Exile to Jupiter
The text story in this volume is a sci-fi story of human revolution against aliens. The “Mercurian Empire” imprisons humans on Jupiter, but the protagonist named Dik smuggles weapons to them and they’re able to revolt and free themselves, and then depose the evil king Goram. Very dated, with life on planets that can’t possibly support life, but a harmless bit of fun sci-fi.
I’m not sure the Hourman ever got the type of development he deserved, and by that I mean that the premise of an hour of power has all sorts of dramatic limitations that could have been explored in order to make his adventures stand out. And I don’t mean by making him a drug addict, a choice that still annoys me to this day.
Regardless, there’s not a lot that stands out about the plot of this particular story. A crook is eyeing some land that the government wants to buy, and he’s perfectly willing to commit murder, arson and kidnapping in order to get his hands on the deed and the land. Hourman tracks him down via the lucky find of a lost wallet with ID in it. I know these are short stories with a limited number of pages, and sometimes they just have to get to that final confrontation, but this is pushing it. Regardless, it’s a lot of fun to watch Rex Tyler lay into the bad guys, even picking one guy up by his ankles and swinging him around as a club to knock the other guy off his feet. We needed more of this in these old Hourman stories, and by that I mean feats that show us both how strong he is and what a boisterous brusier the Miraclo makes him, since it affects his personality. It’s fun to see an approach other than a punch to the jaw.
- Rex’s chemical knowledge comes in handy for something other than the Miraclo as he’s able to put out a forest fire with a chemical solution. The story doesn’t identify it, but it’s still a good use of the character’s vocation.
- How does Hourman know the house is about to explode, halfway through the story?
- When the hour that the Miraclo gives him expires, Hourman becomes meek and submits to capture. It’s very clear in this story that the Miraclo has a major effect on his personality.
Red, White and Blue – The Volcano Invasion
I first ran across these characters over in DC’s Comic Cavalcade Archive, and it’s actually not a bad setup. I’m not quite sure why Red is drawn in a more realistic style while White and Blue are cartoony. But the premise of these three guys as military intelligence agents is sound. In this particular story, the three are given a “vacation” as a reward for all their hard work. They’re sent to Alaska to ski and relax, but also to look into reports of a missing agent.
It turns out that the “Kavinese” are slowly building up a force in Alaska and passing themselves off as Eskimos, in order to secretly strike America in the case of a war beginning. Blue finds the missing agent and everyone is able to destroy the Kavinese base, unwisely hidden in a volcano.
- The war in Europe is creeping into these comics over a year and a half before Pearl Harbor. Everyone knows it’s going on in Europe, and no doubt had worries that America would be drawn into it.
- This is a plot that could easily be made to work with any of the superheroes being published at the time. That being said, the titular trio of characters are perfectly enjoyable protagonists and I like the two Red, White and Blue stories that I’ve been able to read.
- We’re still getting fictional stand-ins instead of actual nations involved in the war.
The issue overall: All-Star Comics #1 has a strong lineup of features. It’s not quite “All-Star” unless Biff Bronson was one of DC’s big names in the summer of 1940, and I doubt that’s the case. But I’ll give the editors who assembled the book some credit and say that nothing feels like filler, apart perhaps from the aforementioned Bronson. There is a solid collection of diverse characters and plots. And while the superheroics are clearly in fashion and dominate the stories, there are also detective and sci-fi stories, at least in this first issue. Eight different comics and a text story for a dime seems like a good bargain to me.
Favorites: The Spectre for his go anywhere, do anything method of solving a murder, and the Flash for its breezy fun and good use of the Flash’s speed to tell the story
Least Favorite: Biff Bronson, easily. It’s not a bad story, but it’s pretty by the numbers.
Nice Bookend: All-Star Comics begins its run with a Hawkman story, and the final character seen on panel at the end of All-Star #57 is Hawkman. And I’m fairly sure he’s the only character to appear in every single issue, so it seems fitting somehow.
And that’s one issue reviewed and done. Only 56 to go!