Into the Bronze Age: July 1970 (Part 3)


Welcome, readers, to the final installment of my Into the Bronze Age feature for July 1970.  Because of the vagaries of release dates, we only have a single comic to cover today, but it will be followed by my observations on the month as a whole.

Roll Call (You can see everything published this month HERE)

  • Action Comics #390
  • Batman #223 (reprints, won’t be covered)
  • Brave and the Bold #90
  • Challengers of the Unknown #74 (Final issue!)
  • Detective Comics #401
  • G.I. Combat #142
  • Green Lantern #78
  • Superman #227 (Reprints)
  • Superman #228

Superman #228

superman_v-1_228“The Mystery Bombers!”
Writer: Bob Haney
Penciler: Curt Swan
Inker: George Roussos

“Execution Planet!”
Writer: Leo Dorfman
Penciler: Curt Swan
Inker: George Roussos

This issue contains two mediocre Superman tales that very much prove the rule about the enduring Silver Age-ness of the Man of Steel’s comics.  They are  by no means the worst examples of these tendencies (there’s no domestic farces or giant-headed-super-freak-children to be found in these pages, thankfully), but they do evince some of the excesses of Silver Age stories, while at the same time suffering from the paradoxical lack of imagination that sometimes afflicted such books.

The first story is the strongest, though that’s not saying much, featuring an actually clever solution to its central problem, even if it is presented in the context of a ludicrous setup.  The plot centers around Superman being sent upon multiple ‘scavenger hunts,’ seeking for clues to the locations of bombs hidden around the city.  Clark Kent receives a call at the Planet from an anonymous bomber who declares that he has hidden an explosive somewhere in the city and demands that our favorite mild-mannered reporter pass the tip on to his ‘friend’ Superman, along with the promise that he can discover the bomb’s location by studying “every archive and exhibit in Science City.”

superman 228 0003.jpg

Apparently this ‘Science City’ is a science-themed amusement park of sorts crossed with a museum and a laboratory.  Sure.  Anyway, moving at super speed and with his ‘super brain’ (good grief), the Man of Tomorrow is able to go through all of the exhibits until he makes an extremely unlikely connection between one particular exhibit on constellations and a comment the bomber made about horses.  So, he does the logical thing and flies to Metropolis Museum and one particular exhibit that happens to feature a chariot.  Wait, that wasn’t what you thought of when you heard ‘horses’?  Yeah…this isn’t exactly a Philip Marlowe mystery.  We’re dealing with problems that are solved with the expediency of plot.

superman 228 0005.jpg

Well, this pattern is repeated twice more, with the Metropolis Marvel absorbing vast amounts of information in each case, and doing so in only seconds.  Now, I have no problem with Superman being able to read at super speed.  Sure, that makes sense.  I have no problem with his mind being able to work super fast as well.  Still, the idea that he could absorb and understand the entire contents of the Library of Congress in instants and find the one, completely improbable and unconnected clue in all of that…it’s just lazy writing, not an astonishing feat.

superman 228 0007.jpg

Anyway, each time he discovers a bomb, it explodes moments later.  So, for the last device, the Man of Steel substitutes a string of firecrackers, which he ignites himself.  Why such a strange ruse?  Well, this is the clever part of the story.  Superman realized that the unlikely timing of the explosions meant he was being watched and that the bombs were being detonated for his benefit.  It was never about the bombs, which meant it must have been about the bizarre labors he was put through.  Thus, he reasoned that the knowledge he was absorbing was the real goal of these bombers.

superman 228 0013.jpg

The bombers are, of course, aliens, complete with a ridiculous and unnecessarily convoluted plot to steal all of Earth’s knowledge, because this is a Superman comic book.  I’m not even going to go into their plan, as it makes little enough sense reading it in the story to begin with.  They trap the Man of Tomorrow in an empty house in order to drain the knowledge out of him, but through *sigh* super will-power, the hero scrambles all of it, making it useless.  They leave, and the story ends with Superman explaining to Jimmy how he figured everything out.

superman 228 0015.jpg

Aside from the believable and reasonable inference about the bombs, the story doesn’t’ have much to recommend it.  Superman running around reading everything in the different locations is mildly neat to see, but the plot is just forgettable and goofy.  The aliens were after all the information on Earth (they would have done better to steal Hawkman’s Absorbascon!), so they had Superman read everything in an overgrown science fair, the Library of Congress, and the…Monies of the World collection…really?  Way to shoot for the stars there, guys.  I’m sure that pretty much covers the total of human knowledge.  I give this weak tale 2 Minutemen.  The one clever moment is not enough to make it really enjoyable.


