BHOC: JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #157

My subscription to JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA was still in force, and so this next issue arrived one day in my mailbox. This was an issue of some note, both because it featured the wedding of the Atom (at a time when super hero weddings was still a relatively rare occurrence) and because only a portion of this oversized issue was penciled by JLA iron man Dick Dillin. Dillin had penciled every previous issue of the series that I had ever read (not counting reprints of the earliest League stories, which were by Mike Sekowsky) and while others had handled the team on covers and in outside appearances in other titles, it was strange to see much of the actual book depicted by some other hand. Similarly, the Joe Staton cover, while perfectly nice, also seemed like a departure. Staton wasn’t an artist known for his cover work, so I wonder if this wasn’t either a rush or a substitution for some other less-successful piece.

It isn’t surprising that Dillin needed some help here; what’s more astonishing is how long he went without needing back-up. During this time, JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA was a giant-sized series, with 34 pages of story in every issue. Dillin managed to illustrate them all (apart from this one instance) while keeping the quality level consistent. His work could occasionally be clunky or stiff–traits that he shared with his predecessor Sekowsky–buthe defined the look of the JLA for me–his version was the “correct” version to my eyes for a long time. The pinch hitter for most of the book was Juan Ortiz, who did a competent job–I expect that most readers didn’t mind the switch at all. Ortiz had a very straight-ahead style, reminiscent of another DC newcomer, Alex Saviuk.

This story was an event that writer Gerry Conway had been building to for some time. In the pages of SUPER-TEAM FAMILY, which he had been writing, Conway produced a four-part saga involving the Atom having to locate the lost and missing Jean Loring, his longtime girlfriend, who had been bounced through time and space. At the end of that series, Ray Palmer proposed to Jean once again, and this time she accepts. So now it was time for the pair to get hitched. But one reality still existed between them: Ray hadn’t yet revealed to Jean that he was secretly the Atom. After some soul-searching in the previous issue, this one opens up with a prologue in which Palmer does exactly that. Of course, Jean is a bit floored by this revelation, and she isn’t sure that she can be wed to a man who had been lying to her for so many years–good on you, Jean.

A quick diversion here to relate to you all just how disturbed I was to see the Red Tornado flying along on this page without his signature whirlwind effect. To the best of my knowledge, this wasn’t something he could do–whenever he had been depicted in flight previously, it was atop a cone of whirling air. It’s strange the things that bug you as a reader, but this really bothered me. I felt as though DC and editor Julie Schwartz had really dropped the ball here, and I even wrote the book a letter to that effect. Anyway, while the Atom’s drama is taking place, another figure is targeting the Justice League for revenge. This is Mauri, the Siren, the last of the godlike beings the rest of whom the League had encountered and defeated last month. Now alone in this strange new world, the Siren blames the JLA for her situation, and she intends to use her ability to ensorcel the minds of men to strike against the team and destroy it. As grudges go, it’s not top-10, but it’ll do for a single issue, I suppose.

The League, meanwhile, is warned by their sometimes-member the Phantom Stranger that the Siren is still at large. The League sens a task force hand-picked by the Stranger out to investigate the island where they’d left the other God-Beings last month, and this crew is attacked along the way by the Siren’s agents. But Aquaman, Green Arrow and Batman are able to see the fight through, and they confirm that the Siren is among the missing. Meanwhile, Green Lantern and the Red Tornado have gone to Gorilla City to collect its leader, Solivar, who has been invited to attend the wedding as a guest. They too are ambushed, and this time the Siren is in attendance as well. While her henchmen aren’t all that much of a problem, the Siren herself is another matter, and she winds up turning Green lantern against his fellows. And as they head back to the JLA satellite, it turns out that Batman and Green Arrow have been similarly mind-controlled, and they put a hurting on Aquaman before beaming skyward.

Superman has been left on monitor duty, and she’s the Siren’s true target. Vulnerable to her abilities, Superman is enlisted to wipe out the rest of the League along with Green Lantern. Because much of the team is assembling for the Atom’s wedding, that’s where the battle takes place–and it includes guest-star Supergirl, who had helped out the Atom and Jean at the beginning of that SUPER-TEAM FAMILY adventure. Which is good, because the Siren’s powers don’t work on women, and so Wonder Woman, Black Canary and Supergirl are forced to battle the rest of the League. Fortunately, they come out on top and the Siren is undone–in time for the ceremony, as it turns out. Before which, Jean and Ray have a heart-to-heart talk about their relationship. They’re on solid ground now, and the possibility of something like Jean going crazy and killing off Sue Dibny in a failed attempt to win back Ray’s love is unlikely to ever happen.

