Justice League of America (vol. 2) #47

Standard Cover

Quotes

Mister Terrific: Dick Grayson wears the cowl with more elan than his  predecessor, perhaps, but is himself quite the strategist.

Hourman: Everything’s too ordered, lots of 90 degree angles –
Mister America: Except the dogs. What’s up with that, anyway?
Jade: Streak, The Wonder Dog. My dad loved him. These augmented constructs came from dad’s memory. And what you said about the defences, they’re all from my dad’s subconscious too. He was an engineer before he went into broadcasting. This. all this is how dad thinks, not the Starheart.

Synopsis "The Dark Things Part Three"

The Starheart, the vessel into which the Guardians of the Universe trapped the last vestiges of the chaotic and elemental magic from the early universe, has come to Earth. It has possessed Alan Scott (the original Green Lantern), his son Obsidian and the JSA’s Doctor Fate and it has created fortress on the dark side of the Moon. The presence of the Starheart so close to Earth is causing wild and violent personality swings in heroes and villains who have some tie to magic or elemental forces. Batman is leading a hand-picked group of seven heroes into the emerald fortress to free Starman and the others who have been captured by the Starheart.

The elemental chaos caused by the Starheart’s presence is spreading beyond just the superhumans and it is now infecting weather and geological patterns causing floods, storms, and earthquakes. The super-sized Congorilla hold the Hoover Dam together, but then slips into madness and has to be subdued by Supergirl. Heroes from S.H.A.D.E. and the Justice League International try to do what they can against friends like Ibis the Invincible and Ice who have also fallen under the Starheart’s influence.

Starheart holds Faust, Flash, and Wildcat captive, but it doesn’t fully understand its own motivations. Most of the ring constructs and even the form of the Fortress are small freedoms it grants to keep Alan Scott’s mind under control. The Guardian’s programming tells it to control the chaos on Earth, but it finds it rather enjoys the madness. It’s the Flash who recognises that the Starheart is still just a child, but its Faust who deduces that it is Doctor Fate’s power and not the Starheart’s that is keeping them prisoner. Obsidian leaves to meet his sister Jade, but he doesn’t notice Doctor Mid-Nite step out of his shadow. The Doctor then finds Starman held prisoner by another ring construct.

Batman’s team of Mister America, Jesse Quick, Hourman, Donna Troy, and Jade (Alan Scott’s daughter) is led by Mister Miracle past the Fortress’s defences while the JSA All-Stars create a distraction. Batman’s team finds a series of challenges that have been described to them by Starman via a telepathic link to Miss Martian. Unfortunately, Mister Miracle is badly injured and has o be left to heal under Mother Boxxx’s care. The rest of the heroes are attacked by a hoard of constructs based on Alan’s old friends and enemies from the 1940s. Amid this fight Obsidian confronts his sister and tells her that she just has to take his hand for everything to be made alright. However, they are interrupted by the arrival of Green Lantern Kyle Rayner who informs them that the Guardians of the Universe have sent him to kill Alan Scott.

Continuity

  • Congo Bill finally gets a surname: William Glenmorgan.
  • Congorilla can grow almost as large as the Hoover Dam (the full height of the dam in 726 ft, given his reach, and where he’s standing that’s got to make him 400-500 feet tall on page one).

Opinion

The third part of the JLA/JSA cross over features the attack on the Starheart’s emerald fortress, some questions are answered, some new ones are asked. As a reader it felt satisfying that the story was moving ahead. The focusing down of the story, as Doug notes, “narrows the scope of this issue”. That isn’t entirely unwelcome as it proves a lot less scattered. The focus is also noted by Chrisflinchbaugh on iFanboy who says in his review that

[...] the angles of the players seem to become more clear. How clear they are now we won’t know until it all wraps up. Whether earlier parts were purposely murky and slightly confusing or not, this issue makes me actually excited about the crossover progressing. Robinson, keep it up!

The vignettes with everything going mad is held to just the first three pages and even then it’s used to highlight Congorilla. It’s a nice sequence and shouldn’t be noted just because it gives Congo Bill a surname.

