Monday, August 1, 2011

Crisis Part 27 - Fight The Future!

The recent crossovers between the Justice League and the Justice Society had focused on reviving long lost heroes such as the Seven Soldiers of Victory, Quality's Freedom Fighters, and Fawcett's champions.

In 1977 the two teams meet up with another then-current DC team, the Legion of Superheroes. This crossovers is almost like a meeting of the Schwartz-DC heroes and the Weisinger-DC heroes.

While Julie Schwartz had been fabricating his modernized DC universe with updated heroes of classic DC types, Weisinger concentrated on the Superman universe and arguably the most inovative thing to come out of that arena in the Silver Age was the Legion of Superheroes. And since continuity was an important part of Bronze Age DC, it was of course only normal that these sides of the DCU would meet.

The Legion of Superheroes had really become the darlings of the DC universe again after some years in the wilderness as back-ups. Dave Crockrum's redesigns for the Legion some years before had rescued them and given them some charms for Bronze Age fans. Cockrum pulled off the same magic with the X-Men later in the decade. Mike Grell had really turned the Legion into fan favorites and its this polished team that shows up at last in the crossover.

"Crisis in the 30th Century!" was written by the team of Paul Levitz and Marty Pasko, and drawn as usual by Dick Dillin and Frank McLaughlin. Anthony Tollin is credited with the colors and Milt Snapinn is identified as the letterer. The cover is a rare one by Dick Dillin himself. The story picks up in 1977 in the satellite headquarters of the Justice League where the Justice Society has been resting after a battle with the Psycho Pirate in their own title. The heroes from both teams are snatched by a giant mystical hand and dragged to the century 2977. The League members are Superman, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Green Lantern, and Batman. The Society members are Dr.Fate, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Flash, and Power Girl. They have been kidnapped by Mordru, a 30th century magician and longtime foe of the Legion of Superheroes. Superman, a member of that team as a boy recognizes their captor. Mordru tells the heroes that he's held some Legion members hostage as others seek out the Bell, the Jar, and the Wheel, three mystical artifacts which imprison three ancient demons named Abnegazar, Rath, and Ghast. As it turns out the League had once battled these demons and imprisoned them, keeping the three artifacts in the satellite, but it seems the JLofA satellite has been blown up since 1977 and the artifacts are missing. Mordru wants the teams to find the items and return them. He has already sent Legion members to do so, but they've not returned. Mordru keeps Green Arrow and Canary as hostages and sends the heroes on their missions.

Chapter 2 "Crisis on a Cosmic Quest!" shows Legion members Wildfire and Sun Boy prisoners of a people shaped like wheels. Superman, Hawkman, and Dr.Fate show up and they figure out the people of this world worship the wheel and have taken its shape. Dr.Fate fills the sky with bright explosions which the people are fascinated with, they then alter their worship and their shapes allowing the combined heroes to leave with the magical wheel.

Chapter 3 "For What the Bells Tolls..." shows Batman and the two Green Lanterns showing up over a planet attacked by space dragons. Legion members Brainiac 5 and Princess Projectra are already trying to negotiate for the Bell, but since it keeps the dragons at bay the people of the planet are loathe to give it up. Batman figures out the planet needs a scarecrow and the Lanterns carve a massive predator of the space dragons into one of the planets uninhabited land masses which serves silently to repel the dragons. The team then leaves with the Bell.

Chapter 4 "The Final Errand" has only Power Girl and Flash finding the Jar, but its been mistaken for an egg by the aliens of the planet on which it fell. Power Girl switches out a true egg for the false one and they able to leave with their prize with minimal fuss.

The heroes return to Mordru and try to attack him, but fail. He then uses his skills to free the three demons, and return the heroes (save Green Arrow and Black Canary) back to their own times. But Abnegazar, Rath, and Ghast promptly turn on Mordru and as the story ends Green Arrow and Black Canary are trapped in the unconscious Mordru's hourglass pendant and the Demons plot their next move against Earth.

"Crisis In Triplicate!" is again by the Pasko, Levitz, Dillin, and McLaughlin team. The cover is by Rick Buckler and Jack Abel. The story begins with the demons Abnegazer, Rath, and Ghast free and plotting against Earth. The Legion of Superheroes (Lightning Lad, Ultra Boy, and Wildfire attack them but are rebuffed. Then Sun Boy, Saturn Girl, Ultra Boy, and Brainiac 5 are ordered to take Mordru's spiritual form and combine it with his body in his prison. Green Arrow and Black Canary unfortunately go along for the ride. The three demons though have different plans for Earth. Abnegazar has grown weary of strife and seeks world peace and harmony under his rule, Rath seeks to plunder the planet of all its physical wealth, and Ghast wants nothing less than to completely reshape the planet meaning its near complete destruction. The demons battle one another but realize their powers cancel one another out. So they get teams of heroes to battle for them. Abnegazar chooses Lightning Lad, Chameleon Boy, Shadow Lass, Princess Projectra, and Wildfire to fight for him. Reaching back into to time, the other demons recapture the League and the Society and use them as pawns. Rath takes control of the JSofA and Ghast takes control of the three remaining JLofA members.

Chapter 2 "The Battle that Shook the 30th Century!" begins with a flash of action. The three teams battle one another back and forth across the landscape of future Earth. Meanwhile Mordru's body is about back to his tomb and Green Lantern of Earth-1 has gone to rescue Arrow and Canary. He does so and the trio also defeats the Legion members who brought Mordru's form. Back on Earth the members of the opposing teams realize that they are under different levels of control from the demons and realize that a stalemate between their forces might bring about a potential resolution to the problems. Battling over a global tunnel, the teams almost succeed.

Chapter 3 "Some Say the World End in Fire...Some Say In Ice!" has the heroes fighting in a future city in the Antarctic snowfields. They pursue their strategy of striving for a stalemate and succeed. This frustrates the demons who once again attack each other directly. Abnegazar and Rath eliminate each other. Ghast survives and is defeated by the combined power of the heroes and imprisoned when Dr.Fate (juiced up with power left over from the deceased demons) in the fragments of the JLofA satellite which is reassembled around him. The heroes compare notes and then head back to their own times, a slight alteration to their memories thanks to the Green Lanterns to forestall paradoxes.

This is not one of my favorite crossovers. Again Dillin and McLaughlin get huge props for telling an amazingly complex story literally overflowing with heroes. Sadly few of the Legion members get much personality save Wildfire and Brainiac 5. Some don't even speak I'd reckon. The League and Society do better with Power Girl getting a lot of attention. She was the breakout star of the new All Star comic and she gets showcased a bit here.

I'm not quite sure where this story goes wrong. The elements seem pretty good. Mordru and the Demons seem worthy opponents, but somehow it all just rattles along barely, seemingly wanting to fall apart at any minute. The story just feels compressed and crowded. I will say that the satellite reforming was a really cool sequence, and in 1977 an interesting glimpse into a near future which hadn't quite happened yet.

It makes sense that Paul Levitz would have a hand in this story since he was in charge of the Legion at the time. But it's a shame that Steve Englehart never wrote a crossover. This two-parter interrupts Englehart's great run on the JLofA, and he'd come back on board for two more issues after this crossover completed. Englehart's League was vibrant with personality, and sadly there's little of that in this tale. Probably just no room for it despite some expanded page counts.

There was little novelty in this one either, since all the heroes on display had their own series at this time. This is a diverting tale, but not really compelling alas.

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1 comment:

  1. Wow that brings back memories. This was about the time I discovered US editions of comics and began hunting them down. Anything by Dick Dillin was always top of my list and the more heroes he was drawing the better.


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