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Synopsis "Now & Then"
Previously: Starman (Mikaal Tomas) and Congorilla (“Congo” Bill Glenmorgan) became members of the Justice League after Prometheus’s plot to destroy the home cities of America’s greatest superheroes. The villain killed many people close to those heroes including Starman’s boyfriend Tony and kidnapped others like the gorilla scientist Malavar (a friend of Bill). Now Starman has vanished. Congorilla is searching for him and was outside of Washington D.C. when Jade sealed the Omega Man, the Justice League, and Crime Syndicate inside a vast emerald dome.
Bill finds Mikaal after he has been on a massive binge in an effort to bury his grief for Tony. Bill is concerned for his friend, but is of the opinion that a good adventure will knock some sense into him. The energy dome over Washington has something to do with Multiverse energy and that’s an area that Malavar specialised in. Bill now needs Mikaal’s help to finally track him down. Bill had asked Green Arrow for help as he was the last person to visit Prometheus’s lair, but he said that Malavar was already long gone by the time he arrived.
The last person to actually see Malavar was the Iranian superhero Sirocco. He told Bill that he saved Malavar from an attack by other gorillas who wanted to his scientific expertise to overthrow Gorilla City’s King. Sirocco said that Malavar had a vat of human remains with him and was looking for a Lazarus Pit. He couldn’t find one so switched to searching for the Fountain of Youth. Bill remembers hearing the Detective Chimp tell him about visiting the Fountain with Rex the Wonder Dog. Bobo was obscure as to its location so they go to ask Rex (who is still working for NASA in Houston). Unfortunately Rex’s vocal powers have waned over the years and they then have to recruit Buddy Baker (Animal Man) to help them translate.
The unusual group of dog, alien, gorilla, and man finally find Malavar at the Fountain after he’s dipped the human’s remains into its waters. However, they are ambushed the terrorists hunting Malavar. The battle is evenly balanced and drags on until the Tasmanian Devil – the body in the Fountain – erupts out of the water and helps beat back their attackers. Malavar shared a captivity at Prometheus’s hands with the Devil. He watched in horror as his comrade was skinned and felt honour bound to restore him.
Once they are victorious the Devil thanks them and returns to Australia to tell his mother he’s alive (although he says he’ll see them soon). The rest are left to teleport to Washington to aid the Justice League.
- The Shade hasn’t been seen since he was attacked by the Starheart.
- Nightshade of the Shadow Pact is missing.
- The Tasmanian Devil was killed by Prometheus, but has been rejuvenated by contact with the Fountain of Youth.
This issue has a certain magnificence just because of its sheer barmimess – a gay azure alien, a talking golden gorilla, an immortal wonder dog, and a stunt man with animal power go in search of the Fountain of Youth in order to reanimate a bear skin rug that use to be a friend of theirs. It’s almost like something from an L. Frank Baum story. This is one of those books that you have to let yourself enjoy – get too uptight about something or other and you’ll never relax enough to just flow with the story.
Brett Booth is the new artist on Justice League and this is our first look at this work with James Robinson. I’m unfamiliar with his earlier work, but I really like the art in this issue. It’s certainly a more delicate style than Mark Bagley’s bold style. As well being a comic book artist Brett is an illustrator who contributes to books on dinosaurs and he is also a dog breeder. So if there is anybody who is going to get Rex looking right right it’ll be Brett. As Mart says, “I can’t recall Rex the Wonder Dog looking so good this side of Gil Kane.” The colouring also works very nicely and the last page – the sun setting behind the heroes as they talk – stands out.
It’s great to have Taz back and I love the new look. I’ve always thought that Prometheus should have found himself confronted by a skinless Taz who asks him “Why for you skin Taz and put him on the cold, cold ground?” before Taz rips him apart in a snarling, toothy whirlwind. However, some people have cried foul. There is a certain amount of fanboy indignation (hmm, good name for a blog) that not only was Taz killed off in the first place, but he was brought back so easily in the face of Dan Didio’s statement that Blackest Night would shut the DC Universe’s “revolving door” to the afterlife.
Has anybody noticed that James Robinson is showcasing a lot of international superheroes? Doctor Light was part of his Superman run, he has plans to bring back Vixen, he’s brought back Taz, showed the first appearance of Sirocco outside of a Kurt Busiek comic, created the German rocket reds in JLA, etc. I really wouldn’t be surprised if he’s not leading up to a relaunch of the Global Guardians – it’s be a great tie-in to Batman Incorporated.
I have a little bit of concern about the reasoning that starts with “there are only two gay men in the JLA” and leads to “therefore they should date as there is nobody else for them to date”. It’s the same reasoning that ends up with Batwoman having connections with the Question and Maggie Sawyer and is related to the Word Newton reasoning that thinks that every character with the surname “Grayson” should be related to Dick Grayson. At least Mikaal’s response to Bill acknowledges this.
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Page 1 – A single panel in Justice League of America (vol. 2) #49 showed Starman sat alone in an Opal City bar. This is his next appearance. Bill was shown in Justice League of America (vol. 2) #50 asking around in Opal City if anybody had seen Mikaal. He then visited Washington D.C. in Justice League of America (vol. 2) #51 to see the energy dome for himself. Neither Bill nor Mikaal appear in Justice League of America (vol. 2) #52 which presumably happens concurrently with this story.
“Don’t Mix Grape or Grain” is an allusion to the old belief that a drinker shouldn’t mix beer (a drink brewed from grain) and and wine (a drink made from grapes). The combination is said make for a really bad hangover.
