A Tribute to the of

I've been struggling a little with this review.  Once again, it's not due to any lack of material.  Nothing could be farther.  I think sometimes I just get a little overwhelmed with choices.  That's not a bad thing, mind you, but let me try to give you an example.  The last time you were at Wal-Mart to buy, say, shampoo, did you notice how many bloody choices there were?  I'm not trying to say I've got shelves and shelves of Silver Age classics, but I do have plenty at my disposal, thanks mainly to the webmaster, and every so often I hit one of those patches where nothing jumps right out at me.  The muse isn't particularly inspired, if you will.  Just the same, I'm not going to sit around and wait for lightning to strike, so I'll put to good use the handful I generally keep at the ready with stories I like or that have come to mind for one reason or another.  In this particular case I'm again spotlighting a classic villain, one who actually showed up originally in the Golden Age.  He was a member in good standing of the old Injustice Society of America and he holds the distinction, along with a couple of other stalwart villains, of being a return solo nemesis on the Justice League animated series.  He's known as Vandal Savage and he takes on the Flash of both Earth One and Earth Two in "Vengeance of the Immortal Villain!", from Flash #137, June of 1963. John Broome writes the story with artwork courtesy of Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella. The editor is the recently departed, but not soon forgotten, Julius Schwartz.

Things begin in Washington, D.C. of all places where some odd, glittering lights illuminate the evening skies.  Upon their appearance, all engines, electricity and even flashlights fail within a 10-mile radius.  This has apparently happened over 5 other cities within the week as well.  It isn't long until we join Iris West and Barry Allen, who are pondering the strange situation.  Iris comments that Gotham City and Calvin City have both been blacked out, along with three others.  Barry mentions that the cities ring a bell, but he's not certain why.  He walks Iris home and then heads for his own apartment when he makes the connection.  Pulling a map of the Earth from a cabinet, Barry's thoughts reveal that this is a map unlike any other; a map of Jay (Flash) Garrick's earth, Earth Two.  Sure enough, his theory is correct.  The cities where the sky-lights are appearing correspond with cities on the other Earth where the members of the old Justice Society of America live.  The Atom, from Calvin City; Wonder Woman in Washington, D.C. and Green Lantern, in Gotham City.  Allen then pulls out a copy of All Star Comics #37, from October/November of 1947 with a cover featuring the Injustice Society of the World carving up a map of the United States while the JSA, chained to the walls behind them, looks on helplessly.  Since I have a reproduction of that cover at my disposal, I'll rattle off the roll call, just for fun:  On the JSA side of the house are Green Lantern, Hawkman, Dr. Mid-Nite, Johnny Thunder, The Atom, Flash and Wonder Woman.  The members of the Injustice Society include The Gambler, The Brain Wave, Vandal Savage, The Wizard, Degaton and The Thinker.  Barry then reminisces about the heroes he read about as a boy, much like he did in Showcase #4 when we were first introduced to Barry Allen.  You've got to admire a man who still enjoys his old DC superhero comic books.  ;-)  Barry decides there must be more than coincidence to all this and decides to investigate as the Fastest Man Alive.

Soon, the Scarlet Speedster is headed to the Central City Community Center, the site where he had previously entered the world of Jay (Flash) Garrick.  His reasoning is that the occurrences on Earth One often mirror those of Earth Two.  It isn't long before Barry is knocking at the door of 5252 78 Street, Keystone City.  Joan Garrick invites him in and they wait for Jay to return from a case.

Jay arrives and the discussion begins.  As the Flashes of two worlds compare notes, they discover, as Barry suspected, that identical phenomena have been occurring on Jay's world and at each of the 6 locations, which he's just scouted, his Justice Society teammates have disappeared.  Garrick suggests that the next target could be his own Keystone City.  His words prove prophetic as they soon observe the same eerie sky-lights outside the window.  Both Crimson Comets take to the streets to try and find the source of the lights.  Jay soon discovers an object on the outskirts of the city that looks for the entire world like a large satellite dish beaming the lights.  Unfortunately before he can move to deactivate it, another nearby machine does its work by sealing him in a transparent cube that soon begins to float away. 

