Alien Legion, Vol. 1 (1984)

So, Alien Legion.
I’m five issues in and wrestling a bit. There are some great ideas, some strength to the world-building, some complexity to the characters and perspectives–but a bunch of things just keep kind of wiggling in.
I’m addressing them because I feel the need to vent this as I go.


  1. A Good Bit of Heinlein-Style Bias (with All Arguments about the Existence Thereof Entangled)
    From the first issue–though, admittedly, I first read it half-asleep and I think ascribed some comments to the wrong characters–there’s a clumsiness to some of the expressions. It sometimes carries a waft of difficulty in expressing an opposing viewpoint. This also comes through in an overbearingly…simplified complexity? The first issue has the Legion constrained by the TGU’s directive to avoid interference with the still-evolving lifeform of the rathrosaurs there (think Prime Directive, I suppose).


    They have weaker, “simpler” weaponry, as compared to their standard fare. The government (via the Galactors, iirc) references “Soldiers, but only Legionnaires” to ham-fistedly suggest their utter disdain for our protagonists. This comes up again in the third issue, which also employs a certain level of confusion in plotting/illustration. On the first page, a member of a guerrilla pacifist group, responding to a proposed forcible conscription act seemingly shoots a guard. Then they all spend the rest of the issue emphasizing their non-violent pacifism, never commenting on this. Was it a stun, perhaps? I have literally no idea. I read it two or three times and couldn’t make sense of it.


    The corruptions and the perspectives that aren’t militaristic (a spectrum there, to be fair) are pretty poorly portrayed much of the time: Chief Lanx’s local police corruption in the same third issue; the simplistic (and super-Heinlein) notion of military service via Montroc in the fourth issue…so on and so forth. It feels like someone on the cusp of being able to represent viewpoints other than their own, but failing miserably to do so with full respect or acknowledgment of how one could hold that viewpoint.¹ It’s held that these perspectives are the end, final truth–something especially (seemingly) emphasized in Montroc’s internal struggles in the fourth issue.


    There’s just enough respect and complexity in these “opposition” characters much–but not all–of the time to avoid being flat-out offensively simple-mindedly dismissive of others,² but it still doesn’t achieve a balance of respect–not to go out of one’s way to suggest that an opposing viewpoint is entirely reasonable, but rather that one can arrive at it without being a cartoonish villain.

  2. Logical Contradictions and Stretches to Serve Those Biases (and Maybe a Bit of Plot)

    Plenty of comments abound about the limitations the refusal to issue HEL-guns saddle the Legion with as they try to remove an un-restricted piratic mining operation from Wedifact IV. But the restriction, honestly, seems illogical even given the reasoning: they want to avoid leaving technological remains or interfering, but a “laser scar”–the most often given reason–doesn’t seem like a meaningful indicator of technology. It’s an interesting idea, but when you’re inserting logic to explain the plot, it has to make sense. This doesn’t make sense. Compressed-gas-propelled darts are still leagues ahead of the rathrosaurs’ technology. Just because the dart decays doesn’t make it different from a laser (which sure as hell doesn’t stick around…).

    This comes up again in the third issue, with the aforementioned pacifistic group’s seeming murder, the convenient flip-flop of governmental perspective on violations and value of the Legion, and the inconsistency in response to internal crimes (it seems as if violently attacking another member of the Legion is taken less seriously by the Legion itself, which seems insane).

  3. The Letters (Thoughts in General)

    The letters pages–one of the lovely benefits of single issues over many/most trades–are an interesting mix. Appropriately, many place Frank Cirocco’s (excellent!) art and character design (with inking from the great Terry Austin, and great colours from Bob Sharen) as the best feature of the book. Often the plotting is held up next, and the writing itself held as “strong” or “good”, but often with far more caveats.Someone brings up the (almost?) universally male composition of the Legion as an odd point. The editors respond that the letter-writer is making assumptions! But, of course, we have profiles in issues 1 and 5 of many members. Every single one says “he” and “his”. Sure, there are assumptions, but the statistical probability given by the first issue’s profiles, all of the dialogue prior to the letter’s publication and so on make it a reasonable (and, to this point, seemingly accurate…) conclusion. This bothers me primarily because of the flipping of points–a dangerous thing to mention, in that I’m wary of some modern incarnations that feel, to me, excessive in choosing to see a response as ignoring or dismissing a problem. This read exactly like that–it was an editor (presumably) writing on behalf of a writer, with no evidence to support the claim, and plenty against it that only further supported the letter writer’s accuracy.

