Or – “Everybody Was Kung-Fu Fighting… IN THE FUTURE!!!”

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The launches of Justice League and Justice Society have been interesting contrasts, with JLA taking the looong way around to a story that didn’t really do much for me, and JSA starting with a bang, and running breakneck through their opening arc. The real contrast seems to be in terms of story structure, with the League telling us a lot but showing very little and the Society somewhat doing the opposite. Both teams have had strange interactions with time-lost members of a third superteam, the Legion of Superheroes, and their stories are about to converge. Apropos of nothing, aren’t the teams’ respective leaders attractive?

JLA1.jpgPreviously, on Justice League: The team has finally been assembled, with the Big Three joined by founder Green Lantern, Satellite-era members Black Canary and Red Tornado, former Teen Titan Red Arrow, Detroit-era stalwart Vixen, former JSAer Hawkgirl, and way-overdue new recruit Black Lightning. After a confusing run-in with half a dozen villains including Solomon Grundy, Amazo, Trident, Doctor Impossible and probably a couple that I’ve forgotten, they’ve discovered that Trident is not what he seems. The man under the mask can only be identified by the computers in the Fortress of Solitude, because he won’t be born for over 900 years. He’s Val Armorr, Karate Kid of the Legion of Superheroes (moreover, he’s a version of that character not seen since before the original Crisis on Infinite Earths 20 years ago.) The mystery is about to get even stranger, what with new JSA-er Starman also hailing from that era of the Legion…

The team starts this issue split into three teams, one battling in “The Kitchen,” the new interactive combat simulator, with two members facing one man (Mr. Terrific of the JSA) in a game of chess, and Batman and Black Lightning in the Batcave examining Karate Kid. Black Lightning has never heard of this ‘Legion,’ (which is interesting, as he worked alongside Lightning Lad and Lightning Lass for a couple issues of Crisis on Infinite Earths, when the electrical heroes and villains worked together to power some device or other), and thinks it’s odd that the Kid didn’t use karate when he fought him before. Batman suggests that it’s because of the Starro that they found on his neck, and points out that Superman has classed Karate Kid as a level 15 fighter. “And that’s good?” asks Lightning. Batman replies, “I’m listed…”

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But even Batman’s got his limits… As for the team in the Kitchen, Hawkgirl and Red Arrow are leading their respective teams in a game of Capture the Flag with Geo-Force (is he even a member of either team?) and Wildcat on his side. Hawkgirl has programmed the combat to take place in a cemetary (with every headstone showing Red Arrow’s name), as the threesome considers their strategic options.

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The three battles, one physical, one mental, one strategic, all balance themselves, with Hawkgirl coming out of hiding, as Batman tries to reason with Karate Kid, and Mr Terrific psyches out Black Canary and Green Lantern (playing them BLINDFOLDED at chess.) Batman takes a few good shots, but gives as many back, but it seems that he really is outmatched by the boy from the future. Red Arrow, on the other hand, has the strategic advantage on Hawkgirl, and goes for her team’s flag…

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Val is really kicking the snot out of Bruce, here, contrary to what I got out of it the first time round (I missed the belt entirely), but Batman has an advantage. It’s his cave, he’s completely in his element, and while KK may have an advantage as far as skill and training, he’s essentially still a young man from a utopian society. In Gotham City, they learn an important rule early…

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…cheat when necessary. First time I read this, I read that Batman kicked him in the unmentionables, but looking again, I think the arc of lightning around Karate Kid’s ankles says it all. Batman maneuvered him into a Black Lightning ambush, because he was quite frankly overmatched. Back in the Kitchen, Roy also bends the rules by wrapping the flag around it’s stick, and firing it out of his bow. Hawkgirl surprises him by trying to knock it off course with the wind beneath her wings, but he’s used to compensating for wind… and then Red Tornado blows it to the ground with a gust of G-4 winds. Mr. Terrific and Black Canary both get checkmate at the same moment, and Red Arrow gives Red Tornado a little poke to remind him that the game’s not over.

