Friday, January 30, 2009

All Together Now (DC)
Secret Origins #32 When: November 1988
Why: Keith Giffen & Peter David How: Eric Shanower

The Story So Far...
On the distant planet of Appellax, the Kalar has been assassinated! Seven Appellaxians claim responsibility for the murder, seeking to succeed their beloved leader by the law of warring tradition. In order to reveal the true Kalar among them, a competition is devised, a trial by combat!

Rather than risk devestation to the Appellaxian people, Earth is selected as the arena of their gladiatorial quest. Transported inside strange meteors; the seven warriors take synthetic form, their false bodies possessing unique powers to aid them in a quest across the globe to defeat their rivals. Such a task may prove more difficult than anticipated, however, as their violence tempts the unanticipated interference of Earth's newest wave of champions!

With five of the seven warriors already defeated, the individual heroes responsible converge on Florida upon reports of another meteor landing in the everglades. There, the group face an opponent unlike any of the others!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Martian Manhunter 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Flash 5 (Professor)
Speed: Flash 7 (Lightspeed)
Stamina: Green Lantern 6 (Generator)
Agility: Black Canary 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: Black Canary 4 (Trained)
Energy Power: Green Lantern 7 (Cosmic)

- The Justice League are: Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, Black Canary, Green Lantern, & Flash.

Born of necessity; the Justice League represent a coordinated effort by the world's finest heroes to protect and serve in the many iterations of their regional representation, and on a global scale. Boasting some of the planet's most powerful humans and extra-terrestrials, the League is equipped to combat any threat that should overwhelm the individual efforts of their member, or conventional defenses of the world's nations.

The League is classically defined by the core membership of it's founding members, affectionately referred to as the big seven. Overseen by stalwarts, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, they are; Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman and Martian Manhunter. Several of these members would come to be succeeded by others baring their name, Wally West and Kyle Rayner, while many other heroes would come to be prominently listed with the group; Hawkman, Atom, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Zatanna, Elongated Man, Firestorm, Captain Marvel, Red Tornado, Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Fire, Ice, and others.

- Wood King is a member of the gladiatorial race of the planet Appellax.
Upon the death of their leader, the Kalar, Wood King was among seven Appellaxians who claimed credit for the murder. In an effort to settle the dispute at a minimal cost to the planet Appellax, each warrior was granted a synthetic vessel empowered, with unique abilities, to combat each other on distant Earth.

Wood King, as his name suggests, beheld a body made of wood.
Like some of his counterparts, he possessed the ability to transform other humanoids into wooden minions under his control. This ability served him well during a confrontation with a pre-Justice League collective.

History: Prior to their encounter with the Wood King, each of the eventual Justice League were to defeat their own Appellaxian opponent. The following match-ups include five key encounters, as well as an additional battle fought in Antarctica by a lone Superman. In this version of the Justice League origin, the group does not approach him, and consequently does not petition his membership.

Martian Manhunter battled Stone God
Aquaman battled Mercury Monster
Black Canary battled Glass Man
Green Lantern battled Golden Roc
Flash battled Fire Giant
Elsewhere, Superman faced the Crystal Creature

Math: Justice League Ranking: Green Lantern (#28)

What Went Down...
One by one the heroes funnel in to the everglades, each falling victim to the same strange trap! With no alien warrior in sight, only the eerie glow of a partially submerged meteor greets them, it's proximity beginning a transformation that roots each champion to the ground -- literally!

Trapped inside a wooden facade, the heroes stand helpless as human-trees!
The strange meteor splits in two with an explosive crack, finally revealing the creature responsible: the Appellaxian dubbed, Wood King!

With the wills of the Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, Flash, Black Canary, and Aquaman under his control, the Wood King begins a slow march toward his final opposition - the Crystal Creature - whose landing has brought him to Antarctica!

Recognising the potential power of the Green Lantern, it is Aquaman who begins the vital chain reaction in a plot to escape. Summoning an unlikely resistance to the Wood King's control, Aquaman shifts his weight just enough to bump into the wooden visage of the Martian Manhunter!

The knock is enough to clumsily steer the Martian toward the Green Lantern, inspiring in him the same plan as his fellow. With an effort of his own, his branch-like hand does enough to crack the shell encasing Hal Jordan's ring!

With his will supressed by the Wood King, the inexperienced Green Lantern, Hal Jordan, proves unable to escape his predicament single handedly. Instead, he summons what little effort he can, firing a beam with the intention of freeing the hero at closest poximity, the Black Canary. Unable to resist Wood King's for long, he is only able to expose her head, but in the case of the Canary, it is enough!

With the Wood King sensing resistance from his slaves, the Black Canary takes her fleeting opportunity, directing the sonic waves of her "canary cry" to offer Flash the nudge necessary to allow him to vibrate his molecules enough to escape the transformation process!

