Grant Morrison’s JLA (1997) #2: “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (part 2 of 4)

Last issue: Alien heroes calling themselves the Hyperclan have arrived on Earth, performing wonders, staging public executions of super-villains, and winning the hearts and minds of the public. Only Batman and the Justice League know they’re up to no good. Now it’s time for the Leaguers to strike back.

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We open with reporters and camera crews in the Antarctic standing outside of the structure seen last issue, only now it’s been defrosted and exposed for all the world to see. But the Hyperclan aren’t done yet, because they have two more miracles to whip up. One in the Pacific near Midway, and the other in the Gobi Desert, where amazingly, two more structures have arisen.

Hmm, the latter looks like the love child of the old Legion of Doom base from Super Friends! and Stromburg’s facility from The Spy Who Loved Me. I do dig how the aircraft carrier in the foreground gives it a sense of awesome scale. In the Antarctic, Protex explains that the Hyperclan is going to split up into three groups, manning each facility to more effectively answer any calls for help. Um, really? I mean, is maintaining facilities as far away as possible from civilization really that efficient? Does anyone remember the reason the old League stuck their misfits in Antarctica was to keep them away from people?

Man, I had forgotten so much about that run; I really should take a look at that era. I’ll just add it to the list of other comics I keep promising to look at but never get around to.

Protex, A-Mortal, and Primaid head into the Antarctic facility, with their golden leader assuring the reporters that they’re here to stay. Up in space, Superman and Green Lantern confirm Batman’s suspicions that the flying saucer the Hyperclan showed up in is just a “sophisticated projection”, and they can’t find any sign of the hate-transmission satellites. Back on Earth, in…Rhode Island? I was wondering where the JLA was meeting, and if memory serves, this is the original cave base from way, way back in the day. Kyle asks Batman what the plan is, and surprisingly, Bats defers to the Martian Manhunter. Quick, someone give Batman a test to see if it’s really him!

J’onn J’onnz says they should split up (which is a truly classic Golden Age tradition; I can recall a Justice Society of America reprint where the JSA fought time-traveling despot Per Degaton and split up, with each adventure featuring the hero’s logo), with Batman and Superman heading to the pole, J’onn taking Flash and Lantern to the desert, and Wonder Woman going off alone to the Pacific. I get that Diana is all kinds of bad-ass here, with a host of skills and powers, but sending her off on her own seems, well, dumb. Lantern’s not happy with this, partly because he’s on a team-up with Flash, and Wally West’s not keen on this arrangement either. This interaction is pretty interesting, with the two youngest guys on the team distrusting one another, and perhaps being uncomfortable in their predecessors’ roles, which was fine outside the League, but now they’re finding themselves having to fill very big, bright boots. And naturally, they can’t express their discomfort to the veterans, so they take it out on each other. And yeah, maybe I’m reading a little too much into this, but at least it makes sense to me.

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We catch up with Wonder Woman first, and…

…awesomely, they’re using her logo, just like a Golden Age story. Nice homage to what’s come before there, Grant. I haven’t mentioned it before, but I am digging Howard Porte’s art style here. Maybe it’s not for everyone, but I find it very dynamic. Diana arrives at the ocean facility, and is promptly attacked by Fluxus, who poses as a whirlpool and slams into her. Diana lands on the rig and offers the alien a chance to explain himself before they fight. Instead of giving one, he says they’re going to kill every superhero and take over the planet. Diana takes this news about as well as can be expected.

It’s then that Aquaman arrives, riding a blue whale. He gets his own logo too, as he asks what’s going on. Diana gives him the “Readers’ Digest” version, and that just sounds weird for her to say. If this were Silver Age Diana Prince, who’s lived among the wider world for more than a decade, then I could buy it. But this version of Wonder Woman is the same young lady who showed up just a little while ago and had to learn English from a middle-aged Harvard history professor. Then again, “Readers’ Digest” does sound like something a more mature woman would say, so maybe it’s not so out of line.

Diana asks Aquaman if he received the JLA’s signal, and Arthur explains that he ignored it. He puts his epic hook in Diana’s face and she grabs it, telling him to never point this thing at her again, and that she’s known him too long for this. What? How long has she known Arthur? Has she ever been on a JLA team with him? Again, sure, Silver Age Wonder Woman founded the team with him, and it would be natural for that version to talk to Arthur like an qqual. But this is a guy with years more experience both as a hero and as an adult, having become a king, a husband, and a father. This Diana has been around since ’87 or so, so that’s like… six months of comic book time or something.

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Before the argument can go any further, another Hyperclanner shows up: Tronix.

Of all the costumes, I like hers best. I’m digging the bald dome and the piercings and the color scheme, and her palm triggers remind me a bit of the Rocketeer. All in all, she looks like a superhero from the future. Or, in this case, super-villain. Wonder Woman tells Aquaman that she’ll handle Tronix while he takes down the facility, but sadly, Arthur’s still got his head up his ass and says he doesn’t take orders. Damn, was Aquaman this big a prick in his own comic during this period? Peter David was writing it at the time and he’s good, but I’m having a hard time imagining he would take Arthur in that direction. Then again, he cut off Aquaman’s hand, so I guess there’s no telling how far he’d go to deliver on the angst.

