Posts tagged ‘Vulko’

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.

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Adventure 466 – Flash, Deadman, Justice Society of America and Aquaman end

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Adventure 466 (Dec 79) is the last issue of the book as a Dollar Comic, and with the next issue it shrinks back to regular size.  All four of the series conclude their runs in this issue, most with arguably their best stories.

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The Flash faces one of his regular enemies, the Weather Wizard, in this story by Cary Bates, with art by Mike Netzer and Vince Colletta.

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Mark Mardon claims to have turned over a new leaf, and intends to use his powers for good, although the Flash doesn’t believe or trust him for a second.  Nonetheless, it seems to be true, although his behaviour seems irrational, if benevolent.

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But even his good intentions prove disastrous, as his drought relief turns into a raging flood.  Flash realizes his change in behaviour is likely connected to increased sunspot activity, and his mental bond with his weather controlling wand has allowed his emotions to become affected.

And though he commits no crimes during this time, he still winds up in prison at the end of the story, after attacking people who called him a hero, enraged that they would insult him so.

A fun little tale, and by far the best art of any of the Flash’s stories in Adventure.

The Flash’s series ends, but he continues in his own comic.

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Len Wein and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez go out on a high note with the final Deadman story, by far the best of his run.  It begins quite simply, as Deadman watches an old man in a park, feeding the birds, and envies him his life.

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When the man pulls out a gun and tries to kill himself, Deadman is horrified, but acts quickly, inhabiting a bird and using that to knock the gun out of his hand.  He follows the old man home, and discovers that he lives with his abusive adult son, a drug dealer, and his innocent grand-daughter.

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Deadman follows the son when he storms out after a fight, pretty much intending to see that he gets arrested.  But when the man heads to the docks and ponders his life, deciding to change, Deadman’s faith is restored, and he tags along to make sure he lives up to his intent.

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The grandfather also heads out, and both wind up at the big boss’s place, where things go horribly wrong, despite the best intentions of the hero and the two men.  Deadman possesses the grandfather, which causes him to freeze, and he winds up getting shot, and dying, as a result.  Th boss kills himself rather than wind up in prison, but at least the son and his daughter survive.

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Even still, this is a dark and powerful story, fully worthy of the last panel of Deadman screaming in frustration.  That happens a lot in Deadman stories, but rarely with as much meaning.

Deadman’s next appearance, in DC Comics Presents, follows up on this tale.  Deadman’s next continuing series comes in the late 80s, in the pages of Action Comics Weekly.

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The entire Justice Society of America appear in this final story, leaving the funeral of Mr Terrific following the latest JLA/JSA crossover, in a story by Paul Levitz and Joe Staton.

After their departure, Power Girl asks Huntress about something she overheard, about the Justice Society disbanding in the early 1950s, and for the rest of the tale, Huntress relates the story to her.  Much of it is a fairly standard super-hero tale, as the team is offered a satellite headquarters, which turns out to be a deathtrap.  They escape, and capture the man behind it, but the last few pages take a surprising twist.

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The man was a Soviet agent, and the Justice Society are summoned before the House Un-American Activities Committee to testify about their relationship with him, a session that quickly degenerates into a witch hunt.

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In order to clear their names, they are told they must unmask and reveal their identities to the Committee.  As a group, they refuse, and disappear from the chamber.

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A powerful story, with long-lasting effects throughout the DC Universe.  The story gives a solid explanation of why the team abruptly vanished in the early 1950s, a reason rooted in the issues of the time, even moreso than it appears.

In reality, the publication of the book Seduction of the Innocent, which blamed all manner of mental and social problems with youth on the influence of comic books, had swept the US in the early 1950s, and virtually all super-herores ceased to appear.  So there are really two levels to this tale.

The JSA continue to appear regularly in Justice League of America, and Huntress was soon to get her own series in Wonder Woman.  The next time they had their own book was in the America vs the Justice Society mini-series in the mid-80s.

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After three strong stories it would be nice to say that Aquaman goes out on a high note as well.  I can’t say that, but at least the story, by Bob Rozakis and Don Newton, doesn’t suck.

The underwater Nazis return, as we discover that Helga’s death was simply a hologram, and they have subtly invaded Atlantis.  Vulko turns out to be a hologram as well.