“Execution Planet”

superman 228 0019.jpg

The backup tale isn’t as ludicrous on its face as the previous story, but it does suffer from the obsession of Silver Age books to pit their heroes against generic, boring criminals.  The result, though not as goofy in some ways, is just less interesting overall.  In this story Superman inexplicably loses his powers own by one.  There’s some story mileage there, and we’ve seen it done to better effect elsewhere.  Not so much here.  There are a few interesting moments as the Man of Steel tries to figure out what’s going on, but there’s also a decent amount of silliness as he more or less shrugs and says, ‘ohh well, maybe it will get better.’  Apparently the invulnerable alien sun-god has the same attitude towards losing all of his earth-shattering power as I do to having a sore muscle.  It seems like you should probably be a bit more concerned about this, Superman, what with the fate of the world so often hanging on your shoulders and all.

Anyway, The story begins with the Metropolis Marvel waking up and experiencing the joy of a splitting headache.  He is on vacation with Jimmy and Lois (way to be a third wheel, Jimbo.), and his headache concerns the hero, as he shouldn’t be susceptible to anything of the sort.  So, what does he do?  Well, first he wanders around in the woods of their resort using his powers without his costume, wildly endangering his secret identity for no particularly good reason.  Everything seems to work other than his invulnerability, so he heads to the Fortress of Solitude to do some tests.

superman 228 0021.jpg

He manages to blow up his computer, once again, for no good reason, and gets no answer for his trouble.  He chalks it off to random happenstance and decides to just go on with his day when he suddenly discovers he can’t fly.  He has to be taken back to Metropolis by one of his robots before he freezes to death in the arctic cold.

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In town he hears about a robbery by the “Jet-Set gang,” which sounded quite promising when I first read it.  I thought, ‘yay, another gang-with-a-gimmick!’  As I’ve mentioned before, I have quite a fondness for the idea that the common criminals in the DC Universe get into the fun of donning costumes and embracing various gimmicks, like the Owl Gang from Flash a while back.  This sounded like a perfect opportunity for something of the sort.  Unfortunately, it’s nothing that fun or creative.  It’s a gang of crooks with a rocket-powered truck, but they’re just generic, run-of-the-mill criminals.  Dorfman doesn’t even bother to name them.  Well, Superman has to catch a cab (!) to get to the scene of the crime, which gives us a moderately funny little scene, but once he’s there he has to figure out how to stop these careening crooks.  He rips up the guard rail from the road creating a giant corral, but doing so exhausts him to the point where he can’t even fight back once the bad guys dismount.

superman 228 0026.jpg

They knock him out and take him to a movie set owned by a crooked movie producer.  (Also known as a movie producer.  Bad-a-bing!)  Ahem…sorry.  Anyway, the criminal world decides to auction off the Man of Steel’s costume and accouterments, but they plan to send the hero himself to ‘the Execution Planet,’ which, for some reason, regular, generic Earth gangsters happen to know about…and care about…and think a better option than…you know, taking their revenge themselves.  It’s…a weird choice, and the whole thing just smacks of wasted opportunity.  To crown the failure of imagination that is this little tale, the attendant criminals are entirely the same generic breed.  Where is Lex Luthor?  Where is the Toyman?  Where is Brainiac?  Where is Parasite?  Where is Metallo?  Heck, I’d settle for the Prankster!  What a waste.

