Friday, June 13, 2008

Justice League of America #198 - Jan. 1982

sgThe JLA gets stranded in the Old West!

The Story: "Once Upon A Time, In The Wild Wild West" by Gerry Conway, Don Heck, and Brett Breeding. This issue starts off like no other--not with any of the JLA, or even the JSA, but Jonah Hex!

Jonah Hex is almost hit by a giant green beam, which comes from...Green Lantern?!?

We know its Green Lantern, but he does not--he's delirious, starving, and is suffering from amnesia. Hex takes pity on the oddly-dressed cowpoke, and gives him a sip from his canteen.

He wakes up that night, with some sort of vision of someone laughing, but that's all he can recall. Hex makes a campfire, not realizing they are being watched.

Cut to: Desecration, Arizona, where a confused young woman is being harassed by some scummy cowboys. They are stopped by the crimson-tressed gunslinger Cinnamon, long enough for the woman to defend herself via a magic spell! Yep, the dazed young woman is Zatanna, trapped in the Old West. I'm seeing a pattern here...

Soon we see Scalphunter running across The Elongated Man, and the West's weirdest hero, Bat Lash, who is saved from taking a bullet in the back by The Flash:
...I love how exaggerated that stance of The Flash is--it looks like a drawing from Mad or something.

Bat Lash and The Flash then make friends, after Bat sees that this oddly-dressed stranger saved his life:
...before Bennifer, before Brangelina, there was Bat-Flash.

Meanwhile, back in our time, Superman is desperately trying to find out what happened to the four Justice Leaguers. He follows their last JLA Signal Device trails to the Grand Canyon, where he discovers a giant robot!

The robot seems to know him, and when he destroys it, he finds its insides are loaded with Kryptonite radiation! Superman passes out before he can see the man behind this attack is...The Lord of Time!

The Lord of Time helpfully explains his plot, which involves the four amnesiac JLAers doing his work for him--namely, capturing an anti-matter bubble that, if harnessed, could make him Master of the World! To be continued!

Roll Call: Superman, Flash, Green Lantern, Elongated Man, Zatanna

Notable Moments: After an extraordinary hot streak (issues 189-197, in my mind), this two-parter is a bit of a step back. I don't think its a bad story, but swapping out Don Heck for George Perez didn't exactly thrill the eleven year old me that bought this issue. And while I enjoyed DC's westerns just fine, I always found them mixing with superheroes to be an uneasy fit, at best.

Nice cover, though, well designed and well colored, by Ross Andru and Romeo Tanghal.


Anonymous said...

I agree that the issues Rob mentioned were a definite 'hot streak' for the JLA(in my mind, though, the streak started in 1980 and ended roughly when Batman left the JLA). I realize Don Heck isn't everyone's cup of tea, but I thought he was a particularly good fit for the western guest stars.
I was never a huge western comic fan, but obviously Conway had a feel for them, since he had been the writer for the then-recently WEIRD WESTERN TALES.
My only problem with the story is that Superman didn't time-travel and interact with any of the guest stars. I always wanted to see him meet Jonah Hex. I think the story still could have worked by switching Supes and GL!

Wich2 said...


I absolutely understand the love for Perez; but his stuff never really "got" me, and I wasn't sure why...

Then, I realized: maybe it's a Composition issue, but though his work is full of Detail - maybe even, to a fault? - it never seems to have much Depth.

The art by folks like Eisner, Kirby, Infantino, Ditko, and yes, even Heck, has a "looking INto the panel" feel that Perez's lacks, at least for me.

Great weekend,
-Craig W.

rob! said...

i hope i don't sound too critical of Don Heck's work. i was trying to recall the exact feeling i felt, buying this issue off the stands in 1981 at age 10.

expecting George Perez and getting Don Heck was a big disappointment to me at that age, now my tastes have changed a bit.

i still love perez, but now i like heck, too, and just realize they have different strengths.

Butch R said...

I agree with your Rob, Perez & Heck both have their strengths. And you & I are apparently very close to the same age and thought the same thing(s) at that time.
And man, is that a cover or what? I miss Ross Andru.

John Trumbull said...

I think Don Heck was probably a better fit for the western story than Perez would have been at the time. Like you, I appreciate Heck much more now than I did when I was a kid.

Always loved the flirtation that Bat Lash had with Cinnamon. Bat Lash is cool. He's basically the Maverick of the DCU.

It's worth noting that the Hawkamn
series revealed that Cinnamon was an earlier reincarnation of Hawkgirl.

I always thought it was neat that Jonah Hex made a brief mention of this storyline in Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Earth-2 Randy said...

At ten years old, I wasn't yet noticing the names of the writers and artists. I just always thought time travel stories, superhero stories, and cowboy stories were cool. And this story had a combination of all three. It's needless to point out that by this time I was already full-fledged hooked on JLA.

And I agree with the time frame of how great JLA was at the time. Although, I really enjoyed it up until the Detroit era.

Earth 2 Chris said...

This storyline had to inspire the JLU episode "Weird Western Tale".

As for Heck, I wasn't much of a fan as kid. But then again I didn't care for Kirby or Ditko much then either. I'm still not into Heck nearly as the other two, but his work does have a scratchy energy that I can admire.

Nice to know I'm not the only one from Earth 2 around here!


Plaidstallions said...

I'm not the world's biggest Heck fan but having read this story about every two weeks for the past year to my son, I'm very fond of this issue.

russell said...

This cover got sort of an homage in the recent Justice League Unlimited book. I saw it when it came out (can't remember the issue number now...19, I think?). Ralph is on the other side of the shadows this time, but Jonah is there again.

Matt Celis said...

But I still don't know...did Bat Lash save the West or ruin it?

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