Sunday, August 3, 2008

Justice League of America #243 - Oct. 1985

sgAquaman returns, and the final chapter of the Amazo story!

The Story: "Storm Clouds" by Gerry Conway, George Tuska, and Mike Machlan. Continued from last issue, we see Aquaman--with Mera--return to the JLA's Detroit headquarters. He isn't relieved when he sees its empty.

Using the JLA computers, he sees the JLA headed for the Canadian Northwest, and he gets a feeling in the pit of his stomach--a bad one. Has he abandoned his friends when they needed him most?

Back in the Yukon, we see most of the JLA, unconscious and trussed-up, as they remain trapped in a pitch-black pit, put there by Amazo.

Vixen suffers from claustrophobia, but she finds it in herself to stay calm, and the power of her Tantu Totem allows her to break free of her rope bonds. dig herself and her friends out!

Meanwhile, Manhunter and Dale Gunn have arrived at the Fortress of Solitude, which was, before the melee in the Yukon, Amazo's last known address, as it were.

Vixen does manage to move the rock Amazo left there and dig herself out, helping her teammates out of the pit. She is met by another JLA shuttlecraft, and she is shocked to see it's Aquaman, and he's not alone:
Back at the Fortress, Manhunter finds what he was looking for: how Amazo escaped. Turns out it was an errant meteor that crashed and freed Amazo, not some supervillain or Amazo himself. To Manhunter, that means that all this destruction he is causing is from whatever human he first encountered, whose personality he assumed.

While Mera tends to the wounded JLAers, Aquaman tracks Amazo, who has made his way to Vancouver, and is ripping up the town!

They fly the shuttlecraft over him, and Aquaman dives out, getting a few good shots in on Amazo before he knew what--or who--hit him.

Back in the small town where all this started, Manhunter finds out that Amazo has been calling himself "MacGregor." Who's MacGregor? The local constable tells him
...Tuska may not have been the best choice for superhero slugfests like this, but I simply adore that portrait of MacGregor--its so perfectly realized. Cartoony yet real--many artists tend to draw heavy people so they look grotesque, like Jabba the Hut, but Tuska nails it.

Anyway, back to Vancouver (where I'm sure all the destruction is causing the many, many movies always being shot there to halt production), Steel recovers enough to try again with Amazo. Amazon responds by throwing an unconscious Vixen at him.

Amazo is then confused when he meets--himself, Slick Jake MacGregor! can that be?

Amazo is distracted long enough for Aquaman to deliver a two-handed, knockout wallop upside Amazo's head. MacGregor reveals himself, of course, to be Martian Manhunter using his shape-shifting powers.

Aquaman is happy, but Manhunter demands and explanation. He gets one, but probably not the one he wanted or expected:

Roll Call: Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, Elongated Man, Zatanna, Vixen, Steel, Vibe, Gypsy

Notable Moments: And with that abrupt ending, Aquaman's quarter-century career with the Justice League comes to an end.

At the time, I was furious that this story ended like this--I had been waiting for the eventual payoff to Aquaman being such an AquaJerk these past few months, but instead he ditches the JLA, gets back with the wife who seems to leave him every few months (I know she's hot an all, Arthur, but there are plenty of fish in the sea!), and leaves the JLA. I was fifteen, and the word "stricken" comes to mind as I recall reading this comic for the first time.

Of course, I now know some of the external forces that caused this, and while I wouldn't trade the superb Neal Pozner/Craig Hamilton Aquaman mini-series for anything, I really wish a better compromise could have been worked out between what Gerry Conway was doing here and DC's plans for Aquaman.

Also, this cover marks JLA Detroit co-creator Chuck Patton's final work on the book. After a fill-in next issue by Joe Staton, a new regular penciler takes over, the last one the book would ever have.

Interesting tidbit: on the JLA Mail Room page, letter writer Kent A. Phenis (who seemed to get more letters printed in DC books than anyone save T.M. Maple) wonders if the Phantom Stranger is still a member, since he wasn't around to be forced to make a choice.

Editor Alan Gold isn't sure, but I think its a safe bet that if Flash, Green Arrow, Hawkman, et al, showed up too infrequently for Aquaman's tastes, then the Stranger was definitely out. He probably would've sent the Stranger his JLA membership card torn up into little bits, if he had known where to send it.


russell said...

I remember thinking, WHAT?? In my mind this was all setting up Mera's hanging out with the group (if Sue can be there, Mera can, too!), so when Aquaman says Good-bye instead, I thought, wow, what an ending.
Aquaman was never the best choice to run this "always on duty" JLA, anyway, so I kind of thought he wouldn't last, anyway, but still, just another nail in the coffin, eh?

BentonGrey said...

I don't know, Mera is every bit as awesome as Hawkgirl, so she should definitely have been in with this League, even if not as an active member. At least Arthur got back together with Mera....for a while.

BentonGrey said...

Also, Aquaman taking Amazo on solo, and thinking to himself "this could be tricky" instead of "I'm going to be turned into fish paste...", is totally awesome.

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