Al Pratt is on a field trip for his geology class when he overhears a group of gangsters who are planning to rob an armored car. He changes to his Atom costume and attempts to jump on top of the truck the crooks are driving, but he falls off and knocks himself unconscious. The crooks never notice and proceed to rob a gold depository. Meanwhile, Al’s friend and would-be romantic interest Mary runs across the Atom and starts to remove his mask, but he wakes up in time to prevent that and goes after the truck again, this time after it’s loaded down with gold. He makes short work of the crooks, and the robbery plan is foiled.
- Al Pratt notes that he is a sophomore at Calvin College, so he could well be a teenager at this point. I’m thinking that in a more modern context the fact that he is one of the younger members of the team would certainly be played up more in his characterization.
- Like the Sandman and Hourman, we see the Atom mess up his initial attempt to stop the crime in progress. So much for the claims that these early heroes were infallible. Of course ultimately they’re going to succeed, but they often suffer setbacks along the way, making them appear very human.
- I still say the Atom’s costume looks like a wrestling uniform with a homemade mask and cape. It’s one of the least impressive superhero costumes ever, in my opinion. The one he gets near the end of the All-Star series isn’t much better though.
- And of course, with the Atom we’re back to the “she hates me but loves my alter ego” love triangle we so often find in comic books. That’s the peril of having a secret identity, Al.
- Honestly, the Atom is down there with Johnny Thunder as one of my least favorite Golden Age characters. He has no powers to make his stories interesting, and he doesn’t even have a good costume or backstory to make up for that, as Batman or Dr. Mid-Nite do. But he’s a mainstay of All-Star Comics and the Justice Society, so he’s not going anywhere.
A messenger arrives with a telegram stating that the head of the FBI wants to speak to the JSA. Johnny Thunder tries a dig at the guy, but the messenger wins the snark contest easily. Jay is elected to go to Washington DC since he can make it there and back the fastest, obviously. So while he heads off to DC, Green Lantern gets on with his story.
The Green Lantern
A crime wave is taking place, and despite their best efforts, the police are unable to stop it. Police Commissioner Mason is forced to resign when he is caught taking a bribe, though it’s pretty obvious that he’s been set up and that the “evidence” was faked. The Mayor appoints Lacy the new commissioner and things seem to be under control, but there’s still plenty of gambling and other crime going on quietly. Alan Scott isn’t fooled by all of this, so he approaches a newspaper columnist with a scheme to try and get Lacy to expose his part in framing the former commissioner. After being waylaid by Lacy’s thugs and then escaping, Green Lantern arrives at a radio studio where Lacy is speaking and forces him to admit the truth over the airwaves for all to hear.
- Big city political graft and corruption makes for a solid storyline. This feels a lot like something Superman would have tackled around this time.
- That being said, Superman would probably have just dived in and started busting up gambling joints and forcing the thugs to tell him where the ringleader was. Alan takes a different approach, since there’s a man in a position of power and he’ll need evidence in order to defeat him.
- One assumes Alan is exerting his willpower in order to force Lacy to tell the truth, not putting words in his mouth. I love the way he’s clearly working hard to make this happen, with beads of sweat from the exertion.
- Alan really should start wearing a helmet to avoid being hit on the head with a wooden club and knocked out.
- The art is probably the worst in the issue.
The Flash returns from meeting the head of the FBI, who would like to meet with the entire JSA as soon as they can manage it. They’re all happy to do their part, and everyone agrees on a meeting for “next Tuesday”. Does Al Pratt have Tuesday classes, I wonder? Really, it makes me wonder how all of these guys get time off from work to head to a weekday meeting. At any rate, the agree to meet, and that’s the end of the issue.
Overall: There’s no denying that it’s great to see all these characters together and interacting with each other, so needless to say, the framing storyline is a highlight of the issue. The individual stories vary in quality, but are generally at the same level as issues 1 and 2. After this issue the characters will get individual chapters, but the stories will be far more linked to each other than they have been up to this point, so it’s nice to get one final set of unrelated solo adventures. The sheer variety of genres in this issue of All-Star makes for a good read.
Favorite story: It’s hard to pick a favorite. It’s a tie between the Flash, the Spectre and Green Lantern
Least favorite: Johnny Thunder
A Familiar Issue: I actually read this issue of All-Star decades before I discovered the Archives. I found an oversized “Famous First Edition” at the comic book shop in the early 90s, and though it’s a bit battered at this point, I still have it. I got to the end of the book and was left with the cliffhanger ending of the promised meeting with the FBI chief, a cliffhanger it took me over 20 years to find the answer to! I’m not sure the oversized book does the fairly simple art any favors though. Not that I don’t appreciate the wide variety of art styles and skill of the Golden Age, but it’s simple enough that smaller is often better. Still, it’s a nice reprint to have and at the time I was certainly happy to have the genuine first issue of the Justice Society.