Thursday, June 19, 2008

Justice League of America #203 - June 1982

sgThe JLA takes on an all-new Royal Flush Gang, who are even more deadlier than ever!

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 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.


John Trumbull said...

What a great issue & great art by Heck. The House of Cards is still one of the best villain HQs I've ever seen.

russell said...

But that panel you reprinted where Firestorm is hit by fish makes me wonder...what is happening? This was one of my problems with Heck: what, exactly, is happening in those last panels? Firestorm is falling into the water, why??? It's just not as clear as it should be.
And I liked this issue but I ended up not liking this story overall.

On a different note, I ALWAYS liked The Royal Flush Gang. I put the HeroClix versions up on my desk at work and the guys in my department debated their merits. The consensus was that they were cool, but that if they were real, they wouldn't need the word "gang" in their name. They should have just been The Royal Flush. I guess I can see that, but I still think RFG is one of the all-time great villain groups and group names.

Adama said...

Dammit Ronnie, Aquaman has been doing this quite a bit longer than you! Listen to him, or you'll get another embarrassing butt-whooping, only this time he'll use sea otters for extra cuteness!

Earth-2 Randy said...

I too loved the Royal flush Gang as a kid and still love them now. When I used to GM my DC Heroes campaigns, they would always be the villains I'd use as my 'baptism of fire' on the new heroes. They were always well received.

One thing I loved was the panel where the fishing boat nets Aquaman and Firestorm and you see Firestorm's head without the flame. Like the water extinguished it. I always thought that was cool. I don't know if Heck just drew it that way or Conway's script called for it, but I always dug that.

This was one of my favorite storylines and the House of Cards still remains my favorite villain HQ. Didn't they use it on the mean...Super Powers Team episode that used the RFG as the villains? They worked for the Joker in that one.

Anonymous said...

Another great 3-parter by Gerry Conway, maybe just slightly behind the SSOSV/JSA story,but ahead of the RepliTech/Rex Maximus arc.
Conway really outdid himself giving this new RFG a full backstory and origin. Not many writers back then would give the villains so much time in the spotlight, but the added depth of characterization made for better stories. I ended up really liking Jack, and wished Conway could have brought him back somehow.
That final page cliffhanger, especially the caption describing Jack's reaction as Billy Dee Williams-uh, I mean, Ace-turns out to be a robot, was one of my all-time favorites!
We've also reached the point where Conway begins de-emphasizing Superman, although not phasing him out just yet. I didn't really mind that he had a reduced role in the story, but it struck me as odd(just poor planning) that he was on all three covers, but only appeared in part 2.

JasonMotesBowles said...

I VERY fondly remember this story because this was the second issue of Justice League I ever owned. (The issue before was the first, where Batman turned into a space werewolf.) Yep, this will always hold a special place in my heart!

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