Welcome back for the second part of my annotations of “The Lightning Saga,” the five-part storyline currently unfolding in DC’s Justice League of America and Justice Society of America titles. Writers Brad Meltzer and Geoff Johns have revived the tradition of JLA/JSA teamups, once a staple of the original JLA series. That’s not all they’ve brought back either, as some semi-obscure references keep popping up in the script and plot. I broke down the first chapter from JLA #8 here, and now it’s time to turn our attention to the second episode, in JSA #5. Hopefully, this will be of assistance to newer readers, unfamiliar with the nostalgia-inducing source material.
Justice Society of America #5
“The Lightning Saga, Chapter Two”
Cover art: The JLA logo is curiously absent from the regular cover edition of Justice Society #5 (the one featuring Sand by himself), offering the reader no immediate cue that the teamup tale continues inside. The variant cover — available to retailers for order in a 1:10 ratio to the regular-cover orders — is much clearer about it. The regular cover continues Alex Ross’s portraits of individual members, something he began with the previous incarnation of this title (named simply JSA).
Page 1: Arkham Asylum, of course, is the secure psychiatric facility where so many of the Batman’s mad enemies are held once captured. Alongside Commissioner James Gordon of the Gotham City Police Department is Lt. Harvey Bullock, a gruff police detective who’s no fan of the city’s caped crusader.
Page 2: We’re told the Legion Flight Rings are made from “the Nth Metal alloy Valorium.” Nth Metal is a Thanagarian metal that defies gravity and grants users the ability to fly. The term Valorium is clearly a reference to Valor AKA Mon-El. As part of his application/initiation process to join the Legion in the Silver Age, Mon-El created a gravity-defying metal that fellow Legionnaire Brainiac 5 later used to create the flight rings.
Page 3: In the second panel, an asylum guard appears to have a white face and green hair, as though he’d been exposed to Joker Gas. But we’re told it’s the Scarecrow’s fear gas at work. Apparently, this was a coloring error.
Page 4: In the third panel, the Dreamstone that’s mentioned was actually an artifact containing much of the power of Morpheus, AKA Dream, one of the Endless. That character was the subject of Neil Gaiman’s classic Sandman series. Dr. Destiny made an appearance in the first story arc of that landmark title in a chilling horror story entitled “24 Hours.” As per fourth panel, the fact that Starman is from the future apparently means he’s privy to the Batman’s secret identity.
Page 5: In the first panel, Starman speaks of Kenz Nuhor. He’s Dream Girl’s ex-boyfriend who jealously lashed out to her new beau, Star Boy (as he was then called in the Silver Age). Star Boy killed him in self-defence, which led to his temporary expulsion from the Legion. He and Dream Girl joined the Legion of Substitute Heroes for a short time after that incident before returning to the Legion of Super-Heroes. Starman also refers to “the Dreaming;” it’s not only the realm in which Dream Girl receives her prophetic visions, but it’s also the name of Morpheus/Dream’s realm, in which all dreams take place.
Page 6: Starman notes Arkham isn’t as nice as his hospital. This incarnation of the character is a bit crazy and lives voluntarily at a psychiatric facility. Among the other “new and troubled heroes” the Justice Society is training are Damage (troubled), Cyclone (new), the new Wildcat and the soon-to-debut Citizen Steel (new and troubled).
Page 7: In the second panel, Starman refers to “Nura.” Nura Nal is Dream Girl’s real name.
Pages 8-9: The hallucinatory versions of Batman that appears to fight the heroes are all alternative incarnations of the character that have appeared over the years. It seems to me the various Batmen are, from left, 1970s Batman, Silver Age Batman, a vampiric Batman (Batman & Dracula: Red Rain), the “real” current Batman, Michael Keaton as movie Batman, Gotham by Gaslight Batman and Dark Knight Returns Batman. Some of those are open to interpretation, though.
Page 11: “No more murder! It’s against the code!” Starman is referring to the Silver Age Legion’s code against killing in any circumstance.
Page 12: The Interlac phrase that Starman utters, as was done in the first chapter of this story, is “Lightning Lad.”
Pages 14-15: The ice/crystal statues are of Superman’s biological parents, Jor-El and Lara, holding up a globe of Krypton. Cyclone may be the granddaughter of the original Red Tornado (“Ma” Hunkel, who had no powers), but those two heroes had only a name in common.
Page 16: The sign in the second panel reads “Trophy Room and Museum” in Kryptonese.
Page 17: In the second panel, the statues to the right are of Jimmy Olsen, the Golden Age Superman of Earth-2, Power Girl and Nightwing. In the comments thread for the previous batch of annotations, a reader notes that putting Power Girl and Nightwing side by side may be a reference to Power Girl adopting the much-different masked guise of Nightwing during her recent time in the Kryptonian Bottle City of Kandor, with Supergirl as her sidekick Flamebird (as seen in Supergirl). In the 1960s/’70s, Superman and Jimmy Olsen would embark on Batman-and-Robin-like adventures in Kandor (where Kryptonians have no powers) as Nightwing and Flamebird. Two other native Kandorians took on the role later on as well. When Dick Grayson decided to pass along the identity of Robin to his successor, he took on the name of Nightwing to honor both Batman and Superman.