In the aftermath, in true Schwartzian fashion, the team members reveal how they broke the Siren’s spell over them. The key moment is that Supergirl lets herself be a target for Superman, gambling that his love for his cousin will be stronger than the Siren’s control–and it was. From there, they used that old super-hypnosis to free the others. And now, the Siren has been re-imprisoned with her fellows deep beneath the waves, and so the threat is ended–as is the story.

The letters page included this handy guide as to who was who in the wedding spread.

18 thoughts on “BHOC: JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #157

  1. George Tuska also had a fill-in issue during the giant-size run. …..153. Seems like Dillin had been under the weather.

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  2. Alas, Dillin did miss one issue before this one — #153, pencilled by George Tuska. I suspect that Dillin’s later health issues (or for all we know, then-current) might have played a role. I always thought it was a shame that he didn’t get a wholly unbroken run.

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    1. You’re right, I had forgotten that Tuska had handled #153 despite having written about it here several months ago. That and #94 were the only fill-ins besides this one in Dillin’s long run; even if it isn’t quite unbroken, that’s still a hell of an achievement.

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  3. Conway did well with those giant-sized JLAs, as did Englehart after him. I agree Dillin is one of “my” JLA pencilers.
    While it’s a convention of superhero weddings, it’s really odd that Sue’s wedding part is made up of Supergirl and the JLA women, as if she didn’t have any friends of her own.

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    1. I don’t recall Jean having any friends or female relatives. Her recent insanity and temporary destructive powers (am I remembering that part right?) might have had the League manipulate her to get those attendants in case hey needed the firepower.

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      1. Jean had a father and a nephew, Jimmy Loring (which, at DC, implies at least one brother and at least one sister-in-law), she worked in an office with other people, she went to college and law school…

        She presumably wasn’t a friendless loner — we simply didn’t see her private life much, because she was a supporting character to a DC hero whose only ongoing full-length series (where there might be room to explore supporting cast members’ lives) was a Silver Age DC book written by Gardner Fox, so that didn’t happen.

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      2. I think it’s reasonable to assume she does have female friends — we just never see them because the stories are from Ray’s perspective. Much as we can assume Silver Age Carol Ferris dealt with employees other than Hal and Tom even though we almost never see that.

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  4. This was the first issue of JLA I bought off the newsstand. I liked it enough to keep buying up to the JL Detroit days and have have back and forth ever since, depending on the creative team.

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  5. I remember buying this comic when it came out. (I would have been 8 years old I guess). I remember liking it a lot, though even at the age of 8 I found it mighty odd that Jean’s maids of honor are entirely made up of JLA members (and reservists) in their secret identities! Did Jean Loring really have no family or friends in Ivy Town? Was she really that close with Diana Prince, Dinah Lance, Shiera Hall and Linda Danvers? (This is even odder, reading this now, as the only real (implied) relationship Jean has with anyone in this issue is Iris Allen and Sue Dibny– neither of whom are in the bridal party!)

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    1. The Hank/Jan wedding is another, older example — we have Invisible Girl in the bridal party when she and Jan hardly know each other, the X-Men and Dr. Strange as wedding guests (the Avengers hardly know the X-Men and they’ve never worked with Dr. Strange) and Spider-Man whom Jan actively dislikes, at the reception.

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  6. If it sets anyone’s mind at ease, we could assume Red Tornado (flying as per usual atop his trusty tornado cone) has simply gotten too high up above the other JLAers for easy conversation. Just before the shots Dillin has chosen to show us Reddy had cut his tornado power to do a little free-falling back towards the group and just to examine what flying feels like for his fellows.

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    1. t always bothered me more when the tornado trail was drawn as shorter or thinner than his lower body than the rare times he flew without it. TBH, it’s also bothering me that a once essential part of the JLA and a onetime air elemental is now reduced to starring in a depressing and jokey current mini. I guess I should be happy hes’ not getting the character assassination Power Girl is there.

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      1. It’s hard to give up on even an out of character Power Girl after the long drought but yeah, I usually only give even minis three issues before giving up. I don’t miss the completist days for sure!

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