Justice League of America Vol 1 #147
“Crisis in the 30th Century!”
Writers: Paul Levitz and Martin Pasko
Penciller: Dick Dillin
Inker: Frank McLaughlin
Letterer: Milton Snapinn
Colourist: Anthony Tollin
Cover: Dick Dillin
Editor: Julius Schwartz
Green Arrow, Superman, Black Canary, Batman, Green Lantern II (Hal Jordan); Flash II (Barry Allen) (cameo)
The Justice Society of America (Flash I (Jay Garrick), Green Lantern I (Alan Scott), Power Girl, Doctor Fate, Hawkman I; Wildcat, Star-Spangled Kid (cameos)
Mission Monitor Board:
Sun Boy, Brainiac 5, Princess Projectra, Wildfire, Saturn Girl; Lightning Lad, Shadow Lass, Chameleon Boy, Ultra Boy (cameos, flashback)
Mordru; The Demons Three (Abnegazar, Rath and Ghast); the Psycho-Pirate (cameo)
In Chapter 1, “Terror of the Time Plunderer!”, the Flash, Wildcat and the Star-Spangled Kid are preparing to return to Earth-2 with their prisoner, the Psycho-Pirate, from the JLA satellite in orbit of Earth-1. The trip will be made by means of a dimensional transporter. Green Arrow hits the control lever with a boxing arrow, shutting the transporter off. It will take about an hour to restart. Things nearly come to blows between Green Arrow and Wildcat, but they are separated by Green Lantern I (Alan Scott). Meanwhile, Power Girl takes a fancy to Superman, and he escorts her to see the JLA Trophy Room. Power Girl’s sudden scream brings the heroes running, where they find her struggling in the fingers of a giant hand that has come through the walls of the JLA satellite. The heroes attempt to free her, and are successful - but then the hand grabs a fistful of heroes! Superman, Batman, Green Arrow, Green Lantern I, Black Canary, Dr. Fate, Power Girl, The Flash I, Green Lantern II and Hawkman I quickly find themselves pulled out of the JLA satellite into space, and then through time.
They find themselves in Legion of Super-Heroes Headquarters in the year 2977, and in the hand of a giant astral projection of Mordru, whom Superman says is “the mightiest evil wizard of this era”. On the floor stands a giant mystical hourglass, with Legionnaires Lightning Lad, Shadow Lass, Ultra Boy, Chameleon Boy and Saturn Girl trapped inside it. The frustrated and angry Mordru says he didn’t want the heroes, he had reached back to actually snatch three items off the JLA satellite: the Red Jar of Calythos, the Green Bell of Uthool and the Silver Wheel of Nyorlath. He tosses the League and Society members into a prison cell, where Dr. Fate wastes little time coming up with a plan. Using his own power and the combined power of both Lanterns, he frees the heroes and creates a giant projection of himself... which Mordru quickly cuts down to size. While it fails as a head-on attack, it creates enough of a distraction that the other JLA and JSA heroes manage to take down the wizard and bind him up, like the Lilliputians took down Gulliver.
It’s not enough, however, and soon enough the heroes are once more trapped, this time in the Golden Globe of Transkalla, which even Fate’s magic cannot get them out of. Mordru tells them, and the captive Legionnaires, that they will all die, as the the four Legionnaires he sent (while holding five other as hostages) to retrieve the three items have failed. However, a suggestion implanted by Dr. Fate causes Mordru to rethink things. Mordru decides to send eight members of the Justice League and Justice Society after the three magical items, while imprisoning the other two, Green Arrow and Black Canary, in an hourglass similar to that the Legionnaires find themselves in. If the heroes do not return with the items before the sands run out in the hourglasses, all the Legionnaires and Black Canary and Green Arrow will die.
Once the heroes have teleported away to their destinations, Mordru tells Green Arrow and Black Canary his plan: He intends to release Abnegazar, Rath and Ghast, the Demons Three, from their prisons using the three artefacts. He cannot go after the three artefacts, which were stored in the JLA satellite in the 30th Century, as at some point in the past millennium the satellite was destroyed and the three artefacts were scattered throughout space.
