By Paul Levitz, Joe Staton & various (DC Comics)
This second of twin volumes gathering the 1970s revival of the fabled Justice Society of America collects issues #68-74 of All-Star Comics plus the series’ continuation and conclusion from giant anthology title Adventure Comics #461-466.
Set on the parallel world of Earth-2 the veteran team was leavened with a smattering of teen heroes combined into a contentious, generation-gap fuelled “Super Squad” – although by the start of this book that rather naff sub-title has been quietly dropped and the assembled multi-generational team are all JSA-ers. .
Those youngsters included a grown up Robin, Sylvester Pemberton, the Star-Spangled Kid (a teen superhero from the 1940s who had been lost in time for decades) and a busty young nymphet who quickly became the feisty favourite of a generation of growing boys: Kara Zor-L – Power Girl.
By issue #68 (October, 1977) the curvy Kryptonian was clearly the star of the show and as ‘Divided We Stand!’ by Paul Levitz, Joe Staton & Bob Layton, concluded a long-running scheme by the villainous Psycho-Pirate to discredit and destroy the JSA she was well on the way to her first solo outing in Showcase #97-98 (reprinted in Power Girl). Meanwhile Green Lantern resumed a maniacal rampage through Gotham City and Police Commissioner Bruce Wayne took steps to bring the seemingly out-of control team to book.
In #69’s ‘United We Fall!’ Commissioner Wayne bought in his own team of retired JSA-ers to arrest the “rogue” heroes, resulting in a classic fanboy dream duel as Dr. Fate, Wildcat, Hawkman, Flash, GL and Star Spangled Kid battled the one-time Batman, Robin, Hourman, Starman, Dr. Midnight and Wonder Woman. It was a colourful catastrophe in waiting until Power Girl and Superman intervened to reveal the true cause of all the madness. And in the background, a new character was about to make a landmark debut…
With order (temporarily) restored ‘A Parting of the Ways!’ focussed on Wildcat and Star Spangled Kid as the off-duty heroes stumbled upon a high-tech gang of super-thieves called the Strike Force. The robbers initially proved too much for the pair and even new star The Huntress, but with a pair of startling revelations in ‘The Deadliest Game in Town!’ the trio finally triumphed. In the aftermath the Kid resigned and the daughter of Batman and Catwoman (alternate Earth, remember?) replaced him.
All-Star Comics #72 reintroduced a couple of classic Golden Age villainesses in ‘A Thorn by Any Other Name’ as the floral psychopath returned to poison Wildcat, leaving Helena Wayne to battle the original Huntress for the cure and the rights to the name…
The concluding ‘Be it Ever So Deadly’ (with Joe Giella taking over the in inkers role) saw the entire team in action as Huntress battled Huntress whilst Thorn and the Sportsmaster did their deadly best to destroy the heroes and their loved ones. Simultaneously in Egypt Hawkman and Dr. Fate stumbled upon a deadly ancient menace to all of reality…
The late 1970s was a perilous period for comics with drastically dwindling sales. Many titles were abruptly cancelled in a “DC Implosion” and All-Star Comics was one of the casualties. Issue #74 was the last and pitted the entire team against a mystic Armageddon perpetrated by the nigh-omnipotent Master Summoner who orchestrated a ‘World on the Edge of Ending’ before once more the Justice Society triumphed.
Although their book was gone the series continued in the massive 68 page anthology title Adventure Comics, beginning in #461 with the blockbuster tale intended for the anniversary 75th issue. Drawn and inked by Staton, ‘Only Legends Live Forever’ detailed the last case of Batman as the Dark Knight came out of retirement to battle a seeming nonentity who had mysteriously acquired god-like power.
Divided into two chapters, #462 delivered the shocking conclusion ‘The Legend Lives Again!’ whilst ‘The Night of the Soul Thief!’ saw Huntress, Robin and the assembled JSA deliver righteous justice to the mysterious mastermind who had truly orchestrated the death of the World’s Greatest Detective.
Adventure #464 provided an intriguing insight into aging warrior Wildcat as with ‘To Everything There is a Season…’ he embraced his own mortality and began a new career as a teacher of heroes, whilst ‘Countdown to Disaster!’ (inked by Dave Hunt) saw Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Power Girl, Huntress and Dr. Fate hunt a doomsday device lost in the teeming masses of Gotham. It would be last modern solo outing of the team for decades.
But not the last in this volume: that honour falls to another Levitz & Staton landmark history lesson wherein they revealed why the team vanished at beginning of the 1950s. From Adventure #466 ‘The Defeat of the Justice Society!’ showed how the American Government betrayed their greatest champions during the McCarthy Witch-hunts provoking them into withdrawing from public, heroic life for over a decade – that is until the costumed stalwarts of Earth-1 started the whole Fights ‘n’ Tights scene all over again…
Although perhaps a little dated now, these exuberant, rapid-paced and imaginative yarns perfectly blend the naive charm of Golden Age derring-do with cynical yet hopeful modern sensibilities that will always hold out hope for hero to save the day. Fun, furious and ferociously fun, this is stuff non mystery-man maven can do without.
© 1977, 1978, 1979, 2006 DC Comics. All rights reserved.