Jun 11, 2020
DC Comics’ Legends #2
Last time on DC’s Legends: Darkseid decided to destroy not only the world’s heroes but the very concept of heroism itself, depriving Earth of its legends. To this end Desaad, set into motion a master plan involving minions Bedlam and Glorious Godfrey. Brimstone popped out of a nuclear womb, and Macro Man fell under the savagery of Captain Marvel’s thunderbolt. We saw the return of Task Force X under the leadership of the mysterious Amanda Waller, and heroes Firestorm and Cosmic Boy were about to team up with the Justice League to take down Brimstone.
And by Justice League, I mean Justice League Detroit. Sigh. Yeah, more on that later.
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We open with Macro Man’s giant toasty, smoldering remains littering the street outside the WHIZ-TV studio where Gwytheth Tate is delivering the news. She gives a rundown of recent events, including how Captain Marvel and Macro Man duked it out and the big guy got himself roasted. But soon Tate is joined by that self-styled expert on super heroics, G. Gordon Godfrey.
Triple-G disparages superheroes in general, calling them “trite and outmoded”, and the world is too complicated now for something as simplistic as the “heroic ideal”. And people are listening. Or at least, adults are. Over in an average household while the parents are buying into Godfrey’s spiel, a little girl sees right through the man’s malarkey. Back outside of WHIZ-TV studios, the crowd sounds pretty hostile towards superheroes, with one person even wondering what they ever did for him. You mean, other than saving the world a bunch of times from aliens like Brainiac, or the Anti-Monitor? This crowd is starting to sound as shortsighted and fickle as Marvel Comics’ citizenry.
One young man hears the hostility and retreats to an alleyway; it’s Billy Batson, who’s suffering from some serious PTSD after committing what appears to be his first homicide.
Darkseid looks on and smiles at the boy’s trauma, proving he really is DC’s biggest SOB. The Lord of Apokolips monologues about how Earth is totally boned, while in the wings another Darkseid lackey, Granny Goodness, kisses up to the boss. Desaad shows up with an “animate”, and we discover that this is how Bedlam gets around: he doesn’t have an actual body and instead possesses artificial ones. And we now discover that Bedlam possessed Macro Man, who was specially designed to fight Captain Marvel, and Bedlam used his mental powers to trick Marvel into that stupid plan of turning into Billy Batson in the middle of a fight. That makes me more than a little relieved.
Bedlam is still suffering from the trauma of being cooked alive, but Darkseid doesn’t tolerate goldbricking; he tells Granny to whip Bedlam into shape. Knowing Granny, that probably involves real whips. But everything is coming up roses for Darkseid, and he decides to gloat a bit to his special guest.
The Phantom Stranger! Man, how I dig this guy. He’s like Marvel’s Uatu the Watcher, only, you know, cooler. Not everybody can pull off a turtleneck/fedora/cape combo, but the man makes it work. He tells Darkseid he shouldn’t get cocky, because humans need heroes to be inspired by. But Darkseid counters that humans can’t tolerate weakness in the people they look up to. He points out that the second phase is about to begin, and that involves…
But hey, don’t worry, we’ve got Firestorm, Cosmic Boy, and Justice League… Detroit… here to save the day. Okay, you might be wondering why I’m so down on this version of the Justice League. A few years prior, pre-Crisis, the JLA dealt with an invasion where the League’s satellite got destroyed. Aquaman disbanded the team, because apparently any founding member can do that, and then reformed it with Zatanna, Elongated Man, and the Martian Manhunter, along with four new recruits: Vixen, Vibe, Steel, and Gypsy. They decided to base themselves in Detroit because Steel’s grandpa, the original Commander Steel from WWII, gave them an old auto factory to use for headquarters.
The team had some pretty forgettable adventures. It turns out Aquaman broke up with his wife Mera and was having some sort of midlife crisis which caused this whole mess, and he quit the team to get back with her, pretty much leaving a mess behind. As creative experiments go, JLD was a bust. None of the characters were interesting or compelling, and of the four new characters, only Vixen proved to have any staying power. But back to the story at hand.
The heroes gang up on Brimstone, but J’onn J’onnz, everyone’s favorite manhunter from Mars, realizes just in time that fire is not his friend and narrowly avoids getting cooked. Vibe proves to be the only useful JLD-er and takes out the ground beneath Brim’s feet. But the ‘Stoner creates a flaming sword and pretty much knocks a building down on everybody. Our heroes, ladies and gentlemen.
Elsewhere at Riker’s Island, Floyd Lawton, AKA Deadshot, gets some unexpected visitors. It’s Colonel Rick Flag, who’s come with a mysterious gentleman to present him with a job offer. It’s virtually “suicide”, but if he survives, Deadshot gets a full pardon. Floyd asks what’s to stop him from taking a powder the minute he’s out, and Flag points to his new friend and says he’ll be “forced to rip off both your legs—and beat you to death with ’em!” And the new guy looks like he’s halfway hoping Lawton will try to make a run for it, too. But Floyd’s all in, and as the trio leave, the warden can’t help but wonder who or what the hell “Task Force X” is.
