Thursday, May 15, 2008

Justice League of America #172 - Nov. 1979

sgHey, what's Wonder Woman doing there? And since the murderer is standing behind Batman right now, who the heck is he pointing at?

The Story: "I Accuse..." by Gerry Conway, Dick Dillin, and Frank McLaughlin. Continued from last issue, tensions are running high on the satellite following the murder of Mr. Terrific.

Superman asks that Dr. Fate and the Lanterns create a force shield around the satellite so powerful that not even he can break it, to make sure the murderer doesn't escape.

The two teams start an investigation, starting off with Huntress suggesting maybe Mr. Terrific was going senile, a suggestion Green Lantern doesn't take too well to.

Batman, who of course is leading the investigation, asks Flash a few questions:
...I love this sequence, mainly because Batman doesn't explain what he's getting at to the Flash. That seems very Batman to me.

While the Huntress is working the JLA computer, it suddenly explodes, leaving her with terrible burns. Luckily, Dr. Fate uses his amazing abilities to heal her, and with great effort she tells Batman that their suspect is, in fact, who they think it is. She then drifts into sleep.

Batman then reveals what happened--there's only a handful of heroes who could warp the satellite's hull, and who leaves a "seismic trail" that could be tracked by the machine the Spirit King recently stole...and that is Jay Garrick, The Flash!

It turns out that not too long ago, the Flash beat King so badly that he was chosen for a special revenge, to be used an instrument of murder! The Spirit King then uses The Flash's body to escape via the transporter tube, escaping the heroes.

And before the JSA departs to track him down, they take a moment to reflect that the main element of the Spirit King's plan--to turn the heroes against each other--failed, because the heroes refused to believe the worst about one another.

Roll Call
: Superman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Red Tornado, Zatanna

Notable Moments: I always though the Spirit King was in fact an old DC villain, turns out Gerry Conway just made him up! He didn't even rate a listing in Who's Who a few years later, even though he took out a long-running DC hero.

There is a bit of a cheat here, where King reveals that he didn't use the Flash's body to strangle Mr. Terrific--which would've been a creepy, unsettling touch--but instead became corporeal just long enough to do the deed himself. Like I did a few issues ago, I call shenanigans.

This issue features a spiffy ad for, well, itself:
...I like the varied bits of stock art you've got here. A bunch of Neal Adams heads, Power Girl from the cover of All-Star Comics #58, Green Lantern from the back cover of the JLA treasury comic, a real smorgasbord.


Anonymous said...

Earth-2 Chris made a good point in the comments for last issue, about how the murderer could be picked out from the crowd. An interesting touch, and light years removed from this cover, which must have been drawn before Conway actually wrote the story!
We have Wonder Woman making a 'fake' appearance(as she did back on # 152's cover)...we have Jay standing behind Batman, and all we can see of 'The Accused' is what looks like a red cape...hmmmm, who might THAT be?

russell said...

Man, this issue SUCKED. The worst part, of course, was that the murderer got away, and basically was not heard of from again until about 20 years later in the pages of THE SPECTRE. THIS is their "greatest adventure"? As far as I'm concerned, we are DEEP in the throes of just the opposite; I consider this the worst quality run of the series, atleast story-wise.

Commander Benson said...

I agree with Russell, but perhaps for slightly different reasons. For me, JLA went downhill the moment Fox and Sekowsky left the title, but I kept on buying and reading it. And this cross-over easily gets my vote as the worst one in the history of the title.

Setting aside the fact that Mr. Terrific was one of my favourite JSA members (which seemed to be a minority opinion in those days)--I loved his two appearances in the Fox/Sekowsky team-ups--as a "locked room" mystery, JLA # 171-2 falls flat on its face.

If one wants to write a mystery involving the Justice League and/or the Justice Society, one has to choose the members participating much more carefully. With the line-up present, there is no reason why Mr. Terrific's murder shouldn't have been solved in five minutes.

Superman could travel back through time, and as an invisible phantom could observe the events leading to Mr. Terrific's death.

Either of the Green Lanterns could order his power ring to "rewind" time so the heroes could have observed what happened to Mr. Terrific.

Dr. Fate's magic could probably accomplish the same thing.

Once suspicion turned to the members of the Justice teams themselves, it would have been a simple matter to have each member submit to a brain scan by both GL's and Dr. Fate. (Multiple scans, in case the murderer was one of the Lanterns or Fate)

That's not to say that a true mystery could not have been fashioned, even taking these factors into account. But the story as written failed to do that. I remember when I read it, I began to scoff over the scenes of the Batman and the others trying to solve the mystery without resorting to any of the techniques I just mentioned.

It's difficult to appreciate a writer's tale when I can fathom solutions far quicker and using obvious methods that didn't occur to the writer.

Tick-Tock Tyler said...

earth 2 chris said (yesterday):
>>Anyone notice the "tell" on the cover? I don't want to spoil the 2nd part, but the murderer sticks out pretty well if you know what to look for.<<

I guess I don't know what to look for on the cover of #171. Is Jay doing something at super-speed?

As for the cover of #172, ugh! I normally like Dick Giordano's work, but not this time. And if you're gonna put someone on the cover who's not in the story, why not Aquaman?

I was really disappointed by this whole story. To start with, #171 spent too much time on the coffee klatsch before starting the action. Then, once the action starts, it takes six heroes to patch the hole in the satellite. That episode took two pages, and it did show teamwork, but Supes or either GL could have done the job in one or two panels.

Here's my big complaint about #171, though. On page 9, Superman notices that Power Girl and two others are missing. He thinks, " of them worries--" and gets cut off by the explosion. The others are Zatanna and Red Tornado, but we never (not even in #172) learn what worried Superman. Thanks for the smelly red herring, Gerry!

So what do we get in #172? Alan Scott gets mad at Superman and the Huntress. I think it was because they both called him "Scott" instead of "Alan". :) Doc Fate and the GLs put a shield around the satellite to prevent anyone from leaving, but no one thinks to secure the transmatter device -- even when the Huntress uses it to link to the JSA's computer on Earth-Two. When they finally figure out that Jay is possessed by the Spirit King, they let him escape and don't even pursue him immediately. The real kicker is that Jay was shown among the JSAers on the last page. What?

For me, this story is just dreadful in too many ways.

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