Monday, June 8, 2020

Stargirl Season 1, Episode 2: S.T.R.I.P.E.

This week on Stargirl, Courtney gets a costume, we get lots more STRIPE (yay!) and the Brainwave storyline takes a VERY unexpected turn.

S.T.R.I.P.E. is another very good episode in what's shaping up to be quite a fun little series. So far Stargirl's been a pleasant surprise, and I'm enjoying the characters and the world in which they live. I also quite like the show's sense of history, as the adult characters all have complicated and compelling pasts and backstories.

I'm also enjoying the fact that so far the show's managed to "subvert my expectations"— but in a good way! I figured Dugan's STRIPE robot might show up in the first episode, then sit out the rest of the season in order to save money. Happily it looks like STRIPE's here for the long haul. 

I also expected Brainwave to be the Big Bad of the series, who'd clash with Stargirl each week until ultimately being defeated in the season finale. So I was most definitely surprised when he was eliminated at the end of this episode! Wow! Didn't see THAT coming! It's always a plus when a series does the unexpected, so keep up the good work, guys!

Additionally, kudos to the series for not turning into an anti-male SJW screed. Courtney's a strong female character, and Dugan just happens to be her male sidekick. In lesser hands this could have become a cringeworthy and unpleasant rant against the patriarchy or some such hooey, as Dugan's character was repeatedly humiliated and belittled.

Happily that's not the case here. Dugan's portrayed as an intelligent, likable, well-meaning but somewhat goofy stepfather, one who's doing his best to protect his family from an all-too-real danger. His position as sidekick is logical within the world of the show, and a natural progression of the storyline. At no point is his character ever mocked or diminished. Again, well done, writers!

Lastly, an announcement. Dugan's giant robot is called "S.T.R.I.P.E.," which is an acronym for something that doesn't matter right now. Back when I was reviewing Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., I spent five or six years painstakingly typing out the name of that organization, complete with every goddamn one of the periods. Well, I ain't gonna start that up again! From this point on I'm typing the robot's name as simply "STRIPE." No periods. I think you'll figure out who I'm talking about without them. Why make life any harder than it has to be?


The Plot:
Picking up where we left off last week, Courtney escapes an encounter with Brainwave inside the tire factory. She flees the building, only to be stopped by a giant robot who scolds her for using the Cosmic Staff. She realizes her stepfather Dugan is inside the robot, driving it.

Dugan says he'll explain everything, but first he has to get her somewhere safe. She climbs up on the robot's back and grabs a convenient handhold. It then blasts off into the sky. 

Brainwave exits the factory in time to see the robot soar through the air. He looks down and spots Courtney's student I.D. that she apparently dropped. He picks it up, but it's too badly scorched to make out her photo or name.

The robot lands at Dugan's garage and enters. Its chest pops open and Dugan climbs out. He asks if Courtney's OK, and she tells him to give her a minute. Courtney describes her attacker, and Dugan recognizes him as Brainwave. She asks if he's the one who killed her father Starman. Once again, Dugan insists Starman was NOT her dad. He says Icicle, the leader of the Injustice Society, killed Starman, and no one knows where he is.

Meanwhile, William Zarick hears a noise in his home late at night. Zarick, who's secretly Injustice Society Of America member The Wizard, pulls his wand from a wall safe and investigates. He finds fellow ISA-er Henry King (aka Brainwave) downstairs, waiting for him. Brainwave shows him Courtney's I.D., and says she's somehow wielding Starman's old staff. He says they need to alert the others and be prepared. 

The two then argue over who's in charge, and Brainwave reminds Zarick that Jordan Mahkent, aka Icicle, is their leader, and is using Blue Valley as a test site for his Project New America plan. Brainwave says he's going to find Courtney, discover what she knows and then kill her.

Back at their home, 
Courtney says it's no coincidence that Brainwave and Dugan are both living in Blue Valley, and demands to know what's going on. He tells her his fellow Justice Society member Hourman somehow survived the ISA's attack. He then discovered the ISA members were secretly living in Blue Valley for some reason. Dugan built the STRIPE robot out of old car parts to help Hourman against the ISA, but this is the first time he ever got to use it.

Unfortunately Hourman & his wife died in a car accident shortly after, so Dugan followed him to Blue Valley to continue his research. He was never able to find any of the ISA, and figured they must have left. Now that Brainwave showed himself and attacked Courtney, he realizes he was wrong. He tells her there may well be more ISA members in town, and the whole family's in danger.

