Friday, July 29, 2016

Breach of Faith! (DC)
Legends #2 When: December 1986
Why: John Ostrander & Len Wein How: John Byrne

The Story So Far...
From distant planet Apokolips, the New God Darkseid and his minion Desaad curse the heroes of the world known as Earth. Their designs for destruction have been thwarted one too many times by the meddlesome mortals. Thus, they plan Operation: Humiliation to destroy them in body, mind and spirit!

Born from a techno-seed planted in a nuclear reactor, Brimstone is a burning goliath on the frontlines of the attack! He decries the heroes as false gods with a gospel of Darkseid, declaring himself a fallen angel to cleanse the sinners. His march of destruction laying waste to New York, Firestorm and Cosmic Boy!

Fortunately for Firestorm, he knows a team of heroes who can help him even the odds against the towering inferno! Thus, the Justice League of America enters the fray to try to stop the monster before he burns the town!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Brimstone 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Elongated Man 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Steel 5 (Super-Human)
Stamina: Brimstone 7 (Unstoppable)
Agility: Martian Manhunter 7 (Unlimited)
Fighting: Gypsy 4 (Training)
Energy: Firestorm 6 (Mass Destruction)

The Justice League of America are: Martian Manhunter, Elongated Man, Vibe, Vixen, Steel and Gypsy, with Firestorm and Cosmic Boy.

You may know this JLA arrangement by reputation as the short-lived, infamous Detroit era team. They're an eclectic mix of classic membership, cast-offs, and unusual new characters. They're held together by the leadership of Martian Manhunter, who inherited the role from Aquaman after he stepped down.

They've been summoned to today's feature fight by Firestorm, who we saw hit a big flaming wall when he took on Brimstone just an issue earlier, in Legends #1! They gather around time displaced hero of the 30th century, Cosmic Boy, who also tried to put a stop to Brimstone's warpath in the last issue. Just who is this walking, talking towering inferno that's giving everybody so much trouble?

Brimstone is a weapon on the front line of Darkseid's Operation: Humiliation - designed to defeat and discredit the mightiest mortals of Earth! He was born from a techno-seed in the heart of a nuclear reactor, exploding in size to stand equal to the skyscrapers of New York City. He is sentient plasma, commanding super-human strength, intense heat, and flame manipulation.

For a team whose primary heavy hitter is the Martian Manhunter -- a giant flaming monster is a definite cause for concern! Even at his most valiant, the Superman scale powerhouse is all but eliminated from offensive consideration by his fire weakness. We saw burning church curtains freeze him in his tracks in DC: The New Frontier #2, a contrast to his disguised participation in an early fight with Doomsday [Superman #74]!

Elongated Man, Vixen, and Gypsy are also pretty much out of their depth. It would take an inventive combination strategy to make use of their individual powers of elongation, animal mimicry, and projections.

Steel (Henry Heywood III) -- not to be confused with armored hero John Henry Irons -- may be able to withstand Brimstone's heat, and exert enough physical strength to move the beast. Likewise, the sonic shockwaves projected by Vibe could effect some physical motion. Combined with the nuclear powers of Firestorm and magnetic field manipulation of Cosmic Boy - they have a good shot to attack Brimstone. Can they possibly beat him, though? That's what we're about to find out!

The Math: Martian Manhunter Ranking: Martian Manhunter (#29)

What Went Down...
Abandoned vehicles litter an empty Manhattan street. Standing over these tokens of human insignificance - the burning giant: Brimstone! He cries out the manifesto of a fallen angel - a false prophet sent by Darkseid to "cleanse" the world of sinners, graven idols and false gods. Lies to discredit Earth's heroes!

Incensed by the burning behemoth's challenge, the Martian Manhunter leaps into the air to meet it head-on! Ordinarily his natural gifts of strength and power would afford him a rash attack, but his actions are without thought! Elongated Man desperately tries to warn him - Brimstone is his very weakness personified!

The warning reaches Martian Manhunter just in time. He pulls back from his airborne attack at the last minute! A near miss for a man vulnerable to fire!

Vibe steps up to take advantage of the long range application of his "vibratory powers". He sends a powerful shockwave directly at the feet of the giant!

The blast knocks the giant off balance! He tumbles backward into the buildings surrounding -- making Vibe the first man to knock Brimstone off his feet!

Undeterred, the creature spews his villainous gospel. Forging a sword of pure flaming plasma, he lashes out at a nearby skyscraper!

The demolished building becomes a curtain of debris descending upon the assembled Justice League. Martian Manhunter goes on the offensive, to use his phenomenal strength to smash through the threat and defend his team.

Cosmic Boy begins to affect a magnetic field of some kind. Firestorm tries to mount a defense, as well. It's all for naught. There's simply too much building!