Page 2-3 - Tony was Mikaal’s lover from Opal City. As revealed in Justice League: Cry For Justice #1 he was visiting his family in New York city when one of Prometheus lieutenants killed him during a robbery. It was Mikaal’s quest for vengeance that led him to meet Bill.
Pay attention to the gorilla terrorists fighting the heroes in these flash-forwards. Brett Booth, the new JLA penciller, did a lot of work for Wildstorm and several of the gorilla terrorists bear an odd resemblance to some of the WildCATS characters. For example the gorilla on the far-right is wearing Grifter’s mask.
Page 4 – The rare editors note is a welcome throw back, but unfortunately it’s wrong. Mikaal and Bill first met each other on Blackhawk Island when they separately traced Prometheus’ lieutenants there in Justice League: Cry For Justice #2. They return there in Justice League of America (vol. 2) #42 (not #41 as the note says – in fact Bill and Mikaal don’t even appear in #41). They want to restart the search for Malavar, but are interrupted by Tender Mercy and the Chair who are stealing a sample of New Genesis/Apokolips technology for Doctor Impossible. It is that scheme by Impossible that eventually creates the energy dome over Washington which they now need Malavar to help them analyse.
Page 6 – The Lazarus Pit is named after the man Jesus brought back to life in the Bible. They are mystical pools that form at the intersection of ley lines and other mystical sites. Immersion in a pit will rejuvenate the sick and even raise the dead. It’s the method that Ra’s Al Ghul has used for centuries to prolong his own life.
Sirocco was created by Kurt Busiek during his time on the Superman titles. He is the archenemy of the villain Khyber – a villainous mastermind that Busiek spent time setting up, but never actually got to use.
Page 7 - The Fountain of Youth is a legendary spring. Bathing or drinking in its waters confers immortality or at least rejuvenation. The Fountain became associated with Florida after the first Governor of Puerto Rico became convinced that it was there. White searching for it he “discovered” Florida and there is now a “Fountain of Youth National Park” on the spot where he first landed.
The Spectre’s assault on one of the Fountains occurred in Day of Vengeance #2.
Page 8 – Bill comments that the Shadow Pack are visiting Myra the home dimension of the missing heroine Nightshade. That would make her the second shadow-powered character mentioned as missing (the first was the Shade).
Dennis is the surname of Rex’s original handler. His younger son, Daniel Dennis, cared for Rex and became his handler in turn when he began working with Rex for NASA. Danny aged normally and hasn’t been seen since an adventure with the Flash (Wally West) a few years ago. This new, young Colonel Dennis could be the son – or even the grandson – of Danny Dennis.
Page 9 - Neither Detective Chimp nor Rex the Wonder Dog could originally talk. Both were originally stars of a title called Rex The Wonder Dog in the early 1950s. Rex’s origin was later tried to World War II as a pastiche of Captain America’s origin. He was the test puppy who was transformed into a Wonder Dog by the war scientists formula minutes before the scientist is killed by a Nazi spy and the formula is lost forever.
Both characters were brought back for a 1980s feature in DC Comics Presents called “What Ever Happened To…”. It was revealed that Rex and Bobo had found the Fountain in DC Comics Presents #35 as an explanation as to why the two animals hadn’t aged in decades. A side effect of the fountain was that it gave them the ability to talk. Bobo still has that ability, but as is shown here Rex doesn’t. I’d recommend Dial D for Blog’s “Introducing the Detective Chimp” for a fun look at the relationship between the characters.
Page 11 - Mikaal joked “Deva Ju” because they first became involved with the JLA set via a meeting with Animal Man (Buddy Baker) in Justice League: Cry For Justice #5. Bill and Buddy had been part of the Forgotten Heroes together and Bill wanted his help in tracking down Prometheus. Starfire and Donna Troy were using Buddy’s pool at the time (Buddy and Starfire had become friends while they were in space with Adam Strange). Starfire and Donna agreed to help and together they approached the Justice League. It’s the group of Donna, Mikaal, and Bill that still forms half of the current League.
Page 18 - See the Commentary above for notes on the Tasmanian Devil.
Page 19 – Bill name-drops three conflicts that’s he been party to.
- “The Battlefields of Flanders” — Flanders in Belgium during the First World War. He’s acknowledged as being Scottish so was probably part of the British Army.
- “1920 Kilkenny fighting R.I.C. and Black and Tan” — The Irish War of Independence. This statement is a little surprising and hints that his back story is isn’t as black-and-white as it seems. He goes from fighting for the British in 1914-18 (the Flanders battles) to fighting against them in 1920. The RIC are the Royal Irish Constabulary and the “Black and Tans” are their auxiliaries who were fighting against the IRA rebel/guerilla/terrorists (delete appropriately according to your politics). Bill’s phrasing makes it sound like he was fighting for the Irish.
- “Haile Selassie’s Christmas Offensive Against the Italians” – 1935, he’s fighting for the Ethiopians against Mussolini’s Italians.
They are an odd assortment as it’s hard to find a common theme. Bill goes from fighting for the British, to fighting against them, to fighting in war completely unconnected with them. If there is a theme it’s that he consistently fighting against Imperial Powers
Page 20 - There is a small difference that I didn’t catch first time around reading this, but Taz changes shape twice. When we first see him, a couple of pages beforehand, he’s got a cat-like snout and appears quite animal like. Then on this page there is a shape-shifting effect and he’s shown with a more human-face and a slighter-build, but still furry. Then finally on page 21 he changes again into a purely human form. Another neat trick – like Congorilla’s size-changing – to account for artistic differences in portrayal.
Does anybody else think it’s nice to see a recently resurrected person actually think about their family for once?