Dugan tells Courtney he'll deal with Brainwave, and orders her to stay safely on the sidelines. She refuses, saying she'll wear a costume so the ISA won't know who she is.

The next day, Dugan takes STRIPE to a remote field to practice driving it. Com-O-Dee ensues and he somehow ends up punching himself in the face (even though he's inside the robot).

Later at breakfast, Barbara notices bruises on Courtney's face (from her battle with Brainwave). She makes a flimsy excuse, saying she fell down the basement stairs. Dugan enters with similar bruises, and says he fell down the stairs too. Courtney hastily changes the subject by complimenting Dugan's pancakes. Barbara tells Courtney she appreciates her trying to get along with Dugan for her.

Courtney sneaks down to the basement and takes Starman's old costume from a trunk, stuffs it in her backpack and heads off to school.

At the King manor, Henry asks his son Henry Jr. more questions about the car-exploding-at-the-drive-in incident last week. He demands to know if a girl did it, and Henry Jr. says it was too dark to see. Henry scans his son's mind, but finds he's telling the truth. Henry then leaves for his job at the local hospital.

At the school, Courtney ditches her classes and enters an empty Home Ec room, where she cuts up the Starman costume and alters it to fit her. Due to the nature of the thick, protective fabric, she ends up destroying most of the machines in the room. She shrugs at this and waltzes out.

Barbara reports to her job at The American Dream, where CEO Steven Sharpe (aka The Gambler) holds a meeting and asks for fundraising ideas. She offers a couple suggestions, but Sharpe curtly and dismissively rejects her ideas.

Dugan decides it's time to whip his dad bod into shape, and visits Crusher's gym. Crusher, who's secretly Sportmaster of the ISA, puts him on a program, and more comedy ensues as Dugan struggles with the weights and equipment.

Back at the high school, Courtney eats at the "loser" table again. Yolanda's there, still sullen and silent. An overenthusiastic Beth Facetimes with her parents James and Bridget, asking if they're coming to the school's Open House later that night. Her parents seem like they can't wait to get away from her, and say they'll see her later.

At the hospital, Henry somehow uses his work computer to search through the Blue Valley High student database, looking for the owner of the school badge he found. Unfortunately for him, he can't find a match. He overhears Beth's mom Bridget (who also works at the hospital) talking about the Open House, and figures maybe he can find the mystery student there.

Cut to the Open House, where we see the Dugan family in attendance (sans Mike though). Henry's there as well, telepathically scanning the crowd as he searches for Courtney.

After a speech from the principal, the parents begin chatting and socializing in the gym. Courtney wanders around and suddenly spots Henry in the crowd. She recognizes him as Brainwave, and he telepathically senses her. Courtney rushes off to find Dugan, and Henry follows close behind.

Courtney exits the gym, and runs into Henry in a corridor. He scans her and says he senses she's Starman's daughter. So that's settled, then! She hisses that he'll pay for what he did to Starman and the JSA. Henry orders Courtney to bring the Cosmic Staff to him at midnight, or he'll kill Barbara by telekinetically giving her a stroke.

Courtney dashes back to the gym and finds Dugan, telling him what happened. Realizing they're all in danger, Dugan finds Barbara, feigns illness and says they need hurry home.

Back at the Dugan house, Courtney goes to the basement to get the Staff and her new costume. Dugan asks what she thinks she's doing, and she says she has to stop Brainwave and save her mom. He tells her to stay put, as Brainwave would only kill her and then he'd have the Staff. He says he'll deal with Brainwave himself, and if he's not back in the morning, to take Barbara and Mike and get the hell out of Blue Valley.

Dugan goes to his garage, and suits up in the STRIPE robot.

Back at the house, Courtney gazes at the locket with her father's photo in it. Barbara comes in and says she appreciates that she's getting along with Dugan, and that all she wants is for her to have a good life in Blue Valley. She exits, and Courtney goes to the window and stares up at the stars.

STRIPE arrives at the school parking lot, where Brainwave's waiting. STRIPE says he's looking for justice, and Brainwave launches a mental assault against him. STRIPE picks up a dumpster and a car and hurls them at Brainwave, but he easily deflects them.

STRIPE fires his robotic fist a Brainwave, but he telekinetically stops it and sends it shooting back at the robot, knocking it over. Brainwave then mentally picks up two school buses and pins STRIPE between them, slowly crushing him. Brainwave demands he give him the Cosmic Staff or else.

