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Wednesday, 31 January 2018

All-Star Squadron 28 - the Justice Society vs Kulak


Howell and Gerald Forton do the art as Roy Thomas winds up the Kulak story in All-Star Squadron 28 (Dec 83).


Picking up from the end of the previous issue, the Justice Society go into action against Kulak, who was ripping apart the sky. This was not just happening in Washington DC, we see that Kulak's tear in the sky appears around the world.


The Atom is still sick, and though he tries to get out of bed, he is too ill. Instead, he is forced to watch at the window as Wonder Woman, Starman, Sandman, Johnny Thunder, Hawkman and Dr Mid-Nite do what they can, but are simply overpowered.


Sargon the Sorceror shows up, and makes one of his more impressive outings. He explains to the All-Stars that his powers derive from the Ruby of Life, the first thing he touched after being born. The Ruby is connected to the Ring of Life, which manifested on the Spectre the first time he fought Kulak, then vanished during a later fight. Kulak has the Ring of Life, and is using it to control the Spectre.


Sargon is able to use his Ruby of Life to find Dr Fate, lost in a mystical realm, and bring him back to Earth.


Kulak is happy about this, figuring that he can take Dr Fate's helmet and add it to his own power. I love it when arrogant villains think they can wield Dr Fate's helmet. Kulak puts it on, but Nabu is not about to become his slave, and Kulak winds up hurtling away into the multiverse. Fate's helmet goes with him, but Kent Nelson is not at all upset about that. He still has his half helmet, which he had been using anyway.

A good second finale to the big storyline.


The issue also includes a teaser ad for the upcoming Infinity Inc book. As well as the heroes already introduced, this line-up includes Power Girl and the Huntress, as well as a woman in a cat outfit called La Garro. She will appear in a couple of years, but looking a bit different and under the name Wildcat. The captioning also mentions the Star-Spangled Kid and Sandy, the Golden Boy. Although the Star-Spangled Kid would be an integral member of Infinity Inc, Sandy would never appear in that book.

All-Star Squadron 27 - where did Dr Fate go?


Richard Howell and Larry Houston join Thomas on All-Star Squadron 27 (Nov 83), a two part story that serves as a sort of epilogue to the last big storyline.


The other heroes all head off, but drop the Atom, Firebrand, and Cyclotron's daughter off at the hospital. Even though they are there because of the kid, it's the Atom who winds up collapsing and needing treatment. His exposure to Cycloton affected him, and it is so easy to see that Thomas laid the groundwork for Atom's later increase in powers, and his costume change, to one resembling that of Cyclotron. Using Wonder Woman's Magic Sphere the Justice Society members learn about all of this, and decide to head to the hospital.


They also wonder whatever happened to Dr Fate, who took off looking for the Spectre and never came back. Wonder Woman hooks the Magic Sphere to the Atom, and by doing this is able to follow Dr Fate after he flew off. Fate went to the corpse of Jim Corrigan to find out where the Spectre has gone.


Fate follows the trail Corrigan points out, and finds the Spectre guarding a tomb in a mystical realm. The Spectre proves to be under the control of his old enemy, Kulak.


The Spectre defeats Dr Fate, and Kulak decides the time has come to invade the Earth. Good thing the Justice Society found this all out, because the story ends with Kulak ripping open the sky.

The story concludes in the next issue.

All-Star Squadron Annual 2 - the All-Star Squadron and Infinity Inc vs Secret Society of Super-Villains


Thomas and Ordway bring the epic storyline to a climax as the All-Star Squadron join forces with Infinity, Inc to stop Ultra-Humanite and the Secret Society of Super-Villains in All-Star Squadron Annual 2.


The issue is packed with action, and characters, and moves so quickly that some of the twists work really well, only because one barely has time to catch a breath. Amazing-Man and the Secret Society head to the Ultra-Humanite's base. Ultra-Humanite has to show the strength of the Powerstone in order to keep them all in line, especially Vulcan.


The All-Star Squadron arrive, thanks to Brainwave Jr, who knows that the Ultra-Humanite is using Mt St Helens as his base. The villains fight the heroes, and defeat them. The most important of these fights, for later in the story, is Brainwave taking on Brainwave Jr. After defeating the heroes, the villains get sent by Ultra-Humanite to various locations to attack.


The heroes who had been shunted into limbo pop back into reality, an find a note left by Amazing-Man, who only pretended to rejoin the villains. The note informs the heroes that Ultra-Humanite intends to attack the legislative, judicial and executive branches of the US government.


Oh, and Cyclotron takes Firebrand aside and shows her his daughter, who has inherited some of his powers. Cyclotron wants Firebrand to look after the girl if anything happens to him. As one of my readers pointed out, this is apparently why Cyclotron brought Firebrand along, although I question why, if he wanted Firebrand to look after his daughter, he brought Firebrand to a dangerous situation with a psychotic, murderous villain. But it made sense to him.


