Monday, November 9, 2015

The Lightning Saga (chapter 3): JLA (v2) # 9

Justice League of America (v2) # 9
Title: The Lightning Saga, Part Three: Suicide
Writer: Brad Meltzer
Artist: Ed Benes
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Assistant Editor: Adam Schlagman

Hi, this is Myk-El again, continuing to look at the return of the classic, Pre-Crisis Legion, often referred to as the Geoff Johns "Retro-boot."

In Part One of the Lighting Saga, the Justice League discovers that seven Legionnaires have come back from the future on a mission so secret even they don't know what it is. In Part Two, the Justice League teams up with the Justice Society in order to locate the missing Legionnaires, finding Dream Girl in Arkham Asylum, and Wildfire in the Fortress of Solitude.

In Justice League headquarters, Black Canary updates Mr. Terrific on the progress of the two teams still out hunting for our missing Legionnaires.

Mr. Terrific is hunched over a microscope, studying the belt that popped out of Wildfire at the end of the previous chapter. As far as he can tell, it’s just an ordinary belt, made from a mix of copper and aluminum. No indications of advanced 31st century technology at all. Turns out Batman had come to the same conclusion.

Speaking of the Dark Knight, he and Karate Kid are discussing the Legionnaires’ situation, while Dr. Midnite examines Dream Girl, whose powers apparently have stopped working. Karate Kid dismissed it as another side-effect of time travel, along with their temporary amnesia.

Batman, of course, is suspicious. Even if, as KK says, their memory loss was accidental, that still doesn't explain how they got separated, or why they ended up in those nightmare scenarios. More on that later.

Cut to the African Congo, where Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), Flash (Jay Garrick), Vixen, and the new Wildcat have made contact with Gorilla City. Nnamdi, the current leader, welcomes them, especially Vixen, who glows "with the power of the full pride" (whatever that means). Then, Nnamdi excuses himself to join in the celebration over the birth of a rare white ape.

Wildcat is disappointed that they didn't get into a fight. GL tells him to be patient, while Flash and Vixen scout around the city. Before GL can even finish his sentence, though, the speedsters have already returned. And they've found...something.
Cue double-page spread of Timber Wolf riding a giant lizard, and racing a pack of gorillas.

He looks happy. He's even smiling.

It's a close contest. We don't actually see the finish, but we are told by Nnamdi that T-Wolf comes in third place. As you'd expect, he's a bit of a sore loser, accusing his opponents of cheating.

Vixen tries to introduce herself, but Timber Wolf doesn't recognize his own name (it's Brin, just in case you forgot, too). Time-travel-related amnesia? Check! That's when GL, or more precisely GL's ring, says the magic word. One shocked expression later, and T-Wolf is back to his old somber self again. And he's asking to leave.

Cut to Hawkman's ship, the Javelin, currently arriving on the planet Thanagar. Onboard, Power Girl updates Red Arrow on the status of the Gorilla City mission. Red Arrow doesn't trust the Legionnaires. Neither does Hawkman, who believes they're here to change the past (aka our present). He's right, of course. But, please don't say anything. His head's big enough as it is.

Once the ship has touched down, Hawkgirl offers Red Arrow--the only member of the team who can't fly--a pair of Thanagarian wings. He tells her he doesn't need any help. She tells him he's deluded. The obvious sexual tension between these two does not go unnoticed. Power Girl pulls Red Arrow aside to school Red Arrow on the dangers of getting involved with the Hawks.

Thanks to the Thanagarian law enforcement, our heroes have pinpointed the location of the missing Legionnaire. And guess what? It's Dawnstar! They find her (or at least they think it's her) in one of the high city towers. This time, though, the magic word doesn't work.

The woman stands up, revealing that her wings actually belonged to the statue behind her. Turns out that Dawnstar had already left Thanagar, after her tracking powers picked up the other Legionnaires. She left her flight ring behind, as a promise that she would one day return.

Cut to JLA headquarters, where an oddly excited Dream Girl runs up to Timber Wolf, and hugs him. He does not hug her back. Instead, he asks the JLA and JSA members present to leave, so that he and his teammates can talk in private.

