Saturday, February 10, 2024

Justice League Europe #44 (November 1992)

Look, we all know the guy in the armor is an old white real estate speculator who never had time for a wife.

Nothing about this cover makes sense. Why is Elongated Man using a magnifying glass to read a book? How does the ghost knight think he's going to harm Mr. Rubber with that poleaxe? And why did he have to get so close with it? Why is Hal Jordan running forward instead of just using his ring from the stairs? Why was Power Girl loitering in the dark stairwell with Hal Jordan?

I suppose all of those questions are really easy to answer because I'm not very good at trying to make a cover that makes perfect sense not make any sense. Obviously Hal Jordan isn't using his ring because the yellow torchlight reflecting off the armor makes it immune to his ring. And have you ever tried to read the writing in an old English book? Obviously you need a magnifying glass! And I'm betting Elongated Man can be harmed by a slashing weapon if it's sharp enough. And he got in close and choked up on the handle for a more accurate and powerful blow. And, lastly, Power Girl was giving Hal a blow job.

Now that I've answered all the stupid questions I pretended I had with this cover, I'll apologize to Ron and Randy. Your cover has no flaws. A+ effort.

At the end of the last issue, Amos Fortune used the probability of the Chunnel collapsing to win the biggest longshot in horse racing history. Scientifically speaking, this meant the Chunnel had to collapse, luck being a zero sum resource in the universe. Now the Justice League have to rescue all the construction workers digging the Chunnel without any indication that some villainous probability witch has caused this accident. I have no idea how they'll discover this was caused by a probability manipulation machine. I think Amos Fortune just got away with the perfect crime! No wait. I bet somebody will review a bunch of CCTV footage from all three "maritime" accidents and they'll recognize Amos Fortune with facial recognition software. Or whatever the 1992 version of those technologies is. Probably Sue spending fifteen hours reviewing a bunch of grainy black and white footage from security cameras on nearby fish and chips shops.

While the Justice League keep the Chunnel from collapsing and flooding the city, Sue Dibny questions the construction workers. Here how she questions them:

Sue: "I heard the Chunnel was perfectly safe. Lies!"
Construction Worker: "There was an earthquake!"
Sue: "And you didn't protect against that? Lazy!"
Construction Worker: "We did! But there's only so much you can prepare for!"
Sue: "Liar! All lies! No villainy here! Just incompetence!"

After this guy explains it all so logically and mathematically, Sue becomes suspicious!

Of course Sue is suspicious! If an event was improbable but it still happens, it must have been caused by nefarious agents! That's just logic! Mostly TikTok and YouTube logic, really. But still logical!

Is Sue going to follow up on the other recent "maritime" disasters and discover the odds of a pier collapsing and a casino boat sinking were astronomically against those events. That'll prove somebody is behind this. Or maybe she won't think about this conversation again until the tidal wave is about to wipe out London which is when she'll be all, "This reminds me of that dock worker who was really in probability! Maybe he was the actuary for the construction business's insurance company? Anyway, he said a tidal wave was so improbable that if one occurred, it would be super suspicious!"

You can tell Gerard Jones shoved in Sue's conversation because he was desperately thinking the same thing I was while reading last issue: how the fuck are the Justice League going to determine that these accidents were caused maliciously?! That question, many of you may already have noticed, just proves how truly ignorant I am of the DC Universe and the amazing detective abilities of characters like Batman, The Elongated Man, and Detective Chimp. Because it takes almost no time for everybody to put all of the pieces together.

So Amos Fortune's big mistake was doing all of his crimes near water?

I wouldn't blame Amos Fortune for this mistake of his. How could he have known that a collapsing pier, a sinking gambling ship, and the collapse of the Chunnel would all be reported by the BBC as "maritime disasters"? Even I, the smartest dumb guy in the world, would never have jumped to that conclusion! I'm surprised the collapsing pier even made the news! I was once canoeing somewhere in Northern California and we stopped at a little pier near a trailer park which had a small shop where we'd buy a bunch of Hostess pies to go with our cooler full of cheap beer. My friend Joseph came running down the hill and out onto the pier and crashed right through it. That didn't make the news! But then he also, luckily, didn't suffer any injuries like a pierced testicle or a different pierced testicle (no pun intended. If you can't find the pun, "pier" and "pierced"!). Which makes me believe those craps playing fishermen all died horribly in the accident.

