A Tribute to the of

Kanjar Ro, Spaceman X, Amos Fortune, the Maestro, Dr. Light, Felix Faust, The Key, Dr. Destiny, Brain Storm and more. The Justice League of America really had their hands full with a big collection of baddies during those first 50 issues, but with the possible exception of the alliances they faced with the JSA in the crossover books, it tended to be a single rogue. That changed with issue #43 from March of 1966 when we first meet The Royal Flush Gang. Ace, King, Queen, Jack and Ten take on the League in "The Card Crimes of the Royal Flush Gang!" written by Gardner Fox. Cover art is by Mike Sekowsky with Murphy Anderson on inks and Ira Schnapp taking care of the lettering detail. Interior art is again by Sekowsky with Bernie Sachs on inks and the aptly named Joe Letterese doing the lettering. Julie Schwartz is editing.

And speaking of changes, before I forget, I thought I'd note that this was the first JLA issue to sport the new (and in my opinion boring) Justice League logo on the cover, sans the familiar shield and the addition of the Go-Go checks.

Things begin with the Jack of Clubs perpetrating a bank heist in Midway City, home to Hawkman and Hawkgirl. When the police arrive to apprehend the perp, Jack deploys a 3 of clubs, which is apparently the card for sorrow. It has the desired effect, making the officers so melancholy they cannot continue their pursuit, but of course Carter and Shiera Hall in their Thanagarian garb arrive to try to mete out some justice. Jack fires a 7 of spades this time, which is the card of disagreement and Hawkman and Hawkgirl are soon bickering and Jack makes good his escape.

Meanwhile in the Flash's home base of Central City the King of Clubs is helping himself to some art in a gallery when the Fastest Man Alive arrives only to be met with a handful of "diamonds" that cause our hero to experience a vertigo effect followed quickly by a distorted view that makes everything look like a kaleidoscope or a cubist painting. His attempts to nab King result in collisions with solid objects in the gallery while the malefactor gleefully departs.

Elsewhere the game plays out again with Wonder Woman modeling a diamond studded cloak for charity that has caught the eye of the Queen of Clubs. She snatches away the garment and flips a 2 of spades at the Amazon. She explains that in fortune-telling circles this card represents removal or loss. It begins to enlarge and our heroine manages to split it in half, but even the half envelops her, taking away half her powers in the process. Queen then plays a trump card, using the 9 of diamonds, the travel card, to compel Wonder Woman to activate her signal device, calling an emergency meeting of the JLA.

At the concealed HQ of the Justice League, Superman, Batman, Snapper Carr, Wonder Woman, Flash and Hawkman assemble and it's apparent that the three heroes who encountered members of the gang are still under the influence of their card "tricks." Superman observes that if they didn't try to take him on, no kryptonite or magic can be involved. Part I closes at they try to work out a strategy.

Part II begins with a meeting of all five members of the Royal Flush Gang with Ace describing how they'll defeat the gathered members of the League.

Ace then thinks back to how it all began, when he, an avid card player, had studied gambling and stumbled across the notion that a force surrounds cards and luck, hence their use by fortune tellers. Furthermore, there is an astrological influence, so Ace has isolated this force that he has dubbed "stellaration" and created a device to concentrate the star force onto playing cards and use them to influence others.

The flashback continues as he recalls leading a gang of youths in thefts and years later, with his new discovery in hand, he rounds up the old gang and proposes using the stellaration treated cards and the guise of the Royal Flush Gang in Clubs, which indicate bad fortune for their foes, to begin a new and lucrative crime career.

Encouraged by their success with Hawkman, Flash and Wonder Woman, they tap into the police bands to challenge the League to try to stop them at their next job at the Plateau City Bank.

Next, the JLA meets the challenge and even Flash, despite his vision constraints, participates with some super-speed whirlwinds to shake up the Gang. Batman plows into Ace, seemingly unfazed by the 4 of diamonds used against him while Wonder Woman fares poorly against Queen who uses the sickness card, the 9 of spades on her.

Hawkman is being double-teamed by Jack and Ten while Superman is preparing a massive handcuff from a steel girder to round up the gang. Before he can use it, though, Batman intervenes with a flying kick to the Man of Steel, simultaneously knocking him into the Flash. Batman quickly explains he's under the influence of the card of betrayal, the 4 of diamonds that Ace used. He then trips Superman into Hawkman, taking out a second member of the team. Superman sees no alternative but to give Batman a tiny blow to put him out of commission as well, leaving only Krypton's last son to deal with the Royal Flush Gang. Ace, however, uses the Ace of Spades on Superman, knowing it has received stellaration from a red sun. As the weakened hero collapses, a triumphant Ace cries, "I have won! I have gained my long sought-for revenge over the Justice League! They can never threaten me again!" Part II closes on that ominous note.

The third and final chapter has our heroes heading back to HQ in defeat and despair. Snapper cannot believe what he is witnessing and turns his ire to Hawkman, demanding to know why the belligerent hero with the aid of his Absorbascon cannot deduce the problem. Hawkman calls on the knowledge he has from the device and correctly works out the stellaration angle. Snapper continues to goad Hawkman into duplicating the stellaration and treating him with it. Once Hawkman does so, Snapper touches the Winged Wonder and his gamble pays off. He is able to use the stellaration in his body to counteract that of the Royal Flush Gang. In turn, Carr does the same for the other members.

Energized, they are ready to take on the Royal Flush Gang again, with Snapper as their "Joker," complete with a court jester's uniform.

Upon arrival, Ace throws the 4 of hearts, which triggers jealousy, but Snapper swiftly goes into action to reverse the effects. Then a 6 of hearts falls from a hidden portal equipped with kryptonite gas, but Hawkman is able to blow it away with wing power.

The battle continues in earnest as the Royal Flush Gang hurl flaming spade pips and a diamond pips chandelier at the League, but they successfully repel each attack. It comes down to a final showdown with Ace linking hands with his partners in crime to do a concentrated burst of stellaration, but before they can do any damage, Snapper is flung by Batman and Wonder Woman into them and his negating touch puts the gang down for the count.

The final twist in the story? The unmasked Ace is revealed to be Professor Amos Fortune in his third altercation with the Justice League of America, with Julie Schwartz reminding us that he tried and failed to overcome our heroes in JLA #6 and #14.

I have one and only one complaint with this issue. Even I was having a hard time suspending my disbelieve when Batman tripped up Superman, not once but twice. Other than that, this was classic Silver Age JLA fare. How can you not love it? 9 points on the 10-point rating scale for a great adventure and a new/old set of foes.

Believe it or not, dear readers, this marks year 12 of this feature and it continues to be a very good time. Thanks as always for joining us for the ride and public gratitude to the webmaster for continuing to let me have a voice here.

Keep on joining us for more Silver Age goodness. Another review and hopefully another interview (yes, I'm sorry to say they seem to be getting a little more scarce, but what can you do? They don't make new Silver and Bronze Age creators any longer) will be here in about two weeks and while you wait, let me know what's on your mind. You probably know the address by now: professor_the@hotmail.com .

See you then and…

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2012 by B.D.S.

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