Monday, January 26, 2009

Justice League #5 (9/87)

Dr. Fate located the Gray Man in Stone Ridge, Vermont, where he was stealing people's dreams to empower himself. The Gray Man's origin was told to Fate after the Lord of Order was captured.

Media critic Jack Ryder, still hot to discredit the new Justice League, followed a lead to Stone Ridge.

Green Lantern Guy Gardner once again waved his finger and hollered at the Batman. These "infantile confrontations" on both their parts caused Mr. Miracle to consider quitting the team. The completely innocent Captain Marvel was also drawn into the power struggle, as he grumbled about the Dark Knight's cruel words directed toward him, and began to feel he was too inexperienced to be a member of the team. After Guy hurled a "gutless pansy" and Batman a "mongrel," the situation came to blow. The mongrel in need of a kennel screamed "I BITE!!!" The Batman decked him with one infamous punch, knocking Guy Gardner "extremely unconscious" just as Martian Manhunter arrived with Black Canary...

"Good afternoon, everyone. Hope we haven't-- Is that Guy on the floor?" Blue Beetle couldn't stop laughing and crying "One punch!" Black Canary was in shock. Batman said simply, "I'm glad you're here, Manhunter. Now we can get this meeting under way. J'Onn replied, "Sorry we're late, Batman," and thought to himself "But not as sorry as Black Canary is."
"Batman belted him-- and I missed it? Oh. God, I'm so depressed."

Just as Batman was calling the meeting to order, with Manhunter at his right hand, Oberon alerted the team to a call for help from Dr. Fate. Batman grimly acknowledged "Fifty-two hours to save the world." Martian Manhunter noted "We've done it before. On a tighter schedule." Booster Gold exclaimed "You have?!"

Captain Marvel was sent ahead to Stone Ridge, while the rest of the team followed in the Bug. J'Onn worried en route...
"I hope Marvel's all right--"
"If he's not... it's his own fault."
"You're too hard on him, Batman."
"I'm hard on everyone."

Upon landing, the Manhunter from Mars floated ahead of the group. "Batman... I feel a presence. Strange. Disturbed."
"The Gray Man?"
"I don't think so."

That presence turned out to be the Creeper, Jack Ryder's maniacal alter-ego. Once, that was an act on Ryder's part-- but now? Not so much. The Creeper presented a "remodeled" Stone Ridge to the team: bizarre, organic, and entirely alien...

This was an awkward story from Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis. This specific issue spends a good deal of time with the Kent Nelson/Nabu version of Dr. Fate, who those same creators were in the process of killing off in a separate four issue mini-series. Perhaps this was intended as the character's final hurrah with the team? Then there's the vague Jack Ryder/Creeper subplot, which as I recall was intended as a backdoor pilot for that character, but never amounted to anything. Next there's the origin sequence and major build up for the Gray Man, much ado about nothing by the end of the tale. Finally, there's little left for the actual team to do besides drown in foreshadowing for upcoming changes. It seems editors who had lent big name heroes to the new Justice League were becoming aware of its serio-comic tone, and were in the process of pulling or minimizing their presence in the book. Even letterer supreme Bob Lappan was off his game, with a hideously amateurish story title even the least talented underground artist would be embarrassed by.

On the plus side, the issue still reads well on its own, it features a well-remembered classic moment, while the art of Kevin Maguire under Al Gordon continued to improve.

Back to Justice League Annual #1 (1987)

Forward to Justice League #6 (10/1987)


Bookgal said...

There's a book called "Passing Strange" about all the weird sppoky stories in enw England (MY home stomping grounds) and I seem to recall a ledgend in Vermont about a hermit hiding in the woods of...I want to Say Mt. Washington, but one of green mountian areas...who supposidly is a ghost or immortal....depends on what story is attached to him..called the Gray Man. Wonder if thats where they got the one for this story! :)

Diabolu Frank said...

Seeing as it's J.M. DeMatteis, you're probably on the money. The comic book Gray Man was also an immortal "haunting" mankind for centuries...