This post concerns the second 100-page Super-Spec that I obtained on my first holiday on my uncle’s farm in the summer of 1974. Nostalgia for sunny days afternoons amid the pine plantation aside, I might not be inclined to put it in my top five, even with that striking orange cover.
Balance of Power: Introduced as an E-1 version of the 40s Injustice Society, the Injustice Gang is a long-overdue idea: the evil counterpart team. (The Crime Syndicate is an evil distorted mirror-image team but…shhh.I don’t know that yet). The international crimes of the Injustice Gang are a smokescreen for a power play by one-off villain, Libra*. The mysterious masked villain has a similar gimmick to the members of Marvel’s Zodiac, from the spring of ’74. Is this a deliberate or accidental resemblance? After all, Wein, Englehart and Conway linked their Rutland, Vermont stories together…
This is the first issue in a long time that hasn’t featured Black Canary or Diana Prince. Wein’s Mary Sue character Elongated Man not only shakes up the all-male League’s tactics with deceptively idiosyncratic flair but also has a strategy for overcoming the Tattooed Man. What’s interesting is the fate of Libra: it’s the first time I can recall a DC character having a Kozmic Marvel style experience as he becomes ” one with the universe”. Under Englehart and Starlin, it’s a cute, coded reference to psychedelic experimentation. For Wein, it’s a Star Trek-style denouement, where a godlike being is undone by his hubris.
Wanted: The Injustice Gang: an illustrated fact file by Pasko and Pat Broderick. This is a fairly second-rate collection of baddies, aside from the Mirror Master. It strikes me that after the Relevancy Era, DC’s writers revisited some of the villains of their childhood. It was a similar story at Marvel with revivals of ancient FF foe, the Miracle Man; the Yellow Claw; the Vulture; the Collector; the Tumbler, and oh, others I’ve doubtless forgotten.
Beware! The Black Star Shines: This story of the Seven Soldiers of Victory presents a dull series of mini-adventures for Green Arrow and Speedy, the Star-Spangled Kid and Stripsey and the Shining Knight. Sir Justin fares best: you can see where a lot of Stan and Jack’s schtick for Thor originated and there is an element of pathos when the knight thinks he’s been returned to Arthur’s court. I would much rather read a Kirby Green Arrow story although there is some amusement to be had with the ridiculous villain, The Hopper.
Murphy Anderson’s glorious late-60s portrait of Law’s Legionnaires- the Seven Soldiers- is reprinted in this issue:
Attack of the Star-Bolt Warrior: I get the impression Gardner Fox was as bored with the League as I was reading this story. The original JLA formula of sending duos and trios to deal with magical or interstellar menaces has fallen by the wayside. The antagonist in this campy tale is Brain Storm, who focuses stellar energy through a deeply silly hat. The gimmicky plot revolves around Brain Storm’s mistaken grudge against Green Lantern. We do, however, get to see Fox favourites and JSA-analogues Atom and Hawkman in action. Like the lead story, the League is a boy’s club- no sign of secretary Wonder Woman.
JLA Mail Room: Wein’s two-part Earth-X/Freedom Fighters story is generally praised ( although the team didn’t go by that sobriquet yet); the return of the Amazon Wonder Woman is trailed; and there is some positive response to Red Tornado; the self-pitying android has been sharing the spotlight with Ralph Dibny as the focus of characterisation in the JLA for the previous six months.
I think we’ll see other JLA 100-pagers that I would be more inclined to include in my top five…
Next: Golden Plague
* One-off, that is, until Grant Morrison’s surprise revival of Libra in Final Crisis.
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