Saturday, July 5, 2008

Justice League of America #217 - Aug. 1983

sgFrom the depths of the ocean...a magical menace!

The Story: "All the Elements of Disaster" by Paul Kupperberg, Chuck Patton, and Romeo Tanghal. As I've mentioned before, this issue opens up in my favorite way...with Aquaman!

He, Vulko, and the rest of Atlantis are rocked by violent sea quakes. Aquaman goes to investigate where they originate from, but he surprised when a giant beam of energy shoots out of the fissure, and into the sky!

As Aquaman sends out a JLA Distress Signal, we follow the beam of energy all the way to Metropolis, where it strikes a homeless woman and turns her into some sort of malevolent Earth Elemental! She--it--then blasts its way skyward.

The same thing happens on a yacht out at sea, where movie producer Marty Lasko is turned into a Sea Elemental, and then again in Midway City, when a construction worker is turned into an Air Elemental.

Up at the satellite, Aquaman informs his fellow JLAers what has happened:
...the JLA's monitors pick up giant water, air, and earth vortexes shooting into the sky at the very spots these elementals were created. Zatanna sense great magical powers at work.

There's a nice moment here, where Superman begins to head for Metropolis, but Zatanna stops him, reasoning he is more needed in Los Angeles. Elongated Man savors the chance to head there, instead.

Hawkman and Red Tornado head for Midway City where they take on--and prove no match for--the Air Elemental.

The same thing happens in Metropolis, where Firestorm, Zatanna, and Elongated Man take on the Earth Elemental, while Superman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman head to the Pacific Ocean to fight the Sea Elemental. All three battles end in defeat for our heroes.

They regroup back at the satellite, and Aquaman figures something troubling out:
The JLAers head there, and Aquaman leads them to the ruins of the original Atlantis, which sank thousands of years ago.

While fighting off some mutated sea creatures, they are attacked by an ancient wizard named Daanuth, who has been in a sort of suspended animation, waiting for the right mystical moment to resurrect his home, the original Atlantis.

While Daanuth's sea monsters attack some of the JLA, Superman, Firestorm, and Red Tornado see the three elementals up in the sky. Superman has figured out that Daanuth is using stellar energy to work their magic, and he has Firestorm create a giant prism, which dilutes and refracts the energy they need.

As Atlantis begins to crumble, Daanuth suddenly finds his powers ebbing! Superman's plan has worked!

Just as Aquaman is about paste Daanuth one, a stone column collapses on him, before the Sea King has the chance.

They all make it out of the fissure, with the three elementals turned back to normal. The heroes celebrate their victory aboard one of Aquaman's finny friends, a giant whale.

Roll Call: Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Hawkman, Elongated Man, Red Tornado, Zatanna, Firestorm

Notable Moments: After Gerry Conway's abrupt departure, the JLA was treated to a couple of fill-in issues, this first one being by our pal Paul Kupperberg.

Normally fill-in issues are a thing to dread, but I found this issue (and the next, by Cary Burkett) to be two of my all-time favorite JLA stores. Fun, fast-paced, and tell an entire story in just 23 pages.

The villain, Garn Daanuth, was created by Paul and Jan Duursema, and used in his book, Arion, Lord of Atlantis. Arion isn't mentioned anywhere in this story, which I thought was a nice touch--if you were a regular Arion reader (which I was not at the time--sorry, Paul!) you got it instantly, and saw that the two universes were tied together. If not, it works fine all on its own.

I had the good fortune to interview Paul for the Aquaman Shrine back in 2007, and at the time I asked him about writing this issue:

AMS: You wrote one of my favorite issues of JLA, #217, "All the Elements of Disaster!", which features Aquaman pretty prominently. Was this on purpose or just the natural effect of the story you wanted to write?

PK: Oh, that was another of my Atlantis stories. Between Arion and Power Girl, I got into this Atlantean rut and probably overused that stuff. But since I was doing an Arion-villain-brought-forward-in-time story, Atlantis was the natural location and Aquaman was the logical focal character.

This issue is also the debut of penciller Chuck Patton, who would become a major creative force on the book. His clean, dynamic style was perfect for superhero comics, and in particular his Aquaman was truly heroic-looking:
There was also some major doings with the JLA happening in another book at the time--the debut issue of Batman and The Outsiders:

sgIn this story, Batman is following a case that leads to the war-torn country of Markovia. Due to its fragile state in the world, the U.N. has asked the JLA to stay out.

When the JLA tells Batman he can't go there because of that, he up and quits the team, and events conspire that lead him to create his own team, The Outsiders.

At the time, I really liked this, because I liked Mike W. Barr's writing, loved Jim Aparo's art, and I thought it was a cool development--I mean, Batman, angrily leaving the JLA? Wow!

With hindsight, I can see this was the first step to the breaking of the core JLA, and even though Batman himself would return to the team, nothing would ever really be the same again.


Earth-2 Randy said...

This was one of my favorite stories too. I liked the use of Garn Danuuth as villain, the elemental aspect and the JLA members used.

Chuck Patton! I always liked his art.

Earth 2 Chris said...

I haven't read this one in years. I didn't even realize Paul wrote it! It was one of my favorites. Had a huge epic feel, but done in one, unlike that way-long Atom tale that preceeded it.

Chuck Patton was great for JLA. Kind of like a cross between Garcia Lopez and George Perez. I wish he'd gotten to work on the complete classic JLA.

As for BATO, I enjoyed that book too, but in the long run I too think it damaged the JLA concept. If it hadn't happen we may have never gotten JL-Detroit, and we'd all been the better for that. :-)


John Trumbull said...

I never got the Arion connection before. It's neat that Kupperberg constructed the story so that you didn't HAVE to read Arion. A far cry from today's comics, where EVERYTHING has to be interconnected.

There was an even earlier departure from the JLA than Batman's. In the Green Lantern book, the Guardians of the Universe exiled Hal Jordan into outer space for a year as a punishment for neglecting other worlds in favor of Earth. Except for a cameo at the end of the last JLA/JSA team-up & the flashback tale in #210-212, GL hasn't appeared in the book since #200.

Coincidentally, Mike W. Barr is also the guy who sent Hal into space.

rob! said...

well, GL does appear in #224, which is his last appearance in the JLA as a member.

Anonymous said...

Wow, wouldn't it be cool if you still didn't need a Ph.D in continuity just to read an issue of JLA. You know, there's a reason they call them the GOOD old days...

Paul K.

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