As we flip the page, Barry arrives on the scene, but he can't quite get a hold of the cube.  He attempts a circular downdraft, but that fails as well.  Soon he's racing up the side of a building to try and catch the encased Flash as he goes ever higher and farther away, seemingly drawn by an invisible force.  Barry finally leaps from the top of a building, landing on the cube.  He then kneels down and begins to execute some super speed chops with his hand, resulting in a shattered cube.  Unfortunately the action also took away their ability to defy gravity and the duo, one concerned and one unconscious, begin to plunge to the Earth, ending Part I.

Part II brings us the resourceful Barry with Jay slung over his shoulder, rapidly rotating his right arm, creating an updraft, which allows them to safely land back on terra firma.  Allen recalls that he used the technique when he took on the Black Cat of Paris, which the editor notes was in Showcase #13's "Around the World in 80 Minutes!", March-April 1958.  A groggy Garrick is soon coming to and Barry tells him to take it easy until they can go back to the sky-light machine and make another attempt to deactivate it.

A change of scenery now takes us to a location many miles to the south in a scientifically equipped hideout under mammoth caves.  A voice wonders aloud where the final cube with the Flash inside could be.  Inside we see a figure in a command chair of sorts with two rows of identical cubes on either side, each holding a member of the Justice Society of America.  Doctor Mid-Nite, Wonder Woman and Hawkman on the left, with The Atom, Johnny Thunder and Green Lantern on the right.  Sound familiar? We soon see Vandal Savage as he continues his explanatory dialogue, bringing the reader up to speed:  "So far everything's gone just right!  It was easy to capture the first six Justice Society members.  I knew the terrible menace of the sky-lights I created would bring them out of retirement!  As they were about to touch the machines, they unwittingly tripped an electric eye beam that encased them in a cube invented by one of my old Injustice Society pals, Brain Wave!  No one could have escaped from inside it!  Sixteen years ago you Justice Society members captured the Injustice Society and put us away in prison!  But what are sixteen years to a man like me—who is immortal!  Now—sixteen years later—I have escaped jail and have begun to avenge my defeat at your hands!  Green Lantern and his power ring were helpless once the cube closed in on him!  Johnny Thunder couldn't speak the words cei-u, which would activate his fantastic thunderbolt!  Atom's "atomic punch" was of no avail against my cube-prison!  Doctor Mid-Nite couldn't reach his blackout bomb in time to help him!  Hawkman's anti-gravity "ninth metal" failed!  And the Amazon powers of Wonder Woman are encased forever in the cube from which there is no escape!"

At the turn of the page, our writer introduces us to the origin and history of this sinister villain.  His story begins 50,000 years prior, where Vandar Adg was chief of a band of Cro-Magnon cave dwellers.  One day a fireball came down from the heavens and exploded over his head.  When he later awoke in his cave, he had become immortal.  He saw his fellow Cro-Magnons die out, lived to walk the streets of Sumer as it's king; later was known as the Egyptian Pharaoh Cheops, builder of the pyramids; and later still as Genghis Khan.  Later he became a force behind the scenes as advisor to Napoleon and Bismarck.  Now he seeks domination of the world and the first step is to eliminate the only body that can defeat him, the Justice Society of America. 

Vandal Savage decides to seek out the Flash and capture him personally.  Aboard his futuristic aircraft, he soon heads for the sky-light engine near Keystone City.  As he'd suspected, the Flash has arrived.  A beam soon bathes the Fastest Man Alive and causes him to begin sinking into the earth.  Savage thinks to himself that the beam, invented by another of his Injustice Society members, The Thinker, will cause the Flash to sink to the very core of the Earth.  To his surprise, however, another scarlet streak arrives on the scene to render aid.  Quickly reversing the controls, Savage bathes this Flash in a different beam causing the opposite effect.  Barry soon begins to float away.  Vandal throws a cable rope around him before he goes much further, though and then duplicates the effort with Jay.  After anchoring the lines to his ship, he heads back for his hideout, triumphantly towing two Flash's for his gallery of captured heroes.  End of Part II.