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Is he..naked in there?

superman 228 0031.jpgThe issue ends with the Generic Gang trying on Superman’s costume and paying to step on his cape.  Here we learn that the Man of Steel’s costume is completely bulletproof…which rather begs the question of why the hero was worried when threatened with guns earlier in the story.  Anyway, I’m losing interest in this little yarn as I type.  The idea of the captured hero being auctioned off, the ‘Auction of Evil,’ has been done many times.  I seem to remember a few different versions from Batman, and there is a solid turn on the trope from the fun Justice League Adventures comic from a few years back.  This iteration just doesn’t do anything much with the premise, providing a disappointing outing.  I give this one 1.5 Minutemen, the story having lost points for missed opportunities and general lack of creativity.



Final Thoughts:

Well readers, this brings us to the end of July 1970, and a fairly unimpressive month it was, with only a few yarns that rated better than mediocre.  The only real bright point was the Legion backup, and even safe bets like the Haunted Tank had an off day, it seems.  We saw not one but two classic comic tropes given a less than stellar treatment.  We did, however, see a fascinating glimpse into the zeitgeist with the echoes of the Manson Murders found in the GA/GL book.  Yet, the same month that gave us something so very timely (if also as ham-handed as usual) also gave us Superman stories that seemed positively like throwbacks.

We can really see the cost of Superman’s out of control power level in these issues, and, I would wager, in this entire trend.  Writers have no real idea what to do with him.  They can’t actually challenge him, so they invent some new way to handicap him every issue.  Either he turns huge, or he loses his powers, or he goes nuts, or something even stranger happens to him.  They don’t have any real stories to tell with the character.  I imagine that this is part of the reason that he has been so resistant to change.  Who had any good ideas before “Kryptonite No More”?  With the book controlled by the same folks and using the same formulas that they had been for the past twenty years, there isn’t a lot of room for innovation.  Nonetheless, Superman’s lack of evolution is becoming more and more noticeable as more progressive stories are popping up all over the place in the other books.

Sadly, this month we are forced to bid farewell to one of the books that was headed in a very positive direction, Challengers.  I know that this won’t be the last time we see a promising book or idea abandoned.  In fact, we face the all-too-quick demise of Jack Kirby’s incredibly innovative and creative Fourth World just around the corner, following rapidly on the heels of its very birth.  I suppose we must brace ourselves for such lamentable events as we travel further Into the Bronze Age!  Fortunately, we will also see some amazing new stories and concepts born.  In fact, though I do know it will be short-lived, I can’t help but get excited because I’m already starting to see ads for The King’s dramatic arrival in the DC Universe!  Let’s see what the next month holds!

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One wonders what readers in 1970 thought of this enigmatic advertisement.  Boom Tube?  What in the world could that be?  It must have been exciting!


The Head-Blow Headcount:

Aquamanhead.jpgBatmanhead.jpgshowcase-88-fnvf-jasons-quest0robin2 - Copy.jpgPhantom_Stranger_05.jpgrobin2 - Copy.jpgbatman-family-6-cover.jpg

The Headcount remains unchanged!  Will next month be as quiet?

Into the Bronze Age: July 1970 (Part 2)


Welcome to the second issue of Into the Bronze Age for July, 1970!  I’m looking forward to getting back into some Bronze Age-y goodness, as I’ve been busy with many other things, including a lot of pulp stories as I was working on my Pulp Adventures mod.  So, without further ado, let’s celebrate the beginning of the semester with some classic superheroics!

Roll Call (You can see everything published this month HERE)

  • Action Comics #390
  • Batman #223 (reprints, won’t be covered)
  • Brave and the Bold #90
  • Challengers of the Unknown #74 (Final issue!)
  • Detective Comics #401
  • G.I. Combat #142
  • Green Lantern #78
  • Superman #227 (Reprints)
  • Superman #228

Detective Comics #401

Detective_Comics_401“Target For Tonight!”
Writer: Frank Robbins
Penciler: Bob Brown
Inker: Joe Giella
Letterer: Ben Oda
Editor: Julius Schwartz

“Midnight is the Dying Hour!”
Writer: Dennis O’Neil
Penciler: Gil Kane
Inker: Vince Colletta
Letterer: John Costanza
Editor: Julius Schwartz