    Perhaps most frustrating was reading a letter from the famous letter-writer (seriously) T.M. Maple. Maple references the hypocrisy of pacifist activists in reference to issue three, calling out events in his native country (take a wild guess from that name!) that were performed rather contemporaneously by “Direct Action”, aka “The Squamish 5“. They were not, so far as I can see, avowed pacifists. Indeed, they rebelled against nonviolence as means of protest, hence the self-applied name “Direct Action”. Maple (real name Jim Burke) applies these events anyway, then goes on to make numerous terrible leaps of logic (Paraphrasing–“If they’re part of the peace movement, it implies the other side is against peace!” and “I’m opposed to any side claiming a monopoly on morality”³) before establishing a last flimsy footnote of declining to express where he falls (it’s obvious, man…).

    I do think I find this clumsy writing fits with my impression of Zelenetz, who took on a smattering of first-volume Moon Knight issues, as well as the entirely misguided and very much cut-short second volume (Fist of Khonshu) in that there are legitimately good and interesting ideas, marred somewhat by questionable execution.

¹Should one think this is unreasonable to expect of “Perspective X”, I submit Nick Spencer’s portrayal of both the Red Skull and the mind-tampered Captain America. These are human and complicated characters who definitely have vile perspectives, but the way they arrived at them and how they justify them is clear and not condescending.


²My counter example here might be C.S. Lewis’s portrayal of the Calormenes in The Horse and His Boy. Perpetually referencing fair skin as a glorious and beautiful thing, condemning the dark-skinned, making–for all the (accurate!) claims to its polytheistic and otherwise slightly modified elements–a bunch of not-unsubtle references to Victorian-esque perceptions of the Middle East (turbans! pointy shoes! scimitars!) and then having Aslan say, “Anyone who does a good thing, even if they worship that other guy, they’re actually mine. And anyone who does a bad thing? Yeah they’re ACTUALLY worshiping the Calormene God.” Considering his stances on Islam, I don’t see a way around this that doesn’t involve some serious contortions. For all the this-or-that Calormene character isn’t bad, it comes off more like, “But some of my great friends are ___!” as Aslan’s proclamation definitively seals it as “Aslan=good, Tash=bad”, and anyone who claims otherwise is accidentally saying the exact same thing or secretly/accidentally evil.


³It should be noted that no group or movement is ever likely to be devoid of some percentage that represents the bogeyman version of that group or movement. Hesitance to associate on those grounds I find understandable, particularly where there is sufficient popular disagreement as to whether the group/movement has the boundaries some members assert or not. Decrying said entire group/movement as fully and accurately represented by those individual parties, however, is a different and altogether dumber idea.

Blue Devil #5 (October, 1984)

So, Zatanna and Dan let Nebiros out of his demon dimension and he disappeared off to Mexico. That’s not great. From the Justice League station in orbit, we get our last glimpse of the now suspiciously legless Ralph Dibny (with also a pretty horror comic-looking shot of Ralph’s face–thanks Paris and Gary!)

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The cover wasn’t a lie, either (strange as its phrasing was), as the Mexican military does appear, with Thunderbolt Ross’s Mexican twin running it (which earns a nice look of complete incredulity from Dan). Nebiros’s approach to their air force is to use his mystic powers to disassemble their jets in mid-air (oh, great!), leading Dan and Zatanna to the conclusion (okay, technically they already arrived at it) that they’re the only hope for pushing back Nebiros.

Well, them and Norm, but more on that later.

We get a random interlude of the Monitor and Lyla (I have no idea who Lyla is) watching this battle take place, where the enraptured Lyla seems to really like the look of Dan.

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The Monitor, however, is praising the following actions–another one of Paris’s trademark follow-the-acrobatics panels:

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A lot of the point here seems to be some establishing of future Blue Devil stuff: Dan gets his trident back (Zatanna insists this is the tool that is making Nebiros most unstoppable), and we get a quick glimpse of something rather weird happening as a result, which is definitely not any kind of foreshadowing, even if Norm randomly explicitly reminds us of it later on in this issue. Clearly, some kind of one-off oddity that will never come up again.

