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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Justice League of America #4 - April 1961

Comics Weekend "Doom of the Star Diamond!" by Gardner Fox, Mike Sekowsky, and Bernard Sachs.

With no new issue of Aquaman or Justice League (am I crazy, or is that book coming out later and later each month?) again to talk about, the Shrine is continuing with its JLA Casebook tales, moving onto issue #4, where the team took on it's first new member
Millions of miles away in deep space, one alien ship fires upon another, blasting it to smithereens. But instead of being destroyed along with it, the second ship's pilot, a man named Carthan, seems to simply be floating in airless space unharmed! The other ship uses a tractor beam to bring him inside, where he talks with Xandor, the ruler of their home planet.

Xandor tells Carthan that he is perceived as a dictator, and certain factions of the people want Carthan--a renowned scientist--installed in Xandor's place. But Xandor is not about to give up power, planning to keep Carthan away from their planet indefinitely. But the hitch is, Carthan seems to have gained enormous power, which is how he was able to survive his ship's destruction. How?

Carthan explains that while exploring a distant planet, he was caught in some sort of electro-magnetic storm for hours, which has imbued him with an indestructible force-field. Unable to be harmed by Xandor, he asks what will happen to him. Xandor says he will strand Carthan on a backwater burg known as Earth. And not just that--he will be forever followed by three machines that will keep tabs on him. If Carthan ever leaves Earth, he will be rendered blind by them--unless removes the coverings Xandor has placed on the machines. That would allow Carthan to leave Earth unmarred, but it would kill everyone on Earth (why, sure, I can see how that would...wait, what?!?). Since Carthan is a humanitarian, Xandor is sure he has placed his foe in a bind from which he cannot escape!

Hey, aren't the Justice League of America in this book? Yes, they are...as we see Carthan arrive, the JLA is busy in their Secret Sanctuary holding a meeting about adding new members! The Flash recommends Adam Strange, Green Lantern suggests Green Arrow, and Batman offers Hawkman. Let the good-natured arguing begin!
The JLA splits up (hmm, I'm sensing a pattern here), with Martian Manhunter and Wonder Woman going to Keystone City. After taking on some giant animals and insects, they find one of Xandor's infernal machines and destroy it, doing the job Carthan can't do.

Next are Aquaman and The Flash, headed for Australia:
...Aquaman has such nice handwriting! Who knew?

Green Lantern finds and shuts down the third and final box in Italy, while Superman and Batman search for Carthan's ship. They find it, and inside is Green Arrow, trapped thanks to a jail made of energy beams. Superman, using the lead floor of the cell, frees Green Arrow. The JLA is not far behind, but when they get close they are grabbed by a force bubble, which drags them inside and hardens into a giant diamond, because it can do that.

Carthan's invulnerable aura is seemingly destroyed when he smashes into some of his machinery, which means he can now return to his home planet. He then tries to free the JLA, but finds he can't:

...The End!

Man, kids of the 1960s must have been a lot smarter than later generations, because this plot gave me a headache. I can only imagine what Mike Sekowsky--who, from what I've read, didn't mince words--must have thought when he got scripts like this in, with it's near endless gobbledygook of bizarre names and even more bizarre concepts.

Also, too, it really seems like the denizens of other planets just can't keep their powder dry--they are constantly getting involved in scrapes that spill over to Earth, which leads to the JLA having to clean it all up. I'm sure all this interplanetary hugger-mugger will be a lot easier to deal with, now that they've added powerhouse Green Arrow to the line-up!

Finally, I like Aquaman riding a giant clam like it's a boogieboard. I think we need to see more--any--of that in the new Aquaman book. Geoff?


Anthony said...

One thing that struck me from this story: Earth-One has its own Keystone City. (Yeah, Earth-Two wouldn't be introduced for another year or two yet... perhaps Earth-One's Keystone is an insignificant/smallish town vs the "real" Keystone?)

Wonder if there is a story about Aquaman at an auto race? Wonder what the Sea King would make of Indianapolis...

Joseph Brian Scott said...

You're recaps are a big part of the fun of looking back at these early adventures, rob!

Some of these convoluted plots and bizzare details leave my head spinning, too; Mr. Fox obviously had a great love for sci-fi that really comes through in these stories, and I'll bet he had a blast writing them. The pseudo-scientific concepts and descriptions of alien worlds and dimensions are so predominant in some of these issues, that the JLA and their super-heroics almost seem like afterthoughts.

Anonymous said...

I'd forgotten just how cool the JLA was it their rotating monthly chairperson! Too many later groups seem to put such emphasis on a 'leader' who winds up being just a figurehead and having no real leadership skills to speak of, while the JLA treated each other as equals.