Our headlining feature here is a fairly mediocre Bat-tale, very much a by-the-numbers story.  It’s the standard ‘most dangerous game‘ trope where a disillusioned big-game hunter decides that the only way he can get a challenge is to hunt a man.  Of course, he decides to hunt the most dangerous of the most dangerous game, Batman!  I wonder how many times this story has been told in comics in general and with Batman specifically.  Surprisingly enough, this story is the only Batman example listed on TV Tropes.  I’m almost sure there are others, though, as almost every serial adventure character has a few of these encounters over the course of their career.  Despite its cliched nature, or perhaps evidenced by it, this trope can produce great stories.  This isn’t one of them.  It isn’t bad, per se, just not terribly interesting or exciting, and Batman really doesn’t come off as all that impressive.  There are many, many better examples out there.


This tale opens with Batman in Commissioner Gordon’s office receiving a strange and threatening note which boldly declares that some nut named ‘The Stalker’ has made the Dark Knight his prey.  Apparently the note was delivered by a hunting falcon, right in Gordon’s window!  Just at that moment, a bullet zips in the window and ‘bullseyes’ the page, a potent warning of the hunter’s intent and skill.

The Masked Manhunter heads home to his apartment (I’ll never get used to that), where he relaxes by watching an interview with a famous big-game hunter named Carelton Yager (“jager” means hunter, in German, in case you didn’t catch that he was…you know…a hunter) who has just arrived in Gotham.  This sportsman, who is totally not our mad Stalker, has a hunting falcon and talks menacingly about how there is no thrill in the hunt anymore, thus he has come to town to hunt “the most dangerous game.”


Just then, crossbow bolt flies in a smashes the TV.  It bears a note warning Bruce Wayne that this ‘Stalker’ knows his secret and the hunt is on.  How did this random hunter discover the secret identity of the master detective, Batman?  Well, don’t worry your pretty little head about that.  He just totally did.  Because…plot.  Well, not one to take such things lying down, the Caped Crusader sets out to do some stalking of his own, warning Gordon to keep the cops clear because “this is a matter of honor — and pride.”  Really?  I mean, it makes perfect sense that Batman would want everyone else to stay out of such a conflict for fear of any innocents getting hurt, but it does seems a bit out of character for him to be so pig-headed as to play this guy’s game just for pride.  This is another one of those little examples that we’re still not dealing with the fully developed ‘grim avenger’ Batman yet.


Our hero is on the case less than five minutes and he commits his first blunder, stumbling into a trap in Yager’s rooms as he searched for clues.  He triggers a crossbow trap and a recording that taunts him and invites him to a showdown on an island off the coast.  Batman throws a tantrum and smashes the tape recorder with the most awkward looking, Rockettes-esq, high-kick ever, then heads straight into the obvious trap.


At least the Dark Knight has the sense to approach the island covertly, underwater and then through a drainage pipe, but once arrived he once again immediately falls prey to one of the Stalker’s snares, this time a net that hauls him helplessly into the air.  For the third time, the hunter lets his quarry live to add spice to the chase.  That’s three separate times our hero should really be dead if the villain wasn’t just letting him win.  Real impressive, Bats.  I think this Stalker fellow might have a more challenging hunt with Robin.


When the Caped Crusader gets free, he pursues his tormentor across the island, and eventually tackles him when he finally manages to see through one of the sportsman’s traps.  Yager is standing in the middle of the room, dressed as Alfred, but Batman realizes its a fake when he sees that the man’s shoes aren’t muddy, despite the fact that the entire island is a quagmire.  During the fight, the villain handily hoists himself on his own petard by falling into his own dead-drop and conveniently expires, taking his knowledge of our hero’s secret identity with him to his grave.


It’s a moderately entertaining story, but not a terribly memorable one.  In fact, I read it about a month before I got the chance to write this entry, and it had COMPLETELY fallen out of my head by the time I sat down to write the summary.  It’s a trope that has lots of potential, as can easily be recognized by how often it gets used, but this one doesn’t make much of it.  The villain lacks any real personality and Batman just comes off as rather ineffectual and bad at his job.  He survives solely because of his foe’s arrogance, but not in the standard and enjoyable ironic treatment of such a trope that would indicate that Robins was even aware that this was the case.  I’ll give it 2.5 Minutemen out of 5.


“Midnight is the Dying Hour!”


The backup feature is the continuation of our Batgirl story from the previous issue, and it is passable if not exactly good.  I’m afraid it definitely suffers from its brevity.  It does have a nice setup, with the story being handed off to Robin, who is following the same mystery from a different direction.  It’s a nice idea, even though there isn’t much room to develop it.

We begin with a quick one page recap of the previous issue, and then we pick up with Robin investigating the crime scene.  He discovers that the murdered man, Willard, with his hand pointing at a volume of poetry, specifically the first three letters of the title, “poetry.”  This strikes the Teen Wonder as strange, since the deceased thought poetry was “sissy stuff.”  A real winner, this guy.  Anyway, aggressive ignorance and atrocious taste aside, Robin, unable to make heads or tales of the case, decides to review the evidence and has a flash of inspiration.


He heads to the construction site, looking for his suspect, and he interrupts the killer in the middle of his reenactment of “The Cask of Amontillado.”  The punk throws some of his cement in the young hero’s eyes and makes a run for it.  Dick frees Batgirl, who exclaims that she’s never had to thank anyone for saving her life before, and she doesn’t know how to do it.  This strikes me as rather strange, because I’m pretty sure she’s had her life saved dozens of times at this point.  Ahh well.


They compare notes and discuss how they each solved the mystery as they pursue the killer.  It turns out to be the barely mentioned drama-major, Jack Markham, who murdered Willard, his ally in the campus debate, in order to discredit the opposing side.  According to Robin, the young weirdo was set to play Edgar Allen Poe in the school play, and he identified with the role so much that it broke his mind and turned him into a killer.  That’s…a bit of a stretch.  Poe may have been a gothic author and a fairly gloomy character.  He may have had his own demons (glug glug!), but I don’t recall him ever murdering anyone.  Not even a little bit.  Robin also solves this mystery because of the corpse’s finger pointing to “Poe” and deciding that it was a clue pointing to the actor playing the poet.  That’s a bit of a stretch as well, methinks.


Detective401-31.JPGThe two titanic teens chase this kid into the theater and have a brief battle with him in the rafters.  He is, of course, no real threat to the heroes when they see him coming, which is fitting.  The tale ends with a rather ambiguous note, as Robin asks Batgirl if she will tell him how she got involved in all of this, and she replies “Maybe I will!  Maybe I will tell you a lot of things…”  It could be a nice, flirty moment…but it needed a bit of setup earlier in the adventure, so it just seems out of place here.

So, in the end, there is a mystery here that just didn’t have quite enough room to grow.  I like the idea of seeing both Robin and Batgirl chasing a killer from different directions.  Fortunately, though the Markham manages to momentarily elude the trained crimefighter chasing him, he doesn’t make a monkey out of the Teen Wonder, unlike some of the earlier Robin solo stories we’ve encountered.  At least this one doesn’t add another spot on the wall of shame with the Head-Blow Headcount for the high-flying hero.  I would have enjoyed the note of romance between our two young heroes…if it had been a bit more developed and certain.  In the end, I’ll give this ending backup 2.5 Minutemen as well.  It just didn’t quite have enough space to make its mark.


G.I. Combat #142

Writer: Robert Kanigher
Artist: Russ Heath

This Haunted Tank yarn is not one of the best.  It’s plot is just a bit…odd.  It’s like Kanigher had several set pieces he wanted to build a story around, but he didn’t really have a story in which to embed them.  As is, it’s a beautifully illustrate tale in the DC house style, and it has some nice action…and that’s about all that you can say about it, because it doesn’t make much sense.  As per usual, this issue doesn’t take much advantage of book’s conceit.  In fact, this one takes far less than the norm, with our titular haunting specter showing up for exactly two panels, where he doesn’t even offer his customary cryptic warnings.

