Novelist and comics writer Brad Meltzer is clearly a fan of old-school DC comics, especially from the 1970s and ’80s. It shows through in his writing in the form of a myriad of characters and continuity references, ranging from the easily recognizable to the obscure. Last month, I wrote and published annotations of Meltzer’s first issue of the new Justice League of America series back on my previous site, The Fourth Rail. Those notes were pretty well received (and thanks to those who offered feedback). After perusing the pages of the second issue, it struck me that another set of annotations might be welcomed, as some lesser known references are to be found in this second chapter of “The Tornado’s Path.” So, without ado, let’s proceed, but beware, there are spoilers ahead…
Regular cover: The originally released “silhouette” teaser cover image doesn’t match with the final version. The silhouettes in the Hawkgirl and Red Tornado positions are as they should appear, but the silhouette in the Black Lightning position is completely different. The hairstyles for the silhouettes in the Vixen and Black Canary slots are different than they appear in the final version. Arsenal’s red bow is colored green in the silhouette version, which is perhaps the most glaring example of misdirection on DC’s part to hide the identities of various team members. Similar efforts to misdirect readers with changes to the original cover images for the first issue were made.
It also merits note that Hawkgirl has yet to appear in the story at all.
Page 1: The identity of the man in the white lab coat is revealed later in the issue. We still don’t know who the dark figure guiding the plot against heroes is.
Page 4: Visible on the table are photos of Firehawk, Power Girl, Hawkman, Nightwing, Vixen, Flash, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), Mr. Terrific and Supergirl. As was noted in the annotations for the first issue, Meltzer has acknowledged that the photo selection scenes, in which the member selection process is done with the use of still photos of various heroes, were inspired by the cover of All-Star Squadron #1, published in the early 1980s.
Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman discuss the new Firestorm. The original joined the JLA in the 1970s. The original Firestorm was a nuclear-powered hero who was an amalgam of college student Ronnie Raymond and physics Prof. Martin Stein (who is the “professor” referred to in the scene. The new Firestorm has is Jason Rusch, a young man who can merge with anyone to form Firestorm. Recently, he’s been shown as partnered and merging with Lorraine Reilly, AKA Firehawk. Firehawk is another nuclear-powered heroine who was something of a sidekick/love interest to the original Firestorm.
The reference to “Connor” in the final panel is to Connor Hawke, the son of Green Arrow who bore the heroic name and legacy for a time when his father was dead (he got better… long story).
Page 5: Along with the Black Canary and Green Lantern is Arsenal, formerly the original Green Arrow’s sidekick and ward, Speedy. He’s a master archer and marksman as well. The reference to a “Magnus beacon” in the Red Tornado’s empty android body is no doubt a tracking device put there by Dr. Will Magnus, a robotics expert who was seen in the first issue. As noted later in the page, Thomas Morrow is the evil scientist who created the Red Tornado. His middle name is Oscar. Thomas Oscar Morrow. T.O. Morrow. How do they come up with them?!?!
The mention of “old teleport tubes” refers to the Justice League’s trademark form of transportation in the 1970s and ’80s. They could teleport from their satellite headquarters to tubes positioned in cities and locales all over the planet. The teleportation schtick was brought back in the mid 1990s when writer Grant Morrison relaunched the team in a new title, placing them in a new headquarters on the Moon. That HQ was called the JLA Watchtower, which is referred to here as well.
Page 6: Arsenal suggests recruiting “Dick” and “Donna” for a new Justice League. Dick is Dick Grayson, AKA Nightwing, formerly known as the original Robin. Donna Troy is a super-heroine formerly known as Troia and Wonder Girl. Both were Arsenal/Speedy’s teammates in the original Teen Titans.
Page 7: Meltzer’s script gives a pretty good idea of who these characters are. Worth noting is that the Electrocutioner was originally envisioned not as a super-villain, per se, but a vigilante who killed criminals, a la Punisher. He was always cast in the role of antagonist anyway, taking on the Batman and the second Vigilante.
Pages 8-9: Vixen refers to Plastique as a suicide bomber. She’s correct. The character, originally a Firestorm villain, was a Quebecois terrorist who didn’t start off with any powers. She used bombs; her explosive powers materialized later. Note that Plastique removes the “totem” from Vixen’s waist. That’s a mystical African totem that allows her to access the abilities of all the members of the animal kingdom. Early in Grant Morrison’s Animal Man run, it was suggested the totem might actually be a piece of alien technology rather than a mystical talisman.
The Father Box is a new counterpart to the Mother Box, a living computer; each of the benevolent New Gods of New Genesis (from Jack Kirby’s Fourth World library of characters) has a Mother Box. The Mother Box helped to heal the owner, advise him and even open other-dimensional wormholes called Boom Tubes. As revealed in the first issue, Father Box opens “Hush Tubes.” Note that Father Box is also counting down to the explosion, just as Plastique is.