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Mera accompanies Aquaman as he invades their base.  As a kid I found her behaviour on this page suspicious, and noted the subtle clue in the lower left corner of the bottom panel.

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Aquaman also figures out that Mera is a hologram, finds and frees her and Vulko, and brings the Nazi base crashing down around them.  He even gains a new pet, the telepathic mutated Nazi seahorse, Siggy.

Aquaman’s series continues in the pages of World’s Finest Comics a few months down the road.

Adventure 465 – Flash hears mysterious warnings, Deadman deals with slum gangs, the Justice Society hunt for a stolen poison and Aquaman faces underwater Nazis

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Cary Bates, Don Heck and Joe Giella tell an entertaining little tale in Adventure 465 (Oct 79), and at least make a slight reference to the events happening in the Flash’s own comic, although Iris’ murder is never specifically mentioned.

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After stopping a missile, Flash discovers his hearing has become messed up, and begins overhearing an unusual warning about invaders from above.

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After much puzzlement and research, Barry determines that he has temporarily developed the ability to understand dolphins, who were chatting about thieves diving in and hiding their loot in the dolphin tank at the aquarium.  And while in his own book Barry Allen is close to a complete breakdown, here he is content to play ball with the creatures.

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Some beautiful Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez art on this Len Wein story, with Dick Giordano providing the inks.  Deadman does not return to Hill’s Circus after his visit to the lab in the last issue.  Instead he finds himself “strolling” through the slums.

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He comes across a young chopkeeper and his wife, being harassed by a protection scam, and follows (and occasionally possesses) the man as he tries to rally the neighbourhood to stand up to the gang.  When this fails, he tries to find evidence on his own that will bring them down.

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Boston Brand helps all he can, and for a change this story does come to a happy ending, a rarity in a Deadman tale.

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The Justice Society get their only typical super-team adventure in their run in this book.  Paul Levitz and Joe Staton provide a tale in which the team split up in a desperate search for a stolen poison capsule that threatens to wipe out an entire city.

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Levitz does a good job giving the various heroes their moments of glory.  Huntress and Power Girl find vital clues as to who stole the poison – the cleaning lady, trying to help her addict son, unaware of what it truly was.

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Hawkman barges in on Dr Fate, insisting that he help the team, and Inza Nelson gets her only appearance during the JSA’s run in this book.

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Green Lantern and the Flash get to be the ones to actually find the capsule, stuck to a dog’s fur, and destroy it.

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The Dr Fate scene pays off in the epilogue, although only by implication at this point, as Mr Terrific shows up, in a rare appearance, to join the team for the annual JLA/JSA team-up, at which he gets murdered.

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Aquaman encounters some robot-building underwater Nazis in this story, by Bob Rozakis, with art by Don Newton.

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After encountering a hologram of a sea monster, Aquaman finds a hidden city in Antarctica of Nazis, descendants of ones who fled there at the end of World War 2.  Helga serves as his guide, and appears to be fairly open and pleasant, but that is simply a ruse to get him off his guard, at which point they attack and imprison him, replacing him with a hologram.

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The Nazi Aquaman hologram brings Helga to Atlantis, introducing her to Vulko, who just merrily accepts everything in the incompetent fashion he has been consistently showing, but Mera is suspicious.

The climax has Aquaman defeat his double, while Mera gets captured by Helga, but manages to free herself.  Helga appears to die, but this story is far from over.

Funny, in memory these people were connected to the Universal Food Products crew from a few issues ago – the odd uniform on the sailor being a hint at their Nazi background.  But there is no actual connection in this story.  My teenage brain simply found a link where none was intended.

Adventure 463 – Flash battles an Image-Eater, Deadman gains a body, the JSA bury Batman, Aquaman defeats the evil farmers and Wonder Woman takes on Queen Bee

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Adventure 463 (June 1979) opens with a Flash story that is only remarkable in the way it ignores the major events taking place in his own book at this time.

Cary Bates, Don Heck and Joe Giella tell a story that has the Flash returning from a visit with Jay Garrick on Earth-2, and stumbling across an ancient spirit, the Urtumi, that feeds on the after-images he leaves behind while running.

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I never understood how Don Heck got so much work in comics.  I don’t believe there was ever a single panel he drew that I liked.

