Saturday, July 12, 2008

Justice League of America #223 - Feb. 1984

sgThe brutal conclusion to the JLA versus Maximus Rex and his Beast-Men story!

The Story: "Blood Sport" by Gerry Conway, Chuck Patton, and Romeo Tanghal. We are back at Rex's coliseum of death, where the guards are surprised to see Reena right in front of them. She demands to be taken to Rex--now.

At the moment, Rex is busy slaughtering half a dozen humans, and his brutal tactics seem to turn the crowd even more wild.

When Rex sees Reena in custody, he takes his rage out on the last two hapless humans in the ring. Good thing we don't get to see what actually happens.

Rex slaps Reena around a bit, while she demands Wonder Woman and Hawkgirl be set free. As his beast-men debate amongst themselves what their boss should do with her, we see she is carrying a small tracking device in her ear, letting the JLA know where Rex is!

We also see that Reena is still with the JLA--and that the Reena that surrendered herself is Zatanna, using her magic to make herself look like Rex's former love. She's got guts, Zee does.

The JLAers are joined by Flash and Elongated Man, bruised and bandaged, but well enough to see if they can help out. They sit down, and plan their assault.

A group of Rex's armored guards and Dr. Lovecraft are nabbed by Firestorm, Elongated Man, and Reena, who loses her grip on humanity and is caught by Firestorm nearly ripping Lovecraft's throat out.

Ralph asks Lovecraft where the anti-toxin needed for Hawkman is, but only answers when Ralph suggests maybe Reena should ask...?

Aquaman is met in the ocean by Firestorm and Ralph, and they hand him the anti-toxin. He is warned that the Beast-Men are suffering from progressive deterioration--they are losing more and more of their humanity. Aquaman takes that info in stride, and dives back into the water.

Superman rips a hole in the side of Rex's mountain retreat, but is blasted by some sort of energy gun. Firestorm and Ralph see that he has then been crucified for the crowd's entertainment, but when they try to free him, they see it was all a hologram, designed to trick them. Firestorm is hit, and as he fades from consciousness, he sees Rex standing over him.

Meanwhile, Aquaman runs into the whale-man, who is trying to stop the Sea King from sneaking in to the base via a water tunnel.

But Mama Curry didn't raise no fools, and Aquaman (via Gerry Conway) brings out the big guns, using his powers in the most bad-ass manner I had ever seen up to that time:
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...that vacant look on the whale-guy creeps me out. Whale-Guy Shanks, anyone?

Meanwhile, above ground, all Hell has broken loose. Ralph is trying to keep Rex distracted, and Zatanna finally drops the disguise. Reena takes this opportunity to paste one on Rex, just as he has all his Beast-Men flood the arena and attack.

Watching all this on the monitor, another one of the Beast-Men, a snake-man, trash-talks Wonder Woman and Hawkgirl, telling them to watch their friends die.

Except, there's Aquaman
:
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...I love that panel on the right. We don't get to see what happened, but I bet Aquaman treated the snake guy no better than Moby Dick a few pages back.

As Superman and Firestorm are helplessly trussed up, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Zatanna, Elongated Man, and the Hawks start kicking some Beast-Men butt, knocking them out one by one. The last shot is delivered by Wonder Woman, who delivers a jaw-shattering shot to the rhino-man.

They then see that all of them have started to devolve into just animals, all of their humanity--if they had any in the first place--now gone.

They notice that Rex and Reena are gone, and they follow a trail of footprints, but to no avail:
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While Firestorm is sad for Reena, Hawkgirl tells him that she was doomed all along, the minute she fell in love with Rex, and let him dominate her life.

Roll Call: Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash, Hawkman, Elongated Man, Hawkgirl, Zatanna, Firestorm

Notable Moments: A rousing ending, one of my all-time favorite "final chapters" of any JLA story. Aquaman gets a lot to do, and he gets to be a bad-ass while doing it.

I never forgot the "turning the whale-guy into a vegetable" bit, and it remains one of my favorite Aquaman moments ever. Sure, he could come back and de-vegify the guy, but anybody want to lay money down that he bothered? I think he left the guy there, and he became the victim of a shark feeding frenzy soon after. Nasty.

I was a little worried, when I first read #s 221 and 222, that Reena was going to join--it seemed like the story might be going there. Luckily, she didn't, and the story has a creepily satisfying ending, as Rex and Reena went off somewhere, possibly together. As far as I know, they've never reappeared, and I hope they never do. It works better this way.

Usually silhouettes is a way for an artist to cheat, and bang out a panel (I overdid the ink in many a panel back while I was at the Kubert School), but Chuck Patton used them very effectively.

The "the end, reptile" sequence was of course part of the plot, but I like Patton's use of silhouettes at the end, with all the JLA standing around talking. It feels like the end of a very long day, and the heroes somehow look even more iconic just as those flat shapes.
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sgThe JLA also guest-appeared in this month's 300th anniversary issue of World's Finest, along with the Outsiders and the Teen Titans!

The story, "A Tale of Two Worlds! or: Planets of Peril!" is by David Anthony Kraft, Mike W. Barr, Ross Andru, Mark Texiera, and Sal Almendola, with the Titans sequences by Marv Wolfman and George Perez! Wow!

The JLA line-up consists of Supes, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Hawkman, Elongated Man, Red Tornado, Zatanna, and Firestorm. The big event in this issue is that it resolves (sort of) the ongoing dispute between the Big Two, since Batman had left the JLA just a few months earlier.

I didn't own this issue, luckily the uber-generous Russell Burbage sent a copy to me. Thanks Russell!

2 comments:

outburst said...

Easily one of my all-time favourite issues. I probably read this one 500 times when I was a kid.

Frank Lee Delano said...

Bad ass story. I always figured Reena and Rex reverted to pure animal form like the rest, unless they killed or otherwise molested one another first.

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