So then we move into the attack. The Infinity Inc members show up, joining with the All-Stars in split action. Tarantula, Liberty Belle and Silver Scarab stop Monocle and Rag Doll from killing the Supreme Court.


Jade, Obsidian and Green Lantern prevent the Mist and Psycho-Pirate from killing the Congress.


And Nuklon, Commander Steel and Batman head to the White House to stop Vulcan and Brainwave. But it turns out that Brainwave Jr defeated his father, and has been impersonating him, which makes this easier.


Northwind, Fury and the Atom go after Ultra-Humanite and Deathbolt, though everyone makes it there before the fight has ended.


The climax sees Cyclotron grab the Ultra-Humanite and fly off, making himself blow up and seemingly killing both of them. But since the Ultra-Humanite is alive in the future, they know things did not play out the way it appeared. The Infinity Inc members head back to the future. Jade let it slip that Green Lantern is really her father, and Brainwave Jr had already alerted the readers that the team were the children of the Justice Society.

There were a lot of good, little moments in this as well, which I wound up skipping over to get everything in. There were some other really good storylines in this book, but this one, for me, was always the high point.

All-Star Squadron 26 - the Secret Society of Super-Villains show up


Things start to get really complicated in the Thomas, Ordway and Machlan story from All-Star Squadron 26 (Oct 83), but I don't mind one bit.


Picking up from the previous tale, we catch up with the heroes left behind when the All-Stars vanished. This starts with Phantom Lady and Robin, who now have to face Vulcan and the Mist. At the time this came out, I didn't recognize Vulcan at all, and so was irritated when the Mist had the power of intangibility, which I knew he did not have in the 1940s. 


But only a couple of pages later I saw what was really going on, as Psycho-Pirate and Brainwave face off with the Guardian and the Newsboy Legion. These villains were the same ones who had been part of the JLA/JSA/Secret Society of Super-Villains storyline, left in limbo at the end of it.


My suspicions were confirmed as Monocle and Rag Doll show up in Detroit. Amazing-Man switches sides once again and goes off with them.


Back at the Perisphere, a recovered Johnny Quick shows up with Brainwave Jr, and the time displaced youth explains everything to the Guardian, Phantom Lady, and Robin, who have been joined by the Flash and Wildcat. The explanation is ridiculously complex. The Ultra-Humanites of two different times have been working together to get the later version out of limbo. This involved mind controlling Infinity Inc and sending them back in time, and switching the places of the Secret Society members with the All-Star Squadron, in order to push the later Ultra-Humanite to freedom. It's absurd, frankly, but who cares? I sure didn't, and still don't. The story is too much fun to care about this.


The heroes head out after Ultra-Humanite, and the Infinity Inc members also recover from the trance they all fell into after being used by Ultra-Humanite.

The story reaches its grand finale in the All-Star Squardon annual.

All-Star Squadron 25 - Infinity, Inc debuts


Thomas, Ordway and Machlan already had a great epic tale going, and now notch things up another gear in All-Star Squadron 25 (Sept 83), as Infinity, Inc make their debut.


The Justice Society appear briefly in this issue, sitting around in the Smithsonian Institution, waiting for their orders to go after the Black Dragon Society. Thomas is giving each month of the war one year in the comics, which is why the JSA are stuck sitting around for so long.


Back where the action is, Amazing-Man gets free and uses his substance-changing powers to fight effectively against the Atom, Batman, Robin, Liberty Belle, Tarantula and Green Lantern. Commander Steel gets the better of him, only because he gets Amazing-Man in a wrestling hold. Liberty Belle makes mention of the Ultra-Humanite's threat to destroy Brooklyn, Detroit and Los Angeles. Amazing-Man is from Detriot, and has family there, and offers to switch sides to help the All-Stars.


So the team splits up, heading to the different locations. The Guardian and the Newsboy Legion are at the Brooklyn Navy Yard when Silver Scarab and Nuklon suddenly appear. Scarab can fly, but Nuklon seems more dangerous, able to grow to giant size. Liberty Belle and Commander Steel show up, but before they can stop the invaders the two vanish mysteriously.


This plays out again in Los Angeles. Sandra Knight is at an airplane plant with her senator father when Fury and Northwind attack. Fury is extemely strong, and Northwind can not only fly, but command birds. Sandra changes to Phantom Lady, while Tarantula, Batman and Robin show up to help. Batman and Tarantula wind up disappearing.


Green Lantern brings the Atom and Amazing-Man to a factory in Detroit, where they face off against Jade, with her green power pulse, and Obsidian, with his shadowy form. Again, Lantern and the Atom disappear. In each case, the heroes left behind are shown to be surprised at what shows up in the place of the missing heroes.