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Conversely, I don’t think there was ever a single panel Jose Luis Gacia-Lopez drew that I didn’t love.  With Frank Chiaramonte on inks, and Len Wein in the driver’s seat, the Deadman storyline that opened his run in Adventure comes to a powerful conclusion.

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Despite Kronsky’s unstable nature, Deadman still holds out hope that his helmet will create a new body for him, and he tries a variety of ways to access it.

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Finally, he inhabits Inga, and almost succeeds at his goal, but the body explodes.  The helmet will only work for Kronsky, and only almost worked for Inga because of their genetic similarity.

Ultimately, Kronsky sacrifices the helmet, which is driving him insane, to be able to stay with his family.

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Paul Levitz and Joe Staton bring the death of Batman storyline to a conclusion, as Dr Fate leads the team in hunting down the man responsible, Frederic Vaux, a patsy of darker forces.

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Vaux used the powers he was given to convince Jensen that Wayne had framed him, and gave him the power to destroy him.  Why did the mysterious dark forces choose to operate in such a roundabout way?  That’s never addressed, and this final chapter is not really very fulfilling in terms of the villains.

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Vuax casts a spell to remove the memories of everyone on Earth, part of the larger plan to enslave him.  After his defeat by Dr Fate, as the spell begins to wear off, Fate makes sure that the exact circumstances of Bruce Wayne’s death are not remembered, restoring his secret identity, as well as those of Helena and Dick Grayson.

All in all, the death of Batman storyline is far better in terms of what it achieved, than in how it achieved it.

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Aquaman’s battle with United Food Products over their farming of the sea beds near Atlantis concludes this issue, by Paul Kupperberg, Don Heck and Joe Giella.

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Aquaman is opposed by the Atlanteans, Vulko, Mera and even Aqualad, whom he gets into a fight with, but he pursues the UFP anyway, with Aqualad in hot pursuit.

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The leader proudly proclaims that the true plans were to destroy Atlantis, and please note the unusual garb of the sailor standing next to him in the first panel.  As I said, there is more to this storyline than it seems at first.

Aqualad overhears, and joins Aquaman as they destroy the UFP base.  Back in Atlantis, even Vulko finally concedes that the UFP were dangerous.  But their plans are far from over…

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Wonder Woman is seen at work for the only time during her run in Adventure, as astronaut in training Diana Prince, in this story by Gerry Conway, with art by Joe Staton and Frank McLauglin.

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She is sealed in a sensory deprivation test, which saves her when a swarm of deadly bees attack NASA.  She uses her lasso to round up the bees, saving her co-workers, and then follows them back to their giant lair.

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She discovers JLA villain Zazzala, the Queen Bee, an alien conqueror.  Though she bests Queen Bee in combat, she is forced to release her when Zazzala reveals that the scientists stung by the bees had their minds drained as the result, and the honetcomb contains their combined mental faculties, which only Zazzala can return to them.

Queen Bee last appeared facing the Justice League three years earlier in their own book.  The story concludes next issue.

Adventure 462 – Batman dies, Flash stalks his wife, Deadman has trouble with in-laws, Wonder Woman vs Sargon the Sorceror and Aquaman battles corporate farms

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The Justice Society may not have had a long run in Adventure Comics, but as the cover to issue 462 (April 1979) makes clear, some of it’s most important stories occurred during it.  Paul Levitz and Joe Staton kill off Batman in a not-so-great, but certainly memorable, tale.

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Picking up from where the last issue left off, Dr Fate attempts to get Bruce Wayne to safety, and the rest of the team revive long enough to battle, and fall, to Bill Jensen again.

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But there is no avoiding where this story is going.  Bruce dons his Batman garb one final time to face down Jensen, and both die in a cataclysmic explosion.

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The funeral scene is the best part of the story, with grieving Helena persuading Dick not to take over the role of Batman.  Bruce’s identity has been exposed to the world in his death, and theirs have been compromised as well.  But it’s left to Dr Fate to point out that the story has climaxed,but not ended.  Who or what was behind Jensen’s attack?

The story concludes next issue.

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The Flash’s marital troubles had taken centre stage in his own book, and spill over in this story by Cary Bates, with dreadful art by Don Heck and Joe Giella.

