Friday, September 5, 2014

Black Canary in Crisis on Infinite Earths Part 2: JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA ANNUAL #3

Black Canary left the Justice League of America roughly one year before the Crisis on Infinite Earths universe-altering series when Aquaman took over the team and ushered in the era known as Justice League Detroit.  She and Green Arrow teamed up with Green Lanterns John Stewart and Katma Tui at the beginning of the Crisis event before coming back to the JLA for the series' annual in 1985.

Justice League of America Annual #3: "Force of Nature" was written by Dan Mishkin with pencils by Rick Hoburg, inks by Mike Gustovich, and a cover by Paris Cullins and Mike Machlan.

The story begins with the android Red Tornado alone on the Justice League Satellite.  The satellite is badly damaged and plummeting toward the Earth while inside Red Tornado tries to hold the structure together.  Reddy also questions his humanity, but his existential crisis is interrupted by the satellite exploding.  Pieces of the satellite shower Earth in flames as the debris catches fire on reentry.

Below, Green Arrow and Black Canary have been rescued by Firestorm and ride a--a balloon in the shape of a puppy?  Really, Ronnie?!

In Detroit, Martian Manhunter watches the bulk of the satellite wreckage crashing toward the city's Renaissance Center.  J'Onn grabs Steel and Vibe just as Firestorm arrives with Dinah and Ollie.  Firestorm uses his atomic restructuring power to divert some of the debris, while Black Canary, Green Arrow, Steel and Vibe deal with the bits of fiery detritus that Firestorm misses.

But the largest chunk of the satellite, the command center, is still barreling down on the heart of Detroit.  J'Onn J'Onzz risks his life by throwing himself against the fireball.  Despite fire being his greatest weakness, his superior Martian strength is able to knock the satellite debris some ways from downtown.  Firestorm uses his powers to push the wreckage clear of the city and into the water of one of the Great Lakes.

In the aftermath, the Justice League members past and present begin to bicker amongst themselves with Green Arrow and Vibe about to throw down.  Firestorm separates them and calls their attention to the missing Red Tornado who was still on the satellite.  J'Onn, too, tries to settle the heated tempers and scans for Reddy.

The scene changes to New York City where Kathy Sutton, Red Tornado's boo, comes home from  the grocery store to find Reddy's face haunting her television screen beckoning her to join him.

Across the country, Ralph Dibny, the World Famous Elongated Man, and Zatanna Zatara, Mistress of Magic arrive at S.T.A.R. Labs to investigate a series of freak storms and unnatural weather problems across the globe.  Ralph surmises the influx of anti-matter energy is responsible for the storms, but a scientist confesses that S.T.A.R. Labs has been deploying experimental weather control satellites--weather control satellites that they're no longer able to control.

Elongated Man and Zatanna help the scientists try to override the weather satellites operations but fail to stop the satellites before the lab's control center is destroyed by malfunctioning equipment and another storm caused by a space warp opening up directly above the two heroes.

Back in Detroit, J'Onn brings Black Canary, Green Arrow and the rest of the League members to their current headquarters.  Ollie and Vibe continue to snap at each other.  Then some doctor comes out and describes the fate of Red Tornado.

Firestorm reveals to the others that Red Tornado's body was inhabited by the spirit of the Tornado Champion, but their discussion in cut off by Elongated Man's distress call.  The League watch on the monitor as Elongated Man and Zatanna are caught up in the storm and sucked into the space warp.

Meanwhile, Kathy Sutton follows Red Tornado's trail through hijacked electronic messages.

Then the Detroit heroes save some people trapped at a hydroelectric plant.  Black Canary, meanwhile, goes to Gotham City with Green Arrow and Firestorm.  They're flying into the city when Ollie spots Kathy Sutton standing on top of a bridge in the middle of the storm.  Kathy is rescued by Geo-Force and brought to Batman and Black Lightning.

Kathy is telling Batman and the Outsiders about following Red Tornado's summons when Dinah and the others land and tell them Reddy is dead.  Then Superman arrives and is unable to travel through the space-warp.  They reason that the rogue weather-control satellites are preventing the heroes from going through the warp, and J'Onn has been unable to destroy the satellites in space.  Superman flies up to help the Martian.

Geo-Force uses his positive gravity power to try and collapse the warp, but it doesn't work.  Instead, it pulls the jet nearly crushing the heroes.

Geo's powers create a crazy kind of backlash effect that sends Black Canary, Green Arrow, Firestorm and Kathy Sutton into the space warp.  Batman and the Outsiders cannot follow, because screw the Outsiders!

In space, Superman and J'Onn destroy one of the weather satellites, while the malevolent spirit controlling voices his rededication to his plan, whatever that might be.

At the hydroelectric dam, one space warp opens dumping Ralph and Zatanna on the Detroit Leaguers.  Another warp opens up dropping Dinah and the others.  Vibe acts like a dick, which is Ollie's thing, so Green Arrow smacks Vibe, calling him a punk.

Zatanna notices that the weather has changed, that something is affecting the wind and air pressure specifically.  In space, Superman and Martian Manhunter destroy the last of the satellites which plays right into the hands of the Tornado Champion that has been causing all of the storms.

The gathered heroes watch as the giant tornado takes a familiar form: Red Tornado.  The tornado spirit explains how Red Tornado's android self was able to interface with the electronic satellites in orbit, and the Champion's spirit overrode their programming making them go bad.

Superman and Firestorm recognize that Reddy had been taken over by the persona of the Tornado Tyrant, who now wants to remake the world in his skewed version of perfection.  While the heroes engage the Tyrant in battle, we cut back to Detroit where Sue Dibny witnesses a whirling wind steal away the broken android body of Red Tornado.

The Justice Leaguers fight Tornado Tyrant but they're not accomplishing much.  Kathy Sutton thinks there is still a semblance of her lover's soul inside the storm and runs away from Green Arrow.  The whirlwind picks her up, and in the eye of the storm Kathy confronts Red Tornado, but his soul isn't the gentle man she loved.  He's crazy and wants her to join him in his quest to conquer the world.

She's able to calm him enough that he lets his guard down.

Superman, Martian Manhunter, Vibe and Firestorm try to contain the Tornado Tyrant but he busts free and rants against them.  Then, like a bratty little kid, he flies off threatening to get them back someday.

I think I would have enjoyed this story if I cared at all about Red Tornado and his history but I really, really don't.  I don't care much about the new Justice Leaguers from Detroit, either.  J'Onn and Firestorm got some cool moments to shine in this story, but Black Canary, Green Arrow, Elongated Man and Zatanna were little more than bystanders for most of the action.

Despite the end-of-the-world style natural disasters and potential for mass destruction that would make Michael Bay squee with delight, the story feels a little too small for a 41-page annual.  Part of that is Hoburg's artwork which never really elevates the dynamic scenes, but part of it, too, is Mishkin's story which is really too straight-and-narrow for a comic of this length.


  1. Yet another Pinocchio story for Reddy, we seemed to be getting them every six months back then, with the Kurt Busiek mini-series being the best. I always liked the visual, but the character - can I even use the term? - was a real bore. He was never better than as a shut-down statue in Primal Force. Dinah should've blasted him to self-pitying nothingness.

  2. I agree, except she should have done it back in the '60s or '70s. Then if the League needed a new member to fill his void--which they didn't--they could have swooped up someone like Metamorpho or Black Lightning and spared Batman and the Outsiders.