As the story opens, the crew is commenting on Jeb’s strange habit of talking to “himself,” as they can’t see the ghost, but, as they often do, they decide that he’s a good enough tank commander, they don’t care if he’s a little crazy.  Meanwhile, Jeb asks J.E.B. if this mission will punch their tickets, and the ghost replies he can’t reveal their fates…then he promptly disappears completely from the issue.  This may as well have been a straight war comic with those two panels removed.  Just then, they spot explosions in the distance and head into action.  We get treated to a nice double-page spread of a big tank battle going on, with what look like Pershings going toe-to-toe with the Hun armor.  That would make this the late days of the war (1945), so that’s probably an art mistake.  Still, it’s a lovely spread.


Jeb and crew are ordered to reinforce Checkpoint Able, and they, unwillingly, scoot out of the action.  Unfortunately, when they arrive, they find Able manned by no-one…but dead men!  The entirety of Able Company has been wiped out, and they are all dead at their posts…and here we meet the first moment of the tale that makes no freaking sense.  If they’re all dead, why aren’t the Nazis just strolling merrily through the lines?  Better yet, why haven’t they ALREADY done so?


We get no answers, but we do get some nice, poignant moments as the Haunted crew deals with this grim sight.  That leads us to another nice passage, and this issue is nothing but a string of these, where, as they head out on recon and pass some wildflowers, Slim gets out and picks some for Able.  It’s a sweet, strange little scene, and it really adds some humanity to the story.


Just then, a freak blizzard blows up, and the tank is ambushed by a German infantry unit, inexplicably kitted out for snow operations in all white uniforms, despite the fact that it is emphasized that this is a FREAK storm.  Once again, it makes no freaking sense, but the action sequence is really beautifully illustrated, and the silent (dare I say ‘ghostly’?) intensity of the Nazi troops in their assault is rather chilling (sorry!).


The crew attempt to break out of the ambuscade, but their engine freezes up.  Here we encounter the third ludicrous story beat.  Instead of, you know, shooting the giant sitting steel duck with the panzerfaust that we see they still have, the German infantry just…wait.  They just sit and wait, allowing the tank crew to figure out what to do.  Their solution is actually quite clever and visually spectacular, though.  Jeb pulls some gas from the fuel tanks and, under cover of the storm, he carefully splashes it near the engine, then lights it ablaze.  Now, this would almost certainly suffocate the men inside the tank in real life, but it’s a great, adventure story-esq innovation.  It’s solid comic logic.  The fire warms the engine enough to get it started, and the Haunted Tank breaks away, arriving back at Checkpoint Able in time to meet the reinforcements.



So, as you can see, this is a really uneven issue.  It has several nice set-piece moments, the usual lovely art for this book, and even some good, if brief, characterization.  Nonetheless, it is also completely ridiculous in three separate ways.  The end result is a bit baffling.  It’s a fun issue to read, but it is apt to leave one feeling rather confused.  I’m really torn on what to rate it, but I suppose I’ll also give this one a 2.5 Minutemen out of 5.  The goofy, senseless elements knock it down from a higher score, and the fun of the action combined with the beauty of the art save it from a worse one.


Green Lantern/Green Arrow #78

Green_Lantern_Vol_2_78“My Kind of Loving, a Way of Death!”
Writer: Dennis O’Neil
Penciler: Neal Adams
Inker: Frank Giacoia
Letterer: John Costanza
Editor: Julius Schwartz

Ahh…back to this book.  It’s probably not great that we’re only three issues in and I’m already dreading each new story.  Well, on the plus side, this issue is not nearly as insufferable as the previous two.  It’s probably a worse story, as far as unity of action and the measure of the plot goes, but there’s less (though of course not no) pontificating.  The heavy hand paints a touch more lightly, but only a touch.  The setup for this issue is an interesting one, and relatively timely, especially in comic terms.  This issue centers on a charismatic cult leader brainwashing a bunch of disaffected kids and using them for his own nefarious purposes.  Sound familiar?  Well, the horrors of the Manson Family murders were less than a year old at this point, and Manson himself had just been arrested a few months earlier.  There was a great deal of fear and uneasiness throughout the culture following those events, and it is interesting to see that being worked through in comics this way.  Of course, O’Neil’s cult leader uses actual mind control to dominate his victims, and the whole horrid mess is flattened out and treated broadly, but the similarities are unmistakable.  I don’t know if this is the first time that this concept was used in a comic, but I am quite certain it was not the last either.  I can’t imagine it is the best.

