Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Justice League Detroit - Come Together

Over the next few weeks on a Tuesday, I'll be working my way through the Justice League of America titles from 1985 to 1987, trying to work out if the Justice League Detroit era really was as bad as we think it was. Why am I doing this? Why the hell not.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #241 - 243, written by Gerry Conway with art by George Tuska and Mike Machlan.

This is Slick Jake MacGregor:

He's a prospector in the Canadian Yukon and not a good one, either. A miserable sod who blames everyone in the town of St Jude for his failings, a drunk with a mean heart.

And he's not having a good day:

Having had their introductory arc (#233 - #236) followed by the old League handing the reins to them (#237 - #239), Justice League Detroit now needed something to bring them together as a cohesive team - a significant threat as opposed to the straw man that was the Overmaster.

Before that, though, there's a bit of domestics that need to be taken care of.

Over the last few issues, Aquaman's behaviour has, to say the least, been surprising. He's been incredibly bad tempered not only with the younger, newer heroes (in particular Steel and Vibe) but also with the supporting members, Sue Dibny and Dale Gunn. While the reason for this wasn't immediately obvious, we now know it was due to his wife Mera having left him.

Being the proud, arrogant man that he is, he's been unwilling to try and find Mera in order to mend fences but Vixen pushes him, forcing him to consider the possibility, which is the closest any of his friends and colleagues has been.

With that done, there's a brief detour via the bunker's kitchen which I've included just for this scene:

J'onn J'onzz looking bemused in an apron!

Aquaman takes Vixen's words to heart and by the time J'onn calls the League together to discuss an attack on St Jude by the one-man Justice League Amazo, the sea king has left the building without so much as leaving a note. Before heading North to confront the android, there's just time for a quick fashion show as Vibe unveils his new, darker costume:

It's perhaps worth noting that the regular penciller, Chuck Patton, had left the series at the end of last issue and I can't help wondering if this was fill-in penciller George Tuska's design.

The team head to Canada and, as they used to in the old days, pair up and split up to try and find the bad guy. Problem is, this League is still made up of new people which, in the role of leader at least, includes J'onzz. Couple that with the fact that Amazo is no mindless android but has possessed the raging mind and bitter memories of one Slick Jake MacGregor.

In #242, Gypsy and Elongated Man attempt to find Amazo but, after a brief interlude in which Gypsy's chased by a bear, they're out of luck as Amazo finds them first.

The other members of the League, through various means, learn of the battle with Amazo and head towards it with varying degrees of success:

One by one they're defeated by the android that's convinced it's Slick Jake MacGregor while J'onn and Dale Gunn both recover from their earlier encounter with him. Together they fly North, following a hunch J'onn's had, leaving the League behind them with J'onn confident in the knowledge that they will not engage Amazo.

Unfortunately, he's a little over confident as Amazo has dug a huge hole in the ground, placed the captive Leaguers inside it and sealed it with an enormous boulder, burying them alive.

Aquaman, having found Mera, returns to the bunker with her to find it deserted but still displaying the map of the Yukon so at least he (conveniently) knows where to go. Meanwhile Vixen is the first of the unconcious Leaguers to wake in the blocked in pit and manages to dig her way around the boulder, then rescues the others using Elongated Man as a rope!

And moments later, Aquaman and Mera turn up.

J'onzz and Gunn pay a visit to Superman's Fortress of Solitude where Amazo had been imprisoned and discover the means of his escape - a simple accident of a meteorite bursting through the Fortress walls and breaking open Amazo's prison. This allows J'onn to work out that Amazo is not working with a League enemy but must have subsumed someone's personality. They catch up with the League as it takes on the android in Vancouver and, having garnered information about Slick Jake MacGregor on the way, J'onn uses his shapeshifting abilities to confuse Amazo:

The distraction is enough for Aquaman to deal a knockout blow, though he serves up another as he decides to resign from the League for dereliction of duty.

Just before the issue ends, though, there's time for a quick epilogue where the mystery of Steel's grandfather is revealed:

This is a better arc for the League even though, technically, they lost in their battle against Amazo. By the time J'onn arrived pretending to be MacGregor, most of the League were unconcious or injured and it seemed unlikely that even Aquaman would defeat him. However, they did work together and, with Aquaman's pending resignation coupled with his own tactful solution to the Amazo problem, J'onn is set up to become the leader of the League.

While not perfect, the League are slowly coming together, just in time for a Crisis to loom.

Here's some snippets from the letter columns of these issues, further documenting fans' reactions to the new direction.

Editor Alan Gold (JLA #241)
To be fair to the editor Alan Gold, he did print a couple of strongly worded letters in #241 which included the following:

Carlos M. Fernandez, Los Angeles (JLA #241)
Yeah, you Commie, pinko lefties, always pandering to "the minorities" instead of wholesome Americans named Carlos Fernandez!

Ken Maynard, Johnstown (JLA #241)
Ken throws doubt on Alan Gold's "five more or less dissatisfied correspondents" knowing as he does there must be "hundreds or thousands" more like him and Carlos.

Ken Maynard, Johnstown (JLA #241)
And yes, he simply assumes that Gypsy must be a prostitute. Jeez, Ken, calm down, man.

Gary Chapple, Bowmanville (JLA #241)
Look at that - some love for the new guys and scorn for the old guys!

Willie Holmes, Chicago (JLA #242)
Willie Holmes, everybody: a man who knows what he likes and what he likes are orange tights.

Mark Ryan, St. Louis (JLA #242)
Mark, you may have written this before the internet as we know it today came into being, but seriously? Aquaman's worse than Hitler? I call Godwin on you, sir.

Mark Ryan, St. Louis (JLA #242)
That's right, Mr Gold - what are the chances of JLA/Avengers ever seeing print?

"Hazel Nutt", Ludington (JLA #242)
Spankings all round, people! At least for the "angry young men" - Vixen and Gypsy may have to wait.


  1. dude! i used to have all three of these issues which i had picked in 3 for $1 dollar boxes back when i was a kid. this posting brings back some memories thanks.

  2. As long as they're happy memories, David!


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