A Tribute to the of
It warms my heart. I've mentioned before that I've been pretty impressed overall with Cartoon Network's new Justice League series. They have not forgotten the roots of this classic team. I just finished watching a two part story about the League meeting the Justice Guild of America. The Guild seemed to be loosely based on the Justice Society of America, with such similar heroes as Catman (Batman), The Green Guardsman (Green Lantern), The Streak (The Flash) and others. Best of all at the end of Part II there was a simple statement: "This story is respectfully dedicated to the memory of Gardner F. Fox." Well done. Very well done.
Since Gardner Fox was indeed one of the architects of the Silver Age (and the Golden Age as well) and since the Justice League of America was a direct beneficiary of his talents and the League is the overwhelming favorite on the current Sage Poll, I've decided to review another JLA story for this edition of the Silver Age Sage. It's my pleasure to do so, too as their stories consistently satisfy. I've selected Justice League of America #3, from March of 1961. The story is by none other than Gardner Fox. Mike Sekowsky is in the artist's chair with Bernard Sachs on inks. Julius Schwartz is our editor par excellence. The story is titled "The Slave Ship of Space!" and our heroes encounter for the first time the nefarious Kanjar Ro of the planet Dhor.
The story opens rather mysteriously on page 2, with a golden mallet striking an oddly shaped bell which sends vibratory waves spreading out in all directions. We then join The Flash as he assists the Central City police in nabbing some escaping bank robbers. Before he can do so, however, he realizes that his JLA signal device has broken. He decides to go to the secret headquarters for a replacement, right after he swiftly removes the wheels from the getaway car of the crooks. Next up is Green Lantern, flying over Coast City which is in the throes of an earthquake. Just like his fellow Justice Leaguer, he notes that his signal apparatus has been broken. Producing some giant figures to stabilize the swaying skyscrapers, the Green Gladiator also makes a beeline for HQ. Now the Martian Manhunter has the same experience while he's in action moving a stalled fuel truck off some railroad tracks before the train can strike it. (You guessed it. The ol' Martian Super breath again.) Across the world the other members also lose their signal devices and to a person they go to their headquarters for replacements.
Gathered at the conference table, Green Lantern states the obvious: "It must be more than sheer coincidence to account for all our signaling devices breaking at the same time." In the next instant a tinkling sound is heard along with a strange voice. The members are soon paralyzed in place by the tiny bell and Kanjar Ro reveals himself. He reveals his name, point of origin and occupation of Delon, which is the equivalent of an Earth dictator. He also divulges that it was he who smashed their signal devices to draw them into this place. The purpose is to bring the Justice League into his plot to defeat his otherworldly rivals, Hyathis, Panala (Queen) of the planet Alstair; Kromm, Gronar (King) of the planet Mosteel and finally Sayyar, Jeffen (Emperor) of the Planet Llar (where dual consonants seem to be all the rage.) Kanjar Ro explains that he and the three aliens have long fought for dominance of their solar system, only to battle to a draw. He has decided to use the JLA to overcome his rivals once and for all. As the frozen members of the Justice League think that the pink-skinned alien is barking up the wrong tree, he responds that not only can he read their thoughts, but that he can make them do his bidding. Using another golden hammer against a gong, Kanjar Ro states that the vibrations are freezing people all over the world, just as the Justice League is experiencing. The other shoe drops when he reveals that the only way to free humanity is to get the combined voices of Kyathis, Kromm and Sayyar to speak the name of Kanjar Ro. The rogue spaceman then produces a small boat from his suit and proceeds to make it grow into a full sized vessel for the heroes to row through space as galley slaves. All that is except for Batman and Snapper Carr, who are to be left behind as bait for a trap laid for Superman, who is on a mission in space. A booby trap of Kryptonite gas is left for the Man of Steel as the five members of the Justice League are released from the paralyzing effects of the bell and are placed into the vessel, rowing on currents of cosmic energy while they are sustained by the strange rod in Kanjar Ro's possession, protecting them from airless space and even providing an occasional dousing of water for Aquaman. Chapter one comes to a close as they achieve hyper space status.
