Wednesday, May 4, 2011

JLA Classified: Cold Steel #1 (2005)

One alien spaceship was pursued by another on the surface of Earth's moon. Genshi Mian, a white-skinned alien in armor, figured he and his partner were doomed. Tsaru Kar, the pilot, wished he would "Show some dignity." They were pursued by the Voruk, amphibians who resembled various terrestrial sea life like manta rays and large piranha. "Go on, you mud-sucking minnow. Twist all you want..." Laser fire clipped the JLA Watchtower, as Superman and the Martian Manhunter worked outside.
"Did you see that?"

The pursued ship crashed on the lunar surface. "I'm making sure that scrawny mouth-breather stays down." Superman had something to say about that, as he casually ripped through the pursuer with heat vision. "Hull breach-- we're losing water!" J'Onn J'Onzz had taken their lasers, as well. "Superman. That ship was bio-engineered. This bit's still twitching." As the pursuers fled, the heroes delivered the two aliens in flight to a containment room within the Watchtower. Both wore armor which fed them an oxygen/nitrogen mixture, so J'Onzz felt they needed to come off, since the aliens could breathe their atmosphere. However, the aliens' thin bodies could not handle the gravitational pull of the moon, so J'Onzz reversed and resealed their encasement. J'Onzz detected telepathy, as the aliens scanned the heroes' minds to learn their language. Tsaru fretted for her companion, but upon learning that he was alright, introduced herself. "My companion and I represent the Ghoji-in-exile."

Tsaru did not believe in asking for help, but Councilman Genshi Mian had insisted, initially hoping to contact the defunct Green Lantern Corps. Instead, they explained how their peaceful but resolute Ghoji had refused to be enslaved by the Voruk, "the water-breathing filth that wrecked my cruiser." The Ghoji saw themselves as a peaceful, civilized people who neither made war nor were willing to submit to oppression. Despite torture and widespread destruction, "the Voruk got no labor out of us." After three years, the Voruk gave up, and instead deployed an "Infinity Coil" that basically put everyone to sleep for the last twenty years.

Aquaman had taken offense to the Ghoji's fish baiting, and didn't believe the JLA should get dragged into such a conflict. J'Onn J'Onzz protested, "War? They are victims of a crime, Aquaman! An entire planet has been... what, abducted? Imprisoned? You suggest we leave injustice of that magnitude unanswered? We're called the Justice League for a reason!" Batman felt that the alien was less than forthcoming. "If you doubt my ability to detect deception in her, there's always Wonder Woman." The Green Lantern of Ghoji had been caught in the Infinity Coil, so Kyle Rayner was set on investigating, alone if necessary.

Speaking of the Infinity Coil, scientists warned Mhak-Lord Gordoruk that it was threatening a dimensional implosion, with no means of containing a collapse of reality if it device continued operation. Mhak-Lord Gordoruk literally bit the scientist's head off, demanding a fix.

Superman contacted Mr. Terrific to have the JSA keep an eye on Earth while the JLA was off to the Lagoon Nebula for a week or less. "I hear it's beautiful this time of year. Sure, we'll keep an eye on things. The Martian Manhunter was first aboard the Ghoji's repaired ship, and accepted Councilman Genshi Mian's gratitude. A "gating" later, and the Ghoji were near their world of Penumbra, showing its still state from space. There was no expectation it would need guarding, but "Liong Ma'tek! A Voruk gunship! We're done for!"

Not necessarily, as the Manhunter from Mars understated. "I'll go on ahead, shall I?" Passing immaterially through the ship's hull, the Alien Atlas destroyed incoming missiles by hand. Superman and Green Lantern followed suit in deflecting "Implosion Vacuoles." However, the Ghoji ship was still injured by a shockwave, and spiraled toward Penumbra. Superman tried to catch it, but he and its occupants were knocked out by the Infinity Coil. Wrapped in emerald energy, Wonder Woman fended off lasers while Green Lantern rescued the League. The Martian Marvel was preoccupied with tearing the aggressors' ship apart. "Animated corpses for spacecraft... What sick mind dreamed that one up?" Recognizing that he was "killing my ship," the Ghadz-Commander ordered retreat. Drolly, J'Onn J'Onzz ordered, "...and don't come back."

The group arrived at a hidden refuge, where they were greeted by the sight of torture survivors who had been dropped into water to have their lower extremities gnawed off by the Voruk. Tsaru Kar insisted "Most victims died instantly, as was proper. These cowards chose to live with their injuries." Batman was silently revolted, as he watched the survivors walk on their hands with braces over their arms and chests.

The Flash (Wally West) and Kyle Rayner joked amongst themselves, and "met" the Ghoji Green Lantern through her power battery. Genshi confided, "Shiera Vaas. Wise and beautiful and brave. The greatest Ghoji in living memory. She would have become our queen if she hadn't left to join the Green Lantern Corps... Our society has always been inward-looking, more concerned with refining old ways than finding better ones... She challenged customs that she thought were unfair or harmful." Her progress was rolled back by the old guard in her absence, however.

Superman and Martian Manhunter discussed the effect of the Infinity Coil and how to deal with it. Aquaman confided his distrust of Tsaru Kar to Wonder Woman. "It's nothing I can put my finger on, Diana. Tsaru's attitude, maybe. Praising death as glorious-- then sneering at survivors as if they were morally defective. There's something sick about that." Diana had noted Batman's reaction, while the Dark Knight had snuck off to visit their topic of discussion: First the amputee Maiko, then Tsaru, who had followed him to the camp.

Aboard the Banished-Squadron Gunship Slasher, the Ghadz-Commander spouted paranoia as his ship was repaired, and believing plague had broken his mind, lieutenants devoured him alive.

Councilman Genshi Mian mentioned the shield technology that protected their haven from the Infinity Coil, which allowed the JLA to develop a means of using same to permanently address the problem. Giant mostly humanoid mechanized vehicles were outfitted with shield protection, and each was customized to reflect the strengths of their individual JLA pilots. This was mostly attributed to Batman, which is why the role of super-scientist often assigned to the Atom, Steel, or even J'Onn J'Onzz is so vital to the suspension of disbelief when crap like that comes up. The Flash laid down a super-heroic paint job, and the game was on. Batman would fly with Maiko as his co-pilot, Green Lantern Genshi, while Wonder Woman took on Tsaru Kar, although not without objection. "My people are philosophers... artists... not axe-wielding savages!"

Counsellor Tarngiri had tried to warn Mhak-Lord Gordoruk that the Ghoji might have hired mercenaries, but he couldn't believe the "skinnies" would fight back or mingle with other species. Tarngiri had a number of issues with his people's leadership, and as they prepared to descend on Penumbra en masse, he wondered if this was his last chance to extend reason...

"Chapter One: The Hidden World" was by writer/painter Chris Moeller

Imaginary Wednesday
Captain Atom: Armageddon #5 (April, 2006)

No comments: