A Tribute to the of

Recently I caught my first episode of Justice League Unlimited, which is basically the new season of Justice League, but with some new twists.  What I saw looked promising and I was tickled pink to see a glimpse of many old favorite characters, some in possibly their first animated debut to include Zatanna, The Creeper, Johnny Thunder and his Thunderbolt, The Elongated Man, The Atom and many others.  The series seems to just keep improving and I look forward to catching as many episodes as possible.  This particular show featured the latest animated version of Oliver Queen, alias the Green Arrow. (GA first appeared in animated form in the Super Friends episode "Gulliver's Gigantic Goof!", first broadcast in late 1973.) It was the later version of him with the golden goatee, more bulked-up frame and he'd ditched the scarlet boots and gloves for articles that more closely matched his darker green uniform.  As a matter of fact, toward the end of the episode he's giving the eye to his long-time teammate in comicdom, Black Canary.  Oddly, while he'd just come out of a shower, he was still wearing his mask.  Bashful are ya, Ollie?  While I've referred to him in the past as a poor man's Batman due to the endless similarities between the characters, GA has hung in there over the years and showed the chops to make it in the Justice League of America.  I've decided to go ahead and review the very story where he is initiated into the League (as a matter of fact, the episode I mentioned above is entitled "Initiation," so that's quite fitting.)  So please join me as I present Justice League of America #4 from May of 1961 entitled "Doom of the Star Diamond!"  This is another effort from the imagination of Gardner Fox with cover and interior pencils by Mike Sekowsky, inks by Bernard Sachs. Editorial guidance provided by Julius Schwartz.

The setting for the opening panels is in a place familiar to readers of Gardner and the Justice League; deep space, several trillion miles from the Earth.  A ship is lying in wait and as another vessel draws near it blasts it to pieces, leaving only Carthan, the sole occupant, floating in his spacesuit, unharmed.  The commander of the vessel orders another blast at the floating figure, but to no avail.  The frustrated commander orders Carthan brought aboard with a snatch-beam.  We then learn that Carthan is a warlord of the space-fleets of the planet Dryanna and he has been brought before his planetary ruler, Xandor.  Xandor's status isn't hard to discern between his flowing scarlet cape, Genghis Khan styled facial hair and helmet sporting streamers (and, inexplicably, a lizard atop it…or perhaps it's a miniature dragon?)  Carthan asks why he's been attacked, now that he's defeated an enemy of their people.  Xandor replies that he has become a great hero and now poses a threat to his authority as the people are showing signs of wanting to govern themselves (horrors!) and may wish to rally behind him as a replacement leader.  Xandor has decided therefore, that since he cannot destroy Carthan and he cannot allow him to return to Dryanna, he must imprison him.  He demands to know first how Carthan has become indestructible.  He replies that exposure to radiation from an electro-magnetic disturbance somehow created a protective and invisible (at least in normal light) aura around his body.  At the conclusion of his story, Xandor announces his plan.  He will sent Carthan to Earth in a spaceship with auto controls.  Prior to his journey they will transport three "golden box" machines to help insure his exile.  Each machine is draped in a metallic covering that, if removed, will activate them, destroying all life on Earth.  Additionally they cannot be turned off.  Just to really add to the scenario if Carthan attempts to leave the Earth, the machines will cause his aura to be coated with Opaqalux, forever blinding him. 

Soon the ship is enroute to Earth, traveling at multi-light speed.  Carthan consoles himself that at least he'll be able to study the culture and social habits of earthlings with the instruments on board.  Then, to his delight, he discovers information about the Justice League of America and speculates that he can get help from them.  As the vessel, equipped with invisibility and anti-radar equipment, enters the atmosphere Carthan comes to realize his aura prohibits him from requesting help.  It then occurs to him that perhaps he can try another route.  By pretending to be evil and relying on the resourcefulness of the League, he could activate the machines.  Once the heroes overcame them, he could leave.

