DC Comics Universe and All-Star Squadron #1-3 Spoilers and Review follows.
Justice Society Of America Expands! (1981) Retro Review!
Story Title: World on Fire (Issue #1), The Tyrant Out Of Time (Issue #2), The Dooms of Dark December (Issue #3)
Written by: Roy Thomas (co-creator All-Star Squadron) (NOTE: Originally published on July 28, 2003.)
Penciled by: Rick Buckler (co-creator All-Star Squadron)
Inked / Embellished by: Jerry “Jeremiah” Ordway
Colored by: Carl Gafford
Lettered by: John Costanza
Editor: Len Wein
Publisher: DC Comics
In light of the Justice Society of America (JSA)
reaching its “landmark” 50th issue
earlier this month, it seems appropriate that 411’s current installment for the retro review series would focus on the opening arc of the All-Star Squadron
, DC’s JSA-rejuvenation project from 1981.
Prior to the classic and infamous 1985 Crisis on Infinite Earths, there existed a multiverse consisting of many unique and yet similar universes each with its own Earth. The JSA occupied Earth 2, while the Justice League of America (JLA) occupied Earth 1. During the Crisis, the multiverse was destroyed leaving only one Earth within one universe.
Many of the JSA adventures from Earth 2 were “retconned” and now exist, in some fashion, as part of the sole Earth’s past. Confused? If it helps, many of the All-Star Squadron adventures now take place between 1940 and roughly 1945 in the one post-Crisis Earth, for the most part. Ok? Otherwise, lets move on now. The history lesson is over.
The All-Star Squadron series and the Infinity Inc. spin-off series, that focused on the next generation of JSA’ers, were two of my favorite DC titles in the 1980s. Clearly, these were also two of current “it” writer Geoff Johns’ faves as many of the elements from these titles, as well as DC’s Golden lineage make there way into many of his titles, including the white-hot self-titled JSA.
The first issue of the All-Star Squadron opens in 1941. Many of the “name” JSA’ers like Green Lantern (Alan Scott), Flash (Jay Garrick), Doctor Fate (Kent Nelson), the Spectre (Jim Corrigan), and others, have been captured by, during confrontations with, the undead Solomon Grundy, a no-name lightweight named Professor Zodiak, and the mystic Wotan. Other JSA big guns like Starman (Ted Knight), Sandman (Wesley Dodds), Johnny Thunder and the Thunderbolt have gone missing, presumably captured by the same master villain behind the other JSA abductions, time-traveling would-be world conqueror Per Degaton.
While this has been going on, Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) metahuman Plastic Man (Eel O’Brian) has been sent by the United States President of the day, Franklin D. Roosevelt, to bring the JSA to the White House for an audience. Hawkman (Carter Hall) and Plastic Man cross paths, and together, by hook or crook, bring fellow “mystery men” the Atom (Al Pratt), Doctor Mid-Nite (Charles McNider), Robotman (Dr. Robert Crane), Liberty Belle (Libby Lawrence), and Johnny Quick (Johnny Chambers) together at the most famous address in the world, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
The President orders the JSA to “mobilize every one of this nation’s costumed heroes – men and women – into a single, super-powerful unit – a sort of All-Star Squadron” reporting directly to him, in response to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. In addition, he orders the heroes in his presence to travel to the US West Coast to protect against further invasion.
The second issue of the arc is very exposition heavy. While the first issue introduced the key players of the All-Star action-drama, this issue went further to reveal “who” they really are. As the All-Star Squadron “mystery men” are familiarizing themselves with one another through discussions about their respective origins and abilities, villain Per Degaton lets his JSA captives in on his own back story and his plan for world conquest. He has traveled to the 1980s and has seen the advances of “modern” science, and has subsequently returned to the 1940s as he has determined it is the best period for world domination. He rationalizes this by explaining that the advances, scientific, technological, and cultural, of the 1980s would make it more difficult for one man to take over the world and keep that control. The chaos of WWII has presented him with a golden opportunity, which he intends to take advantage of. The world will be his, Per Degaton swears!
The third issue of the arc is all action. The All-Star Squadron has engaged Per Degaton’s troops on the West Coast, while the JSA big guns go about freeing themselves from their captivity in Degaton’s lair. With the cast of heroic thousands now in battle, within Degaton’s lair and in battle above San Francisco, this issue is a little bit harder to follow at first read, but is energetic and fast-paced. More than three-quarters of the book convey various combat scenes between DC’s Golden Age heroes, their arch-villains, and soldiers! Wow.
Overall, this is a very dense read. You have to read it a few times to truly understand who everyone is and what’s going on.
Needless to say, I’m a sucker for DC’s Golden Age, and All-Star Squadron stories meant to take place during that time. I loved leafing through these issues during my multiple reads.
Writer Roy Thomas knows his history. Penciler Rich Buckler captures the grandeur of the age. While up and coming inker, at the time, Jerry Ordway really infuses the book with his now characteristic energy and humanity.
With comic book convention season in full swing, you can probably pick up these gems in the quarter or dollar bins. Its well worth the time to seek them out.
Tags: All Star Squadron, DC Comics, DC Universe, JSA, Justice Society, Justice Society of America, Retro Reviews, Who's Who