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Thursday, 3 August 2017

All-Star Comics 58 - the Justice Society of America begins

The Justice Society of America get their own book again, after years of guest shots in the pages of Justice League of America. All-Star Comics gets revived to host them, and the numbering for this run begins with issue 58 (Jan/Feb 76). All-Star Comics 57 had contained the final Justice Society story from the original run in the 40s, but it was not actually the final issue of that series. With issue 58, the title and format changed to All-Star Western. This revival pretends that never happened, basically. This was also, without my realizing it, effectively the first time I bought the first issue of a new book. I had bought the Famous First Edition that reprinted All-Star 3, the debut of the JSA, as well as the issue of Super-Team Family that reprinted the Solomon Grundy story, so I was familiar with the JSA at this point, even though I had not yet ever read a JLA/JSA team up. But what really made me buy it was the presence on the cover of Dr. Fate. I had loved his story in 1st Issue Special, and was hoping for much of the same. I didn't get it. In fact, this issue turned me off so much at 10 years old that I didn't pick up any of the others from the run.

Mike Grell provided the cover, while the story is by Gerry Conway, Ric Estrada and Wally Wood. It opens on Justice Society members Dr. Fate, Hawkman, Flash, Green Lantern, Dr. Mid-Nite and Wildcat discussing a printout from their computer warning of disasters about to take place in Seattle, Cape Town and Peking. Of the heroes, Dr. Fate had appeared the most recently, in the book I mentioned, and the Flash just before that in his Earth-1 counterpart's title. Dr. Mid-Nite and Wildcat had been seen in the JLA crossover the previous summer, but the Earth-2 Green Lantern had not been seen since the crossover from 1972. The heroes split into three groups, and head to each of the cities.

In Seattle, Hawkman and Dr. Mid-Nite stay off to the side and watch the Star-Spangled Kid. Last seen in the serialized Seven Soldiers of Victory story the previous year in Adventure Comics, this explains that, after breaking his leg, Starman gave his cosmic rod to the Kid. He uses it to help people endangered by an earthquake.

We discover that these events are all being caused by Brainwave, who has a very different look from the 1940s. The villain had not been seen since his role with the Injustice Society in 1947. He took control of the Society's computer and sent them the warnings, in order to get them to go to the three cities, for reasons not yet explained.

In South Africa Dr. Fate and Green Lantern join forces with an adult Robin, wearing a variation of the Robin costume introduced in 1972. It's a heck of a lot better than the Batman knock-off outfit he wore in his last appearance with the Society, in the JLA crossover a few months earlier. They deal with eruptions of natural gas, and the two elder heroes get knocked out.

The story concludes in Peking, as Flash and Wildcat meet Power Girl, making her debut. She explains to them that she is Superman's cousin, effectively the Supergirl of Earth-2, as they deal with an erupting volcano.

In each of the three cases the young hero outshines the elder ones, and as the story concludes Power Girl not only reveals the role of Brainwave in the story, but also that she, Robin and Star-Spangled Kid are the Super Squad, the phrase prominently displayed on the cover. 

At 10, this made me think that the Justice Society, and Dr. Fate in particular, were not actually going to be recurring characters in the book, that it would just be the three "newbies." That was what displeased me so much that I stopped picking the book up, and didn't realize how wrong I was.

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