Dig those eyebrows, though.

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Dan’s continued reluctance to be anything but a stuntman is met with a palpable eyeroll from Zatanna, who clearly thinks he should be a hero, and also probably a few other things she could think of, which gives us this great nod back to Lyla’s comment, as well as an inventive use of Dan’s horns:
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But all of this is secondary. Sure, we’ve got further developments with Jock Verner, as Marla both sticks it to him at his office (though still not face-to-face, probably just to preserve the Jock Verner Mystery™) and reveals to nephew Gopher (hey, it’s Gopher! But where’s Wayne?!) that her real name is Marlene Bloomberg and she’s from Syracuse. Well, okay then!

Still: secondary, at best.

The real star of this issue is first mistaken for the Mexican Air Force, when the plane carrying said hero drops them onto the battlefield:

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Yes! It’s Norm! Norm the fearless battle action hero!–Over his shock at Marla’s request that he return to the island, he’s here to kick ass and take names.

Hell, Dan is feeling a bit rough from the battle with Nebiros, enough to worry Zatanna just a bit about his state, but Norm doesn’t care. Norm, instead, poses for a cover action shot like a badass.

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Where’s the Norm Paxton spin-off?

Also, seriously, I almost included three or four more panels of Norm double-fisting camera and gun and caring nothing for the demons and superheroes warring around him in the interest of Marla’s wacky b-roll footage.

If I’m not mistaken, the next issue is the last with Paris Cullins (alas!), so we’ll have to see what happens after that. Unlike the blog that inspired me, I’ve not actually read these before. I thought about reading ahead, but fell asleep instead, so I guess I’ll just stick with things like this!

Blue Devil #4 (September, 1984)

Well, I can’t lie. That cover’s a bit of a surprise–I didn’t expect to see Nebiros again, at least not so soon. This is also one of my first real reads of Zatanna, considering I saw her briefly whilst reading <i>Hellblazer</i> if memory serves (it would have been a Mike Carey issue, most likely), and that’s all¹. Certainly, I’ve never seen anything pre-Crisis–though that’s a fair assessment of the great majority of my D.C. reading, after my intended “Green Lantern from the beginning” reading project hit something like #2 and I realized I’d probably be forced to lobotomize myself to continue to successfully.


Dan’s gone off with Superman, who has alleged that he has someone who might be able to help with the occult-ish bonding of his costume (I guess the cover spoiled that one for us. Thanks, cover.) First, he introduces him to Ralph Dibny, though–because who else would you want to meet from the Justice League but The Elongated Man? (Please, don’t answer) Ralph does not wiggle his nose (I don’t know, was that a Giffen/DeMatteis-exclusive? Write in and tell!), but we also, interestingly, never see his legs. Apparently he just stretches his torso until his arms and head are where he wants to be and never moves them at all. C’mon, Ralph. Your legs are going to atrophy!

Dan, though, wants to first test his power in-costume, so he challenges Superman to arm-wrestling with…predictable results.

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After making a fool of himself, in walks Zatanna (in a pose that is undeniably intended to show off her physique–naughty, naughty, Paris! Even if it was successful!) so that he can make a fool of himself all over again. And, honestly, a bit of a creep. I’m not prone to explicitly making that judgment, but dear lord…the look on his face as he’s looking down at her–while they both perhaps get their entire field of vision covered in red and black Dibny-body.

Of course, Dan’s witty compliment (though he’s not wrong, and I have no idea why she has a millipede hugging her head) turns to Zatanna actually looking kind of badass, and Dan looking the fool as she attempts to un-bond his suit from him without success (sweet Dr. Strange hand signs, Paris!²)blue devil 04-07

The solution? Go and see Nebiros, and ask him politely to undo what he did. Yes, Zatanna, you definitely sound like an expert at dealing with demons. I’d say you’re better off asking the not-quite-existent Constantine, but you’d probably just end up stuck with Nebiros on similarly bad advice. It just would have been knowingly bad.

They learn this from a book that is clearly still writing itself (slash being written by…Them. So that’s what Van Morrison was doing between Inarticulate Speech of the Heart and A Sense of Wonder.) I’ve got to call out inker Gary Martins and colorist Michele Wolfman here–this book looks really great. Martins darkens and strengthens those outers and Wolfman lightens the palette to match so we end up with a neat-looking book of Shrinky Dinks.

