Saturday, July 30, 2011

DC Retroactive: 1970s Justice League of America

The original Justice League of America returns!

The Story: "Enter Justice League Prime" by Cary Bates, Gordon Purcell, Jose Marzan Jr., and Andy Smith.

In Creedvue Mental Hospital, two doctors are talking to a patient. This patient insists he is an interplanetary traveler, regularly visiting the planet Rann. Getting frustrated, the patient demands to talk to the Justice League of America.

One of the doctors is familiar with the Justice League, but not in the form the patient is:
Of course, the patient is Adam Strange--how did he end up here?

Six hours earlier, aboard the JLA Satellite, 22,300 miles above Earth, six members of the Justice League pick up a Zeta Beam headed their way. They figure its their old friend Adam Strange, and it is--locked in hand-to-hand combat with their mutual foe Kanjar Ro!

Suddenly the Zeta Beam splits into two, causing the JLA to go into action. Flash determines one of the beams went to Earth-Prime, "our" Earth, where superheroes only exist in comic books (and TV shows, and multi-million-dollar film franchises). The JLA splits up into two teams:
On Earth-Prime, Flash, Wonder Woman, Green Arrow, and Zatanna attempt to rescue Adam Strange, except now Strange doesn't remember them either!

Turns out Strange has been receiving electro-shock therapy, which has screwed up his short-term memory. To help recover it, they turn to this world's foremost Adam Strange authority: DC Comics editor Julius Schwartz!

Meanwhile, on Earth-One, Green Lantern and Hawkman track down Kanjar Ro, who is more powerful than they remember:
Back on Earth-Prime, Schwartz jogs Strange's memory by showing him his comic book adventures as told in issues of Mystery in Space. This sets him straight, and they make their way back to the JLA Satellite.

As Kanjar Ro is making quick work of Hawkman, the other JLAers arrive, while Green Lantern and Zatanna execute another part of their plan--deflecting the Zeta Beam energy from hitting Earth, thereby depriving Kanjar Ro of his enhanced powers. With a well-placed punch by Adam Strange, Ro is defeated.

Wonder Woman decides this was a moment worth preserving. With the help of a camera inside her robot plane, the JLA snaps a picture and sends it to the person who will appreciate it the most:
...the end!

Roll Call: Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Hawkman, Red Tornado, Zatanna.

Notable Moments: When I ended the JLA Satellite blog back in August 2008, I truly never had any intention of bringing it back, even for a day. I liked ending with the conclusion to the original JLA book, I thought it gave the blog a nice, clean end.

But when DC announced their line of DC Retroactive one-shots, I immediately thought maybe, just maybe, it would be worth dusting off this old blog and giving it another spin--after all, this wasn't just a book starring the original JLA, it was being written by one of the classic JLA writers, Cary Bates! So here we are.

Overall, I have to say I was a tad disappointed with this issue's story--its mostly about Adam Strange, not the JLA. Add the fact that only a handful of members appear (don't even get me started on who I missed the most...), and how it becomes, IMO, a bit too in-jokey when they end up hanging with Julius Schwartz.

The plot is fine, very classic JLA, but there's almost no tension or menace. Also, there are little in-jokes to later stories, which to me broke the spell of this adventure's (heck, the whole DC Retroactive line) conceit that its set in the past--we're referencing Identity Crisis, wink wink
. Which makes this a missed opporunity: as any die-hard JLA fan knows, Cary Bates could write a Justice League story with the best of 'em.

It's also too bad the whole JLA couldn't have appeared here--if you're going to bother doing this book, why feature just a handful of members and give Adam Strange so much to do? Even with all that said, it was great to see the classic JLA one more time!

Judging by Zatanna's costume and Green Arrow's presence, this story takes place somewhere between Justice League of America #s 161 and 180.

This issue also features a reprint of Justice League of America #123, also by Cary Bates, and also "stars" Julius Schwartz.

One final thing--yes, will be back once more to recap DC Retroactive: 1980s Justice League of America!


Caffeinated Joe said...

I just finished reading this one last night! I thought it was okay, but agree that Adam Strange had way too much to do. If this was the old JLA book, an issue with him would have been no big deal. But this was supposed to be a look back for us JLofA fans, and it would have been better for it to be more JLofA and not Strange.

I had never read the back-up reprint story, so it was new to me. Glad Aquaman makes an appearance there, but it ends unfinished. Will this continue in the other Retroactive books?

rob! said...


I don't believe the reprint is continued into another book; kind of odd, right?

And thanks for coming back to this old blog... :)

Caffeinated Joe said...

Very odd. And I don't know that I cared enough about that tale to search out the original.

Anonymous said...

Reading stories of this era are now colored by "Identity Crisis". Any mention of Jean Loring or Dr. Light especially ((shudder)).

Ed Catto said...

A friend called last night - and complained about the reprint, which is only the first part of a two-part story. And there's no explanation of where to find the second part.
Seems really sloppy on the part of DC. Are they secretly trying to make fans dislike the vintage stuff? And for the record, even as a big JLA fan, I am so not interested in the rebooted JLA book.

hcg said...

Took me time to read all the comments, but I really love the article. It proved to be very helpful to me and I am sure to all the commenters here! It’s always nice when you can not only be informed, but also engaged! I’m sure you had joy writing this article.

Matt Celis said...

What's "Identity Crisis"? Wasn't that a New York Dolls tune?

Why are the colors so weird in this comic book? Did the colorist suffer an eye injury?

Never cared about Adam Strange but nice to see the real JLA again.

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