Whatever it is, this particular treatment begins with the lovely Black Canary, having taken to the road to track down the way-luckier-than-he-deserves Green Arrow.  She is accosted in the Washington wilderness by a generic biker gang, doing generic, scuzzy biker gang things.  They try to steal her motorcycle and threaten her, but of course, the Canary is no shrinking violet (no offense to Shrinking Violet).  She handily wipes the floor with them before being knocked unconscious by a desperate biker who ramms her with his cycle.  They steal the bike and leaver her for dead, but she is rescued by a shadowy figure.

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It’s a beautiful montage. Take note, Gil Kane, this is how it is done.

Meanwhile, our hard-traveling heroes arrive in the nearby town and have a completely pointless encounter with a bitter young Native American man.  Now, there’s tons of bitter folks in this book, but, to be fair, if anyone’s got a right to be bitter about their treatment in this country…it’s probably the Native Americans.  Fair enough.  His role in the comic is still fairly pointless, serving only to provide a face to identify with the subject of the cult leader’s hatred.

green lantern 078 015 - Copy.jpg


green lantern 078 015.jpgHis shop is attacked by the generic bikers, who do more generic biker things, like trash the place.  Our heroes immediately endanger their secret identities by just stepping outside to put on their costumes, despite the fact that they were the only strangers in town.  As you would expect, they utterly trounce these low-rent thugs, who pose no real threat to two Justice Leaguers.  And here is our return to the perennial problem (other than the heavy-handed, tone deaf characterization) with this series.  The protagonists are just a poor fit for the tale that O’Neil is telling.  Green Lantern and Green Arrow beating up on these punks just seems…unnecessary.  The heroes are in no peril to speak of, and there is no actual tension and nothing at stake with this little encounter.

Nonetheless, the traveling-twosome makes short work of them, and seems to do it with great relish.  There is actually a fairly good moment of characterization here…that is more or less completely glossed over.  Hal really enjoys this conflict, being a very straight-forward case of good and evil, a simple, unequivocal situation that has none of the complicated morality and deep significance of the last few adventures.  These are bad men doing bad things to an innocent, and a bit of a trouncing is richly deserved.  It would be a good moment if it were given a little more development, but it is left entirely to the reader to make the connection, as O’Neil spends no time on it.  He may not even be aware of it.  I do enjoy the sense of whimsy that the Emerald Gladiator brings to his ring-slinging this issue.  It’s a nice change from his dreary existential doubt from the past two issues, and it points to a more interesting and enjoyable character.  I doubt it will last.

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Well, the Emerald Archer notices that one of the bikers has Canary’s motorcycle, and they get the story out of the punk, GA losing his mind and nearly beating the guy to death in the process.  It’s a good moment, with Hal having to restrain Ollie who is beside himself with worry about Canary.  The heroes go to look for her and find the lost lady seemingly hale and healthy, but in the company of a mysterious “prophet” named Joshua.  He is running a commune of some sort, and he claims that Dinah is now one of his ‘children.’  She, though obviously conflicted, refuses to come with them.

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Adams does a fantastic job of making this Joshua fellow eerie and disturbing.  That man has crazy eyes.

In desperation, the Emerald Archer grabs his lady love and plants a passionate kiss on her lips.  It’s a nice moment, especially considering that, since she’s been around, he’s never gotten any real encouragement from her.  He’s clearly been head over heels for her, but she’s rebuffed him.  This is a pretty big and bold step.  It would be a lot stronger if this plot had been given room to breath, but even just jumping out of nowhere, the scene, where she pulls away and tells him to get lost has a little power, largely thanks to Neal Adams, most likely.

