Around this time, the mailman brought me the latest issue of JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA as I still maintained a subscription, although those days would soon draw to a close. This isn’t an issue I have a whole lot of strong memories about. I will say that somebody in the DC production team is still using an oval template to make their word balloon outlines on this cover, and it looks pretty bad. Similarly, I wouldn’t be surprised if Superman’s head had been sifted to the left a little bit to dodge the logo, as it doesn’t seem to be situated on his shoulders correctly. All around, not the best effort from artists Rich Buckler and Jack Abel.
Christmas was about a month away when this book turned up on my doorstep, and accordingly the story is holiday-themed. This was something of a tradition, particularly at DC–almost every year you could find at least one Christmas story among the line if you were looking. This practice largely stopped in the 1980s at some point. In any event, the story opens with a trio of Star-Travelers in the mode of the Three Wise Men who came to attend the birth of Christ. These guys are on their way to a similar space shindig when they’re waylaid by a space-warp and knocked off course to Earth. Each one loses the satchel they ad been carrying, with the three bags winding up scattered across the world.
I need to include this first chapter page for no other reason than it’s one of writer Kurt Busiek’s favorite moments, one he references often. So the Justice League are all hanging around together in their satellite headquarters playing cards in a friendly manner to pass the time, and Batman remarks, ‘Who dealt this mess, anyway?” It’s a far cry from the grim, brooding, friendless manhunter he’d be depicted as in only a few short years. The Red Tornado and the satellite’s scanners detect the three objects entering Earth’s atmosphere (as well as the screams of the Star-Travelers, which Superman pointedly ignores reasoning that there’s no air in space to conduct such sounds) but the JLA figures they’ll all burn up on re-entry and so goes back to playing cards.
We follow the three falling satchels to where they come to rest on the ground. The first lands in a Georgia river where its contents get discharged into the polluted waters. The second arrives in the Middle East, where it’s found by a seven year old war orphan named Traya. And the third makes landfall in British Columbia, where a hungry buck consumes some of the breadlike foodstuff contained within. Meanwhile, in Peru, the thoroughly ridiculous Major Macabre has also detected the falling objects, and thinks they can bring him power, so he sets out to acquire them. And so the stage is set.
Meanwhile, up in space, the Justice League is alerted to three crises scattered across the planet, and realize that they are happening in the three places the meteors fell. Feeling a bit stupid, they split into teams to tackle the various problems. Superman and the Red Tornado head tot eh Middle East, where Traya is using the power of the alien crystal to destroy the military war machines that are fighting within her land. Batman and the Elongated man, meanwhile, head to Georgia, were the population around the polluted river has been transformed into monsters that attack them. And Hawkman and Hawkwoman arrive in British Columbia, to face off against the giant, angry creature that the buck has been mutated into. All three teams get clobbered–and Major Macabre is able to surreptitiously retrieve the alien bread.
Back in the Middle East, Superman is being crushed by the alien crystal and the Red Tornado has been knocked out of the fight–so Reddy appeals to Traya on a human level, as uncomfortable as that is for him. But he’s able to get her to drop the crystal and break off her attack. Traya would go on to become a regular supporting character in the Red Tornado’s world, his adopted daughter, so shes really the one big get from this story. But Major Macabre shows up to capture the crystal, and the Tornado gets his hand crushed trying to prevent this. Back in Georgia, it turns out the monsters are actually anti-pollution protesters from earlier, who now have the power to make the world clean up its act. But when they try to wipe out Batman and the Elongated Man, it doesn’t go well. But again, Major Macabre is on hand to collect the third alien artifact in the aftermath of the struggle.
The League reassembles back at the satellite while trying to dope out Major Macabre’s next move, and the Red Tornado points out that the objects behind all of this strife aren’t in themselves evil, they have simply been used in that manner. He figures that they need to find the alien responsible for their creation, and then they’ll be able to tackle major Macabre. A short while later, Macabre, empowered by two of the artifacts, is about to consume the third when he finds himself challenged by the League. Being a prideful man, when Superman accuses Macabre of being a coward, he flies into a rage and attacks the League, momentarily forgetting about the third artifact.
This doesn’t go as you’d expect, though, as Macabre kicks the holy hell out of the assembled League members. But this was all a decoy–while he was doing that, the Red tornado snuck around him and recaptured the three alien artifacts. They’ve also brought along the three Star-Travelers from earlier, and the aliens disempower Macabre, making him human once again. They also cure all of the other people afflicted through contact with the alien items before continuing on their journey into space. And the issue ends with Reddy pointing out the parallel to the Christmas story, and the issue is done.
Well, almost. There’s also a letters page as well as the results of the recent Justice league popularity poll to find out which members the readership both likes and doesn’t like. It’s an interesting though not unexpected list, so I’m posting it here. The editorial team also announces a new poll here, to determine which heroes should leave the League and which new members should be admitted. This poll had one tangible result–it led to Zatanna being inducted in a few issues, as we shall see.