JUSTICE LEAGUE SPECTACULAR #1 - written by Dan Jurgens and Gerard Jones with art by Dan Jurgens, Ron Randall, Rick Burchett and Randy Elliott.
JUSTICE LEAGUE AMERICA #61 - #62 - written by Dan Jurgens with art by Dan Jurgens, Rick Burchett and Jackson 'Butch' Guice.
Before we delve into the issues, a quick bit of background as to how we got here. The Giffen / DeMatteis (and Jones) runs on Justice League America and Justice League Europe came to an end with the Breakdowns storyline which saw both branches of the League dissolve after facing various foes. The one-off Justice League Spectacular featured new writers Dan Jurgens, who would take over the American branch, and Gerard Jones who was now writing the European team without Giffen.
And it's to the Spectacular we go where we find Elongated Man and his wife Sue accompanying a bunch of diplomats to Florida's Funny Stuff amusement park. As they wander through the Alice in Wonderland section, who are they just bound to run into? The Royal Flush Gang who make short work of the diplomats' bodyguards and take down Ralph as well before grabbing the whole bunch and taking them hostage.
Read that on the left? The guy's a sweetheart. Like he's ever going to hurt anybody . . .
Max is once more attempting to get the League back together under his wing and is trying to do it - despite the objections of Oberon - by doing the same thing he did last time: hire the Royal Flush Gang as patsies, let them take the beating while he gets the glory.
Trouble is, this time the Flushers are using weapons that, frankly, surprise the heck out of Max and the whole hostage deal is something that wasn't in the plan either.
At the original League's secret sanctuary, which the JLA and JLE had used in Breakdowns, Booster Gold finds an overweight, unshaven, uncaring Blue Beetle who's depressed over the loss of the League while Booster's a little more upbeat. Also making their way back to the sanctuary are Fire and Ice:
Ice was always a little more innocent than most heroes (Judd Winick's hideous ret-con be damned) but here Jurgens plays her as if she's about three or four, having her describe Guy Gardner as a "cuddly, wuddly, widdle teddy bear!" Dreadful. Their reunion with Booster and Beetle is cut short when they hear a news report about the diplomats (and Elongated Man) being held hostage in Florida and determine to do something.
Over in Metropolis, Superman hears about the situation but as he attempts to leave, he's accosted by Batman. How the Dark Knight got from Gotham to the top of the Daily Planet building in time to interrupt Superman who has just heard about the hostage-taking is something that isn't addressed and we probably shouldn't dwell on it.
Batman attempts to convince Superman that he should take charge of the League but the Big Blue Boy Scout is determined to go it alone:
Jurgens may not do so well with Ice's dialogue, but he draws a mean batcape!
In moments, Superman's at the Florida amusement park where he's attacked by the Royal Flush Gang who have weapons strong enough to take him out, leaving Max Lord and Oberon wondering where they've got these wonderful toys from. The readers get a glimpse of their benefactor: the silhouetted Weapons Master who's running his own Operation Lantern.
Booster, Beetle, Fire and Ice arrive along with Power Girl, Metamorpho and Green Lantern Guy Gardner but most of them are knocked unconscious by the Flushers' weapons and as Gardner lays defenceless, the Weapons Master uses a remote robot to make his move:
The object of Operation Lantern, it seems, is to get hold of Gardner's ring. Regrouping back at Beetle's bug, the team realise they need back-up. Trouble is, the Flushers have destroyed the bug's radio and they have no way of contacting anyone . . . until Ice has an idea:
She manages to contact Hal Jordan who leaves his own mission to return to Earth and collect a bunch of heroes on the way: Crimson Fox, Wally West's Flash, Aquaman and Dr Light. With the reinforcements, it doesn't take long before the heroes manage to overcome the Flush Gang and rescue the diplomats.
The Weapons Master - still in silhouette - is revealed to be working with the Dominators who at this point hadn't long attempted to invade Earth in the Invasion! mini-series. It's also shown that he expected the Flushers to lose, using them simply as a training exercise in order to examing the League's capabilities. With this knowledge, he will take them on himself so that the Dominator can gain "the greatest prizzze in the universsse"! No prizzzes for guessing what that is.
There's also a quick look at a new guy, someone who is determined to have the JLA deal with him but we won't find out who he is just yet.
Back at the amusement park, with the mopping up done, the heroes decide that the world really does need a League. Hal even manages to convince Aquaman to join up again despite his reservations:
"after what happened last time", Aquaman? Whatever could you be referring to? Still, the JLA reforms with the core group of Beetle, Booster, Fire and Ice being joined by Gardner and even Superman, while the European branch get the others (hey, I like them, but I'm just concentrating on the JLA here, okay?)
