BHOC: JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #146

The mailman showed up with my subscription copy of this month’s JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA, featuring this cover by long-time interior artist Dick Dillin. I remain a fan of Dillin’s work, despite it’s occasional awkwardness–like Irv Novick on FLASH, Dillin defined the look of JUSTICE LEAGUE for me, drawing the series for 12 years solid with only one miss before his untimely death. I do recall that I was a bit unsettled by the bits flying out of the Red Tornado’s eyes and ears, and how the top and bottom portions of Reddy’s insignia-straps seemed way too long given the part that was bursting out of his chest. 

This issue picks up right where the previous one left off, with the assembled League reacting tot eh seeming resurrection of the Red Tornado. I reacted with astonishment as well, but for different reasons: I had, uh, forgotten that Reddy was dead. Even his final-panel appearance in the last issue hadn’t jogged that memory, so it took me a page or two of this issue to get myself back up to speed. This indicates, I think, how important a character I found the Red Tornado at the time.

Anyway, the League is skeptical of this sudden reappearance–but even the Phantom Stranger can’t determine whether Reddy is on the up-and-up. So the team plays a trivia game with him about League history–but when he answers wrong about the Origin of the JLA (quoting writer Englehart’s revised account two issues previously instead of the commonly-accepted version) the jig is up. A big old fight breaks out, revealing that this isn’t the Red Tornado at all, but once again the Construct, the artificial intelligence that had been bedeviling the League for some time. 

With the Construct ejected from the Red Tornado’s once-again lifeless form, the League realizes it needs to track down and finish off the Construct once and for all. Hawkman proposes that they accept Hawkgirl as a full member of the team since they need all the help they can get, but Superman objects, citing the duplication-of-powers rule (which Englehart only made up a few issues back, having confused the JLA for the Legion). Hawkman threatens to quit before the Phantom Stranger can play peacemaker. The League splits into two teams: one to rendezvous with Aquaman and the Atom, who have faced the Construct before, the other to accompany Wonder Woman to paradise Island, to probe her mind, which may have been controlled by the Construct in the past.

In Atlantis, Aquaman and the Atom give a rundown on what they know of the Construct to their fellow heroes–unaware that the villain is able to monitor their activities through the radios they need to use to communicate while underwater. This is Construct III, the third of his kind, his predecessors destroyed in the League’s last encounters with him. And he’s incomplete, not possessing the memories of his two predecessors, only the knowledge that the JLA destroyed them. Frustrated, the Construct attacks the League with an Atlantean cannon, giving us some quick action. And in Vermont, the Red Tornado’s body stirs and rises…

Meanwhile, on Paradise Island, the Amazons use their memory chair to probe Diana’s mind, to see what they can learn about their enemy. Hawkman, along for the ride, must remain aloft, for if a man’s foot comes into contact with Paradise Island, the Amazons will lose their immortality. Seems a bit harsh, but what do I know? Katar and Shayera have a heartfelt conversation about the League’s reticence to let her into the club, and how poor traditions must be set aside in favor of progress. It’s a nice moment. As you’d expect, Wonder Woman is pissed when her memories are restored of how the Construct used her. Elsewhere, the Red Tornado shakily takes flight.

The League reunited in Manhattan at the World Trade center, Wonder Woman having tracked the electronic villain to that point. Moving into its basement, where the most advanced computers in the world operate. They’re able locate the secret entrance to the Construct’s sanctum and swiftly tackle their enemy–only to find that he is nothing more than a hollow shell, just like the Red Tornado’s body. Speaking of the Tornado, he picks this moment to make his appearance.

The League jumps him, of course, figuring that the Construct’s mind must have moved back into his lifeless shell. But the Red Tornado passionately pleads his innocence, begging is old friends not to turn him away. Again, this is a nicely heartfelt scene on the part of Englehart. And ultimately, it works! The League is overjoyed to accept the fact that the Red Tornado is once more alive and well and among them. What’s more, having been touched by the Construct, Reddy can track him.

The team tracks the Construct to the WGBS Building in Metropolis, where he’s taken over all of the broadcast facilities, attempting to spread his consciousness to other machines all across the world. Reddy confronts him, machine-to-machine, and with the emotional support of Hawkgirl, he’s able to stave off the Construct’s mental power and cause him to overload. And this time, Wonder Woman has the knowledge necessary to set up a “continuous random wave-pattern in the ether”, preventing another Construct consciousness from ever forming. As the issue comes to a close, the League inducts two new members: the revived Red Tornado and Hawkgirl.

The issue also includes an expanded letters page, including this second page summarizing all of the recent debate as to who should play the various Justice Leaguers in a movie. Sadly, Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot got no votes, although apparently everybody wanted Farrah Fawcett-Majors to play the Black Canary. Must be the hair.

And the issue finished out with my favorite feature, 100 Issues Ago in Justice League, which this time out turned its attention to the first half of a really weird two-parter guest-starring the Justice Society of Earth-2 and published right at the height of Batmania in the “go-go checks” era. Having read the issue itself many years later, I confess I still like the summary given here better.

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