Posts tagged ‘Steve Ditko’

Detective 487 – The League of Assassins go after a writer, Roy Raymond returns, Robin goes to Germany, the Odd Man debuts, and Batgirl runs for re-election

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Denny O’Neil and Don Newton manage to craft a League of Assassins story that reads like a farce, without actually diminishing the power or threat of the League.

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The tale centres on a writer, Sergius, who works out his plots as he jogs.  The Sensei overhears him talking about the assassins and their plot, and mistakenly believes he knows something about their organization, and sends the League out to kill him.

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For a while, the clumsy Sergius is oblivious to what is going on, narrowly avoiding death.

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But the League’s activities draw Batman’s attention.  He persuades Sergius to allow Matches Malone to be his bodyguard.  For those who do not know this, Matches Malone is Batman’s “criminal” identity.

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As Matches he saves Sergius from the League’s most elaborate murder attempt, drowning him by flooding his apartment.  Batman succeeds at rounding up a number of the group’s killers, but of course the Sensei remains free.

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Roy Raymond, last seen a few months earlier in Superman Family, gets one last solo story in Detective, courtesy of Bob Rozakis and Dave Hunt.  Morgan Edge has a small role, as Roy is hosting an Impossible But Truespecial on WGBS.

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Three beings claiming to be aliens are to appear on the show.  One is an R2D2 type machine, one is along the standard lines of an alien monster, and one is an ordinary looking woman, claiming to be exiled from her homeworld.

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In a particularly nice touch,Roy is reunited with old friend and former helper, Karen Duncan.

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Roy exposes the machine and monster as fakes.  Even as a kid I could see the twist that the ordinary looking woman really was an alien, but it was a pleasant shock when it turns out to be Hawkgirl.

Roy Raymond next appears in Detective 500.

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Robin’s story, by Jack C Harris, Kurt Schaffenberger and Joe Giella, takes Dick to West Germany to inspect Wayne Enterprises holdings.

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Dick finds it all terribly boring, until he hears of an unusual bank robbery, in which the wall was pulverized.

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As Robin, he investigates, and quickly gets on the track of some new mini-tanks being developed by his company for the US base there, and figures out a neat trick on how they load the tanks into trucks, using them for the robbery.

Definitely one of the better stories from Robin’s run in this book.

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The Odd Man gets his only solo story to date, by Steve Ditko.  This was intended to be the back-up feature in Shade, the Changing Man, but when that comic was cancelled in the DC Implosion, this story got shelved, until it’s appearance here.

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By far the most annoying thing about this tale, given that it is the character’s only story, is how little we learn about him.  His normal human identity is Clay Stoner, a private detective.  He is facing off against thieves patterning themselves on ancient Egyptians.

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We see him use “powder and smoke gloves”, and he also has a plastic spray he seals a villain in, but that’s it for weaponry.  Does he have any powers?  Who knows.  Why does he dress so strangely?  Who knows.

The Odd Man does pop up from time to time, but no appearance has ever clarified who he is.

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Jack G Harris and Dick Giordano send Barbara Gordon back to the polls in this story.  It’s the first time re-election has been mentioned, so even though she went to Washington seven years earlier, it must only be 2 comic book years since that story.

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Her political adversary, Della Zigler, is based on an actual politican from this era, Bella Abzug, known for her huge hats.  And while Barbara is trying to defeat Della in the election, as Batgirl she is working to save her life from gangsters who want her dead.

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I was genuinely surprised at the ending of this story when I was kid.  Barbara Gordon loses the election.  But heroes never lose!  While I would never say this story is powerful, it certainly has a kick in the teeth ending, though Barbara herself admits she spent too much time as Batgirl and too little campaigning.  And looking back over her seven years in Washington, very few stories showed her functioning as a congresswoman.  I expect her constituents were also feeling neglected.

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Detective 485 – Batwoman gets murdered, the Demon ends, and Man-Bat faces SST

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The League of Assassins returns in this Denny O’Neil/Don Newton story that pits the Sensei against Ra’s Al Ghul.

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Kathy Kane, the former Batwoman, is in town with her travelling circus, and Batman has received word that the League are going to be attacking there.  Puzzled as to why, he goes to check it out, and discovers Kathy holding her own against them.  This is Kathy’s first appearance since her team-up with the Freedom Fighters in the final issue of their book.

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All is well until the Bronze Tiger shows up.  A master of martial arts, he battles Batman while another member of the League murders Kathy.

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The killers flee, and Ra’s Al Ghul shows up.  Batman realizes that Ra’s manipulated the League into attacking Kathy, so that Batman would seek vengeance against them.  Ra’s Al Ghul and the Sensei have rival plans for the League, and this storyline sees the war between them for dominance.  Talia pops up as well, but all she does is cry about loving Batman.

