Thursday, June 10, 2021

Classic Crisis #23 - The Seven Soldiers Of Victory!

The tenth Justice League and Justice Society crossover coincided with the hundredth issue of the JLofA and something special was offered. For starters, the story ran three issues instead of the usual two and for another vintage super-team from DC's Golden Age past was revived -- The Seven Soldiers of Victory. A new scribe would also take over on the series, and Len Wein's stint on the JLofA might just be my favorite period of the team ever.

"The Unknown Soldier of Victory!" written by Len Wein, and drawn by the team of Dick Dillin and Joe Giella begins not in the JLofA satellite, but in their old Secret Sanctuary where Aquaman, Black Canary, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, and Hawkman gather for what is planned to be their hundredth meeting, and a celebration is planned. The Atom shows up and other heroes are shown either on their way or pining that they cannot attend. Flash, Elongated Man, and Metamorpho head to the party, while Martian Manhunter (helping his people rebuild) and Snapper Carr (still guilty for betraying the League) ponder what keeps them from being there, as does Adam Strange who is stranded on Rann. Zatanna shows up and Batman brings Diana Prince, the former Wonder Woman and the cake is about to be cut when all the heroes vanish. They reappear on Earth-2 where the Justice Society is sitting quite glum. Starman, Sandman, Dr.Fate, Wildcat, Johnny Thunder, Dr.Mid-Nite, Hourman, Wonder Woman, and Red Tornado are assembled and quickly Dr.Fate reveals he's summoned the Earth-1 heroes to help the Society battle the threat of a vast cosmic hand which is poised to crush Earth-2. Then a vision of the grave of the Unknown Soldier of Victory appears. Fate, Zatanna, and Johnny Thunder's Thunderbolt join forces to summon a mystic being named Oracle who is able to explain the nature of the threat they face. The Seven Soldiers of Victory (Crimson Avenger and Wing, Green Arrow and Speedy, Star-Spangled Kid and Stripsey, Shining Knight, and The Vigilante are forgotten Earth-2 heroes who battled the cosmic threat of the Nebula-Man. One of their number sacrificed himself to end that threat and the others disappeared into the mists of time. Only they know how to defeat the current threat, so Oracle assists the heroes to go back into time and find the forgotten Soldiers. The twenty-two assembled heroes divide into seven teams of three while Diana Prince stays behind. Oracle tells the heroes of the Soldiers' first great battle against a villain named The Hand and then sends the teams back into time. Dr.Fate, The Atom, and Elongated Man find themselves in Mexico during the time of the Aztecs. Crimson Avenger appears but seems to be considered a god by the Aztecs and he's possessed of great powers with which he knocks out the trio come to rescue him. When they recover they are captives but quickly free themselves and battle the Aztecs and the Avenger until a fragment of the Nebula-Man is found and sent into orbit freeing Crimson Avenger of its malevolent influence. Himself once again, he welcomes the heroes and then in a mist they are summoned back by Oracle. The story closes with the villain revealing himself, a madman named "The Iron Hand".

"The Hand that Shook the World" is again by the Wein, Dillin, Giella team. The tale begins with the arrival of Earth-2's Green Lantern, Robin, and Mr.Terrific who encounter Diana Prince who brings them up to date. The scene shifts to Superman, Sandman, and Metamorpho who find themselves in the camp of Ghengis Khan and his army which is being led by a mysterious sword-wielding man on a flying horse. They realize this must be the Shining Knight who is under the influence of Khan's court magician. The trio stand off against Khan's army with Superman unable to defeat the Knight because of magic. Metamorpho and Sandman combine forces to send giant shells into the army which put them all to sleep. They then free Knight of Khan's influence and are called away by Oracle, but not before Sandman in a classic move pins a note on Khan's chest. Back in JSofA headquarters Green Lantern, Robin, and Mr.Terrific leave Diana Prince behind and decide to head to the Himalayas to find out about the fallen Soldier. Next we see Hawkman, Wonder Woman, and Dr.Mid-Nite in England during the time of Robin Hood. They come under attack by the Merry Men, but quickly explain things and then the trio attacks King John's castle to rescue Robin Hood. They discover Green Arrow instead who has taken Robin's place while he recovers from wounds. After the rescue the heroes vanish as Oracle acts. Cut to the Iron Hand who reveals that he was not killed in the first adventure of the Seven Soldiers of Victory, but merely lost his hand which has been replaced by an iron one, hence his new name. He is the one who launched the threat of Nebula-Man and he is the one who now uses that power to threaten Earth-2. In ancient Egypt Batman, Starman, and Hourman find Stripsey working to build the pyramids. Their rescue is foiled when Starman's Cosmic Rod is captured, but they quickly escape their pyramid jail thanks to the quick thinking of Batman and use the Rod's influence to find their way free. They join forces with the captured Stripsey to free him and Oracle calls them back. Finally we see Diana Prince approached from behind by a threatening Iron Hand.