The skyscraper tumbles down directly upon the League. Burying them alive!

The Hammer...
Another battle, another victory for the blazing behemoth: Brimstone! Can anyone hope to stop his self-righteous rampage? Another grouping will make an attempt when we venture into the dirty deeds of the Suicide Squad - next week!

The curbed villainy of the Squad's should provide smooth transition from the month of July. By virtue of coincidence, it's been the bad guys winning all month in our featured fights. The theme of DC's past Rebirths has meant revisiting stories dedicated to breaking down heroes in order to rebuild them. In the case of Legends, we see here the effective deconstruction of the Detroit era Justice League. Not quite the last hurrah, but the transition.

Things would actually get much worse for this JLA in their final starring issues of Justice League of America. An attack by Professor Ivo's androids whittles the Detroit League to its final standing members: Martian Manhunter & Vixen. They fight, in particular, to avenge the death of Steel. Their loyalties are then divided.

As Legends and "Operation: Humiliation" unfolds over six issues, a new Justice League will begin to form itself - the iconic "Justice League International". Not before Amanda Waller will assemble her first collection of leashed villains and rogues as Task Force X, aka; The Suicide Squad. That's where Vixen finds herself, while the Martian continues on as the soul of the JLA. A position sorely lacking from first impressions of the cinematic Justice League.

These ties between the fledgling DC cinematic universe of 2016, and the post-Crisis "Rebirth" seen in Legends are interesting to compare and contrast.

In design and detail, the movies based on DC Comics have seemed eagre to run from their comic book sources. Even as the boldest and brightest of the culture rises to the top, Hollywood's reluctance to fully embrace four-colour superheroes has snaked its way throughout.

Marvel can be given more credit for turning red and gold armor into superhero chic, but even they've been guilty of shying away from their own colour and imagination. DC have just had a knack for going much further, turning their heroes into detestable funhouse mirror reflections of classic characters. A path they carried into print in the dour New 52 -- a line-wide shift to suit the comics to their adaptations. A creative cultural downward spiral.

The Legends mini-series isn't really strong enough to escape the shadow of the comics it spawned. The slapstick superhero fusion of the Justice League launched by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire is iconic to this day. The shadowy inter-personal drama and intrigue of John Ostrander's Suicide Squad -- inarguably responsible for launching and defining a phenomenon. Even so, the foundation of world building and arrangement Legends provides is in many ways a perfect road map for today's franchised cinematic landscape.

Unique, independently constructed visions of each film property is an appealing conceptual difference for DC, even if its returned severe disappointment, so far. An intricate tapestry isn't what we need more of -- but some Legends-like planning might have helped. Rather than perpetuating the ink stain of Man of Steel, Dawn of Justice might've been better served laying the groundwork for both the Justice League and the Suicide Squad. A very different film, with an end goal to pit the two teams against each other, rather than the rumored stepping stone of Steppenwulf before a presumed New Gods offensive.

We haven't actually explored much of the Legends mini-series at all, but for an example of how it builds to the two super-teams, you might like to flash back to another featured fight from Legends #1: Flash vs Deadshot. The early skirmish puts Deadshot in incarceration, to be recruited later on for the Suicide Squad. A sequence of introduction and construction the movies could've benefitted from.

Of course, I'm assuming that Legends wasn't an inspiration behind DC's initial films. The similarities found, more likely a presumed happy accident massaged by convergent evolution. Multi-picture franchises are just a fact of the box office thanks to the esteemed competition. The studio: ripe with old, stalled projects to benefit from the new world order. Justice League is an old goal that almost happened in the mid-2000s under George Miller and a plot inspired by Infinite Crisis (and Project OMAC). Suicide Squad: a mutation of rumored pitches like David Goyer's Supermax - a movie about Green Arrow imprisoned with villains.

I'm sure we'll be talking a lot more about these topics in August. Stay tuned for Friday Night Fights, and the inevitable walk through Hero of the Week.

In the mean time, we say hello to the Detroit Justice League for the first time on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths -- and good bye, as they face disbanding after the events of the featured issue!

If you'd like to get ahead of the game and see the story in its full context, you can check out the collected edition via Amazon purchase link provided! You can also rummage through the back issues of past features in the Issue Index Archive to uncover more! Both go a little way to helping keep the site going!

Winner: Brimstone
#92 (+197) Brimstone
#30 (-1) Martian Manhunter
#291 (-174) Elongated Man
#341 (-11) Vixen
#793 (new) Vibe
#794 (new) Cosmic Boy
#795 (new) Gypsy
#796 (new) Steel (Henry Heywood III)
#806 (-14) Firestorm

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