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Once they’ve returned to the island (Île du Diable, of course!) and entered the portal to Nebiros’s realm, Paris gets to flex some unexpected Jim Starlin-mindscape imagery–though it’s a little bit different in its weirdness–as Dan this time goes to Nebiros’s territory.

Naturally, this all turns out wonderfully, as Dan politely says, “Mr. Nebiros, sir, Dark Lord of All That Is, would you kindly return me to my human self?” Kind of a short issue, honestly.

No, I’m lying, of course. Dan does make an attempt, but his anger over Nebiros’s use of his Trident (despite the cover of #2, he actually hasn’t had or used it since #1) causes him to lose his cool and brilliantly start a fight with an incredibly powerful demon, who also now has a demonically-powered version of his trident. Nebiros, thankfully, is pretty dense, and takes a very long time to realize that his “little brother” is not on his side at all. He finally takes off amidst this to attack actual populations by flying off with his Trident of Evil.

Great job, Blue Devil and Zatanna!

Meanwhile, Sharon is angry at Marla for giving Dan that C&D over wearing the costume in public, but she finds out he flew off with Superman only after she gives Norm some awesome news:

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Lucky Norm (who’s flown to the island by Asyetunnamed Pilot, Esq.) not only manages to reach the island that of course won’t still have demons rampaging across it (because who would let the demons back out like a moron?!) but misses a ride out of there when Dan and Zatanna appear and teleport away to stop Nebiros before Norm and Pilot are even seen. Poor Norm.

In other news: where the hell is Wayne?!

¹Okay, I also read Identity Crisis, but, around here, we like to pretend that garbage doesn’t exist.

²I don’t actually know if Strange did it first, or someone else entirely. I’m not attempting to assign credit anyway, I just don’t think I saw–in my brief little experience–Zatanna use hand signs for spells before, and forever associate them with Strange.

Blue Devil #3 (August, 1984)


So, when last we left Dan, he’d just been through events that led him to dealings with new villain Shockwave and also the questionably-vehicled S.T.A.R. Labs, who were creating a super-kryptonite they’d really rather that Super-guy not find out about.

But Shockwave was assigned to steal the stuff, and now we know who by: Metallo! The Man with the Kryptonite Heart! I think we can guess what he wants to do with it.

But first, Dan is being analyzed, as promised by Klyburn, by the equipment at S.T.A.R. and it clarifies something of what happened: he was bonded to the suit, but it wasn’t exactly made plain ol’ devilflesh (can that ever be “plain ol'”?). X-rays (or similarly penetrative visuals) show that there’s still circuitry underlying the whole devil 03-01

But that’s of little concern to Metallo, whose frustration with Shockwave seems mildly misplaced in light of his henchmen, who have missed their classes on basic firearm safety, and possibly the line where folks were passed functional brains. Still, all of this does indicate that sending others to do your work etc etc, and he decides to break in himself. blue devil 03-06blue devil 03-08




But Metallo and Shockwave aren’t the only folks we get to check in on!

Norm and Sharon (after only a silent, single-frame appearance last issue) moved onward, story-wise. Sharon reveals that Dan told her how the suit’s bonding was most upsetting as a result of his crush on her, and so she feels she needs to go and support him, at least in return for the fact that he, y’know, saved her life. Least she can do is try and make sure he knows that she doesn’t hate him as a human being (or…a whatever).

Norm, aka Doze-Master¹, is Dan’s biggest cheerleader, and sees things pretty straightforwardly (Dan must be cool, because he beat the pants off a demon and a supervillain, right?).blue devil 03-07

Meanwhile, Marla’s conscience, already teetering last issue over the legal concerns Jock Verner showed, decides to flex her artistic muscle and threaten Verner (gosh, I wonder if we should read anything into the fact that he’s always drawn in shadow???) if he doesn’t get up off Danny’s blue junk.

Speaking of Danny’s blue junk…

Paris goes to the trouble to illustrate a lot of interesting bits with how the Devil’s being analyzed at S.T.A.R., where he first appears in just his Devil-Briefs™, which seemed weird to me considering he basically wears a vest attached (I thought!) to them. No, it turns out he wears a vest with split ends (maybe that’s not a vest, then? I don’t know what that does make it) that he tucks into his Devil-Briefs (oh, of course.)

