A few years ago I wrote a series of Obsolete Comic Reviews for a website that has since itself become obsolete. The good news is that nothing is truly ever lost on the Internet. Below is the recovered review from 2011.
Justice League of America 183-185: Crisis on New Genesis
With the excitement surrounding the new Justice League relaunch as part of the 52 lineup, sometimes it’s easy to forget about how many versions of the DC Comics superteam we’ve read over the years. Everyone has a favorite: the Grant Morrison/Howard Porter JLA relaunch in 1997; the Keith Giffen/Kevin McGuire Justice League (later Justice League International) series in 1984; even the original Gardner Fox/Mike Sekowsky Silver Age years. I’ve liked them all, and perhaps it’s just nostalgia, but when push comes to shove, it’s the Dick Dillin years that I remember most.
Dick Dillin started out in Fawcett Comics (the home of Captain Marvel, the Big Red Cheese), but eventually left for Quality Comics, where he penciled the popular Blackhawk comic, which chronicled the adventures of a team of “Ace” fighter pilots. (Quality Comics was also the home of Plastic Man, Quicksilver -aka Max Mercury – and the Freedom Fighters…but I digress.) In 1956, Quality Comics ceased operations, leaving Dick Dillin without work. As DC Comics had already purchased the rights to most of Quality Comics’ characters and catalog, Dillin approached DC looking for work, and he was put right back on Blackhawk. There he stayed, until the title was canceled, and after a bit of this and that, was given the Justice League of America assignment.
Dillin stayed on the Justice League book from 1968 to 1980 for all but six issues (from #64 to #183). He was a perfect fit for a comic based on the greatest heroes of the DC Universe. Dillin-drawn heroes looked heroic. When they were shown in action, Dillin drew them in such a way that the reader had a sense of speed and purpose. Even a panel showing the heroes drinking tea at a social gathering looked like anything could happen (and frequently did). Of course, Dillin also had the benefit of penciling great stories; during his tenure he worked with Gardner Fox (briefly), Martin Pasko, Gerry Conway, and Len Wein. He drew the return of the Red Tornado, the reintroduction of the original Quality Comics’ Freedom Fighters (“Crisis on Earth X!“) and Fawcett Comics’ Marvel Family into the DC Universe (“Crisis in Eternity” featuring the title bout of Captain Marvel vs. Superman!), crossovers with the Justice Society of America of Earth 2, even the murder of the first Mr. Terrific (during one such JLA/JSA event).
Those JSA/JLA meetings were usually memorable, with unique heroes such as Dr. Fate making appearances, as well as Golden Age versions of Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and the Flash. Usually the villains faced were dangerous enough to bring grief to the multiverse, requiring a combined effort to repel, such as Mordru (“Crisis in the 30th Century!“) or the Injustice League/Secret Society of Super Villains. Dick Dillin penciled them all, but it was in his last issue that he was able to tackle the most dangerous villain of the DC Universe, the Lord of Apokolips, Darkseid.
Darkseid was the creation of the great Jack Kirby, and had been originally introduced as part of Kirby’s Fourth World concept he brought to DC Comics in the early 1970s. However, by the end of the decade, Darkseid’s essence had been scattered to the cosmic winds (in the classic 1978 Adventure Comics #460), and was presumed deceased. Of course, in comics, no one is ever dead, and even if they are, death is merely a stopgap to the next big storyline. Which brings us to the three issue arc, “Crisis on New Genesis” (issues 183-185).
This story was epic in the traditional sense of the word. The heroes of Earth One and Two gathered once again for their annual party, only to find themselves shanghai’d onto the strangely depopulated New Genesis. Off to solve the mystery went Earth One’s Superman, Green Lantern, Firestorm, and Batman, as well as Earth Two’s Wonder Woman, Huntress, Power Girl, and Dr. Fate. Along the way they found a most unhappy and unwilling-to-be-disturbed-without-consequence Orion, the ever-enigmatic Metron, the Granny Goodness Home For Orphaned Youth graduate Big Barda, and the God of Escape, Mister Miracle. Eventually the investigation took the heroes to Apokolips, where they discovered that the Injustice Society of Earth Two (the Fiddler, the Shade, and the Icicle) had been subjugated by the spirit of Darkseid, and are were using their powers and technology to bring the dark lord to life. Now the group had two objectives: find the missing New Gods and prevent the rebirth of the greatest villain in the DC Universe. But it got worse! It turned out that Darkseid’s plan included bringing Apokolips into the physical space of Earth Two, which would utterly destroy that Earth. Yikes!
Could the combined efforts of the Justice League, the Justice Society, and the New Gods locate the missing inhabitants of New Genesis, prevent the destruction of Earth Two and prevent Darkseid from making his triumphant return from “death”? Well, duh, of course they would, but it was the elegance of the process that made the issues so fun to read! Unfortunately, Dick Dillin was only able to draw the first issue of this titanic struggle. Dillin suffered a fatal heart attack after completing issue 183, and had to be replaced by George Perez (who turned out to be an able replacement, and one of the few artists capable of coherently drawing multiple villain and hero stories). It was unfortunate that after penciling so many DC Comics heroes and villains, Dillin was never able to draw the arguably greatest DC villain of them all in more than just a quick flashback sequence. Regardless, the three issues arc is among the best Justice League stories of all time, and well worth a read!