Up to now, the Sensei’s connection with the League of Assassins had mostly played out in Deadman stories, while Ra’s Al Ghul appeared to be their leader in Batman tales.  Though it is never spelled out in detail, the League must at this point be split between the two factions.

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The Bronze Tiger, Ben Turner, had been a supporting character in Richard Dragon, Kung-Fu Fighter, and had been kidnapped by the League when the series was cancelled.  Here we learn that the Sensei (who last appeared in a late issue of Phantom Stranger, for those keeping track) has hopes of making Bronze Tiger into his greatest weapon.

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Batman and the Bronze Tiger battle, but one of the members of the League jumps in, shooting a poisoned dart at Batman.  Though the Sensei kills the man who did this, Bronze Tiger is furious at the breach of honour, and turns on the League.  The lights go out, conveniently, so Batman misses the climax of the action, finding only the bloody masks of Tiger and Batwoman.  The story continues, although not immediately.

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The Demon’s series comes to an end with this story, by Len Wein and Steve Ditko.  The Demon stashes the Eternity Book with a relative of the previous caretaker, but this man wants nothing to do with it, and tosses it on the trash.  The book does not return until the Demon’s own series, in the 90stec_485_007

Jason Blood returns home, only to find his friends held captive by Baron Tyme. He demands the Eternity Book, but when he discovers that Jason no longer has it, comes up with a different plan.

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He casts a spell that half-transforms Jason into Etrigan, and then draws on the mystical energy of the transformation to pull his missing half back to reality.  This almost works, until the Demon steps behind a mirror, and Tyme’s spell winds up backfiring on him, sending his entire body to the nether realm.

That’s it for Baron Tyme, who has never been seen again.  The Demon, along with Glenda and Randu, appear next in the pages of Wonder Woman a couple years down the road.  Harry Matthews has to wait a few more years, until the Demon miniseries by Matt Wagner, to return.

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Man-Bat returns to Detective, with a story by Bob Rozakis, with art by Don Newton and Frank McLaughlin.

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Kirk Langstrom and Jason Bard are called on by a woman whose husband has been acting strangely, sneaking out at night.  She suspects he is having an affair, and hires the detectives to follow him.

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Since Man-Bat excels at surveillance, he follows the man to an abandoned building, where he dons a suit of armour and goes flying out the window. Man-Bat is convinced he has a super-villain on his hands, and starts fighting him.  But once he sees the man’s expression, he realizes that the guy is just not in control of his suit at all, and helps him crash safely.

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The story ends with Kirk complaining about how irresponsible the man was, trying to be a hero but not taking proper precautions and risking his own life, becoming a menace to others. It takes Jason Bard to point out the irony.

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Although I didn’t find either the Robin or the Batgirl stories worth writing about – both deal with art thieves, and both have mediocre art – there is a really nice pin-up of them by Dick Giordano on the back cover.

Detective 483 – Maxie Zeus debuts, Human Target begins, Batgirl goes on a date, the Demon returns to Castle Branek, Robin wipes up MAZE and a kangaroo race

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Denny O’Neil and Don Newton bring back Leslie Thompkins in this follow-up Crime Alley story, which also serves to introduce the new villain Maxie Zeus.

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It’s once again the anniversary of the deaths of his parents, and Batman heads to Crime Alley, where he once again comes to the aid of Leslie Thompkins.  This story is the first to raise the notion that the deaths of the Waynes affected the entire city, sent it into a decline.

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Batman gets word that crime boss Maxie Zeus is having men spread poison gas through an entire apartment building in Crime Alley, just to kill one man, and Batman sets out to stop them.

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He does so, saving the innocents, as well as the man Zeus intended to kill.  Leslie still hasn’t pieced together that Batman is Bruce Wayne, but her dialogue hints that she isn’t too far from the secret.

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The ending warns Maxie Zeus that Batman is coming for him, which happens next issue.  Although not much is done with Maxie Zeus in this first story, it helps build him as a powerful threat to be faced.

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Christopher Chance, the Human Target, has his back-up series move from the Brave and the Bold to this book,a result of the DC Implosion.  Christopher Chance works as a bodyguard/impersonator.  If someone has threatened your life,he will take on your identity and flush out the wannabe killer.

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In this story, by Len Wein, Howard Chaykin and Dick Giordano, he takes on the identity of a Hollywood actor, after a number of incidents on a film set lead him to believe someone is trying to kill him.

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It’s not hard to solve this one, there is really only one viable suspect, but the story is fun is the art is great.

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Batgirl faces off against some homegrown terrorists in this story by Bob Rozakis, Bob Oskner and Vince Colletta.

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After rounding up part of the gang, she gets asked out on a date by a soldier, who had first met her when she battled Madame Zodiac in the Pentagon, in a late issue of Batman Family.  Barbara agrees, but the date quickly turns into a farce.