While the alien ponders his plan, we segue to a meeting of the Justice League of America, where the assembly is considering admission of new members.  Wonder Woman, acting as chair, solicits suggestions.  Adam Strange, Green Arrow and Hawkman are all proposed and after some discussion, Batman makes a motion that Green Arrow be selected.  The Martian Manhunter seconds the motion, but before a full vote can be taken the proceedings are interrupted by an arrow appearing from nowhere and embedding itself into the conference table.  As Batman reaches forward to grasp the shaft, the arrow begins to vibrate and soon "speaks" to the JLA:  "Greetings Justice League members!  I have news for you!  Your prospective new member—Green Arrow—is my prisoner!  My name is Carthan!  I come from a planet many light years from Earth, to add your planet to the others I have conquered!  Even as I telepath my thoughts to you through the communicator-arrow I fashioned—three engines of doom are going into operation at three distantly separated localities on Earth!  Your obvious assignment is to smash them—if you can!  Even at this instant, my ultra-weapons are removing the metallic coverings which will set the destructive engines in operation!  As these engines begin functioning, their Alpha—Omicron—and X1 rays will send a trio of disasters across the Earth!  One machine is outside Keystone City—another is in the Pacific Ocean, northeast of Australia—the third and last is near Rome, Italy!"

In classic Justice League fashion, the membership breaks up to take on the threats.  Batman and Superman decide to find Carthan and free Green Arrow.  Wonder Woman notes that she hasn't teamed with J'onn J'onzz since battling Starro the Conqueror and they will go to Keystone City.  Flash and Aquaman head for Australia while Green Lantern flies toward Rome.  That leaves only a restless Snapper Carr, who soon departs as well to try and get his mind off matters. 

Chapter Two finds the Martian Manhunter and the Amazing Amazon encountering a squadron of monstrous insects blocking their progress.  J'onn deduces that this particular machine must affect insect and animal life only as he battles a gargantuan wasp and bumble bee.  Soon he's fighting off leaf hoppers, whose gooey sap sends him plummeting to the ground.  Next he encounters a firefly.  This firefly has inadvertently managed to start a brush fire, weakening our hero. 

Princess Diana, meanwhile, is having troubles of her own as her transparent, robot plane has proven to be irresistible to some huge cats.  She swiftly decides to send the plane away by remote control and bail out.  Her next challenge soon appears in the form of a gigantic Cooper's hawk, which soon has Wonder Woman encased in its talons.  Fortuitously, the hawk's flight pattern takes them right over the succumbing Manhunter from Mars.  Diana throws an expert toss with her golden lasso and pulls J'onn free of the flames, which allows him to return the favor by using that ever popular super breath to bring the hawk down where he lands a terrific blow to its beak, freeing his team mate. 

Soon the duo is flying into the nearby dry well where the machine is concealed.  J'onn seals them in with a boulder to avoid having to fight off any more critters and they examine what appears to be a solid, gold colored box.  Seeing no way to turn it off, they smash it with powerful hands only to watch in amazement as the torn metal repairs itself instantly.  Carthan, observing from a monitor on his ship, silently urges them to observe the clue that will help them.  Soon, Wonder Woman notices the metallic cloth-like cover and drapes it over the machine, giving them the vital clue.   The form of a handle shows up under the covering.  Diana thinks that perhaps it's actually in another dimension.  Twirling her lasso at super speed, she manages to slip it into the fourth dimension, snag the handle and successfully turn the machine off. 

Chapter Three takes us down under with the King of the Seven Seas and the Crimson Comet, rocketing along the surface of the water so quickly that he can run on the ocean, pushing his team mate on a giant shell half. 

When they arrive, the menace is apparent.  The entire continent of Australia is sinking into the sea.  Aquaman soon heads below to see if he can find the machine while the Fastest Man Alive dashes at terrific speed around the perimeter of the island, using the force to keep the water at bay. 

Below the surface, Aquaman consults with the creatures of the deep and they tell him where the alien apparatus is located.  It couldn't just be that easy, though.  He finds that the machine has a repelling barrier surrounding it that he cannot breach.  He thinks that maybe Flash will have better luck, but first he orders many Octopi to weave a massive basket from seaweed.  (Somehow I can't see them having a lot of dexterity with those tentacles, but, hey…)  The next order of business is a telepathic command to some fish with serrated proboscises who are enlisted to saw down a piece of coral.  Acting on the theory that the coral, composed of the skeletons of marine creatures, will be impervious to the repelling shield of the machine, the Sea King commands a whale to use the coral piece to push the machine into the basket, which is then hauled to the surface by other denizens of the deep. 

Aquaman now takes a tip from the auto racing industry of the day, writing large messages on a flat piece of debris to alert the super-speeding Flash that he needs his help.  Carthan, again monitoring muses that he hopes Flash realizes the need to cause counter vibrations to defeat the repelling vibrations of the box.  Fortunately after a few attempts, the Scarlet Speedster hits the right combination, allowing his fellow Justice League member to throw the handle (luckily visible on this particular machine) and disabling it.  On to Chapter Four.

