returns to the JLA satellite, leaving the League to fend for itself. And the fending doesn’t go so well, as one by one the corporeal Leaguers fall, and their phantom friends remain unable to aid them. Back at the satellite, Adam consults the sensor logs and realizes that just at the moment that GL was in danger, the area was bathed in a certain wavelength of radiation, one that restored Flash. So the whole thing was a trap on the part of Kanjar Ro.
Having doped out the radiation, Adam returns to the battlefield in time to bathe the remaining Leaguers in it, restoring them and giving the team the upper hand against their 73rd Century assailants. The Green lantern of the 73rd Century shows up again here, to congratulate the League on their victory. But Adam has his number, attempting to bean him with a yellow-colored rock. When it bounces off the lantern’s protective force-field, the jig is up since GL rings don’t work against the color yellow. The future GL is really Kanjar Ro himself, hiding in plain sight. He’s quickly clocked, and the adventure draws to a pat close.
The second story in the issue represented the DC debut of writer Steve Englehart, emigrated from Marvel where he’d handled the Avengers for several years. I knew none of that, though, so his arrival here meant nothing to me. And, in fact, while his run is excellent, a real classic of the period, as a kid I had some real problems with it–mainly the way that Englehart had the Leaguers snap at one another. This was a deliberate move on his part to give the individual characters some much-needed personality, and it worked. But as a kid, I didn’t want my heroes to fight one another, I wanted them to respect one another–so in particular Wonder Woman’s constant haranguing of my favorite the Flash was difficult to take.
The story opens with a cameo of sorts by Steve himself, here represented as Esteban Corazon, the President of Ecuador, where a modern Ice Age seems to have begun. The League has come in response to the nation;s request for aid, and Englehart adds in some double-entendre meaning to Corazon’s words with the team. The League carries out rescue operations, but it unable to keep the cold front from spreading. Then, word reaches them that, back in the states, a trio of villains is on the rampage: Captain Cold, Minister Blizzard and the Icicle from Earth-2. (Black Canary, an emigre from that parallel world herself is delighted to be dealing with a foe with whom she is already familiar.)
Flash, Black Canary, Wonder Woman and Green Arrow head back to Gotham City in an attempt to capture the escaped villains and figure out what they have to do with this new encroaching ice age. The three villains are coy, even among themselves, as to which one among them might be responsible for that. The quartet of Leaguers battles their icy foes during a jewelry heist and make short work of them–and Wonder Woman continues to be a dick to the Flash, something that a number of characters mention. But even with the trio of villains defeated, the Star of Calcutta diamond still vanishes, to the confusion of everyone.
The League gets back together, but they’re still unable to halt the spread of the deadly cold. And then the penny drops for Hawkman. They’re not dealing with any of the trio of cold-powered villains, the real foe is his old enemy the Shadow Thief. The alien device that the Shadow Thief uses to project himself into a shadow has a decaying effect on Earth’s magnetic field if it’s used for too long, bringing about an ice age. The team heads back to the States to question the three cold-themed villains about the Shadow Thief’s whereabouts only to find a break-out in progress. They make short work of the icy trio yet again, and the Shadow Thief reveals himself. But none of the Leaguers can lay a hand on him in shadow-form, and he intends to keep his Dimensiometer going until the Earth is a frigid, lifeless ball.
The League can’t even prevent the Shadow Thief from making his escape–until all are suddenly surprised by the appearance of the Phantom Stranger. The Stranger off-handedly grabs the Shadow Thief despite his shadowy form and shuts down his Dimensiometer, returning him to human form and preventing the impending ice age. He then disappears again before the question of his membership in the League can be cemented. But the world and Ecuador are saved, so everything is fine–except that the next issue blurb promises more on Wonder Woman’s strange snappishness. Uh-oh! It was a very Marvel-style opening for Englehart, one that pulled from all sorts of interesting corners of the DC universe and emphasized characterization and personality conflict over simple puzzle-problems (although there were those, too.)