Saturday, March 24, 2007

It's just like Crisis on Infinite Earths, except Dove doesn't die, and no Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman...wait, come back!
Well, Hal got bored during monitor duty, and three phone calls and half a keg of Pabst later...
Since anthology books here in America are virtually extinct, this rare specimen is also long gone: the anniversary issue guest-starring everyone: Showcase #100, "There Shall Come a Gathering" Written by Paul Kupperberg and Paul Levitz, art by Joe Staton. To mark the hundredth issue, they decided to cram in every feature character that had appeared in the book. Considering that ran the gamet from Green Lantern, Flash, and the Atom to Sgt. Rock and Enemy Ace to Fireman Farrell, Anthro, and Angel and the Ape; they had an uphill climb ahead of them. Many characters made their debut or got tryouts for solo books in Showcase, and you can tell the ones that made it big pretty easily.

The story opens with a lot of the namebrand superheroes--your Justice Leaguers, Teen Titans, Metal Men--and Rip Hunter's crew, and Hawk and Dove; on the Justice League satelite. Years before Crisis on Infinite Earths, the world goes almost 'red skies' crazy: weather and volcanoes running amok, people and animals displaced in time, your usual crazy DC disaster crap. Adam Strange and the Atom...well, I was going to say they figured out the earth was being pulled out of it's orbit, but the computer flat out tells them all that. I swear to god, I want the magic godlike operating system of the 70's, like the one that solved all the Riddler's puzzles on Super Friends, except I want it with Majel Barrett's voice instead of Casey Kasem's.

Whatever's doing it, the whole planet's in a stasis field, which admits radio waves but blocks Green Lantern's ring from contacting Oa. Since the earth is being moved through space faster than light, it's screwing up relativity, and that's as much explanation as you're going to get for the time distortion. And I just realized I saw this same plot, but more plausible, on Invader Zim. Ow.

Rip Hunter decides to check the time stream for the problem, because damnit, go with what you know. Most of the heroes head for earth for damage control, and Green Lantern and Adam Strange start looking for whatever's moving the earth, with Flash and Atom in tow. Barry and Ray seem to be wondering why they are on this mission, and I suspect the answer's as simple as Hal wanting someone to show off to.

Scanning, Hal finds a power source, which is both yellow and invisible. Guh? Adam suggests using the Doppler effect, which somehow involves Hal making a giant prism to make the ship visible. Um...kay. That one's at least in the scientific ballpark, I think. The ship launches giant robots at the heroes.

Meanwhile, things below continue to get worse: Rip Hunter's timesphere is trapped in a disturbance in the timestream, taking them off the board. The Metal Men work crowd control and get attacked by Anthro's dad, the angry caveman. And Wonder Woman's taking a jog and stopping a train...and that's a Hostess ad. Eh, count it.

Desperate, Lois Lane makes an emergency GBS broadcast, to plea for Superman's help, to no avail: Superman never had a starring spot in Showcase, so he's not coming. Ditto Batman, in a proud tradition of heroes being up a creek and backup nowhere to be found. (I'd have to say this is way more prevalent in 80's Marvel, but it's kind of rare to have this many heroes in, and some of the biggest names out.) Figure Supes and Batman are off-planet, or involved in one of their World's Finest team-ups; and the lamer the better, as it makes it more fun to imagine Lois delivering the verbal beatdown when they got back. (Per a Simpsons episode, I picture Supes and Bats lying on the hood of the Batmobile, wistfully gazing at the clouds: "Is there anything fluffier than a cloud?" "If there is, I don't want to know about it.")

Admittedly, I haven't read every Superman or Lois Lane story, but in every one I've seen from the GBS years, Clark, Lois, and on occasion Lana are less professional on camera then a local UHF sports guy broadcasting live from Hooters, with three beers in him. They give editorial asides, show up late, wander off camera, and don't seem to take any cues or direction, ever. I don't know if this is from a lack of research, or if comics writers and artists were just jealous or assumed TV was for lazy slackoffs.

