Monday, December 8, 2008

Justice League of America #110 - Apr. 1974

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The Phantom Stranger and the Justice League of America vs. the villainous Key!

Not only is this one of all-time favorite JLA stories, it's one of my favorite superhero comic stories, ever. It's "The Man Who Murdered Santa Claus!" by Len Wein, Dick Dillin, and Dick Giordano, with special thanks going out to "Green Lantern Fan Duffy Vohland."

We open with Superman and Batman arranging a special visit by Santa Claus to some local orphans. Santa picks up his bag of toys, enters the next room, when it explodes!

Here we're treated to one of the best JLA splash pages ever, which kicks the story off right just as any good splash page should
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...I can just hear the Dramatic Movie musical sting accompanying this image!

Anyway, a JLA distress signal goes out, and we get to see why some JLAers(like Flash, the Atom, Aquaman, and Elongated Man) can't make it. Hal Jordan tries to answer the call, but he falls while in the shower, banging his head on the sink.

The power ring wastes no time in finding a replacement Lantern, John Stewart, which carts him off to the JLA satellite.

Batman shows the clue left in Santa's hand, and it leads them to a series of rundown inner city buildings to find Santa's murderer. Here the JLA faces a series of death traps, which leads each of the JLAers in turn having to sacrifice themselves to save the rest--starting with Superman, who heaves himself into a mini-Red Sun, killing himself in the process!

Black Canary is the next to die, and it's here we see the bad guy behind all this, watching the JLA get picked off, one by one...the villainous Key!

Next Batman and Green Arrow go, leaving only Red Tornado and Green Lantern, who are then overcome by the Key's army of robots. The Key begins to revel in his success...understandable, since he's managed to kill half the Justice League!

Unfortunately, the Key's victory party is cut short, by the sudden appearance of all the JLAers, safe and sound, courtesy of...The Phantom Stranger!
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Turns out the Stranger went undercover as one of the Key's henchmen and helped each of the JLA only look like they were killed, so they could sneak up on the Key.

Before they can apprehend him, the Key sets off the "Doom-Bomb" implanted in his headquarters, and slips out a secret passageway. The JLA rounds up all the people living in the buildings, so they won't be killed in the explosion.

GL contains the explosion, but it still levels all the buildings. Fortunately, this GL thought ahead, and decided to give these lesser fortunate people an early Christmas gift:


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Once again, The Phantom Stranger takes off before his membership status can be defined to the JLA's satisfaction. The JLA later convenes on the satellite, where Black Canary gives Red Tornado a new uniform as a Christmas present.

This is such a sweet tale; I love Green Lantern's solution at the end of the story in how he finds a way to help these poor families yet stay within the "rules" of being a Green Lantern. Ingenious on Mr. Wein's part.

sgI first read this story not in the original comic, but in The Best of DC Blue Ribbon Digest #22, "Christmas With the Superheroes." I remember buying this book right off the stands in Dec. 1981 at the beloved Voorhees News & Tobacco Shop.

All the stories in it are pretty good, but when I saw a JLA story where it looked like they were getting knocked off, one by one, the sale was made.

Even though Wein had moved off his regular gig on The Phanton Stranger, he could still use him in Justice League; this is the Stranger's second appearance in the book, with many more to follow.
Italic

2 comments:

Earth 2 Chris said...

I first encountered this story through the same digest, and then again in the first "Christmas with the Super Heroes" special DC published in the late 80s. It wouldn't be Christmas for me without revisiting it!

Chris

matthew jones said...

A classic story, and I'll be reading it again this Xmas. I encountered it in the first Christmas With The Super Heroes special, and also own it in the Xmas issus of the great British title The Superheroes Monthly. If not for the Stranger, the JLA would have all bought the farm. He is a handy guy to have around. Poor old Santa Simpson, could have done with having him around too.

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