Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Justice League #6 (10/1987)

The Justice League gazed at the malformed town of Stone Ridge, Vermont. Mr. Miracle declared "It's... informed madness. Like something out of my childhood on Apokolips." Martian Manhunter observed, "If you grew up in an environment like this... then my heart goes out to you." Scott Free warned, "Don't worry about me, Manhunter-- worry about Captain Marvel! He's down in the middle of that mess!" Shortly thereafter, Blue Beetle asked rhetorically "...weird, huh?" J'onn J'onzz replied, "'Weird' is a relative concept, Beetle." Kord thought, "Sheesh! Sometimes this guy acts like he's from Mars!"

Captain Marvel was in the clutches of the Gray Man, levitating motionless alongside the similarly compromised Dr. Fate. The Gray Man was disdainful of Dr. Fate's silence and his having brought the Justice League to Stone Ridge. The Gray Man decided to show his displeasure by taking control of Captain Marvel's body and assaulting the League.

Black Canary and Booster Gold were the Gray Marvel's first victims, picked-up and hurled through the air at deadly speed. The Manhunter from Mars warned his team's leader, "I can feel his mind, Batman-- he's being controlled--" The Dark Knight commanded, "Booster'll be all right. He's got a Flight Ring! Miracle-- you retrieve Canary! J'onn-- you nail Marvel! Don't hold back, do you hear me?"

"...Marvel-- I can feel your mind struggling against him! If I can telepathically bolster your efforts--" The Martian Manhunter was unable to complete his sentence, as the Gray Marvel backhanded J'onzz, who skidded face first along and through the ground. From his trench, J'onzz grimaced, "I'm not amused."

"Oh, but I am! This is exhilarating! This is fun! I could incinerate you with a single spell, but I much prefer it this way." As the Martian Marvel batted the possessed Captain Marvel away with a boulder, he confessed, "So do I."

The League began to regroup, wondering what had become of the
the Creeper. Batman ordered, "Forget the Creeper for now! The Gray Man's our problem! We've got to find him!" Mr. Miracle asked, "What about Marvel?" The Caped Crusader dismissed the concern with, "J'Onn can handle it." Booster Gold snorted, "You hope." Batman countered, "J'Onn J'Onzz has been at this game longer than I have, Booster! He's the only member of this team I don't feel I have to nursemaid!"

The Alien Atlas continued to trade blows with Captain Marvel, as the Gray Man whined, "Fall, damn you! Why won't you fall?!" The puppet master sweated and strained at his bijou hideout, as Dr. Fate eroded the Gray Man's confidence further. "Not as easy as you thought, is it? Captain Marvel's power is mystical in origin. Even in his comatose state, his mind resists you. And the Manhunter is a formidable telepath. With each physical blow, he strikes at you psychically. The strain is beginning to show." The Gray Man was on his knees, cradling his head in his palms. "I said it's-- effortless!"

Outside, the Martian Marvel was procumbent, an upturned palm and a tensed arm the only signs of a rally to come. The Gray Marvel stood over the shrugging Alien Atlas, raring his fists behind his head in preparation for a crushing blow. "Do you see, Fate? He's down! And now that he is, I'm going to-- to... to...?" The gray in Captain Marvel's hair darkened to its natural black, and the ominous glow in his eyes dimmed to confusion. "Hey-- what's going--" As the Big Red Cheese struggled with his surroundings, the Manhunter from Mars pulled himself up and delivered the mother of all haymakers. The Power of Shazam planted his posterior against the ground, his head put through a stone wall.

"Captain Marvel?"
"Is it really you?"
"I'm sorry. I was dazed... I didn't notice the shift in minds at first. Did I hurt you?"

The Creeper called out to the rest of the Justice League, as he had tracked the Gray Man to the bijou. Inside, he and Dr. Fate were engaged in a sorcerous duel. "You're finished! Marvel and the Manhunter put too much pressure on you-- weakened you... allowed me the opportunity to break free! You've overextended yourself!" Not so much that the Gray Man couldn't defeat all the heroes inside, except Dr. Fate, who then took off the kid gloves. "Gray Man-- I pity you. I've tried and tried to get through to you-- to make you see the foolishness of what you've done... Do you really think that absorbing dream-essence can make you equal to the Lords of Order--? --Can make you equal to me? You pathetic little man-- I've been holding back in order to help you! But now I see that you're beyond help! And so I do what must be done to rid the world of you!"

Outside, Martian Manhunter saw the bijou vanish. "Gone. All of them-- gone. But gone where? With Fate and the Gray Man involved-- it's surely no place on Earth... or any other world. Which means that, for now, I'm utterly helpless. Yes-- for now. But I'll find a way to reach them. I have to. Still, there's Captain Marvel to think of. The strain of his possession... our battle... has caught up with him. I need to get him home. And, after I'm sure that he's all right-- I'll be back."

On a side note, Maxwell Lord IV met with Hal Jordan, who expressed his serious reservations about a Justice League employing his fellow Green Lantern, "that psychopath" Guy Gardner. Lord dismissed them.

I know super-hero battles are a dime a dozen, but b'gosh this one was swell-- though I may be just a tad biased. The rest of the story wasn't too hot, though. The Gray Man looked like Harlan Ellison, a plenty ornery novelist, but not a credible threat. The schism between the bleak mystical pretensions and screwball comedy was glaring, and you never want to have the League upstaged by guest-stars. The Creeper had way too much impact, and even Dr. Fate turned his teammates into sidekicks by the end. People hate magical super-heroes for exactly the shenanigans Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis pulled in this script. No fault of Kevin Maguire though, whose pretty picture helped the medicine go down. Bob Lappan was mostly back to form, aside for another rocky title lettering.

Back to Justice League #5 (9/87)

Forward to Justice League International #7 (11/1987)

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