Addendum: A reader has noted that Walter Simonson introduced the notion of a Father Box in Orion a couple of years back. See the first submitted comment at the end of the feature.
Page 10: St. Roch is a fictional city located in the American South that now serves as the new base of operations of Hawkman and Hawkgirl. Basically, think New Orleans but with super-heroes and villains. I’m guessing Black Lightning is bound to cross paths with Hawkgirl here in a subsequent issue, since the cover reveals her to be a member of the team.
Cavalier is an old Batman villain, a swashbuckling type who originally made a splash as a super-hero until it was revealed he was a thief. Signalman was seen in the first issue out of costume as well, and he also is an old Batman foe. Trident is an old villain from New Teen Titans, and Dr. Impossible, an evil version of Mr. Miracle, is a new character seen last issue and later in this issue.
The reason villains think Jefferson Pierce (Black Lightning’s civilian identity) is close to Lex Luthor is because he was the Secretary of Education in the cabinet when Luthor was president of the United States. The probability-altering Tao Jones was a member of the villainous Helix, a group that opposed Infinity Inc. And it’s not surprising that Cavalier (revealed here to be gay) is sleeping with Captain Stingaree. The latter is also an old Batman foe bearing a pirate motif, and the Cavalier’s costume is rather pirate-like as well. (Captain Stingaree is shown in the adjacent image, fighting Captain Comet on the cover of Secret Society of Super-Villains #6.)
Page 12: In Traya’s bedroom, note the Beast Boy doll (a la Teen Titans cartoon) and the Batman doll.
Page 13: The likely reason the Batman feels including the second Dr. Light as a member of the new Justice League is because JLA members did something… unpleasant to the original, villainous Dr. Light (as revealed in last year in Identity Crisis, which was also written by Brad Meltzer). And apparently, after the events of 52, the League will come into the possession of the late Booster Gold’s power suit and weapons from the future.
Addendum: Eagle-eyed readers have noted in the comments section at the bottom of this page that the heroes say giving a Booster Gold suit to a new owner would honor “Ted.” Ted, of course, is a reference to the Blue Beetle, who was killed in Countdown to Infinite Crisis. He was also Booster’s best friend and a gifted inventor, and at one time, he designed a replacement suit for Booster, which could explain the reference.
The voice who interrupts the three heroes is clearly Alfred Pennyworth, the Batman’s butler and confidant, and the “commissioner” in question is the Batman’s friend and ally in the Gotham City Police Department, Commissioner James Gordon.
Page 14: I’m not sure who the figure passed out at the table is. I think he is an established character because the weapon in front of him looks familiar. Anyone who knows can e-mail me.
The Thinker is a Golden Age Flash villain who created a helmet to amplify his intelligence. He has since transformed into an artificial intelligence with no real corporeal form that wanders computer networks around the world. The referenced “bootleg cosmic rods” indicates the Thinker has duplicated the powerful weapon of the Golden Age Starman and those who followed in his heroic footsteps. Currently, Justice Society member Stargirl, AKA the second Star-Spangled Kid, wields a cosmic rod.
Page 15: The Parasite is a Superman villain who can absorb and steal super-powers as well as drain energy sources of their power temporarily. The afore-mentioned Trident and Dr. Impossible make an appearance as well.
Pages 18-19: Note that Lab Coat guy has been told to place the Vixen totem inside the android body. I find it interesting that the Tornado’s head looks a fair bit like the head of the redesigned Amazo android (which has since been changed back to its original Silver Age look) as it appeared in the late 1990s. Amazo was a JLA foe that could replicate the powers of any super-being with which it came into contact. Amazo was created by…
Page 20: Prof. Anthony Ivo, who, in addition to being a brilliant but insane robotics/artificial life expert, sought and found the secret to immortality. The serum he took, however, transformed him into a grotesque figure. He cannot be harmed as a result of his immortality, and apparently, he’s gotten over the grotesque thing.
Pages 22-23: I find it interesting that none of these androids seem to be exhibiting tornado powers. It was believed that the Red Tornado got his powers, at least in part, from the Tornado Champion/Tornado Tyrant entity from the planet Rann. It was revealed that the alien air elemental inhabited his artificial form (long story). It remains to be seen if these duplicates have the same powers.
The title for this chapter of “The Tornado’s Path” — “Tornado-Red/Tornado-Blue” — is an homage to a classic Silver Age Superman story from Superman v.1 #162. In that issue, Superman invents a machine to increase his intelligence to help him carry out such tasks as enlarging the Bottle City of Kandor. The machine worked, but it split Superman into two beings, Superman-Red and Superman-Blue.
E-mail me with suggested additions/clarifications.