Wednesday, October 31, 2018

023. Life and Anti-Life, a tale of two equations (Return of the New Gods 18)

Al Milgrom is back yet again for this issue, but even more impressive is it has the full creative team that almost feels like the regular team by now: Gerry Conway, Don Newton and Dan Adkins. Of course, this is the penultimate issue...

The book opens with Jezebelle, Orion and Forager as they run away from the exploding Happy Land.

Once they've reached a safe distance, they hold together their Mother Boxes and reach out to see the distress on New Genesis. The ranting Highfather comes into view, and the three young gods know the future of their people is in grave danger. As Orion puts it, "This is not mere catastrophe. It is disaster unparalleled!"

Yet the heroes know they can do nothing by rushing off to their planet. Darkseid has cut the Source off from New Genesis with but a sixth of the Anti-Life Equation. They must protect their charges before he gets more. (Apparently, Orion has already forgotten they have General Torch.)

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

022. Not your grandma's messiah! (Mister Miracle 24)

While his interior work is still only on Detective Comics at this point in his career, Marshall Rogers delivers one of his best pieces of art for the cover of this issue, complete with the title: "Double-Bind!" Seriously, click on the picture above and bask in its glory.

The interiors of this issue are once again by writer Steve Gerber and penciler Michael Golden, joined this time around by the legendary Russ Heath on inks. A cosmic setting seems a weird choice for Heath, a man known best for his work on westerns and war comics, but his inks only seem to strengthen the young Golden's art.

The book opens with Oberon screaming bloody murder as he's in the hands of two Apokoliptan soldiers, dressed in the kind of crazy armor Golden would make a staple of Micronauts. Yet in a flash of lightning behind them all, Mister Miracle has returned to reality from his detour on (with?) Ethos.

He makes short work of Oberon's captors, but "Darkseid's Photon Patrol" shows up and starts blasting at the heroes with lasers. Instead of leaping into action, Scott Free bends down and examines the ants native to the land. He can hear their screeches of outrage, especially when he amplifies them to the point the sounds turns agonizing to the Photon Patrol. Oberon inquires how Scott was able to commit such a feat. Mister Miracle explains that he now possesses the abilities of Mother Box, after joining with her several issues back. This honestly is a godsend to any fan trying to figure out Scott's powers since he first gained them as this is the first time anyone tried to explain exactly what they are.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

021. The not-so-strange origin of Lightray! (DC Special Series 10)

Turns out before we resume our regular focus on Orion, Mister Miracle and the ongoing machinations of Darkseid, we have another detour in the road. DC Special Series was a weird book that basically allowed DC to periodically release special series to newsstands. The tenth installment features the "Secret Origins of the Super-Heroes" and if you can't guess it from the cover, one of those heroes is Lightray. And, hey, unlike their appearances in First Issue Special and Super-Team Family, the New Gods arrival here didn't bring the book to an end.

The combination is weird, but Jose draws the heck out of it.
The Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez (praise be his name) cover features Lightray sharing the stage with his fellow super-stars Doctor Fate and Black Canary, but that's the only interaction he will have with this book's other stars. But his origin tale would feature a familiar team to those who have followed along with me: writer Gerry Conway and penciler Don Newton take time out of their regular Return of the New Gods duty for this one, joined by Frank Chiaramonte on inks.

The combination of Newton and Chiaramonte is a bit of a foreboding one. Frank passed away at just under forty years of age in 1983 due to cancer. Don Newton would pass away, also aged forty, just a year later after a massive heart attack. Despite that note, the two men worked very well together, as Frank brought a classical ink line to Don's pages.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

020. Dark memories and darker plots! (Return of the New Gods 17)

This and all art in this article owned by DC Comics.
From the cover of this issue of Return of the New Gods, it seems clear from hindsight that this is an important moment in the history of the Fourth World. Why? The evocative cover art featuring Darkseid and Granny Goodness in powerful positions was drawn by none other than Jim Starlin. In fact this is some of his earliest DC comic art, so it seems quite clear someone at the company knew his relationship to cosmic villains.

Inside we find the regular dynamic duo of Gerry Conway and Don Newton, with Dan Adkins back on inks. We pick up right were last issue left off as Orion and Jezebelle have found themselves in a trap. Orion rages, but Jezebelle tells him to cool his anger and fly to his charge. But before either can escape, they are both blasted from the sky by a hidden laser weapon.