In Chapter 2, "Crisis on a Cosmic Quest!”, on the world of Antares II, Sun Boy and Wildfire are being held prisoner. The local shape-changer life forms didn’t take kindly to their search for the Silver Wheel of Nyorlath. The two heroes could easily escape, but would kill their captors in the process, something that goes against the Legion code. The two Legionnaires are rescued by Superman, Hawkman I and Doctor Fate. It is a bizarre experience for Wildfire to be interacting with the older Superman. The natives fire arrows at the heroes, but these are destroyed by Sun Boy. Superman also explains to Hawkman I and Doctor Fate how he knows the Legionnaires, since he was a member when he was Superboy. Wildfire explains to Superman and the JSAers that the Wheel fell to this world and the natives all changed themselves into “wheel-people” in imitation of it. the Legionnaires found the Wheel soon enough, but when they tried to take it were attacked. Dr. Fate manages to locate the Wheel, and the heroes race to the scene. Using Superman’s speed and Dr. Fate’s magic, they make the Antareans believe that the Wheel has transformed into stars, which the Antareans now duplicate. Dr. Fate explains that the natives worshipped the Wheel and so they gave them something else to worship thus allowing them to take the Wheel. Wildfire wonders why he didn’t think of that; Superman merely says that it took a couple of older and wiser heads to come up with the plan.
Back at Legion HQ, having witnessed the events, Black Canary and Green Arrow discuss the fact that Fate’s plan was smart, as he must have realized that the JLAers and JSAers together could succeed where the Legionnaires could not. In their hourglass, Saturn Girl comments to her comrades that Wildfire may not have been an ideal choice of leader, as it was obvious to her that the Antareans worshipped the Wheel. But she can’t help but wonder what has happened to Brainiac 5 and Princess Projectra on their mission to secure the Green Bell.
In Chapter 3, “For What the Bell Tolls...”, Batman and the two Green Lanterns arrive at the planet Vaxon, where a group of space dragons are also having to deal with the sound of a large bell “bonging” in space. Green Lantern I determines that the bell sounding in the vacuum of space must be the Green Bell of Uthool. He traces the bell with his power ring, but the three heroes are attacked by the space dragons. The two Lanterns defend themselves and Batman, and then start to make their way to the planet. Down on Vaxon, the Governing Council listens to the pleas of Brainiac 5 and Princess Projectra, but are not swayed. They want the Bell to save the imprisoned Legionnaires, but the council argues that the Bell is the only thing keeping the space dragons from wiping out their people. The lives of the population of Vaxon is more important to them than the lives of five strangers. Batman and the two Green Lanterns arrive and learn what has occurred. Batman says that what the Vaxonians need is...a scarecrow! Brainiac 5 agrees, and says that he’ll get right to work on a pesticide to keep the dragons away. Batman asks if there is a natural predator that the dragons fear, and Princess Projectra says there is; she casts the illusion of a Xanthor, a creature as big as a planet that eats the dragons for breakfast. The two Lanterns carve a massive bas relief of a Xanthor on the uninhabited portion of Vaxon, and the natives give the adult heroes the Green Bell as a token of their gratitude.
Meanwhile, the Flash I and Power Girl proceed to go after the Red Jar of Calythos. Power Girl says the sooner they find it, the sooner their friends and the Legionnaires will be released. Mordru, watching on a magical monitor, wonders if she can be stupid enough to think the sorcerer will let them live. He believes the Demons Three will only be too glad to destroy the super-heroes as revenge for having been imprisoned.
In Chapter 4, “The Final Errand!”, the Flash I explains to Power Girl that the Legion found the jar, and deciding it was too powerful for them to have, teleported it into another dimension were even they couldn’t get to it. Only the Flash I’s vibratory powers can open the dimensional gate, which he proceeds to do, and Power Girl races through the gateway in search of the Red Jar. She finds the Jar relatively easily, but has to deal with some frog-like alien monsters. One of them sits on top of the vault that the Legionnaires put the Red Jar in, and won’t let her get close enough to it, batting and kicking her away. Power Girl realizes the monsters are all female and that they’re brooding, and this one creature has mistaken the Red Jar’s vault for her egg. Getting her the real egg, Power Girl is able to shatter open the vault and get the Red Jar when the creature leaps to its actual egg. She and the Flash I make their escape from the portal area, and enact their plan, which even Mordru doesn’t fathom.