That part about me being ignorant of the DC Universe mostly stems from the fact I didn't realize Amos Fortune was one of the Justice League's past nemeses. He should probably change his name if Hal Jordan is able to make the leap of logic between the "misfortunes" he causes and his name "Fortune." Why not Amos Notguilty? Unless that would just end in somebody saying, "Who could be guilty of this crime?" And then Hal Jordan would be all, "Or not guilty! Amos Notguilty!" Perhaps maybe just Amos Daisy then.

King Aquaman basically gloating over some enemy being piss poor.

Aquaman's argument that he was left in poverty ignores that Amos Fortune was a scientist that developed the technology to steal luck. It's probably been like thirty years since you went up against this guy, based on how boring and lame he is. He's had plenty of time to reinvent his wheel of fortune. But then, as royalty, his perspective on poverty has been skewed by years of being super rich and powerful.

The Justice League determine that Amos is escalating his gambling. So after a shitty little craps game, he bankrupts a floating casino playing blackjack. After that, he wins huge at the races. They all agree the only way he can escalate this any further is by going to Monte Carlo. My stupid brain wants to complain about this series of events but I'm finally getting a comic book story where the villain isn't actively bothering the heroes while also trying to commit his crimes unnoticed. And the Justice League have to use their heads to figure out where to find him and how to stop him. This issue is a huge fucking anomaly in comic books by 1992! Unless you were reading Shadow of the Bat. I think that one tried to be more "detective" based too. Or it was just Zzasz murdering Gothamites like crazy and Batman going, "I have to catch but not kill this maniac somehow!"

Amos Fortune arrives in Monte Carlo to place his millions of dollars in horserace winnings on "the famous roulette wheels of Monte Carlo." What makes them famous is how they'll accept any size bet, I think. Because why would roulette wheels be more famous just because they were in Monte Carlo? Because they had a cameo in a James Bond film? If he went to Las Vegas, he'd probably have to make dozens of smaller bets and then people would get suspicious if he kept winning every spin. Also the casino owners in Las Vegas would have him killed and buried in the desert the first time they saw him win four spins in a row at the maximum bet size. In Monte Carlo, they'll let any old idiot bet millions on one spin of roulette because the odds are so crazy that it's practically robbing the casino patron. And also they probably have billions of Monégasque francs in gold bars locked up in the basement. So who cares if one gambler in millions wins one big hit on their wheels? But also, they probably murder winners and dump them in the Mediterranean all the time.

"Your luck is magnificent, sir! But you shall not live to see morning!"

Amos Fortune's metaphor of luck being somebody ruining a toilet bowl with massive diarrhea has made him my favorite Justice League villain of all time. Even if it's only in my head that the metaphor was about shitting your guts out. Part of me understands he's talking about a tidal wave of water and not liquid shit. But I hate that part of me and I will fight against it until the day I die.

The Justice League phase through the wall on Lantern-created Pegasi like Valkyries descending on whatever Valkyries typically descend on. Cowardly Vikings? Brave Vikings? Anybody who isn't a Viking? Maybe I should learn more about Norse mythology before I try to make a Valkyrie analogy. The casino staff are all, "No no no! Do not start a fight in here! You can't afford the clean up, you American jerks!" But Hal Jordan is all, "We will not destroy your casino if Amos Fortune goes with us." And Amos Fortune is all, "Why should I, you stupid fucks? I'm gambling legally! All of my money on Black 13!"

Oh, well, when you explain it all away so scientifically, I guess you're in the clear, Amos! Good work! Carry on destroying everything to line your own pockets.

Dammit! Now I have to weigh Amos's pureblooded capitalism against the fact he made a metaphor that I pretended was better than it was to decide if I like him or not! Okay, so that isn't the Sophie's choice it sounded like in my head as I began writing it. The shit metaphor was all mine! Why am I giving that to Amos or Gerard Jones?! Obviously Amos Fortune is a fucking piece of shit. Just another typical billionaire who thinks the consequences of his disastrous way of life aren't any of his responsibility and should absolutely be paid with the lives of the less wealthy. He doesn't even realize he's confessing to malicious intent! He just thinks, "Oh, that's the way the economy works and I'm taking advantage of it. Nothing to do with me and my responsibilities! Go bother a real criminal, like a shoplifter or a desperate poor person breaking a window and stealing some bishop's bread."

