With this week’s release of Justice League of America #10, Brad Meltzer and Geoff Johns’s JLA/JSA/Legion of Super-Heroes teamup tale comes to a close. And that means I have one last installment of my “Lightning Saga” annotations to share. The two writers, with their scripts for this event, have mined some somewhat obscure veins of continuity, and these notes should help some newer readers make sense of the story. For the previous four sets of these annotations, you can click here, here, here and here. Otherwise, let’s proceed with the final set in the series…
Justice League of America #10
“The Lightning Saga, Final Chapter”
Cover art: The art for the regular-cover edition — depicting Dream Girl, Black Canary and Michael Turner’s depiction of Power Girl’s ginormous bust — was the source of considerable controversy in the comics blogosphere when it was initially released to promote this issue. Word also broke that writer Brad Meltzer was so taken aback by Turner’s emphasis of the character’s impossibly large breasts that he demanded it be altered. Power Girl has been depicted as being well-endowed pretty much since she appeared in Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis’s Justice League comics during the property’s humor era in the late 1980s.
Page 4: As will become apparent later in this issue, the various global locales where the Legionnaires can be found are places where pivotal events involving DC’s various speedster heroes have occurred. The Tokyo and Smallville locations refer to events from Infinite Crisis. Wally West was drawn into the Speed Force most recently during a climactic conflict with Superboy-Prime in Smallville in Infinite Crisis, and during that confrontation, “dead” speedsters — Barry Allen, Max Mercury and Johnny Quick — emerged from the Speed Force and dragged the deranged Superboy-Prime back in with them. Bart Allen, formerly known as Impulse and Kid Flash, was also drawn into the Speed Force during Infinite Crisis, and he emerged from it in Tokyo to warn Earth’s heroes that Superboy-Prime had broken free of the otherworldly trap.
Timber Wolf is at Barry Allen’s old police lab in Central City, where Barry and Wally West gained their speed powers after two separate accidents during which they were doused by chemicals that were struck by lightning. Also worthy of note is the fact that another noted super-hero icon is based in a fictional city called Central City. The Spirit, created by Will Eisner, fights crime in a different Central City.
Wildfire’s presence in San Francisco likely stems from the fact that Impulse, AKA Bart Allen, reinvented himself as the new Kid Flash in the Bay Area during his time with the most recent incarnation of the Teen Titans. The Gotham City site is where the Batman saw an image of a time-travelling Barry Allen as he sacrificed his life in Crisis on Infinite Earths to destroy a doomsday machine created by the Anti-Monitor.
Starman’s “wax on, wax off” comment in the final panel is a reference to a different Karate Kid. In the 1980s, Ralph Macchio (the actor, not the Marvel Comics editor) starred in The Karate Kid, a movie about a teen who forms a friendship with the elderly man who teaches him the art of karate. The teacher, played by Pat Morita, taught the boy karate moves by way of household chores (waxing his car, painting his fence, etc.). The successful movie spawned three sequels, two starring Macchio and a final one starring a young Hilary Swank.
Page 5: Keystone City is the base of operations of the Golden Age Flash and of Wally West when he took on the mantle of the Flash from his uncle Barry Allen after Crisis on Infinite Earths. There were various Speed Force events in Keystone City over the years. In the dialogue on this page, Dream Girl refers to herself as “Dreamgirl.” Her code name was always presented as two words in Legion comics. I would imagine this is a small editing oversight. Starman’s dialogue caption in the first panel refers to her as his “dreamer.” Dream Girl’s codename in post-Zero Hour continuity (Zero Hour was a cosmic crossover event published in 1994) was Dreamer.
Page 7: Superman refers to the “espionage squad.” The Legion of Super-Heroes had a special subgroup within its ranks that took on missions that required stealth rather than raw power or diplomacy. As mentioned in previous sets of these annotations, seven Legionnaires held a pseudo-scientific ritual to bring Lightning Lad back from the dead in Adventure Comics #312. The process called for one of their number to be sacrificed to resurrect Lightning Lad; in the end, Proty, Chameleon Boy’s shape-shifting pet, took Saturn Girl’s place and sacrificed himself so none of the heroes would die. The Curt Sawn art in panel four on this page is from that Silver Age story.
Rao is a sun god of the lost civilization of Krypton and was the planet’s chief deity.
Page 8: The notion that Wildfire’s containment suit is somehow composed of the same components and technology as the Red Tornado’s android body is, as far as I can tell, an idea that has been introduced in “The Lightning Saga.”
Page 11: The Legionnaires refer to their flight rings as “force rings.” They apparently have been equipped with the same forcefield technology as Brainiac 5’s belt.
Page 13: Timber Wolf looks forward to being reunited with his lover, Ayla. He’s referring to Ayla Ranzz, AKA Light Lass, Lightning Lad’s sister and a fellow Legionnaire.
Page 14: Karate Kid is in Blue Valley, a small town where Wally West grew up and operated in his heroic identity of Kid Flash for years. As for what Karate Kid says in an apparently Asian language, I have no idea. Perhaps a well-educated reader out there can fill me in on it.
Page 18: Clearly, the repeated references to “Lightning Lad” in this series weren’t to the founding member of the Legion, but to Wally West. He was something of a “lightning lad” himself; his first hero guise was as Kid Flash, complete with lightning motifs in his costumes. The timing of Wally West’s return is perfect, given that his successor as the Flash, Bart Allen, died in The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13, released the same week as this comic book.
When Wally West was drawn into the Speed Force last time, he went with his wife, Linda Park-West, and their infant, twin children. Apparently, the kids have grown. They’re dressed in the uniforms of Don and Dawn Allen, the Tornado Twins. They were Barry and Iris Allen’s children, who were raised in the 30th century and inherited their father’s speed powers. Dawn Allen grew up and had a child, Bart Allen.
Page 21: As noted in previous installments of these annotations, this isn’t the first time Karate Kid has spent an extended period of time in the present. The premise of his self-titled series in the 1970s was that he “moved” from the 30th century to the 20th for a while, a move DC probably made as a result of the popularity of martial-arts in pop culture at the time.
Page 22: Hal Jordan’s best friend was Barry Allen, so he shares something of an uncle-nephew bond with Wally West. Red Arrow, when he was Green Arrow’s sidekick Speedy, was Wally’s teammate and friend in the original incarnation of the Teen Titans (when Wally was Kid Flash).
Page 23: Apparently, Brainiac 5 was expecting a different Flash to return from the Speed Force, likely Barry Allen. The shadowy figure accompanying Karate Kid refers to “the Countdown” beginning. This is a reference to the events of Countdown, a weekly series currently being published by DC Comics leading up to the next big cosmic crossover event. Karate Kid is expected to be one of the central characters of Countdown.
Page 24: Translated, the Interlac chapter title at the bottom of the page reads: “The Villain Is the Hero in His Own Story.”
It merits note that the trio of villains who showed up earlier in this five-part story arc — Per Degaton, the Ultra-Humanite and Despero — weren’t apparently active factors in the story. Perhaps it was a setup for the next JLA/JSA teamup tale.