Bringing all the JSAers and JLAers back from their tasks, Mordru imprisons them in a bubble, but fails to realize that the Flash I is not with them. The Flash I appears, vibrating out of the dimensional limbo, and he is alone. He tells Mordru that if he does not release all the prisoners, including the Legionnaires, he and Power Girl will not give him the Red Jar. The sorcerer agrees, and releases the prisoners. Power Girl appears with the Red Jar, and hands it to Mordru, who begins to enact the ritual to free the Demons Three. The three groups of heroes attack Mordru, to prevent him enacting the ritual, but it is Green Lantern II who realizes that Black Canary and Green Arrow are not with them. Mordru tells the heroes that they failed to note that he had magically shrunk down their hourglass; if the heroes don’t cease and desist, Green Arrow and Black Canary die. The heroes stop and watch helplessly as Mordru completes the ritual and releases the demons.
Abnegazar, Rath and Ghast have no intention of being controlled by anyone again, least of all Mordru, and with a gesture seemingly dispatch both the Justice League and the Justice Society. Turning on Mordru, the three take him down with ease and then vow to destroy the Bell, Jar and Wheel so they can never be imprisoned again. Meanwhile, Green Arrow and Black Canary lie in the hourglass on the ground, dying... This story continues in the next issue.
This is one of those Legion stories that fans of the team, who were also fans of the Justice League and Justice Society, dreamed about seeing. When the reality of the two-issue story in Justice League of America Vol 1 hit, it really did live up to the hype for the most part. The hardest part with stories of this type is that it’s difficult enough to give everyone enough to do in the annual team-ups of the JLA and the JSA, but when you throw in a third team, the Legion of Super-Heroes, things can get chaotic. Characterization and motivation tends to blur somewhat and it can be hard to follow the story with so many characters in it.
The story itself is one that can be confusing to readers who might not be familiar with the DC Universe back in the 1970s, when there were multiple Earths all over the place and variants of the various heroes and villains found in those universes. A nice panel or two on page 2 explains to the readers why there are two Flashes and about the multiple Earths, and doesn’t get in the way of the story. However, once that matter is taken care of, the story gets going with a bang, and is very much true to the style of both writers Paul Levitz and Martin Pasko. The story evolves naturally, the heroes in the modern day setting taken prisoner by a giant hand and transported to the 30th Century of the Legion of Super-Heroes. Mordru is an appropriate villain here, as he’s got the power (even in his weakened state) to deal with the Justice League and Justice Society members, having already taken down the Legion of Super-Heroes. With all these super-heroes (five JLAers, 5 JSAers, and 9 Legionnaires), the break-down of the stories into chapters with teams of heroes dealing with Mordru’s “requests” makes sense, and allows the characters’ personalities to come through somewhat. The Legionnaires get the short end of the stick in this issue, because it is the Justice League/Justice Society annual team-up, but there’s more than enough to go around and four of the Legionnaires (Wildfire, Princess Projectra, Brainiac 5 and Sun Boy) do get some decent story time, even if they come across as less experienced and somewhat stupider than the adult heroes of the JLA and the JSA. The felling of Mordru by the Demons Three after he has released them brings a whole new danger and threat level to the story, just in time for the first part of the tale to conclude.
One interesting thing about the story is that, while serious for the most part, it does have some humourous moments. The interplay between Green Arrow and Black Canary and the competitiveness of the Earth-1 and Earth-2 heroes as represented by these two sparkles for the most part. Wildfire’s reaction on encountering the grown up Superman and Hawkman I’s reaction and attitude to how Superman knows the Legionnaires is terrific. Brainiac 5’s idea of spraying the planet Vaxon with a pesticide to keep the space dragons away after Batman talks about a scarecrow and what they do was a delight, though I found the playing of Brainiac 5 as being this silly was a bit much. It’s justified, however, by the dialogue between Batman and the two Green Lanterns about studying history but not being able to study what’s not in the history books. That said, this was countered by a seriously creepy moment in the tale. Early on, when the JLA and JSA are bonding aboard the JLA satellite, Power Girl is actually flirting somewhat with Superman. Granted they are cousins and all, even if they are from two different Earths (Earth-2 and Earth-1 respectively), but seriously...they’re cousins! Just ewwwwwwwww. One can try to excuse it by the fact that this is Power Girl’s first experience of the Earth-1/Earth-2 team-ups, but still...
Overall, this is a pretty neat story with a good plot, decent action, and a cliffhanger that makes the reader want to come back for more. It is a great story, and is one of the best of the team-ups the Legion has ever been involved in, even if they don’t play as large a role as the could have in the story.
Next Issue: Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #233