Monday, March 7, 2016

Silver Age JLA - Amazo!

In issue thirty, the final installment of the trio of The Brave and the Bold issues used to showcase the new Justice League of America, the team must face off against their own superpowers which have been stolen and installed in a deadly android named Amazo. The story by Gardner Fox, Mike Sekowsky and Bernard Sachs is one of the more curious in the series so far.

"The Case of the Stolen Super-Powers!" begins with the various League members going about their daily heroic duties. The Flash suddenly loses his speed while stopping the latest Mirror Master scheme. Green Lantern's ring shuts off while he's trying to save a train. Wonder Woman goes numb while trying to lasso an errant missle. Aquaman loses his telepathic ability to control two whales while trying to get them to raise an ancient treasure ship. And Martian Manhunter loses his wind while he's blowing away some fog which is making travel unsafe for an ambulance.

Flash then calls the League together when he learns of two weird robberies. It seems a thief has taken the world's oldest fish and the oldest insect and is using the League's powers to do it. The League speculate their powers have been stolen during the moments they blinked out.

Superman seems immune and speculates himself it's that he's only vulnerable to Kryptonite and Batman notes that he doesn't have any super-powers to steal. The members speculate further that the thief will continue to steal long-lived creatures and disassemble around the world to protect them.

Wonder Woman travels to Peru to protect the world's oldest man named Jose Mendoza. She is almost immediately forced to battle the thief who announces his name is "Amazo" and the two battle until Amazo is able to ultimately use Green Lantern's power to capture both Wonder Woman and Mendoza.

Aquaman and Green Lantern team up to travel to the Galapagos to protect the world's oldest turtle and confront Amazo. The battle is fercious again with Aquaman trying to hide the tortise and Green Lantern clashing with Amazo. But Amazo is able to coat himself with gold and defeat the Lantern's ring. He finds the tortise and Aquaman and sends them all to his master in ring-generated rockets.

Martian Manhunter and Flash race to the midwest to protect the world's oldest bird, an owl. Amazo shows up of course and while Flash tries to save the aviary, Manhunter tackles the android. Defeated by Amazo Manhunter is sent to Amazo's master as he turns his attention on Flash who actually uses yellow bird feathers to escape the ring's effects but while "flying" on the winds blows to an offshore yacht and barely lands. He discovers sadly that he's fallen into the hands of Amazo's master, a man named Professor Ivo.

Professor Ivo announces his scheme to the League members who are trapped in tubes as he schemes to take their powers permanently. Meanwhile he uses the essence he discovered by inspecting the oldest things to concoct a potion which will allow him to live for five hundred years.

Unknown to Ivo and Amazo, Green Lantern has ingested some chlorine gas which was used to keep the Leaguers weak and the slight yellow color of the gas makes him impervious to Amazo's ring energy. The Lantern is able to turn the tables on Ivo and Amazo and defeats both of them and free his comrades. Professor Ivo is sentenced to five hundred years in prison which ironically he will be able to serve and Amazo is added to the League's trophy room alongside Starro.

I've always been intrigued by Amazo. Actually before I ever encountered him, I found Marvel's Super-Adaptoid who was able to do pretty much the same thing to The Avengers, but with a somewhat more visually arresting form.

Enemies who can take on the powers of their opponents make for great stories, as the Fantastic Four learned early in their adventures with the Super-Skrull.

Professor Ivo is a really interesting villain here too. While just one more mad scientist of course, he's so banal about his crimes in this story that he comes across as really cold and deadly. He's a clear sociopath, a man who cares not a whit for anyone else. Amazo is merely a tool used to gain to immortality and eventually power. Ivo seems blithely convinced he will win, but of course we know different.

Superman and Batman are barely in this one as they disappear early with Batman gone to save the elephants in all of Africa and Superman to sit with the whales in an ocean near nobody, and that of course is going to be the case for most of the early issues. The League seemed to be a vehicle not only to sell comics but to promote the new Silver Age riffs on the classic Golden Age heroes DC was reviving. So we see Flash and Green Lantern in particular getting some real high-profile play in this story. Flash seems to be the defacto leader of the team and the Lantern of course saves the day. Manhunter seems the most pitiful in many respects as he's often defeated with little fanfare and is often defined by his weakness rather than his many strengths. It was notable that Wonder Woman got a headlining role in this one too, getting her own solo adventure. That had mostly to do with the odd number of members but it's nice to see her shine. 

Amazo didn't appear very much in the series. I don't think he battled the League again until issue #27 of the League's own series after they left the pages of The Brave and the Bold. They use him to defeat another villain but then have to beat Amazo all over again.

His debut adventure along with the first League story of the conflict with Starro was first reprinted in issue #39 of The Justice League of America, and has been reprinted several times since.

Look for more Amazo tomorrow.

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