Frameup in Oregon

October 24, 2003

JLA #80-82: The White Rage 1-3
Writer: Joe Kelly
Penciler: Doug Mankhe
Inker: Tom Nguyen

By Avi Green

Joe Kelly seems to have written a story based vaguely on the case of Waco in Texas back in 1996, about a supposedly peace and love advocating ranch called Safe Haven, a camp for youngsters run by a metahuman couple in Weelo Springs, Oregon. And, having read it, I can say that itís not too bad, but still comes up a bit short.

A social worker on a mission to inspect the grounds is denied entrance to the camp by the man in charge, and when she tries to question his refusal to allow her in, and says that she wouldnít want to have to call the police, he uses psychokinesis to set her car on fire, frightening her away.

The feds are called in soon afterwards, and several members of the JLA, save for Wonder Woman and Batman, also arrive, hoping to prevent a possible shootout between the camp staff, whoíre armed, and the authorities, who have no intention of letting them do down the law, since they donít want any of the children inside to be caught in the crossfire.

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, things go awry, and the team must try to stop both the camp personnel and the police from getting out of hand with a shootout. Finally, things really end up looking gloomy for the JLA when it seems as if new team member Faith, the one with the very powerful telekinetic and explosive abilities, sends the entire camp up in an explosion.

Itís a pretty good setup, but the part where Kelly wrote one of the camp guards calling out to the police helicopters arriving on the scene, ďand I voted for Gore!Ē seemed awfully forced (what, they canít come up with a fictionalized version of the former vice-president instead?), even though it was probably meant to be satirical.

During this time, in Gotham City, Wonder Woman is paying a visit to Bruce Wayneís estate on a date. Not that they really take the time to focus on any possible relationship or romance between them though, but I guess it doesnít make much difference either way.

The most interesting part of this is where Plunder, a mercenary who appeared in the Flash and is a mirror world clone of Keystone City police detective Jared Morillo, (created in part by the Mirror Master, no less), is brought up in a discussion between Bruce and Diana, who had their meeting interrupted by the alert on Plunderís presence in Gotham. Bruce of course, this being his city, expects to be able to deal with the problem himself, and for Diana to stay out of the way.

Cut to the next part, in a jail in Weelo Springs, where Superman is being held on suspicion of having led to the deaths of at least a hundred people, including children, at the Safe Haven youth camp. Wonder Woman is trying to get through to see Supes, but the officer in charge refuses to allow her to see him despite her credentials as an ambassador.

As for the rest of the members, such as John Stewart, theyíre missing, whereas Faith and Major Disaster are hiding in a trailer out in the country, terrified over the fiasco they think they may have caused, and not knowing what to do, until Faith decides to call her former boss, Manson, the gangster who leads a South American drug cartel (and whom Iím guessing is meant to be a takeoff on the gang leader Charles Manson in real life), asking if she can allowed to return, and shows Major Disaster how she got to be the metahuman she is now.

Meanwhile, Manitou Raven is visiting a Las Vegas casino, wondering whatever happened to the reserve his ancestors grew up on, when he sees the news on TV, and takes off for the area of the Safe Haven campís wreckage, where Batman, Firestorm, and the Atom are searching for any dead bodies. With his own psychokinetic powers to feel the spirits of dead people, he offers to check for any dead spirits, but turns up none.

And indeed, as we see in another location, the children who resided at the camp are now at another location, run by the new Axis Amerika, a metahuman gang of racists whoíre sort of like a modern day KKK clan, which the Safe Haven owners are indeed part of, and they also have John Stewart there, under some kind of hypnosis, guarding them all under a power ring shield, as the gang are hoping, will eventually suffocate the entire group of kids.

As the JLA members who arenít being pursued by the law approach the location of the gang in search of the missing children, Batmanís bat-plane is shot down by the gang, and the rest of the members, such as Firestorm and Atom, find themselves face-to-face with the new Axis gang.

As the next issue begins, we see that the Flash has taken briefly into the Speed Force, apparently on the run too, and ends up in Hong Kong, puzzled as to why he took off like that. But the answer to why lies ahead, as youíll soon see.

Faith and Major Disaster go to meet with Manson, and the latter insists on being provided with hiding and protection, much to the annoyance of Manson, who then tries to attack him, and wins the retaliation of Faith, whereupon they also realize that not only was he in on the whole frameup plot, but that he also used a mind-influencing device to manipulate the members of the JLA who went missing. As for Axis Amerika, they flee from where theyíve been trying to fight the other members of the JLA, including Superman, whoís been found not guilty, thanks to some special intervention by Wonder Woman, thank god, and the missing childrenís location is found, and are rescued along with John Stewart.

Overall, itís an okay allegory of the Waco incident in Texas, and while not perfect, it was still enjoyable, and works fairly well in presenting what are no doubt meant to be another of the JLAís adversaries, the Axis Amerika gang.

I figure that these villains will turn up again in time to menace the JLA, and until then, well, Iíll be waiting to see what future issues are like after Kelly leaves, as heíll be doing soon. Thereís to be an issue in time written by Dennis OíNeil, whom many know to be famous for his work on Batman and Green Lantern in the Bronze Age, and Justice League of America was one of the first books he worked on when he first began writing in the Silver Age. Now that ought to be quite a treat to see OíNeil work again on the title that gained him fame in the mid-1960ís.

Copyright 2003 Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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