Suddenly Brainwave's hit by an energy blast and knocked across the lot. Courtney then lands and announces she's Stargirl, and STRIPE is her sidekick (!). Brainwave begins mentally hurling debris at her, but she's able to deflect it all.

Brainwave eventually manages to get the upper hand, as he knocks the Staff from her hand and pins her to the ground with a metal beam. He tells Courtney he's disappointed he's not facing Starman. He then grabs her forehead and psychically assaults her, sadistically causing her to feel intense pain. Courtney reaches for the Staff, but it lies there dead, just out of her grasp (so what happened to its autonomous flying ability?).

Inside STRIPE, Dugan hears Courtney scream in agony. Unable to free himself, he manages to activate a spotlight on the robot's chest, which momentarily blinds Brainwave. Courtney finally reaches the Staff and grab it. She points it at Brainwave, as it fires an intense beam of energy directly into his head. The energy expands outward from the Staff, then implodes. Brainwave instantly collapses to the ground, unconscious.

Sometime later, Henry Jr. arrives at the hospital. Bridget takes him to see his father, telling him he suffered some kind of seizure and is in a coma. She says they're doing everything they can, but the best person to help Henry would have been him.

At the garage, Courtney's feeling guilty that she fried Brainwave's mind. Dugan tells her it's not her fault. She wonders if the Staff's alive. Dugan says even Starman didn't know, as it was built by a man named Ted Knight (not THAT Ted Knight!). She says if any of the other Injustice Society members come around, they'll take them down as well.

Dugan says he can't be a superhero, pointing out that she had to save him. She gives him a Patented The CW Pep Talk®, saying the Staff chose her to be Stargirl, and she's choosing him to be her sidekick. She asks which ISA member they should go after next.

Elsewhere, Jordan Mahkent, aka Icicle, arrives at The American Dream building. He enters, opens a secret door and walks through a maze of underground corridors. At one point he passes a cell door, where the ISA's apparently been holding Solomon Grundy for the past decade. Mahkent eventually enters a conference room, where Sharpe's waiting.

Sharpe welcomes Jordan back, and shows him a photo of Stargirl in costume. He says whoever she is, she managed to take out Brainwave single-handedly. Mahkent ominously says he already killed one Starman, and can easily kill another.


 Last week I said the first episode of Stargirl was incredibly cinematic, and looked more like a theatrical movie than a TV series. It was obvious The CW threw a ton of money at the pilot, and I was concerned that the rest of the season would look cheap and uninspired in comparison.

Welp, looks like my worries were for naught. This episode looks every bit as good as the first, and the STRIPE effects are once again movie quality. Well done, guys!

• Just like last week, the streaming version of this episode is a good TEN MINUTES longer than the one broadcast on The CW. Jesus, that's a LOT of additional content! If at all possible, make sure you watch the streaming one!

Thing is, it's not just fluff that The CW's cutting out. They're excising important scenes— ones that introduce major characters and set up future conflicts.

Among the scenes that were cut:

— Brainwave's late-night meeting with Zarick (aka The Wizard), in which he informs him the daughter of Starman is in town and he intends to kill her.

— The scene in which The American Dream CEO Mr. Sharpe (aka The Gambler) dismissively shoots down all of Barbara's fundraising ideas.

— And the scene at the Open House, in which Dugan runs into Denise Zarick (The Wizard's wife). Although at first glance it might have seemed superfluous, the scene was obviously there to set up some future interaction between the two.

• Once again, there's absolutely no mention of the fact that this series takes place on Earth-2.

• Speaking of STRIPE, the episode begins with an awesome, spinning reveal of him in all his mechanical glory!

I've always been a sucker for giant robots— especially when they're piloted by a person inside— so this scene was right up my alley. I can't believe we're getting a TV series that features a realistic looking giant robot. What a time to be alive!

Now if The CW would just hurry up and release a STRIPE action figure, I'd be all set!

• STRIPE rescues Courtney from Brainwave, and tells her to climb on so he can take her somewhere safe.

Note that there are two convenient handles on STRIPE's upper back. Did Dugan deliberately add those so he could carry a passenger, or are they for something else?

 At the beginning of last week's episode we saw that Dugan's classic car the Racer had a flying mode. When STRIPE made his debut at the end of the episode, I said it was obvious that the car could also transform into giant robot form. I wondered why Dugan didn't use STRIPE to stop the Injustice League from wiping out the JSA.

Welp, this week we get a belated answer. Dugan takes Courtney back to his garage and tells her he built STRIPE out of old car parts— meaning it's completely separate from the Racer. Furthermore, he created STRIPE after the JSA was killed, and this is the first time he's ever fired it up and used it.