The Flash, Power Girl, Elongated Man, and Doctor Light do not appreciate Amos taunting them with his logic so they trample the casino staff as they go to take him down. But he's already made the bet! If that wheel gets spun, it'll be the end of the world! I mean the end of the world for all the people who die in the tidal wave. That's how life works. You don't actually die alone. You take the whole fucking shebang with you. Philosophically, I mean. You know what I mean, right? I'm not talking to a bunch of ignorant dolts, am I? AM I?!

None of the heroes think, "I need to stop the ball from landing on a number in the roulette wheel!" Instead they all think, "I want to punch Amos Fortune in his smug face!" It's also possible that none of them could stop it because the bad luck already generated by Amos in the casino causes the Justice League to fall all over each other. Even Hal Jordan gets brained by a yellow chandelier that he has time to watch fall on his head while saying, "Yellow. What rotten luck," instead of, you know, grabbing a nearby green felt table and holding it over his head like Guy Gardner would have thought to do. So the ball lands in Black 13 and the entire casino begins to shake. Looks like a bunch of people are about to get thoroughly fucked by yet another rich asshole.

You know what? All the people about to die in Monte Carlo to this tidal wave are mostly rich assholes! So I'm not going to feel bad for those guys dying. But I will mourn the cabbies and doormen and bussers and maids.

Aquaman dives in the sea and talks to a dolphin who is all, "Yeah, this is gonna be a huge wave, buddy!" Which leaves it up to Hal Jordan to stop the tidal wave. But he's still dizzy from the chandelier! What kind of hero loses all of their power from a '40s slapstick movie accident?

Enh. What was he going to do anyway? Create a giant boxing glove so he could punch it?

Hal's idea to stop the wave is to put Amos Fortune in the path of the wave. That way all the good luck he's generated should cancel out the bad luck of drowning in a tidal wave. It works, creating another tidal wave going in the opposite direction which totally makes scientific sense so I won't even question it! The only problem (and it's only a problem for Amos) is that after using the luck to win and then also using the luck to save his own life to stop all of the bad luck, his Probability Machine short circuits and it's back to wandering around in poverty. The Justice League don't allow him to cash in the chips he won. They just haul him off to punish him. But I don't think he really broke any laws so I assume they're taking him to Superman so he can throw him into the Phantom Zone.

See this? There's a reason I'm constantly pointing out that Hal Jordan's go-to move is to smash people in the jaw.

Fucking Hal. Calling himself a "great one." But isn't Amos Fortune the epitome of somebody making their own luck? Is he great too, Hal? IS HE?!

Justice League Europe #44 Rating: A-. I have to give this issue credit for telling a story of a villain committing a "crime" which the Justice League actually had to figure out themselves. It's a rarity in comic books and I don't know who is to blame for basing most super hero comic book plots on villains attacking the heroes instead of heroes stopping villains from committing crimes. If I had to pull a random theory out of my ass, I'd blame it on the X-men comics. Because the X-men, ultimately, is about a school where mutants can find a safe haven from the bigotry of the world. But they have to keep defending themselves against that bigotry played out in a metaphor of super villain on super hero violence. And it was so successful, that DC began trying to emulate it. This is most notable in The New Titans where they rarely, if ever, actually battle to save the world from a threat that wasn't first and foremost a threat against one of their members. I didn't remember how much the Justice League comics pull from this wheelhouse until this re-read. But things like Despero attacking them specifically. Or Max Lord hiring the Royal Flush gang to attack. Or Dreamweaver of The Extremists trying to get revenge after the first defeat. There are others but my memory is a fucking sieve and my head is hurting trying to remember any of this re-read (which began like three years ago? What the fuck have I been doing?! Oh yeah! I read Gravity's Rainbow 2-3 times and Alan Moore's Jerusalem twice!). And even though I should take a few grades off because that cover had absolutely nothing to do with the story, I'm deciding not to be petty today.

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