Wood King attempts to use his strange powers to once again entrap the Flash in his own body, but without the element of surprise, he cannot overcome the speedster's unique ability to control the movements of his own molecules!

Moving at super-speeds, the Flash converts his hands into human buzzsaws!
He makes light work of the synthetic wooden form that houses the spirit of this Appellaxian warrior, freeing the other heroes in the process!

The Hammer...
With the entire team contributing vital assists, it is the Flash who secures victory for they who would become the Justice League!

For those who came in late -- this concludes our abbreviated tour through the characters who finished 2008 at the top of our seasonal ranks. The Infinite Wars uses superhero fights to steer us through the review process, giving us the unique opportunity to make a gestured attempt at tracking the battling success of the heroes and villains of the major superhero publishers. Longtime readers will know this, but I recognise that sometimes it wouldn't hurt to recap for those just joining us.

While I was tempted to conclude the month with the Final Crisis: Reqiuem special, (highlighting the Martian Manhunter), it did occur to me that I've owed this week's entry for quite some time. If you're curious about the previous instalments of this version of the Justice League origin, you'll find all of the individual battles, as well as Superman's brief appearance, in The Tape section.

As is so often the case on our strange little blogsite, curious resonances emerge from this week's deviation. While avoiding a slightly more topical review, we inadvertently find ourselves inducting Barry Allen into the first 2009 Top Five. The Silver Age Flash, of course, will be the subject of DC's upcoming mini-series, Flash: Rebirth, which follows on from his apparent "return" in Final Crisis.

With our annual January tradition out of the way, Final Crisis will be a subject sure to emerge prominently in the next few months of Infinite Wars.
Among the February features stemming from the much-discussed series will be our thoughts on a potential post-FC reinvention of the Justice League franchise -- another approriate connection to this week's review!

While I'm inclined to be very critical of misconceptions about the complexity of DC comics, I do have to acknowledge, there are hiccups to navigate when exploring the historical development of major brands. The Justice League are certainly no exception, as evidenced by this, the 1988 Secret Origin, which had the duty of redefining history after the deconstruction of Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Recent history has seen something more reminiscent of the original origin reinstated. Replacing Black Canary in the original line-up is Wonder Woman, while both Batman and Superman; colloquially the World's Finest; can claim responsibility for thwarting the Crystal Creature, thus inducting DC's trinity into the founding formation of their leading super-team. Likewise, it restores the famed legend of the Justice League "big seven."

Top 25 Justice Alumnists
#1 Batman (1960)
#2 Superman (1960)
#3 Wonder Woman (1960)
#4 Flash (1989)
#5 Steel (1998)
#6 Green Arrow (1961)
#7 Hawkman (1964)
#8 Hawkgirl (1977)
#9 Green Lantern (1960)
#10 Green Lantern (2003)
#11 M. Manhunter (1960)
#12 Black Canary (1969)
#13 Flash (1960)
#14 Aquaman (1960)
#15 Zatanna (1978)
#16 The Demon (2002)
#17 Green Lanter (1987)
#18 Firestorm (2006)
#19 Black Lightning (2007)
#20 Red Arrow (2007)
#21 Green Lantern (1996)
#22 Atom (1962)
#23 Dr. Fate (1987)
#24 Red Tornado (1973)
#25 Atom Smasher (1994)
I'm sure, somewhere out there, someone shares a similar affection for the 1988 origin, to me. I do not think any of us could rightly criticize DC for their desire to maintain the influential presence of their three major icons. The modern era has consistently looked to Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, to define the parameters of the vast landscape. They are among the most enduring characters in comics, surviving the Golden Age in a transcendance that has ingrained them in modern history in ways the traditional JSA characters have missed.

That's not to say the JSA have been wronged by this new tradition, either. Through the shifting timescape, the Justice League become exactly what they were -- a deeply influenced byproduct of the JSA's history.

As described in modern versions of the origin, the Justice League derive their name from their predecessors.

The trinity, in leaving behind their Golden Age history, become tributes to it, reemerging as part of a sense of legacy that defines the DC universe.
Despite being part of an awkward crunch of history, it requires little imagination to suspend the cynical dissemination of un-reality, giving room for what eventually becomes beautifully poetic simplicity.

This sense of merging real-world function in the rolling development of superhero fiction, with it's in-fiction consequences, was an underlying feature of Final Crisis. That, however, is a subject to be discussed further in February!

The Fight: 4 The Issue: 5.5

Unfortunately, to the best of my knowledge, the restructured history of the Justice League has rendered this version of their origin moot, and out of print. Fortunately, the Infinite Wars Gift Shoppe contains collected editions of many great stories featuring the Justice League and it's members! There you'll find editions featuring most issues reviewed previously in the Infinite Wars, all of which will contribute to the site upon purchase. So next time you shop, stop by!

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