The appearance of Mister Miracle last issue was unexpected and is rewarded this issue. Anj at Supergirl Comics Box comments on the use of panel rotation in this sequence,

The landscape is sort of an escher environment. Now I have seen this in a million comics. But I rarely see the word bubbles also slanted like this. I had to turn the book. Made me feel a little topsy-turvy. It was a nice little touch.

However, it does feel a little odd when he’s taken off the table almost as quickly as he was introduced. One imagines Shilo will reawaken just in time to be useful later. It’s nice to see things that are set up in one part played out in another. Jade and Donna had mentioned Kyle in an earlier part and now here he appears.

The second part of this crossover, Justice Society of America #41, was inked solely by Norm Rapmund and a number of reviewers commented on the general improvement in the art. This issue is inked by Rob Hunter who has shared the inking duties with Rapmund on earlier issues. On a single issue I’d be hard press to say who inked which page so I find it quite interesting to see each inker separated like this. If I was brutally honest I’d say that I prefered the art on JSA #41 style, but this issue is still quite good. The sequences with Mister Miracle and the traps was nicely done, although the finish on the faces can wander at times.

The Verdict

Stars
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TypeSiteReviewerRatingEquivalent
Grand Average 66.2%
Reviews Portal Comic Book Resources Doug Zawisza 3/5
Community Reviews Comics Vine User Reviews Av. of 3 reviews 3.5/5
Community Reviews iFanboy 338 Pulls 3.4/5
Character Site Supergirl Comic Book Commentary Anj B
Character Site Superman Homepage Ralph Silver 4 (story) & 4 (art)/5
Reviews Blog Comic Book Bin Herve St-Louis 7.5/10
Reviews Blog A Comic Book Blog Wayland 75/100
Reviews Blog Comics Per Day Reviews Timbotron Average
Character Site Captain's Justice League Homepage Jason Kirk 3/5

Annotations

Page 1 – As far as I know this is the first time in his 75-year plus history that Congo Bill has been given a surname. Glenmorgan sounds like a Scottish place name – it pop-ups in here and there as a name for fictional characters (a “small Scottish estate of Glen Morgan” occurs in several comics created by Guy Riche for Virgin Comics). It’s also an old variant spelling/typo of the Welsh county name Glamorgan. There is a town in Queensland, Australia called Glenmorgan and a tea plantation in South India.

Pages 2-3Panel 5 shows Frankenstein fighting the second Ibis the invincible. The gentleman with the staff, an Ibis Stick, is Ibis the Invincible. The sword that Frankenstein is wielding once belonged to the Archangel Michael. These two characters have significance for players in the main story as Frankenstein was a member of the Seven Soldiers along with Mister Miracle and Ibis II first appeared in the Helmet of Fate mini-series that set up the introduction of the current Doctor Fate. The original Ibis was a Fawcett Comics character, an Egyptian prince who was transported to the 1940s and became a superhero. This version is Danny Khalifa. S.H.A.D.E is the Super Human Advanced Defence Executive, an US government agency, that has recruited Frankenstein’s monster and his Bride as their agents. Panel 6 shows Captain Atom fighting Fire, and Ice fighting Booster Gold. Both Ice and the Captain would be affected by the elemental aspect of the Starheart. These four have reformed as the JLI in the pages of Justice League: Generation Lost. Their team-mate, the second Blue Beetle, was name checked by Doctor Mid-Nite in the second part of this story.

Page 4 - Right-to-left Mister America, Jesse Quick, Batman (Dick Grayson), Hourman, Mister Miracle (Shilo Norman), Donna Troy, and Jade. Mister America’s inclusion with this group is interesting. He’s one of the more obscure heroes appearing here. I don’t think I’ve noted it before, but he’s also the successor of a hero that played a prominent role in James Robinson’s Golden Age graphic novel. I won’t spoil the details.

Technically Thaddeus Brown was the first Mister Miracle. He was a circus escape artist who trained Scott Free – Jack Kirby’s super-escape artist from New Genesis. Brown’s murder was the catalyst for Scott to take over the role and begin his published adventures. Brown’s manager, Oberon, stayed on as Scott’s manager and they joined the Justice League in Justice League #1 after the 1987 Legends crossover. Scott’s wife is Big Barda. The current issue of Booster Gold includes a time travel story showing Booster travelling back in time to have an adventure with Scott and Barda. The “present day” Scott was killed and resurrected on Earth-51 during the Final Crisis crossover. Oberon survived and as seen in Keith Giffen’s Doom Patrol is currently running a removals firm for superheroes and similar clients.

