Tuesday, September 3, 2013

It all started with the Big Bang! Part 12 (issues #19)

This one has the kind of attention-grabbing cover that demanded I take a closer look at it. We finally learn the origins of the Beacons, who were up to this point the only significant members of the Knights of Justice/Round Table of America whose stories we didn't know except the Badge I guess.

Although I sort of have to wonder if anyone was even curious about Hummingbird's origin. I mean, no offense, but when you combine Hawkman and the Atom you don't come out with a winner. Of course, I find Aquaman (and therefore the Atomic Sub) interesting, so who am I to judge? Still, look at that picture, this is a guy whose villains are susceptible to pencil strikes.

Starting from the left, we get the Earth-B (Golden Age) Beacon's story; he's geologist Scott Martin, who discovered the underground society of Shanzar during a mineral survey. He is soon arrested as a spy and thrown in the dungeon by the mad king Tyrnos. There he meets the ruler Tyrnos deposed, Zarkon, who tells him of Tyrnos' incredible power gem. Scott tunnels out of prison with his pickaxe, blah blah, and confronts Tyrnos, who displays his gem's power when things come to blows. 

Again, while the Golden Age Green Lantern's powers were basically "whatever the writer needed them to be", the Beacon has a fairly well-defined powerset -- shields, a tractor beam, a heat ray, that sort of thing. anyway, Scott bests Tyrnos through sheer force of will, which causes the gem to recognize his superiority and fly into his helmet light. And he executes Tyrnos in a pretty grisly fashion.

Afterwards, Scott sees Zarkon return to the throne of Shanzar, and goes back to the surface to become a "Beacon of Justice." You know, it's fairly handy that this all happened to a brawny, adventurous geologist, isn't it? 

The Hummingbird is Alan Laurel, an ornithologist investigating reports of a new species of hummingbird in the woods surrounding Circle City. He also brought reporter Maggie Silver along to cover what he hopes will be the official discovery of that species. That's when they see some guys take Circle City's Mayor Hughes into a tiny spaceship after shrinking themselves using a machine outside the ship.

Maggie thinks this is a hot story, and  impulsively uses the machine to shrink herself and Alan to give pursuit. Entering the spaceship and stealing some alien (specifically Kr'Wallian) uniforms, they save the mayor from a brainwashing session. They're found out as they're leaving; Alan takes it upon himself to stay and fight the Kr'Wallians. Maggie and the mayor are restored to normal size with a second hit of the shrinking ray, which Alan destroys before the Kr'Wallians can give pursuit at human size -- dooming himself to being permanently tiny. 

Since this is an origin story, he starts discovering his powers (which are really just from the suit), which include shrinking even smaller and communicating telepathically with birds. He also picks up that pencil from the cover and first page, battering Kr'Wallian soldiers senseless with it.

Just when things start looking bad, the Kr'Wallians are called back to their homeworld. Mission control is clearly not satisfied with how the invasion's going so far, and decides to abandon the whole thing. The Kr'Wallians accept this order without question, and even praise Alan's bravery and determination.

Qapla'! I have to say, this really endeared me to both the Kr'Wallians and Hummingbird himself -- you have to admire guys big enough (ha) to know when they're beat and congratulate the guy who beat them. When Maggie and the mayor return with police in tow, they find Alan and Maggie's pretty accepting of the whole "he's super small" thing. Uh, okay. Oh and he decides to become a crimefighter like Ultiman and the Knight Watchman, taking the name "the Hummingbird", duh. 

Not gonna lie, that Hummingbird story turned out to be my favorite of the three, and I sort of liked the Beacons to begin with. Shows what I know, I guess.

Okay, the Silver Age Beacon is gemologist Julia Gardner, witnessed an alien spaceship crash and discovered a cool jewel and a nifty costume on the craft's dying, green-skinned owner. Also she's got a cool Farrah Fawcett haircut.

She takes the jewel and the costume and heads to work to take a look at them; with help from her friend Gina Oliver she's able to unlock the jewel's abilities, etc. Also she can put the costume on and change out of it by just thinking about it, which is pretty neat if you ask me. She hears about an alien attack on the radio and rushes to use her newfound powers to stop them.

As often seems to be the case when aliens attack, US Army forces arrive at the scene pretty quickly. They're led by Captain Jordan Stuart, who happens to be Julia's fiance. 

The aliens are Synestroms, sworn enemy to the Dextrons, the race to which the green chick Julia got her jewel and costume from belonged.

Nothing the army throws at the Synestrom ship has any effect, not even an airstrike. Eventually the Synestroms tire of messing around and target Jordan, only for the Beacon to show up and save him. 

Woah, did they just point out that Jordan doesn't recognize her without explaining why? That's crazy, man. I'm joking, obviously, those goggles are a foolproof disguise. Anyway, she busts into the Synestrom ship and scares them silly when she displays her powers -- they think the Dextrons entered an alliance with the people of Earth. They surrender their weapons and the Beacon, no joke, throws their ship into deep space.

Did I mention she can survive in space with the gem's force field? I bet the Golden Age Beacon could, too, but never had occasion to do so. Anyway, Julia goes home and finds Jordan and her father there. She acts like she was in the lab all day and hasn't heard of the Beacon or any alien attack. The story closes out with her winking at the reader, and let's be honest, these set-ups are always classic.

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