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“Shop… Or Die”

  • Writers:  Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis
  • Pencils:  Steve Leialoha
  • Inks:  Al Gordon
  • Colors:  Gene D’Angelo
  • Letters:  Bob Lappan

Despite being featured prominently on the cover of this issue, Captain Atom has only a cameo appearance.  He shows up in two panels and has no dialogue. A new “villain” is introduced in the form of Lord Manga Khan.  The DC wiki description of Manga Khan: “The self-ascribed lord is an intergalactic broker with connections throughout several galaxies. He is more or less considered the used car salesman of the galaxy. Manga Khan leads the bartering firm known as the Cluster and is willing to trade in any commodity of reputable value. Assisting Khan is his robotic major domo L-Ron, who is reportedly Manga Khan’s only real friend, and often serves as the sounding board to his employer’s often long-winded rants.”  When he is introduced, he has just harvested the last of the resources from an unnamed planet. L-Ron tells Khan that he has discovered a new planet with even more resources – Earth. Manga sends drone ships to the planet.

On the planet Khan has just drained, a pod crashes and G’Nort steps out.  His ring tells him this world is Yecktamecktokovia and until recently it was “pretty civilized” and not the wasteland it is now.  G’Nort encounters a native who presumably tells him of what Lord Manga Khan has done and the fact he is headed for Earth because G’Nort himself flies to Earth.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, Ice Maiden and Green Flame are trying to join the Justice League but Martian Manhunter isn’t interested. In the home of Scott Free and Big Barda, Mister Miracle, Booster Gold and Blue Beetle are watching a football game when the program is suddenly pre-empted by an alien broadcast about interstellar barter.  L-Ron informs the people of Earth that if they do not enter into trade negotiations with Khan’s Cluster, they will simply take what they want and leave Earth an empty husk.  He warns them to shop or die.

On the moon, G’Nort sees the Cluster preparing for invasion. He attacks.  The story is to be continued in the next issue.

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“Gnort and South”

  • Writers:  Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis
  • Pencils:  Steve Leialoha
  • Inks:  Al Gordon
  • Colors:  Gene D’Angelo
  • Letters:  Bob Lappan

Picking up where the last issue left off, Justice League International #15 features Captain Atom more prominently.  On sale March 15, 1988 and cover-dated July 1988, this issue opens with Manga Khan’s Cluster being attacked by Green Lantern G’Nort.  L-Ron informs his master that the Green Lantern attacking isn’t even assigned to this sector, leading Khan to believe G’Nort is a rogue Lantern (“or an idiot,” L-Ron points out).

L-Ron informs Manga Khan that any damage G’Nort could do would be negligible, which makes me wonder just how powerful the Cluster is.  I mean, the Green Lantern rings are supposed to be the most powerful weapon in the universe.  This is probably the first hint that G’Nort isn’t exactly what he seems to be (but that is a story for another time).  Despite this, G’Nort somehow takes out the Cluster’s main power unit and their cloaking shield goes down. At the JLI’s New York embassy, Oberon sees the Cluster suddenly appear on his screens along with a power surge in Australia.  The surge blows out his monitor so Oberon hits the big “alert” button to warn the Justice League.  The surge also shorts out Mr. Miracle’s “arm unit” (his interface with his mother box) on board the JLI shuttle (where he is accompanied by Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Green Flame, and Ice Maiden).  In the last issue, Martian Manhunter had not signed Green Flame and Ice Maiden on with the JLI.  Booster is lamenting the absence of Guy Gardner but Green Flame tells him that she and Ice Maiden are the two heaviest hitters on the Global Guardians team (she also mentions that they are probationary members of the JLI).  The shuttle flies on toward Australia.

In orbit around Earth, Captain Atom, Martian Manhunter, and Rocket Red #4 have hitched a ride on a S.T.A.R. Labs space shuttle.  Martian Manhunter and Cap are wearing space suits.  I kind of have an issue with this.  Didn’t the Millennium mini-series establish that Cap could survive the vacuum of space without a space suit?  The Bronze and Silver Age Captain Atoms could.  See, look at this panel…

From Justice League International #10

I suppose it is possible that the heroes who were in space were only surviving because of a spell Dr. Fate cast or something. Martian Manhunter tells his team that all they have to do is prevent Manga Khan’s fleet from reaching Earth. The trio exits the shuttle and approach the Cluster.  At first the ships do nothing, but then they send out fighter.  It dawns on Cap that he can’t use his powers because if he does, he ruptures his suit.  If he ruptures his suit, he dies. Approaching a giant structure in Australia, the JLI shuttle is attacked by Manga Khan’s men.  Ice Maiden quickly proves her value by blasting a soldier off the shuttle with an ice blast.  Mr. Miracle and Booster leave the shuttle to fight while Blue Beetle sets her down. In space, Cap watches as Rocket Red and Martian Manhunter tear into the Cluster’s ships.  He informs J’onn that he has a plan to hold the Cluster’s forces at bay until the “powerhouses like Superman can get in on this.”

L-Ron informs Khan that G’Nort has broken off his attack on the Cluster and is instead going after the fighters.  Manga Khan is pleased, as this will save them a considerable amount in comparative damages.

Cap’s plan is to use the surround debris to batter the fighters and give them something to run from.  J’onn is less than thrilled with the plan but goes along with it as it is as good a plan as any.  Just when they are about to be toasted by an incoming fighter, G’Nort shows up and rescues them.  Cap believes G’Nort is just the advantage they’re looking for.

Back on Earth, the rest of the League is having troubles besting the Cluster’s ground troops.  Green Flame and Ice Maiden actually prove their worth, much to Mr. Miracle’s surprise.  He flies into the Cluster building while Booster and Beetle take refuge with Green Flame and Ice Maiden under Booster’s force field.

Back in space, G’Nort proves his worth by taking out some drones with wreckage from the debris field.  To the League’s surprise, the Cluster ships begin to withdraw.  On the flagship, L-Ron explains to Manga that they are reaching a point where the taking of Earth is no longer profitable (due to the Justice League’s intervention).

Back on Earth, the Cluster is also retreating.  However, Mr. Miracle is still inside one of the ships as it leaves the planet.  Before he can escape, he is grabbed by one of Manga’s men.

Rocket Red, Martian Manhunter, and G’Nort break the news of Scott’s abduction to his wife, Big Barda.  She suits up and insists on going after him.

The issue closes with a cute exchange between Batman and Guy Gardner in which Guy is trying to convince the dark knight into returning to the JLI.  This sets up the next issue, which does not feature Captain Atom so I won’t be reviewing it for this blog (but it was a really good issue and you should check it out).

This story was cute, but there still isn’t a lot for Cap to do in the Justice League.  His role increases when Justice League Europe hits the stands, but that’s still to come.  I’m not crazy about Steve Leialoha’s work on these issues, but I think it was a step in the right direction.  I give Justice League International #14 & 15 a B-.

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