Monday, February 15, 2016

The Lightning Saga (chapter 5): JLA (v2) #10

Justice League of America (v2) # 10
Title: “The Lightning Saga Part Five: The Villain is the Hero in His Own Story”
Writer: Brad Meltzer
Penciller: Ed Benes
Inker: Sandra Hope
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Assistant Editor: Adam Schlagman
Reviewer: Myk-El

The Justice League has teamed up with the Justice Society to locate seven lost Legionnaires, who have come back from the future on a mission so secret even they don’t know what it is. Not until they were all in the same room, that is. Not only have they ditched both super-teams, but they’ve split up once again. Starman, Karate Kid, Dream Girl, Wildfire, Timber Wolf, Dawnstar, and Sensor Girl each fly off in a different direction—each of them armed with a lightning rod, and ready to sacrifice themselves to “bring him back.”

Somewhere in Suicide Swamp, the Justice League/Society are still duking it out with the make-believe-Computo’s cybernetic tentacles. But Wildcat II and Power Girl have caught onto the illusion. So has Superman, and he’s none too happy about being tricked by his “dearest childhood friends.” Especially since the Legionnaires are already long gone by this point.

With the clock counting down to impact, the Legionnaires are in position. Dawnstar’s in front of Tokyo’s Capsule Tower. Timber Wolf’s in a laboratory in Central City. Sensor Girl’s in a cornfield near Smallville. Wildfire’s at Titans Tower in San Francisco. Starman’s at the Gotham City library. And Dream Girl’s in Keystone City. 

What do all these locations have in common? I wonder…

Dream Girl predicts the arrival of the Flash/Jay Garrick. Naturally he’s there to stop her from doing whatever it is she’s there to do. Dream Girl plays it coy, as usual. Jay fires back that her teammates have already been intercepted. Power Girl’s got Dawnstar covered. Green Lantern/Hal Jordan’s got Timber Wolf. Red Tornado’s got Wildfire. And a very ticked-off Superman has Sensor Girl.

This time, though, Superman’s not taking any chances. He scans her multiple times with all his enhanced senses, just to make sure she’s really there. That’s when he notices the lightning rod. That’s when he realizes that one of the Legionnaires is going to die. 

Superman notifies Black Canary, who immediately lets the other Justice League/Society members know what they’re facing. Like Superman, they all try to reason with the Legionnaires, to tell them they don’t have to go through with it. And like Superman, they all fail. By this time, Batman and Mr. Terrific have teleported to the Gotham library. They rush upstairs to catch Starman, who is floating in a hallway on the second floor. 

Suddenly, Batman stops cold. He’s been here before. In Central City, Green Lantern has the same feeling of déjà vu. But why? I’ll ask again: What do these locations have in common?

Cue a pair Photo-shopped flashbacks of the Flash/Barry Allen. Batman remembers his ghostly vision from the first issue of Crisis on Infinite Earths, and Green Lantern remembers how he got his powers way, way back in Showcase #4. 


Karate Kid, who is still unaccounted for at this point, tells the Legionnaires that it’s time. Their flight rings encase them in impenetrable force fields. Black Canary tries an override command devised by Batman and Mr. Terrific. Only problem is, the rings—like all 31st century technology—are self-repairing. So, of course it doesn’t work. With only seconds left until impact, the Legionnaires say their goodbyes, and prayers.

Cut to Blue Valley, where the aforementioned Karate Kid stands with his lightning rod extended, but without his force field. For some reason, he hasn’t activated it yet. Only at the last possible second, when the lightning is almost upon him, does he whisper the command to his flight ring.


Of course, at the last possible second, Karate Kid manages to dodge the fatal lightning bolt. He’s a bit woozy, and a bit singed, but otherwise okay. The important thing is that he completed the mission. He brought back the Flash! He brought back…

…Wally West?! Not just Wally, but his wife, Linda Park-West, and their two kids, Iris and Jai West. Dressed in purple jump-suits, no less.

And again I say, What the…?! 

Before the Justice League/Society have time to react, the Legionnaires discard their lightning rods, and disappear one by one.  All except Starman, who gives his ring to Mr. Terrific. Apparently, he still has some work left to do in the 21st century. And he’s not the only one.

Cut to the Fortress of Solitude. Karate Kid teleports in, just as his teammates have opened a portal to take them all back to the future. Wildfire and Sensor Girl have to steady him, as he’s still weak from the lightning strike. Then, just as he’s about to enter the portal, Wildfire tells him to wait. According to Brainiac Five, Karate Kid has another mission to complete. More on that later.

