Gas Crisis on Earth-One

Showcase Presents Justice League of America Volume 5, written by Mike Friedrich, Len Wein, Robert Kanigher, Denny O’Neil and Gardner F. Fox, illustrated by Dick Dillin, Mike Sekowsky, Neal Adams, Nick Cardy, Joe Giella and Dick Giordano (1971-73; collected 2011): The so-called Bronze Age adventures of DC’s premier superteam continue here, as DC attempts to ‘Marvelize’ their big characters that include Superman, Batman, Green Lantern and the Flash by giving them personal lives, self doubt, and the occasional acid flashback. OK, I made that last one up.

Friedrich, a very young gun at this point, sometimes goes off the rails into total loopiness, most notably in a story starring “jaded TV writer Harlequin Ellis,” a thinly veiled homage to writer Harlan Ellison that includes Friedrich addressing the reader at the end. The cosmic adventures go down pretty smoothly, with the JLA facing big guns like Starbreaker the Cosmic Vampire and The Nebular Man and the somewhat overpowered Shaggy Man and Solomon Grundy. Solid pro Len Wein takes over the writing chores with issue 100, and things get a lot more cohesive and less loopy.

Of note here are new members Phantom Stranger, Elongated Man and Red Tornado, along with Friedrich’s answer to a Marvel Avengers story by Roy Thomas that pitted the Marvel heroes against thinly veiled versions of DC’s JLA. For all the occasional craziness, this is still enjoyable superhero storytelling in which plotting had precedence over decompressed longeurs and fanboy sexuality. Of interest is the fact that this covers the period in which DC had decreased the superpowers of Wonder Woman, Superman and Green Lantern in their own books. The move didn’t increase sales, and so these three would soon be back to their previous overwhelming mightiness.

Another nod to Marvel seems to be the revamped Red Tornado — like Marvel’s The Vision, he’s a superpowered, red-faced android looking for friendship and love and, for some reason probably born of nostalgia, my favourite B-list DC hero. He can generate massive tornadoes! How awesome is that! Recommended.

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