Friday, September 18, 2015

All-Star Comics - War Heroes!

When "Rascally" Roy Thomas left Marvel it was a surprise for sure. Not the shock that rippled through a more naive fandom when Jack Kirby left the "House of Ideas", but still notable. Roy was at the top of his game, coming off years of successful superhero books and carving out a steadfast role in regard Robert E. Howard's creations. One of the books most beloved by yours truly by Roy was The Invaders and when he ended up at DC, his focus was very much on the Golden Age and especially his particular favorite comic All-Star Comics which featured the Justice Society of America.

So it makes perfect sense that the first thing he does in tandem with Rich Buckler and "Jeremiah Ordway" was to disband the JSofA and create a here-to-fore unknown World War II team dubbed the "All-Star Squadron". What it was, was a continuity implant not unlike many of the Invaders stories had been, but this time shunted into a somewhat more dense history of the JSofA itself.

The team debuted (sort of) in the pages of Justice League of America in a special section intended to draw readership, a nice ploy. Then quickly the book became one of the most handsome thanks to the outstanding artwork of Rich Buckler (in his original synthesized style) with magnificent inks by Jerry Ordway, a newcomer, but one who made a big impression. Later Buckler fell out with DC and his slot was taken by Adrian Gonzales, who also proved to be a dynamic storyteller.

 Roy chooses to begin the saga with a weird story which itself corrupts the timeline of the heroes by having a 1947 villain named Per Degaton travel back to the hours just before the Pearl Harbor attack and use other displaced villains to attempt to take advantage of the chaos created on the notorious aftermath of the deadly attack. It's strange because after the heroes repel the invasion led by Per Degaton they forget it happened since the timeline reasserts itself -- an odd way to begin.

Quickly the Justice Society of America disbands, thinking somehow they can do more good as mere soldiers than as super-soldiers. The members of the All-Star Squadron fill the void and act under the orders of FDR.

The team consists of Johnny Quick, Liberty Belle, Robotman, Shining Knight, and left over from the JSofA Atom and Hawkman, along with Dr. Midnite. Soon a new heroine named Firebrand joins the action.

The new team is quite busy in the days following Pearl Harbor and travel from coast to coast and even into Mexico to stop Nazis who are seeking to take over our neighbor to the south.

The Squadron gets a new member when Commander Steel shows up after two years abroad. His arrival is just in time to stop assassins from killing both FDR and Winston Churchill.

Then in a bravura trilogy, the team fends off a seeming alien attack which proves to be at once more than less than it seems. Great imagery and old villains abound.

Hawkman seems to linger as the team gets its footing just in time to face down Per Degaton again in a delightful crossover with the Justice League. What's strange is that given the time-traveling nature of this storyline too, it also was wiped out, making the new continuity even more confusing.

Then the A-SS gets its first annual and this one answers a burning question no one was asking, why were the mentors of the Atom, Golden Guardian, and Wildcat so similar. There's a reason and it's cosmic.

In the regular series the story picks up just where the time-travel saga with the Justice League left off, this time the All-Stars battle the Magnetic Marauder and discover much about him and themselves.

Robotman becomes the center of attention as his legal status gets determined, and his many secrets enter the public domain.

And finally for this collection the All-Stars battle Thor, or at least a stunning simulation from the pages of Simon and Kirby's Sandman. Also, the burning question is answered at long last as to why the Sandman's gold and purple togs and the Tarantula look so much alike. I know it always bothered me.

To be truthful these are handsome issues by Thomas, Buckler, Gonazales and Ordway, but increasingly as the series continued Roy's mania to clarify benign and tiny mysteries which clearly had been tearing away at him for decades. Roy is my favorite writer, but this tendency is his achilles heel and lets him create some stories which really make you shake your head as pages will be spent solving conundrums no one else cares about, or at least ought not to care to about.

That said, I did very much enjoy reading these stories again after all these years and might have to actually resort to digging out the back issues I have and continue the series. More reprints are needed though.

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  1. Some really stunning Joe Kubert covers here - Ok put me out of my misery why do the Sandman's gold and purple togs look like the Tarantula costume?

    1. Oh it's quite simple -- the same seamstress made them. It's not the detail that's so annoying but that this notion seems to be the main motivator for the story, way too much time is spent on this possible confusion. Roy could get that way about such small things.

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