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Barry Allen gets so jealous when he discovers Iris is meeting another man that he spies on her by vibrating invisibly and following her.  It turns out the “other man” is simply an old friend, a scientist who has been working on a device to access the astral plane.

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Flash follows her there as well, which is not such a bad thing, as he rescues her from an astral demon.  And though they do communicate their feelings for each other in the astral realm, Iris has no memory of it and is simply angered and humiliated when she finds that Barry has been stalking her.

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Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Dick Giordano take over the art on Len Wein’s Deadman saga with this issue.

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It turns out that Kronsky has been developing a helmet that would give thoughts physical form, and no one is more thrilled to hear this than Boston Brand, as it would mean he could get his own body again.  Cleveland would also likely be excited, if he knew his brother kept hitching a ride in his body.

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Solomon and his goons have come to the circus as well, in pursuit of Kronsky and the helmet, and Garica-Lopez does some great work with the battle between the mobsters and the circus folk.

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But it was the horrifying final page that really stuck in my mind as a kid, as Kronsky retrieves the helmet he had hidden with Inga, and uses it to murder Solomon and his men.  Turns out Kronsky might not be such a victim after all.

The story concludes next issue.

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The Ruby of Life, which gave Sargon the Sorceror his powers, has come into the possession of Queen Hippolyta in the Wonder Woman story in this issue, by Jack C Harris and Jack Abel.

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Sargon, originally a hero in the 1940s, had returned as a villain in the 60s, but his last appearance, in a Justice League story in the early 70s, had seen him back on the side of the angels.  In this story he convinces a young couple sailing near Paradise Island to land and steal the gem back for him.

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It turns out he needs them to do this because he is actually imprisoned within the stone, and is merely sending an image to the couple.  Wonder Woman shatters the gem, freeing Sargon and releasing him from the spell of the jewel.  But as he has the stone again a few years down the road, it is clear that the magical gem cannot be so easily destroyed, nor can its possession of Sargon end.

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I may not have cared for Don Newton’s art on Aquaman, but at least it was better than Don Heck, who takes over with this issue, as Paul Kupperberg continues his story of evil farmers bringing doom to Atlantis.

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Even with evidence of the environmental destruction the UFP are causing, Vulko remains completely unconcerned, convinced that they will find some solution in time.  Corporate greed versus the environment, been going on for a long time.

The story concludes next issue.

Adventure 461 – Barry Allen framed for murder, Deadman finds the bad guys, Aquaman takes a stand against farming, Wonder Woman teams with Wonder Girl, and the Justice Society of America begins

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The number of series in Adventure 461 (Feb 79) drops from six to five, though with no drop in pages.  Rather, the Justice Society is given a double length series as they move from their own comic, cancelled as part of the DC Implosion.

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The Flash gets an entertaining and off-beat tale by Cary Bates, with art by Irv Novick and Frank McLaughlin.  Barry and Iris are travelling by car, and stop at a gas station.  A hunter comes out, drops his gun, and Barry picks it up and shoots the man dead.

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Iris cannot figure out what is going on, and upon visiting Barry in prison, discovers that he has no idea either.  The gun shot itself, and when he raced to stop the bullets, he discovered there were none, the man had squibs planted in his coat that exploded.

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Sticking around to try to figure out the situation, Barry is set up by another faked death, and then meant to be killed escaping.  But of course he uses his super-speed to avoid that fate, and manages to find the supposed victim and clear his name of the crime.  It was all an attempt to frame and kill an outsider, while allowing a wanted criminal (the hunter) to fake his own death.

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In this instalment of the Deadman story, Len Wein and Jim Aparo slow down a bit, recapping past events as Deadman tries to figure out what is going on.  He figures out that the man behind the fire and attempted murder was Solomon, a wealthy industrialist, and tracks him down, learning that the other man who escaped, Kronsky, was being held by him to extract information.

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Inga reveals more of her past to Cleveland, that her father was a prominent scientist who disappeared a few years before she escaped from Russia.

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So all in all it’s really no surprise when Kronsky shows up at the circus, and we discover he is Inga’s father.

But at least the story has taken a clear form before its climax.