At the beginning of chapter II, the first hero is dispatched by Kanjar Ro. The rod is beamed at the forehead of J'onn J'onzz and the Aranna ray instantly makes him fluent in the language of the metal men who inhabit Mosteel. The Martian Manhunter then dives into the atmosphere to find Kromm. It turns out that Kromm owns a hyperspatial telescope and was expecting the Martian's arrival, so he has dispatched a rocket of sorts that leaves a smoke trail for the Manhunter to follow to Kromm's enclave. Before J'onn can reach it, though, he discovers the trap. Kromm has placed interceptor missiles in the smoke trail that are now attuned to the Martian Manhunter. Just to up the ante, they're also carrying an atomic payload. Calling upon his abilities, J'onn tries to escape them first by flying into the sea and then through a mountain. He then heads for the very edge of the atmosphere where he begins circling the planet at a high rate of speed. Finally the friction is taking it's toll and the missiles begin to burn up. Descending back to the planet's surface, J'onn is dismayed to discover that Kromm has created a literal firewall to keep him out (as depicted by the original black & white line art of Sekowsky & Sachs, rendered for page 10). Deciding to employ other methods, the Manhunter from Mars begins searching for some Lodestone using his Martian vision. When he fails to locate any, the resourceful hero concludes he will create some from Hematite and his transmutation skills. Soon he's fashioned a gigantic harpoon with a vine rope. Flinging it with his great might, he sends it crashing right through the wall of Kromm's citadel. The magnetic properties of the harpoon attract the iron body of the alien and J'onn reels him in, closing out Chapter II.
Chapter III brings the ship of Kanjar Ro to the planet Alstair. This time it's Aquaman and Wonder Woman who get the nod as they search for Hyathis the Flower-Woman Queen. The Amazon Princess heads for land to build a glider so she can search on land while the King of the Seven Seas enters the ocean to call upon the local sea life for the location of Hyathis. In the next moment, however, he discovers his quarry is right there with him, communicating telepathically and advising him that he's on a fool's errand. Using her power to control plan life (an alien Poison Ivy?) she swiftly entraps Aquaman in a giant anemone. He calls upon a manta to pull him free and he then continues his pursuit, but only until Hyathis commands an undersea rubber plant to snare him and hold his body captive just above the water. She taunts him by reminding him of his need to return to water each hour.
Meanwhile, Wonder Woman has successfully built her glider and is beginning her own search when some of the local flora begin to give her some grief. Her glider is forced to a crash landing by some fan-like trees that have been influenced by Hyathis. She lands in a deep valley where some flowers echo the voice of Hyathis saying she's beaten the Amazon. Quickly flinging her golden lasso onto a tree at the edge of one of the sheer rock walls, she begins to climb out only to be flung straight to where Hyathis has Aquaman held captive. Now Wonder Woman is caught as well, only she is being held under the surface of the water by another tendril from the rubber plant. Aquaman, desperate to help his teammate, summons a sawfish to try and cut through the tendril holding him. Hyathis turns to him and assures the Sea King that his efforts are in vain. The brief distraction, however, gives Wonder Woman the opening she needs. Swimming with all her famed Amazon strength, she pulls the tendril holding her to its limit until it finally snaps. She then bursts to the surface behind Hyathis and ensnares her in the golden lariat, finishing off Chapter III.
Chapter IV has the final deployment in the pairing of Green Lantern and The Flash on the planet Llar as they seek Sayyar. Kanjar Ro states that he'll be swinging by the other planets to check the status of the rest of the Justice League. One presumes he's putting the galley on auto pilot.