Meanwhile, a bank robbery is in progressm complete with automatic weapons and hostages. In other words, Tuesday in Gotham City. There’s no costumed nutjob in sight, but hey, sometimes Batman’s just gotta slum it.
But hey, one of those guys is wearing a hat with a pompom on it, so maybe he’s a new villain called the Crimson Tuque.
Batman and Robin (Jason Todd, in case you were wondering) make short work of the bank robbers, but the local SWAT commander is less than impressed and gets into a shouting match with Commissioner Gordon over the incident. The crowd immediately gets ugly while watching the altercation, and instead of being grateful for the save, they turn on Batman and Robin. They dogpile the Boy Wonder, proving I’m not the only person who really hates Jason Todd.
Batman goes to help out Jason, only to get a bottle of perfume to the face which renders him helpless, meaning some hostile bystander proved to be a more effective bad guy than half of Batman’s rogues gallery. Gordon assures his friend that his cops will save Robin, and leads the blinded Batman from the bank. But there we see things are no better in the street, as the mob has gone after Batman’s ride.
As Gordon drives Bats to safety, the other cops look on and wonder if Godfrey is right, and if the city would be better off without Batman. Yeah, let’s see if you’re singin’ the same tune next time Joker breaks out of Arkham Asylum, jackasses.
Miles away in Chicago, a drug dealer is on his street corner selling crack to the people who pay. Unfortunately for him, those people are kids, and a certain cyan-hued vigilante is on the case.
But it turns out Blue Beetle has just blown a police operation; they had the guy under surveillance for a long while, hoping he would lead them to his dealer. Um, those were kids he was selling drugs to. I get you want to work your way up the food chain, but maybe find a pusher not selling drugs to children? The pusher thinks fast and claims Blue Beetle is his connection, and either the cops are really gullible or they’re just looking for an excuse to get back at Beetle for messing up their op, because they try to arrest our hero.
The Beetle bugs out, calling down his beetle-themed flying ship, but not before getting clipped by a stray bullet. Safe inside his bug ride, Beetle finds his metal mesh union suit saved his hide, but it didn’t save his pride, and he wonders if being a superhero is worth it.
Cut to the skies outside of Newark, when an airliner’s port engine has just gone “kwa-voomp”. I’ll say this, that’s one creative sound effect. Flight #347 is going down, but fear not, Guy Gardner is on the scene.
For those of you who don’t know, Guy was Green Lantern Hal Jordan’s backup in case something went wrong, but then Gardner got hurt and John Stewart became the new spare Lantern. The guy got brain damage and was forgotten about ‘til the Crisis, when the Guardians of the Universe brought him back to be a more badass Green Lantern. Guy was turned into a bit of a dick, but it got worse later on when Keith Giffen and J. M. Demattis got their hands on him. But that’s a story for another day.
Guy attempts to save the jet, but a piece of yellow debris gets through his shield and clips him in the head (at the time, anything colored yellow was immune to the rings—we’d have to wait about twenty more years to find out why). Guy starts to tumble, but he powers through the pain and gives the jet a helping hand.
Guy’s still hurting, but he’s able to land the jet on a nearby freeway before he loses what little concentration he has left. He lands, but instead of adulation for a job well done, he gets trash-talked by commuters for planting the plane on the parkway. Godfrey’s name is dropped among the condemnations, and the crowd looks like it’s about to turn violent. But Guy ain’t about to get Robin’d so he flies away.
Over at Titans Tower, Cosmic Boy wakes up to find Flash and Changeling have treated his injuries. It turns out the Justice League just left him behind. Classy. Wally and Gar ask Cosmic Boy if he can tell them anything, but our 30th Century hero takes off, realizing his girlfriend is out there and might need saving. And for more on that, you have to read the Cosmic Boy limited series, on sale this month. As Cosmic Boy leaves, a sinister scarred man called Ivo gloats that the time for vengeance is at hand. And for more on that, you have to read the latest issue of Justice League. Boo!
Cut to Washington DC, where we find… President Ronald Reagan [!] watching a series of monitors showing footage of the whole country burning down as people riot over superheroes. Fortunately, the Gipper has a professional on hand for advice.
Superman tries to explain that all of this is due to one nutjob going by the name Godfrey, but Ronnie says even if that’s true, the situation is still dire. So to stop the riots, he orders all costumed superheroes to cease and desist, and that includes the Man of Steel. Supes looks like a sad panda, but I don’t know if it’s because he has to obey the Commander-in-Chief, or if he knows he’s going to have to disobey him later. Back in Gotham City, a pair of cops are looking down at something. One cop says Gordon isn’t going to like this, and the other says he’s not too crazy about it himself. And what are they talking about?
First, Billy Batson is traumatized by thinking he’s a murderer, and now Robin’s had the crap kicked out of him. It feels like John Ostrander is working through some serious personal issues about his childhood. Does he continue to explore the dark aspects of his psyche in issue #3? Come back next week to find out.