The Story: "Shuffle and Deal...with Death!" by Gerry Conway, Don Heck, and Romeo Tanghal. This issue opens up in my favorite way...with Aquaman!
We find the King of the Seven Seas and Firestorm as they cruise the ocean waves, on a beautiful, cloudless day.
Firestorm asks why Aquaman asked him to meet him here so early in the morning, Aquaman says its to give the Nuclear Man some pointers on super-heroing, just as Black Canary did in JLA #189.
Firestorm retorts "Thanks but no thanks! I know all I need to know!"
That puts a grin on Aquaman's face, and then:
Yes, Firestorm The Nuclear Man is taken down by some flying fish. And he's the one who has a solo title?
Anyway, Aquaman rescues Firestorm, and he then receives a telepathic signal about trouble ahead. They investigate, finding a giant cloud hovering over the water. Firestorm charges headlong into it, and is just as quickly hit by something, sending him hurtling out of it!
Aquaman then has his octopi friends help down the giant hovercraft he sees inside the cloud, and he rips his way into it, only to be blasted into unconsciousness as well. Who did it? It's...the Jack of Spades!
Also with him is another member of the Royal Flush Gang, Ten, who this time is a woman. Jack makes a move on Ten, who threatens to break Jack's hands off if he tries it again. Awk-ward...
The ship makes it way to the desert, to the new headquarters of the Royal Flush Gang! Here they meet the other members, King, Queen, and their leader, Ace.
We then get a brief rundown of how they all ended up here--Ten was a test pilot who kept finding her achievements belittled by sexism, Jack was a petty thief whose carelessness led to murder, Queen was an actress who couldn't stop hitting the bottle, and King was a bum facing a slow death by cancer. They were all approached by Ace, who offered them a different life if they would join this new team he was putting together.
Later, Firestorm and Aquaman are found in some fishermen's nets, and they contact the JLA. Elongated Man sends out a distress signal, and before she can answer, Wonder Woman is attacked--and defeated--by King.
Back at the Gang's HQ, Jack's inherent distrust of Ace leads him to spy on him, where he makes a shocking discovery:
To be continued!
Roll Call: Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Elongated Man, Firestorm
Notable Moments: I love that ending...as a kid reading it for the first time, I was genuinely shocked, and its sets up a nice tension for the next issue.
I always wondered, how do supervillain gangs get these massive headquarters built, anyway? I mean, do they outsource it to contractors, or is there some sort of bad guy union?
Aquaman gets a lot to do this issue, which I always enjoy, and he uses some flying fish to knock out Firestorm. That makes me laugh.