Part III begins with two seemingly helpless heroes in tow, one floating above the ship, and the other being dragged through the ground.  Both Flash's have an inspiration, though and begin to vibrate their respective lines, causing Vandal Savage to lose control of his craft and crash it into the ground.  The Immortal Villain is thrown clear and beats a hasty retreat back to his hideout while Barry and Jay manipulate the controls in his ship to restore them to normal.  Jay recognized Savage and tells Barry that he knows where to find their nemesis.

Savage, meanwhile, has arrived at the Mammoth Caves hideout in Kentucky via a personal flight device and pulls another invention by yet another Injustice Society member, Degaton, which he has improved upon.  Rather than paralyzing an individual's will, it can now control their will.  Vandal sets the trap and when the Scarlet Speedsters arrive, he causes them to fight one another so that only one of them can lay claim to capturing the Immortal Villain.  Soon a fierce, super speed battle ensues, with stalactites vibrated loose from the ceiling, then sent as projectiles with furiously whirling limbs.  Vortexes, super speed spins and more rapid air manipulation continue until Jay, older and not in prime shape any longer, succumbs to exhaustion.  Barry begins to speed off and Savage emerges from hiding to place Jay back into a cube.  He notes that Barry is vibrating into a state of invisibility and he gloats that he's prepared for that contingency with a clever trap. 

The invisible Flash is now hurtling toward Vandal who stands ready to spring a trap in the scientific hideout below.  Before landing a super speed punch to the criminal, however, Barry hesitates and moves to one side.  He tosses a stone at Vandal Savage and a hidden beam creates a cube trap where he had been standing while the false figure of Savage explodes.

Soon, the real villain arrives, alerted by the explosion and he's pleased to have captured the invisible Flash, the last trophy for his gallery.  In the next fateful moment, however, Savage is surrounded by the entire JSA along with Barry Allen.  The incredulous villain demands to know how his perfect duplicate was discovered and Allen explains that he noted at the last second that the false image of Savage had expanded irises in his eyes, probably from the dimmed lights when the power drain took his image.  In the brighter light, they should have contracted and this tipped off the quick eyes and quicker reflexes of the Flash.  He then freed Jay and the two proceeded to release the other members of the Justice Society.  The Fastest Men Alive escort Savage to prison while the remaining JSA members deactivate the machines that make the cube-prisons so that they can deactivate the sky-light engines.  It is then that Wonder Woman suggests that they come out of retirement and meet every so often to ensure this sort of menace doesn't happen again.  The other members quickly agree and after the sky-light machines are all safely deactivated, Barry vibrates back to his own Earth.  That wraps up this adventure.             

This story had quite a bit to offer.  There are numerous notes in the Overstreet guide that summarize some of the things that make it particularly unique:  "Golden Age Flash crossover; JSA Cameo (first Silver Age appearance) (first real appearance since All-Star Comics #57, 2-3/1951); first Silver Age appearance of Vandal Savage and Johnny Thunder; JSA team decides to re-form."  That's a whole lot to pack into one story, but still, it wasn't quite as satisfying as the original and seminal crossover story in Flash #123, September 1961.  John Broome is a respectable writer, but when you go up against the great Gardner Fox, even if only hypothetically, particularly with characters of his creation, you're going to come up short.  I did find it interesting that he wisely avoided the confusion that I inevitably deal with on these Earth One and Earth Two crossovers.  Not once did he mention them by number.  It was just "This is the Earth of my good friend Jay…Any possible hope of stopping those sky-lights makes this trip to that "other" Earth of Jay Garrick…I'm sure to cross over the spatial helix linking my Earth with that of Jay Garrick…" Of course once Barry arrived on that "other" Earth, there was no particular need to mention his Earth.  Pretty clever.  I also noted that the caging of the JSA somewhat resembled their incarceration at the hands of other Earth Two villains allied with criminals from Earth One, along with their JLA counterparts, was somewhat similar in the Crisis on Earth One and Crisis on Earth Two crossover in Justice League of America #21 and #22, available in the archives here at the Silver Lantern.    

So, in my noble tradition, it's time for the rating of this story.  While not quite a classic, it was pretty close, very well done and I give it a 9.  Do take the opportunity to check it out on your own if you get the chance.  You won't be sorry.   

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