Pages 18-19: The Legionnaires are as follows, listing each member’s codename, real name, home planet, powers, and other information:
Back row (from left): Shadow Lass, AKA Tasmia Mallor of the planet Talok VII, shadow powers, Mon-El’s lover; the second Invisible Kid, AKA Jacques Foccart of Earth, invisibility; Polar Boy, AKA Brek Bannin, cold powers, leader of the Legion of Substitute Heroes before joining the Legion of Super-Heroes; Dawnstar (no other name), of the planet Starhaven, superhuman tracking abilities, flight and space travel, her planet was colonized by Native Americans in the 23rd century; Blok (no other name), of the planet Dryad, super-strong stone body; Bouncing Boy, AKA Chuck Taine of Earth, super bouncing ability, married to Duo Damsel; Duo Damsel, AKA Luornu Durgo, of the planet Cargg, ability to split into two bodies, she was previously Triplicate Girl until the malevolent Computo killed one of her bodies; Ferro Lad, Andrew Nolan of Earth, ability to transform into living iron, sacrificed himself to stop a powerful Sun Eater; Matter-Eater Lad, AKA Tenzil Kem of the planet Bismoll (a reference to Pepto-Bismol), ability to eat anything; and Sensor Girl, AKA Wilimena Morgana Daergina Annaxandra Projectra Velorya Vauxhall AKA Princess Projectra, of the planet Orando’s monarchy, ability to create illusions, Karate Kid’s lover.
Middle row (from left): Colossal Boy, AKA Gim Allen of Earth, ability to grow to gigantic size, his mother served as president of the United Planets; Light Lass, AKA Ayla Ranzz of the planet Winath, power to negate gravity, originally had lightning powers and went by Lightning Lass, her brother is Lightning Lad; Star Boy/Starman, Thom Kallor, of the planet Xanthu, ability to increase gravity, originally had Superboy-like powers; Dream Girl, AKA Nura Nal, of the planet Naltor, precognition; the original Invisible Kid, AKA Lyle Norg, inventor of an invisibility serum, killed by Validus of the Fatal Five; Wildfire, AKA Drake Burroughs AKA ERG-1, of Earth (we’ll learn more about him in the coming pages); Timber Wolf, Brin Londo, of the planet Zoon (or Zuun), super-agility; White Witch, AKA Mysa Nal, of the planet Naltor, sorceress, sister to Dream Girl; Brainiac 5, AKA Querl Dox, of the planet Colu, inventor and 12-level intelligence; and Element Lad, AKA Jan Arrah, of the planet Trom; transmutation.
Front row (from left): Chameleon Boy, AKA Reep Daggle, of the planet Durla; shapeshifter; Karate Kid, AKA Val Armorr, of Earth, martial-artist extraordinaire; Sensor Girl/Projectra’s lover at one time; Mon-El, AKA Lar Gand, of the planet Daxam, Superman-like powers; Cosmic Boy, AKA Rokk Krinn, of the planet Braal, magnetic powers, founding member of the Legion; Lightning Lad, AKA Garth Ranzz, of the planet Winath, electricity powers, a founding member and married to Saturn Girl; Saturn Girl, AKA Imra Ardeen, of the Saturnian moon Titan, telepathy, founding member; Sun Boy, AKA Dirk Morgna of Earth, heat/flame powers; Ultra Boy, AKA Jo Nah, of the planet Rimbor, selection of Superman-like powers that he can only use one at a time; Phantom Girl’s lover; Phantom Girl, AKA Tinya Wazzo, of the other-dimensional world of Bgztl, ability to phase through solid matter; and Wildfire… again.
These heroes were all members of the Legion in continuity as it stood before 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths. Curiously absent from the lineup of full-fledged members here are Chemical King, Tyroc and Quislet. Addendum: One reader notes in the comment thread below that Tellus is missing as well, and another reader points out the absence of Magnetic Kid.
This array of statues is highly reminiscent of the miniature versions that were displayed in a museum in Superman’s honor in the Silver Age of DC Comics. Each statue was imbued with a small portion of each Legionnaire’s powers, and a bizarre accident transferred those powers into a night watchman, who became the Composite Superman.
Page 20: The Legion clubhouse to which Superman refers in the fourth panel was shaped like a rocket.
Page 21: Superman says “Lightning Lad” in Interlac to awaken Wildfire.
Page 22: Translated the Interlac chapter title reads “Dreams and fire,” though proper capitalization and spacing make it difficult to discern at first (plus the fact that “e” and “n” are incredibly similar characters in Interlac).
For annotations for Justice League of America #9, the third chapter of “The Lightning Saga,” click here.