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Ollie is crushed and frustrated, and Hal’s fairly blunt declaration that “she just doesn’t dig” him (way to let your friend down easy, flyboy), doesn’t help any.  Arrow belts his partner in green, and then stalks off into the woods where he, at least, realizes he’s acting like a child.  It’s good to see O’Neil finally acknowledge some of Ollie’s silliness, though he’ll get back to using him as a mouthpiece shortly, don’t worry. Hal, for his part, comes off much better in this issue.  Instead of bowing up and getting in his friend’s face, the Emerald Gladiator merely shrugs it off, knowing that Ollie isn’t himself.

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Meanwhile, the creepy Joshua arms his clearly mind-controlled ‘Family’ and tells them that they are going to slaughter the nearby Indians to start off a race war and reclaim the country for the whites.  Urg.  O’Neil really wants to make his evilness unmistakable…though, to be fair, I suppose this is actually pretty close to Manson’s own motivations (though with opposite goals).  The Emerald Archer encounters the Family in the woods during target practice and decides that he better call for help because he can’t take them all without killing them…really?  Green Arrow, superhero and Justice League member, who has managed to fight crime for years without killing ANYONE can’t manage to take out a bunch of brainwashed kids with pistols and no training without killing them?  It’s fine for Ollie to have called for help.  Sure, I can buy that, but his statement is just patently ridiculous in the context of the story.  Heck, in the last issue, he stormed a freaking fortress and took on trained soldiers.  *sigh*

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Anyway, surprisingly, firing a flare in the middle of the darkened woods attracts attention, and the Family opens fire on him, winging the hero.  They charge after Green Lantern but…he’s a freaking Green Lantern.  Oddly, he ALSO worries about being able to stop them without killing them, despite the fact that he’s wearing an honest-to-goodness wishing ring.  What’s with all this concern about killing the bad guys all of a sudden?  Since when have these two ever DONE that?  Fortunately, he performs better than Ollie (he could hardly have done worse), and easily disarms and traps the kids.

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It’s almost as if random brainwashed kids with guns aren’t actually worthy antagonists for a man armed with the most powerful weapon in the universe….

UNfortunately, Joshua and the Canary escape and come across the injured Archer.  Despite the cult leader’s orders to shoot the helpless hero, Dinah can’t bring herself to do it and overcomes his control.  Hal holds back his aid, letting her break the brainwashing on her own so she’ll have no doubts in the future.  It’s a nice gesture…until you think about the fact that he’s gambling (as he admits) with the Archer’s life.

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Well, I know what you’re thinking.  All of this, and we haven’t had any pretentious preaching from Ollie all issue.  Maybe we dodged the bullet!  Don’t’ be silly; O’Neil wouldn’t pass up an opportunity to talk down to his audience and make Green Arrow come off like a self-important, holier-than-though windbag.  As the heroes are reunited, Ollie takes the opportunity to browbeat a still reeling and emotionally drained Black Canary, telling her that it’s her fault she was brainwashed because there is something bad in all of us that allows monsters like this to bring people to their side.  Classy Arrow.  Real classy.

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Nothing says “I love you” like accusations of secret racism.

This comic has some potential, like most of the others, but it simply has the wrong stars.  There is a good story to be told, and it will be told elsewhere, about the unsettling and sinister nature of a charismatic madman’s grip on impressionable minds.  Try this setup with someone like Batman, the Question, or another more investigative type, and you’d really have something.  Unfortunately, that interesting plot isn’t given enough room to grow, with the unnecessary secondary elements with the bikers and the random kid crowd it down to insignificance.  The central conflict with Canary and the emotions she’s been fighting is interesting, and, once again, given more space, it could have made for a moving turning-point for her romance with Ollie.  This too gets short shrift.  Still, it is really fascinating to see the comics dealing with contemporary history, struggling with the questions we all have about what makes monsters like Manson able to work their dark wills.  It is noteworthy for that, if not for the quality of the issue itself.  As always, Adams’ artwork is spectacular and really gives the book more gravitas and interest than it probably deserves.  In the end, I give this issue 2.5 Minutemen, making this week’s scores unanimous.


Well, let’s see if we can’t finish up our trip into July 1970 soon and get on with our adventures Into the Bronze Age!  Please join me later this week for the final post in this month of comics.  Until then, remember to tell your significant other that they are really awful inside!