Anyway, after wrapping/wandering away from an emergency broadcast, Lois is approached by newsman/TV host/security consultant Jack Ryder. Jack's employment history has always seemed a little spotty, even for someone prone to running around in speedos and a feather boa. He wants to see if Lois has any 'inside info' on what the super-heroes are doing about the world ending situation. Which is as good a cue as any for the Challengers of the Unknown to come in through the window (from a helicopter) in their pinkish uniforms...boy, that Howard Chaykin update seems like a better deal now, doesn't it? The Challs try to broadcast for help, but the interference is too strong (despite what GL said before about radio signals getting through) although the sensors (presumably, the Challs' sensors, not the GBS sensory array) indicate 'a massive output of energy somewhere in the mid-west.' They leave to investigate, with Lois in tow, and joined by the Creeper.

Meanwhile--there are going to be far too many 'meanwhiles' in this post, and there's no way around that...thesaurus? Oh, get bent. In space, the yellow robots are manhandling our heroes, until they are saved by Space Ranger. And his pink shapechanging alien/D.T. sidekick, Cryll. I'll own up to liking Matter Eater Lad and Crystar, but I hate Space Ranger.This is slightly less embarrassing than being rescued by, oh, Space Cabbie or Color Kid, but not by much. I'm not a fan of the Ranger, and can't stand, or understand, his helmet. Getting inside the ship, the group is attacked by a plant monster, which Space Ranger defeats by shooting out it's grow-lamps. Arrgh. The victory doesn't count for much, since as Adam Strange points out, the earth is still hurtling away from the sun. Let's see your 22nd century science help now, Space Ranger! God, I hate him.
Admittedly, DC throws a great mixer.
All together now: "Meanwhile..." This one's right on the page, so don't blame me. At the detective office of O'day and Simeon, better known as Angel and the Ape; their 'Found Persons Agency' has collected a pile of Showcase b-listers and refugees. Drumroll,, let's not:
--the Inferior Five (superhero parody group, with the disturbingly hot Dumb Bunny)
--Bat Lash (western conman, supercool)
--Firehair (redheaded 'Native American' stepchild, I guess; convinced he's under a spell or really high, he opts to sit down until it's all over)
--Tommy Tomorrow (grandson of the Red Tornado's creator...what, he's not? Well, that would'a made more sense. He's really another future DC space hero. With a terrible, terrible name.)
--and a bunch of DC's Archie knockoffs.

Dumb Bunny is actually Angel's half-sister, although I don't know if that had been established by this point. Also, to be blunt, Bunny and Angel probably forget that fact all the time, leading to tearful reunions and cries of "Sister? Sister!" at least every couple of weeks.

Sam Simeon had been collecting these time-displaced refugees, per Angel's request, for no real reason. Bat Lash speaks up, suggesting maybe they should look into whatever's causing time to go "loco." Tommy Tomorrow also speaks up, since he has a ship on the roof (?) and has found out all he can there. Angel, Tommy, and Bat head west to investigate; oddly, the ditzy (oh, c'mon, she totally is!) Angel seems to be leading the group, and I think Bat and Tommy are just looking for an opportunity for 'alone time' with her.

Next, we have a couple of 'red skies'-style pages, with heroes fighting natural disasters, time-displaced dinosaurs and Nazis, etc. So very Crisis, I swear. Aquaman and the Sea Devils protect the shoreline, while Dolphin rescues Sugar and Spike. Chest first.
Spike's going to have a breast fetish...well, for pretty much ever, yeah.  Moreso now.
Also, she rescues them from a car trapped underwater, but they're little kids, who was driving? Were their parents crushed in the crash? Aquaman leers knowingly at Dolphin, like he knows both her origin and what she likes for breakfast, although I don't think they were seen together before, or again until they hooked up in Peter David's Aquaman run.