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Because Dan foolishly agreed to be analyzed at the place Shockwave had tried to rob, he’s really in for it, and gets promptly trounced with a blast from Metallo. However, we learn something new about Blue Devil and how he responds to something like a shot to the chest:

blue devil 03-15(Dig that last shot where Dan seems to be wiggling his fingers menacingly to threaten the Metallo henchmen, who are helpfully labeled with an “M” to clarify their allegiance)

Dan’s revival allows him to gain the upper hand (there’s a terrible pun here somewhere, as he destroys Metallo’s “mighty hand”), while also using appropriate sound effects to force more henchmen to acquiesce to his desire for them to…cease.

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Metallo, it seems, talks too much, though (or maybe Dan read the cover?) and he finds out the appropriate way to stop him quite readily:

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Some guy in blue and red shows up (too late to do anything important!), and Devil hopes that Supes is gonna give him some useful info on how he might find out how to get out of the suit. Probably because magical research is not really the smartest plan for Clark, he mentions that occult power isn’t his area, but he might know someone who can help.

He also asks why on earth S.T.A.R. was devising super-kryptonite at all, and Klyburn convincingly explains that it’s totally not about Superman or anything:




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Being pre-Crisis, I can only assume this is the manifestation of one of Clark’s heretofore unmentioned superpowers: super-gullibility.

Wayne-Watch: Where is Wayne? We want Wayne! Why, we were without Wayne for a while now!


¹In our hearts, if not in any actual fact.

Blue Devil #2 (July, 1984)

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Note: Whoops. I’ve been kinda busy. This tends to happen, I guess, though it’s super lame for it to happen a whopping two entries in. My apologies.

In his (then) most recent adventure, Dan Cassidy was still a real boy in a robot suit, until the very end. While being trapped into a fancy suit made to look like a movie monster might because for endless pathos (or villainy, if you are, say, Aleksei Mikhailovich Sytsevich¹), Dan’s not exactly happy with his lot, but he isn’t bemoaning the old–er, Cassidy–luck and sulking.²

Let’s not beat around the bush–Dan’slooking for a way out of the suit, and dealing with some poor luck (that only gets worse), but he does find some enjoyment in his now internalized powers, and even uses them to make normal life easier here and there:blue devil 02-07
But he’s not really given a chance to whinge or exult in his invention’s newly organic nature, as a trip outside in Metropolis results in unwanted and unsolicited attention from passersby and the media, which he simply tears away from. Absent-mindedly, almost, he stops a mugging in process (and is mistaken by some out-of-towners for Superman, in a pretty good gag).

Dan’s casual heroics are left be as he returns to the Brownstone he invested in (and has yet to rent out) to find his phone ringing, giving him a chance to use his powers for the most mundane of reasons (which is a great touch):

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(Though he follows this up by accidentally ripping his door off its hinges, so, I guess it’s a wash)

Turns out, all that attention from the media got him in hot water with the shadowy film producer (no, not Marla, she’s not shadowy! Also, she’s the director/producer, not the Money Person, whose name is Jock Verner) of the not-yet-released Blue Devil movie he made the suit for in the first place.

In the meantime, Shockwave (a brand new villain!) is in the midst of robbing S.T.A.R. Labs, and trouncing the questionable security of an ostensibly tech-wonder location to acquire what he’s after, and causing wanton destruction as he does so, making his way to a pick-up spot.

What relevance has this to our hero? Not much. He’s not a hero, after all. He’s a poor schmuck who got stuck. But Shockwave’s casual negligence in his destructive rampage destroys the Brownstone Dan has recently purchased and failed to rent out as yet (ouch!), thus earning Shockwave his ire. Dan’s not outclassed, but he is a bit out of his depth in dealing with Thunder Thumps, as the two try to find their way around each other, gaining momentarily only to lose shortly thereafter, even when trying a few clever devil 02-23

Dr. Jenet Klyburn from S.T.A.R. appears, though, and informs Dan that the stolen object is an advanced “super Kryptonite”, so it’s imperative that he regain it (partly, she notes to herself, so that Supes doesn’t find out…), which causes him to go ahead and redouble his efforts (and letting Paris Cullins do another super-great Devil-in-Motion panel!³)

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The Devil doesn’t successfully wrangle Shockwave, but he does prevent the loss of the super Kryptonite, and rides off with Klyburn in…okay, maybe S.T.A.R. has had some budget woes. A Chevy Astro? That’s what they sent the Doc in to regain an item of the utmost importance? Yikes.