Upon reaching the surface, Flash begins a super speed search of the ground while GL flies through the air. It isn't long until trouble strikes right beneath Green Lantern's flight path. A volcanic eruption bursts forth, stunning the Emerald Warrior. Fortunately Flash is nearby and using his amazing speed, he runs up a "staircase" of falling rocks to catch his fellow Justice Leaguer and bring him to safety. Following a familiar pattern, the voice of Sayyar then informs the pair that they will fail to defeat him. Responding to the gauntlet that has been flung before them, the heroes disembark again. This time it's the Flash who falls victim to Sayyar's efforts as a tremendous crevasse opens beneath him and powerful gravitational forces pull him downward into the endless abyss. It's GL's opportunity to return the favor as a pair of power ring created pincers follow the Fastest Man Alive's descent, catching and pulling him up to the surface just before the walls snap shut again.
Sayyar isn't ready to give up yet and he then causes an entire piece of the planet's surface to explode upward into space with our heroes trapped on it. An unlucky addition to the dilemma are the swirling clouds of yellow sulfur dust, rending the power ring useless. Sensing one chance, the Flash begins a dizzying run, creating an updraft to remove the choking dust. Green Lantern is then free to create jet engines, driving the piece of the planet back to it's point of origin. He encases the Flash and himself in a force field bubble, protecting them from the shock waves that knock Sayyar into unconsciousness.
The fifth and final chapter brings the galley ship back to Llar to pick up Green Lantern, Flash and Sayyar. Kromm and Hyathis are manning the oars with J'onn J'onzz, Wonder Woman and Aquaman aboard as passengers.
Once Sayyar is aboard, Kanjar Ro waves his rod, rendering all three of his rivals mute. The Justice League members then demand that he reverse the muting so that they can speak his name, releasing the people of earth from their paralysis. Kanjar Ro proposes that he do so only in exchange for the promise that they won't try to fight him. In disgust, Green Lantern announces that his ring has lost its charge, so he can't intervene. The Flash reveals, however, that he recorded Sayyar speaking the name of Kanjar Ro on his wrist radio watch, which was first introduced in Showcase #13, "Around the World in 80 Minutes!" J'onn delightedly reports that he, also captured Kromm's voice on a wire recorder he fashioned. Wonder Woman joins in on the hat trick as well. Using one of the echo flowers, she has kept Hyathis' utterance as well. With that news, Aquaman relieves Kanjar Ro of his rod and he is added to the ranks of the rowers as they head for Earth. Prior to landing, J'onn J'onzz spots Superman at League headquarters, being held helpless by Kryptonite Gas. He flies to his aid, using that famed Martian breath to free the Man of Steel. Minutes later the recordings are played, releasing the people of Earth from their paralyzed state.
The final question is what to do with these super villains. Green Lantern offers that he has an idea, but that he must first re-charge his ring. Superman is soon seen hurling meteors together into a huge mass and launching the resulting planetoid into an orbit around Antares. GL then creates a rocket to bring the four aliens to the newly formed planet. On the surface, Green Lantern uses his power ring to create an atmosphere, land, water and plant life and of course a force shield to hinder any escape. Superman leaves them with the counsel to work together and reform and perhaps they will earn their release in the future. A worthy goal, Superman, but Kanjar Ro did return later, in Mystery in Space #75, to be exact, where he caused the Justice League and Adam Strange some more grief. That, however, is a tale for another time.
I do enjoy the Justice League and the more time I spend in their splendid stories, the more I appreciate them. At this rate, my long held loyalty to the Legion of Super Heroes may be in jeopardy as being the top dog team on my list of favorites. If you get a chance to read this story for yourself, by all means do so. It was a great story with some good twists and of course that legendary JLA teamwork, both collectively and in the small pairings that they always do so well. A solid 9 on the rating scale. As I said before, you can't go wrong with one of these.
The next Silver Age review will be posted right here in about two weeks, so make it a point to come by and check it out. Don't forget to let me know what's on your mind, too, with comments, questions or requests. I'm always available at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for joining me.
Long live the Silver Age!
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