BHOC: JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #159

I was also able to pick up the new issue of JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA at the 7-11 as well. This was the first half of the yearly team-up with the Justice Society of America of Earth-2, which was something I always looked for ward to (even though these stories often got crowded with far too many characters.) Over the last couple of years, in addition to the JSA, a third group of characters started to get involved on a rotating basis, so as to help keep the stories fresh. Having used up just about every logical possibility at this point, writer Gerry Conway chose to bring in a bevy of DC characters whose adventures took place in the past. They weren’t a group so they had no unified name. I tend to think he might have been better just sticking to the JLA and the JSA, but we wouldn’t get to that point until the following year.

As if to make matters more difficult for himself, Conway opens the issue with the entirety of the combined membership of the JLA and the JSA having a celebratory dinner together. Even though he was only going to use a handful of heroes from each team, this allowed Conway to work in some bits concerning other favorites of his, while also conveying some of the sense of event that these meetings were supposed to have. Admittedly, a massive dinner party isn’t exactly the most exciting opening image for a super hero comic book, but at least everyone in attendance was wearing their costumes. if anything, it feels like a throwback to the first Justice Society meeting in ALL-STAR COMICS #3, at which the heroes all sat around and swapped stories.

While the heroes are living it up, elsewhere, an old foe of theirs is facing a different problem. We cut to The Lord of Time in his citadel in the timestream, where we learn that he’s constructed the most powerful and sophisticated computer brain ever devised. Having ordered it to stop time so that the Lord can loot it, he has realized his mistake: once time is halted by the brain, there will be nobody and nothing to ever start it again. Not even the Lord of Time himself can countermand the brain’s programming, so instead he’s come up with a recklessly circuitous plan to foil his own ambitions. It involves pulling a quintet of heroes out of the past, souping them up with super-powers of their own, and then setting them on the assembled League and Society. Sure, that makes sense. Let’s see what happens.

The five heroes summoned from yesterday include the Viking Prince, Jonah Hex, Enemy Ace, Miss Liberty and the Black Pirate, all of whom had well-regarded DC strips at one time or another (apart from Miss Liberty, who was a fixture in TOMAHAWK.) As instructed, they burst into the diner’s club and bring it tumbling down on top of the assembled heroes. Now, you would think that a group that includes two Supermen, Power Girl, Doctor Fate and a couple of Green lanterns wouldn’t have much difficulty with a collapsing building. But it must be imbued with the power of the Lord of Time or some such, as it lays pretty much everybody out. The past heroes find themselves confused as to their whereabouts, how they came here and why they were compelled to attack these costumed strangers, and so they take off.

A few minutes later, Superman comes bursting up out of the wreckage, apparently sturdy enough to survive the hit. His Earth-2 counterpart somehow wasn’t so lucky, but a number of his fellow heroes are likewise still ambulatory. Dr. Mid-Nite, being an actual physician, examines their stricken teammates and finds that they’re all comatose and feverish. After seeking out medical attention for their fallen comrades, the ad hoc JLA/JSA heroes remaining set out to track down their assailants and maybe learn what it was that’s put the rest of their number on the ropes.

The heroes manage to track the chronal energy signature from their assailants to Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, where they find the group chilling out in a flying Viking ship for some reason–apparently, the Lord of Time’s machinations have brought along the time-0displaced heroes’ gear, super-charging it as well. So the JLA and JSA engage, but their opponents are also protected from the worst of their blows by some magical force-fields or whatever, and one by one, the assembled Leaguers and Society members left standing begin to get knocked down.

So the whole affair is a rout, and in the end, despite not knowing why they’re there or what they’re fighting about, the heroes of yesterday absolutely pulverize the modern day heroes. That’s two wins on their scorecard–which, it turns out, is the real point all along. Because the Lord of Time needs the JLA and the JSA to be able to overcome the frankly unassailable defenses he’s put in place around his citadel and the computer brain, and he needs them to not give up when the going gets tough. so this entire exercise was in the service of getting the JLA and JSA heroes to know what defeat feels like, and to steel themselves to overcome it and come back swinging. And seriously, that seems like an enormous waste of time to me, too, but hey, we had two issues of JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA to fill with this story.

And as the issue closes out, the Lord of Time makes these machinations known in a straightforward manner to the audience, thinking as much exposition as is necessary to get the workings of his master plan across. In the final few panels, the JLA and JSA members not in a coma stir once more, and it is apparent that their determination to save their fellows and get to the bottom of things has not diminished due to their defeat. And that’s where things are To Be Continued until next month. On the letters page, which I’m not going to bother reproducing here, assistant editor Bob Rozakis gets an issue ahead of himself and announces that the following issue will see the return of Zatanna, the character who won a mail-in poll on which hero should be inducted into the Justice league. In actuality, we’d have to wait two months to get to that.

3 thoughts on “BHOC: JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #159

  1. I saw the cover and my inner voice said, “Wow! That was a great episode!”… it’s funny how my brain equates good storytelling in comic form with watching a tv show. I have a few comics from my youth where I feel like that.

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  2. This was one of the first issues of the Justice League that I bought off the comic racks. Loved seeing all those characters in one comic, even if they didn’t get to do very much.

    Like

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