But, of course, we can’t leave out this great bit when Marla has gritted her teeth and sent the lawyers with a C&D after Dan to stop appearing in public. Showing one of the better acknowledgments of proportion and perspective from Paris Cullins, with dialogue to match (a lot of the book shows that Dan is now pretty ridiculously tall compared to normal people, and Cohn and Mishkin even acknowledge this in the dialogue):

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As intended, the book is a fun book, despite coming out a time where it contains ads for Alan Moore’s Saga of the Swamp Thing (which was rarely fun, despite its excellence), just as the authors and editor intended.

¹With apologies, for those who demand it, for a Marvel reference in a D.C.-based project.

²Ha! I stopped myself before doing it again, though!

³By now, I guess my appreciation of those things is readily apparent.

Blue Devil #1 (June, 1984)

And just like that–he’s got his own book!

When we last left our hero, he had foiled the Trickster (somewhat clumsily) using the powers imbued by his self-invented Blue Devil costume. Wayne Tarrant was making unwelcomed advances on Sharon, though convinced she was interested in Danny (“we’re just friends”, she said incredibly convincingly), Norm liked to sit behind cameras, Gopher was Danny’s biggest cheerleader, and Fred was a pretty decent security guard, so long as super-villains weren’t involved.

Now, we’re into the filming, though–Marla Bloom (oh, right–she does have a last name, incidentally) is clearly directing, even if she’s “just” the producer, as Danny cackles and chews scenery evil-ly. It’s Gopher who ruins the shot, but free time means Wayne, in one of the more misinformed romantic attempts of the bd1ftworld, leads Sharon to an abandoned temple in their on-location shoot. While Tarrant has some second thoughts, Sharon seems to have a flashback to preschool and cannot resist putting an object into a whole shaped like it, unwittingly releasing the demon Nebiros.

Because no one knows how to contact the JLA or Doctor Fate, Danny’s left to hesitantly pursue heroics again, at the behest of Marla’s quick-thinking insistence. Nebiros is befuddled by this tiny demon attacking him, and attempts to sap away his occult powers with a blast that leaves Danny down for the count (well, that was a short run, I guess). Norm takes up the heroics after the fall (he’s not just going to sit behind cameras forever, hooray!), and drives a bulldozer into the demon, because that’s what you do in these sorts of situations.

Unsurprisingly, construction equipment is not the secret weakness of demons, but this does give Danny a chance to stand up (oh! it will last more than one issue! hooray!) and fight back again. Wayne fights to overcome his cowardice (it’s a giant demon, to be fair, though), and they eventually all work together to force the demon back from whence it came. And no one’s even left holding a little girl’s arm attached to nothing and gibbering their way into a mental hospital!

Marla, of course, has kept the cameras rolling and is completely cogent, inspite of the madness-inspiring events of the day, and is immediately re-writing the plot to make the Blue Devil a misunderstood hero. Oh, Marla.


Then again–Danny has discovered (after Marla notices his costume is so amazing it sweats!) that he’s trapped in the Blue Devil costume! Gosh, guys, I guess they were right that we figured everything wrong after that preview story! I mean, assuming you knew nothing about this 30 year old character, anyway. Which is actually not the most unsafe bet. Bet this will make his crush on Sharon interesting, huh?

Cohn and Mishkin worked in a good bit of fun for a book intended to not be about angst (ever–so sayeth editor Alan Gold on the final page’s “Hey, we don’t have a letters page, yet” letter page), and Paris keeps it breezy and fun, but with some cool designs and pencils (I really, really love how he’ draw’s Danny’s suit, I can’t lie).

Sadly, Danny’s sideburns are scaled back significantly. Budget cuts, I guess.

Bonus! Includes a full-page ad for some character called Blue Devil, who’s going to have a pull-out preview in Fury of Firestorm #24! Awes–wait…

Oh well. I guess you might not have been picking up Fury of Firestorm when you grabbed this #1, or something.