…where we find the Emerald Warrior closing in on his objective, but as luck would have it the defenses of this machine include the ability to animate huge statues from a movie set that are, naturally, yellow, making them impervious to the power ring.  GL has been in this fix before, however, so using his resourcefulness, he flies to a nearby wooded area and creates a combination of saws and fans, blowing a coating of sawdust onto the golden figures allowing the ingenious follow-up action of beaming the ring onto the coatings of dust and making them petrify, freezing the figures in place. 

Finally locating the third golden box, our hero is frustrated again as his ring cannot affect it or the rays that emanate from the box.  He decides to take matters in hand, quite literally, by grasping the handle, but he discovers it is electrified and he's frozen in place as the current wreaks havoc with his nervous system.  Summoning his awesome will power, Hal manages to send a shovel head from his ring to dig the ground from under his feet until he is suspended and therefore no longer grounded.  A mighty yank on the lever disables the last of the machines and Green Lantern heads for home. 

In Chapter Five we catch up with the World's Finest team of Batman and Superman.  The Metropolis Marvel has just located the invisible ship of Carthan with his super vision and he then begins to drill through the hull with Batman close behind via the rope ladder of the bat plane.  Once inside, they spot a figure inside a sort of chamber with multi-colored light beams all around.  They realize it's Green Arrow and the bowman cautions that the light beams are deadly rays.  Relying on his invulnerability, Superman comes in, then uses the handy lead flooring to make a protective cocoon to bring GA back out.  The Ace Archer then explains how he came to be there, that Carthan had abducted him from his Arrow Car via a snatch beam and placed him into the prison to stir the Justice League into action. 

Meanwhile, the other members of the League are converging on Carthan's craft, located via J'onn J'onzz's Martian X-Ray vision.  Once inside, however, the quintet find themselves encased in a glowing bubble that swiftly coalesces into a giant hollow diamond!  Carthan's thoughts reveal that he had to briefly imprison them for his own safety until he can explain his actions.  The diamond is a perfect prison due to its composition, which includes tiny flames to weaken J'onn (I don't know how a flame can exist in the wall of a diamond, but I guess we're gonna have to suspend our disbelief on that point); golden flakes to thwart the power ring; green Kryptonite, of course and the simple laws of physics that keep them from locating the stress point to split it because it can only be detected from outside the gem. 

The two heroes in attendance without superhuman powers approach Carthan.  Green Arrow fires a shaft, but it bounces off the alien's aura.  Batman uses simpler methods and goes for an old-fashioned tackle, knocking Carthan into the machinery of the spaceship.  The startled alien doesn't understand why his aura suddenly disappeared, but he has a bigger problem.  After explaining things to the World's Greatest Detective and the Battling Bowman, Carthan realizes that the machinery that was damaged by his fall now can't release the rest of the JLA from their diamond prison.  As luck would have it, Green Arrow happens to have some diamond-tipped arrows in his quiver.  After Carthan shows where the stress point is on the massive gem, he draws back and fires a perfect bull's-eye, releasing Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman, Green Lantern and the Martian Manhunter. 

All that is left to do is make repairs to Carthan's ship so he can return to Dryanna and confront Xandor, which is quickly accomplished and then completion of business at headquarters where Green Arrow is unanimously accepted as the newest member of the Justice League of America.     

Green Arrow was the first member inducted into the Justice League since its formation and he quickly showed his worth by saving his fellow members in the closing panels of this story.  He became an integral part of the League for many years until the latter part of the Silver Age when he was recharacterized a bit and started to have something of an attitude.  You may recall my review of Green Lantern #76 for an example of what I'm talking about.  At any rate, he sort of stopped being a team player and his persona more or less continues to follow that pattern as evidenced by his behavior in one of my landmark pieces of fiction from more modern continuity, Kingdom Come

This story followed the classic JLA formula and it's always a winner.  I give this one a 9 for solid entertainment.               

If you'd like to give me some feedback, and I'm always interested in it, be it good, bad or indifferent, you can reach me 24/7 at professor_the@hotmail.com.  I also entertain questions and requests for future reviews, so feel free to drop a line any time.  Meanwhile I'll keep silver mining and you can look forward to the next installment of this feature in about two weeks.

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2004 by B.D.S.

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