Friday, January 10, 2014

It all started with the Big Bang! Part 17! (issue #33)

For the first time in what seems like forever, this issue is a Round Table of America joint. We haven't seen them in a team context since the Savage Dragon met them at the Coolidge Dam. This also means the lesser RTA members, the ones who don't rate solo adventures, get to take center stage however briefly.

Oh, and speaking of, after that we have the missing story from Big Bang #18, featuring the Whiz Kids (who I don't remember being mentioned in the text summary in BB #18, but whatever). Speaking of, that's another group we haven't seen in a while.

The RTA's changed since we last saw them -- the Atomic Sub is dead by this point, for one thing. Robo Hood, the loose equivalent of the Green Arrow, is on the squad. Oh, and probably the most striking difference: Mike Merlin, the annoying Snapper Carr counterpart who also has magic powers, has since been transformed into Miss Merlin, who acts as a more direct Zatanna stand-in.

Jon Cosmos is basically Adam Strange, though his costume makes him look like a forgotten Legionnaire. The story doesn't pull any punches -- the stakes are laid out right on the first page. Jon Cosmos contacts the Round Table of America to stop the Gas Giants of Jupiter before they destroy Planet Omega. Well, he actually home-invades their headquarters in person, not even bothering to call ahead. 

Other than Robo-Hood and the Hummingbird, who had guard duty, the rest of the RTA had to drop whatever they were doing to answer the call to the Hall of Heroes.  Then Jon Cosmos' Matter Transporter sends them to Planet Omega... except for one.

Miss Merlin proves to be the Rudolph of the RTA -- she's excluded from the adventure for a lame reason, and left at HQ to cry herself to sleep instead. She's not even one of the floating heads on the splash page above. The Knight Watchman also seemed a little unnerved by her, and isn't used to calling her "Miss Merlin" instead of "Mike". You know, she took the time out of her day to show up for this mission, and then you exclude her?

I don't know, something tells me this isn't an isolated incident and that the RTA (or at least the Knight Watchman, the speaker in the above panel) makes a habit of marginalizing Miss Merlin. That's a fairly dark note for a space adventure to start on, isn't it? And I don't even know what to make of it, all I got from that scene is "Wow, the Knight Watchman is an asshole."

Functionally, this turns out to be mostly a Jon Cosmos/Robo Hood/Mr. Martian story, as they're the ones who either set the plot in motion or directly resolve it. Just as well, since other than Miss Merlin they're the only RTA members without solo adventures. They have to shine sometime, after all.

The RTA splits up to combat one Gas Giant each, as the big guys lay siege to several key locations for Planet Omega, including a solar power plant and an air purifier. This place only has one of each of those? Must be a small planet.

Gas Giants can turn people into gas, as they did with the Hummingbird here and Jon Cosmos' wife Princess Odyri prior to the beginning of the comic. I dig Hummingbird and all, but I'm not exactly surprised that he didn't have a lot to offer in this situation. Ultiman himself falls prey to the Gas Giants' gas transformation; he and Hummingbird are brought to safety before they dissipate, though. Only the Jon Cosmos/Robo-Hood team succeeds in vanquishing the Gas Giant they set out to defeat, courtesy of a laser shot its armor. Robo-Hood is a real wisecracker in the Spider-Man mold, by the way, nothing at all like your typical robot hero.

Mr. Martian and the Knight Watchman follow electroscope readings to a hidden spaceship, where the Knight Watchman is knocked out cold by its owner, infamous space villain Black Corona.

Black Corona seems vaguely like Brainiac but by my estimate just generally represents your typical evil space guy. Anyway, Mr. Martian is subjected to an utterly textbook "we're not so different", "we could rule together" speech, based on the logic that he owes nothing to the people of Planet Omega. Black Corona's really accommodating, and gives him a few hours to think it over. Oh, and Corona also reveals his plan to hurl Planet Omega into the sun. Mr. Martian communicates the details of the plan to the rest of the RTA, who put the kibosh on it pretty quickly before infiltrating the ship and bringing Corona down.

 In the aftermath, the Gas Giants show up again, this time peacefully. Turns out Black Corona had enslaved them, encasing their true gaseous forms in huge armored bodies and using their attacks to distract the people of Omega from his real plan. They reverse the "turned into gas" process on those afflicted (well, on the three named characters known to have been afflicted). Faced with the knowledge that they'll never reach Jupiter without being stuck in these forms forever (not really explained why), they remove the armor and dissipate into the atmosphere. Mr. Martian seems oddly happy about the whole thing and delivers a closing monologue, like he's Captain Picard or something.

The long-promised missing story from BB #18, eeeh, would probably be better in that context. Without the novelty of the Dragon crossover's gimmick (shifting art styles reflecting the time period) it's a little stale, though the Perez imitation is pretty great.

The Whiz Kids themselves don't do much in this story, sadly, but I'm fairly sure this is the team from the Whiz Kids one-shot and that the 'extra' Non-Galahad/Cyclone/Thunder Girl members get all the appropriate backstory and focus in that one. Anyway, this leads into a huge Everybody vs the Time Being fight.

In the melee Dragon recognizes the Earth-B Blitz from a previous encounter, and notes that there are two of him engaged in the battle. Since this whole thing started when a guy met himself, Dragon thinks it's in everyone's best interest for the Blitz to help him finish the Time Being off by taking him back to where it all began -- which is accomplished via the Cosmic Treadmill, duh.

...which is where the story from Big Bang #18 picks up. I'm not gonna lie to you, this segment was not worth the wait, as visually impressive as the two-page spread of the fight against the Time Being is. Being that this is Big Band #33, there's only one more regular issue of note (#35 is a crossover with 1963, brought to you by none of the normal Big Bang writers or artists) before the one-shots and Big Bang Presents.

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