So there you go. One clarification and a giant plot hole securely plugged!

 Back at the garage, Courtney asks Dugan who attacked her. 

Dugan: "He's called Brainwave. One of the Justice Society's enemies. A member of the Injustice Society of America."

Courtney: (sarcastically) "The Injustice Society of America? None of you were good with names, huh, Stripesy?"
Dugan: "It was a different time then."

Yes, Pat, tell us all about the far distant past of ten years ago! You know, the era of Hula Hoops, coonskin caps, car hops and Blackjack chewing gum!

I get what the writers were going for here, but you say "it was a different time" when you're talking about fifty or sixty years ago not a measly ten!

• Courtney asks Dugan why he and the JSA's archenemy Brainwave just happen to live in the same remote little town. He tells her:

"Hourman survived that night and he took it upon himself to follow the Injustice Society's trail across the country, from Los Angeles to Colorado to Nebraska. He and his wife died in an accident shortly after they got here. Two years ago I followed Rex's research here. That's when I met your mom. When I got to Blue Valley, I couldn't pick up the Injustice Society's trail. I thought maybe they passed through or even left the country. I never would've moved us here if I thought any of them actually stayed in Blue Valley."

That's all well and good—except for the part about Hourman surviving.

During the opening battle scene in Pilot, The Wizard blasts Hourman with his wand. He lifts him high in the air, as we see what appears to be a beam of energy going completely through his chest.

The Wizard then hurls Hourman to the floor, and it looks for all the world like there's a massive hole in his torso. It's hard to see any way he could have survived such an attack.

Dugan even confirms this in the pilot, telling Courtney, "Well, they didn't exactly quit. Starman and the JSA died saving the world ten years ago."


I guess if we're to believe this episode though, Hourman somehow got better after he was killed.

• When Zarick hears an intruder downstairs, he opens a wall safe and pulls out the magic wand he used as The Wizard.

Man, The CW Prop Department really dropped the ball on this one! They typically come up with clever and awesome-looking props (like the STRIPE robot, for example!), but this... it literally looks like someone broke the end off a classroom pointer or grabbed a conductor's baton and called it a day!

• Kudos to the Stargirl casting director for choosing Christopher James Baker as Brainwave and Jake Austin Walker as his son Henry King Jr. The two actually look like they're related, and I have no trouble believing they're father & son. Good job!

• Dugan tromps into a remote cornfield, where we get a humorous montage as he practices using STRIPE's jet-powered, flying fist.

Of course at one point the fist misfires, so he aims it right at the robot's head to examine it. Naturally it then goes off, hitting STRIPE square in the noggin. We then cut to Dugan putting an ice pack on his bruised face! Comedy ahoy! 

OK, it's an amusing little scene, but it doesn't make a lick of sense, sacrificing logic for laughs. First of all, when Dugan's inside STRIPE, he's wearing the head like it's a helmet. He's all scrunched down inside the robot's chest cavity. So when the fist hits STRIPE in the face, it never comes anywhere near Dugan's head.

Secondly, even if the fist DID somehow strike Dugan, it hits the LEFT side of STRIPE's head. Later in the basement, we see the RIGHT side of Dugan's face is bruised.

I suppose we could be generous here and say that when the fist hits STRIPE in the head, it jolts the robot so hard that Dugan knocked his face against the interior. It's still a pretty weak explanation though...

• Last week I wondered what the hell the Blue Valley High football mascot was supposed to be. I guessed a chipmunk, or perhaps a hamster or woodchuck.

Turns out they're the Fighting Prairie Dogs! Who knew?

• Courtney goes down to the basement, where she swipes her father's old Starman costume from one of Dugan's trunks. She then goes to school, but ditches her classes so she can sneak into an empty Home Ec room and begin altering the costume to fit her.

Thing is, the costume is made from a heavy material, causing her to break a pair of scissors on it. Even worse, as she alters the costume the sewing machine overheats and breaks down. Eventually she ruins several machines before she's done!

Once she's finished, she stops in the doorway and glances back at the now-completely destroyed Home Ec room.

She then shrugs in an "Oh well" gesture and walks out! Our hero, ladies and gentlemen!

To make it even worse, all during this scene the soundtrack blasts out Danger Twins' song Girls Gotta, which goes, "A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta. A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta. Heh, heh, heh."

OK, obviously I'm being somewhat facetious here. On the other hand, it was pretty sh*tty of Courtney to so nonchalantly trash school property, especially since I assume her character's supposed to be a role model for young girls.