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Red Tornado, still shellshocked from his ordeal through the first 7 issues, knocks Roy off his feet and hurtles him at a nearly oak tree at high-speed. It’s not clear if he’s responding in anger, or if he’s just reflexively striking back at a perceived slight, but in any case, if Roy hits the tree, he’s a dead man. Kendra/Hawkgirl swoops in to try and catch him, but at that speed, it’ll just injure/kill them both. With only moments to react, Vixen tries to leave the control center, and Geo-Force lashes out with his powers…

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Red Tornado is obviously freaked out by his response… “My reaction was… I miscalculated… I apologize.” He’s incredibly troubled by this. Also troubling, the fact that they’ve pumped Karate Kid full of enough drugs to put out an army, and he still keeps mumbling “My name is Wes Holloway.” The assembled JSA/JLAers discuss the future, and Mr. Terrific points out that their new kid ALSO says he’s from the future. Suddenly, Karate Kid hears the name Starman, and says “His names Thom Kallor. Mine’s Val Armorr… How the sprock did I know THAT?” Mr. Terrific calls Power Girl, who brings in Starman, who keeps saying something about “the white angel screaming.” That could refer to his winged teammate Dawnstar or Dream Girl in her white uniform, trapped in Arkham. Either way, when the two Legionnaires meet, something… interesting happens.

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For those of you who don’t speak Interlac, what he just said was “Lightning Lad.” The plot thickens, doesn’t it? Even the magic lasso couldn’t clear KK’s mental block, but the one pass phrase undid all the conditioning, returning the Kid to his senses. Val tells Superman that the two of them aren’t the only Legionnaires trapped in “the past.” The Justice types realize it’s time to call in the troops, assembling both teams. Val, luckily, is wearing his LSH flight ring, which also serves as a communications and tracking device. The simple answer to finding the lost Legionnaires?

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The only answer: split into teams! It’s a classic JLA/JSA crossover, folks, although most of the teams in the past haven’t had THIS MANY members, plus seven time-lost Legionnaires to contend with. I suspect that the only downfall of this crossover is going to be clarity, with nearly 30 main characters.

Overall, this issue was… weirdly disappointing. The Karate Kid/Batman throwdown was nice, and the “I just gave you a hernia” moment made for a nice markout for me. I think I had much higher expectations for this one, and it kind of let me down at the end. It’s nice to see “My Legion” back (my wife thinks I’m crazy, because I’m exultant that my imaginary friends from high school are back in print) and the book is beautifully drawn, but I hoped for a 5 star experience, and got a 3 star book… No matter how good it is (and it IS good), it’ll never live up to my stupid expectations. Tomorrow, we’ll hit part two of the crossover, with more Legionnaires, including the greatest of them all… BLOK!

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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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5 Comments

  1. April 29, 2007 at 9:14 pm — Reply

    I thought this was a great issue. Of course I would have liked it a bit more had I not read JSA first! They need to tag these things with a “STOP! MAKE SURE YOU READ JLA BEFORE THIS ISSUE!” alert.

  2. April 30, 2007 at 7:04 am — Reply

    It was a very good issue, with some weird goings-on. We know from 52 that the mysterious eleventh member is Geo-Force, but there’s no explanation of why he’s on the Watchtower. The Karate Kid/Batman fight is shown mostly off-panel and Benes’ set direction is questionable (leading me to misunderstand the important ending of the fight), and I’m still in the dark as to a lot of the motivations of the characters. We’ve just gotten our ten members set up, and then this issue we add Mr. Terrific, Wildcat, Val, and Power Girl in significant roles. If this were your first issue of JLA, you’d have no idea what the heck is going on.

    The JLA relaunch has been hit and miss, this issue more hit than miss, and they really DO need to tag them as to reading order. Remember the days when it’d say on the cover “Extreme Sacrifice Part Eleventy-Billion and Two?”

  3. Vlad8a
    April 30, 2007 at 9:13 am — Reply

    That “cheating moment” with Batman is out of Batman Beigins when Bruce was training on the ice with Ducard.

  4. Brent F.
    April 30, 2007 at 11:34 am — Reply

    Seven soldiers/Legionnaires… a possible connection to the Seven Soldiers of Victory?

    Starman’s outburst, “The angel screams in c-sharp! Then the wolf howls…” could be in reference to Dawnstar and Timberwolf. Also, his behavior in that panel strikes me as odd, as though he’s not quite as crazy as he’s leading everyone to believe.

  5. April 30, 2007 at 1:31 pm — Reply

    Interesting… I hadn’t considered Timber Wolf a possibility. We know that Wildfire, Starman, Karate Kid and Dream Girl are back. Issue #1 showed Dawnstars distinctive yellow fringy sleeve, which may indicate she’s #5. Timber Wolf also would be a good link to the more “grown-up” Legion from the 70’s… Now, as long as #7 is Blok, we’re in business.

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