Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Justice League of America #178 - May 1980

sgMan, does this cover look familiar...

The Story: "The Chess-Master of Mars!" by Gerry Conway, Dick Dillin, and Frank McLaughlin. Continued from last issue, the JLA members, having experienced weird phenomena involving ordinary crooks turning into chess piece-like statues, meet up at the JLA satellite.

As they talk, another chess piece--the bishop--beams into the JLA satellite via the transporter!

It blasts Superman with Kryptonite eyes, and hits Batman with a lightning bolt-type ray, leaving the rest of the JLA to take it on!

The fight appears to be a standstill, until Zatanna casts a spell to encase Aquaman and Black Canary in an impenetrable protective shield. Aquaman then lands a blow, cracking the being in half, which allows Black Canary to use her Sonic Cry to finish it off.

The Atom examines the wreckage, and tells his teammates that this thing could've easily defeated them all--it let them win! This tips off Zatanna, who begins to investigate her theory.

Turns out that bishop was under the control of the Martian Manhunter, who is imprisoned by Despero. Despero wonders if Manhunter isn't throwing the game?

We learn that Manhunter is in an impossible situation--if he loses the game, he and his people on Mars II will die, but if he wins, that means he has killed his JLA friends!

Manhunter next calls up a knight, but suddenly none of Despero's "players"--the JLA--can be found! And, as Manhunter points out, by the rules of the game, Despero loses because he cannot field his players!

Despero, not a sore loser, tries to play other JLAers not yet participating, but then suddenly the Atom appears, knocking Despero to the ground. Then all the JLAers show up, via a spell by Zatanna, and they fight Despero's killer chess pieces. Superman hurls the Atom with super-strength into them, exploding them from the inside.

What Zatanna figured out what that Manhunter had his bishop destroy the JLA membership file, as a clue for them to discover. Everyone is happy to see their old friend again, except for one...

To be continued!

Roll Call
: Superman, Batman, Aquaman, Green Arrow, Atom, Black Canary, Zatanna

Notable Moments: Zatanna's spells got the JLA out of a lot of jams.

Aquaman gets another nice moment, where his sheer strength is highlighted, when he cracks the bishop piece almost in two with one punch. Damn straight.

This issue's cover, by Jim Starlin, is a nice tribute to the very first issue of the book:
...nowadays it seems like half the covers on comics are "tributes" to some previous cover, but this was pretty rare at this time. And, tribute or no, its well done and works all on its own.


russell said...

I always thought it was VERY odd that Despero would choose to play these members, like Black Canary, who he had never met. And it seemed very convenient that she was involved in this adventure, rather than, say, Wonder Woman or Elongated Man who he knew and hated from his previous adventures. And Green Arrow being a whiny, wet about heavy-handed characterizations. Sheesh!

Outburst said...

When did Despero's head fin become a forward-facing mohawk?

Butch R said...

All in all, I enjoyed these issues. But I have to agree with Russell's comment regarding GA. I remember thinking what a jerk when I read his speech at the end. Hey, you just saved your friend's life and the entire race on his planet, I guess Martian life isn't worth as much to GA. Has he ever done anything for the green skins?
That aside, I was glad to see J'onn return, even if temporarily. I'm guessing Post Crisis and Post IC there is no way this story happened like we see it. I'm sure some bright young writer (I'm looking at your Geoff Johns) could recreate it and give a fresh spin.

Adama said...

Yeah, it sounds like a neat story, but I'm going to have to agree with butch about Ollie's characterization. I realize he was dedicated to the people of Star City, but he can take a few days off to help out an old friend and save an entire planet. Surely that's worth missing a few random muggings.

Glenn Walker said...

Outburst, Despero's headfin was turned into a mohawk a la Savage Dragon toward the end of the Justice League Detroit days in the 250s if memory serves - which Rob will tell you it won't where I'm concerned. ;-) Despero was bathed in the Fires of Pytar and it evolved his physique more in line with his mental powers.

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