Saturday, February 23, 2008

Detroit Duldrums

Well, you should never rely too heavily on what you think is the truth. For example, I thought that I had thoroughly sorted through all of the comic collection and gotten then sorted into long boxes, well-before our recent move was to begin.

And yet, to my (sort is a big collection)surprise, on one of the last days of Moving, I discovered three smaller boxes containing an assortment of titles which I had overlooked during the earlier project. So, as I sort through these, to place them with their proper titles, I thought I'd share a few here.

The first box I opened seems to be an assortment of titles from different years, but in a range that seems to stay within 1986 to 1989. These two consecutive issues are from that first year, October's JLA #255 and November's JLA #256.

These were interesting times in the DC Universe. The Crisis on Infinite Earths had just drawn to a close, and in its wake, things were briefly a little dull, before reboots and other interesting things began to happen.

Mostly we fans were catching our breath and reviewing just what all happened in that series. The letter columns are full of people asking questions of clarification: which Wonder Woman no longer existed, and which one was ascended to Olympus with her husband Steve Trevor (it was the E2 version who was brought to Olympus, tho Diana on E1 had also married her Steve [thrice incarnated at that point]in the Crisis' final days.)? Wasn't the JLA satellite destroyed? And so on...

Since actual comic shops were only just beginning to appear here and there on the horizon, one of the most exciting things was actually finding places where you could buy comics. Excitement certainly doesn't describe how I felt as I re-read these two issues, despite two of my favorite characters--Zatanna and the Martian Manhunter--being featured on the covers.

Prior to the Crisis, the League had sort of spun apart. I can't recall the actual circumstances that caused most of the traditional members to opt out (*I promise when I file these two, I'll revisit that particular part of the run and share what I find...), but suddenly we had a version of the Justice League led by Aquaman...who's first move, oddly enough, was to move the JLA headquarters away from the coastline to the lakeshore of Detroit.

By these issues, the new League was a blend of new and old characters, with Aquaman, Batman, J'onn J'onzz, Elongated Man (and Sue!)and Zatanna providing the Experience, while newbies Vixen, Vibe, Gypsy and Steel (late of the All-Star Squadron, but thrown through time by the Crisis, if I recall correctly...)made up the Next Generation.

These two issues comprise the center of an apparently-four-issue story, so perhaps not having re-read from the beginning or reaching some satisfying conclusion colored my enjoyment. Also, I note that Gerry Conway and Michael Ellis are credited for plot and script respectively for #255, while J.M. DeMatteis (who would soon be having way more fun with a fresher version of the League) gets the writing credits for #256.

As we find our heroes, Zatanna is in bondage and has recently been operated on by a whack-job named Adam, who has stolen some of her homo magi genes to graft onto his own...which then essentially transforms him into a sort of mad god. Although she sends out an emergency alert to the rest of the Leaguers, Adam creates an illusion of Zee to send them away, claiming a false alarm.

The image of Zatanna (even a fake one) convincing Batman that there's no need for the rest of the League there took on an interesting turn in the re-read, with the more recent context of Identity Crisis: by the Detroit era, the "mind-wipe" was already a thing of the past...and you kind of get the idea of Batman as Zatanna's puppet on a string.

But meanwhile, Adam has overpowered the Manhunter and Gypsy as well, who've stumbled into Zee's situation while trying to learn who framed John Jones for murder, and that's where this bit of the story wraps with a cliffhanger.

It's sort of tepid stuff, though being the JLA, still fun. But without this dim period in League history, we wouldn't appreciate the other teams and eras properly!

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