Switch to Darkseid as we finally see the title for this issue: "The Memory Machine." The lord of Apokolips gloats at his success while Titan reminds him of his own role in the capture. But it's Desaad that gets the final words on the page as he makes his first appearance in this era of the Fourth World. It seems crazy post-Super Powers, but the character was never as important as he became in the cartoon. But if there's a torture device to be used, Conway knew just the New God to operate it.

Yet Torch is just as stubborn against Darkseid and his minions as he was against Orion. He refuses to give up the secrets of his mind. After Torch falls unconscious, Desaad reminds his master of their capture of Orion and Jezebelle. He receives permission to enter their minds with the same device! And, of course, as Darkseid leaves Desaad is already thinking of ways he can steal the Anti-Life Equation for himself.

We switch back to Highfather and Lucifar on New Genesis while they talk about the difference between peace and weakness. The exchange seems like page filler, or just a way to keep both characters involved in this issue.

Elsewhere, Forager's own Mother Box pings. He rushes away from his protection of Dr. Bradford to find and rescue Orion!

In Happyland, robots move the unconscious heroes into another Memory Machine. The beams shoot into each's mind, probing their past.

First, we see Orion's darkest memory of the day his father exchanged him with Highfather. Then, we delve into the past of the mysterious Jezebelle.

We travel back to the training academy of Granny Goodness, where a young Jezebelle begs her to not make her fire her eye beams at her would-be friends. But like her those friends are trained to kill and they all come at her with blades. She has no choice but to cut them each down with her fiery eyes, much to Granny's pleasure.

Jezebelle was an adorable little killing machine.
Flash forward some years and she is on the front lines of the renewed battle between New Genesis and Apokolips. She hesitates to use her powers, even though she knows her fate if she fails will be death. Her indecision allows a warrior of New Genesis to strike her down with his lance.

Darkseid watches from afar as New Genesis prepares to send Lonar's body into the Source. He believes his control over the sixth of the Anti-Life Equation he holds will give him the ability to disrupt the transfer.

On Earth, Forager arrives at Happyland. He makes short work of a demonic guard, still drawn as an actual demon instead of a Parademon, much to this writer's frustration. From there, he finds his fallen comrades with ease. He destroys the computer that controls the robot and quickly rouses the two heroes. But before they can go far, their Mother Boxes all ping with desperation and terror.

Back on New Genesis, Highfather stands in front of the tablet that connects them to the Source. The surface now stands dark. Highfather screams out their fate: "the day of doom is nigh at hand!"

Way to rally the troops and not cause a panic there, Izaya. 
Conway and Newton finally give a bit of background to Jezebelle, the character they created for this run. While it is nothing out of the ordinary (and much akin to the origin of Big Barda), it seems important in her role in this series, where she seems to get the second most attention of any New God behind Orion. Sadly this run would also pretty much be it for her as a character, as no subsequent writers or artists will use her with any regularity.

Darkseid's use of a fraction of the Anti-Life Equation seems designed to start the end game for this storyline early, wisely as this era of New Gods nears its close. Conway's tale is a bit rough in places and rushed in others. Newton's art also seems to have been produced a bit too quickly with a few of his pages paling in comparison to his previous work on the series. Yet this issue also seems set to build on the drama, the impending endgame between both sides of the never-ending war!

In the next issue we're promised the secrets of the Source, the end of Darkseid's quest for the Anti-Life Equation in a story titled "Breach the Mystic Barrier or Die!" But before we see that, we've got another special heading our way. But you'll see that one next time around!

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

019. A titan, a hunter and the return of the mighty Don Newton! (Return of the New Gods 16)

This and all images in this post are owned by DC Comics.
Al Milgrom returns to covers as we find our way back to Return of the New Gods. As before, his work pales in comparison to that of interior artist Don Newton, once again showing the head scratching mindset of DC production in the seventies. Newton is joined this month by regular writer Gerry Conway and legendary inker Joe Rubinstein.

The issue opens with a funeral procession. Last issue ended with the death of Lonar and he is being honored here. Orion expresses his rage as the funeral finishes and Lonar disappears into the ether of (I assume) the Source. As the proceedings end, Orion's Mother Box pings to warn him of trouble on Earth. He races off back to the Strategic Air Command base his charge resides in. A green-skinned being attacks the base.