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The Justice Society begin their run in Adventure with a three-page introduction, of the team itself, as well as Earth-2. Paul Levitz and Joe Staton then give  play to Power Girl, trying to prove herself to the dismissive older heroes, Green Lantern, Flash and Wildcat.

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Robin shows up at the headquarters, where he reveals that he has known Helena was really the Huntress all along, even if Bruce never figured out what his daughter was up to.

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Then the action gets going as a powerful madman, Bill Jensen, takes over some twin towers and demands that Bruce Wayne, the current Police Commissioner of Gotham City, be turned over to him for vengeance.  Jensen quickly takes down Power Girl, Flash, Green Lantern, Huntress and Robin before Wayne arrives.

He blames Wayne for framing him for a murder he didn’t commit, and his attempt to kill Bruce is only thwarted by the power of Dr. Fate.

The story continues next issue.

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This beginning chapter to a new Aquaman storyline is a less than impressive start, although the story will improve as it goes on.  Paul Kupperberg and Don Newton have Aquaman discover that a company, Universal Food Products, has begun extensive farming of the lands around Atlantis.

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Aquaman distrusts the company immediately, and Vulko’s defense of them certainly calls into question his abilities as king.  Aqualad joins Aquaman as he seeks out information on land from the company headquarters, and discovers that UFP’s real plan is the destruction of Atlantis.

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Wonder Woman gets an extremely rare team-up with Wonder Girl in this story by Jack C Harris and Jack Abel.  Wonder Girl had been introduced as a member of the Teen Titans, an a backstory involving Wonder Woman was ascribed to her (and flashbacked to in this story), but in truth she had never been a sidekick in Wonder Woman’s comic.

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Wonder Woman finds her at a special school, while tracking down some Amazon-costumed thieves.  Donna refuses to accept any connection between the school and Diana’s case, but Diana sticks around and discovers that the head of the school is really the old, lame, JLA villain Headmaster Mind.  He has conned the girls into believing they are drawing powers from Wonder Girl as she sleeps.  The Wonder women simply turn the tables on him, convincing the girls that they have stopped the fake device from working, their powers in reality just came from their belief in the machine.

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It’s not a bad story in concept, though not great in execution.

Wonder Girl had last appeared in a Flash Super-Spectacular, and next appeared in an issue of Brave and the Bold later in the year, both times as part of the Teen Titans.

Headmaster Mind had not appeared since battling the JLA in the late 60s, and as he made no further appearances, it seems he really did die in the explosion at the end of this story.

 

Adventure 448 – Aquaman vs Karshon

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Paul Levitz and Jim Aparo bring the Karshon storyline to a strong conclusion in Adventure 448 (Dec 76), with a surprising revelation about the villain, which has nonetheless been visually hinted at constantly.

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Black Manta captures Aquaman for Karshon, and gets paid off with a map to the city of the “lost tribes,” which will play a role when Manta returns a few issues down the road.

Aquaman is thrown into a prison with Vulko, and we learn that Karshon has told the people of Atlantis that Vulko died.  Kind of a dumb move keeping him alive after that.  Just begging for trouble.

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And sure enough, Aqualad, Aquagirl, and their friend Mupo (who has not been seen since the end of Aquaman’s comic, and never appears again), break Vulko out of prison.  Karshon’s lies are revealed to the Atlanteans, and he and Aquaman go head to head.

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With his deceptions exposed, Karshon drops his human form, and reveals himself to be the Shark, an old foe of Green Lantern.  Never saw that coming as a kid (partly because I had never heard of the Shark).  And though there are no obvious clues to it, Karshon did have a shark emblem on his outfit, and was always seen with one on the animals.  But that largely seemed symbolic of his character, rather than a clue to his identity.  The Shark had last appeared in Action Comics, fighting Superman.

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Aquaman defeats the Shark in a vicious battle, luring him to nuclear waste, which transforms him back into his animal form.  A bit of a guess on Aquaman’s part that that would succeed.  Nuclear waste transformed the Shark originally into his mutated form, and could just as easily have mutated him further, rather than “curing” him.

In the end, Vulko is placed on the throne, to Aquaman’s approval.

The Shark next appears a couple years down the road, in Adventure Comics once again.

There is also a brief scene with a man apparently claiming that Aqualad is his son, though that is intentionally misleading.  This storyline will continue over the next few months.

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