• As we all know by now, most of the Arrowverse series are filmed in Vancouver. Stargirl's a bit different, as it's shot in Atlanta and the surrounding cities of Marietta, Douglasville and Dallas (for the record, Black Lightning's filmed in Atlanta as well). I assume they did this to give the series a different look from all the others, and because it takes place in a small town.

Dugan's Pit Stop garage, where he stores STRIPE...

Is actually located on 300 W. Memorial Drive in Dallas, Georgia. Note how the producers used creative camera angles and cropping to make the garage look more cinematic, and hide the overhead power lines.

The American Dream building, where Barbara works...

Is actually the old Paulding County Courthouse in Dallas.

• Last week Dugan met Crusher Crock, who's secretly the Sportmaster of the ISA. This week Dugan visits Crusher's gym and takes him up on his offer to "get him ripped."

As Dugan heads for the locker room, Crusher leans over, yells "Come on baby, get PUMPED!" and then slaps him hard on the ass.

If you watch closely, actor Luke Wilson turns right after the slap, and it looks for all the world like he's laughing as the scene abruptly ends. 
I'm wondering if the ass slap was an ad lib by actor Neil Hopkins, and was so unexpected it made Wilson break up?

• After their encounter in the previous episode, Brainwave finds Courtney's scorched student I.D. on the ground. Unfortunately for him, it's too badly scorched to make out her name or photo.

Brainwave then goes to the hospital where he works and somehow accesses the Blue Valley High student database, searching for Courtney's face.

Is... is that really a thing? Can anyone and their dog just start searching through students' personal info on a high school's website? That seems unlikely. 

I suppose maybe as a member of the ISA, Brainwave knows some hacker tricks to access the records. Or some schools allow parents to register a special account so they can keep tabs on their kids. Maybe that's what's happening here.

However he got in, it seems like a reeeeeeally bad idea for a middle-aged man to start snooping through the records of young teen girls ON HIS WORK COMPUTER!

• Dugan, Barbara and Courtney attend the Blue Valley High Open House. So where's Mike? Why didn't Dugan force him to come along too? Isn't this his school as well? Or is Mike still in junior high?

• During the Open House, Principal Bowin brags on her son Isaac, saying, "My boy here is quite the musician himself. He'll be better than I ever was. A real savant, and a cute one at that!"

Nothing happens on a TV show without a reason, so this seemingly innocuous conversation wouldn't be here unless it meant something.

In the comics, there was a villain named the Fiddler who was part of the Injustice League. He had the power to hypnotize others with his music, as well as cause vibrations that shattered objects.

Considering Mrs. Bowin's talking up Isaac's musical talent, it's a sure bet he'll eventually become a young version of the Fiddler and battle Team Stargirl. As further proof, just look at his name. "Bowin?" "Fiddler?" Get it?

• In the previous episode, Dugan was miffed when Courtney told him she accidentally destroyed a car with the Staff. In this episode, he casually picks up a driver's ed car and hurls it at Brainwave without a second thought. Eh, no big deal. It belonged to the school, so they can just buy a new one, right? Another of our heroes, ladies and gentlemen!

• Loved the part where Courtney corrects Brainwave and says, "I'm StarGIRL," then points to STRIPE and says, "And that's my sidekick!"

Poor Dugan! Always a sidekick, never a bride. This is twice now he's ended up being an adult sidekick to a teen superhero!

• For two episodes now it's been firmly established that the Cosmic Staff seemingly has a mind of its own. It can fly, hover and even fire energy blasts independently. In fact in this scene you can see it flying by itself next to Courtney, right before she jumps on it.

At the end of this episode Brainwave telepathically pins Courtney to the ground, and the Staff's knocked from her hand. For some reason it then lies there completely inert, while she spends five minutes helplessly trying to grab it.

OK, I get that the writers were trying to add some tension to the battle here, and they likely don't want the Staff to become an all too-powerful plot device that can get Courtney out of any jam. 

But trying to sell the idea that it only works when Courtney's touching it completely contradicts everything they've previously established!

• I've watched this scene several times now, and I'm still not sure what happened to Brainwave. Did the Staff simply blast him in the face with powerful energy, frying his brain and putting him into a coma? Or did his psychic assault combine with the Staff's energy and amplify its effect? I'm honestly not sure.

• As I said in the intro, this series is definitely subverting my expectations. Based on the buildup Brainwave got last week and in this episode, I assumed he was the Big Bad and would pose a threat to Stargirl for the entire series. I sure didn't expect him to be taken out this early!

