Justice League of America 219, “Crisis in the Thunderbolt Dimension (Part 1)”/Justice League of America 220 “The Doppelganger Effect”. Written by Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway (219) and Roy Thomas (220), art by Chuck Patton (pencils), Romeo Tanghal (inks), edited by Len Wein.
A terrorist attack is foiled by the two Flashes, who have met up early in anticipation of this year’s get together. But as they approach the Justice League teleporter, they are attacked by Johnny Thunder’s Thunderbolt, silent and malevolent, who defeats them both, but injures the Earth-1 Flash so badly, his counterpart has to rush him to the Space Satellite for treatment.
On the Satellite, the party is in full swing. Power Girl, the Huntress, Starman and Hourman are already there, with Green Lantern, Zatanna, the Elongated Man and Firestorm, the last of whom is having a lousy time because Power Girl is ignoring him. When the Thunderbolt invades the Satellite, Firestorm gets cocky over impressing Kara, but becomes the first to fall as the ‘Bolt blasts the Earth-1 heroes.
For some reason, the Earth-2 characters are left unharmed. This includes JLAers Black Canary and Red Tornado, who were originally from Earth-2 of course. The rest of the Justice League seem to have been similarly attacked, and the Transmatter Device, the JSAers’ way back, has been destroyed.
Suddenly, three crisis centres appear, each attacked by supervillains from Earth-1 and Earth-2, the six members of the Crime Champions in 1963, though not identified as such. The JSAers split into teams to tackle them, but Starman takes Black Canary in pursuit of the ‘Bolt, into the Thunderbolt Dimension, where he waits for Johnny Thunder to call him.
On arrival, they are attacked and defeated by the ‘Bolt, under the command of Johnny Thunder, but this is the Earth-1 Thunder, from the 1965 team-up, now wearing a green costume with yellow lightning flashes. He is alone in this Dimension except for two dead bodies, preserved in a crystal case. They are Larry Lance and Black Canary.
End of Part One
The JSAers are about to divide the three missions between them when they are joined by Sargon the Sorceror, another Earth-2 born character who has moved to Earth-1: he joins Power Girl on her mission.
In the Thunderbolt Dimension, the boastful Thunder reveals he has Johnny captive but that Larry and the Canary were here when he arrived. Between them, the living Canary and the ‘Bolt relate the history of Dinah’s relationship with Johnny, and the circumstances of her replacing him in the Justice Society. This leads to the revelation that Larry and Dinah had a baby girl, who they named Dinah, and that baby Dinah was cursed by the Wizard with a sonic power, a ‘Canary Cry’, that so young a child could not control.
For everyone’s protection, baby Dinah was taken away, placed in the Thunderbolt Dimension to sleep and grow harmlessly. Then, off his own bat, the ‘Bolt caused everybody’s to remember the baby as having died.
Meanwhile, Flash and Hourman tackle Chronos and The Fiddler, Red Tornado and Huntress face off against The Icicle and Dr Alchemy, and Power Girl and Sargon battle The Wizard and Felix Faust. Despite squabbling amongst each other about who’s to be the leader, the villains defeat their opposition pairings.
However, Johnny has finally worked his gag free, and even as the ‘Bolt struggles to resist an order to kill Starman and Black Canary, Johnny sneaks up on Thunder and socks him. After that, the ‘Bolt cures the stricken Leaguers, who turn up at the villains’ sites to defeat them and free the JSAers.
That still leaves the mystery of the dead Black Canary, but Superman and The Spectre turn up to give Dinah the final revelation. As Superman was bearing Dinah Sr. away, she developed severe pains, a delayed reaction to the radiation that killed Larry. Wishing only to see her daughter’s grave in her final moment, Dinah Sr. found Dinah Jr. still alive and grown into the spitting image of her.
Wishing Dinah Jr. to have a life, Dinah Sr. had her memories transferred into her daughter (except for her memory of her daughter, and the full extent of her love for Larry), just before dying. And so Dinah Jr. finally knows her true history, and why she so quickly fell for Green Arrow.
It’s years since I broke off this series, unable to progress until the Graphic Novel Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 7 was published, but it never was. Only now, thanks to the purchase of a comprehensive JLA DVD-rom do I have the means to complete this series.
The twentieth anniversary team-up was the work of Roy Thomas, with regular JLA scripter and close friend Gerry Conway as co-writer on the first half, and using an idea proposed by New Teen Titans writer Marv Wolfman. The result is almost stereotypical Thomas work, being full of nostalgic elements and leading to a major continuity implant, or retcon as they had by then become to be known. You know that had to be Thomas’s main, if not only concern in the story.
Wolfman had addressed himself to the anomalous position of Black Canary, who had transferred from the Justice Society to the Justice League in 1969. At that time, the JSA were still heroes who had been active in the Forties and who had come out of a dozen years retirement in 1963. A year later, Denny O’Neill introduced the twenty year discrepancy theory, but in 1976, Paul Levitz firmly and permanently anchored the JSA to the Forties.
Black Canary was the last JSA member, first appearing in 1948, but even the most generous interpretation of her age would make her about 53 in 1983: a clearly untenable situation when set against her Peter Pan colleagues in the League, and especially her boyfriend, Green Arrow.
Wolfman’s idea was to make Black Canary into two people, mother (JSA) and daughter (JLA), by revealing that the Black Canary who arrived on Earth-1 possessed of her ‘Canary Cry’ was in fact the hitherto unrevealed daughter of the original Canary, cursed with said sonic powers as a baby and confined to limbo in the Thunderbolt’s Dimension ever since, forgotten by all. The dying elder Dinah wants her daughter to have the chance to live so has her memories implanted in the experience-less younger Dinah.
It’s a clever-convoluted solution with a simple understructure to it, and Wolfman could have made a decent story of it, but Thomas ruins it with over-elaboration. The rest of the story, including the return of the Earth-1 Johnny Thunder from the 1965 team-up, and the Crime Champions sextet from the 1963 original, is just overkill, designed to create a MacGuffin for the Black Canary revelation.
What is, in outline, a straightforward action story, capable of being fast-paced and lively, is instead stodgy and dull because of the sheer number of old comics Thomas references throughout this two-parter. There’s eleven of them, and nearly twice as many in the exposition-heavy second part, each one of them a stumbling block to the course of events.
And unbelievably, Thomas doesn’t even reference the Crime Champions as first being gathered in the 1963 team-up, which is the only continuity element that is strictly relevant. Nor does he telegraph the Starman/Black Canary partnership as having appeared in two issues of Brave & Bold.
With Crisis on Infinite Earths in development, this story would not last long. The mother-daughter aspect would be retained once Dinah and Dinah represented different generations rather than different worlds, but in a much more rational and natural fashion.
Otherwise, it’s noticeable that Thomas goes for a much nastier overall approach from the villains. Where once the Crime Champions were all doing each other a good turn, now they’re trying to outdo each other and being aggressive with it, whilst the Earth-1 Thunder may be smarter but he’s nastier with it (and his green with yellow flashes costume is idiotic), having now managed to overcome the Thunderbolt’s tabu against killing. Beastly stuff.
Frankly, the story clunks at every turn, mainly due to Thomas’s desire to tie everything into an old comic, but also because he simply cannot write simple any more, insisting on filling up every panel with unnecessary verbiage, bogging things down.
There may have been two more team-ups to come, but this is the last one to feature the ‘real’ Justice League, and it’s a poor one to go out on.
Needless to say, and thankfully so, this is not a story that could have been told in the post-Crisis Universe.