The issue ends as Brainwave Jr wakes up, smashing through the wall to get out and help, though which side he intends to take is far from clear.

The story continues in the next issue.

All-Star Squadron 24 - the sinking of the Normandie


There are an awful lot of plot threads going on in the Thomas, Ordway and Machlan story from All-Star Squadron 24 (Aug 83), and a historical event tied in as well.


The story opens on Batman, who is looking for Robin, who has gone missing. He finds his partner unconscious and surrounded by the green beasties, in the lab belonging to Robotman's partner, Chuck Grayson. Robin had discovered that he and Chuck were cousins, and came to inform him and reveal his (and therefore Batman's) identity. Robin explains to Batman how the beasties showed up and kidnapped Chuck.


The Ultra-Humanite needed Grayson to help perform the surgery to put her brain into the Robotman body. Ultra-Humanite now has Robotman, Superman and Firebrand hooked up to a machine that incorporates the stolen mallet. Cyclotron keeps whining and pleading for Ultra-Humanite to give up, while Deathbolt is hoping for some action with his boss, refusing to accept that Ultra-Humanite is still male, despite the female body. This could have turned into a whole gender identity thing.


But it doesn't. Ultra-Humanite tests out his machine by sinking the Normandie, a French ship at dock in New York City. The ship really did catch fire and sink on its side, and sabotage was suspected, though according to Wikipedia it was most likely an accident. The Normandie was just too tempting to leave out of the story, I am sure. Even Hitchcock used footage of the actual sunken ship in his movie Saboteur. Johnny Quick tries to save the ship, but gets critically wounded. Green Lantern and Liberty Belle also arrive on the scene, but too late to do anything to save it.


Then the story cuts back to the Perisphere, where Commander Steel is working on the robot, and feeling sorry for himself. Tarantula shows up, in a nifty new costume. He also now can fire stun bolts from his gun, not just webbing.


He tells Commander Steel about returning to his home, only to find a man claiming to be the son of Brainwave, who had travelled back in time to warn them about the Ultra-Humanite. Brainwave Jr knows that Tarantula is Jonathan Law from the book he published, the book Law is working on in the "present." Brainwave Jr winds up knocked out by Law's housekeeper, Olga, who also made the new costume. Tarantula wasn't sure what action to take, so came back to headquarters.


Others begin arriving as well. Dr Fate drops off the Atom and the captured Amazing-Man, before flying off in search of the Spectre.


Batman, Robin, Green Lantern and Liberty Belle show up as well, and as the heroes compare notes, Amazing-Man takes advantage of their distraction to touch metal, turn himself into it, and get free of his bonds.

The story continues in the next issue.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

All-Star Squadron 23 - Amazing-Man debuts


There are, in a way, two stories in All-Star Squadron 23 (July 1983), both written by Thomas, and essentially blended into one tale. The main story has art by Ordway and Machlan.


The story begins with Green Lantern flying Liberty Belle, Commander Steel and Johnny Quick back to the Perisphere. Quick pisses off Belle by putting the moves on her at a bad time, and then runs off. Green Lantern and Liberty Belle also have to leave, to get back to their jobs, which leaves Commander Steel alone to work on the robot butler and mope about not having a life.


The story then shift over to follow Dr Fate, Hawkman and the Atom. Fate is heading back to his tower in Salem, to see if he can learn what has happened to the Spectre. Hawkman goes back to the Smithsonian, where the Justice Society are hanging out, but the Atom asks to go along to see the tower. On the way, Fate gives a brief recap of his origin, how he and his father discovered an Egyptian tomb. The father died on opening it, and Fate was raised by an other-dimensional entity called Nabu. He goes on to reveal that, when he wore the full face helmet, Nabu was completely in control of him, and how this disturbed both him and Inza Craemer. Kent Nelson decided to adopt the half helmet he has been wearing in this book, which allowed him more control.


Arriving at the tower, they find Amazing-Man inside, trying to steal the original helmet. Amazing-Man can become the same as any substance he touches, but is not able to pass through the wall of the tower while holding the helmet. 


The heroes manage to knock out Amazing-Man, and by placing his hand on Fate's crystal ball, learn his origin. Hoberg and Machlan do the art on this part. We find out that Amazing-Man was Olympic athlete Will Everett, raised as a sharecropper, his athletics were the way out of that life. He even triumphed at the Berlin Olympics, and of course mention is made of Jesse Owens.


But after that he found doors still closed to him in the US, and wound up working as a janitor. He got taken by Ultra-Humanite's men, and subjected to the experiment that endowed him with his transforming powers. Ultra-Humanite sent him to the tower to get Dr Fate's helmet.


As the story ends, Kent Nelson puts on the full face helmet. Although the Atom, and even Inza, hope he will deal with Amazing-Man, Fate feels that the only proper course of action is to find the Spectre.

The story continues in the next issue.