Thursday, July 28, 2011

Crisis Part 23 - That Special Quality Of Freedom!

The general template of the Justice League and Justice Society crossovers had been set. The two teams would meet and the added value from year to year would be new heroes. This time the heroes of Earths One and Two would meet the Quality heroes on Earth-X. DC had control of these heroes since they had bought out Quality Comics some many years before. Len Wein had wanted the name to be Earth-Swastika, but editor Julie Schwartz kiboshed that idea.

The story really began with the previous two issues of Justice League in which both Elongated Man and Red Tornado were inducted into the League. The Tornado had survived the end of the last JLofA-JSofA adventure and been stranded on Earth-1 where he was found by his creator T.O.Morrow who promptly gave the android hero a new face and tried to use him to destroy the League which had welcomed the android hero into their ranks. Morrow's plan failed, but the Red Tornado now had the distinction along with Black Canary of being a member of both the League and the Society.

"Crisis On Earth-X" was written by Len Wein and drawn by Dick Dillin and Dick Giordano. The comic featured another outstanding Nick Cardy cover. The action begins with both the Justice League and the Justice Society trying to synchonize two transporter devices with which they hope to be able travel between the Earths at any time of the year. Despite Red Tornado's pleading to be allowed to return to his Earth, the League sends Green Arrow, Elongated Man, and Batman into the machine. Likewise the Society sends Sandman, Dr.Fate, and Superman into their device. But Red Tornado stows away in the device causing the transporters to malfunction and the seven heroes to vanish. They end up on another Earth entirely, one that seems to have Nazis in control. They battle the Nazis who have super-scientific devices and are saved from defeat by the intervention of Uncle Sam, the Human Bomb, Phantom Lady, the Ray, the Black Condor, and Doll Man. Uncle Sam reveals that on this Earth World War II lasted far longer due to the untimely death of the President, and that eventually the Nazis won taking control of the globe. They maintain power with mind control devices to which Uncle Sam and his freedom fighters are immune. Dr.Fate uses his magic to detect the locations of the hidden mind control devices and the heroes divide into teams and Uncle Sam sends the teams away to destroy the devices. Red Tornado is left behind.

Batman, Dr.Fate, Ray, and Human Bomb are sent to Paris where the mind control device seems to be in the Eiffel Tower. The quartet battle their way to the top and find the machine which is sentient and defends itself with specially constructed foes for each of the heroes. The heroes prevail but then are taken over directly by the machine. They are able to destroy the machine though by combining their powers and relying on their reflexes.

Meanwhile the heroes of Earths One and Two search for their disappeared comrades.

"Thirteen Against the Earth!" under another great Cardy cover is again by the Wein, Dillin and Giordano team. Uncle Sam breaks the fourth wall and brings the reader up to date on the events of the last issue.

Superman, Doll Man, Green Arrow, and Phantom Lady arrive in Japan, the former Axis power which was also defeated by the Nazis, to find the second mind-control machine. It is hidden in plain sight and Superman detects it and reveals it. The machine threatens to destroy Japan if the heroes attack it, but Superman is undeterred landing a ferocious punch. Immediately Japan suffers a massive earthquake and Superman flies off to alleviate the problem. Meanwhile the other heroes work together to get Doll Man inside the machine where he disables it.

Elongated Man, Sandman, Black Condor, and Uncle Sam arrive at Mount Rushmore where Hitler's face has been added to the monument. The heroes fight their way to another machine only to discover that it's an illusion. They deduce the machine must be inside the Hitler head and Uncle Sam aided by Elongated Man delivers a massive punch to Hitler's stony ediface destroying the machine.

The heroes are them reassembled but discover that the mind control has not diminished despite the destruction of the three machines. In fact the heroes of Earths One and Two are taken over by the mind control and attack the heroes of Earth-X. Red Tornado detects the source of the mind control and follows the trail into orbit where he finds a huge Nazi satellite "manned" by an android Hitler. It turns out the Nazis had actually been defeated by their own mind control machines some years before and that the machines have ruled Earth-X since. Red Tornado attacks and succeeds in causing the satellite to fall out of orbit and crash into the ocean. He rescues a bit of equipment the machines used to communicate and the heroes are able to contact Earths One and Two to arrange rescue. The leave Earth-X free of its oppressors and they leave behind some truly quality freedom fighters.

The Freedom Fighters proved to be pretty popular and even got their own series several years later. It was a quirky series and brought the heroes to Earth-1 and made them fugitives, an attempt I guess to recreate their underground guerrilla warrior role from the crossover. I enjoyed it, but after a few years the series was cancelled.

This crossover itself is one of my absolute faves. The artwork by Dillin and Giordano is outstanding, with Giordano giving Dillin's storytelling some real drama. In the years before internet and archives and whatnot, getting to see these vintage heroes was an awesome treat. While I adore the modern era with access to old comics easy to get hold of, part of me yearns for those sweet days when such glimpses were exceedingly precious because they were so rare.

As I said the template for the crossovers had been reinvented a bit by Len Wein, but the next installment is something very different indeed.

To close here's a cover gallery of the Freedom Fighter run.

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