Monday, July 21, 2014

Society Dame: Justice Society of America #5


Justice Society of America #5 is written by Len Strazewski with pencils by Mike Parobeck, inks by Rick Burchett, and a cover by Tom Lyle featuring Black Canary and Solomon Grundy.  The series is edited by Brian Augustyn along with Mike Gold, who edited Black Canary's miniseries, her ongoing series, and her first arc in Action Comics Weekly.  The issue is cover dated August 1991 and hit the shelves in June.

"Vengeance from the Stars Chapter 5: Double Star Rising" begins with the fastest man alive, Jay Garrick, alias The Flash, rapidly assembling an energy detecting geiger counter out of spare parts.  He grabs the device and rushes across the American military base to where Hawkman is being treated for injuries sustained last issue.  The base doctor suspects Hawkman has a concussion, but Hawkman refuses any further treatment now that Flash is there and ready to roll.

A boyish-looking enlisted soldier tells Hawkman that a Native American named William Wildeagle is outside waiting for him.  Wildeagle is the friend of Hawkman's archaeologist alter-ego, Carter Hall.  When Hawkman and Flash greet him outside the base hospital, Wildeagle makes it clear that he knows who his friend is, mask or not.

The three of them head off running and flying to New Mexico, which happens to be home to the Mt. Pride Observatory, where Ted Knight works.

Knight isn't in very good shape right now, though, as he's been tortured and enslaved by Vandal Savage.  The immortal evil-doer has taken over the Observatory and reconstructed the outer facade to look more like a pyramid; the observatory now siphons every type of energy to fuel the Cosmic Rod he stole from the former Starman, Ted Knight.

Savage reminds his hostage, Ted, that soon he will be joined by his old Justice Society colleagues, Green Lantern and Black Canary.  But when the phone rings, Savage learns that The Flash and Hawkman are still alive and coming for him.

Meanwhile, somewhere between here and there, Hawkman realizes maybe he should have let the doctor do a more thorough examination.

Flash tells the others they're close to Mt. Pride and Hawkman wonders if the crazy star monsters are connected to Ted Knight's work.  With some amount of dread, Flash suspects there is, indeed, a connection.  He gives the geiger counter to William Wildeagle and asks the man to catch up on foot while he and Hawkman approach the observatory, which now seems to be glowing.

When they approach, the sky is lit up by the female energy monster that Hawkman squared off against last issue.  The giant is standing around the scaffold of the pyramidal observatory, feeding energy into or from the structure.  Flash and Hawkman concoct a plan to trip the monster into the scaffolding, hoping it will ground her and shut off the power.

They run and fly around her until she contacts the scaffold, but it doesn't draw energy from her.  It juices her up.  Also, the dog monster that Flash fought in the first issue returns, and then changes back into the giant humanoid with a club, so now each of the Justice Society members has an energy giant with which to contend.

Hawkman is nearly battered by one of the giants; his reflexes and fighting ability are still a bit shaky from the concussion.  Flash manages to trip one monster into the other in an attempt to get his friend to safety, but when he tells Hawkman to leave, they notice that physical contact between the giants caused a power disruption.

Hawkman reasons that the monsters' weakness is each other and the heroes spring back into action to stop the beasts.  This time, with a plan.

The energy giants collapse into each other and dissipate.  Inside the observatory, Vandal Savage snarls a curse at this setback.  He grabs Ted Knight's Cosmic Rod and propels himself through the skylight.  Ted is only too glad to be rid of Savage, and begins working on something as soon as his captor is out of sight.

Outside, Vandal Savage makes his presence known to Hawkman and The Flash and takes them out of the fight just as quickly with the energy of the Cosmic Rod.  As he gloats over the stunned heroes, however, a gunshot rings out over the desert and a rifle slug knocks the rod out of Savage's hand.  William Wildeagle comes down the path holding a rifle trained on Vandal Savage, telling the villain to surrender.

Wildeagle doesn't realize, though, that Vandal Savage's monstrous servant has returned.

The first four issues of this series were pretty good, but man this one was so much better.  A lot of that credit can be attributed to Mike Parobeck, whose art was so classy and distinguished that it still saddens me that the man died so early in his comics career.  He made solid gold of books like Elongated Man and Batman Adventures, and I know he would have been very successful today if he'd survived.

Staying on the art for a minute: Hawkman is one of my all-time favorite heroes, but I have never, ever liked this version with the Mexican wrestler-looking luchador mask.  Hawkman's helmet is one of my favorite pieces of art design, so it sucks to see him reduced to such a commonplace cowl.  That said, this is probably the best it has ever been rendered because Mike Parobeck just rocks the design in every way.

What else makes this issue stand out is that finally, finally our heroes have someone to talk to besides themselves and endangered bystanders.  Sure, Hawkman and Flash can be solo acts, but this series is called Justice Society of America; let's see the team work together already!  And they do--really, really well!  I also think it's fun that Strazewski put these two heroes together for the first team-up given that they co-headlined Flash Comics in the 1940s.

Come back Thursday for the next chapter of Justice Society of America...

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