Cut to a tear-filled reunion between Wally West, Jay Garrick, Roy Harper, and Hal Jordan. Not everyone is in a celebratory mood, however. Superman is still pissed about being lied to by the Legion.  Batman was expecting someone else (he wasn’t the only one).

At the Fortress, Karate Kid, along with a silhouetted figure, races toward another mysterious countdown. 

In Blue Valley, Power Girl and Black Canary shake hands, promising that their two teams will get together again next year. Or maybe sooner.

At Legion headquarters, Wildfire gives his mission-report to Brainiac Five and Cosmic Boy. Brainy is surprised to hear of Wally’s return. Wildfire reminds him that the universe is full of surprises. Brainy holds up a glowing lightning rod, and tells him that it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that they got who they really wanted.

As this is the final chapter of “The Lightning Saga,” it’s hard for me to focus on the single issue, and not on the story as a whole. But I’ll do my best.

Two things stand out for me the most. First, there’s very little trust between the Legion and the Justice League/Society.  Planting tracking devices in their uniforms, trying to override their flight rings—no wonder the Legion felt they couldn’t confide in Superman, or his teammates. 

Speaking of the Man of Steel, his reaction to this whole scenario seems out of character somehow. Upon learning that the Legionnaires intend to sacrifice themselves as part of a Lightning-Lad-style resurrection ceremony, his first instinct is to…try and stop them?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t he part of the original ceremony? Wasn’t he holding up a lightning rod, along with Saturn Girl and the other Legionnaires? Wasn’t he just ready as them to give up his life in order to save Lightning Lad? So, what made him change his mind?

Now, one could argue that it’s simply a case of him being young and naïve. That, as a mature responsible adult, Superman would never allow himself to participate in what amounts to an assisted suicide

One could also argue that it’s a case of the Silver Age vs. the Modern Age. That, back when Adventure Comics (v1) # 312 was first published, the average comics reader was about eight years old, as opposed to today, when the average reader is closer to thirty. And, as we all know, older readers demand more mature storylines.

Either way, there’s something about a dour Superman, who spends an entire issue scowling at people, that just seems wrong to me. 

Another thing that stands out is how anti-climactic the story feels. After spending fifteen pages—plus ninety odd pages from the previous chapters—setting up this big mystery, there's no sense of resolution what-so-sprocking-ever. As if the only point to this whole confusing mess was to set up the next big event.

Take Karate Kid, for example. He died a hero's death in the Baxter series (seen here). Only to show up alive and well, but without any explanation as to how this happened. Then, he gets dumped by his teammates, and has to stay in the 21st century. All so that Keith Giffen can kill him a second time in the Countdown to Final Crisis weekly series? Talk about a wasted opportunity.

 Which brings me to Wally West. Don’t get me wrong, I was as pleased as anyone to see Wally again (especially after Bart Allen’s tragic turn as the Flash). But, like Batman, I was expecting someone, or something more. Now, I’m all for plot twists, but this one felt more like a bait-and-switch.

What made it even more infuriating is that we never find out who the Legion was really after. Not in this issue, at least. In fact, that particular plot point doesn’t get resolved until The Legion of Three Worlds mini-series. Don’t worry. We’ll get there. 

But first, we have “Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes," a five-part storyline by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank that officially reintroduces the Pre-Crisis Legion to the DC Universe. And it all starts with Action Comics # 858.

That’s right, folks. We’re heading back to the future (pun intended). So, brush up on your Interlac, and don’t forget to pack your trans-suit. 


  1. No, I just do not get what happened. All I have is a big: SO WHAT ? this whole LS series seems a waste of time. (Yes a pun )

  2. Did they ever explain what happened to Karate Kid & the disappearance of the threeboot version?

  3. I am the least prudish person ever...but the proportions on that cover are just ridiculous lol

  4. RicG,as far as I'm aware,Karate Kid's resurrection for this story has never been explained. Was it magic? Was he a clone? We simply don't know.

    As to your other question, Jim Shooter, who was writing the Threeboot series at the time, has stated in interviews, and on his blog, that his editors told him that he couldn't use Karate Kid anymore, because Keith Giffen had big plans for the character in Countdown to Infinite Crisis. Guess the bigwigs at DC still thought that having multiple versions of the same character running around in different titles would confuse their readers, and cost them sales.

  5. This was...not a good story. Yes, it was nice to see the classic Legion back (sort of), but the whole story could have been told in half as many issues, if we're being honest. And it is frustrating that that you don't really get certain questions answered.