This version of Mister Miracle if the third. He is called Shilo Norman, he was Brown’s ward and he is Scott Free’s former apprentice. Scott’s Mister Miracle was a performer and had noted gigs at Madison Square Gardens and interstellar tours, but he otherwise tried to live a quiet, suburban life in the town of Bailey. Shilo’s more of a rock-star performer. Both Shilo and Scott used sentient computers from New Genesis called Mother Box. These miraculous devices could do almost anything, but it seems that Shilo’s version – now called Mother Boxxx – is the last to exist (in Universe Designate Zero at least). For comparison, the New Gods based villain Doctor Impossible (who appeared in JLA #41-43) uses a device he calls a Father Box. Doc Impossible is scheduled to appear in the next JLA arc.

Page 5 - These are Atom Smasher, Star Girl, Citizen Steel, and Tomcat of the JSA All-Stars. Atom Smasher (as Nuklon), Jade, Hourman, and Obsidian were all once part of a similar “young JSA” group called Infinity Inc. The breathable atmosphere around the Fortress is mentioned again. It could just be a convenient excuse to allow people to run around on the surface of the moon or it could be a hint to something deeper.

Page 6 - Last issue Starman related his experiences of the Emerald Fortress’s security devices to the League:

I see a room within a room. Floor, ceiling, four walls… and five sides. Five sides.
I see a deadly dancing French girl.
I hear the roar of cannons, but what I see is dogs on fire.
It’s autumn in Geneva.
Funny little men with fierce eyes.
Light dances before me, shades of malice.
Butterfly lock and key. Tick, tock.

Which is what Mister Miracle is quoting when he describes the dimension altering room that they pass through. M.C. Escher was a Dutch painter who is probably most famous for his pictures, like “Relativity” (shown above), of impossible realities.

Page 7 – Shilo leads the team through a room of flying rods and cogs. His weaving through the rods could be described as a “deadly dance”.

Page 8 – Shilo leads the team passed giant green tentacles, but Hourman and Mister America later describe them as snakes in the form of a helix. Snakes in a helix could be a reference to the Caduceus, the symbol of the Olympian god Hermes/Mercury. It’s a symbol of balance, or order.

Page 9 - These would be the “dogs on fire” from Starman’s riddle. Jade identifies them as Streak the Wonder Dog in a later panel. Streak is the prototype for the K9 superhero sidekick. Comic Book Urban Legends relates how he first appeared in Green Lantern #30 as an attempt to cash-in on the then popular craze for Rin Tin Tin. Well, Streak proved so popular that he displaced Green Lantern out of his own comic and even survived the title’s cancellation. Streaks creators, Robert Kanigher and Alex Toth, then relaunched their creation as “Rex” the Wonder Dog.

Page 10 – Jade mentions that her Dad, Alan Scott, was an engineer. He was a railway engineer before he became the Green Lantern. That’s how he got the Lantern – it was on the train as a usual green railway lantern until the latent power of the Starheart flared through it to save Alan’s life. His later career was as the owner of a radio corporation called the Gotham Broadcasting Corporation. That’s “Gotham” as in Batman’s Gotham because Alan Scott was protecting Gotham City long before Bruce Wayne was even born. It would have been Alan’s Green Lantern who probably created the idea of what a hero should be in Bruce Wayne’s young mind.

Page 11 - These are Alan Scott’s old enemies and friends. The man in front with the wrench is Doiby Dickles who would fulfil the role of “Funny little men with fierce eyes.” in Starman’s riddle. He was Green Lantern’s stereotypical Brooklyn Cabbie fat-sidekick. Golden Age characters tended to accrete sidekicks – teen sidekicks, dog sidekicks, fat comedy sidekicks, “well-meaning, but now horrible racist stereotype” sidekicks. Dick Grayson, here playing Batman, was an example of the teen-sidekick as Robin, Streak was an example of the dog-sidekick, and Doiby was an example of the fat-comedy sidekick. Others in this genre include Wonder Woman’s Etta Candy and Shazam’s Uncle Marvel.