Back in space, the heroes are stuck until the Phantom Stranger shows up; and they perform a seance to bring in the Spectre. That sets a bad precedent, Spectre: now every kid with a Oujia board is going to be calling you to extract a terrible revenge on their enemies, or to get them more weed.
Again, why is Superman so hung up on giving Lois powers, when she can make that jump, unhurt, and without her skirt flying up?
On earth, the Challengers' group finds a really ugly alien green monolith. Looks like it's made out of formica. Rocky and the Creeper manage to force open a hatch, and Lois is able to...make what appears to be a ten-plus foot jump, off a cliff, over Rocky's shoulders and through the hatch before it snaps back shut. All somehow without an upskirt shot, which just proves this comic's old. The rest of the group is stuck outside, and Rocky is a little steamed that the fate of the planet may rest in the hands of a "dumb broad!" That's either sexist, or he's read Lois Lane.
Here, Bat Lash crosses the line from 'cad' to 'bounder.'
As the Spectre fails to stop the earth...really? Wraith of God pre-Crisis Spectre, "not bound by the physical laws of the universe...becoming as large as the universe itself" Spectre? Weak. Tommy Tommorrow's ship lands on top of the countertop monolith, out of sight of the Chall's. His blaster can cut through the roof, but it regenerates so fast only one can get through. (Why not go one at a time?) Bat suggests drawing straws, and Angel wins and gets inside before Tommy can stop her. Bat admits, "She was a pretty little thing, wasn't she? But there are plenty of pretty little things in this world--and I only got me one skin!"

So, the fate of the earth comes down to Lois on one side, bashing defending robots with impressive judo skills; on the other, Angel, dodging robots through sheer blind luck. Unfortunately, you can't punch or luck out your way through the aliens' final defense: hard radiation.
There's obviously a joke to be made about the pink thing between Hal's legs, but I'm trying to take the high road here.
In space, using Green Lantern's ring, Phantom Stranger's magic, and everyone's willpower; the Spectre is able to put earth back where it belongs. Sarcasm...burning throat...filling lungs...Or close enough. The Stranger says some mysterious crap about the final battle being not yet won. But for this batch of heroes, the crisis is over, the party is just getting started, and what are Hal and Cryll doing there? Friendly hug...Cryll looking up at him...let's just go on.
Fun Fact: Lois hates blondes.
Lois and Angel have reached a control room, which bears a little examination. The alien responsible for this whole mess looks like a sparkly ribbon in a floating bubble, with tentacles or energy coming off of it: not a great design, but distinctly non-human. So why do all the control panels have levers and knobs...and easily pulled out wires? Did the alien buy it second-hand or something? The effect is like putting Flippy the dolphin behind a set of turntables: theoretically Flippy could smash things with it's face and maybe somehow scratch a record, but it doesn't seem ergonomic or practical, eh?

Anyway, the nameless alien's master plan is to launch earth into the "planet of enemies of my race," destroying both worlds. I'm not sure what kind of enemies a bubble-ribbon alien would have, he could be trying to destroy the planet of the kittens that play too rough. I also would think launching, I don't know, any other planet would be a better idea than picking the one with several hundred superheroes on it. Still, I suppose if I had just bought the Acme Planetthrower, I'd want the maximum destruction for the money.

Guided by the unseen hand of market, that's the Phantom Stranger's hand, sorry: Angel pulls out the right wires to stop the alien's machinery, and eject the alien from earth, taking the radiation with him. But...but...even if the alien somehow sucked all the radiation out of Lois and Angel, wouldn't they still die of cell damage? Admittedly, I don't particularly want to see Lois and Angel vomiting and losing their hair, but it doesn't quite work there. The women manage to avoid being crushed by hiding under a console...a desk console a creature without legs wouldn't need...and time corrects itself, with all displaced parties returning where they belong. (As far as we know...) As Lois tells her she's a hero and to stop crying, Angel says she's never been so happy to break something.

Looking at this comic now, after years of Crisises and crossovers and 'Where's Waldo'-esque find-the-hero pages; it's almost like a prototype for what was to come. Number of times Angel O'Day has saved the world: Once. Number of times I've saved the world: Er, well, I do a lot of recycling...oh, all right, twice. Happy?

From Showcase #100, "There Shall Come a Gathering" Written by Paul Kupperberg and Paul Levitz, art by Joe Staton.

1 comment:

Dwayne "the canoe guy" said...

I never noticed Sugar & Spike in that comic before. Of course, I was elated to see Bernie the Brain in CoIE.