The five Legionnaires place their hands in a circle, and their flight rings start to glow. Suddenly, the monitor that Black Canary and Mr. Terrific had been using to spy on the Legion goes blank.

As Dreamy explains about her vision (i.e., that one of them is going to die), Timber Wolf picks up the mysterious belt, and carefully removes two small cylinders from either side of the buckle. The one in his left hand extends upward, becoming...wait for it...


That’s right folks! Just like the ones from Adventure Comics (v1) #312. For those who haven’t read this iconic Legion story…well, if you haven’t, then I suggest you turn off your computer or tablet or whatever it is that you’re using to read this blog, and head straight to your local comic shop. They're bound to have a trade reprint somewhere. (Editor's Note: this story has been reprinted in 1050 Years of the Future, Showcase/Legion #1, Legion Archive #2, and Adventure Comics # 403 and #500!)  Go ahead. I'll be here when you get back.

Now where was I? Oh yes...

So the Legionnaires are going to use these lightning rods to bring someone back to life, just like they did with Lightning Lad all those years ago. But who are they sacrificing themselves for this time? And more importantly, why? And another thing: there are seven rods, but so far only six Legionnaires. That's including Dawnstar, by the way. She shows up in the last panel, looking rather ominous, and announces that she knows where to find the seventh Legionnaire.

Don’tcha just love cliffhangers.

This issue poses a number of questions that, to the best of my knowledge, have never really been answered. Did the Legionnaires travel back in time together? If so, how did they get separated? Did they know they would lose their memories? Is that why Brainiac 5 gave Starman the magic keyword as a precaution?

Batman also points out that the Legionnaires were not randomly scattered around the globe. The situations in which they were discovered were too closely tied to each character's fears and weaknesses: Karate Kid forced to use a weapon, Dream Girl a prisoner of Destiny, Timber Wolf lost in the jungle, and Widfire turned into a statue.

Speaking of Wildfire, it turns out that he's using one of Red Tornado's spare bodies as a containment suit. How the sprock did that happen? And again, why? His regular suits have survived time travel before. What makes this time so different? Only Geoff Johns knows for sure, and so far he hasn't said anything yet. Nor do I think he ever will.

Of course, never let it be said that Brad Meltzer lets a little thing like a mult-issue crossover get in the way of him telling his own story. The sparks between Red Arrow and Hawkgirl, for example. Not to mention how the android Red Tornado can see Mr. Terrific, who's supposed to be invisible to technology.

And then there's that weird scene involving a baby white ape, a woman with the top of her head cut off, and Per Degaton, Ultra-Humanite, and Despero making obscure reference to the Legion and time travel, I stopped reading Justice League after this storyline, so if anyone knows what this subplot is all about, and if it ever got resolved, please leave a comment and let me know. Thanks.

To be continued in Justice Society of America # 6!


  1. The woman with her head cut off is Delores Winters, she had the brain of the Ultra Humanite according to wikipedia. Apparently Per Degaton and Despero went to the future while the LSH went into the past and Ultra Humanite was placed in the adult Nzame.

    I must admit I don't see anything in the story to indicate that Wildfire is using one of Red Tornadoes body.

    1. Thanks for clearing that up, Paul.

      Wildfire in Red Tornado's body is one of those blink-and-you'll-miss-it moments during this issue. Mr. Terrific first mentions it to Black Canary, while he's examining the mystery belt. Then, in the panel shown above, Red Tornado brings it up again, after Widfre tries to give him the "it gets better" speech. I think this may have been Meltzer's way of hinting at his plans to give Tornado a new "more human' body. Plans that, of course, never came to be.

  2. The Wildfire/Red Tornado thing was made more explicit in the next issue of JLA if I recall correctly. I thought it came out of left field then and still think it makes no sense. I remember reading it and thinking "did I miss something? When did they reveal that in the story?"

    If memory serves, the implication was that Wildfire had ALWAYS been using RT's body (not just for this adventure). I think that Meltzer was the only one who wrote that and Johns didn't refer to it in his JSA issues (and it was never brought up again - thankfully!).