"And One of Us Must Die!" is again written by Wein and Dillin is again the penciler but Dick Giordano joins up as inker. The story beings with Oracle reprising the situation. The scene shifts to the North American plains where Green Arrow, Black Canary, and Johnny Thunder find themselves near an Indian camp. They are overcome and captured joining The Vigilante as a captive of the Native American tribe. But they escape, free the Vigilante and defeat the Indians and are saved from stampeding bison thanks to the tardy but still timely arrival of Thunderbolt who had been trying to locate them through the centuries. The heroes are then called back by Oracle. We shift to pre-historic times as Green Lantern, Wildcat, and Aquaman find Star-Spangled Kid hold up in a cave fending off a tribe of hostile Cro-Magnons who quickly encounter Wildcat's fists. He's come down with the flu and doesn't want to create historical havoc by infecting the Cro-Magnons. He is saved from a flash flood by Aquaman and then by Green Lantern who had been sidelined by yellow fog. Oracle calls them back. The Flash, Zatanna, and Red Tornado are in the Mediterranean and find Speedy on an island but he's been transformed into a centaur. It seems a sorceress named Circe has him under control. Circe changes the Flash into a snail-man, Zatanna into a hummingbird-girl, and Red Tornado into a walrus-android. But Zatanna is able to undo the spell and free them all. The break Circe's wand, freeing all her captives then they are called back by Oracle. The story then cuts back to the Justice Society headquarters with all the heroes assembled plus the rescued Seven Soldiers the trio from the Himalayas return to report that the fallen soldier is Crimson Avenger's partner Wing. Then the Iron Hand attacks threatening Diana Prince who promptly karate chops off his metal paw and judo flips onto his face. The heroes then use the knowledge of the Seven Soldiers to rebuild the device that first defeated the Nebula-Man and are about to decide who should deliver this deadly weapon when they realize Red Tornado is missing and has taken the device to save the world but at the cost of his own existence. The story ends with the assembled heroes saluting the valor of Wing and Red Tornado.This was a true epic in a time in comics when such extended stories were relatively rarities. The sheer number of heroes advertised was a worthy accomplishment in and of itself. Seeing so many superheroes in one comic made this a must-buy for me at the time. The Nick Cardy covers for all three issues of the series are outstanding. I'd been an on and off again DC fan over the years. I'd been mostly attracted by Marvel's offerings with a few dabs of DC then and again when I could find a way to buy them. But with this storyline I became a confirmed Justice League fan and read the series with very few small breaks right up to the Crisis on Infinite Earths. So this story was a bit of a game-changer for me and my approach to comics.

The Seven Soldiers of Victory were a lot of fun too. After several years of offbeat JLofA-JSofA crossovers this one revived the tradition and idea that this was a series of discovery with new heroes and world being added each year. It became once again an event to anticipate. What heroes would be revived? What Earth would be visited? I remember well being all too eager to see each year's offerings. With this centennial storyline, the crossovers became a big deal for yours truly, a very big deal indeed.

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  1. JLA 100 is still one of my all time favourite comics and I still have my original tattered copy. It was the first time I had seen some of the 7 soldiers characters which is always exciting when your a kid. For some reason I always recall Wing the crimson avengers sidekick who I think only appears in one panel, when I see that cover. Sadly I still haven't read issue 101 and 102 as they never seemed to appear in my area but from issue 103 onwards JLA was a regular read of mine and some great comics like the Red Tornado issue etc.

    1. Originally I got hold of 100 and 101 but it was a few years before I chanced on a rough copy of 102 to find out how it all ended. Somehow that didn't take the pleasure out of the story, likely added to it. It was a time when "events" in comics were still rare enough to make you excited. Now it's just one more thing and for salty old fans like us it's all a bit been-there-done-that.