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The evening lurches from disaster to disaster, and though it is terrible for the two on the date, it’s certainly entertaining for the reader.

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Just as the silliness threatens to outlast its welcome, Batgirl is reminded of something the terrorists said, and realizes they are going to attack Washington Monument that night.  She and her soldier boy wind up working together to round up the remainder of the gang, so the date is a success after all.

What I really appreciate in this story is that, with the date plot, it’s basically a romantic story, but it does not weaken Barbara, or put her in a subservient position to the soldier in any way.

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Steve Ditko takes over the art for the rest of Len Wein’s Demon story, as Etrigan faces off against Baron Tyme.

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Baron Tyme fills in his story between the events of Man-Bat and now.  When he vanished in that book, he was drawn into a nether realm, which allows him great knowledge, but is a torture to his body, which is trapped between dimensions.  With the Eternity Book, he intends to open Merlin’s tomb in Castle Branek, and use him to return completely to this world.

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The story brings back the town’s inspector, who looks straight out of a Frankenstein movie.  The Demon attempts to reach Merlin’s tomb before Tyme does, but does not succeed.

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Tyme uses the Eternity Book to force Etrigan to transform back into Jason Blood, and then traps him, as he prepares to open the tomb.

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Robin’s long battle with MAZE comes to an end in this story by Bob Rozakis and Kurt Schaffenberger.

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The leader of MAZE has brought all his members together, which turns out to be a good thing for Robin and the police, as they bust in.  Raven flees, and Card Queen shows her true colours, betraying MAZE and helping to bring them down.

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Card Queen is revealed to be Duela Dent, in yet another identity.  This (and last issue) are her first appearances since the break-up of the Teen Titans.  She would not appear again until the wedding of Donna Troy in New Teen Titans.

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But the story is not yet over. Dick confronts Lori Elton and her new boyfriend, who Dick reveals to be the Raven. As the guy tries to fight back, and loses, Dick goes on to explain a number of dangling plot threads, bringing this long tale to a satisfactory, if sad, conclusion.

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The final, silent, page is quite powerful.  Lori attempts to return to Dick, but he rebuffs her.  As he walks away from the rest of the students, he looks stronger, and more like a man, than at any time before.

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The final story in this issue, by Denny O’Neil, Dick Dillin and Frank McLaughlin, was intended to be one of the “Public Life of Bruce Wayne” stories that ran in the back pages of Batman, until the DC Implosion ended that.

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It’s silly, but entertaining, and sort of clever.  Knowing that an Australian hit man has come to Gotham, Bruce Wayne finances a kangaroo race in the city, in order to draw him out.

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Once he has spotted the man, he follows him as Batman, finds the men who hired them, and rounds them all up.

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There is also a nice pin-up on the back page of the current Batman family, with Batgirl, Robin, Alfred and Commissioner Gordon.

 

 

Adventure 478 – Aquaman, Starman and Plastic Man end

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Aquaman gets the cover for his final, really final, story in Adventure 478 (Dec 80), by Jean-Marc DeMatteis and Dick Giordano.

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Black Manta has gathered an army of homeless and disaffected people, and told them lies to make the Atlanteans seem like evil monsters.  Aquaman and Cal manage to escape, and Aquaman swims right by Manta and his men, who probably could have at least tried to stop him, but don’t.  They just…don’t.

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Pretty dumb move, as Aquaman convinces Vulko and the Atlanean troops to open the gates.  Must have done some really fast convincing, as it happens almost immediately.  But it works, and Manta’s men desert him.

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Mera captures Manta in a hard water bubble, and Cal Durham shows up as well, just as everything goes boom.

The story continues in Action Comics, as Aquaman’s series moves over there.

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Starman’s tale concludes a bit more than the Aquaman one does, but not by much.  Paul Levitz and Steve Ditko do bring Mn’torr’s story to an end though.  He is sentenced to death for saving Prince Gavyn, and as Starman showed up to try to save him, he faces the same sentence.

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Not content to die, Starman fights back against the monsters that are meant to kill them, saving Mn’torr once again.

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Meanwhile, Jediah Rikane and Lady Merria return to Throneworld, only to learn that Empress Clryssa is on her death bed.

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Mn’torr insists that, no matter how much Starman wants him to survive, his time is at an end, and dissolves in a really cool, very Ditko way, bequeathing Starman his staff of power.

As promised, the story does get resolved in an issue of DC Comics Presents, though not exactly “soon.”  More like eight months.

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Plastic Man’s story really does end.  And begin for that matter, as it’s complete in this issue, by Marty Pasko, with Joe Staton art.

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Plas and Woozy Winks deal with thieves who resemble Groucho Marx and Harpo, and I do like the layout of this page, integrating the building into the panel lay-out.

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Plastic Man’s series continues as a back-up in Super Friends, which it would fit in with pretty well.