• Henry King Jr. rushes to the hospital to see his father. Dr. Chapel tells Henry, "We found him outside."

So apparently after the Cosmic Staff fried Brainwave's mind, Courtney and Dugan dumped his body outside the emergency room! Just like a gang does when one of their members gets shot!

I wonder if they bothered to changed his clothes, or left him in his green leather Brainwave outfit?

• When Henry Jr. sees his father lying in a coma, he gets a severe case of "Revenge Face." 

In the comics, Henry King Jr. inherited his father's psychic powers. He tried to redeem the family name though, by becoming a superhero and a founding member of Infinity, Inc.— where he went by the incredibly creative name "Brainwave Jr."

It didn't work though, as his powers eventually caused a mental imbalance in his brain and drove him insane.

I have a feeling something somewhat similar will happen here. As I said before, nothing happens on a TV show without a reason, so I'm betting this hospital scene is setting up a villainous turn by Henry Jr. Earlier in the episode we saw Henry Sr. trying to train him to read his mind, so it's possible he may have some latent telepathic powers of his own. He's definitely gonna go after Courtney for frying his dad's brain. He might even start up a new "Young Injustice Society!"

Heck, it's even possible that Henry Sr.'s mental energy could possess his son's body, giving Brainwave a second shot at revenge!

• In the comics, S.T.R.I.P.E. stands for "Special Tactics Robotic Integrated Power Enhancer," which is about as tortured an acronym as I've ever heard. 

Here on the show, Dugan never mentions what S.T.R.I.P.E. means. Courtney decides it stands for the even more nonsensical "Subatomic Tactical Robot, Internet Pat Enhancer."

I have a feeling this will become a running joke on the show, and any time someone asks what STRIPE means they'll get a different answer.

• Back at the garage, Courtney and Dugan discuss the Staff:

Courtney: "The Cosmic Staff... is it alive, or..."
Dugan: "I don't know how the Staff works. Starman didn't build it. A man named Ted Knight did, but that's a story for another day."

Dugan's not wrong. In the comics, Ted Knight was the original Golden Age Starman. He built the Gravity Rod, which eventually became the Cosmic Staff.

As I mentioned last week though, Dugan, aka Stripesy, was the partner of the Star-Spangled Kid, not Starman. For some reason the series is taking elements from both characters and melding them into one.

• At the end of the episode, Icicle arrives in Blue Valley. He sneaks into The American Dream building after hours and opens a secret door. He then descends into the ISA's vast, underground HQ.

Note that this subterranean complex is HUGE! In fact it looks like it's as big or even bigger than the entire town! Who the hell built all this? The ISA? Did they all don hard hats and learn to use excavating equipment? How many years did it take? How'd no one in Blue Valley ever find out about this massive construction project?  Did The Wizard magically scoop out this underground HQ with his wand?

• At one point Icicle walks past a heavily fortified door. We then get a quick glimpse of Solomon Grundy as he peers out.

So... has the ISA really kept Grundy locked up in this little cell for the past TEN YEARS? That seems needlessly cruel and sadistic. I get that he's a dangerous force of nature and they need to keep him under control. But surely there was another way. As is, they're now VILLAINS who've locked up a fellow villain, which doesn't make a lot of sense.

Seems like a risk too. After being cooped up in a cell for a decade, what motivation does Grundy have for obeying Icicle's orders? What's keeping him from snapping the necks of the other ISA members as soon as he's let out on a mission?

• Inside the HQ, Icicle pauses in front of a large painted portrait of the Injustice Society. Several things here:

From left to right, the portrait features The Wizard, Tigress, Sportmaster, Icicle, Brainwave, The Gambler and an unknown person on the end. Is it the Fiddler? Or possibly the Dragon King? It's unclear at this time.

Also, If you look really close, it appears there's a barely visible shadowy figure between Tigress and Sportmaster. I assume that's probably The Shade?

Secondly, the portrait looks very much like the work of superhero artist extraordinaire Alex Ross. I don't think he painted it, but it's definitely influenced by his style.

Lastly, I wanna know who painted this thing! Did someone in the ISA do it? Or did they commission an artist and then pose while he painted them? That seems unlikely.

"Hello, my name's Icicle. I'm the leader of the Injustice Society Of America. Perhaps you've heard of us? No? Anyway, I was wondering if you'd be interested in painting a group portrait of our little gang to hang up in our secret underground lair."

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