Arthur goes under to deal with the rig, and the dolphins try to warn him that the nearby whale isn’t really a whale. But they’re too late: It’s Fluxus, who blindsides Arthur and sends him catapulting out of the sea. Wonder Woman gets distracted and is blasted by Tronix, and now she’s down as well. Villains: 2, heroes: zero.

We cut to the Gobi Desert, where the Flash has been waiting for Kyle and J’onn for a whole three minutes, which to a speedster probably feels like forever. Honestly, what would it feel like to have super-speed 24/7? Would your perceptions be so much faster than everyone else’s that interacting with people would be tortuous? Peter David (that guy again!) explained in the pages of X-Factor that this is part of the reason Quicksilver is such a tool, and I liked that. The two younger heroes note how the news crews seem to be worshipping the dome, and Kyle speculates the mind control waves would be strongest near the source. That, or it’s been a really slow news week and they’re just really, really grateful. That’s when the pair have a visitor.

The Flash assures Kyle that he’s got this and dashes off after the Hyperclan’s speedster, leaving Green Lantern all alone. Again, this feels out of character. Wally’s young, but he’s been doing this since he was a teenager; with J’onn missing, would he really want to split the party even more? Or maybe he just really, really hates Kyle. Raynor and Donna Troy had a thing going for a while, so maybe Wally’s got some unresolved Wonder Girl issues? Sadly for Kyle, before he can object to being left all alone, two people show up to keep him company: Armek and Zenturion.

Uh oh, looks like we’re going to need another new Green Lantern. Maybe John Stewart’s available. But he real question now is where is the Martian Manhunter? Why, he’s up in space, having a conversation with Protex. The golden Hyperclanner points out to J’onn that he must be lonely and tired living amongst beings with insect-like lifespans, who would fear him if he dared show his true form. J’onn’s a lot like the Hyperclan, Protex points out, so it’s time to trade up!

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Meanwhile, Superman and Batman are flying over the Antarctic, the former under his own power, the second in a sci-fi looking version of the Bat-Jet. I confess that while it makes sense for Batman to use the latest and greatest gear, I do miss the old days where he tooled around in a modified F-4 Phantom. I looked it up in the old ‘80s Who’s Who in the DC Universe, and the jet was equipped for (snort!) “silent running”. Somehow I can buy a man can fly, but a jet engine equipped with a muffler is hard to swallow.

Bats and Supes engage in a conversation where Bruce admits he’s not crazy about working with “super-people”; he can’t afford to wear gaudy colors. But his Robins can, apparently. Nor does he like teaming up with inexperienced heroes. I wonder if Kyle’s ears are burning, what with people talking about him behind his back. This is another character inconsistency: hasn’t Batman accrued the biggest collection of “inexperienced” heroes over the years, his “Bat-family”? Isn’t he the one who formed the Outsiders? And half that team consisted of noobs and dudes with awesome powers. I think it would have been much better for Batman to have said he finds working with others difficult because of his near-manic desire to control. Then again, I can’t see Batman being that self-aware, so yeah, him coming up with another excuse like this makes sense.

Superman cuts the conversation short when he senses someone coming from two hundred miles out—

—and all of a sudden Supes is stunned and smacking the ice below. As Primaid heads in to finish off Superman, A-Mortal turns his sights on Batman. And while Batman isn’t crazy about dealing with super-powered people, it doesn’t mean he cuts and runs. He fires missiles at A-Mortal. Unfortunately…

Down below, Superman gets up and then smacks Primaid, who was invisible but forgot to hold her breath. He drops her with a single punch and spots Batman’s jet, on fire and ready to crash. But before Superman can come to Batman’s aid…

For Christ’s sake, kryptonite? Kryptonite?! I thought the little green rocks being the most common element in the universe went out with the Silver Age. Superman begins asking where Protex got his hands on the stuff, but before our favorite Kryptonian (well, most people’s. I’m partial to Powergirl myself) gets an answer, he grows weak and nearly senseless. Protex gloats that it’s a laugh that the heroes thought they could just round the Hyperclan up like common criminals, and that each aspect of this plan has already been worked out, including Superman getting taken down like a punk.

A-Mortal asks if they should check on Batman’s body, but Protex points out that they shouldn’t “risk the flames”. Now… why would a bunch of guys who are at least as tough as Wonder Woman and Superman be concerned about fire? Hmm… maybe they’re from planet Frankenstein? Superman weakly says the others will stop them, but Protex tells the Man of Steel that they’re all dead; Superman’s the last one left, and he’ll be joining them soon. As Protex drags Superman by the cape into their Antarctic watchtower, Primaid looks back at the burning wreckage of the Bat-Jet.

Next time: So far it seems to be villains: 4, and our heroes are striking out. Will this trend continue, or will the rest of the League fight back?

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