With most of the team established, we head into Jurgens's run on the main series and, as we saw yesterday, Guy Gardner does his level best to start off with himself in charge. As he, Beetle and Booster are joined by Maxima, the real leader of the League confronts Max Lord, proclaiming that it is the heroes who are in charge and not the businessman. Ice is so taken with him, the normally placid young woman joins in.
This is the real start of Ice's infatuation with Superman and, as Fire notes, Guy Gardner's not going to be happy.
Despite the use of the Weapons Master name, there seems to be no link between this guy and Xotar who was the second villain to face the League in their original appearances in The Brave and The Bold back in the 60's. It's possible this guy is an updated version of the old one but nothing is ever mentioned one way or the other.
Weapons in hand, the Master heads off to the secret sanctuary and quite quickly defeats first Booster, then Beetle, then Guy and finally Maxima. The Leaguers put up a good fight but they don't hold out. Before he can take Gardner's ring, Superman, Fire and Ice arrive and while Supes dishes out an impressive beating, the Master's able to teleport him away Fire and Ice fall before him as well, leaving him victorious. At least until this guy turns up:
The mysterious Bloodwynd throws the Master's plans awry - he has no information on him and can't then decide which weapon to use against him. Instead, he teleports the whole League and himself to a limbo dimension, the Leaguers sat round a table upon which sits a chess board. With Beetle the only conscious member of the League, the Master forces him to play the same game that Despero forced Flash to play years before.
When Beetle refuses to play, the Master places Ice's figure on to the board, instantly transporting her to a volcanic planet, forcing Beetle to play his game.Realising Ice needs help, Beetle shows his smarts and sends Superman to the same place, allowing him to rescue her. When he next places Maxima and Booster's pieces on the board he notices that the heroes have a brief moment of lucidity before being transported away and wonder what he can do with that knowledge.
In a brief interlude, Bloodwynd is shown contacting Max Lord and Oberon and using his psychic powers to find the Weapon Master's yacht.
Back on the volcanic planet, Ice somehow finds the strength to ask Superman a question:
She's dying and yet she still flirts!
Beetle uses that moment of clarity when placing Guy's piece on the board, stalling just long enough for Gardner to will his ring back from the Weapons Master but after a brief fight, the Master decides to cut his losses and run. When Gardner catches sight of what's happening on the volcano planet, thoughts of chasing after the villain quickly vanish.
Beetle proves his smarts once more, instructing Gardner on how to use the chess board in conjunction with his ring to trace the energies of where the other heroes were sent.
Unlike his yacht which bears the brunt of a sudden attack by Bloodwynd who has found them with the help of Max and Oberon.
For some reason, Gardner and the other heroes stand around and watch the action on a power ring-created big screen TV. Unfortunately for Bloodwynd, the Weapons Master manages to escape leaving him the task of operating his control board in order to bring the heroes home . . . though why Gardner couldn't just get his ring to do that is something that doesn't occur to anyone.
Get home they do, however, and meet up at Max Lord's penthouse where he assumes control, informing them of a deal he's struck with the UN for new headquarters along with assuming both Bloodwynd and Maxima will be joining the JLA. While Maxima chooses to hang around rather than join, the mysterious Bloodwynd accepts. Superman, however, heads off without (deliberately) a JLA signal device.
This leads to three codas at the end of the book: first, Guy Gardner gets a wake-up call from Ice . . .
Second, Blue Beetle tells Booster Gold that he's convinced there is more to Bloodwynd than meets the eye.
Third, Maxima wonders how her home planet of Almerac is getting on. She's about to find out, it's not doing too well . . .
As an opening arc from Jurgens, this isn't bad. Unlike Gerry Conway and his launch of the Detroit League, Jurgens isn't dealing with brand new heroes on the whole - most of the core group have been in the League since it restarted and both Superman and Maxima are characters Jurgens had been writing in the Superman titles.
Perhaps surprisingly, Booster doesn't get to do a great deal here and nor does Fire. Both Maxima and Superman strut around being somewhat full of themselves while Gardner is his usual charming self. Blue Beetle, however, quickly establishes himself as the thinker of the group, coming up with the escape plan and how to find the others. Bloodwynd hangs around and is mysterious.
It's Ice who suffers here, though, transformed from an admittedly quiet and innocent young woman to one who's blindly infatuated with Superman, willing to follow his every word without question.
Next week, the League goes inter-planetary as we deal with the return of a very old foe.