Adventure 477 – Aquaman faces Black Manta, and Starman learns the origin of Mn’torr

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Another split cover on Adventure 477 (Nov 80), and the final one to really feature Starman and Plastic Man.

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Aquaman leaves New Venice by mutual agreement as this story, by J.M. DeMatteis and Dick Giordano, begins.  The mayor is furious with him for abandoning so many of this plot lines from World’s Finest Comics.

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But another long-abandoned character shows up, Cal Durham, formerly one of Black Manta’s men, now forced to live underwater.  His young sister goes to Aquaman for help.  Cal had last appeared in Aquaman’s brief 70’s revival, along with Manta.

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And it’s Black Manta that is the trouble once again, capturing the two after Cal stumbles across Manta’s new base, from which he plans to attack and conquer Atlantis.

On the last page, Mera re-appears.  She had not be taken, so much as phased away, and now back, still all feverish and comatose.

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Starman goes in search of Mn’torr in this chapter, by Paul Levitz, Steve Ditko and Romeo Tanghal.

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He heads to a trippy temple Mn’torr was connected with, which speaks to him and allows him to essentially teleport to Mn’torr’s homeworld.

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We discover that he broke sacred vows about the balance of the universe when he rescued Prince Gavyn, and that he was not defeated by Oswin, but by his own people, who gave Oswin the staff to balance the power.

 

 

Adventure 476 – Aquaman vs Poseidon, and Starman vs Lord Protector Oswin

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Aquaman hunts for Mera in Adventure 476 (Oct 80), in a story by J.M. DeMatteis and Dick Giordano.

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He runs into a powerful man who claims to be the god Poseidon, although it’s fairly clear he is not.  When he explains his past he is clearly an amnesiac survivor of a shipwreck who comes across a mysterious but powerful trident, the source of his powers.

He has nothing to do with Mera’s disappearance either, and there is little significant about this tale, aside from the gorgeous art.

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That, and the fact that their battle leads them into the town of New Atlantis, not seen for decades in Adventure, but re-introduced in his World’s Finest run.

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Oswin hold the powerful staff of Mn’torr, and thus the upper hand, as the Starman story opens, by Paul Levitz, Steve Ditko and Romeo Tanghal.

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While Starman tries to hold off Oswin, Jediah attempts to get Clryssa and Merria to safety, but they refuse to leave.  Jediah follows the Empress’ orders and departs, hooking up with the freed convicts as a sort of resistance movement, while Oswin defeats and captures Gavyn, Clryssa and Merria.

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Oswin imprisons Starman in a crystal chamber seemingly impervious to his powers, but Gavyn manages to escape, and he and the evil Lord Protector face off for the last time.  The resulting explosion appears to kill them both, but Starman leaves behind a message indicating that he survived.

Adventure 475 – Aquaman begins, again, for the fifth time, and Starman battles to restore the Empress

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Aquaman returns to the pages of Adventure with issue 475 (Sept 80), joining Starman and Plastic Man. All the regular sized comics in the DC line gain 8 extra pages, most often corresponding to the addition of a back-up series.  This marks the fifth separate run of Aquaman in the pages of Adventure, his series moving back from World’s Finest Comics.

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Jean-Marc DeMatteis and Dick Giordano take the reigns of Aquaman as his series moves here.  Part of the plot of this story continues from the pages of World’s Finest Comics, his pursuit of some ancient Atlantean machinery.

Mera wakes with a feverish illness, and Aquaman heads out to get help, but is distracted by Topo, who leads him to the machines.

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There he winds up in battle with an old foe, the Scavenger, who had not been seen since the brief revival of Aquaman’s book in the 70s.  Although Aquaman bests the Scavenger, the machines are destroyed by the villain, so no one can have them.

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Meanwhile, Mera’s illness gets worse, and she has a really touching sequence in which she hallucinates about her dead son.  She collapses, and by the time Aquaman returns, she has disappeared.

This is the final appearance of the Scavenger pre-Crisis, as well as Topo, who had not been seen since the issue of Adventure in which Arthur Jr died.

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It’s all-out war in this chapter of the Starman saga, by Paul Levitz, Steve Ditko and Romeo Tanghal.  Clryssa pardons two of the prisoners from Asryx, who join with Jediah Rikane as they lead one attack against Lord Protector Oswin and his men, while Starman transports the Empress and Lady Merria to the throne room.

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Still unaware that Starman is really her brother Gavyn, Clryssa promises to share the throne with him.  A nicely ironic touch.

Despite the ending of the last issue, in which Mn’torr confronted Oswin, there is no sign of the man in this tale, although Oswin makes brief reference it.  Only on the last page do we get a confirmation that things did not go well for Mn’torr.

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Oswin now has Mn’torr staff, a powerful weapon in and of itself, and has no fear of Starman or the returned Empress.

 

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