Justice League International #16-17
Bialyan President Rumaan Harjavti announces a special presentation rumored to be a secret weapon which catches the attention of Maxwell Lord. He asks Batman to infiltrate Bialya to find out what’s going on, so Batman creates an infiltration team of Blue Beetle, Booster Gold and Green Flame. “Disguised” as Bruce Wayne, Batman enters Bialya with a number of other celebrities and begins searching. Their cover is quickly blown when Beetle and Booster are gassed in their hotel room and taken captive, and Batman and Green Flame are attacked at gunpoint, but easily subdue their attackers. Batman changes his cover identity to Maxwell Lord and attends the presentation. Harjavti tells the gathered celebrities and press that he plans on becoming a champion of the smaller nation to free it from the hold of the USA and USSR, revealing the horribly disfigured Wandjina. As Harjavti brags, Wandjina attacks him from behind, irradiating his head and killing him. Harjavti’s escort, Queen Bee, announces that she is taking control of Bialya and seals the country’s borders.
Batman, still disguised as Max Lord, decides to begin an escape plan and leaves Green Flame to go free Booster and Beetle. Booster moves first, though, using his Legion Flight Ring to disable their cell guard and free themselves. As they head back to recover Flame, she drops from the hotel into Booster’s waiting arms. The Bialyans corner them, but their attack is blown by the arrival of Captain Atom, disregarding Batman’s orders not to interfere. After a brief fight in which Atom destroys the mindless Wandjina, Queen Bee arrives and dismisses the JLI, promising not to make light of their gross discrepancy against her country as long as they do not return. Batman threatens her, only to find that the people of Bialya fully support her. Dejected, the team leaves.
While seemingly unimportant by itself, Queen Bee’s coup of Bialya is one of the more important happenings of the title, especially in the story that closes the comedy JLI run. By itself, it is quite an enjoyable, yet chaotic little story, made especially better with the art of Kevin Maguire. There was more to the jailing of Beetle and Booster than meets the eye, too. We’ll come back to that. Like several stories here, this one hasn’t aged particularly well. Amongst the celebrities mentioned at the shindig, Jim Nabors is constantly mentioned. Even then, Gomer Pyle would be a dated reference, and today it’s easier to miss than not. Again, the Cold War is featured, and its effect on the mideast (particularly Afghanistan, it seems) which really doesn’t work anymore.
Queen Bee, despite her importance, is not a particularly interesting character. She’s just a woman who uses mind control to get her way. For that matter, Bialya stories usually aren’t particularly interesting. Wandjina makes his return after seemingly dying in issue #3, but he gets even less characterization here than he did before. He’s pretty much a walking nuclear corpse and he only lasts two issues before being killed again. We get more hotheaded moves from Captain Atom, showing that he’s not really a team player, but these won’t really go anywhere before he’s shuffled off to Justice League Europe.
Note that this is part 1 of this part, since the story of Martian Manhunter and crew going after Mister Miracle is also running in the title, but that’s going to be saved for the next edition as to not have to balance them back and forth.