The other characters shown here are Alan Scott’s enemies. The man with the beard is Vandal Savage (the immortal caveman currently bothering Batman in The Return of Bruce Wayne). The giant is Solomon Grundy. Any character wearing a football or baseball outfit is the Sportsmaster. The character with the pointed hat is the original Icicle. The Sportsmaster’s daughter (Tigeress) and the Icicle’s son (also called Icicle) are currently appearing in a JSA All-Stars backup feature with Jesse Quick and Hourman. The man with the violin is the Fiddler. Basically, Alan Scott had the most enduring Golden Age villains.

Hourman and Jesse Quick are thinking each others name because they are actually husband and wife. Notice Donna’s thought, “I’m going to rip them”, she is definitely facing anger issues.

Page 12 - Astronomy problem? If this fortress is on the dark side of the moon how can they be seeing Earth out of the window? The phrase “dark side of the moon” is often used to incorrectly mean the “far size of the moon”. If this were actually the case that view would be impossible as the Earth cannot be seen from the far side of the moon. The length of the Moon’s “day” (its period of rotation relative to the Sun) is the same as the time it takes to orbit around the Earth. This is called tidal locking and appears quite frequently in rotating gravitational system. The upshot of this locking is that we only ever see one half of the Moon’s surface. Its other side, the mysterious far side, remained unseen until the space age.

The real dark side of the moon is that half which is facing away from the Sun and thus is not illuminated by it. This is exactly the same as night-time on the Earth. It is night because we are facing away from the Sun. It is the slow movement of Moon’s night across its surface that creates the Moon’s familiar phases. This means that every part of the moon’s surface – barring some deep craters near the poles – is eventually illuminated by the Sun. So the Starheart’s Fortress is in the part of the moon facing the Earth, but not the Sun. One imagines that the Moon in the DC Universe is littered with the remains and fortresses of light adverse vampires and aliens who thought it would be a good idea to camp out on the Moon’s dark side right until the unexpected lunar dawn broke.

The crystal that the Starheart is holding is the crystal that Mikaal Tomas usually has attached to his chest. Alan/Starheart ripped it off of Mikaal at the end of Justice League of America (vol 2.) #46.

Page 15 – Interesting revelation about Doctor Fate. Why has Doctor Fate been effected by the Starheart? If there was one magic user on Earth who could have been strong enough to resist it should have been him. The entity that powers Fate is called Nabu, he is/was an alien sorcerer from a race of non-corporeal lifeforms called the Lords of Order. Their opposite numbers were the Lords of Chaos. The war between the Lords of Order and Chaos dominated the last Age of Magic in the DC Universe – there have been ten ages in total with each new age causing a shift in the rules, principles, and patterns that govern magic. The current age began with the extinction of the Lords of Order and Chaos during the Infinite Crisis. If the Starheart is so strongly entwined in the Order/Chaos principle then it could have a bearing on Fate the other survivors of the Chaos/Order war.

Page 16 - Doctor Mid-Nite emerges from Obsidian’s shadow. The shadow dimension within is called the Shadowlands. He entered it by jumping into a closing shadow portal in Justice Society of America #41.

Page 17 – The woman is a construct of Molly Maine, the original Harlequin. She was an adversary of Alan Scott who only took up the costume to try and get his attention romantically. It worked – she is now his wife as seen in an early part this story.

Pages 18-19 - The thing I love about this spread is the way that Jesse Quick’s after images seem to be everywhere.

Pages 20-21- Todd (Obsidian) has had a long history of mental problems. He and Jade weren’t raised by Alan Scott who had no knowledge of them until they were adults. The inherent darkness of his powers means that he’s been coerced before into becoming a supervillain and has fought his father and the Justice Society. He was cured of that and has sorted out his life with the help of his boyfriend Damon Matthews (as seen in the now defunct Kate Spencer Manhunter series).

Page 22 – Oh, now this is getting complicated. That is Kyle Rayner, the ex-boyfriend of Jade and Donna Troy. More on him next-time. However, notice how this issue repeats the trick from JSA #41 of having an unexpected guest star appear on the last page.